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The Neo-i stretches the very definition of what a pico projector is. First off, it’s too good to be a pico projector—the internal lens and engine are pulled straight from Optoma’s critically acclaimed PK301—but it also boasts an impressive stereo and iPod dock. Second, it’s too big to be a pico projector. Weighing in at 2.5 pounds, it’s neither handheld nor mobile. So what exactly is this thing?
That really depends on whom you ask. If you have an iPhone or iPod device filled with videos, the dock will be one of the Neo-i’s biggest selling points—but if you’ve never owned an iPod in your life, it has plenty of other ways to keep you interested. See, you can also use the HDMI port to hook up your Blu-ray player, the VGA input to hook up your computer, an optional accessory kit ($39.99) to connect your iPad, or the component cables to hook up just about anything else in the known universe.
If you do own an iOS device, you’re in luck. Even though iPods and iPhones only support 480p output, the videos still looked awfully crisp. That might come as a surprise to anyone looking at the Neo-i’s stats—video tops out at 854 by 480 pixels (even with an HDMI input from an iPad 2 or Blu-ray player), which thankfully looks much better than it sounds. The video performs best in a dark room, but as long as your viewing area isn’t hospital-bright, video is still clear enough to be watchable. Optoma states the Neo-i can deliver an image up to 120 inches diagonally, but we found the image quality starts to suffer just north of 50 inches.
Video aside, the built-in speakers are loud but not particularly clean at full tilt—a necessity when watching movies with more than one or two people. And while the plain-Jane plastic body won’t amaze your guests, its touch-capacitive blue light-up buttons just might. Fortunately, the futuristic buttons dim after a short time so they don’t distract from your video.
The bottom line. While the Neo-i is a perfectly capable and sleek video player, its price is more than a little surprising. For $450, you can buy a good entry-level HDTV, and even with all its “wow factors,” the Neo-i still can’t hold a candle lumen to that.
Optoma Neo-i Projector Dock
Videos, hardware that plays them
16-watt speaker system is plenty loud. Surprisingly good picture for a “pico” projector. Lightweight for a dock.
Muddled at loud volumes. Weak remote control. Very (very) expensive.