If you’re desperately longing for a night out at the movie theater, it could be time to enlist some help from one of the best mini projectors out there. Sure, streaming content straight from a laptop or phone might be enough for some people, but there’s something particularly special about making a trip to the movies, splitting popcorn with a friend, and taking in a film from a huge screen.
Though not the exact same, a great portable projector is the next best thing. When used properly, nearly every option on the market can transform your viewing experience from ordinary to completely immersive with clear, vibrant projections in screen sizes that rival your favorite theaters.
We’ve rounded up 10 mini portable projectors that’ll up your Netflix- and Hulu-watching game no matter your budget. Dim the lights and get ready for a professional-level movie night from home. The best part? As long as you have a light-colored wall or projection screen handy, the projectors on this list can be used both indoors and outdoors.
How We Tested
For hands-on testing, we used each mini projector in controlled environments meant to simulate real-world situations. We looked at picture quality and brightness both in dark rooms and areas with ambient light. We judged each projector’s ability to produce true colors and a picture that isn’t muddy. We also evaluated the picture focus and keystone adjustment abilities for each projector, as well as how easy it was to set them up and interact with them.
We also checked the audio quality and discovered it was lacking in one way or another for every mini projector we tested. If you’re watching videos, we recommend connecting to your own set of speakers either through an auxiliary cord or Bluetooth in order to have the best possible experience. However, given their small size, their sound overall is good enough, certainly for a presentation on the go.
Finally, with all the products in our review we looked at the user ratings for these devices to see what people thought of them after extended use. Testing a projector for a week is one thing, but knowing what these devices are like to live with provides valuable insight into the product quality and longevity.
Mini Projector Buying Guide
How much space do you have? Are you going to mount your projector or put it on a bookshelf? Can you connect a speaker to the projector? These are just a few of the most important questions to ask when you’re choosing the best new mini projector for your home theater. Here’s what we looked at when researching this buying guide.
Size and Weight:
Taking the mini projector’s size and weight into consideration is one of the most important shopping decisions to make. Before you buy your mini projector — sometimes also referred to as a pico projector — make sure it can fit in your space, but also pay close attention to how much it weighs if you’re planning to use, say, a hanging shelf to support it. Luckily, most of the mini projectors you can buy online are lightweight enough that you shouldn’t need to worry about it.
Where are you going to watch a movie or show with the projector? Think about where you’re going to put your projector, and make sure there’s a clear, unobstructed line from the projector to the wall or screen.
If a side table or bookshelf are too low to place the projector on, a wall mount or floating bookshelf might be your best bet. There are a handful of mountable projectors out there, but a quick, easy solution is to use a floating shelf that you can buy online at Amazon, Target, IKEA or Walmart. Floating shelves give you a bit of extra flexibility in your living space, letting you remove the shelf whenever you’re not using your projector. This is also a great option if you want to watch videos in your living space, but don’t want to mount a TV on the wall.
We’ve included a range of mini projectors in this guide, from wired models that require a power source, to wireless projectors that feature HDMI connections and Bluetooth connectivity. Depending on the projector, you may need to adjust where you place it in your room or home theater to move it closer to a power source.
Sound and Speaker Volume:
The last thing you want while projecting your movie is hearing the projector’s fan over the speaker volume. Some projectors have built-in speakers, though we recommend going with a projector that can connect to an external speaker or sound system. That way, you’ll be able to hear what you’re streaming, almost like you would in the theater.
Brightness, Resolution, and Technology:
Pico projectors have low brightness (from less than 50 to up to several hundred ANSI lumens). They generally have low resolution, often 854 by 480 pixels (aka FWVGA or 480p), with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. This combination limits their effective use to projecting onto a small screen in a darkened room, with optimal image sizes ranging from 24 to 48 inches, measured diagonally. If too much ambient light is introduced, or the image is enlarged too much, it will look washed out and detail will be lost.
