As someone that used to do a lot of traveling for implementation and training work, I was always at the mercy of the projector that companies would provide me for training. Usually this was fine, but sometimes I got stuck with an ancient projector that only did 640x480 resolution, which couldn’t even handle the applications I was trying to train people on. Trying to pack and lug a projector across the country was out of the question as it was an expensive, and backbreaking, proposition.

Thankfully technology moves on and improves, and today we have solutions for these situations. One solution is the ASUS P1 Portable LED Projector. Using a DLP chip and an LED light source, this sub-1 pound projector manages to put out 1280x800 pixels and 200 ANSI lumens, and it would even fit inside the bag that holds my 11.6” MacBook Air. Most projectors that I use are for home theaters and have lenses that are larger than the P1, so I was a bit skeptical of it when I first saw it, but eager to give it a try.

The P1 is very simple on the outside, with a single focus control but no zoom for the lens, a few buttons to control an on-screen menu system, and ports for the PSU and a break-out cable. The only inputs supported are VGA and Composite Video, with no digital video inputs available. A variety of resolutions are supported, but as mentioned the native resolution of the DLP chip is 1280x800 and other resolutions may result in scaling and artifacts. Using a MiniDP to VGA adapter I hooked up my MacBook Air to the P1 in my living room, as the lighter colored walls and ambient light there were similar to what I found when traveling. Using a white wall, or a projection screen, would result in a better image but with a projector like this, you often don’t have such luxuries.

The closest resolution the MacBook reported as supporting was 1280x768, which results in a 34-pixel crop at the bottom of the screen, but otherwise there's no scaling or other issues. One concern that people will have when they see this is the 200 lumens rating, as that seems quite small in comparison to other projectors. Since the P1 uses an LED light source, you can expect those lumens to be very constant throughout the life of the projector, unlike conventional projection bulbs that can easily lose 25% or more brightness in less than 500 hours of usage. Also, the P1 is likely to be used in smaller rooms and settings than a 2,000 lumen monster, and typical screen size will be closer to 60” than 150”, so for business use you will probably find this to be enough light.

In my less than ideal setup, I was around 5’ from the nearest wall and the projected image was certainly bright enough to clearly see with all the room lights on and some sun shining in. The 50” plasma next to it was certainly brighter, but I can’t throw it into my bag and carry it with me. The short throw ratio of the P1 meant the image I had on the wall was right around 62” diagonally, which was nice and large. Bringing up a spreadsheet and a presentation it was easy enough to read the cells and the information, though adding a little bit of zoom inside of Excel helped. Darker material, such as nighttime video, was a little bit hard to make out, but for business use you won’t have an issue seeing anything.

A nice feature in the P1 was automatic keystone correction when the flip-stand under the projector is enabled. While any sort of image correction like this will add some artifacting if you look, it wasn’t clearly noticeable when just using a spreadsheet or other business application, and it happened transparently when adjusting the P1. This can be adjusted in the menu system as well, but the automatic nature of it was nice and easy.

For the most part the P1 worked very well for its intended use. It’s very small and easy to pack, and puts out a bright enough image that you can get a very reasonable size in a lit room that people can easily see. However, it wasn’t without some faults that I would like to see improved in the future.

I would like to see a digital video input of some sort in the future, either DVI or Micro HDMI or DisplayPort would be nice; an MHL port for phones and other devices that are starting to implement those would be useful as well. Secondly, with the lightweight nature of the P1, the breakout cable for VGA and Composite video was fairly heavy and was enough to easily shift the projector around on my table. Either a lighter cable, a tackier material on the bottom of the projector, or positioning the cable at the rear where it is less likely to cause a shift to one side would be good.

The fan noise in the standard mode was a bit loud, though that is the case for a lot of projectors. LEDs are power efficient, but they do seem to generate a lot of heat and something has to dissipate that. The rated sound output is only 29dB, but that is in Theater mode that dims the output so not as much cooling is required. Finally, an option in the menu system to change the On Screen language would be nice. This is something that would almost never occur to me, except that the unit I received seems to be in German and reading the English manual revealed no way to change that on my own. Doing a Reset All allowed me to pick a language, but this wasn't mentioned in the manual, so hopefully this will be addressed.

While not without some minor quibbles that I find in almost any product, the ASUS P1 wound up being a pretty nice little projector to use. The only other LED projectors I had used in the past were $30,000 units so I had no idea what to expect from one selling for $500, but for the price it was a decent little unit. The output was nice and sharp, though with any projector with text you’ll want it a bit bigger than you would on your normal display. It was small and compact enough to throw into the included bag and carry around with me, and light enough that I wouldn’t notice the extra strain on my shoulders. For someone that travels a lot, or needs a projector they can easily move around all the time, the ASUS P1 is definitely worth a look.

