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Acer C20 Pico Projector review: Acer C20 pico projector

Acer's pico projector ticks all the boxes for a portable projector, but fuzzy images and poor focus control make it an annoying projector to use.

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Alex Kidman
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Alex Kidman

Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.

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4 min read

Design

Portable projectors such as Acer's C20 pico projector don't tend to vary much from a design perspective; by the time you've slapped together the necessary components for lens, input and a reasonably sized battery, there's not a lot of space left for custom visual features, leaving the description that most of them look like a pack of playing cards being very apt.

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6.3

Acer C20 Pico Projector

The Good

Highly portable. Includes a variety of connection methods. Playback via microSD. Relatively inexpensive.

The Bad

Images are fuzzy. Lacks tilt controls. Focus controls tricky to use. Lacks key accessories.

The Bottom Line

Acer's pico projector ticks all the boxes for a portable projector, but fuzzy images and poor focus control make it an annoying projector to use.

The C20's controls predominantly reside on the top of the projector, where you'll find the controls for adjusting inputs and display characteristics, save for the focus wheel, which sits on the right-hand side of the projector body if you're facing it directly. The C20 will take a variety of inputs. On the left-hand side, under a flap, you'll find inputs for micro USB (a cable is provided) and microSD cards, as well as an A/V input socket for iPod. On the right-hand side sits a mini-HDMI (C Type) socket, and a "universal" IO socket.

Features

The projector within the C20 is a DLP-type with a native 16:9 WVGA (854x480) resolution, capable of up to a maximum (WXGA) 1280x800 display. Contrast ratio is stated at 2000:1, but, like most pico projectors, the ANSI Lumens rating is on the low side, compared to a traditional full-bodied projector — this one is rated at only 20 ANSI Lumens. For practical purposes, this means that you can use it in a lit room, but only just, and really only because the practical throw distance of the projector isn't all that far in real terms.

It may have just been our review sample, but the supplied documentation with the C20 isn't that impressive; a slender multi-language "quick start" guide that's dwarfed by the warranty cards that come with it. What the quick start guide does suggest is that, with the right cables, the C20 should be a rather flexible projector depending on your needs.

It'll connect up to USB drives via a micro-USB cable, laptops via a VGA cable, games consoles via an RCA cable, iPods via a 2.5mm to 3.5mm A/V cable and HDMI sources via a mini-HDMI cable. That's all well and good, but you only get the VGA and micro-USB cables in the box. All the other options will involve tracking down and buying the relevant cables subject to your needs. For the purposes of our review, Acer supplied us with a compatible mini-HDMI cable, but it's not standard.

If you don't have a projection screen at your destination, Acer will also sell you a AU$49 15-inch portable projection screen. That's portable in a slightly different sense to the projector; you could stow it in a bag, but never in your pocket.

Performance

Setting up the C20 was slightly more of a challenge than we'd initially anticipated. The projector lacks any kind of inbuilt tilt mechanism such as feet, and that makes finding the correct pitch angle rather hard without a tripod. We'd suggest adding a mini-tripod to the list of accessories that you should buy with the C20, although a stack of books will do in a pinch.

Once we'd set the angle appropriately, we then had to get the C20 to focus properly. This was a challenge on two levels. For a start, the projector's native focus tends to render text or any straight lines used in things like clip art with a very soft tone. With video playback it's less noticeable, but if you're staring at a PowerPoint presentation for any length of time, it does become distracting. Good focus should assist with this, but the tiny focus wheel lacks granular precision, and we often wrestled with getting the best possible focus from it. Being such a tiny projector, scrolling the wheel often shifted the position of the focus, as well.

The C20 includes integrated speakers, but anyone looking for audio quality won't find it here, and that's not too surprising. On the plus side, there is a standard audio output socket, so you could improve audio easily at the cost of some portability.

The C20's battery life was around an hour in our tests. For most business users that should be adequate, but you may want to pack the supplied charger just in case.

Conclusion

At AU$489, the C20 is among the cheaper brand-name pico projectors on the marketplace, but it's not without its flaws and limitations. If you're only making rather short presentations, and not using the speakers in any meaningful way, it's fair — but not great value.