Although a few palmtop projectors have a brightness of less than a hundred lumens, most fall in the range of 200 to 600 lumens. Some palmtops have 480p or lower resolution, and a few have resolutions up to 1080p (1,920 by 1,080), but most are 720p (1,280 by 720 pixels). Their optimal image size tends to be between 36 and 60 inches, depending on their brightness and resolution. Slightly larger mini-projectors can have brightnesses of 1,000 lumens or more. Thin-and-lights and standard-sized portable models are often in the 3,000-lumen range, use standard projector screens, and can tolerate ambient light.
Our Top Picks
When considering mini projectors, portability is one of the prime considerations, and when it comes to portability, being the size of a soda can is about as portable as you can get. What makes that particularly convenient is most bags and backpacks have pockets designed for carrying drink-sized items. Be careful of the exposed lens, but beyond that, you’ve got a built-in compartment.
Also included on the projector is its own Android operating system. Granted, it’s Android 9 which is almost three generations old as of this writing, but you still get a ton of basic functionality. Along with the built-in operating system comes an app store for downloading apps like Netflix or Hulu, plus you get the added bonus of built-in Google Assistant.
Keeping in line with the portability comes the Apeman M4 DLP projector. This projector is about the size of three CD cases stacked on top of each other and speaking of CDs, comes with very decent sound for its size. The compact size also results in a fairly dim picture though, so you’ll want to set this projector up in as dark a room as possible.
The projector comes with a 3,400 mAh battery built-in which is good, but it’ll barely get you through a 2-hour movie which is not. You can also charge your phone off the battery but that obviously leaves even less power for the projector. Still, we like to see that kind of versatility in devices.
You can connect your devices using the HDMI input or plug in a USB drive to display photos and movies. The included tripod lets you point the projector anywhere you need it to go. By default the projector’s resolution is 480p, but it can project up to 1080p depending on the source. Overall, this projector is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket or a small bag making it ideal for campers, hikers, or really anyone who wants to tote their own projector around.
Clocking in at just $60, the Tontion 2400 is the most affordable mini projector on the list. Its budget-friendly price point doesn’t compromise quality; according to reviewers, it can project onto a wall or screen from up to 12 feet away without compromising the image quality. The projector’s display sizes range from 37 to 50 inches, but it’s still small and light enough to be taken from place to place. A note: Though portable, this pico projector needs to be plugged into an outlet, so if you’re using it outside, be sure to have an extension cord at the ready.
It’s not what you’d call ‘mini’ but the LG CineBeam has an integrated handle for easy carrying and is small enough to be easily hidden away in a cupboard when not in use.
That’s especially impressive when you consider it’s more or less an entire home cinema system: a 4K HDR picture, stereo sound, an array of smart sources, all in a unit you can carry like a holdall and set up wherever and whenever you might choose. Even the power cable is wound up inside the base, so there is really nothing you have to plug in if you don’t want to.
That’s the great beauty of the CineBeam: its versatility and intuitive simplicity. As long as you have a clean wall or ceiling upon which to throw a picture, you can have it up and running in a matter of minutes each time you use it.
5. Epson EF-12
Epson’s 3LCD projection system is squished down here and housed in a very tidy 14 x 18 x 18cm, 2.1kg box. While not quite as serious for brightness and picture quality as the company’s more traditional home cinema machines, it still has a way with contrast and shading that’s beyond the reach of most portable projectors.
What’s more, its sound system is streets ahead of most. It’s a 2 x 5W set-up that’s been tuned by Yamaha. It’s remarkably expressive with just enough precision to hold its own even in scenes with heavy action.
There’s no iPlayer, Netflix or All 4 apps on the smart platform and we’d like Epson to have fitted an internal battery too but these are relatively minor gripes and nothing that neither a media streamer nor an extension cable can’t solve. Definitely one for your shortlist.
The Nebula Mars 2 sits in a portable projector sweet spot. It is far from palm-sized, but has a synthetic leather carry strap and a shape similar to the Bang & Olufsen BeoLit 15 “lunchbox” wireless speaker. It’s cute.
This is easily the most fun portable projector in this group too. It has a battery that lasts up to four hours and Android rather than a basic menu system. The front-end is customised for use with the supplied remote, and has a dedicated app store rather than Google Play. But you can still download Netflix, BBC iPlayer and countless other apps to run direct from the Mars 2.
