Have you ever been rained out on a camping trip and wished you could put on a movie for the kids in the tent? Or maybe you’re a business professional with a presentation on your laptop that needs to be shown at a client meeting. In both of these scenarios, everyone crowding around your device isn’t ideal. Instead, you want a bigger screen for a comfortable viewing experience. That’s where a compact projector can come in handy.
Portable projectors have significantly improved over the past few years, and now it’s easier than ever to get one that doesn’t compromise brightness or picture quality. Our picks for the best portable projectors provide an ideal balance between the best home theater projectors and the best pocket projectors.
The best overall choice, the LG PF50KA, has a 1080-pixel native resolution and modern features like LG’s smart TV platform and a USB-C port. It’s the ideal portable projector for most people, but we’ve included other great options as well. Whether you’re trying to watch a movie or give a presentation, one of these projectors will serve you right.
At a glance
The LG PF50KA CineBeam Projector is our top choice because it brings the best of both worlds together. It has solid image quality and is significantly brighter than the competition. Combine that with its compact size, and the PF50KA really does feel like bringing a home theater projector with you.
The PF50KA also comes with LG’s Smart TV platform, so you can stream Netflix and Hulu directly from the projector without the need to connect to another device.
If you need to connect to something else, though, there are plenty of options. Many portable projectors are limited on their I/O, but the PF50KA has a plethora of ports. You will find an ethernet port, two HDMI slots, a USB-C port, as well as headphone/speaker jack. It even has a coax port to hook up cable service.
Wireless connections also abound on the PF50KA, with Bluetooth connectivity for speakers and headphones, as well as screen mirroring for viewing whatever’s on your mobile devices.
The LGPF50KA is the portable projector that checks all the boxes.
Have you ever had a video you wanted to show a group of friends, but you don’t want everyone to crowd around you to see it? The KODAK Luma 150 will do the trick. This tiny projector is great for sharing YouTube videos, presentations, and just about anything else.
The KODAK Luma 150 is tiny, at just 4 by 4 inches and less than an inch thick. It won’t exactly fit in your pocket, but it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your bag either. The Luma 150 comes with a built-in 1.5-watt speaker, but you may want to plug in something bigger for some added oomph. Unlike a lot of projectors, the Luma 150 also supports AirPlay and screen mirroring. It really is as simple as pulling it out and turning it on to get going. If you do want to connect a device, such as a DVD player or Apple TV, there is an HDMI port.
If you’re looking for something simple that works great with smartphones, the Luma 150 pocket projector is the one for you.
If you’re looking for a portable projector that won’t break the bank, the Vankyo Leisure 3 mini projector is the best option for you. It is usually available for around $130 but still has great features like screen mirroring. Going any cheaper means you will likely lose some of these perks.
The Leisure 3 is compact and comes with its own carrying case, so you don’t have to worry about it taking up room in your backpack. It’s ideal for turning any room into a little movie theater or for streaming a sports event.
The only real drawback to the Leisure 3 is it lacks a built-in battery, so no outdoor movie nights without an extension cord. However, if you need an occasional projector that’s easy to grab and go to a friend’s house, the Vankyo Leisure 3 is an excellent option.
The problem with portable projectors usually comes down to the sound. Many of them don’t have any speakers at all, and the ones that do are thin and do little to fill the space. While the Nebula Capsule II won’t outdo any dedicated speakers, it is certainly above and beyond practically all of the competition. Anker is primarily an audio company specializing in speakers and headphones, so it makes sense that they deliver quality sound.
The Nebula Capsule II also has Android TV, which means users can browse the Google Play store for apps and stream directly from the projector with no additional devices. It also has Google Assistant and responds to voice commands. All of this combined with its 720p DLP image makes for a speaker that looks as good as it sounds.
There are plenty of pocket projectors out there. Most of them aren’t very bright and have a pretty low native resolution. That isn’t the case with the AAXA P7. The P7 runs at a native 1080p resolution and 600 lumens for brightness. It doesn’t quite fit in your pocket; in fact, it barely fits in your hand. But it is the absolute best quality you will find in this compact size.
