What’s Inside A Super-Cheap Projector? Not A Lot!

[Raymond Ma] has a penchant for browsing Aliexpress and purchasing curious pieces of hardware that are as high on promises as they are low on cost. This is a process he aptly sums up with his opening line of “I should have known better, but…” Luckily, these devices all get torn down and analyzed so we can each enjoy and share a little slice of disappointment.

One such item is the $30 USD YT200 mini projector, which at 320×180 is almost as low on pixels as it is on cost. Still, [Raymond] looks inside to find out if there is perhaps more hacking potential than there is image resolution.

The YT200 lacks any kind of normal video input, and the anemic 15 lumen output is brazenly branded as a feature to protect children’s eyes from excessive brightness.

Light from the single LED is collimated with some Fresnel lenses. That light passes through an LCD panel, and from there the image bounces off a mirror and through a focusing lens housed in a spiral guide. Focal adjustments are made with a small lever, and the whole assembly provides just enough friction to prevent the lens from moving out of focus on its own.

The device actually does work fairly well for what it is: a way to play a range of different media types off a connected USB storage device. As long as one is in a dark room, anyway.

[Raymond] hopes to find some alternate use for the device. Might we suggest projecting into a frosted glass globe to create a sort of spherical display? A spooky eye animation on a USB stick might pair well with that.

38 thoughts on “What’s Inside A Super-Cheap Projector? Not A Lot!

  1. Wonder if you can drive that display directly from something like a Pi – can’t tell from the image what size or pitch that connector is, but it is probably a MIPI display so its at least plausible.

    Can think of loads of useful/fun projects for the small IOT/edge computer with projector display inbuilt – probably have to bump up that LED power a bit though, even for me who wishes almost every display I ever use could go/stay darker… (Historically I’ve tended to headaches with extreme photosensitivity so the glare from anything lighter in colour on a screen at its lowest intensity can seem rather bad to me)

  2. I wonder why it’s legal to waste raw materials on garbage like this.
    And I’ve been doing that for about 40 years…
    In the countries it’s made it will be some profit for someone, but in the destination country it’s bound to end on some landfill site or garbage incinerator quite soon

      1. That is indeed one of the problems for implementing any sort of durable scheme.

        But before that there has to be a lot more support for even acknowledging that producing goods that are destined to be turned into garbage in a short while is a bad overall idea.

        1. Paul I think you are missing the point of these cheap throw away devices, they are making money and lots of it. We buy things that don’t last and we have to buy new ones for whatever purpose because it’s cheaper than to repair them. It’s a society problem, we are a throw away society. We are just now starting to think of the future of the planet and our landfills. I won’t hold my breath on things changing anytime soon.

        2. So I guess all American car companies would be guilty of producing garbage that ends up in a landfill long before it should…
          Allow waivers for emission checks on cars over 10 years old…

      2. What’s the alternative? It’s pretty simple actually. Make factories owned by the people instead of brining profits to few of the richest. I still use hair dryer made by FAREL state-owned company. My grandmother bought in 1967, then my mom used it until 2012 and then she gave it to me when I left family home for Wroclaw to study at Polytechnic there. If products are made by people and for people instead of “for profit” then there’s no incentive in making single-use crap. Current sociecity focused only on consumption and social media is worse than atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in long term at least.

        1. This particular product was made in china, for what its worth. Maybe you can write them.

          US built products like refrigerators also used to last for decades, until the want to China or Mexico.

          1. US made products were also made as cheap throwaway items. We just don’t see those nowadays, because they were cheap and have been thrown away. China also builds iPhones and other Apple products, which if you say nothing else about them have above average fit & finish and QC.

            It’s not manufacture that’s the problem, but demand. The cheap plastic crap manufacturing sector is an export market, not a domestic one.

          1. @Mark+S. said: “People hate to admit it but socialism did get some things right.”

            You obviously have never lived in a totally Socialist country as a non-Elite. I have and you are wrong to think like that. Who indoctrinated you with that thinking?

          1. US could manufacture only about 2500 Abrams tanks in total since production started in 1980s and ended in 2015. State-owned companies in Russia, China, Chechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus manufactured at least 80000 T-72, T-55 and recently T-90 and PT-91 tanks. Those numers are order of magnitude higher showing that correctly managed state economy is actually better.

