The portable nature of the Switch has created a perhaps unexpected demand for super-compact and mobile LED projectors, and we’ve already seen the OJO Projector come and go in all of its 480p resolution goodness. While OJO is hard at work on a successor which, it says, will improve on its likeable first attempt, rival firm AAXA has stepped into the void and launched its own take on this concept: the S1 LED Mini Projector. The key selling point? Proper HD imagery.
Powered by a 1280x720 Pico projector engine based on Texas Instruments DLP technology, the S1 already holds a considerable advantage over the OJO: the image it produces is crisper and sharper - and thanks to 400 Lumin rating (the OJO can only offer 200), it’s also brighter, too. The LED array is good for around 30,000 hours of usage, and audio is channelled through two relatively powerful 2-watt speakers, mounted on either side of the unit.
The internal (and user-serviceable) 3,600 mAh rechargeable battery is good for around three hours of play, and the unit can use its internal power to fully charge the Switch twice over. You can also plug it directly into the mains power using the PSU provided, and not have to worry about battery stamina. While the OJO has a bigger battery at 20,000 mAh, that also contributes to its larger size when compared to the S1.
Measuring 6 x 4.5 x 1.9-inches and weighing just 1.28lbs, the S1 is an impressive package, but initial impressions are actually quite negative. It looks and feels quite cheap, with the glossy plastic on the sides and base being particularly irksome. The metallic plastic around the lens itself is also rather naff, making this $200 product look a lot cheaper than it actually is, and the focus dial also feels pretty low-rent. Another negative is that the dock into which you slot the Switch is very tight (at least on this review unit) and it actually scratched the screen protector we have fitted on our console. In terms of pure build quality, the OJO Projector is far superior.
Now we’ve got the negatives out of the way, we can focus on the positives. Overall, the image quality is excellent and represents a step up from what we saw on the OJO. The image was actually bright enough that we could clearly see what was happening even without the curtains in the room closed, and while the projector still isn’t matching the Switch’s docked output resolution of 1080p, it’s sharp enough for this to not be an issue. Colours look convincing (if slightly washed out, which is a common complaint with projectors), and you can tinker with the temperature of the image - as well as oodles of other things - in the easy-to-navigate settings menu, which is accessed via a touch-sensitive panel on the top of the unit. This panel also controls the ‘keystone’ of the lens, allowing you to even out any issues with the angle of the unit in relation to the surface you’re projecting the image onto. The speakers are pretty good too, although they don’t seem to be quite as room-fillingly loud as the ones on the OJO, and they distort at maximum volume.
The unit can be placed on any flat surface and its smaller, more compact footprint means that it’s far easier to position than the bulky OJO ever was. Another bonus is the fact that the S1 can be mounted to a tripod, which means you’ve got more options when it comes to projecting the image onto a flat surface, as with the OJO you were very much reliant on there being table or furniture available at just the right height. Another benefit of this approach is that most tripods have a ‘flip-top’ which allows you to present the image in portrait mode - ideal for vertically-scrolling shooters like Psyvariar Delta, Ikaruga and Strikers 1945 (it’s here that tight dock perhaps justifies itself, as even when positioned on its side, the S1’s grip on the console was so vice-like there was absolutely no danger of it slipping out). The sticking point with this is that a tripod will cost you extra, but even a cheap one off Amazon will fit the bill - and chances are, you may already have one lying around the house, especially if you’re a keen photographer.
To maintain such a small footprint the designers of the S1 have had to make some concessions beyond the smaller battery previously mentioned. There are no USB ports on the unit so you can’t charge other devices from the S1, and there’s no HDMI input, either (there is, however, an old-fashioned 3.5mm AV port, for what it’s worth). Still, you can insert your smartphone into the dock if it has a USB Type-C port (and it fits, of course) or use a special cable to connect it. It’s hardly an elegant solution, but it works - it's just a shame that you can't connect the S1 to other consoles via HDMI, as was the case with the OJO.
Cosmetic and connectivity concerns aside, the S1 is likely to be a much better option than the OJO for the vast majority of players purely because it offers a high-resolution image with better brightness. While it lacks some of the neat features that are present on the OJO - such as the aforementioned HDMI-in port and a lens which automatically adjusts the pitch of the keystone rather than leaving it to you to do manually - but ultimately these things matter little once you’ve got the S1 up and running. It may look and feel cheap, but that’s because it is when compared to the OJO, which comes in at around $150 more expensive. All that really matters is that the image is superior, making this the best choice for anyone who wants a big-screen spectacle without having to shell out thousands on a massive flatscreen television.
It’s worth noting that the S1 is still currently on Kickstarter and the final production unit may differ from the one we’re reviewing here.