Specifications of ASUS P1 LED Projector
Resolution 1280x800
Throw Ratio 1.12
Lumens 200 ANSI
Contrast Ratio 2000:1
Weight 0.91 lbs.
Dimensions (WxHxD) 4.94" x 1.32" x 5.12"
Price $499

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  • ShieTar - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    "LEDs are power efficient, but they do seem to generate a lot of heat and something has to dissipate that."

    On top of the LED power losses, the DLP technology means that a significant amount of the light generated by the LED is just sent to a heat dump. Have you checked if the noise changes significantly between bright and dark images?
    Reply
  • NCM - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    Err, "LEDs are power efficient but they do seem to generate a lot of heat" is a pretty much a contradiction in terms. The heat generated is a direct function of inefficiency.

    I think the real answer is that while a halogen bulb is much less efficient, by its very nature it operates at and is tolerant of high temperatures. A high output LED, on the other hand, must be aggressively cooled to prevent overheating and self-destruction, despite its better luminous efficiency.

    You can also see this effect in LED bulbs for domestic lighting, many of which have substantial finned metal heat sinks.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    "Since the P1 uses an LED light source, you can expect those lumens to be very constant throughout the life of the projector, unlike conventional projection bulbs that can easily lose 25% or more brightness in less than 500 hours of usage."

    LEDs will lose brightness if you drive them too hard. I have a very bright LED nightlight, and it has lost brightness after a year. I'm sure it uses crappy LEDs. I have 2 of them, and both of them have lost a noticeable amount of brightness:

    http://www.amazon.com/Maxxima-MLN-50-Night-Light-S...
    Reply
  • cheinonen - Thursday, February 23, 2012 - link

    Everything loses some brightness, but the curve on LEDs (at least those used in projectors) in a much, much slower decay than anything else used to light one. There have been very few LED lit projectors for home theaters at this point (mostly because home theater projectors need 1100+ lumens to start with before calibration) but those that have been released do have some light fall off, but it's very, very slow in comparison. Reply
  • ProDigit - Sunday, March 04, 2012 - link

    200 ansi lumen is not nearly enough to see in a dark room!
    Most projectors are placed 4 meters from the wall, and provide a 180cm diagonal screen.

    This one will not be good enough for the bedroom;just replacing a $300 TV.

    For a good projector, you need one with 2000Lm at least!
    Then, in complete darkness you can see a 180cm screen projected on a wall.
    Reply
  • nicolaim - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    LG arguably makes the best projectors in this category. Unfortunately they still have some flaws. It's too bad things aren't progressing faster with this technology, because the potential for top-notch image quality with low fan noise is there. Reply
  • Ryan1981 - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    I have been familiarizing myself with led projectors for the last few months since I want one as a video projector for in the bedroom (live in a very small apartment and this is an ideal solution). After looking at a lot of models (LG hw300y, Optoma LM500, Qumi, vivitec, Abis, Samsung, etc) My final decision has fallen on the Acer K330. It comes highly rated by this site:

    http://www.projectorcentral.com/acer_k330_portable...

    And price vs quality it is a very good deal. I have read about the LG not scaling source material properly which is a definite no no if you ask me. LG does offer some very nice features, two of which is not available in the UK (EU) (the DVB T tuner and the FM transmitter).
    Reply
  • JNo - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    ... to see a review of this sort of tech. I too have a normal / 'full size' projector but this one looks incredibly small. It seems there's a whole new category of bigger-than-pico 200+ lumen LED projectors. As usual, www.projectorcentral.com has got decent selection of reviews including recently the Dell M110, Optoma ML500 and Acer K330.

    The Acer in particular scores very well and is 500 lumens so I would be curious to see a comparison vs this Asus model (the Acer does not have a power brick either).
    Reply
  • JNo - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    oh - and the Acer has hdmi input! 4000:1 contrast, internal memory and automatic keystone correction.

    However a quick goodle and it looks bigger physically that the Asus but hard to tell without seeing them side-by-side.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    Acer lists the K330 as:

    Weight 2.73 lbs (1.24 Kg)
    Dimensions (W x D x H) 218 x 168 x 46.5 mm (8.6" x 6.6" x 1.8")

    Which is considerably larger than the Asus P1.
    Reply

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