Portable film projectors are a great way to screen your favorite films, shows, and other content without a television or other heavy equipment. All you need is a blank canvas — whether it be a wall, sheet, or even a portable projector screen to get started. One of the most popular uses for portable projectors is taking in a movie under the stars. And during, say, times of a global pandemic, it can also be a socially distant and responsible move when you want to get together to watch a movie with friends who don’t live in your household. What could be safer?
Portable projectors have come a long way in the past decade or so. Advancements in technology have paved the way to make these devices smaller and lighter, yet with impressive picture and sound built right into the unit. This increased portability also makes them ideal for traveling or camping trips. Can you imagine watching the latest Hollywood release in crisp high definition when the nearest movie theater might be hundreds of miles away?
If you’ve ever considered investing in one of these handy gadgets, the timing has never been better. We’ve rounded up some of the best portable projectors on the market to get you started, so you’ll be screening from anywhere before you know it.
— Best Overall: Anker Nebula Capsule
— Best For Gaming: AuKing Mini Projector
— Best Budget: Kodak Ultra Mini Portable Projector
— Best for Movies: ViewSonic M1+ Portable LED Projector
— Best for Outdoors: XGIMI Halo True Portable Projector
How We Picked the Best Portable Projectors
In evaluating the portable projectors we chose for this list, we looked at approximately 15 to 20 models on the market with a wide range of features and price points. Some of the features we honed in on, in particular, were picture and sound quality, battery life, if applicable, and overall ease of use. Most of the modes we chose were of the “plug and play” variety, meaning that setup is as simple as plugging in the unit to a power source and then turning it on for instant entertainment right at your fingertips.
Picture and sound quality were also high up on our list of important considerations, for obvious reasons. Many of these types of portable projectors on the market tend to be cheaply produced, which in turn produces cheap-looking results. Though not every model on our list necessarily rivals the quality at your local cineplex, we feel confident that they all offer an above-average image quality when used correctly in dim or dark lighting. Likewise, we honed in on portable projectors that employed 360-degree surround sound or otherwise had built-in speakers of high quality, such as Harman Kardon.
The Best Portable Projectors: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Anker Nebula Capsule
Why It Made The Cut: Enjoy your favorite shows, movies, and games up to 100 inches in size on nearly any blank surface with the best portable projector overall.
— Hardware Interface: Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI
— Mounting Type: Tripod mount, table mount
— Wattage: 5 watts
— Bright 100 ANSI-lumen image
— 360-degree omnidirectional speaker
— Soda can-sized design
— No way to adjust the projection tilt angle
— Can’t access the Google Play Store
Experience remarkable picture clarity and contrast with the Anker Nebula Capsule. Digital light processing with advanced IntelliBright algorithms delivers a remarkably bright 100 ANSI-lumen image, so you’ll see every detail as clear as day — even in dimmer environments. The unique “soda can” design is not only compact and portable but features a powerful, 360-degree omnidirectional speaker to pump out sound in every direction, so there’s not a bad seat in the house. However, the design does not have the ability to tilt, making it difficult to project onto ceilings and angled surfaces.
You can also play and stream your content in a variety of ways. For example, connect HDMI and USB devices using the two rear ports or skip wires altogether and stream directly from Bluetooth, Airplay, or Miracast. And with the Nebula Connect app, you can control the mini projector right from your phone, so you won’t have to worry about losing or misplacing the remote control.
You can also download apps such as Netflix and Hulu directly through the Capsule to watch your favorite streaming content. But unfortunately, the projector itself cannot download Google Play, making it difficult to access platforms such as YouTube TV. As some customer reviews have stated, instead, you must contact customer service and jump through some extra hoops to access content that’s not supported.
Best Projector For Gaming: AuKing Mini Projector
Why It Made The Cut: This model is the best projector for gaming because you can play your favorite video games on a screen that can expand to a full 170 inches with a 1080p resolution for a fully larger-than-life experience.
