Review: AKIYO O1 Mini Projector

I may completely lose my credibility as a home theater enthusiast, but hear me out. We are fortunate to have a cottage where we can get away from it all, and one of our rules there is “no tech”. Over the years this has eroded a little as we’ve ended up with generous mobile data plans, and our kids have become more technology attached. I also put the cottage on the internet for some automation setting up a remote site with openwrt and wireguard. Still, as a general rule we put our devices away and enjoy the sounds of nature and the freedom of being disconnected.

Under the guise of making things more fun for our teenage son, we decide to bring a movie to watch the other day. Watching Ratatouille on a 16″ laptop screen on the screened in porch after sunset was pretty nice. You can imagine the slippery slope we are on, and it was not a huge leap to think about setting up a projector and getting the ‘outdoor movie’ experience.

There are many great, low cost, projectors now. A local dealer has a great Epson 1080p projector for $700, and I’m certain with a little shopping we can cut that price down significantly – or look on the used market for a great deal at half the price. The Epson would be suitable for a ‘home theater’ space, and I don’t need my “no tech get away” to have an amazing audio video setup. This sent me looking at much less expensive solutions.

There is a whole class of low cost “mini” projectors out there, with so many choices. How do you pick one? You also have to wade through all of the technical mumbo-jumbo descriptions and marketing claims, many of them which are there to confuse you. There is also the misleading ‘sponsored’ reviews. The only good news here is there are many low cost choices so you’re not risking a lot, but remember the golden rule here: You get what you pay for.

I settled on the Akiyo O1 Mini Projector which I found on It had enough reviews which helps gives some confidence that they are not all sponsored/bought reviews. The price is well under $100 including taxes and delivery. If you bump your budget to $150 there are many more options, and many more features they promise. I decided that I was going to keep my outlay low and avoid too many features, I just needed a display.

This is what came in the box: The projector, a remote (2 AAA batteries not included), mini-tripod, power supply, HDMI cable and a couple of wooden q-tips (for cleaning?). The projector itself is very small, roughly 5.5″ x 4.5″ x 2.5″ – literally about two soda cans side by side. The HDMI cable is fairly long (5 feet?), but the power cable lead is quite short (3 feet?).

My initial impression was the fan was much quieter than I expected, and this was setup in my dedicated theater room which is nearly silent. The focus is pretty finicky, it feels like getting precise focus will be challenging as the control is quite loose. Keystone is limited, and appears to interact badly with focus. If you use keystone (which you probably will want) it becomes impossible to focus the top and bottom of the screen as the focus plane appears to be on an angle. It is all trade-offs here. This is still impressive for the cost.

Above is the start up screen (once you’ve done the initial setup) on my 80″x45″ screen (92″ diagonal). The projected image is larger than this screen by a good 8″ all around and there is ambient light in the room (dim, but not dark). Compared to my normal setup (native 1080p) the image feels soft, based on the image quality I’m starting to doubt if this is 720p.

Above is a screen shot of the projected image. Not bad eh? Image is fed to the project from my Macbook via HDMI. Now let’s look at the Macbook screen and the projected image together.

Ah, very different. This is a completely unfair comparison of course. While the projected image is watchable, the overall brightness and detail is lacking. The listed specifications for the Akiyo O1 are supposed to be 5500 lumens, but if there is any truth to this it’s the peak output of the light source not the amount of light coming out of the lens. I’ve seen guesses as to this being either 100 ANSI lumens, or 300 ANSI lumens. Maybe I’ll try measuring it one day, but it doesn’t matter for my needs.

I then moved the projector much closer to the screen, resulting in an approximately 45″ diagonal image. This made a huge difference, the on screen image now pops. Dark details are nice and visible now, and we still have good contrast. Viewing Ted Lasso, the colors were nice and bright and surprisingly good looking. No measurements here, and the human eye is very forgiving, but the feel of the image is impressive.

At this point in my notes, I call out that the fan noise is notably higher than my home theater projector. Certainly audible over the sound track of the movie during quiet parts.

My next steps were to put together something to feed the projector content. I tried just sticking one of my movies on USB stick and giving it to the projector, but this didn’t work. I decided while it was possible for me to figure out the right type of movie encode to feed the projector, having to re-encode any movie would be a pain. My choice here was to take a Raspberry Pi 3B I had sitting around and turn that into my media player.

