capsule review

Ray Displays Ray: A Text-Friendly Pico Projector

At a Glance
  • Ray Displays Ray

The $229 (as of January 11, 2009) Ray, a liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) pico projector from Ray Displays, features 10 lumens of brightness, a 20,000-hour LED light source, VGA resolution, a 2-hour battery life, and stereo speakers. Measuring 0.7 by 2.3 by 4.4 inches, the 5-ounce (with battery) Ray isn't much larger than a deck of cards; but at a distance of 5 feet, it can display a viewable 40-inch diagonal image on any light-colored surface in subdued light--and even larger sizes in truly dark settings.

Overall, the Ray projected videos, photos, and other media fairly well, but it earned better marks for displaying text than for rendering graphics. In an iPod PowerPoint presentation, for example, the Ray displayed bright, legible text in various fonts, but dull, washed-out color hampered its graphics quality. In motion tests, the Ray displayed smooth action throughout a screening of the Monsters vs. Aliens DVD, but the projector's muted color palette made the images look less vibrant than in the original film. The Ray's built-in speakers were rather weak at any significant distance from the projector; we'd recommend investing in a separate sound system for better results.

Like most pico projectors, the Ray is a snap to set up and use. Its streamlined design includes a power switch and focus knob, a single 2.5mm audio/video input, and a power input. It comes bundled with a flexible mini-tripod and various video cables for connecting the Ray to mobile devices. To connect the Ray to an iPhone 3GS or a fifth-generation iPod Nano that uses a 30-pin connector for video output, however, you'll need to use a third-party cable (not included).

Not surprisingly, the low-cost Ray lacks some features that higher-priced pico projectors--notably the 3M MPro120, the Aaxa P2, and the Aiptek PocketCinema V10 Plus--provide. For instance, the Ray has no built-in memory or card reader for displaying stored content, it has no VGA port for connecting it to a laptop, and its rechargeable battery isn't removable. Once its 2-hour battery charge is exhausted, you can continue to use the Ray via its bundled power block, but recharging the dead battery may take upward of 5 hours. Most competing pocket projectors use removable batteries that take only 2 to 3 hours to recharge. Ray Displays offers a typical one-year warranty on the projector and battery.

The Ray is worth a look as a low-priced, no-frills pico projector that displays readable text but mediocre color quality. Fussier consumers should spend more to get more.

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At a Glance
  • The no-frills Ray pico projector displays legible text on a small screen but its color graphics and nonremovable battery disappoint.

    Pros

    • Compact and light
    • High-quality text display

    Cons

    • Charging nonremovable battery is tedious
    • Lackluster color graphics
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