Optoma knows a thing of two about projectors, so it's no surprise that the PK301 is not only small and light, but made with the same quality as its larger siblings. This pico pumps out a relatively bright image, and we really appreciate the convenient focusing ring. However, the PK301's relatively high price and short battery life hold it back. And you have to jump through some hoops to view PowerPoints.
The Optoma PK301 looks like one of the company's larger projectors was left in the dryer too long. The rectangular device measures 4.7 x 2.7 x 1.2 inches and weighs a light 8 ounces. It's all black, save for the chrome-colored focusing ring around the lens, and the sides have vertical slats to allow air in.
On the back of the device are inputs for its 24-pin universal connector, mini-HDMI, audio out, A/V in, microUSB, and power. On the right side is a microSD Card slot, and the bottom houses the battery and a tripod mount. The PK301 comes with a lightly padded case.
The PK301 is also bundled with an adapter cable that connects the universal port to VGA. a 2.5mm-to-component connector, and a USB cable. Sadly, the included documentation--a simple fold-out pamphlet--is skimpy compared to the 160-page, 16-language booklet that comes with the Samsung SP-H03 projector.
On the top of the PK301 is a four-way push-button navigation pad with two extra buttons for Menu and input source. The all-black buttons would be impossible to use were they not backlit blue. The PK301's on-screen selections are easy to understand--the main menu lets you choose between RAM (settings), microSD, USB, and Search--but it's simplistic compared to that on the Samsung SP-H03. Moreover, the background of the menu fades to black and it seems like the image is getting cut off, which is alarming the first time you use it.
While pico projectors are never going to rival full-size projectors in terms of brightness, we found the rated 50 lumens of the PK-301 to be plenty adequate in a darkened room. The brightness can also be turned down to 20 lumens in Standard mode. Although its native resolution is 854 x 480 pixels, the PK301 is able to project images up to 1080i. It supports 3GP, AVI, MOV, and MPEG-4 video formats, and BMP and JPEG photos.
We found the focusing ring to be highly accurate. It had the right amount of stiffness so that we didn't have to force it into position, and didn't feel like it would drift out of focus. However, we wish there was an anti-keystoning feature so the PK301 didn't have to be on the same level as the image it projected.
At 3 feet from a screen, the projector beamed a 23-inch diagonal picture, slightly less than the 28 inches we saw with the Samsung SP-H03. Still, images were bright and crisp: a 720p clip of The Discoverers played via VGA from our notebook was wonderfully vivid and smooth. As with any pico projector, you'll definitely want to dim the lights. Still, we found the PK301 to be brighter than the SP-H03 when it projected images against a wall illuminated by sunlight; we could pull the it about a foot or two further back. However, when we played a 1080i version of The Departed from a micro SD Card in the projector, playback was choppy.
Also unlike the Samsung SP-H03 and the 3M Mpro150, the PK301 cannot natively view PowerPoint presentations; you must first connect the projector to a ntoebook via USB and install the ArcSoft Media Converter 3 software that's on the projector itself. In order to view a PowerPoint, you must drag and drop files into the Media Converter 3 app, which will then transfer the presentation to the projector. Also note that this software converts the presentation to static images, so you lose any animation and sound.
Battery Life and Warranty
While projector companies are usually hyperbolic in their claims, the PK301's stated battery life of 1 hour (in 20 lumen mode) was very close to accurate; the battery died after 56 minutes of playing a movie continually. However, the Samsung SP-H03's battery lasted 40 minutes longer. Optoma sells an extended battery pack that it claims offers more than 5 hours of playing time.
The PK301 is covered by a one-year limited parts-and-labor warranty.
There are some things we like about the Optoma PK301; of all the pico projectors we've tested recently, it's the easiest and most accurate to focus, and it has a good number of connection options. It's images are also fairly bright. However, we prefer the Samsung SP-H03, which is less expensive, has longer battery life, and can display PowerPoints natively.