We’ve looked far and wide for the best portable projectors on the market – and this list is the culmination of our efforts. These are the very best compact and easy-to-carry projectors that are ideal for transporting anywhere they might be needed.
Until recently, pocket-sized portable projectors were nothing more than a novelty. They were fun, but didn’t offer very good viewing experiences. They’re still niche products, but lately, there has been an upswing in quality. Quite a few OEMs are now stepping up their game in this arena, delivering some amazing portable projectors. Here is a roundup of some of the best portable projects available right now.
Not too long ago, the concept of having a projector small enough to take with you in your bag, let alone in your pocket, was just wishful thinking. But as projectors have come down in size, portable models have come into their own, making it possible for you to project your data and video anywhere you go.
Thankfully that’s no longer the case, and there’s never been a better time to pick one up. There are hundreds of options out there, and each ones comes with its own set of pros and cons. We found five great ones, which strike a balance between performance, extras, and price, so you don’t have to.
Why you need a portable projector
If you want to enjoy the occasional impromptu movie night but don’t necessarily want a big-screen TV taking up space in your living room or bedroom, a small, portable projector lets you easily display video on a wall anywhere. These projectors are compact enough to carry from room to room, and they can show a 50-inch-plus image on a wall or screen.
If you tend to watch TV during the day or in a very bright room, you won’t be able to use this type of projector as a TV replacement. But in a dim to dark room, the images look fine, and these projectors are great space-savers.
5 Best Portable Projectors of 2021:
The ML750e by Optoma is a lot more powerful than the pocket-sized PicoPix from Phillips, but it’s not quite as small. Still, it weighs just 380g with a small footprint that makes this easy to carry around. The differences in size between this and the PicoPix are negligible for the power you get in return: a 700 Lumens lamp that lets you present in rooms that aren’t completely darkened. The Optoma ML750e is one of the best portable projectors in the world thanks to its impressive range of ports.
It comes with one MHL-ready HDMI input, a USB 2.0 slot for thumbdrives, a universal I/O slot, and a microSD card slot. The ML550 handled our 90-inch test screen with impressive results, and peaked at a 60-inch-or-so size. However, you need to buy a dongle for Wi-Fi access.
- No Wi-Fi
- Tablet integration requires dongle
The ViewSonic M1 Portable Projector weighs less than two pounds, but is powerful enough to put up a 100-inch screen on a wall, making it perfect for any business trip, or just to take outside for a full evening of movies at night. It’s helped by a built-in battery that should last up to six hours on a single charge, which should be more than enough for a long sales presentation or a double feature.
The 854 x 480 LED projector is backed up by built-in dual Harman Kardon speakers, which means your movie night or business slide show can be accompanied by excellent audio. It has a microSD card slot for people who want to use their smartphone card to show images and video. It also has both a standard USB port and a USB Type-C port. Indeed, you can even use the latter port to charge up your compatible smartphone or tablet when connected to the projector. It also has an HDMI port, and you can connect the projector to a device like a Chromecast, Roku stick or Amazon Fire TV stick to turn it into a smart TV.
Finally, the ViewSonic M1 Portable Projector integrates a stand that can rotate 360 degrees, so there should be no issues with putting the image on any surface, including the ceiling.
- Compact design
- Good range of ports
- Low resolution
- Not that bright
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.
- Great value
- Low input lag
- 2,200 lumens
- Flexible connectivity
- Not portable
- Doesn’t come with brackets for mounting
The Mars II is equipped with a 12,500mAh-sized battery and uses a proprietary cable for charging or for using the Mars II while the battery’s dead (you can expect roughly four hours of battery life). The Mars II’s back-facing ventilation system makes a gentle whirring noise while the projector’s in use, but it’s quiet enough to fade into the background, especially when the volume’s cranked (did I mention that the Mars II’s 10-watt speakers get really, really loud?)
Crucially, the Mars II is a top-notch performer—at least when it comes to the realm of mini projectors. You’re not going to see great results in a well-lit setting, but screenings in dimly-lit rooms and nighttime viewings will look great—there’s enough luminance that colors pop and shadows don’t appear as washed-out as they do on some of the other projectors we’ve tested.