— Hardware Interface: VGA, USB, HDMI
— Mounting Type: Tabletop
— Wattage: 50 watts
— Projection size from 32 to 170 inches
— LED lamp life provides 55,000 hours
— Up to 1080p resolution supported
— Not bright enough for daytime use
— Needs to be plugged into a power source
Connect to a variety of devices, including Sony PlayStation 3, Xbox, and more with the AuKing Mini Projector. This compact mini projector is equipped with a 2000:1 contrast ratio and 1080p resolution for a clear picture that’s 35 percent brighter. Yet, weighing in at just 2.87 pounds and dimensions of 7.7 inches long by 6 inches wide by 2.7 inches high, it can be carried and stored easily.
For a complete big screen experience, the projection size varies from 32 to 170 inches, with a projection distance between one and five meters. Built-in dual audio speakers provide clear and well-balanced superior stereo sound for a completely immersive theater experience. And with advanced LED bulbs that can last up to 55,000 hours, the projector’s lamp can literally be used for more than 15 years at five hours per day before running out.
However, there are a few minor caveats. Unfortunately, like many comparable models, this mini projector is not bright enough to be used during the day. Outdoor screenings might likewise be a challenge since there’s no internal battery, and it needs to be plugged in. But if the unit's primary purpose is going to be used for gaming, that shouldn’t be a huge issue, anyway.
Best Budget Projector: Kodak Ultra Mini Portable Projector
Why It Made The Cut: As the best budget projector this model can transform any room into a movie room producing remarkable film quality with an easy-to-use, plug-and-play setup.
— Hardware Interface: HDMI, USB 2.0
— Mounting Type: Tabletop
— Wattage: 9.25 watts
— Screens HD videos up to 100 inches
— Rechargeable built-in battery
— Displays 16.7 million colors
— Needs to be used in a dim or dark room
— No Bluetooth, wired connection only
For the ultimate in portability, the Kodak Ultra Mini Portable Projector uses digital light processing technology to play HD videos on a screen up to 100 inches, all in a palm-sized package that fits right into your pocket. You’ll enjoy rich, lifelike detail for your favorite movies, video games, photo slideshows, and more with the capability to display nearly 17 million colors, while built-in, room-filling speakers provide impeccable sound.
And best of all, this mini projector offers a truly “plug and play” experience with near-universal device compatibility, including both Mac and PC computers and most tablets and smartphones. Simply connect your video player using the integrated HDMI, USB, and MicroSD hookups without the hassle of complicated buttons or menu screens. And while the projector itself doesn’t come with a tripod, it features standard threading on the bottom so you can easily mount it yourself for steady viewing.
While some folks find that the projector isn’t quite bright enough for viewing content unless in a very dim or dark room, others have found more creative uses. Some people use it for decorating cookies or planning murals, while others like to have it on hand for on-the-go presentations. In either case, for the price tag, it’s a pretty nifty little device that can be used in a myriad of ways!
Best Movie Projector: ViewSonic M1+ Portable LED Projector
Why It Made The Cut: This projector's compact and lightweight design makes it ideal for moving from room to room or indoor or outdoor usage.
— Hardware Interface: USB, HDMI
— Mounting Type: Wall mount
— Wattage: 55 watts
— Weighs less than two pounds
— Battery provides up to six hours of playtime
— Integrated smart stand for easy setup
— Lumens output is low
— Micro SD limited to 32 GB
Take your movie night on the go with the ultra-portable ViewSonic M1+ Portable LED Projector and our pick for the best movie projector, which delivers outstanding entertainment from just about anywhere. Weighing in at less than two pounds, the compact and lightweight design makes it ideal for moving from room to room, indoors or outdoors. However, it should be noted that the unit is intended primarily for nighttime use with a relatively low lumen output of 300.
The integrated smart stand provides a simple 360-degree setup while also doubling as a lens cover for added convenience. And once the lens is uncovered, the projector automatically powers on with full brightness. Additionally, the auto keystone feature corrects images at any angle while projecting images up to 100 inches from a distance of just over eight feet away.
Depending on the brightness setting, the built-in battery provides up to six hours of power, with an overall 30,000 hours of operational life. Another handy feature is that you can even charge mobile devices using the USB-C when the power adapter is plugged in. In addition to the USB-C port, the projector features versatile connectivity options, including a USB-A port and micro SD card slot—though, if planning to stream content from the SD card, be aware that it only supports cards up to 32 GB. But for the overall convenience, it’s a small price to pay.
