CES 2011: Optoma

by: Dan -
Heading into my appointment with Optoma, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Last year, they introduced a killer lineup of affordable projectors targeting the gaming community (GameTime series) and updated some of their PICO lineup. I was looking forward to seeing what Optoma had this year and was fortunate to be able to sit down with Jon Grodem, Sr. Director of Product and Marketing and discuss the new Optoma offerings at the show.

The first thing that caught my eye was this hybrid projector/iPod dock contraption that looked like it belonged in every kid’s bedroom or dorm room across the U.S. I learned that this was the Neo-I, and also sported a PICO projector that was capable of getting to 120” WXGA (854x480) screen and has a 16-watt built-in stereo system to hear as well as see whatever you put through it. The projector is 50 lumens and will accept video by Apple’s 20-pin connector, HDMI, VGA and an optional accessory kit that allows an iPad to hook up to it. One thing that hasn’t been completely finalized as of yet, but was displayed, were skins for the Neo-i. In the booth, I saw at least two different versions, but final details weren’t yet available. The Neo-I is scheduled to hit retail sometime in Late-January, early-February time frame with an MSRP of $449.

Another big piece of Optoma’s 2011 CES lineup was the addition of 3D content to their projectors. Last year when we reviewed the GT720, I made note that it was 3D capable, but due to a lack of source material, I was unable to test it. At the show this year, Optoma was showing off their new 3D-XL, which is a converter box that allows 720P 3D ready projectors play 1080p 3D Blu-Ray Disks. The way it works is to convert the HDMI 1.4 from 1080p 3D players and down convert it to the HDMI 1.3 that 720p 3D DLP projectors can understand and display in 3D. I was impressed with how well it performed in the booth, creating a very good 3D image that popped off the screen. The 3D-XL is scheduled to hit retail at the end of January at a cost of $399 for the box plus any investment in active shutter glasses.

Speaking of 3D glasses, Optoma also announced and were showing off their ZD201 DLP Link active-shutter 3D glasses. These are the second go around for glasses, and they were definitely lighter and more comfortable than most active-shutter glasses on the market. They also are expected to hit retail in January, and the best part is that the MSRP will be around $99. We are expecting to get our hands on the GT720 again along with the 3D-XL and a couple pairs of the ZD201 to see how well 3D gaming looks.

One other projector that was on hand was the new PT100. The first PlayTime model is designed to create an inexpensive way to get a projected image for whatever you need. It has an LED bulb, WVGA (854x480) resolution, VGA and RCA inputs and only weighs 1.7 lbs. It can project images from 10” – 100” and also has a built-in 1.5 watt speaker for on the go projector use. There have been a lot of “cheap” projectors over the years trying to grab that sub $250 projector market share. Ultimately, their undoing is a cheaply made product to keep the costs down. Where the PT100 is different is that it gets to the price range without sacrificing any quality to do it. This would be perfect for those that want a good projector for occasional use but don’t want to make a heavy investment in it

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