          2. @Ren, it doesn’t really work that way,

            More in the real world isn’t the whole picture – if you make 1 tank, give it all the best kit and build the spare parts to keep it running, and lots of ammunition you have 1 really effective working tank for its entire useful lifetime. If you make 20 tanks, maybe give one or two of them the advanced kit and don’t produce enough spares (or commonly it seems in the Soviet union something close to none at all – you get your spares from the dead) you only actually have 1 working tank after the first 6 months of using them, and they were never really that effective.

            You also have to consider the quality of the items produced and if there is even a demand to build more – just how many Aircraft carrier or warships did the USSR ever make for instance? Or take the USA, it is surrounded by friendly nations that can’t match it for military might or tech anyway it doesn’t need hordes of tanks at home to protect itself, and what it builds are damn good, so even being heavily outnumbered is not such a problem. Or take the UK – to protect itself really doesn’t need tanks at all, being an island naval and air power are rather more important to self defense and your offensive capacity – tanks stuck at home do you no good. So you want some tanks but really only to support overseas operations, with the expectation that these tanks will be under friendly sky, with great Intel and long range fire support from your superior naval and air power.

            The Russian’s leant very very heavily into ground armour, and have some reasons to do so with their borders being mostly land, most of the ports even at the greatest extent of the USSR are frozen over some of the year, so naval abilities/activity is limited…

            Also making more of something according to the paper documentation, which if its soviet is likely lying all the way up the chain inflating the numbers so nobody goes to the gulag for failing to meet the expected demand anyway… (They did clearly make a great many though how many it really is I doubt anybody actually knows).

        2. People often just don’t understand how real companies work with development and profits. This “by the people and for the people” BS is out of the 1960’s and I grew up in the 60s.

          1. And I wonder if some higher priced items are not higher quality, but priced high to give that impression to the customer.
            So, one could desire quality goods, but it is difficult to differentiate on price alone.
            Just by sticking to name brands is no guarantee.

          2. There’s plenty of it, people just don’t want to pay what it costs. Remember that ‘in the old days’ there were the appliances that cost months to years of average wages, or nothing. Today, you can still spend months to years of average wages on a product that works great for many decades (if you also spend to maintain and service it), or you can spend days to weeks of wages on a product that works mostly as well for a couple of decades or so. And the near universal choice has been the latter.

            And before we get the usual yahoos who think value engineering and planned obsolescence are the same thing: we do indeed still ‘make them like they used to’, the problem is ‘like they used to’ includes the awful crap buried in landfills as well as the survivorship-bias highest ends goods you still see today.

      3. We come up with a highly paid committee of Tik Tok stars to set a standard and a logo that can be easily copied and printed onto non-standard Mordor garbage. I am being silly of course as this happens every 5-7 years. I do wish there were a higher tariff on that kind of stuff but again another commission that’s gonna get paid to put a sticker on something as bona fide after the head of it gets honey potted with an underage as blackmail. We will never win lol. There are some items I take apart though that just make me sad to see the effort involved to produce something that was never fit for purpose other than supporting 1000 other items like it on a pallet.
        Or just make it a Fair Trade item and let us get cheap cocaine and led yard lights lol.

        As an aside have any of you experienced the insanity that is holiday shipping yet? I was horrified to receive 6 individual Nerd Ropes candy all shipped in a separate bag each and each with a tracking number…. I feel bad for even ordering it now smdh. An obtuse amount of time and resources to get some sugar to my house. But then again ol Musky is probably doing a pleasure model of himself on top of a pile of powder the world has not even heard of yet heh heh Ah well peace on Earth, goodwill to all.

    1. It is legal because we have to feed the neoliberal fairytale of eternal economic growth. And the only instances getting screwed here are nature and maybe some workers along the supply chain.
      Why should we who live in the priviliged part of the world care? We need this cheap shit to buy orselves our part of happyness. Merry X-mas everyone.

    2. The problem isn’t the product, but rather the advertising. If people can recognize a product for what it is, then only those who can really make use of it will buy it, which is fine. But if the advertising lies about what the product is, and people buy it thinking it is more capable than it is, and end up disposing of it because it wasn’t what they expected, then that’s a problem.

  3. For $3 more + S&H, one can get a somewhat decent low-res projector from ebay (e.g. VANKYO Leisure 3 800×480) with standard HDMI & VGA inputs. I’m using one to project a planetarium using Stellarium into the kids bedroom ceiling. I thought about going the mini-projector route, but the minimal price difference didn’t justify it.

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