To setup the Raspberry Pi, I visited the site and used the OSX specific installer. I took advantage of installer tool capability to pre-configure the install with a ssh server, my user and wifi information. The Pi booted and came up on my network with remote access, pretty slick.

I then installed mosh, one of my go-to utilities. To get sound working over HDMI I needed to run sudo raspi-config and navigate System->Sound->Output and change it from the headphone jack to HDMI. I also installed a screen keyboard: sudo apt-get install matchbox-keyboard, as I have a mouse plugged in but no keyboard. I finished up doing a system upgrade, just to make sure things are current.

Since VLC is built in to the base install, I was able to run that and play the movie just fine without having to worry about the format details.

The projected image is again around 45″ diagonal, and the photo was taken close to the projector itself making it look much larger. This isn’t a great reference image because it is fairly dark content and mostly blue/black. Still, a very watchable image – especially considering there was ambient light in the room too. Also, the wall being projected on is (mustard) yellow. The screenshot may not be selling you on this, but this convinced me I’d made a pretty good purchase. Fed via the Raspberry Pi I’m getting both sound and audio out, and the audio is quite loud enough. The image is bright enough to be engaging, and the focus isn’t that bad.

A couple more software tweaks. I wrote a simple bash script to watch for the USB drive to be mounted (so I could boot the Pi and then insert the movie later). Once the drive is detected, the first movie found will be played using VLC. I then used cron’s @reboot to run this script on start up. I discovered that while I could ssh into the machine and run the script and it would work, for some reason the cron invocation would lack sound. A simple work around was to setup key based ssh access, and from the script ssh to localhost to fix this, works fine this way.

I notice the Raspberry Pi was detecting the projector as a 1080p display and setting the screen up that way. I used the desktop GUI to force the HDMI input to 720p, this helped make the image sharper because we now have the native resolution matched. I believe this was the root problem with the ‘soft’ image I’d noted at first, with a proper 720p source things were pretty sharp.

The real test was taking a movie up to the cottage and having this all work there. We had the opportunity to try this soon after I had this figured out and it worked brilliantly.

The screen is a white bed sheet we pinned up, you can see the wrinkles and waves. The movie was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The displayed image was not anything close to videophile levels, but still I found myself sucked into the movie and deeply enjoying the experience. Yes, from time to time the fact that the image was distorted due to the waves in the sheet did distract a little. The fan noise was not an issue at all, the natural sound of the woods was louder than the fan, and the projector speakers plenty loud enough even at about half volume. It was overall a fantastic experience and easy to look past any of the imperfections, some of which are compromises in the setup vs. the technology.

When I consider my start in home theater, with expensive and large CRT projectors which had loud fans and could only resolve 720p images at best – this sub $100 unit with a long lasting LED light source is amazing value.

Wiistar HDMI Audio Extractor teardown (WS-E11B)

Back in 2020 I moved to a Roku Premiere as my primary streaming device. As my audio gear is older (pre-HDMI) I required something to split out the audio from the HDMI signal and the Wiistar HDMI Audio Extractor was a good fit.

At the time I mentioned that the device was a little suspicious, but it worked and kept working just fine for some time. After a year of trouble free operation, I did have a couple of times when the box would give up and pulling the power and rebooting it seemed to fix things. Stuff happens, no problem.

More recently it’s been acting up a lot. Blanking out, then coming back or not. Tapping or banging on the case seems to help ‘fix’ things temporarily. It appears that there is something not quite right with the power connection. This meant it was time to take things apart!

There is a horizontal seam on both sides of the device, you can see it right by the mini-USB connection and the switch. By pressing with a knife blade on this seam, I was able to un-snap the sides. This took a little doing, but was pretty easy. Some gentle wiggling freed the circuit board from the snap case.

No surprises here. It’s a single chip solution, likely decode HDMI, re-encode HDMI. There is likely a small audio amplifier circuit here to feed the 3.5mm jack. It’s pretty amazing that you can get something like this for the price.

The USB-mini power jack seems to be well affixed to the circuit board (no bad joints). I inspected the cable as well, and it looks to be a power only cable – only two pins on the plug. I tried adjusting the connector fit a little which might help my power problem (and I could have done from the outside of the case).

