EVALUATION

JMGO O1 Ultra-Short Throw HD Projector Review: Best Budget UST Projector, With Big Problems

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JMGO O1 Ultra Short Throw Projector

8.80 / 10

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The JMGO O1 ultra-short-throw projector offers the lowest priced HD option around.

Key Features

  • Automatic keystone correction
  • Automatic focus
  • Automatic color adjustment
  • Integrated Alexa
  • Ultra-short throw
Specifications

  • Brand: JMGO
  • Native Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • ANSI Lumens: 800
  • Projection Technology: DLP
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 5, LAN
  • Throw Ratio: 0.25:1
  • HDR: Yes
  • Audio: 2x 8-watt
  • OS: Luna OS Android derivative
  • Lamp Life: 45,000 hours
  • Noise Level : 43 dBm (low)
Pros

  • Easy to use and set up
  • Lowest priced UST projector available
  • Fluid, seamless performance
Cons

  • Expensive relative to non-UST projectors
  • Only HD output
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Ultra Short-Throw (UST) projectors can fire off a video at point-blank range. Why? Let's say you're a van dweller living that #VanLife. Would you want a 55-inch TV or a 14-inch device? That's the value proposition behind the Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for the $700 JMGO's O1 UST projector. It fits into the smallest of spaces for less than the competition.

But a $700 UST projector sounds too good to be true. Is it? And are there any better competitors?

Competition

The O1 offers more than just competitive pricing. It throws a curveball by packing in extra features like Alexa personal assistant (although that wasn't available at the time of review), automatic color calibration, and autofocus. But does that mean you should buy it? If you don't need the space, you're better off with a cheaper long-throw projector. But if you need a 1080p projector with a range between zero and four feet, it's the best deal around.

But that's because there's almost no competition if you want the lowest-priced 1080p UST projector. The cheapest 1080p UST projector that I could find costs around $900 on Amazon. 4K UST units can cost twice that much. And that's why the O1's $700 Early Bird crowd-funding price is so surprising. After all, it's hundreds cheaper than the nearest competitor. And even after the funding period expires, at $1,000, it's still a better buy.

Optoma GT5600

There's also the Optoma GT5600. The GT5600 lacks a lot of smart features, uses a bulb for light, runs hotter and louder, and costs $1,600-1,300 on Amazon (or less used). But it's also brighter and has a higher contrast ratio.

LG HF65LA CineBeam

Finally, there's the LG HF65LA CineBeam, which includes smart features, as well as similar specs as the O1. However, the only sales link I could find is for a used unit on Amazon. And even then, it's a portable projector and not quite comparable to the O1.

So while the competition isn't particularly strong, the most important question is whether JMGO's Indiegogo will get off the ground.

Who Is JMGO and Can You Trust Them?

JMGO is a label of Shenzhen Holatek Co. LTD in China. Holatek has manufactured projectors since 2011 and operates a US warehouse. Both factors bode well for the future of the O1. First, Kickstarters from established manufacturers have an excellent track record of meeting deadlines and delivering a product. Second, because they have a distribution facility in the United States, that means faster shipping of products because it passes through customs as a single large shipment rather than thousands of individual shipments.

Hardware Specifications

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-other-side
  • Brightness: 800 Lumens (at 80 inches)
  • Throw ratio: 0.25:1 or 60-100 inches at 0 to 4 feet
  • Resolution: "1920 x 1080" using XPR processing, 960 x 540 native resolution
  • Projector type: Single DLP
  • Contrast ratio: 5,000:1
  • Size: 45-100 inches
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Range: 0 to 4 feet
  • Weight: 2.3 kg
  • Dimensions: 308.1 x 235.88 x 97.63 mm
  • Wattage: 34 watts low; 55 watts high
  • Fan noise: 41-43 dBm normal operation; 71 dBm full speed
  • Wireless: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 5
  • Processor: MediaTek MT9669, Arm Cortex A73
  • RAM/Storage: 3GB/16GB
  • Android version: Android 9.0
  • Google Play: Unsupported
  • Extras: Image flattening, automatic keystone correction, HDMI CEC, HDMI ARC
  • Audio: 2x Dynaudio stereo system, unspecified wattage (I suspect 8W each)

Is the Hardware Good?

