If you're looking for an ultra-affordable, ultra-portable pico projector, the AKASO WT50 will get the job done, but don't expect to use it in anything but the darkest surroundings.
Sure, television screens are getting larger all the time, but if you want a truly large screen without spending tens of thousands of dollars, you need a projector. Of course, a 4K projector capable of display sizes upwards of 100 inches isn’t cheap either. Not everybody needs one of those.
That is why the mini-projector market has sprung up in the last decade or so. They aren’t the most capable, but they’re portable, affordable, and easy to set up and use. Unlike some other manufacturers, AKASO doesn’t lie about what its tiny WT50 Mini Projector is capable of, which is exactly why we think it’s worth a look.
The raw specs of the AKASO WT50 mini projector aren’t going to blow anyone away. Of course, at this price point, it’s a tough call as to who would be expecting incredible hardware specs in the first place. Still, it’s good to know what you’re dealing with.
- Brightness: 50 ANSI Lumens
- Resolution: 854×480
- Dimensions: 5.71×3.15×0.79 inches
- Weight: 0.64lbs
- Projection Ratio: 1.19:1
- Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, 2x USB, SD Card slot
- Battery: 3.7V, 5000mAh
- Android Version: 7.1
As with any piece of technology, there’s a lot more to the performance than numbers on paper and name recognition of the components. First, let’s take a look at the whole package.
What’s in the Box?
Taking the top off the box, the first thing you’ll spy is the projector itself, neatly nestled in form-fitting foam. The bundled accessories are tucked into three separate cardboard boxes underneath, creating a platform for the projector to rest on top of.
In one box you’ll find a tripod with a pivoting head, letting you align the projector at often unnecessarily odd angles, but we’ll get to that later. In the other boxes, you’ll find the AC adapter, HDMI cable for use with external playback devices, remote control (batteries not included), the manual, and a warranty card.
Setting Up the AKASO WT50
Before you can start watching movies or TV shows, the projector requires a bit of setup. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple process and doesn’t take all that long.
AKASO recommends that you fully charge the WT50 before first use. The battery was already mostly charged so this didn’t take long. Still, I plugged in the power adapter before I powered the projector on, just in case. Powering on is a two-step process: First, set the slide switch to “On”, then press the power button right next to it.
Once the power is on, make sure you’ve got the projector pointed at a suitable surface (a white wall will do) and you can set up the rest. In my case, this meant connecting to Wi-Fi, but you can also set up using a wireless hotspot or no networking at all, assuming you’re plugging in external players.
Before you do that, you’ll need to adjust the focus wheel to get the picture looking sharp and in focus. This is also when you’ll want to try using the included tripod if you need it. The design of the tripod leaves quite a bit to be desired. It’s nice that it’s included, but the pivoting head means it’s far too easy to tilt the projector, making getting a level image from the projector a little tricky.
When it comes to wireless connectivity, the AKASO WT50 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as mentioned earlier. I was actually surprised that the WT50 supported 802.11ac wireless networks, which isn’t always the case on these lower-cost devices.
The WT50 also has a few ports to make connecting other hardware easier. The full-size HDMI port makes plugging in Blu-ray players, streaming boxes, and game consoles easy. You also get a pair of USB ports, an SD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone / auxiliary audio jack.
If you want to play media from your phone, the AKASO WT50 supports a few different methods. You can use Wi-Fi Display (aka. Miracast), AirPlay, or a third-party app solution that requires you to download an app on your phone. Unfortunately in my testing, I was unable to connect to the AirPlay server on the projector despite trying with multiple devices.
Features & Interface
You’ve got two different ways to operate the AKASO WT50: the included remote and the touch interface on top of the projector. It’s handy that these are both included, as it means you’re not out of luck if you lose the remote.
The AKASO WT50 is powered by Android 7.1, meaning it’s a lot more capable out of the box than older, not-so-smart projectors. The Google Play Store is included, as well as a utility for sideloading apps in APK form. This means that you can install any streaming app you want and it should have a decent chance of working.
But don’t expect everything to work perfectly, especially with the included remote. Netflix, which is installed on the WT50 out of the box, worked with the remote long enough to sign in. After that, I thought the remote had quit working. Instead, it turned out that Netflix—at least this version—wasn’t working fully with the remote. Using the touch interface on top of the projector, navigating the menus worked fine, but this was less than ideal. Hopefully, a future firmware update may improve remote compatibility.
The location of the remote sensor is also a slight issue. It’s located on the back of the projector, but the remote is of the IR variety, meaning you need line of sight. Even if you’re a little off to the right or left, getting the remote to work can take some aiming.
Finally, the interface can be a little laggy at times. It’s not worse than a Fire TV Stick or similar device, and it’s not a big problem, but you’ll definitely need to be a little patient at times.
Picture: How Many P?
Mini or pico projectors aren’t often known for their high pixel counts, and this makes sense. It currently isn’t possible to make something that is capable of 4K resolution that is also small and affordable. Considering those last two points, it’s even tough to hit the 1080p mark without trouble. That said, you’ll see some that support 720p, even in this small size, like the Nebra Anybeam.
The WT50 accepts sources up to 1080p, but it’s not actually showing them at this resolution. Instead, the WT50 uses a native resolution of 854×480, while puts it at 480p. This means that as you push the size of the picture higher by moving the projector farther away from your screen, it’s getting blurrier all the time.
If you keep the screen size around 80 inches or less, it’s nowhere near as blurry as you might imagine. You’ll notice it more with text, especially navigating menus, but once you’re caught up in what you’re watching, you probably won’t notice it looking especially low resolution, unless you’ve just watched a 4K movie on a similarly sized screen.
The bigger problem with the WT50 is one that AKASO doesn’t shy away from: the limited brightness. At a peak brightness of just 50 ANSI lumens, this isn’t a bright projector. If you’re watching in a very dark room, the brightness isn’t a problem.
If you’ve got anything above minimal ambient light, the projector will struggle. Try watching something with sunlight streaming in the windows and you might as well just turn it off.
It’s a very good thing that the AKASO WT50 offers both Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in 3.5mm audio jack. Why? Because the built-in sound, while functional, isn’t something you’ll ever really want to use if you have a choice.
This can’t really be helped, in AKASO’s defense. The WT50 is so tiny that there’s no way anyone could fit a speaker capable of creating movie-ready or even TV-ready sound inside. If you’re using this to quietly project a movie on to a close wall in the middle of the night—something I can’t imagine is all that common—the sound will be adequate, but only barely.
In my testing, I happened to have a Bluetooth-equipped soundbar nearby. Connecting the WT50 to this made a world of difference in making the movie feel more cinematic. Of course, if you’re using the WT50 for an outdoor movie night with the kids, you probably won’t be able to lug along a soundbar, but even a standard portable Bluetooth speaker will be a worthwhile upgrade.
Should You Buy the AKASO WT50?
As we mentioned at the very top of this article, AKASO doesn’t over-promise when it comes to the capabilities of the WT50. Fortunately, it doesn’t under-deliver either. This means that you’re getting exactly what you expect, which is strangely refreshing in this day and age.
That said, the WT50 isn’t for everybody. If you need higher resolutions or a projector you can use in anything resembling daylight, take a look at our favorite projectors for your home theater. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a portable projector to use outside for occasional outdoor movie nights and you don’t live in a brightly lit neighborhood, the WT50 may be just enough for what you need.
Read the full article: AKASO WT50 Review: Cheap and Cheerful Mini Projector