Investing in a handy portable projector is never a bad idea — they can turn your backyard into a movie theater or can come in really handy if you’re ever rained out on a camping trip and wished you could put on a show or flick for the kids in the tent. Or maybe you’re a business professional with a presentation on your laptop that needs to be shown at a client meeting. In all of these scenarios, everyone crowding around your mobile device isn’t ideal. Instead, you want a bigger screen for a comfortable viewing experience. That’s where a compact portable projector can be a great buy.
Portable projectors have significantly improved over the past few years, and now it’s easier than ever to get one that doesn’t compromise brightness or picture quality. Our picks for the best portable projectors provide an ideal balance between the best home theater projectors and the best pocket projectors.
There are options on this list ideal for watching movies and others more suited to office or business environments. Whatever your needs are, there is a portable projector on this list for it.
The best portable projectors at a glance
LG PF50KA portable home theater CineBeam projector
Why you should buy it: Loaded with connectivity features and beautiful high-res imaging, the PF50KA also delivers the piece of mind that comes with the LG brand name.
Who it’s for: Those with a wide range of devices they might want to connect.
Why we chose the LG PF50KA:
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 a 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.
Theis the portable projector that checks all the boxes.
AAXA P7 Mini Projector
Why you should buy it: Its surprisingly bright and clear image comes in a package that’s about as portable a projector can get for this resolution.
Who it’s for: On-the-go types who like to entertain from anywhere or business professionals in need of portable projection for presentations.
Why we chose the AAXA P7 Mini Projector:
There are plenty of pocket projectors out there. Most of them aren’t very bright and have a pretty low native resolution. That isn’t the case with the AAXA P7.
The P7 runs at a native 1080p resolution and 600 lumens for brightness. It doesn’t quite fit in your pocket; in fact, it barely fits in your hand. But it is the absolute best quality you will find in this compact size.
The I/O is what you would expect from a device so small. There is a USB and an HDMI port, as well as a headphone jack and separate AV port on the side. The tiny projector can cast a 120-inch image, and it has built-in speakers. There is also an optional lithium battery that provides up to three hours of battery life.
For something super compact that still projects a great image, theis hard to beat.
ViewSonic M1 portable LED projector
Why you should buy it: For its midrange price, the ViewSonic has some high-end features, such as great Harmon/Kardon sound and battery life for true portability.
Who it’s for: Those who are willing to give a little on image quality in exchange for sound and battery life.
Why we chose the ViewSonic M1:
Sometimes you don’t need a projector with off-the-charts image quality. Sometimes you just need to get a presentation up so co-workers can see what you’re talking about. Rather than lugging around a big projector or relying on one at the office, the ViewSonic M1 offers decent picture quality at a midrange price.
With a wide, 854-by-480-pixel WVGA resolution, the M1 can throw a 100-inch image from nearly 9 feet away. It also has an impressive battery life of up to six hours. That’s perfect for binge-watching shows or a long day of presentations at the office.
The ViewSonic M1 is compact and comes with its own stand that folds away when you don’t need it. It also has built-in Harman/Kardon speakers that provide decent enough sound for its size.
If you’re looking for a projector with a wide image that will last through the day, theis the best option for you.
Anker Nebula Solar
Why you should buy it: This Android TV-powered projector is easy-peasy to set up, and you can get watching completely wirelessly with ample connectivity options. It also has great Dolby-tuned sound.
Who it’s for: Beginners to the projector world who want to get going with little fuss.
Why we chose the Anker Nebula Solar:
The Anker Nebula Solar is a great portable projector for many reasons. For one, it’s incredibly compact at just 7 inches long and wide, and just over 2 inches tall. Despite its namesake, the Nebular Solar isn’t solar-powered, but it does have a built-in battery for three hours of use. That makes it great for overnight camping trips or taking to a friend’s house without worrying about wires.
The Anker Nebula can cast a screen up to 120 inches, and it has some other features making it great for beginners or casual projector users. The Nebula Solar can autofocus so users don’t have to mess with the settings to get the perfect image. The Nebula Solar also supports 40 degrees of horizontal and vertical keystoning to get the perfect squared-off image.
For a projector you can simply pull out and use, none are quite as simple as the.
Why you should buy it: The XGIHI Halo has a plug-and-play setup, Android TV for all the streaming services you need, and one of the highest resolution images on our list.
Who it’s for: Those with a little extra cheddar in the bank who are willing to shell out for 4K image support and Harman/Kardon sound all in one package.
Why we chose the XGIMI Halo1:
Portable projectors rarely come as a “complete package.” While many need external speakers to get an acceptable sound, the XGIMI Halo comes with Harman/Kardon speakers built-in, making for stellar sound and great video in one package.
The XGIMI Halo isn’t as compact as some of its competitors, but at just 6.75 inches tall, it’s still perfectly portable. Its taller design also allows for the inclusion of higher-end speakers, so the trade-off is well worth it.
The XGIMI Halo also creates a Full HD image that can support 4K content. The Halo is also notably brighter than a lot of its competitors at 800 ANSI lumens. The projector comes with Android TV, which makes streaming your favorite shows from Netflix or HBO Max a breeze.
For a bright and clear image with great sound to boot, theis hard to beat.
LG PH550 Minibeam
Why you should buy it: A pico projector is a projector that is an ultra-portable, battery-powered device that can fit in your purse and stream visual content from your phone or laptop (among other devices). The LG PH550 Minibeam is at the top of the heap when it comes to picos.
Who it’s for: Those needing to share visual presentations or videos with others, from pretty much anywhere.
Why we chose the LG PH550 Minibeam:
The LG PH550 Minibeam is hands-down one of the best pico projectors on the market. It’s just under 7 inches long, which means it can almost fit into your hand.