The O1's hardware is excellent for an entry-level UST projector. It's fast, loaded with features, and cheaper than any of its competitors. Although it's not inexpensive; even the lowest-priced 1080p UST projectors cost more than the cheapest 4K projectors.

In other words, the O1 offers outstanding hardware for the money but it's not for everyone.

It Has Great Processor (for a Projector) But Outdated Software

The processor is among the fastest I've seen inside any home entertainment device. For example, its Mediatek 9669's Arm Cortex A73 beats the pants off the chip Xiaomi uses in the Mi Projector. However, the O1's Android implementation is outdated and hasn't received a security patch in almost three years. This would be a larger problem on a mobile device; a stationary device is still an issue but it's not a deal-breaker.

Overall, the hardware is an oddball mishmash of cutting-edge and older components. To my knowledge, there are practically no UST 1080p projectors out there. Almost all are 4K. So it's weird to see a feature-rich device like the JMGO O1 with low-brightness LEDs, a 1080p DMD reflector paired with a high-end media chip like the MT9669.

Ports

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-rear-ports-closeup

The O1's offers a reasonable port selection. You get LAN, S/PDIF, 2x USB 2.0 1x HDMI-ARC, and 1x HDMI. Overall the port selection is about equal to its competitors. However, what's most interesting is its use of a newer HDMI format: HDMI-ARC.

What is HDMI CEC and HDMI ARC?

HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) allows for you to turn your projector on by turning on a connected device that supports the CEC standard. For example, if you have a Windows 10 media center that supports CEC (like the ECS Q1D tiny PC), turning the computer on also switches the TV on. It's useful for those who don't want to fumble around with a remote control.

HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) allows for audio signals to be sent back to a compatible output device. In other words, ARC cuts down on the number of cables you need.

Together, HDMI CEC and ARC make for a better, simpler media-viewing experience, provided you have compatible equipment.

On the bright side (pun intended), these features help the O1 stand out as a modern media center. In comparison, the Optoma GT5600 lacks these features.

MediaTek MT9669 Processor

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-cpu

The MediaTek MT9669 is a modern and performant media-center processor. It can playback 4K videos and HDR, although the projector itself isn't provisioned for anything more than 1080p resolutions. That's a fancy way to say it's a 1080p projector that will downscale 4K video to 1080p. In other words, it's not 4K at all.

The processor also includes real-time image optimization. The MT9669 automatically adjusts color, brightness, contrast, sharpness, and dynamic range. Most of its image optimizations are seamlessly made using post-processing, or before the image hits the screen. But a few features, such as automatic keystone correction and automatic color adjustment, work after the image has been projected.

For example, I mounted the O1 on a cart to test its autofocus and keystone correction. They both rely on two cameras which feed sensory information back into the MT9669 in order to adjust keystone and focus. Both keystone correction and autofocus work exactly as expected, without serious fault.

However, I should note that the MT9669 will appear in a much wider array of products going forward. For example, Xgimi recently adopted the MT9669.

How Do Movies Play on the JMGO O1?

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-luna-os-netflix

The JMGO O1's playback experience is good. The video quality is par-the-course for a an RGB-LED system. The colors are a bit more intense than LCD or color-wheel projectors and the blacks are well represented, provided you're in a dark room. The MediaTek processor really shines during playback as it seems to smooth out playback. 30 frames-per-second video gets converted into 60Hz, making movements smoother and more lifelike.

Dynaudio Speakers

The Dynaudio speakers and volume won't blow anyone's mind, though. While the speakers are relatively small with weak bass, they provide enough power to rattle windows and wake your downstairs neighbor. Part of the reason is that the integrated speakers take up almost the entirety of the device. But while low-bass speakers are good for a small room or automobile, they're not great for music or outdoor usage. As far as internal speakers go, their sound quality is adequate, just don't expect to play Alpha Blondy and impress anyone.

What Is Luna OS?

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-luna-os-launcher

Luna OS is a fork, or unauthorized copy, of Android 9.0. Like most Android derivatives, it lacks the Google Play Store and has a limited app library. However, the Luna OS app store includes a lot of media-focused apps, like Netflix and Amazon Video. But if you want an app that's not on the platform, that means you'll have to sideload it.

