Philips PicoPix Max Projector Review
As I was travelling over the past year I was looking to pick up a small projector that would be easy enough to carry for a great movie viewing experience on the go. When I saw the Philips PicoPix Max on Indiegogo it looked like the perfect fit, with full 1080p projection in a small size and in-built Android.
I’ve now been using it for 5 months on a semi-regular basis. Philips have shipped several software updates in this time, most recently the first major update (version 1.1) which greatly reduces fan noise. This felt like a good time to post some initial thoughts.
I’m viewing on a white 100" projector screen.
Build quality feels premium and although far from ‘pocket-friendly’ as adversised, it’s small enough to fit in a bag. At 850g it’s not much heavier than a large tablet.
Picture quality is good even at 100" - the image looks crisp without any visible artifacts. Many ‘1080p’ projectors on the market are actually upscaling from 720p - the PicoPix Max uses native 1080p and the difference is significant at this size.
Brightness is fine at normal mode, and great for night-time viewing. However as my flat is bright in daylight it’s difficult to view before sunset - an increasing problem as the days have gotten longer.
When I first got the projector the fan noise was too loud unless I dropped down to the dim eco-friendly mode, but this was addressed in the recent v1.1 patch. Now normal mode is suitably quiet for viewing and eco mode is silent.
It’s advertised as an Android projector, but this is unlike any Android device I’ve owned. Primarily this is due to there being no Google Play services, so you won’t find a Play Store or any Google apps like Chrome or Play Movies. YouTube requires use of a 3rd party app for authentication, which I didn’t feel confident to put my Google creditendials into.
App support is very limited, the in-built ‘Aptoide Store’ lists many apps that simply don’t work, giving errors such as ‘Play Services Required’. When I bought the projector I’d hoped to watch The Mandalorian on it, but Disney+ wasn’t there (edit - it’s now been added). More recently I tried to watch Westworld season 3, but I couldn’t get the Crave app working to access HBO through the OS. After trying many apps in Aptoide I’ve given up unless they are pre-installed, which is limited to Netflix and only a small handful of others.
The cast support on the device is basic screen share and the device lacks full ChromeCast support. This is a real shame as it would have been one way of circumventing some of the issues mentioned above, but most apps can’t be casted from my Android phone. Other non-Android devices have “ChromeCast Built-In”, so I really hope this get’s added in a software update.
I ended up purchasing a ChromeCast dongle to stick in the back HDMI port, but sadly this surfaced another batch of problems. Bluetooth Audio is only supported though the on-board software, so it’s impossible to use with dongles like the ChromeCast - I’ve had to start using an old-school 3.5mm headphone cable to connect to my bluetooth speaker.
As most display features are handled at the software layer, over HDMI many of the advertised features like 4-Corner Keystone correction are unavailable. As a result I have to awkwardly position my screen at an angle to get a correctly aligned picture. Even basic functionality like seeing the current battery level requires switching the Input mode back to Android.
The PicoPix Max feels is a nice piece of hardware but it fails to meet some of my basic expectations from a projector. Without Play Services, Android feels like a bad fit for this sort of device and I think Philips would have been better off focusing on the fundamentals like full feature support over HDMI.
As most of the issues are software-based, it’s not impossible to imagine them being addressed with updates before this device hits retail. Receiving Google Play Services might be a pipe dream, but ChromeCast Built-In would be a great start and give users a way of accessing apps that aren’t supported.
The PicoPix Max is an intriguing device that offers a glimpse to the future of portable projectors, but I couldn’t recommend it to most people in it’s current form. I hope that with a few more strong software updates like the v1.1 patch, it’ll be easier to recommend by the time it hits retail.