Makers are capitalizing on novelty designs and enhanced solutions for pocket projector line.
Quality enhancements are directing China pocket projector suppliers’ R&D and production activities. Makers are improving the resolution, brightness and contrast ratio to deliver better video. Units with VGA or higher resolution continue to rise. Releases likewise pack improvements in the other two attributes. The Pra198A model from Aiyos Technology Co. Ltd, for example, boasts 1024×768 pixels, 230 lumens and 600:1 contrast ratio. It enables 1080p playback, and TV and DVB-T function.
Mainland China manufacturers are leveraging the latest solutions to support such initiatives. The Pra198A model from Aiyos runs on 3M’s newest chip and optical engine. TGF Group Co. Ltd’s TMH06 model uses the latest optical engine from Butterfly. The LCoS pocket projector incorporates an RGB LED and delivers 200in projection with 1680×1050 pixels and 170 lumens brightness. It has a cooling fan sourced from a Taiwan supplier.
Makers are also adding value by integrating new features such as LCD screens, touch buttons and wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi. More units run on Windows CE or Android OS. RGB LEDs are widely employed as well.
“Smart” variants that can independently install software to support diverse applications and work with other devices such as digital cameras, DVDs and mobile phones are gaining popularity. The same applies to novelty types comprising versions doubling as toys, mice or PC cameras, which are expected to help makers widen market reach.
In terms of designs, companies are developing slimmer form factors. Aiyos and TGF have released units measuring 15 and 17mm thick, more compact than 20mm of earlier versions.
LCoS pocket projectors will continue to dominate supply in China for their lower power consumption and cost and size flexibility. One example of this type is the W-3MW model from Walsoon Technology Co. Ltd. Running on WinCE 5.0 OS, it supports Word, Excel, PPT, TXT and PDF files and A/V formats. It works with a 2.4GHz wireless keyboard and mouse. The SGP007d model from Shenzhen S&G International Ltd is another LCoS kind with an RGB LED. The unit delivers 200:1 contrast ratio, 640×480-pixel resolution and 20 lumens brightness. It has a projection size of 6 to 100in.
With product enhancements in full swing and prices on the downturn due to the fierce competition, China manufacturers are optimistic of continuous market growth. They are also banking on robust worldwide shipments, which are expected to reach 142 million units with an estimated value of $13.9 billion by 2018, according to DisplaySearch. Pocket projectors, however, are still considered a secondary line, with average monthly output pegged at 1,000 to 15,000 units.
Nevertheless, most interviewed makers forecast exports will increase by 2 to 10 percent in coming months. Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America are the major markets.
Aiyos ships 70 to 80 percent of its output overseas, 50 percent of which goes to South America. Outbound deliveries from Walsoon represent 80 to 90 percent of yield, with Southeast Asia receiving 80 percent of exports. Both makers expect a 5 to 10 percent increase in shipments in the months ahead. Europe and North America are Shenzhen Tyder Region Technology Co. Ltd’s major markets, accounting for 60 to 70 percent of overseas trade. The latter is also Shenzhen S&G’s main destination.
Midrange and high-end products are generally exported to Europe and North America. For Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America clients, suppliers ship entry-level to midrange units.
LCoS projectors dominate
DLP and LCoS are the major types of pocket projectors from China, with the latter accounting for more than 80 percent of total output. Although DLP variants provide better display effects, their high cost keeps the product from breaching the mainstream. TI holds the patent for chipsets, requiring makers to pay license fees to use the solution. Most companies therefore, including Aiyos and Shenzhen Tyder, concentrate on manufacturing LCoS units with improved resolution, brightness and color. The variety represents 90 percent of TGF’s yield. A growing number of releases feature RGB LEDs, a trend forecast to drive midrange and high-end releases in coming months. Eighty percent of Shenzhen S&G’s and Walsoon’s selections adopt RGB LEDs.
Basic models currently take up 50 percent of China’s overall output of pocket projectors. These units are mostly LCoS types with VGA resolution, 20 lumens brightness, white LEDs and 5 to 50in projection size. The ABS-housed releases have USB and A/V ports, remote controls and SD/MMC card slots.
LCoS variants are also dominant in the midrange segment. These deliver SVGA resolution, 50 lumens brightness at 5 to 100in projection size and with white or RGB LED. They incorporate LCDs, FM recording and touch buttons. Most are housed in metal alloy.
Upscale models, which can be either LCoS or DLP, deliver SVGA or higher resolution with 200 lumens brightness and 5 to 200in range. They use RGB LEDs and HDMI ports, and integrate touchscreens, cameras, mobile digital TV, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Units work with media formats and run on Windows CE or Android OS. High-end devices take up 15 percent of makers’ output.
The chips and optical engines are the key components of pocket projectors. The first is mainly sourced from TI for DLP models, and 3M, Himax, OmniVision and Micron for LCoS versions. For the second component, which accounts for 60 percent of total costs, manufacturers turn to TI for DLP variants, and Himax, 3M and Butterfly for LCoS units.
3M optical engines are currently mainstream, used by makers such as TGF, Walsoon and Shenzhen Tyder for 50 to 70 percent of their pocket projectors. Other inputs, including cooling fans, are procured from local and Taiwan providers.
Mainland China enterprises expect supply of raw materials and components to remain stable in the next few months.
Hong Kong: Compact, functional models lead trends
Hong Kong makers of pocket projectors offer LCD, LCoS and DLP models. The majority of suppliers direct R&D activities toward only one type and technology. Feature sets depend on how suppliers market their products. Most DLP and LCD versions are intended for business users. In many releases, VGA and SVGA resolution are sufficient to meet the needs of most users, particularly for business presentation.
LCoS models are among the smallest, with some about the size of a smartphone. These versions have an LED light source with 10 lumens, although some larger variants can have up to 50 lumens. LED pocket projectors have lower energy consumption, generate less heat and could be designed into smaller, lighter devices. LEDs also last much longer than conventional projector lamps.
A microSD card slot and USB port in combination with onboard decoding capability for MP3, AVI, JPEG and various media formats turn many pocket projectors into full-function media players. Models with composite video input allow the projector to be connected to a DVD player. The integrated speakers are normally feeble, so audio-out jacks for headphones and external speakers are added. In future upgrades, makers will focus on battery integration. The maximum life span is 1 to 2hr.
To lower prices, many suppliers make most accessories such as tripod and cables optional. Some varieties only use A/V instead of PC VGA input. Buyers willing to spend more can choose a DVB-T adapter or Wi-Fi add-on. Hong Kong has fewer than 10 suppliers of pocket projectors. The territory does not have a sizable maker base even for conventional projectors.
Founded in 1994, Gold Fame International Enterprises Co. specializes in LED micro projectors, laser pointers and projector lamps and modules. Its ML130 model is a 50-lumens DLP pico projector that is battery-operated and has an LED light source. It includes a touch pad, 1W mono speaker and headphone output, and has 2GB internal memory and microSD slot.
Suga Digital Technology Ltd is an OEM and ODM provider of various consumer electronics, telecom, networking and digital A/V products. Its Video Pico Projector and Interactive Mini Projector models won design awards in Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The latter features an interactive pen that can be used in place of a keyboard or mouse during presentations.