Sideloading Apps Is a Security Issue

Sideloading itself is fraught with security problems and requires an understanding of the Android operating system. Further complicating sideloading is JMGO's use of an older version of Android. Not only is Android 9 outdated, the O1 has a security patch dating back to 2019. That means it's riddled with security vulnerabilities.

I couldn't find any documentation on Luna OS online, but I can confirm that the OS runs fluidly with few issues. And while its app store isn't large, it does include most of the media apps you'd want. If you're content using the O1 for streaming, JGMO offers adequate app support.

In summary, Luna OS is a fast and clean version of Android, but it lacks a deep app library and has some serious security issues.

Alexa Integration and Other Missing Features

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-microphone-array-01-1

As of early 2021, the O1 has not yet integrated Alexa.

Personally, Alexa integration isn't something that I would want to use because of the obvious issue with privacy. However, if you are comfortable with Amazon eavesdropping on your conversations, the O1 includes the necessary hardware.

I can confirm that there is a four-microphone array embedded in the top of the unit. The microphone array is daisy-chained, or ganged, into a daughter board which includes a Wi-Fi 5 adapter. That's likely because they both transmit data over the same interface. Overall, once the software gets ironed out, JMGO should have no problem getting Amazon's personal assistant working.

Other Missing Features

Furthermore, the O1's image flattening feature requires using the JMGO smartphone app. Unfortunately, the Android app didn't work on any of the nine phones in my possession, so I couldn't test these features. It appears that JMGO has issued a limited rollout of their application in order to keep reviews high. Unless you have an extremely popular phone, such as the Samsung Galaxy series, your device probably won't run the JMGO app.

Power Consumption

While idle, the O1 uses around 1-2 watts. In standby mode, however, the O1 uses around 7 watts. I've seen similar power consumption in devices like Google Home and the Amazon Echo. And that's usually because their respective hardware lacks the ability to passively listen for wake words. Consequently, smart assistants oftentimes keep their entire processor active while actively scanning for wake words. Fortunately, double-tapping the power button completely shuts the O1 down.

The O1 consumes around 32 watts at automatic brightness and 54 watts at max brightness. Oddly, increasing brightness doesn't increase fan noise, which suggests JMGO set a constant fan speed.

Power Efficiency Comparisons

Even with a cooling fan running around the clock, the power usage is tiny compared to a large format television. A 55-inch TV, for example, uses around 100-120 watts at full brightness. It comes down to this: if you want a large format display and low power consumption, a projector might be a more worthy choice than a television.

Most LED-light source projectors offer the same power efficiency as the O1. However, you'll find mainly lamp projectors in the budget segment of the UST market. And lamp projectors are not even remotely efficient. For example, the Optoma GT5600 uses around 280 watts.

Lumens

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-image-during-daytime

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) lumens are measured using a lux meter to read the whitest white a projector can project. The lux reading is then multiplied by the image area to calculate ANSI lumens. Many no-name manufacturers use their own internal lumen testing for advertising purposes. This practice is oftentimes referred to as marketing lumens, although that's a generous description. A more accurate term would be "liar lumens".

However, JMGO undersold the minimum projection size of the O1. It can project a screen as small as 45 inches at which point its brightness seems higher than 800 lumens. So while JMGO lists 800 ANSI lumens as the maximum brightness, at 45 inches, it appears brighter. Even so, if you project an 80-inch image, it's unwatchable during the day. As such, you would need to move the projector closer to the screen during daylight hours.

Almost all of the projectors in this price range have a similar ANSI lumen rating as the O1, with the exception of the Optoma GT5600. The GT5600 has a whopping 3,600 lumens of brightness and a 20,000:1 contrast ratio. So not only does it offer superior daylight visibility, its picture quality should be superior as well. I should note that most manufacturers tend to lie about their contrast ratios as well as lumens. In this case, though, it appears that JMGO's projector approaches its advertising claims.

Lumens

Gregory from PassionHomeCinema measured the O1 at 336 Lumens, far lower than the 800 claimed by JMGO. I lack a lux meter and cannot verify these claims, however. But he is correct that the screen brightness is fairly dim and isn't visible in daylight at its advertised minimum screen size.