That includes games, but don’t get your hopes up. Most don’t run perfectly, although you can pair your phone and use its touchscreen like a laptop trackpad.
Image quality is respectable too. In a room with closed curtains and no lights switched on, the Mars 2 can produce a watchable image on a 100-inch screen. The projector dims significantly on battery power, but head to the settings menu and you can turn this off. It will simply last closer to two hours than the claimed four.
The Xgimi MoGo Pro offers almost everything we could ask for in a portable movie projector. This 1920×1080-resolution projector delivers a good-looking image with better contrast and detail (and more picture adjustments) than you can get from most of its competitors.
Also, it’s easy to set up and use, it’s compact, and it has an internal battery that lasted about two hours in our tests (it also comes with an 8-foot power cord). Best of all, the MoGo Pro has Android TV with Chromecast and Google Assistant built in, so it’s basically a projector and a full-fledged streaming media player in one. That means you don’t have to connect an external video player to enjoy lots of movies and other streamed content, though the unit has HDMI and USB Type-A inputs if you need them. The internal speaker sounds respectably loud and full.
In addition, the MoGo Pro supports both Bluetooth output (to send audio to an external speaker or to headphones) and input (to serve as a Bluetooth speaker). The only downsides to this projector are that it’s not as bright as others we tested and that it currently does not support the Netflix app (but there are workarounds).
8. BenQ GS2
If you’re looking for something more rugged to use outside, the BenQ GS2 is both splash and drop resistant, so it’s a good choice for camping or enjoying a backyard movie night when mated with a modest-size screen. This is one of the brightest projectors we’ve measured for this guide, and it also has the highest contrast ratio, the best color accuracy, and the longest battery life (we got about 3 hours 10 minutes in our tests).
The sound quality is decent, and like the MoGo Pro, the GS2 can double as a Bluetooth speaker. Because of its lower, 720p resolution and higher black level, movies don’t look as rich and detailed in a dark room as they do through the MoGo Pro, but the picture is certainly good enough for casual TV watching or the occasional outdoor viewing session. The drawbacks: The on-screen menu system is clunky, and the built-in Aptoide TV streaming platform is more limited and less intuitive than Android TV.
But if you’re using the projector outdoors where Wi-Fi streaming isn’t an option, you’re more likely to load a bunch of content onto a USB drive or connect your mobile device directly, and for that the GS2 has HDMI, USB-A, and USB-C inputs. It also comes with a nice carrying case.
The Vankyo Leisure 3W is currently one of the best-selling mini projectors on Amazon, with more than 19,000 reviews. It streams 1080p HD videos with a 178-inch screen and works with both iOS and Android devices, but the real all-star feature is the advanced cooling system which limits the sound of fan whirring to an absolute minimum and makes it less likely you’ll want or need to add an external speaker.
Most of the top reviews mention buying the Vankyo for use outdoors, and finding it to be a fantastic option, even in suburbs where street lights prevent backyards from ever getting too dark. Per one California.-based shopper, “I live in a suburb of L.A., and we were in the backyard with our lights out and a street light in the distance. And while it doesn’t compare to a TV, the picture brightness was very good for being outdoors. All in all, if you buy this projector, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.”
The price of entry for mini projectors has come down dramatically in recent years, and while some models will still set you back over $500, there are plenty of budget devices like the ManyBox Mini Projector which offer a fantastic movie watching experience at home for under $100.
So, what do you get for that kind of money? Quite a lot, it turns out. The ManyBox Mini Projector has good image quality with a native resolution of 800 x 480p, a 2000:1 contrast ratio and a 4500 lumen lamp. Now those specs don’t quite match up to something like the Optoma ML750ST and the image certainly won’t be as clear or vibrant, but this device is also more than six times less expensive.
The speakers are also surprisingly good for a device in this price range, and there are a good suite of connectivity options for hooking it up to your devices including HDMI and VGA. There are no WiFi or Bluetooth options though, so you’ll need an adapter to hook it up to a smartphone.
If you want a mini projector to spice up your home movie nights, but don’t want to sink serious cash into it then the ManyBox Mini Projector is a fantastic little gadget – it’s ideal for families who want to wow their kids with the cinema experience at home.