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Asus ZenBeam L2 review: Superb clarity and colour from a pricey portable

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £699

The ZenBeam Z2 has built-in streaming and impressive image quality but cheaper rivals match it in most areas and beat it on ease of use


  • Impressive picture quality
  • Trouble-free Android TV streaming
  • Ample battery life


  • Audio doesn’t get loud enough
  • Nasty colour shifts in Bright mode
  • Missing some key streaming apps

The Asus ZenBeam L2 is the latest in a line of portable projectors aiming to combine compact size with built-in streaming and decent image quality.

Recent efforts, like the Anker Nebula Mars 3 Air and XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro, have demonstrated that small LED-based projectors have closed the gap on ‘proper’ 1080p home cinema projectors and that even units that can be carried one-handed can deliver an enjoyable movie night or Netflix binge.

The ZenBeam L2 has the specs to compete with the new breed, with 1080p resolution, a 960 LED lumens output, a built-in 10W speaker and an integrated Android TV box. But competition in this area is fierce, and its rivals are doing a fine job of tackling tricky issues – screen alignment, auto keystoning and focus – that once made projectors slow to set up and difficult to use. How does Asus’s new compact projector hold up? I spent a week testing it to find out.

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Asus ZenBeam L2 review: What do you get for the money?

The ZenBeam L2 can be yours for £699. It’s a portable projector with a tiny footprint of 132 x 132 x 172mm (WDH). It combines a 1080p-capable DLP chip with an LED light source that can put out 960 lumens. It’s important to note, however, that this is ‘LED Lumens’ rather than ANSI or ISO lumens; the ANSI figure is a lower 400 lumens. More impressively, Asus claims that the ZenBeam L2 can reproduce 120% of the sRGB colour space – many portable projectors are stuck at 70% or less.

Like most portable projectors, the ZenBeam L2 has a relatively short throw of 1.2:1, giving you a 60in image from a distance of 1.5m, or a 90in image from 2.3m. While you can take it up to 120in with 3m to work with, that’s a bit too close to the projector’s limits, with brightness visibly tailing off.

The ZenBeam L2 also has a 10W Harman/Kardon speaker, along with a tiny square Android TV box. This box connects to the projector via a micro-HDMI connector and micro-USB cable and fits into a compartment beneath the touch control panel on the top of the projector. That panel sits on a magnetic flap, which lifts off easily to give you access.

The Android TV box uses a fairly stock version of the Android TV interface, which is close to Google TV and comes with the standard Netflix app pre-installed, along with the Google Play store.

That should cover most of your streaming needs, though I found some worrying omissions. Neither the BBC iPlayer, Now or Channel 4 apps could be found through the Google Play Store. However, you still have a standard HDMI 1.4 port and a USB-A port, so you could always plug in a streaming stick. The rear also houses two USB-C ports, with one used by the charger, plus a USB-A port for charging other devices and a 3.5mm headphones socket that doubles as an audio out.

Want a projector you can use away from home? The ZenBeam L2 also crams in a lithium-ion battery, good for up to three and a half hours of playback in the reduced brightness Battery Low mode. Overall, it’s a good-looking compact projector with a strong set of features; Asus gets extra brownie points for the faux leather carrying handle on the top, and the bundled case for keeping the projector, power supply and accessories in.

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Asus ZenBeam L2 review: What does it do well?

With the Android TV Box in place, I found the ZenBeam L2 easy to set up. It supports Google’s ‘Set up my device’ feature if you have an Android phone, or you can simply enter your Wi-Fi details, Google account and password manually using the remote control.

Netflix and YouTube came pre-installed – with buttons on the slimline remote – while Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, ITVX and Demand 5 are available to download from the Google Play store. I had a few issues getting a straight, crisply focused image from the ZenBeam (see below), but once I had those sorted the software worked like a dream.

What’s more, with one real caveat, image quality is very good. Pictures are detailed by 1080p standards, especially if you’re using high-quality streams from Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. Colours are vibrant without looking artificially punchy, with the greens of the early scenes of War for the Planet of the Apes particularly verdant, and the CGI animation of Star Wars: Tales of the Empire coming over with both the dark and moody scenery and searing lightsabre effects intact. I watched a range of material on the ZenBeam L2, including episodes of Three Body Problem, Fallout and Outer Range and a good chunk of the David Fincher version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. All were very watchable, with the ZenBeam L2 ably handling tricky scenes with subtle or natural palettes. There’s none of the over-zingy presentation you get with some portable projectors.

