How great would it be to have a big-screen movie experience without having to lug your TV into your backyard? How great would it be to have a projector in your backpack so you could watch a movie while camping? Portable projectors make it possible. These mini projectors are about the size of a large Bluetooth speaker, run on batteries and can stream Netflix and more.
The downside? The picture quality is not very bright, usually with a fraction of the brightness of a traditional home theater projector. That means the image will be pretty dim if you make the projector screen too big. Mini portable projectors are also generally lower resolution. Their batteries should last for a single movie, if you’re careful, but that’s it.
If you’re never going to be far from an outlet, one of our home theater projector picks will get you a much bigger, brighter and better image. But if you want something that’s tiny enough to fit just about anywhere, with all the possibilities battery power affords, these are the best options.
The Mars II Pro is easily the best compact projector option here, due to its light output, overall image quality, ease-of-use and overall solid design. It’s a bit bigger than the others here and more expensive, but the extra money and size is worth it.
The built-in 12,500-mAh is good for about 3.5 hours, longer if you just run it as a Bluetooth speaker. There are apps built in, some of which consider the Mars II a portable device, meaning you can download content to its 8GB internal memory to watch offline. The faux-leather strap also makes carrying it around super easy.
I didn’t like the M2 as much as the Anker above but it has one thing in its favor: more pixels. With 1080p resolution, compared to the Anker’s 720p, you’re less-likely to see pixel structure or a “screen door effect” when watching from close-up or with a really big image screen size. In most cases 720p is just fine, however, and the Anker’s picture is as good or better in many ways.
The Viewsonic is a bigger video projector than the others on this list and lacks a built-in battery, so you’ll need to supply your own USB-C battery pack if you want to make it truly portable. It also doesn’t have a handle and the speakers are worse than the Anker. Even so, if you want 1080p and portability, this is a good choice.
The PH30N is not only less expensive than the two above, it’s also tiny. This mini projector fits in my hand, yet creates a 720p image. It has an HDMI cable input, plus a USB connection that might be able to run a streaming stick off the LG’s internal battery.
The stick connection is important because the LG lacks built-in apps. Light output is about half that of the Anker Mars II Pro and M2, though their contrast ratios are roughly the same. The internal battery should last around 2 hours in the projector’s dimmest mode. Less if you’re also powering a streaming stick.
It fits in places other projectors won’t, however, making it, ahem, handy.
The GV1 has one of my favorite designs of any projector I’ve ever reviewed. To me this tiny projector is like something Pixar or Hayao Miyazaki would dream up. This mini projector is not much bigger than a can of Coke and has a tiltable head that makes it easy to place the projector where it fits or where it’s needed.
Unfortunately, its beauty is largely skin deep. Its picture quality is not very bright, its contrast ratio is fairly low and it’s only 480p. Those all can be excused given the size and price, but it’s also rather difficult to use. The internal app store is frustrating, some apps crash or refuse to load correctly and its one input (USB-C with an included dongle for HDMI connectivity), negates the ability to run a streaming stick without external power.
It sure is adorable, however.
More home theater recommendations
- Don’t buy a jumbo LCD TV, buy a projector
- Why you shouldn’t expect great HDR from a projector
- The big picture: Projection screen basics
- TV vs. projector: Which big screen makes the most sense for you?
- Best TV for 2020
- Best 75-inch TVs for 2020
- Best 65-inch TV for 2020: Samsung TV, LG, TCL and more
- Best universal remotes of 2020
- The best soundbar to buy for 2020
- Best TV streaming service for cord cutters
- Best portable projector with battery power for 2020: BenQ, Anker, LG and more
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As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.