Aaxa P4 pico projector

As pocket-size (pico) projectors go, the Aaxa P4 isn’t the smallest or most lightweight of the current crop, but it does deliver exceptionally bright images, and its unusual Windows CE innards allow some functionality you don’t see on competitors. But the P4 suffers from mediocre battery life, and its audio doesn’t do justice to its image quality.

Weighing in at about 8 ounces, and roughly the size of two or three stacked iPhones, the Aaxa P4 uses DLP technology to deliver image brightness of 80 ANSI lumens; most competitors top out at 30 to 50 ANSI lumens. The benefit of a bright image is that you can use the projector without having to dim the viewing room’s lights: In my tests, the P4’s images were perfectly visible in a fully lit room.

They can be quite large, too. According to a small but helpful printed manual, the unit can produce an image of up to 50.5 inches on the diagonal from a distance of 8 feet. Aspect ratio is 16:9.

Other tech specs were more in keeping with the field. The native resolution (858 by 480) is fairly standard for a high-end pico projector (the P4 was going for around US$330 as of December 15, 2011), as is its support for input resolutions of up to 1280 by 800. It accepts VGA via an included VGA-to-mini-USB cable, and composite video (also via an included adapter cable).

However, it has only limited support for iPads or iPhones. You can buy a US$20 connector cable, but the applications you wish to project must support video-out.

The Aaxa P4 also has a microSD card slot and a standard USB port that lets you add either storage or a receiver for a wireless mouse and/or a keyboard. Aaxa in fact offers a cell-phone-size keyboard with touchpad and USB dongle as a $50 option, but out of the box you can control the unit via either the navigation, power on/off, and directional buttons on top of the unit, or the included remote, which is about the size of a couple of matchbooks.

The built-in speaker is a fairly feeble 1-watt affair; the P4 has a standard headphone jack, too-but no Wi-Fi. Battery life was pretty poor in my tests-only a few minutes over an hour and slightly less than the 75 minutes mentioned in the documentation. The battery takes a good four hours to recharge. The P4 is also a little noisy in operation.

The unit comes with a small tripod that slides into a slot on its underside, with gooseneck legs that can bend any which way. They look cute, but the legs easily buckle, which causes the projector to wobble. This can be problematic since adjusting the tripod is pretty much the only way to deal with keystone issues (when the projected image looks like a trapezoid instead of a rectangle).

The P4 can play AVI, MPG, MP4, MP3, FLV, RMVB, RM, and JPG videos, stills, and music files from connected media (such as a microSD or USB thumb drive). You also get both read and write support for the big Office file formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) via an included Windows CE app called SoftMaker.

But otherwise, the use of Windows CE, a now-obscure mobile variant of Windows, doesn’t add a whole lot of value to the P4, since there are so few Windows CE apps. (Aaxa makes a big point, too, of saying that it does not provide tech support for problems related to the OS or any third-party apps.)

Ultimately, the ability to project bright, clear images in a lit room is the P4’s biggest selling point, and that may be enough for business travelers who like to travel light. But if good battery life or decent audio are a concern, consider looking elsewhere.

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