Then I took a closer look at that one chip..

Yup, that’s a blank, unbranded chip. I’m guessing this is a chip that failed QC and was discarded or sold off as seconds. Bunnie wrote about counterfeit chips which will give you an idea of how this chip may have ended up being used. In this case, they aren’t even trying to fake the chip – they just are trying to use one that was cheaper.

Well – it was interesting to open it up which turned out to be easy. I may have improved the power connection, but first try and it’s not working. Meanwhile I’ve ordered an AmazonBasics HDMI audio extractor as a replacement. The AmazonBasics device has a lot of (mostly) positive reviews. There is a youtube video teardown which while it’s terrible, does give a peek inside. There seems to be QC stickers on the circuit board, and the underside of the case appears to have FCC logos etc.

It’s likely a very similar solution, also needing a 5V 1A power supply. The pictures show you powering it from a laptop USB port, which is only going to provide 500mA – so there is some suspicious stuff going on here too with the marketing. Also, I suspect based on the comments it accepts up to 4k input, but can only output 1080p – which is fine for my needs.

Correct Playlist – Segment Map for Bluray

Before streaming was the primary way to get new content, I collected a lot of movies on DVD / bluray. I still have a large collection, but have been slowly converting it to be hosted on my Plex server. This gives me a Netflix like viewing experience, but for my own personal movie collection.

Handbrake is great for dealing with DVDs. MakeMKV is how I rip bluray disks, then feed the resulting rip into Handbrake to compress it down. I do all of this on my Ubuntu system.

Generally this works really well. Handbrake will automatically select the longest video, and that’s almost always the actual movie itself. With MakeMKV that selection is more manual, but picking 1 title from a list of 10 isn’t all that hard.

When I got to the Hunger Games series, things got a bit more interesting. Starting with Catching Fire the bluray shows you 100’s of feature length titles – all the same duration, but with different segment maps. It seems that all but one of these titles has things shuffled in the wrong order.

Initially I naively picked the 1st and used that one, but upon watching the movie it was obvious there was 1 scene out of place, and thus two weird jump cuts to the flow of the movie. Enough to be annoying.

If you got digging around, you can find advice on which of the many to pick from the list. It turns out that there are multiple versions of the movie: rental, US release, Canadian release, etc. It’s much better to figure it out for the disk you have. The MakeMKV forum has a post about using PowerDVD and Process monitor to figure this out. I struck out here as I didn’t have a Windows machine with the right software combination, and it seems I wasn’t able to get Ubuntu to natively play back a bluray either.

Recently I came across a way to use MakeMKV to do the full process, again thanks to a MakeMKV forum post.

    1. Use MakeMKV to back up the full disk.
    2. Use MakeMKVcon to dump info to a text file

    3. Isolate the segment lists from /tmp/xx.txt. It turns out that “,26,” is unique enough to grab all of the segment lists. For Mockingjay Part 1 there are 550 segment lists on the disk, 519 of these are the length of the movie.

    4. Observations:
      a) All the movie length lists start with the same segment: 519
      b) It seems they all end with 520
      c) There are only 20 chunks in each segment list, and we already know 2 of them. Only 18 to sort into order correctly
      d) The MakeMVK backup has all of the chunks in backup/<disk>/BDMV/STREAM/
    5. Now we just need to play a copy of the movie, I have the DVD as well so VLC can play that back for me. Start at the first chunk, verify it is the start, watch the end to determine the scene break. Then figure out what the next chunk is.
      By building an incrementally specific grep, I can figure out the next chunk options. It is fewer choices than you might imagine. Each one had 2-4 possibilities.
      Hint: as you identify chunks, record the duration – this helps figure out where on the DVD playback you need to review to find the scene break.
    6. Once we identify the correct chunk order – we can go back to MakeMKV and rip the correct stream. A web search can also help verify which one is the right one, as I did for Mockingjay Part 1.

It took me about 35mins to get through step 5, much shorter than watching the whole movie. During the course of the chunk identification, I came across 3 where I had no choice, the only next chunk was the same one. After walking through 12 chunks, I hit a point where there was only 1 segment list left. I quickly verified the segment end/start matches and then double checked against the web search.