Fan Volume Levels

At high brightness, the O1 produces around 43-44 dBm of volume, with an ambient volume of 32 dBm, six inches away. On automatic brightness, the fan produced the same low whirring sound of 43-44 dBm. I suspect that JMGO set their fan to a constant speed. Even so, it's a quiet-running system, for any projector.

Many budget projectors with similar lumens as the O1 (such as a Turewell throwaway model) produces around 72-74 dBm with ambient noise at 41 dBm. As decibels aren't linear, that's a huge difference in volume.

Repairability, Reliability, and Warranty Policy

Repairability

After partially disassembling the O1, I found no glaring quality-control problems. But I did discover two minor issues: first, there's overuse and poor application of hot glue. Normally glue is applied to connectors that could come loose during transport. However, the O1's connectors are over glued and in some cases, the glue almost completely misses the connector. However, resin glue is not electrically conductive, unless it's been burned, so overuse just makes individual components more difficult to replace.

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-internal-assembly

Second, the fan is hard to access. And because fans require regular cleaning, this component will require periodic servicing. But because it's in a harder-to-access location, you'll need to take more pains to access it.

jmgo-o1-review-ultra-short-throw-ust-projector-microphone-array-01-1

Reliability

Some have criticized DLP projectors' DMD chips as being unreliable. I've read accounts that the chip lasts only 2,500 hours before degradation sets in. However, Texas Instruments (TI), which developed DLP technology, published a paper that argues DLP technology offers extreme reliability. According to TI's research, DLP projectors have an average lifespan of 100,000 operating hours, as opposed to the 45,000 hours of LCD technology. Considering that DLP relies on electrostatic actuation and millions of moving parts, this seems a bit of a stretch. But even so, the best data out there suggests that DLP technology is long-lasting and robust.

Warranty

JMGO products come with a one-year warranty. However, they require that you pay ship-in costs to their US-based warehouse. The O1 is lightweight and fairly small, so those costs aren't too high. But I would have preferred that they pay ship-in costs.

The JMGO O1 Isn't Perfect

Like all things, the JMGO O1 isn't perfect. There are a few issues, but otherwise, it is an excellent budget UST projector.

Can't Turn Off Android

Google's Android takes a cavalier approach to consumer privacy. While Android does offer a massive app library, high reliability, and low cost, it's also owned by an advertising company. That means they sell your data. Luna OS may not be owned by Google but it's still engineered to collect data. More concerning: I can't find Luna OS's privacy policy anywhere. As such, I would have preferred to be able to turn Android off entirely and just use the projector for its UST capability.

You Pay Ship-In Costs

JMGO's official return policy states that you pay return shipping to their US warehouse. Many big-name manufacturers, like Samsung, handle ship-in.

Shallow App Library

The O1 doesn't have access to the Google Play Store, so its app library is limited.

Security Concerns

I need to mention that media centers with microphones, and a version of Android with an ancient security patch, don't combine well.

Low ANSI Lumens

At 800 ANSI lumens, you might think the O1 isn't daylight visible. That is and isn't true. At its "optimal" 80-inch screen size, its daylight images are faint. But you can increase brightness by moving the projector closer to the screen.

Because UST projectors can go right up to the projection surface, they can also increase their own brightness significantly. Odd enough, JMGO lists the O1's minimum screen size as being 60 inches. It's more like 45-inches diagonally. And at 45 inches, it's usable during the day, although not in direct sunlight.

Reported Fake 1080P

The O1 is listed as having a native resolution of 960 x 540 and boosts it using Xpanded Pixel Resolution (XPR) technology. This technique gives the appearance of a higher resolution by essentially projecting two images in such quick succession that they appear to be the same image. While the results are almost indistinguishable from a 1080P display, it's technically not 1080P.

Should You Buy the JMGO O1 UST Projector?

If you're looking for an Ultra Short Throw projector, the JMGO O1 UST leads all cheap UST projectors. It offers great features and has low-noise production, strong hardware, and competitive pricing. There is an issue with brightness, a lack of security updates, and a shallow app library, but otherwise, the O1 is one of the best deals that I've seen on Indiegogo.

But if you don't need to save space, you're better off with a cheaper projector. Most people can get away with a short-throw or long-throw projector. Both of which cost a lot less than UST.

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