The I/O is what you would expect from a device so small. There is a USB and an HDMI port, as well as a headphone jack and separate AV port on the side. The tiny projector can cast a 120-inch image, and it has built-in speakers. There is also an optional lithium battery that provides up to three hours of battery life.
For something super compact that still projects a great image, the AAXA P7 is hard to beat.
Sometimes you don’t need a projector with off-the-charts image quality. Sometimes you just need to get a presentation up so co-workers can see what you’re talking about. Rather than lugging around a big projector or relying on one at the office, the ViewSonic M1 offers decent picture quality at a midrange price.
With a wide, 854 x 480-pixel WVGA resolution, the M1 can throw a 100-inch image from nearly 9 feet away. It also has an impressive battery life of up to six hours. That’s perfect for binge-watching shows or a long day of presentations at the office.
The ViewSonic M1 is compact and comes with its own stand that folds away when you don’t need it. It also has built-in Harman/Kardon speakers that provide decent enough sound for its size.
If you’re looking for a projector with a wide image that will last through the day, the ViewSonic M1 is the best option for you.
What should I look for in a portable projector?
There are several things you should consider when looking for a portable projector. The most important thing is, of course, how portable it is. Most projectors these days are “portable” in the sense that they can be easily moved. However, for something to be truly portable — and thus eligible for this list — it should be lightweight and fit into a bag or backpack. We looked for projectors with small designs that required little to no setup time. If you’re looking for the smallest projectors possible, you may want to look at the best pocket projectors. While it isn’t necessary to be considered portable, batteries are an important consideration. If you want to use a projector in the backyard, on a camping trip, or in unconventional spaces where power isn’t available, a built-in battery makes that possible. Pay attention to battery life when choosing.
Connectivity is also crucial for portable projectors. If you’re looking for something truly compact and portable, you will likely be connecting it to your smartphone, so you will want to make sure the projector has the right inputs, outputs, or screen-mirroring options. The last thing is the brightness. Projectors measure brightness in lumens. The higher the number, the better the image will look in bright areas. That’s the simplest way to think of it. Portable projectors usually suffer on this front, but they have significantly improved over the last few years.
How important is contrast ratio?
The contrast ratio is how bright the whites are compared to the blacks. A 1,000:1 contrast ratio means the whites will appear 1,000-times brighter than the blacks. This is important for color accuracy as well as how clearly the image will appear in well-lit areas. Since portable projectors don’t get super bright, you shouldn’t watch them in really bright areas anyway. However, if you want the best picture quality, you will want to make sure you get a projector with at least a 1,000:1 contrast ratio. The higher the better.
What about audio?
All the portable projectors on this list have built-in speakers, but many out there don’t. Even then, the speakers are rarely impressive. If you want the best sound to pair with your projector, you will likely need external speakers. Many of the projectors on this list have Bluetooth connectivity to pair speakers wirelessly. If that doesn’t work, you can also plug speakers directly in through the headphone or AV jack.
What is the lifespan of projector lamps?
Pretty much every portable projector relies on LED lamps, which are far more efficient than traditional incandescent lamps. They can get brighter and last a lot longer. Most projector lamps are rated for at least 30,000 hours, which is more than enough for what they will be used for.
How did Digital Trends pick these portable projectors?
The projectors on this list were chosen for their balance between image quality and the convenience of portability. We also looked at contrast ratio, battery capacity, and convenient connectivity. Every projector on this list has at least a 1000:1 contrast ratio, which is really the minimum for decent multimedia viewing. For projectors batteries, we looked for those with at least 2.5 hours of life, the length of a relatively long movie. In terms of connectivity, we looked for devices with at least one HDMI port and supported wireless features like AirPlay and screen mirroring. We also kept the list narrowed to projectors with built-in speakers. You will want external speakers to get better sound for most of them, but the goal was to find portable projectors that worked right out of the box.
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