JMGO's O1 is an affordable ultra-short throw projector

RDW 25/07/2021 382

Ultra short throw projector can save you the trouble of finding space somewhere in the middle. It is very suitable for a narrow apartment like mine. However, these machines have a cost, and as we pointed out in our recent projector guide, good models start at about $2,800. Xiaomi's Mi laser projector is less expensive than US$2,000 and is more affordable, but an emerging Chinese brand called JMGO wants to significantly lower the barrier to entry for ultra-short throw projectors. It launched two models: the $699 O1 and the $859 O1 Pro, the latter "co-designed" with Leica.

Chances are you might not have heard of JMGO, but it's actually been around for 10 years and claims to be one of the top projector brands in China. It's certainly hard to miss this brand's projectors around shops here in Hong Kong, at least. Given that this is Engadget's first time trying a JMGO device, though, and given that both models are launching globally via Indiegogo, we borrowed a Chinese version of the futuristic-looking O1 to see if there's a catch.

Gallery: JMGO O1 ultra-short throw LED projector15 Photos

Richard Lai/Engadget

While some of the specs are nowhere near as impressive as the competitors' laser counterparts, LED does bring the benefit of a longer lifespan — 45,000 hours here instead of, say, the 20,000 hours Xiaomi's model offers. Auto focus and auto keystone correction are available, and you can also tweak these manually if needed. There's also a wall color calibration feature to help boost accuracy.

On the back, there are two HDMI sockets, two USB connections, a LAN port and an optical-in socket for audio. For those who really care about specs, the O1 has a quad-core, 4K-friendly MediaTek MT9669 processor plus 3GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. As you might have guessed, you also get WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. The latter is primarily for the remote control, but it also comes in handy if you just want to blast music out of the pair of 7W Dynaudio speakers.

For streaming and mirroring, iPhones can simply use AirPlay, but Androids will have to use a third-party app called EShare. It's unclear whether JMGO can add Google Cast support in the future, so for now, I have to plug in a Chromecast dongle.

Richard Lai/Engadget

Removing the shiny O1 from its box, I was surprised by how light it felt — 2.3 kilograms (about five pounds) is insubstantial compared to most projectors. I was able to set up the kit within minutes by hooking it up to my WiFi network, followed by pairing the Bluetooth remote control.

When I turned on the O1, I was greeted by the Android-based Luna OS' "message board" homescreen. This is simply a big clock widget hovering above a music widget, a weather widget and a voice assistant widget (this will be Amazon Alexa in the global firmware). These modules stand in front of a black backdrop, and the dark interface blends nicely into my wall, especially when the room is almost pitch black.

Richard Lai/Engadget

From the homescreen, you can toggle the music player which offers various visualizers to go with the tune and, if available, lyrics. Scrolling left walks you through a digital art gallery, which basically turns the wall into an artistic dynamic wallpaper. I could see these coming in handy for your next house party (if you can even remember what those are like).

In terms of picture quality, you can probably guess from the specs that you'll have to lower your expectations somewhat: This isn't a $3,000 projector. But on the other hand, the projection is pretty good for a $699 device, let alone an ultra-short-throw one.

Richard Lai/Engadget

If I may nitpick for a moment, the colors are a little over-saturated, which is likely the result of a limited dynamic range. But I found the picture absolutely fine for my casual video watching. I also struggled to get auto keystone correction to work at the top right corner of the projection, as you can see in the image above. This tends to happen if my projection is above 55 inches wide on that wall, and it's possible that the surface isn't smooth enough for this feature to function properly. It's easy to fix this manually, anyway. Maybe someday I'll buy myself a dedicated projection screen.

The biggest surprise was the audio performance. The Dynaudio stereo speakers produced clear sound with adequate bass, so much that I could see myself using the O1 for background music when my friends are visiting — the music visualizer on the wall would be something to talk about, at least.

JMGO

Even though I didn't get to test JMGO's larger and heavier O1 Pro (pictured in the right half of the above image), it's worth pointing out the differences. Supposedly with help from the high-end camera brand Leica, this machine offers a better throw ratio of 0.21:1, higher brightness at 1,250 ANSI lumens, lower picture distortion rate (less than 0.5 percent instead of 1 percent) and higher contrast ratio at 6,000:1. Apparently, Leica also had a say in contrast, color reproduction, sharpness, noise reduction and more, so it'll be interesting to compare the picture quality between this and the O1, especially given the cheaper model's over-saturated color.

The O1 Pro also comes with more powerful 10W Dynaudio speakers in a larger sound cavity, which should produce more cinematic audio. You'll also find two additional "AI cameras" on this machine: the front camera is for gesture control and brightness adjustment, whereas the rear camera is for auto frame fitting when using the device with an ambient-light-rejecting screen.

One thing that confuses me is that Nuts decided to launch two relatively affordable ultra-short throw projectors with a price difference of "only" $160. This may be the reason why most proponents chose O1 Pro at the time of writing. . For me, I have seen the features of O1. If you plan to buy one of these projectors, then O1 Pro is likely to be purchased at this price. That is, unless you have strict requirements on the size of the machine, or you may just can’t wait for Pro to launch for a month. (O1 is scheduled to ship in August, while O1 Pro will not arrive until September.) Anyway, I am impressed by the achievements of Nuts in such a low-cost product. Hope it can inspire other brands to catch up.

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