By far the biggest problem with the Pico’s images, though, is also the most predictable one: brightness. Or the extreme lack thereof.
Trying to watch the picture at anything bigger than 40in across in anything other than pitch blackness is almost impossible. People tend to appear as mere silhouettes against bright backdrops, and dark corners look so black that they seemingly contain no picture information at all. And this is with the lamp output set to high!
Shunt the projector nearer to a screen or wall, so that the picture size gets to somewhere in the region of 30in or less, and the image looks more natural and punchy. But still only if you’re using it in a really quite dark environment.
Of course, a 30in image is hardly the stuff of the home cinema dreams we usually cater for in the ‘TV’ section of TrustedReviews. But to be fair, it’s a damn sight better than gathering a group of friends around a puny portable device screen if you’re wanting to share a particularly amusing photograph you’ve just snapped down the pub.
But of course, to reinforce my point about the lack of brightness, the pub you’re in will have to be particularly poorly lit if you don’t want the Pico’s images to be hard to see properly, even if you keep the image size down to 20in. This ambient light restriction on casual use, however predictable, really limits the occasions when I can imagine a Pico coming in handy.
To finish on a more positive note, the 0.5W speaker built into the Pico turns out to be considerably more powerful than I’d expected. Obviously there’s not a trace of bass in the sound produced, meaning everything sounds as tinny as hell. But that doesn’t stop dialogue and treble effects being surprisingly clear and audible, even when used in a pretty large room.
The concept of the Pico is awesome, the design is brilliantly conceived and hugely desirable in an iPhone kind of way, and there are even some signs of genuine DLP image quality.
That said, for me the inevitable performance compromises involved in squeezing a projector into your pocket are ultimately just too acute to make the Pico truly useful. And call me old fashioned, but however much I might feel compelled to own the next hot portable gadget, I still expect that gadget to be useful as well as cool.