Best Outdoor Projector: XGIMI Halo True Portable Projector
Why It Made The Cut: Invite over everyone you know for a movie night with a portable projector that screens up to an impressive 300 inches with excellent picture and sound quality.
— Hardware Interface: Bluetooth, USB, HDMI
— Mounting Type: Front, rear, ceiling, table, floor, wall, tripod mount
— Wattage: 5 watts
— Bright 800 ANSI lumens
— Dual 5W Harman Kardon speakers
— Projects up to 300 inches
— Doesn’t support the Netflix app
— Larger and pricier than similar models
Experience big picture and sound quality like never before with the best outdoor projector, the XGIMI Halo True Portable Projector. Create the perfect display by placing the projector anywhere between 2.59 to 25.9 feet away from your projector screen for an optimal picture up to 300 inches. And getting just the right focus is a breeze with intelligent autofocus that automatically focuses the image as soon as you turn on the device. That way, you’ve ensured a crisp and clear display at all times, even if the projector is moved or nudged accidentally.
In addition to being large, the picture quality is also extra bright and clear thanks to native 1080p FHD resolution paired with bright 800 ANSI lumens, making it a whopping 225 percent clearer than even mainstream 720p projectors. Dual 5-watt Harman Kardon speakers likewise provide premium sound quality, and users can even wirelessly connect using soundbars and Bluetooth headphones.
And with built-in Android TV 9.0, you can access over 5,000 apps through Google Play, including YouTube, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, and more. Though Netflix is not available to stream right from the projector, there’s a simple enough workaround, simply by connecting your Fire Stick, Nintendo Switch, or other external devices to the projector for instant entertainment.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Portable Projector
If you’re on the market for a portable projector, chances are you’re looking to get serious about big-screen entertainment. But portable projectors can also run the gamut based on features and quality, so it’s essential to know just what you’re looking for when shopping. For example, when using a projector for outdoor screenings, you may want to find something with a higher lumen output so you can see clearly even on a bright or cloudy night. But for movie night in your living room, or even to screen slideshows of family vacation photos, you can probably go with a slightly lower-end model that will still provide results of similar quality.
Whether you’ll require a built-in battery or connection to a power source is another very important consideration. If you plan to use your projector primarily outdoors, then a portable projector that requires a direct connection to a power source can quickly muck up your plans. Likewise, the same goes for a built-in battery that doesn’t have a very long life between charges. There’s nothing worse than having your battery go dead when you’re on the edge of your seat watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Also, depending on where you plan to use the projector, you may want to look for a model with a built-in tripod; or at least the capacity to attach a tripod. Because more often than not, the most challenging part of setting up a portable projector is finding an even surface to put the darn thing on! However, you can expect a smooth and even picture on even the roughest terrain when using a tripod. If you've don't got a lot of space, try a short-throw projector.
Q: How much does a portable projector cost?
Depending on what you’re looking to spend, a portable projector can vary wildly in price and quality. For a small, pocket-sized model, you can probably find something for between $50 and $100, whereas a higher-end model will end up costing upwards of a thousand dollars or more. The best projectors are another option.
Q: How many lumens is a good projector?
Lumens refers to the unit in which projector brightness is measured. For outdoor usage, you’ll want to find a portable projector with at least 500 lumens. However, for indoor use with minimal light, you might be able to get away with 200 to 300 lumens for quality results.
Q: Can you watch Netflix on a portable projector?
Whether you can watch Netflix on a portable projector depends on the projector, but generally, the answer is yes. Some projectors even have a built-in Netflix app, whereas others require a separate media device such as a Fire Stick, Apple TV, or Roku to be connected.
Final Thoughts on the Best Portable Projector
With picture and sound quality that rivals an actual movie theater, our top pick for the best portable projector is the XGIMI Halo True Portable Projector. However, because the Halo is also a higher-end product, topping out at nearly $800, you may want something more affordable and compact, depending on your budget and needs. In that instance, the Anker Nebula Capsule is a good alternative at less than half the price. Though it’s no Halo, you simply can’t get a better home theater experience for the price.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.