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Best portable projector 2021: The best tiny, lightweight and battery-powered projectors

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Looking for a simple home cinema or movies on the move? Try these pint-sized projectors on for size

In case you haven’t noticed, projectors have got a lot smaller. They used to be massive things, ran hot, were power-hungry and needed a chunky stand or coffee table to sit on – if not a dedicated home cinema room. But a few years ago the combination of small, high-quality DLP chips and energy-efficient LED lamps made it possible to build projectors the size of a hardback book or even smaller. You can now buy a projector the size of a Rubik’s Cube or smartphone.

With battery-powered operation, built-in speakers and lamps that last for tens of thousands of hours, these portable projectors are perfect for take-anywhere entertainment. You can use them with a big screen in the living room or pair them with a portable screen when you take them away on holiday. Given decent weather, you can even use them outdoors in the summer. Better yet, because they’re small, light and relatively cheap, you won’t mind lugging them around. Sounds good? You might just have found a new way to enjoy your favourite TV, games and films.

READ NEXT: The best cheap projectors to buy


Best portable projector: At a glance


How to choose the best portable projector for you 

Manage your expectations. You can’t expect the kind of experience you’d get from a good, dedicated home cinema projector. For one thing, most of these models use a low-resolution DLP chip to create the picture that’s beamed to the screen. In many cases, this is a standard-definition chip, giving you the same 848 x 480 resolution as a movie on DVD.

While a few reach 1080p Full HD, the more affordable, portable models top out at 720p HD. This means you won’t get the pin-sharp clarity you’re used to from today’s 4K and HD TVs. Be wary of cheap projectors promising a 1080p resolution too, as this often means they support a 1080p image but will downscale it to 480p.

You won’t get the same levels of contrast and brightness with a portable projector, either. A proper home cinema projector will dish out 2,000 ANSI lumens or more of brightness, so that you can have bright whites, deep blacks and rich colours in dark conditions. Even in a sunlit room, the picture should still be watchable.

LED portable projectors tend to achieve anything from 100 to 2,000 ANSI lumens, with the vast majority sitting somewhere between 300 and 800 ANSI lumens. In a dark room, you can still get a decent picture, but if you’re expecting true cinema quality or something that’ll work with the curtains wide open, you may end up feeling disappointed.

Needless to say, budget is a factor. As a rule of thumb, the more you spend, the brighter the image and the higher the resolution, giving you a better experience overall.

What else should you look out for?

Throw is a big deal with projectors. Due to the way they work, by beaming an image onto a flat surface, the size of the projected picture will be determined by the distance between the projector and screen. All projectors have what’s called a “throw ratio”, which determines how big the picture will be at any given distance, and some are what’s called short-throw projectors, meaning they’re designed to give a bigger picture even from a distance of one or two metres.

Most of these portable models have a relatively short throw and the shorter, the better if you’re stuck for space or planning to project from a coffee table. Remember that your maximum size will also be affected by the brightness. Try to fill a 120in screen with a 100 ANSI lumens projector and you won’t get much contrast, colour or anything else.

Keystone-correction is another must-have. Projectors are best positioned with the lens facing directly at the centre of the screen, but in practice this isn’t usually practical, so the projector has to be placed above or below – or even to one side – and angled up or down and left or right. This distorts the picture so that the rectangular image looks like a trapezoid (or worse) – an effect known as keystoning.

Nearly all projectors have some form of correction to sort this out. The best portable projectors do it automatically, so that you can spend less time setting up your screen and projector and more time enjoying what you want to watch. The same goes for auto-focus features, although most models have a manual slider or wheel.

What about sound?

If you’re using a portable projector, you probably don’t want to lug a full surround-sound setup with you, so most include built-in speakers. The quality varies enormously, with some dishing out a timid, tinny racket and others producing a half-decent impression of stereo sound. If you want to go one better, some include a headphone socket or – better still – Bluetooth connectivity. With that, you can hook up a pair of headphones or even a Bluetooth speaker. You may have some issues syncing sound and picture, but a good projector will have a setting to compensate for this.

Are any other features worth having?

