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The 9-ounce AAXA P8 streaming projector lacks a battery, which is a minus for “true” mobile use, but its low price keeps it in the running for budget-minded businesses and homes.
The AAXA P8 Smart Mini projector is one of the smallest we’ve seen with built-in streaming capabilities, and also one of the least expensive, at $249. It weighs just 8.8 ounces, supports screen mirroring, and offers connection choices that include HDMI, USB-C, and Wi-Fi, all of which makes it an acceptable companion to a phone or other mobile device. What keeps it from being a great companion is that unlike the slightly heavier and slightly more expensive Kodak Luma 350 smart projector (our current Editors’ Choice pick for palmtop projectors), it doesn’t include a built-in battery. Still, it delivers enough value to be worth considering.
On first glance, the P8’s 430-lumen brightness rating would appear to make it much brighter than the Luma 350, which is rated at 200 lumens. But the Luma 350’s rating is in ANSI lumens, which is a standard based on measurement, while the P8’s rating is in LED lumens, which is basically a claim that it’s perceived as being that bright, even though the measured brightness is lower. In my tests, using the P8’s brightest power mode, called Boost, it delivered roughly what I expect to see from about 225 ANSI lumens.
On the plus side, there’s no visible difference in brightness from one color mode to the next, and there’s no loss of color accuracy in brighter power modes. Unfortunately, the color accuracy ranges from tolerable to barely acceptable with any setting adjustments (more on those later), but at least you can get the brightest image the projector is capable of without any loss of color accuracy.
Setup is standard for the category, with no optical zoom. One welcome touch is that the focus thumbwheel offers a bit of resistance to help avoid overshooting the right setting, and I found it easy enough to get the best focus. Another welcome touch is the bundled tabletop tripod.
The P8 measures 1.4 by 3.9 by 3.4 inches (HWD), and its 8.8-ounce weight does not include the weight of the external AC adapter.
Built-In, Android-Powered Streaming
There’s nothing to set up for Android 10-based streaming, other than connecting to a Wi-Fi network and entering your login information into individual apps. The projector comes with six streaming apps installed: YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo, Tubi, Haystack News, and Twitch.TV, plus a number of utilities, including Chrome, WPS Office, FileManager, and Aptoide TV, for downloading more.
Aptoide apps are notorious for not working well, and indeed one that I downloaded didn’t work at all, while another worked only after I cleared an error message saying that it wouldn’t work. The good news is that all the pre-installed apps I tried worked, including Netflix. Still, Aptoide Netflix apps have that track record, and indeed every time I loaded it or tried streaming, I got the same error message I saw with the other app I downloaded. After I cleared the message, the streaming worked. AAXA said the error message appeared to be a bug, which the company will put on the fix list for the next software update.
In addition to Wi-Fi for streaming, the P8 offers an HDMI port, a USB Type-A port for reading files from USB memory, a TF card slot to read files from TF and MicroSD cards, and a USB Type-C port for wired mirroring with compatible Android devices. (Apple mobile devices, as well as Android devices, can use the HDMI port for mirroring.) It also supports wireless screen mirroring, but note that the wireless mirroring didn’t support material with HDCP copy protection in my tests, while the wired mirroring did.
The P8’s onboard 2-watt speaker delivers enough audio quality and volume to be useful. You can also connect to an external audio system using the 3.5mm stereo audio-out port, or Bluetooth.
Testing the AAXA P8: Decent Color for PowerPoint and Casual Videos
The P8 has two independent sets of menus, which makes them a little difficult to use, but the settings options are typical for this class of projector. You get three picture modes that you can’t modify, plus one User mode that lets you adjust only contrast, brightness, color saturation, and sharpness. After some preliminary tests with each, I settled on Standard mode, which delivered good color saturation and the most realistic-looking skin tones for photorealistic images.
As already suggested, image quality is not a strong point. I saw obvious color errors, including red shifted to purple in both graphics and photorealistic images, and a green Volkswagen turning a chartreuse color I’ve never seen on a real car. In addition, photorealistic images were notably grainy in my tests and somewhat posterized (meaning colors changed suddenly in areas where they should shade gradually). These issues were particularly obvious in skin tones. In close-ups of faces, virtually everyone looked like they had either freckles or pockmarks.
The good news is that the color errors are only slightly more obvious than typical for palmtop projectors. All of the issues (for both graphics and photorealistic images) are within a range that most people will deem from marginally acceptable to at least tolerable, especially for such a small projector.
Business graphics in our test suite retained nicely saturated, eye-catching color even when the colors were off, and didn’t show the graininess or posterization I saw in photorealistic images. The low resolution isn’t well-suited to small fonts, but the text in typical PowerPoint slides was perfectly readable.
Even colors in movies and video rarely wandered outside of a realistic range. Note too when I aimed the projector at a wall or door instead of an actual screen, the imperfections in the makeshift screens’ surface hid imperfections in the image, so the graininess and posterization didn’t show.
The P8 does a good job of avoiding rainbow artifacts, the red-green-blue flashes that often are a problem with single-chip projectors. The only time I saw any in my tests was with a contrasty black-and-white clip in our suite that tends to bring them out, and I didn’t see many even then. That said, if you find these artifacts bothersome, you should still buy from a dealer who allows returns without a restocking fee, so you can test it out for yourself.
The projector lacks 3D support. But it does have reasonably short input lag, which should be more than good enough for casual gamers. I measured it with a Bodnar meter at 33ms for both 1080p and 720p inputs at 60Hz.
As already mentioned, in its brightest mode, the P8’s image was roughly as bright as I expect from about 225 ANSI lumens. In a dark room, it delivered a suitably bright image on my 80-inch-diagonal 1.0-gain white screen.
A Reasonable Budget Portable Projector
The AAXA P8’s most eye-catching feature is its price. If that’s what attracting you and you’re not interested in streaming, consider the Kodak Luma 150, which includes a rechargeable battery, has the same list price as the P8, and is selling for less at this writing. Or consider the ViewSonic M1 mini, which also has a built-in battery and costs even less.
Meanwhile, if you want the smarts for built-in streaming, the Kodak Luma 350 is still our Editors’ Choice pick for the category, but it’s also more expensive than the P8. If you want streaming and you can do without a battery to keep costs down, the AAXA P8 is actually a decent option, since it offers comparable features to the Luma 350, plus a small step up in resolution, for less. That combination keeps it in the running as a more-than-reasonable budget palmtop projector.