It helps that the colour handling is unusually good. I couldn’t replicate Asus’s 120% sRGB coverage claims during testing but measured sRGB coverage at an impressive 91.8% and sRGB gamut volume at 112.7%. DCI-P3 coverage was also impressive at 74.2%. These are similar results to the Nebula Capsule 3 and XGIMI Mogo 2 Pro, both of which I’d describe as exceptional on the colour reproduction front. I’ll repeat what I said in those reviews: these are numbers I’d expect from a full-sized home cinema projector, not an LED-powered portable.

When it comes to portable projectors, I usually take the stated battery life with a pinch of salt. Yet the ZenBeam L2 kept streaming movies for 3hrs 5mins, having switched automatically to Battery Low mode. Sure, that’s 25 minutes short of the quoted 3hrs 30mins, but it’s still going to get you through some substantial Hollywood epics. You’ll lose some brightness, but not to the extent that you can’t enjoy your chosen blockbuster on a dark night or in a darkened room.

The ZenBeam L2 has one cute little extra: a special LightWall mode which projects antique-style animated ‘cinemagraphs’ on your wall, like willow branches moving in the wind or a cat wandering across a window sill. These might amuse the kids or create a certain ambience when you’re entertaining, though they’re not what I’d call a killer feature.


Asus ZenBeam L2 review: What could it do better?

When it comes to auto-adjustments and focus, the ZenBeam L2 isn’t quite as foolproof as the Anker Nebula Capsule 3, Nebula Mars 3 Air or XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro. It has auto-keystoning and focus capabilities, along with a nifty feature to recognise objects in the way of the projector beam and shift the beam around them. However, I found that unless I had the projector facing dead straight onto the screen, I needed to make some manual adjustments to get the edges straight and even and avoid distortion. With the Nebula and XGIMI projectors, it’s pretty much a case of point and go.

Brightness is also an issue. 400 ANSI lumens is fine for use after dark, but in daylight hours you’re going to struggle to get a viewable picture, and there are some films – like The Batman or The Northman – where it’s a challenge to follow the action in darker scenes. I had the same problem with the Nebula Capsule 3 and Mogo 2 Pro, so the ZenBeam L2 is hardly alone here.

There is a potential workaround in the shape of a special Bright mode. Sadly, while this does make the image visibly brighter, it also gives it a nasty green cast and a weird posterising effect that results in some horrific blue/green highlights on skin tones. This made everything I tried it on near-unwatchable, so I’d advise using it with caution if you must use it at all. I found the Standard and Theatre modes more useful, while the User mode gives you basic colour and contrast adjustments if you prefer to do some tinkering yourself.

Finally, the built-in audio is a bit mixed. On the plus side, it’s clear and surprisingly non-directional given that it’s coming from a single speaker. Sit behind the projector and you can get immersive sound and some cool effects with a convincing, bassy boom. Yet it’s also a little on the quiet side. Even at full volume, I would have liked to set it a notch or two higher.

Admittedly, this is quite useful if you’re watching late at night – there’s no need to worry about waking tetchy members of the household up when the Netflix ‘Ta-dum’ strikes up. But if you like to pump things up while watching a movie, you might need to connect some Bluetooth headphones or a speaker to get what you’re looking for.

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Asus ZenBeam L2 review: Should you buy one?

The Asus ZenBeam L2 is a great portable projector with strong picture quality, decent Android TV software, usable sound and longer-than-average battery life. Its colour reproduction capabilities put it up there with the best portable projectors out there.

However, I didn’t find it quite as hassle-free to use as some of the competition, the Bright mode was pretty much unusable, and it’s more expensive than the Nebula Capsule 3, Mars 3 Air and Mogo 2 Pro. For my money, the last of those is still the best portable projector out there, even if it has no internal battery, while the Capsule 3 is smaller, neater and nearly as good. At the right price, the ZenBeam L2 could be a real contender, but at nearly £700 it’s not quite where it needs to be.

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