The best portable projector is going to be a popular acquisition after a year inside - we’re finally able to get out and start seeing people a bit more, and what better way to celebrate that than taking your entertainment outdoors? Plus, we know from the last year that streaming shows and gaming on your own can get old. And now we can start doing these things with other people, and what better way to do it than with a big picture projector? Especially if you’re staying spread out and need something bigger than a TV for everyone to watch, or if you’re going to have an outdoor screening.
There’s a whole range of products contending to be the best portable projector to take out and about with you. That means you can create an outdoor cinema anywhere, or just take a unit to your friends’ house to have a huge picture which everyone can gather around - safely. As the best projector for gaming market has grown, there has also been a move to make the picture truly portable.
Of course, you might need one of the top outdoor projector screens to go with it, but you can get away with projecting onto a white wall - but there's no doubting that a good surface for projection really does help picture quality. As a result you really best off perusing the best projector screen and best outdoor projector screen markets to ensure you have the right gear for your projected images.
We’ve got a round-up here of some of the best portable projectors available in 2021 to make sure your summer is full of outdoor gaming and video, and you're prepared to set up a projection quickly wherever you’re visiting. There are compromises: unless you really shell out you’ll be in HD quality rather than 4K, and you’ll generally have to wait for dusk to get a good picture outdoors as battery-powered projectors have much lower lumen ratings than those which run off mains power.
But thanks to some recent advances in LCD and laser projection, you’ll be amazed the quality of picture you can get from the best portable projectors. Off we go then.
The best portable projectors 2022
You'd expect amazing quality at the top end of the best portable projector market, and that's exactly what you get from the LG CineBeam. Given that it needs a mains connection it may be slightly cheating to call this truly portable, but if you can run an extension lead out to it you can definitely use it outside, and you'll be incredibly pleased. It’s hard to imagine how you could get a better picture outside than the amazing 4K sharpness at sizes of up to 150 inches.
Even without a battery and of a fairly large size, this is clearly designed to be moved around. The power cable winds up into the base to be moved tidily, and there are carry handles to help you transport it. The projector can run stood up using a mirrored surface to direct the picture or lying down (the handle can be utilised to help the projection angle) and it’s quick to set up when moved, making it versatile if you’re taking it to new locations. It’s incredibly bright too and will be able to be used much earlier than the battery-powered projectors.
It runs a range of streaming apps on its built-in smart hub (although a few key ones like BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime have not been licensed by the relevant companies) so you can use it without plugging anything else in. If you do want to connect up some hardware though there are the usual two HDMI ports and two USB ports, enabling media to stream straight from hard drive or USB stick - but you can also stream straight from your phone with screen mirroring. You can connect it to Bluetooth speakers too, although the two channels of 7W Harman Kardon speakers pack a punch. This is an amazing 4K quality home projector that has clearly been designed to also be taken out and about. Top dog.
Anker has been building a quietly solid reputation over the last few years as a go-to brand for quality affordable entertainment electronics, and that certainly extends to the best portable projector market. The Capsule II is another great example of this with its simple but smart finish, all-black smooth look, and clear interface at the top. It’s the size of a large can but still produces a sharp picture and even 8W of sound. It’s quite impressive to be able to get a great 720p image from a unit this size.
It’s definitely designed for ease, with good autofocus and keystoning meaning you don’t need to fiddle with settings or menus every time you turn it on in a new place - although the fixed lens means that you may have to play with the position of the unit to get the picture where you want it to be. You can even use Google Assistant through the remote, so you don’t have to flick through menus. It runs on Google’s Android TV platform, meaning it has a huge number of streaming apps built-in or ready to download easily. However, Netflix hasn’t certified the Capsule as a usable device, so installing this takes a lot more work or the use of another device connected to the Capsule.
You’ll get around two and a half hours of video from a single charge, more than enough for a film or a binge of a sitcom. If you want maximum battery life you can try to seek out the original Anker Nebula Capsule which can run for up to four hours, but you’ll be trading that off against the II’s better image quality and much improved operating system.
BenQ is one of the top names in projectors for the home, so how does their offering for the best portable projector size up? Well, the picture is really bright and clear, with a good-sized picture from quite a short distance. The tiltable top section makes positioning the image easier than projectors with fixed lenses, and when it’s run out of batteries you can tilt it quizzically up and pretend it’s a cute Star Wars droid looking at you.
It’s small enough to be carried in your shoulder bag, with a decent carry case that protects it (although the plastic casing of the projector does feel very robust). Crucially, set up is swift: the auto keystoning means that once you’ve pointed it at a wall or made an adjustment to placement, the screen clicks into the correct square automatically. Less easy is the focus control though: a side dial which can feel like trying to crack a safe when looking for the best picture. The image quality is worth it when you get it right though!
