Ray Displays is a small company whose product line consists of two tiny, low-brightness pico projectors: the Ray Pico Projector ($249 direct, 2.5 stars), which we reviewed in 2009, and the Ray Lite ($159 direct). While the consumer-oriented Ray Pico Projector supports only composite video input, the Ray Lite takes a different tack. Its sole connection is a USB port to link to a computer, and USB is primarily a data interface, better for transferring PowerPoint and other data files than for handling files with moving images. Thus, the Ray Lite is best as an accessory for businesspeople who need to give data presentations via their laptops to small groups. In that capacity, it provides simple, no-frills operation, and in our testing, it performed as billed.
The Ray Lite is glossy black and rectangular, with rounded corners. At 0.8 by 2.4 by 3.6 inches (HWD), it can fit in a shirt pocket with room to spare, and it weighs only 2.8 ounces. The projector’s light engine combines an LED light source and an LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) chip; filters on the chip create the primary colors red, green, and blue.
This projector lacks internal memory, speaker, remote control, and battery; apart from focusing, it’s entirely dependent on the computer it links to over a USB cable for its operation. Yet it’s the essence of simplicity: once connected. It can emulate whatever is on your computer screen, enabling you to run presentations from your keyboard to be projected onto a screen.
The Ray Lite’s only control, its focus wheel, protrudes slightly from both the bottom and top of the projector so that one can turn it with both thumb and index finger while lightly grasping the projector in between. I was able to turn the wheel and bring the projector to a good focus quickly without problem. This wasn’t our experience with the Ray Pico Projector; it was hard to focus its side-facing wheel using just a thumb.
Ray Lite Specifications
Ray Lite Engine TypeLCoSRay Lite TypeConsumerMore
To operate, the Ray Lite needs to connect to a computer via the included dual USB Y cable, which connects through two of your computer’s USB ports to provide both power and data. (It works with a single USB cable as well, but the image is darker.)
Ray Lite Setup
As a USB-powered peripheral, you need to install a driver—which Ray provides on a mini-disc—on your PC. Per the instructions, you double-click the setup file on the disc, accept the user agreement, restart your computer, and you’re ready to go. For me, it wasn’t so simple. After setup, but my computer still wouldn’t recognize the projector. As it turned out, I had to go into a folder in Program Files named USB Projector, and click on the 32-bit executable installation file (there’s also a driver for 64-bit systems) to install the actual driver. Although I found the driver myself by searching on “USB Projector,” there’s nothing in the instructions to indicate that this last step needs to be done. Once the driver was in place, though, it recognized the Ray Lite whenever I connected it. Ray Displays says that it will make the driver available on its website for those users who lack optical drives, and clarify the driver installation procedures on the website and in the projector’s documentation.
The Ray Lite has a threaded hole in the bottom to connect to the included tripod, a small model with bendable legs. It’s easy enough to adjust the tripod to aim the projector precisely where you want it.
Ray Lite Performance
The Ray Lite has a native VGA (640 by 480) resolution. Ray claims a “typical” brightness of 10 lumens for the Ray Lite. Still, it stood up to ambient light better than the Bonitor MP302 ($269 direct, 2.5 stars), a pico projector rated at 15 lumens, when I also tested it over a USB connection. Ray gives its usable projection distance as being from about 8 inches to 10 feet; at 6 feet, the distance I did my formal testing, it projects an image at about a meter on a diagonal.
In testing the projector using DisplayMate (www.displaymate.com) software, its image quality was decent, particularly for a projector at its price. It had some trouble differentiating lighter shades of gray, doing better with dark grays. White areas showed a trace of a yellowish tinge, a not uncommon flaw, particularly with inexpensive projectors. Although focus over most of the image was sharp, it was slightly soft at the edge, particularly to the upper right. Still, the image quality is fine for its intended use.
The Ray Lite is a decidedly no-frills projector. It lacks a speaker, remote, battery, and internal storage, and its connectivity is only through a USB cable. Brighter and more feature-rich projectors, which can connect to a much wider variety of sources, are available, including the 50-lumen Optoma Pico PK301 ($400 street, 4 stars), an Editors’ Choice. But what the Ray Lite does offer is a much lower price, and simple operation for people wanting to project their presentations to small audiences.