Whereas many pico projectors put out a relatively low-quality image, the LG PH550 produces an HD 1289-by-720 image with 550 lumens of brightness. That’s obviously not as high quality as some of the larger projectors on this list, but it is impressive for a package so small.
The LG PH550 also comes with a built-in battery that can last for 2.5 hours. That’s perfect for a movie night while on a camping trip. Thealso comes with a surprising amount of I/O, including an AV input and a coax connection.
All of that makes for a surprising and robust pico projector.
Why you should buy it: Great for tight spaces, the Optoma M750ST short-throw projector is amazingly versatile when you don’t have much distance from the screen you’re projecting to.
Who it’s for: Those who never know where they’re going to be set up for business presentations and want the peace of mind knowing that their projector will just make it work.
Why we chose the Optoma M750ST:
Short-throw projectors are ideal for business environments since they let users cast large images without being several feet from the wall or projecting surface. But lugging around a short-throw projector to meetings can be a pain, and that’s what makes the Optoma ML750ST so compelling. It’s a short-throw projector that fits in your hand, and it can create an 80-inch image from just 4.5 feet away.
The ML750ST is also surprisingly bright at 700 lumens. The ML750ST also is easy to set up with auto sensor that instantly keystones the image. It’s WXGA (1280 by 800) is a nice wide image, which is perfect for presentations.
If you’re looking for a short-throw projector that’s easy to carry around, theis your best option.
Why you should buy it: The BenQ GS2 is the rugged projector you’ve been looking for, plus it’s got great image quality and versatile connection options.
Who it’s for: Those who want a projector that can handle outdoor movie nights, a few bumps and bruises, and a little rain.
Why we chose the BenQ GS2:
Everyone dreams of watching movies outdoors while they are camping or even poolside in the summer. However, a lot of people get nervous about bringing their expensive projector somewhere where it could easily be dropped or water damaged. For anyone with those concerns, we recommend the BenQ GS2. It’s a portable projector with a 1080p image, 500 ANSI lumens, and a 4-watt Bluetooth speaker. Most importantly, it is shock and water resistant, which makes it the ideal projector to take outdoors.
Another thing that makes the GS2 great for outdoor use is the LumiExpert technology. The projector can detect ambient light and adjust the image accordingly to get the best possible result.
The GS2 is a solid all-in-one package, especially with the Bluetooth speaker built-in. If you want more sound, though, you can always add more via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm headphone jack.
With HDMI and USB-C connections combined with the features above, the BenQ GS2 is a great portable projector option. And at just $600, it’s one of the most compelling options you can find.
What should I look for in a portable projector?
There are several things you should consider when looking for a portable projector. The most important thing is, of course, how portable it is. Most projectors these days are “portable” in the sense that they can be easily moved. However, for something to be truly portable — and thus eligible for this list — it should be lightweight and fit into a bag or backpack. We looked for projectors with small designs that required little to no setup time. If you’re looking for the smallest projectors possible, you may want to look at the best pocket projectors. While it isn’t necessary to be considered portable, batteries are an important consideration. If you want to use a projector in the backyard, on a camping trip, or in unconventional spaces where power isn’t available, a built-in battery makes that possible. Pay attention to battery life when choosing.
Connectivity is also crucial for portable projectors. If you’re looking for something truly compact and portable, you will likely be connecting it to your smartphone, so you will want to make sure the projector has the right inputs, outputs, or screen-mirroring options. The last thing is the brightness. Projectors measure brightness in lumens. The higher the number, the better the image will look in bright areas. That’s the simplest way to think of it. Portable projectors usually suffer on this front, but they have significantly improved over the last few years.
How important is contrast ratio?
The contrast ratio is how bright the whites are compared to the blacks. A 1,000:1 contrast ratio means the whites will appear 1,000 times brighter than the blacks. This is important for color accuracy as well as how clearly the image will appear in well-lit areas. Since portable projectors don’t get super bright, you shouldn’t watch them in really bright areas anyway. However, if you want the best picture quality, you will want to make sure you get a projector with at least a 1,000:1 contrast ratio. The higher the better.
What about audio?
All the portable projectors on this list have built-in speakers, but many out there don’t. Even then, the speakers are rarely impressive. If you want the best sound to pair with your projector, you will likely need external speakers. Many of the projectors on this list have Bluetooth connectivity to pair speakers wirelessly. If that doesn’t work, you can also plug speakers directly in through the headphone or AV jack.
What is the lifespan of projector lamps?
Pretty much every portable projector relies on LED lamps, which are far more efficient than traditional incandescent lamps. They can get brighter and last a lot longer. Most projector lamps are rated for at least 30,000 hours, which is more than enough for what they will be used for.
What is the difference between a portable projector and a pico projector?
Portable projectors and pico projectors are essentially the same thing, but the “pico” moniker is referring to an approximate form factor. Pico projectors are generally incredibly smaller, usually about the size of someone’s hand. Pico projectors also always include batteries, which is not true of every portable projector. Generally speaking, larger portable projectors are going to be brighter and have a higher resolution. That being said, the quality of pico projectors has dramatically increased over the past several years. Which is best for you largely depends on what you want out of it and the specific features you’re looking for.
How did Digital Trends pick these portable projectors?
The projectors on this list were chosen for their balance between image quality and the convenience of portability. We also looked at contrast ratio, battery capacity, and convenient connectivity. Every projector on this list has at least a 1000:1 contrast ratio, which is really the minimum for decent multimedia viewing. For projectors batteries, we looked for those with at least 2.5 hours of life, the length of a relatively long movie. In terms of connectivity, we looked for devices with at least one HDMI port and supported wireless features like AirPlay and screen mirroring. We also kept the list narrowed to projectors with built-in speakers. You will want external speakers to get better sound for most of them, but the goal was to find portable projectors that worked right out of the box.