Best portable projector for 2022

You don’t need bulky equipment or a big budget for a big screen. With a small, portable projector, you can host movie night inside a pillow fort, in the backyard or even in the desert. The best options can easily slip into any backpack, and some are small enough to fit in your pocket.

Whether you’re projecting onto an empty wall or onto a projector screen, you can capture the image quality you crave without weighing you down. They also offer a handful of connectivity options, including hdmi and Bluetooth, and they usually run on batteries. Many mini projectors are set up to stream, giving you access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu and more streaming services without having to log in another device.

Portable projectors come with a few disadvantages, yet. The first is that many are relatively dim, lacking the brightness of a traditional home theater projector, meaning they can’t project as big of an image as the big guys. Another is that even the best portable projectors often have lower resolution than their larger counterparts. While you’ll never be far from a power outlet, a standard projector will get you a much bigger, brighter, and better image for a similar price. But if you want something compact, portable, and battery-powered, here are our top picks for the best portable projector.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The Mars II Pro is the best compact projector option here due to its light output, overall image quality, ease of use, and affordability. This mobile device is a little bigger than most of the other portable projectors here, but still small enough to completely hide under a six-pack of Coke.

The built-in 12500mAh battery lasts about 3.5 hours, longer if you just use it as a Bluetooth speaker. There are built-in apps, some of which treat the Mars II as a portable device, meaning you can download content to its 8GB internal memory to watch offline. The leatherette strap also makes it easy to carry the outdoor spotlight.

Read our Anker Nebula Mars II Pro review.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

I like the top projector better, but the AAXA P6X is my choice when money is tight. Not only is it cheaper than the Anker above, it’s also brighter with longer battery life. This mini projector fits in my hand, creates a 720 pixel image and has a huge 15,000 mAh battery. An HDMI input and USB connection allow you to connect and power a streaming stick. The stick connection is important because the AAXA lacks built-in apps.

The light output is impressive for its size and price, around 50% more than the Anker Mars II Pro, although its contrast ratio is a bit lower. The internal battery should last around 90 minutes in the mini projector’s brightest mode and an impressive 240 minutes in ECO mode – probably a bit less if you’re also powering a streaming stick. The internal speaker isn’t great, but there’s a headphone jack that you can connect to a portable speaker.

Read our AAXA P6X review.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

David Carnoy/CNET

Although we don’t like it as much as the BenQ GS50, this small, flat Anker portable mini projector costs less. Its main drawback compared to the others on this list is its relatively dark image, which means it can’t project as big of an image and still look good. If you want a sleek, budget laptop with 1080p and plan to keep the picture on the small side, this is a solid choice.

Read our Anker Nebula Solar Portable review.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

The Anker Nebula capsule is smaller than a soda can, but can create a big picture. Well, maybe not “big”, but definitely “TV-sized”. It’s not particularly bright, or loud, but for something that can fit in your pocket, it’s great. The other options here deliver a much brighter and better picture, but if size is your primary concern, the Capsule looks better than you’d expect for its price and stature.

Read our Anker Nebula Capsule review.

Other products we tested

LG CineBeam PH30N: The LG PH30N is tiny even compared to other portable projectors, even smaller than the AAXA. It’s not particularly brilliant, however, and it doesn’t have any built-in apps either. The battery does not last as long as the AAXA although it is a bit cheaper. Read our review of the LG CineBeam PH30N.

Samsung Freestyle: The small cylindrical Freestyle is an interesting idea, but it falls short. Roughly the size of a Bluetooth speaker, and can actually double one, the Freestyle can swivel on its stand to project an image at any height on walls and even the ceiling. Its built-in streaming is much better implemented than most portable projectors. However, it lacks a battery and its performance is average at best. Worse still, it’s priced way over 50% more than it should be based on looks and performance. Read our Samsung Freestyle review.

Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2: Another relatively expensive projector that we didn’t like, the Xiaomi at least has a gorgeous, Apple-like design. We liked the compact size, 1080p resolution, and built-in Android TV streaming, but the cons outweigh the pros. It’s relatively weak, especially for the price, and it lacks both a built-in battery and compatibility with a USB power source, so it’s not exactly portable. Read our Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2 review.

BenQ HT2050A: The HT2050 isn’t technically a portable projector, but it’s compact and about the same price as one of the more expensive “portable” options. It’s image is also much better in almost every way, so if you’re looking for a projector for home use, or perhaps in the garden, and you don’t need battery power, this is worth the worth considering. Read our BenQ HT2050A review.

How we test portable projectors

Every projector we review undergoes extensive objective and subjective testing. CNET editors select the products and services we write about based on their editorial merit. When you purchase through our links, we may earn a commission.

Read more: How CNET tests projectors

FAQs

What makes a mini projector different from a full-size projector?

The biggest difference is the light output. Traditional full size projectors can get much brighter than any portable mini projector. Most portable projectors use an LED lamp, while full-size projectors have either UHP lamps (which are basically high-power bulbs) or laser light sources. The light output of the projector is measured in lumens. The brightest portable projectors we’ve reviewed are around 350 lumens, while a traditional home theater projector is 1,500 lumens or more.

A bright projector can produce a larger image and looks better when there is ambient light around. For this reason, portable dimmer projectors are best enjoyed with smaller images and in as dark an environment as possible.

Beyond brightness, mini projectors are much smaller (of course), can run on battery power, and usually include built-in streaming and decent speakers. Traditional projectors have more lens adjustments, including focus, zoom and lens shift, and can work louder.

Do I need to plug in a mini projector?

It depends. Many portable projectors have built-in batteries that can run for two or three hours before needing to be plugged in. Some can also connect to external USB batteries that allow them to operate without plug-in power. On the other hand, many smaller portable projectors, especially the cheaper ones, don’t include a built-in battery or don’t run on batteries. They will need to be plugged in to work.

Can you watch Netflix on a portable projector?

Yes. Many mini projectors have built-in streaming that allows them to display Netflix and other streaming services when connected via Wi-Fi. For projectors that don’t have built-in streaming, you’ll need to connect another device streaming device, like a Roku or Fire TV Stick, to the projector’s HDMI input to stream Netflix and other services.


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