Most portable projectors will have a built-in battery, which should last you long enough to watch a film, although often only with the brightness turned down. A few also run their own Android-based operating system, giving you built-in streaming apps for, say, Netflix and Amazon Prime. For those that don’t, the standard HDMI connection means you can plug in an Amazon Fire TV, Roku or NowTV stick, and you can usually play video files directly from a USB port (which can also be used to power your choice of streaming stick).

In our experience, the built-in Android apps are usually flaky or seem to struggle to find the best-quality streams. Using a streaming stick will give you a better experience without making your setup less portable – or, in some cases, you can stream to the projector from your smartphone.

READ NEXT: Best full-sized projectors

The best portable projectors to buy

1. Viewsonic M1: The best budget portable projector

Price: £282 | Buy now from Amazon

Viewsonic’s pint-sized projector has a particularly ingenious design. Its integrated handle swivels to the front to cover the lens, or underneath to act as a stand. This makes it much easier to tilt the beam upwards if you have the projector sitting below the level of your screen and there’s no need to find a prop if you use it on a coffee table or the floor.

Connectivity is excellent, with HDMI 1.4, USB-A and USB-C, which you can use to hook up an Android smartphone or simply plug in a streaming stick. The biggest downside is the lack of Bluetooth audio output, although you can plug in a pair of headphones.

Picture-wise, the M1 is a big step up from the bargain-basement projector crowd. While you’re limited by the 480p resolution, the image is surprisingly vibrant with deep blacks and punchy colours when used in a darkened room.

What’s more, the Harmon-Kardon sound is fantastic. No, it won’t beat a soundbar or mid-range Bluetooth speaker, but it’s more than good enough for watching movies, TV or sports events – and it helps drown out the low hum of the fans.

In daylight, the picture isn't so great, and turning on the eco options to hit the maximum five to six-hour battery life dims the output, but if you’re looking for a solid, take-anywhere projector at a bargain price, the M1 is the one to beat.

Key specs – Brightness: 250 ANSI lumens; Native resolution: 854 x 480; Speakers: 3W dual Harmon-Kardon speakers; Throw ratio: 2:1; Max recommended image: 100in; Inputs and outputs: microSD, USB-C, USB-A, HDMI 1.4, 3.5mm headphone/audio; Wireless: N/A; Battery life: 2.5 to 6hrs; Lamp life: 30,000hrs; Dimensions: 126 x 148 x 40mm; Weight: 689g

2. Anker Nebula Capsule: The best pocket cinema projector

Price: £340 | Buy now from Amazon

Home cinema doesn’t get more portable than the Anker Nebula Capsule. Sure, you can buy a smartphone-sized projector, but this one gives you a relatively bright 480p picture, despite its 100 ANSI lumens output, and you get good built-in audio to boot. Anker makes its own mini-Bluetooth speakers, and we suspect the same drivers and technology are used here. As a result, you get a fairly convincing 360˚ sound with a bit more space and a spot of boom and rumble – although distortion creeps in as you push up the volume.

You can connect a streaming stick through the HDMI port, but the Nebula Capsule has its own built-in media player running on Android 7.1. This isn’t as much of a plus point as you might expect – there’s no Google Play store and no official apps for Amazon Prime or Netflix, leaving you to navigate the browser-based apps using a virtual trackpad on Anker’s connected smartphone app.

What’s more, image quality isn’t as good on the built-in Netflix as it is on Netflix running from a Roku Streaming Stick. That said, the auto-keystoning and focus tools make it easy to get the best picture and you can install other apps from Anker’s own app store.

In terms of picture quality, the Anker falls a little behind the Viewsonic. While very crisp, it’s not as bright and the colours aren’t quite as rich. In isolation, though, it’s very watchable in dark conditions, and there’s no easier projector to lug around and pull out whenever you can find time and space to set up a screen. Is it the best projector? No, but it’s a fantastic gadget for games, TV and movies.

