Friday, April 2, 2010

Microvision: Initial Reviews of Laser PicoP Projector SHOWwx

On March 24th, Microvision launched its first laser PicoP projector SHOWwx for sale from its on-line store…

Sales of this DVD quality and focus free laser projector have been quite brisk without any visible signs of advertising or promotional effort… indicating a broad based demand; from those that are aware of this pico projection as the emerging new technology that seems to have arrived in full bloom this spring.

I received my Limited Edition SHOWwx a few days ago and shared the pico projection experience with my friends, family and some total strangers.

Here’s my personal experience with Limited Edition SHOWwx…

The packaging is First Class, including a solid high quality 12x16" shiny black box that says "Image by PicoP" in silver letters. All the accessories are in their own quality boxes and they all rest on black grass like packing material. It also includes a Limited Edition SHOWwx Laser Pico Projector Certificate of Authenticity signed by Alexander Tokman… the CEO of Microvision. I was very impressed as to the very upscale quality of the packaging. It tells me that Microvision is a quality company with a quality product included in the box.

The metallic blue color SHOWwx was nicely packed compactly in its own compartment. A chrome plated insignia “SHOWwx Limited Edition” graced on the top half of the laser projector. I quickly read thru the few pages of instructions and safety manual to familiarize with the fine nuances of this feather weight machine that boasts of up to 100” projection display under certain ambient light conditions.

I inserted the battery in the SHOWwx as instructed in the manual and charged the battery for a few hours till the orange light turned green. When I first turned it on, it displayed my name in the lower right hand corner which was pretty cool. I walked around the house projecting various size images up and down the ceiling to walls to the hard wood floor. What an experience… feeling like a kid in the candy store! The highlight of this experience culminated in the fairly dark entertainment center in my finished basement.

Over 100” vivid color and focused image on the white wall just had one response from my 10 year old son… WOW!

One of the main usages that I had planned for SHOWwx was to watch streaming sports and You Tube videos. But, I still have not yet figured out how to enable the external monitor/projector on my HP Pavilion laptop. I tried the FN+F5 key combination the laptop instructions recommended; but that didn't work so I'll keep working on that.

The next thing I wanted to use SHOWwx was to hook it up to my portable DVD player and watch big screen movies in the entertainment center of the basement. Since my portable DVD player has 9" screen, it handles and travels well but I wanted a bigger screen to watch the movies. Surprisingly, even though SHOWwx comes with 4 different cables the one I needed was not included. So, I had to buy the proper male to male RCA video cable for $5 at the local Radio Shack

I hooked it up to my portable DVD player and found I had to press a switch that made my DVD screen go dark but produced a picture on the SHOWwx. The colors were bright and vivid and there were no green lines on the top or bottom of the screen when playing “Star Wars” on the DVD. The picture is certainly brighter when the screen size is 40” diagonal… but is still very sharp at 80” diagonal. Like most projectors the SHOWwx works best in a dimly lit or dark room… just like in a theater. The battery charge was good enough to last over 110 minute… before I had to go looking for the spare that came with the Limited Edition SHOWwx.

Paul Anderson did a very nice experiment with the SHOWwx battery run time that you should take a few minutes to look at…

Overall, I think it works great and the unit is so light you could easily carry it in a shirt pocket although mine came with a nice heavy duty carrying case with an "X" (for SHOWwx) on it that easily clips-on to your belt.

The only obvious improvement I would recommend; is to include an on-board SD memory card… for downloading and using digital content without having to attach SHOWwx to a host device.

With my personal experience set aside…

Initial reviews of SHOWwx and its projection image quality are coming-in from the first adopter users of the Limited Edition and the Commercial Edition product that was just recently shipped over the last few days.

If you are willing to accept the good with the bad, here’s a collection from a diverse group of people that have had a chance to look at the SHOWwx image projection in real life setting:

• “Tremendous product! This pico projection communicates the giddy excitement that awaits those who see and play with the PicoP for the first time. Such a bright, clear, colorful image from such a tiny device is hard to accept at first, as it contradicts one's prior experiences. Those guys were getting happy feet just like I did the first time I saw the PicoP in action. Microvision technology is going to OWN the high quality end of these emerging product categories.”

• “The projected image is from iPod Touch that has a resolution of 483 by 320 pixels. SHOWwx has a resolution of 848 by 480 pixels. If you liked the image at 483x320 pixels [iPod Touch] just imagine how awesome the image would look at 848x480 pixels.”

• “Even at the $549 launch price this product is amazing value and I for one will probably be buying several.”

• "...the amazing thing about this projector, it's not a shitty DLP or LCD based light engine... it's a scanning LASER!!!"

• "Because it's a beam of light from lasers it's always in focus, incredibly bright and the lasers have an immense lifetime..."

• "The Microvision laser projector seriously impresses me (and come on, you know how cynical I am!) but I'm not at all excited by those little DLP projectors that are just hitting the market... they are built on an old technology that isn't translating to the mobile world very well at all..."

• I have seen the videos of this product image. What I notice is so much better image quality in real life. It's worth mentioning a few facts:

1. Due to the slight difference between the refresh rate of video camera and the laser scan lines on the Microvision projector; the video image appears to flicker… which does not happen in "real life" and is a side-effect of recording projected image with a camera.

2. Most digital cameras don’t handle the low ambient light recording well and therefore don’t do the SHOWwx pico projector any favors... but the video images still look amazing!

• “Needless to say, I absolutely LOVE this product."

• "Yeah - Dad's mad about this, but I have to admit the demo was excellent. No focusing and a massive clear image created from a handset-sized device. Imagine sharing your images at a party on a wall...”

• “This unit outperforms the comparable Optoma unit and the actual projector is about 2/3rd of the size of an iPhone."

• “Those guys were stunned. I love to see the reaction of tech junkies like me.”

• “Just get me some big fat orders and I'll be happy.”… Obviously from someone who desperately wants to work for Microvision in the sales department.

• “You might mention that the flickering on the screen doesn't show when you're using the projector live. And yeah, I want one . . .”.

• “It is almost laughable now how the "green laser supply" issue has been blown out of all proportions by so many others. A serious public company with serious business doesn't require reading a bunch of tea leafs or put out a bunch of rumor fodder.”

• “Go back and look at all the posts for the last 8 years about how many "this is it" posts on a tea leaf reading have been pronounced and how many have come true?”

• “He could have been referring to a couple of large corporations with sales forces that have inquired about purchasing a number of units when available. However, I think they would want on-board memory so they can load-up a presentation without a second device hooked-up.”

• “Looks a lot better than the Pico Pocket Projector I reviewed a couple of months ago. Looking forward to buying SHOWwx with on-board memory in the near future!”

• “Brilliant! The fact that it's non-focus is the best part.”

• “… I think the SHOWWX is fantastic and everyone will want one when they find out about it.”

So there you have it, comments from those enamored with PicoP… those with inquisitive minds… and those who are skeptics.

Be careful with what you wish for!

Anant Goel