My favorite aspect of the Nebula Mars II is its Android 7.1 operating system, which comes with popular streaming apps like Netflix, Youtube, and Amazon Video right out of the box—simply connect the Mars II to a WiFi network and you’re ready to go. The Mars II also comes with a small remote control so that you can navigate the software from a distance.
The Anker Nebula Mars II isn’t the most affordable projector we’ve tested, but thanks to its sleek design and its Android functionality, it’s the only one that feels like it belongs in our current technological landscape.
- HD Picture
- 10-Watt speakers
- Android OS
Another great option in the sub-$100 range is the Elephas GC333. This model doesn’t have the same brand recognition as some of the more expensive products on this list, but it’s a versatile and portable projector that can project a 120-inch image at its best quality, and all the way up to 236 inches with some reduction in clarity.
If you need a small, inexpensive projector that can do just about anything — whether you’re attaching a streaming stick to watch your favorite show, playing games on a console, or mirroring content from a laptop — the Elephas GC333 packs in a ton of flexible features for a budget price. It measures 8.7 x 6.7 x 3.5 inches and weighs a little over a pound, making it easy to transport. The only downside is that it does not have an internal battery, so wherever you take it, you’ll need to plug it in.
The projector’s long-lasting LED lamp delivers up to 3,300 lumens of brightness and a maximum 2000:1 contrast ratio so your media looks clear, sharp, and true to color. It also features Elephas’ revamped cooling system, built-in speakers, and the option to connect a separate speaker via the projector’s 3.5mm audio input for a more cinematic experience.
- Classic design
- Clear picture
- Mobile phone connection
- Extended lamp life of 50,000 hours
- Loud fan
- Uninnovative design
Buying guide for portable projectors
A portable projector takes the convenience of a normal screen projector and shrinks the form factor down to something that can fit into a bag or pocket. Popular in business environments for presentations or on-the-go viewing, a portable projector makes it easy to view a computer or smart device screen without a dedicated monitor.
The most important feature of any portable projector is image quality. The projector’s resolution, light source/brightness, required throw distance, and surrounding environment all affect this. In most cases, a portable projector cannot rival its larger counterparts in terms of quality, but it can create an image good enough for presentations or general computer use.
How to Choose a Portable Projector
First thing’s first: make sure that an ultra-portable projector is the right fit for you. These projectors are designed primarily for small, personal spaces, and it’s important to understand the limitations of each. Pay close attention to the projector’s reported throw distance (the amount of distance between the device and a full-resolution image) and consider the size and layout of the rooms you see yourself using a projector.
Next, consider the type of content you’ll be watching and the hardware you’ll need to get the job done. Some projectors are equipped with nothing but USB and microSD ports, whereas others offer HDMI and VGA inputs, too. Additionally, are there any specific features that you absolutely need, like a headphone jack or WiFi streaming?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ask yourself how much money you’re willing to spend. Most portable projectors settle into the $200-$400 range, though higher-end models can climb upwards of $600.
Larger But Still Portable Projectors
Many manufacturers have introduced mini projectors that are generally a bit larger than palmtops, but considerably brighter. They pack a relatively high resolution, and their larger frames let them include more physical ports than their smaller brethren.
The next step up from these, thin-and-light projectors, are as wide, deep, and bright as standard models but barely an inch thick, and they weigh in at about 4 pounds. They are highly portable, but you pay a premium for their svelteness, and they usually have a limited set of connection choices.
Finally, some standard projectors are still small and light enough to be easily portable, whether you’re moving them between classrooms or taking them on a cross-country flight. Many come with soft carrying cases, but they could just as easily be slipped into a travel bag or backpack. Although a few have internal batteries, the majority of standard projectors—as well as most thin and light ones—are limited to AC power.
How much does a projector cost?
Projectors can cost anywhere from about $50 to well over $5,000. Based on this wide range, anything around $500 and under is typically considered a cheap projector—and if you’re in the market for a 4K projector, that price goes up even more.
How many lumens do I need in a projector?
A lumen is a general term that describes light output, but in the case of projectors, it’s the unit of measurement used to describe the brightness. The more lumens, the brighter the projector will be and the more likely you’ll be able to use it in settings that aren’t completely dark. If you’re looking to project in a completely dark room, as few as 1,000 lumens might be fine, but for spaces with more ambient light, you’ll want to look for something closer to 2,000 lumens.