Connectivity to phones is good, although the SmartControl app for easier input is quite outdated. Streaming from home wifi is easy, but connectivity to phones while out and about is through the built-in wifi, which may mean stop you from using your mobile to stream video. Unfortunately, the input lag is noticeable when playing fast-paced games so it’s not ideal for a quick game of MarioKart8 from the Switch, although it’s not bad enough to be a deal-breaker. But for films and TV, it’s a great little portable projector at a reasonable price.
The Epson EF-12 is an excellent portable projector that has plenty of features to make it an attractive proposition. It has some of the drawbacks that beset most of the best portable projectors such as a lack of zoom controls, and limited app availability, but more than enough advantages to make up for them – not least two excellent built-in 5W Yamaha speakers and a great built-in Android OS which gives this the functionality of a smart TV with easy streaming. The three-chip LCD processing gives great depth of colour and no rainbow effects, while the strong laser light means that it’s more than watchable with ambient light in the room.
The native 1080p picture (also supports UHD images) looks sharp with instant autofocus and kearning to give quality display wherever you set it up. It gives wonderfully clear images up to 150 inches, a huge picture from such a small projector. The over 100ms input lag is an issue though and is a real drawback for gaming, though. For some people, this will fall in the gap between a dedicated home projector and a truly portable unit, especially due to its lack of battery. But if you’re looking for a great unit for every day watching at home which you can also take out to easily set up in other places, this fulfills that niche wonderfully.
The Anker Mars Pro II is portable in the "has a carry handle" kind of way rather than "throw it in your bag" way, but the bigger size does mean it packs more of a punch. It’s brighter than its pocket-shaped best portable projector peers and boasts a mighty battery life of up to four hours on battery saver mode (although this will reduce the brightness). It even contains a pair of great 10W speakers for powerful and clear stereo sound, much louder than other battery-powered projectors.
The Anker Mars II Pro runs an OS built on Android 7.1 and can run Android apps directly, as well as taking HDMI and USB connections. Initial setup on this can take some time, although this is far from the only portable projector to suffer a tricky interface so that shouldn't put anyone off. The autofocus means that at least the picture set up is quick and easy, so you’ll have great looking video when you set up in a new location without going through menus or fiddling with dials.
The image size is great even up to 100 inches and with higher brightness when plugged in this is that rare beast: a reasonably priced portable projector that could become your home unit. It’s good for gaming with its low input lag (measured around 34ms) and 720p resolution, although this isn’t going to give you the most from UHD next-generation consoles. You could get a slightly better image quality with deeper colours from a dedicated home projector at this price, but you wouldn’t be able to grab the carry handle and take it to the park. And you’d also get a good few hours of great-sounding music out of it first before you set up the video at dusk.
The Acer C250i is a portable projector with a twisted shape that promises a range of viewing angles. However, the major angle shifts between different sides means it’s not as tweakable as you’d hope and a stand can be necessary. A fiddly remote and annoying settings menu can cause initial frustration. But quick autofocus, excellent five-hour battery life, and a very decent speaker make this a strong option for taking out and about. While there’s no built-in operating system or apps it connects simply to a wide range of devices through wired or wireless connections.
The picture is decent in clarity and stands up passably to ambient light, but even in the dark, it doesn’t quite have the brightness you’d expect - whether on battery or mains power. Input lag isn’t particularly noticeable but there’s no dedicated gaming mode to improve it and it certainly won’t satisfy competitive gamers.
There’s a lot to recommend the C250i as a portable projector for long watches far away from power sockets, but it can be more fiddly to set up than is ideal for something which is going to be set up in different places regularly, while the lack of brightness particularly means it won’t be your main home projector.
Are portable or mini projectors worth buying?
The short answer to this is a resounding yes! But, naturally, with a few caveats. The great thing about portable projectors or mini projectors is that you can sling one in a bag, and you have a mobile TV ready to go at all times (power supply dependent). This is great for the summertime, but also the upcoming (at time of writing) holiday season too, as friends and family will be getting together (hopefully, and safely) to hang out and spend time with each other. What better way to enjoy TV or a film together than with a bigger picture that everyone can see?
Now, we wouldn't really recommend a portable or mini projector as your main image provided for your home, so it is likely to be an extra investment, but as these products show, you can get a lot for your money and the options that become open to you are excellent.
While some contenders will have decent gaming credentials, if you're after something to team with your new-gen console then you'll need to view our dedicated projector for PS5 guide.