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 (opens in new tab) (see below) 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.
The BenQ GS50 is easily one of the best portable projectors you can get if you have a healthy budget and want to ensure a great level of quality.
First and foremost, it’s truly built for portability, with a hard-wearing outer case that is splash resistant, is drop tested to about two feet (or "carrying height"), and comes with a smart carry case. We found the battery to last well over two hours, but this can be stretched out to almost three, while you can also charge via a USB-C power brick.
When it comes to sound, the GS50 is likely the loudest portable projectorwe;'ve heard with the 2.1 Bluetooth sound also being a being a first for a portable smart projector. Volume was kept below 10 out of 50 at home for the most part in our testing, but even when cranked right up to full volume there was no noticeable distortion – so you can listen outdoors without the need for extra speakers.
The HD picture is crisp with good colour reproduction. There’s no game mode and input lag is measured at 62ms – not noticeable unless you’re a competitive gamer but showing that gaming isn’t the focus of the GS50. You could get a higher-end home projector for this money, and although it’s more than fine for casual home watching, the features mean this has to be, first and foremost, a front runner for the best portable projector you can choose right now.
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.
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 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.
The XGIMI Halo+ is easily one of the best portable projectors, especially in the 1080p range, given its brightness, quick auto-keystone and focus, and a very decent battery life of almost three hours. Bright enough to watch in any light, by dusk you can get huge images that belay the small size of the unit. We found setup to be a breeze with really fast auto-keystoning and focus giving perfect picture from a range of angles, and the built-in stand further helps position the image.
Built-in Android OS makes it ideal for streaming films or shows while out and about, although it suffers from the usual lack of Netflix compatibility. It’s also great for casual gaming, with a Game Mode offering 26.5ms input lag and 60Hz refresh rate - although those chasing the best and fastest will want even quicker.
Twin 5W Harmon Kardon speakers give excellent crisp sound which fills a room well without needing any external help. At just 1.6kg it will easily slip into a bag, and the hard black plastic feels like it will stand up well to transportation, although it is a surprise that there isn’t a carry case included.
Even though it's been 'replaced' by newer variant, the Anker Nebula Capsule still offers undeniably great performance in a portable projector. The cute Nebula Capsule is about the size of a soft drink can and just as welcome on a summer day in the park (remember doing that?). You can plonk it down anywhere and almost instantly turn any surface into a screen. It will display well even in the light as long as it’s close enough to the surface. You won’t get the truly huge or high-definition pictures you’d see with dedicated home units, but this tiny unit still packs a punch. If you’re using it with a console or dedicated media player you can run from HDMI, but you can also use your smartphone to cast or screen mirror for truly wireless video for up to four hours on the battery.
The unit has a heavily modified Android operating system and runs a number of apps, although not the full range you might hope for. The sound is decent enough and truly 360. It isn’t a perfect unit, and the need it meets is quite a specific one. But if you want true portability, the Nebula can provide great fun anywhere.
There is a Nebula Capsule II which is a newer, flashier model, which is reflected in the price tag - around double that of the 'regular' Capsule. Until that price tumbles, we feel confident recommending the first one still given the value it offers still; though both will be great options in the hunt for the best portable projector for you.
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.
What brand of mini or portable projector is best?
The best portable projectors and mini projectors really did use to be such a niche thing that not many brands and manufacturers even made them.
Nowadays, however, there are some brands which specialise in this niche, and the likes of the Anker Nebula line, in particular, have emerged as perennially popular lines.
However, now all the big boys in projector brands are making superb units,. all of which could be the best portable projector for you - LG, Epson, and BenQ are all stalwarts of the projector game and offer exquisite mini and portable options nowadays.
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.