Key specs – Brightness: 100 ANSI lumens; Native resolution: 854 x 480; Speakers: 360˚ internal speaker; Throw ratio: 1.35:1; Max recommended image: 100in; Inputs and outputs: HDMI 1.4, micro-USB; Wireless: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4; Battery life: up to 4hrs; Lamp life: 30,000hrs; Dimensions: 68 x 68 x 120mm; Weight: 898g

3. Anker Nebula Capsule II: The best all-round portable projector

Price: £550 | Buy now from Amazon

The second-generation Nebula Capsule projector takes everything that made the first one so great and adds to it. It's a similar shape to the original, albeit slightly larger, and just as easy to sling in a bag or pop in a cupboard when you've finished using it. It has a built-in rechargeable battery so you can use it on the go without having to faff around with a power cord, and it comes with integrated speakers and a range of connectivity options.

This time around, the resolution has been bumped up to 720p from 480p and the brightness has been doubled from 100 to 200 ANSI lumens. Colour reproduction remains a weakness, with slightly unrealistic tones in places, but the picture is bright, steady and sharp, while autofocus ensures you never have to fiddle with a focus dial.

Elsewhere, this thing is stuffed with features. Naturally, you can plug in your video source via HDMI and use it like a normal projector, but there are multiple other ways to access video. You can connect a USB flash drive or hard disk and play files directly.

The projector's built-in Android TV functions mean it has Chromecast for easy streaming of video content from your phone or tablet. You can use Google's Movies and TV service to purchase and watch video or download Android TV apps. On top of all this, it's also possible to connect to the projector via Bluetooth and play music via its built-in 8W speaker.

It might be a bit on the pricey side, but there's no denying it: the Anker Nebula Capsule II is the king of portable projectors.

Key specs – Brightness: 200 ANSI lumens; Native resolution: 1,280 x 720; Speakers: 8W 270˚ internal speaker; Throw ratio: 1.3:1; Max recommended image: 100in; Inputs and outputs: HDMI 1.4, USB-C; Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Battery life: Up to 2hrs 30mins; Dimensions: 80 x 80 x 150mm; Weight: 740g

4. Acer C250i: The best ultraportable 1080p projector

Price: £476 | Buy now from Amazon

Most of our favourite battery-powered projectors have a resolution of 720p or lower, which casts the Acer C250i's 1080p in a very favourable light. Not only that but this unusually shaped projector is also capable of projecting a bright image of up to 300 lumens, making it more than a match for the best battery-powered machines we've tested.

In normal or “bright” mode, the image is crisp and well-defined and colour performance is solid, enabling you to project a bright, watchable image up to 100in in size in dim or dark rooms.

The Acer C250i's party trick is its ability to stand flat on its side or on end and automatically rotate its display to match but it packs in more features than just that. Its built-in rechargeable battery lasts up to five hours, there's a full array of connectivity features, including HDMI and USB-C video inputs. You can play video back from USB flash drives and microSD cards, stream from your phone or laptop using screen mirroring, or play audio through the speaker via Bluetooth.

The Acer C250i truly is a multi-talented portable projector with good image quality and a great range of connectivity, plus it's slightly cheaper than the Anker Nebula Capsule II.

Key specs – Brightness: 300 ANSI lumens; Native resolution: 1,920 x 1,200; Speakers: 5W internal speaker; Throw ratio: 1.2:1; Max recommended image: 100in; Inputs and outputs: HDMI 1.4, USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm headphone output, microSD card; Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Battery life: Up to 5hrs; Dimensions: 188 x 100 x 100mm (WDH); Weight: 775g

5. Anker Nebula Solar: The best portable projector for features

Price: £550 | Buy now from Amazon

The Anker Nebula Solar is a portable projector that's absolutely stacked with features. It projects a bright, clear Full HD image up to 120in in size, has an integral battery pack that delivers up to three hours use from a single charge, plus there's Android TV built in so it's just as easy to use as a regular TV.

Picture quality isn't quite up to the same level as the LG PF50KS or the ViewSonic M2 but you do get HDR10 support and it's very convenient to use, with automatic focus and keystone correction ensuring a sharp and regular-shaped image at all times. Plus, with Google Assistant support via the bundled voice remote, it's incredibly easy to search for new apps and content.

Bafflingly, although you have access to many of the major streaming platforms, including Disney+, Amazon Prime and Apple TV, there's no BBC iPlayer or Netflix app available as a native app. Thankfully, you can get around this by casting content directly to the projector via the projector's built-in Chromecast facility from your phone, laptop or tablet.

All in all, the Anker Nebula Solar is a cracking little projector. Picture quality could be better but it's otherwise packed with features.

