Pico projectors — video projectors small enough to fit in pockets or bags — are handy if you need to carry a tool that can display videos on a surface much larger than your iPhone’s screen. And if you’re willing to step up from an iPhone 6 Plus-sized footprint to a projector that’s still smaller (in two dimensions) than an iPad mini, there are benefits: larger projectors can hold more powerful lightbulbs, better speakers, and bigger batteries, amongst other features.
AAXA’s P700 ($450) demonstrates what you can expect if you jump from a pocket-sized projector to one that fits in a bag or briefcase. It adds around 50% more physical volume to AAXA’s $299 ST200, which I reviewed and liked five months ago, leveraging the extra space to offer over 4 times the light output, noticeably stronger audio, and slightly longer battery life. If you’re looking for a way to display Mac, Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, or iPod content on up to a 150″ surface, you’ll want to see what P700 offers…
Measuring 6.9″ wide by 3.9″ deep by 1.6″ tall, P700 is only a hint taller than the ST200, but around 1.5″ wider and 0.6″ deeper — enough to go from “large pocket-sized” to “bag- or briefcase-only.” The industrial design cues are similar but a little more sophisticated on the new model, adding a glossy black top and silver navigational buttons to the otherwise similar, matte white chassis. (P700 is actually an upgraded version of an older model called P300, and looks very similar, but wider.)
You still get the same pack-ins: basic video cables, an inexpensive tripod, a wall power supply, and a basic remote control. It remains up to you to supply an HDMI cable (for any Apple device, including Apple TVs and HDMI Macs) and, if you have an iOS device, a Lightning to Digital AV Adapter; the former omission is surprising at this point given how cheap HDMI cables have become. On the other hand, P700 has received some obvious upgrades in the power department. Its wall adapter is noticeably larger than ST200’s, and its integrated rechargeable battery promises over 70 minutes of completely independent run time, up from a promised 60 minutes in ST200 and P300. ST200’s battery actually ran for a meager 36 minutes in my testing, but P700 ran for 65 minutes, only a little shy of AAXA’s number.
All of the same ports, buttons, and dials have been preserved between the models, including a Micro SD/TF card slot, HDMI port, and controls to navigate integrated menus. AAXA also includes a built-in media player capable of reading USB flash sticks and performing (non-protected) media files without the need for a separate device, just like ST200. Their core functionality is so similar that I’m not going to repeat all of the details from my prior review; the differences are really what matters.
One of those differences is suggested by the P700’s and ST200’s different names. ST200 is classified as a “short throw” projector, designed to create a large image at very close distances. By comparison, P700 puts out a noticeably smaller but much brighter image at the same distance. This means you’ll need to move it further from the surface to make it equal the size of ST200’s image.
While this sounds like a trivial issue, an oddity in P700’s handling of iPad video output made for a weird initial experience and impression during my testing. Even at a 12-inch distance from a black board I was using, I noticed that P700 displayed the iPad’s UI small enough that icon labels were hard to read, and that the aspect ratio was being compressed from its natural 4:3 down to a nearly square image. Even when I adjusted P700’s aspect ratio settings, iPad apps and games continued to display in that small, square box.
But iPad videos, Mac output, and other 16:9 video sources had no issues with P700. They occupied the full width of the projector’s output, and were both bright and legible against the black background. In other words, unless you’re planning to connect an iPad to P700 for purposes other than showing video, the projector’s output should be good. And it’s possible that a software update to the P700 will fix its iPad performance in the future.
The throw ratios of ST200 and P700 are markedly different, as you can see from the image above where the ST200 (left) and P700 (right) are at the exact same distance from the black board. To create a 20″ image, P700 needs to be 16″ away from a surface, versus only 12.5″ for ST200. If P700 is at a similar 12.5″ distance, it displays video at roughly the same size as an iPad screen — not great for presentations. So you need to give it more space to project a bigger image.
P700 shines when it’s moved further away from a wall. First, when ST200 and P700 are set up to project the same screen size, P700 is noticeably brighter, a difference that’s obvious both in stronger whites and more saturated colors. That’s thanks to a 650-Lumen bulb that’s 4.3 times more powerful than the 150-Lumen bulb in ST200.
Whereas the ST200 could barely put out a dim 100″ diagonal image, the P700 can create a 150″ image in dark environments — assuming it’s both 120″ away from the surface it’s projecting on, and also running on wall power. In other words, it can create a 12.5-foot video display if it’s plugged in near a wall that’s 10 feet away from another wall. That’s a mighty big picture for such a small projector.
Why does it need to be plugged in? To conserve battery power, the bulb is capped at 350 Lumens of output when running off of the integrated rechargeable cell, but jumps to 650 Lumens when the wall adapter is connected. Even at 350 Lumens, the P700’s image actually looks more than twice as bright as the ST200’s. At 650 Lumens, it achieves really excellent whiteness and color saturation at close distances. The 350/650 Lumen comparison photos above don’t do full justice to the differences, but in person, they’re obvious, and if you look closely at the top centers and rights of the photos, you can see details that get washed out at lower brightnesses.
Whether you’ll actually want to display videos at such large sizes is another question. As compared with the 1280×720, 16:9 native ST200, P700 sports a slightly higher 1280×800 resolution. On a positive note, that’s enough resolution to render most iPhone, iPad, iPod, and MacBook UIs at their basic, non-Retina levels. The pixels can be focus-adjusted to razor sharpness, and the color saturation looks great. AAXA includes a basic collection of color, contrast, tint, and brightness settings, as well as cool, medium, warm, and custom color temperature choices.
On the other hand, that resolution is only a hint higher than 720p, and well short of the 1080p, 4K, and various high-resolution Retina displays found in Macs and iPads today. Consequently, even though P700’s 1 million pixels look sharp, you may start to wish for higher resolutions at projection sizes larger than 32″. Since LED TV prices are now falling to incredibly low levels, the $450 P700’s major advantage over an $200 1080p LED TV or sub-$500 UHD 4K TV is portability. At 1.37 pounds, it’s almost twice as heavy as the 0.7-pound ST200, but still very easy to carry around — much easier than any TV, for sure.
Sonically, P700 improves somewhat upon the ST200 by including stereo 1-Watt speakers — that’s little power by audio system standards, but better than nothing. While the ST200 had so little output capability that sound could barely be heard over its 30dB internal fan, P700 also has a 30dB fan, but the speakers certainly let you hear enough audio during videos to more than rival full-sized iPads. Unfortunately, the sound quality is barely acceptable. Distortion is evident above the 65% mark on its volume slider, making P700 far less than ideal for listening to music. For playing back videos, especially movies mostly comprised of dialogue and vocal performances, it’s fine.
Like ST200, P700 does require manual image adjustments — something that was easier to swallow in the less expensive model. AAXA still includes a cheap tripod with P700, which doesn’t level the projector on any axis, and thus creates image “keystoning,” a trapezoidal and otherwise skewed display of video. You can use the arrow keys on P700’s top to compensate for the keystoning, and play with the springy legs, but a better tripod and automatic keystone compensation would reduce the need for manual adjustments.
Overall, P700 is exactly what AAXA claims it is: a modestly larger but much more powerful alternative to its pocket-sized pico projectors. Reasonably compact yet capable of putting out bright, colorful images at your choice of sizes, it’s a good option if you require true portability from a projector and plan to use it mostly with an Apple TV, a MacBook, or in video playback mode with an iOS device. That said, if portability doesn’t matter, similar dollars can buy you a non-portable projector with more power, or a TV set with little adjustability and higher picture quality. P700 is here for people who need a powerful projector that can be used on the go.
Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, iPod
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