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CNET First Look
Optoma Neo-iThe Optoma Neo-i combines an iPod/iPhone sound dock with a tabletop projector--all in one unit.
-Hi, I'm David Carnoy and I'm sitting here with an interesting new take on the compact projector. It's the Optoma Neo-i and it combines an iPod/iPhone sound dock with a tabletop projector all in one unit. The key thing to know about is that while it isn't cheap at $449, its specs are better than what you get with your typical Pico projector. For starters, it's got a brighter light engine along with 8 pair of 16-watts stereo speakers built right into it. As for resolution at 854x480 pixels, it falls well short of HD but it is a wide screen format. To be honest when I first took it out of the box, I wasn't terribly impressed with its design. Its look and feel is on the basic end of the spectrum. And when you turn it on, menu system is pretty blah as well. I wasn't too thrilled with the remote either. It's small. The buttons are all the same size and I often had to press twice to get the projector to respond. But it is what it is, a lightweight 2.5-pound projector that's design to sit on a tabletop and projecting image on a wall. Most people wanna run video off their iPhone or iPod, but I also connected a Blu-ray player via the HDMI port to see what the best picture would look like. I gotta say even under the best circumstances, this just can't measure up to even an entry level LCD TV. But compared to most other Pico projectors, the picture is pretty good, though little soft especially when you blow it up to bigger sizes. Optoma says you can go up to 120 inches but you really wanna project in the 42 to 50 inch range and it really makes a huge difference to use this thing in a dark room. For those trying to choose between this model and Optoma's PK301 which has the same light engine, that projector is obviously much smaller and it's truly portable projector that comes with a rechargeable battery. We also like its simple black design better. However, those pluses aside, the PK301's built-in speakers are really tiny and don't output nearly as much sound as the Neo-i speakers do. And sound is actually more important than you'd think when it comes to watching movies. I should also mentioned that while the PK301 has a microSD card slot you can play media from to hookup your iPhone or iPod, you have to attach an optional AV cable which becomes another part you have to carry around with you. Before buying this, I'd say you really should think about how you might use it. You can connect a computer to it, but it's really designed first and foremost to be used with an iPhone or an iPod. It won't replace the picture quality of an LCD TV but it's an acceptable substitute at least on a temporary basis. I'm David Carnoy and that's the Optoma Neo-i.