Key specs – Brightness: 400 ANSI lumens; Native resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Speakers: 2 x 3W internal speaker; Throw ratio: 1.2:1; Max recommended image: 120in; Inputs and outputs: HDMI 1.4, USB-C, USB-A; Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Battery life: Up to 3hrs; Dimensions: 188 x 100 x 100mm (WDH); Weight: 1.4kg

6. BenQ GS2: A brilliant all-in-one HD projector

Price: £684 | Buy now from Ebuyer

BenQ’s GS2 is one of the best-designed portable projectors, with a 1,280 x 720 HD resolution, a built-in lithium-ion battery and a 500 ANSI lumens LED lamp. Pack it away in the bundled kit bag and you can take it anywhere you want. The battery lasts for up to three hours and you can stream video to it from a smartphone or tablet, using Wi-Fi, USB-C or HDMI.

The software does have some shortcomings. The BenQ uses a variant of Android that doesn’t seem to work across all phones – or support copy-protection when content is mirrored from your phone. This means you can’t just stream your favourite films and programmes from the Netflix or Amazon Prime Video apps. While you can download native apps from the preinstalled Aptoide store, these are older versions with image quality issues and quirks of their own. At home, we’d suggest plugging in a streaming TV stick, as you’ll get a smoother experience.

Once you do so, actual image quality is pretty good, with bright but still natural colours, presets for movies and TV, and better definition than you might expect from a 720p device. It has an effective autofocus and auto-keystone system, and it doesn’t take much work to get a decent image, although on battery the brightness dims and the contrast falls.

While Anker's projectors produce more powerful and detailed sound, the BenQ’s speaker is still usable and you can connect headphones or an external speaker, either through the 3.5mm line-out or Bluetooth. Go for the Viewsonic M2 if you want better sound and image quality, but this is a great, versatile alternative that you can take anywhere you go.

Key specs – Brightness: 500 ANSI lumens; Native resolution: 1,280 x 720; Speakers: 2W stereo speakers; Throw ratio: 1.3:1; Max recommended image: 100in; Inputs and outputs: USB-A, USB-C, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone/audio; Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4; Battery life: 3hrs; Lamp life: 30,000hrs; Dimensions: 139 x 144 x 139mm; Weight: 1.6kg

Buy now from Ebuyer


7. Viewsonic M2: The best portable projector for HD picture quality

Price: £631 | Buy now from Amazon

If you were hoping that the Viewsonic M2 was a sequel to the brilliant M1, you might be disappointed. It’s a bigger and more expensive projector roughly the size of a coffee-table hardback, and it’s more than twice the price of the smaller model. Like the M1, it has built-in Harman Kardon audio, but not the ingenious handle/stand. Instead, it has a nice and solid pull-out stand that folds out of the base to hold the projector at the right angle.

There are some aspects of the M2 that we’re not convinced by, particularly the built-in Android OS with its dated versions of the most popular streaming apps – you’ll get a better experience and better image quality by plugging in your own Roku or Amazon Fire TV stick.

However, the sound is full and powerful enough for some casual viewing without speakers or a soundbar connected, and the image quality is as good as portable projectors get. With a 12,00 ANSI lumens output and a 1080p DLP chip you get a vibrant, detailed full HD picture, and while we’d normally take the talk of HDR and 125% Rec.709 colour reproduction with a pinch of salt, there’s no doubt that 4K content from Amazon Prime and Disney+ looks fantastic.

While there’s no onboard battery, you can power it from a USB-C power bank with USB PD. What’s more, this projector optimises itself, taking care of keystoning and focus for you, although you can tweak all the settings (and maybe turn the rather aggressive motion interpolation settings down). Want home cinema everywhere on your own terms and without the usual hassle? The M2 is in a different class.

Key specs – Brightness: 1200 ANSI lumens; Native resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Speakers: 3W stereo speakers; Throw ratio: 1.23:1; Max recommended image: 100in; Inputs and outputs: USB-A, USB-C, HDMI 2.0, SD card, 3.5mm headphone/audio; Wireless: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4; Lamp life: 30,000hrs; Dimensions: 224 x 224 x 51mm; Weight: 1.32kg

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