The Best Portable Projectors for 2020

Only a few years 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 certainly come into their own, making it possible for you to project your data and video anywhere you go. (Even if “anywhere” these days means just around the house.)

Not only that, but portable projectors encompass a surprisingly wide range in size, brightness, and features. Here, we will help you sort out their differences, as well as highlight our favorite models.

Pico and Palmtop Projectors

Pico or pocket projectors are a little larger than smartphones. Because they can accommodate videos and photos for on-the-go entertainment, in addition to slides and charts for business or classroom presentations, these models can be thought of, essentially, as multimedia display systems. Though convenient and snazzy, they tend to be of low brightness and relatively expensive for their performance.

So-called palmtop projectors are larger (and brighter) than pico projectors, typically a bit too large to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand, even with your fingers outstretched. Still, they are lightweight enough that you wouldn’t think twice about packing one in a bag or a backpack. Most are brighter than, and have more connection options than, pico models.

Most pico and palmtop projectors can run files from a USB thumb drive and/or SD card, so you don’t need to lug your laptop with them. (If you do want to bring a laptop with you, though, check out our roundup of the best ultraportable laptops.) Some even have 1GB or more of internal memory for storing media files. Many can project content from a smartphone or tablet, either wirelessly or via an HDMI port that supports Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL). Many models come with built-in rechargable batteries so you can use them away from a power outlet.  

LED Models: Larger and Brighter, But Still Portable

Many manufacturers have introduced LED-based mini projectors that are generally a bit larger than palmtops, but considerably brighter. They pack a relatively high resolution—generally from 720p (1,280 by 720 pixels) up to 1080p (1,920 by 1,080 pixels)—and their larger frames let them include more physical ports than their smaller brethren. Although a few have internal batteries, most run solely off of AC power.

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.

So, Which Portable Projector Should I Buy?

The projectors we highlight here are relatively lightweight, with the heaviest weighing just more than 2 pounds and the lightest right around 3 ounces. They vary considerably in size, brightness, features, and performance. Any one of these could be your favorite travel companion.

Where To Buy

  • AAXA P7 Mini HD Projector

    Pros: Highly compact and lightweight.
    1080p native resolution.
    Built-in battery.
    Good data-image quality.
    Plays music and displays photos or video from memory cards or USB sticks.

    Cons: Only so-so video quality.

    Bottom Line: The AAXA P7 Mini HD Projector is a tiny 1080p model good for business presentations on the road, and it does a decent job at showing video and photos, as well as playing music.

  • Anker Nebula Apollo

    Pros: Reasonably priced
    Long battery life between charges
    Runs Android 7.1
    Multiple control methods
    Doubles as a Bluetooth speaker

    Cons: Modest brightness
    Oversensitive touch pad
    Occasional audio distortion at high volume levels

    Bottom Line: The Anker Nebula Apollo entertainment projector can project videos, photos, and Android apps, as well as play music and operate as a Bluetooth speaker. Its long battery life makes it ideal for portable, on-the-go use.

    Read Review

  • Anker Nebula Capsule II

    Pros: Runs the Android TV operating system.
    Can display video, games, and photos, as well as play music.
    Good, loud audio.
    Can serve as a stand-alone Bluetooth speaker.

    Cons: Modest brightness output means best for use in darkened rooms.

    Bottom Line: The Nebula Capsule II by Anker is an unusual entertainment projector: It runs the Android TV operating system, and can double as a Bluetooth speaker.

  • Epson PowerLite 1795F Wireless Full HD 1080p 3LCD Projector

    Pros: Slim and ultra-light.
    1080p resolution.
    Good data and very good video image quality.
    Wi-Fi connectivity.
    Long lamp life for an LCD projector.

    Cons: Very soft sound system, and no audio-out to connect to speakers.
    Can’t project 3D content.

    Bottom Line: What’s thin, light, and bright, with 1080p resolution? Epson’s PowerLite 1795F Wireless Full HD 1080p 3LCD Projector, a highly portable model good with data-heavy media and excellent with video, but packing soft audio.

  • Kodak Luma 350 Portable Smart Projector

    Pros: Android 6 OS lets you download, run apps (including control app)
    Lightweight and portable
    Includes remote control, built-in battery
    Projects a decent-size image for its brightness
    Above-par photo quality

    Cons: So-so video quality
    Mere one-year warranty
    Controls on projector itself are limited

    Bottom Line: The Kodak Luma 350 Portable Smart Projector is an Android-based palmtop that throws a larger-than-usual usable image given its brightness output. It does well in projecting photos, and its video quality is fine for casual use.

    Read Review

  • LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550)

    Pros: Compact and lightweight.
    Good video and data image quality.
    Stylish.
    Abundant port selection.
    Bluetooth connectivity.
    Built-in TV tuner.
    Rechargeable internal battery.

    Cons: 720p resolution is relatively low for an entertainment projector.
    Modest brightness.
    Soft audio.
    No zoom.

    Bottom Line: The lightweight and portable LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) can project television shows thanks to its built-in TV tuner, has a wealth of connection choices, and boasts very good video and data image quality.

  • AAXA BP1 Speaker Projector

    Pros: Modest price
    Long-lasting rechargeable battery
    Good Bluetooth speaker sound and functionality
    Easy-to-use media player
    Many connection choices

    Cons: Low brightness and resolution
    Labels are hard to read
    Meager warranty

    Bottom Line: The AAXA BP1 combines a multimedia projector with a Bluetooth speaker in an easily portable package. While its speaker system rocks, as a projector it suffers from low brightness and a small usable image.

    Read Review

  • Magnasonic LED Pocket Pico Video Projector

    Pros: Budget price.
    Good video quality.
    Long lamp life.
    Built-in rechargeable battery.
    Stylish.

    Cons: Low brightness and resolution.
    Soft audio.
    Blurred text in data images.

    Bottom Line: The Magnasonic LED Pocket Pico Video Projector performs surprisingly well considering its low brightness, resolution, and price.

  • Sony MP-CD1 Mobile Projector

    Pros: Good overall image quality.
    Sleek housing.
    Comes with leather case.
    USB Type-C port for charging.
    HDMI/MHL connectivity.
    Long-lasting bulb.

    Cons: Pricey for what it delivers.
    Relatively low brightness.
    Limited connection choices.
    Wireless dongle not included.

    Bottom Line: The Sony MP-CD1 Mobile Projector is a stylish, phone-size mini-projector with a built-in battery.
    It delivers good overall image quality at a somewhat steep price.

  • ViewSonic M1 Mini

    Pros: Highly portable
    Simple yet innovative stand
    Interchangeable top panels in three colors
    Media player handles photo, video, and music files in a variety of formats

    Cons: Can project images only at modest size
    No on-body control panel
    Tiny remote is easily lost

    Bottom Line: ViewSonic’s M1 Mini is a highly portable palmtop projector that counters its modest brightness with a cleverly designed stand, decent image quality for photos and videos, and the ability to play music files.

    Read Review


About the Author


August 15, 2020

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