The Philips PicoPix Max One ($529.99) is on the large side for a pico projector, weighing in at 1.9 pounds. However, it’s in good company on that score, with competition that includes the AAXA P6X and the even heavier AAXA M7. As with those two portable projectors, it looks like an oversize palmtop, has a built-in rechargeable battery, and delivers suitable image quality for casual film or video viewing or for business presentations. Its major hitch is its powered focus, which is annoying to use and unfocuses itself as the projector warms up.
A Somewhat Mysterious Chip
The PicoPix Max One uses a DLP imaging chip with an RGGB LED light source rated at 30,000 hours in Energy Saver mode. (There’s no published rating for full power mode.) Philips says the chip offers a native 1080p resolution, but declined to give any other information about it. Although closer in size and weight to the P6X, which offers 720p (1280-by-720) resolution and is designed for business presentations, it shares the M7’s 1080p (1920-by-1080) spec for native resolution and a design that’s meant more for the home.
In my tests I saw scaling artifacts in test images with small repeating patterns, which suggests a diamond layout for the chip. Diamond chips put slightly more pixels on screen than are in a 1920-by-1080 matrix, so the projector needs to add extra pixels to 1080p images. For most images, the result is visually indistinguishable from a true 1920-by-1080 matrix, producing a more detailed image than for 720p projectors, which are more common at this price and size. However, the artifacts can be an issue for presentations with fine detail.
Easy Setup, With One Big Snag
The PicoPix Max One measures 1.9 by 5.4 by 5.3 inches (HWD); it’s small enough to fit in a briefcase or backpack, with room to spare if you want to tote around its external AC adapter. Unlike some of its competition, including both the AAXA P6X and M7, it comes with a soft carrying case for scratch protection.
The menus offer three power modes; all work with the battery but are a little brighter when using AC power. Battery life in the lowest-brightness mode, Energy Saver, is rated at 5 hours. Normal mode offers a still substantial 2.5 hours. Philips didn’t provide a rating for the brightest mode.
Setup consists of little more than connecting an image source and turning the projector on. Digital inputs on the back include an HDMI port and a USB Type-C port for mirroring mobile devices. There’s also a USB Type-A port for powering a streaming stick. You can charge your cell phone or other devices using either USB port, effectively turning the projector’s battery into a power bank.
The powered focus is imperfect. It lets you adjust focus using buttons on the remote, but the focus screen covers the underlying image, displaying only the focus screen’s target at the center area of the screen. Not being able to see a full screen image can leave edges and corners out of focus.
I found that after the initial focusing, I could get an even, though slightly soft, focus for the full image by bringing up the focus screen, making a small adjustment, then going back to the full screen image to see the effect, typically needing two or three tries to be satisfied. And after all that effort, the projector tends to defocus as it warms up, so you may have to fix the focus a few minutes into a presentation or movie. The best option, if you have the time, is to let it warm up for a few minutes before you start.
The two 4-watt speakers offer high enough volume to fill a small family room and good sound quality for such a small projector, with none of the tinniness that you might expect. A 3.5mm stereo audio out port lets you connect an external sound system.
Adequate Image Quality
The PicoPix Max One offers four fully preset picture modes with no adjustments available, plus one User mode for those who want to tweak brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and tint. Using default settings for User mode, all the modes delivered a neutral grayscale in my tests, and there was little visible difference in color from one to another. However, testing at different brightness levels showed differences in grayscale levels that affect contrast and shadow detail.
All the presets, including User mode with default settings, tended to shift colors toward a greenish-blue, which most people don’t find objectionable. To the extent that color differed between modes, Cinema offered the closest to accurate color and the best shadow detail, making it my preferred choice among the non-User presets.
Color accuracy in Cinema mode was good enough for almost any presentation and for gaming. Most people will also consider it acceptable for casual movie or video viewing, and even those with a highly critical eye will likely find it at least tolerable. In my tests using Cinema mode, pink plastic—but not pinkish flesh tones—moved towards purple in one test image, and the green of some vegetation was on the cusp of looking unnatural. But for most colors in most images, the only reason I could spot colors being off is that I’m so familiar with our test clips.
Shadow detail is not an issue for graphics or most presentations, but it can be for movies and video as well as for gaming. As is common in this class of projector, the PicoPix Max One lost shadow detail even in dark areas of brightly lit scenes, and it had a serious issue maintaining enough detail to see what was happening in unusually dark scenes. Fortunately, most movies and video have few scenes dark enough for this to be a problem.
Very much on the plus side, in test clips that tend to produce rainbow artifacts (red-green-blue flashes) with single-chip projectors, I saw only a few fleeting hints of them, and I see these artifacts easily. That said, our standard advice applies: If you find rainbow artifacts bothersome, you should buy from a dealer who allows returns without a restocking fee, so you can test it out for yourself.
There’s no 3D support. The input lag is suitable for casual gaming, though serious gamers will find it too high: I measured it with a Bodnar meter at 55ms at 1080p, 60Hz.
Philips doesn’t publish any brightness specs for the PicoPix Max One. In my tests, it threw a 16:9 image that was bright enough on my 90-inch diagonal, 1.0-gain screen for extended viewing in a dark room, but a little dimmer than I prefer, which is consistent with what I expect from roughly 400 ANSI lumens. Using an 80-inch screen in a family room, it was bright enough to stand up to viewing with lights on at night, but not watchable in daytime.
High Resolution and Low Weight
The Philips PicoPix Max One’s strengths are best understood in comparison with both the 1080p AAXA M7 and the 720p AAXA P6X. It earns a slightly lower rating than either, primarily because of the issues with focus. However, it comes in a close second to the M7 for key features overall, including resolution, while closely matching the P6X’s lower weight.
For permanent setup in a small family room or conference room, the M7’s higher brightness gives it the edge. For portable use, if you want 1080p resolution at a lower weight, the PicoPix Max One is the obvious choice. For either application, if you don’t mind 720p’s lower level of detail and image sharpness, you can get similar capability at lower cost by choosing the P6X, which also has the best shadow detail of the three.
For one more alternative, if you plan to add streaming, consider the Editors’ Choice–winning Miroir Synq M189, which has a hidden compartment for a streaming stick of your choice.