The AAXA BP1 Speaker Projector ($155), the latest in a string of mini projector/Bluetooth speaker mashups that we have reviewed, is stronger as an audio system than as a projector. The BP1’s twin 6-watt speakers produce clear and loud sound, but the projector’s low brightness and pedestrian resolution limit its effective use to a small image size in a dark room. Somewhat brighter mini-projectors like two recent Editors’ Choice models, the Kodak Luma 350 and the Anker Nebula Apollo, can project larger usable images and better withstand ambient light. Nonetheless, the BP1’s modest price makes it a tempting combo of a portable projector and an audio system for someone with modest projection needs.
Modest Brightness and Resolution
The BP1 is a DLP-based projector with an LED light source rated to last up to 15,000 hours (in all likelihood, the lifetime of the projector). AAXA lists the BP1’s brightness at 100 LED lumens. Generally, projector brightness is given in ANSI lumens, but recently some companies have been rating their projectors using LED lumens, claiming that the perceived brightness of the often highly saturated colors of an LED image is higher than the measured brightness would be in ANSI lumens, and that most light meters are more accurate in measuring lamp-based projectors’ output than LED models’ brightness.
There may well be some truth to both of these assertions, but it doesn’t help in comparing ANSI lumens to LED lumens. Perhaps our best yardstick is in usable image size, which I will discuss in more detail below. Based on that, the BP1’s brightness is modest, with slightly smaller usable images in dark conditions than we saw with the Kodak Luma 150 and ViewSonic M1 Mini, and less of a tolerance for ambient light.
The BP1 projector’s native resolution is so-called “nHD” (640 by 360 pixels). This is a low resolution, even for a mini-projector, half the vertical or horizontal pixels of 720p (1,280 by 720) and just one quarter of the screen area, but at the same 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Many mini projectors have 854-by-480-pixel (a.k.a. FWVGA or 480p) resolution, and some serve up 720p or even 1080p.
We last saw nHD resolution on the Philips Pocket Projector PPX4350 Wireless, a pico projector whose brightness is rated at a mere 50 lumens. For watching video, at least, such a resolution is okay for the BP1’s low brightness and correspondingly small usable image size—up to about 40 inches (measured diagonally) in a dark room, with an optimal image size of about 30 inches. I wouldn’t recommend using the BP1 in anything but a dark room, as even modest ambient light tended to wash out my test images.
Ports and Jacks
All the BP1’s ports and jacks are in back. They are (left to right) a mini-USB jack for the included power and cable, a USB Type-C port, an HDMI port, a USB Type-A port for a USB thumb drive, and a 3.5-inch headphone jack. Below the USB-A is a plastic-gear focus wheel for the lens. Also back here: a switch to toggle among three operating modes (PowerBank, off, and Bluetooth Speaker/Projector), and a microSD card slot.
At either end of the device is a grille housing a 6-watt speaker, which can be used to play music files or video, or act as a standalone Bluetooth speaker system. On the projector’s base is a threaded hole to fit a tripod or other mount.
AAXA could have done a better job in labeling the BP1’s buttons and ports. The projector’s color is listed as space gray, which is a matte gray-black, and the ports’ labels are in tiny black letters. The labeling is easy enough to discern in direct natural light, but it was often illegible under incandescent lighting. Granted, you don’t need a label to identify an HDMI or a USB Type-A port, but using the mode switch is a different matter.
With the switch in the middle position, the unit is off. Toggling to the left enables PowerBank mode, in which the BP1’s USB Type-A port can charge a device connected to it from the BP1’s internal battery. Toggling to the right puts you in Bluetooth Speaker/Projector mode. From there you can use the BP1 as a Bluetooth speaker (by entering your computer or mobile device’s Bluetooth settings and clicking on “AAXA-BP1” to pair the two), or turn on the projector by pressing and holding a button on top of the BP1.
That button, at least, is clearly marked, with “Projector On: Press & Hold” visible in white type. Also on top is a control panel, with a five-way controller, a Return button, and a Bluetooth source button. For these, the labeling reverts to a barely legible black-on-dark-gray.
It Carries a Charge
Built into the BP1 is a 12,000mAh rechargeable battery, the highest capacity I have seen on a mini-projector, with a claimed projection time in Eco mode of 6 hours between charges, or 24 hours of play time in Bluetooth mode. This gives the BP1 great cred as a portable projector, particularly when you know you will be away from AC power.
The BP1 incorporates a media player similar to those that we have seen in a number of other AAXA projectors. It can display or run movie, image, music, and text files in MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, JPG, AVI, BMP, GIF, and TXT formats. The media player is easy to navigate using the BP1’s built-in control panel. You can make selections by media type and device (USB thumb drive or microSD card) or input source. The latter can be Digital AV (HDMI) or screen mirroring over a USB-C connection.
Testing the BP1: It’s Mostly About the Audio
In testing the BP1, I ran a number of files of varied media types from a USB thumb drive, and also connected it with my computer over an HDMI connection. In testing the Bluetooth speaker function, I paired the BP1 with my iPhone and played albums stored in my Music folder.
Sound quality is pleasing, with both treble and bass response more than adequate for casual use. Image quality for photos is suitable for casual or family viewing in a dark room, though there was a tendency for both reds and greens to look slightly oversaturated. Video quality is fine for viewing clips, music videos, and the like. (See how we test projectors.)
Of all the projector/Bluetooth speaker combos we have reviewed, the BP1 is strongest as a Bluetooth speaker as opposed to a projector. It does have some good points as a projector, with plenty of connection choices, the benefits of AAXA’s easy-to-operate media player, and typical image quality for a low-brightness LED-based DLP projector. And its long-lasting battery makes it a good choice for portable use.
That said, its low brightness and resolution relegate it to projecting relatively small images in dark rooms. For a larger image size, and at a higher price, either the Kodak Luma 350 or the Anker Nebula Apollo, both PCMag Editors’ Choice picks, would fit the bill. They both incorporate Android and run its apps, but of the two, only the Apollo doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. But if you’re primarily in need of a Bluetooth speaker and have just light projection needs, the AAXA BP1 Speaker Projector could well be the bargain combo you are looking for.
AAXA BP1 Speaker Projector Specs
|Rated Brightness||100 LED Lumens|
|Native Resolution||640 x 360|
|Inputs and Interfaces||Bluetooth, HDMI, USB-C|
|Dimensions (HWD)||2.8 by 8.4 by 5.9 inches|