Owning a small portable projector means you no longer need bulky equipment or a big budget for a big screen. The best portable projectors let you spend movie night in a pillow fort, in theor even in the wild. These options can easily fit into any backpack, and some are small enough to fit in your pocket.
Whether you’re projecting onto a blank wall or onto a projector screen, you can capture the image quality you crave without the hassle. They also offer a handful of connectivity options, includingand , and usually run on batteries. Many mini projectors are set up to stream, giving you access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu and more without the need to connect .
Portable projectors come with several, though. One is that many are relatively muted, lacking the brightness of the traditional , which means they can’t project as big an image as the big boys. Another is that even the best portable projectors often have a lower resolution than their larger counterparts. If you’re never going to be far from an outlet, a standard projector will give you a much bigger, brighter and better picture for similar money. But if you want something compact, portable and battery-powered, here are our top picks for the best portable projector.
The Mars II Pro is the best compact projector option due to its light output, overall image quality, ease of use and affordable price. This mobile device is a little bigger than most of the other portable projectors here, but still small enough to hide completely under a Coke package.
The built-in 12,500 mAh battery is good for about 3.5 hours, longer if you use it only as a Bluetooth speaker. There are built-in apps, some of which consider the Mars II portable, meaning you can download content to its 8GB internal storage for offline viewing. The faux leather strap also makes carrying the projector outdoors extremely easy.
Read our Anker Nebula Mars II Pro review.
I prefer a high-end projector, but the AAXA P6X is my go-to when money is tight. Not only is it cheaper than the Anker above, but it’s also brighter with superior battery life. This mini projector fits in my hand, produces an image of 720 pixels and has a huge 15,000 mAh battery. An HDMI input and a USB connection allow you to connect and power a streaming stick. The stick connection is important because AAXA has no built-in apps.
Light output is impressive for its size and price, about 50% more than the Anker Mars II Pro, although its contrast ratio is slightly lower. The internal battery should last about 90 minutes in the mini projector’s brightest mode and an impressive 240 minutes in ECO mode — probably a bit less if you’re also powering the streaming stick. The internal speaker isn’t great, but there’s a headphone jack that you can connect to a portable speaker.
Read our AAXA P6X review.
While we didn’t like it quite as much as the BenQ GS50, this small, flat Anker mini portable projector costs less. Its main drawback compared to the others on this list is its relatively dim image, meaning it can’t project such a large image and still look good. If you want a sleek, inexpensive 1080p portable and plan to keep the picture on the small side, this is a solid choice.
Read our Anker Nebula Solar Portable review.
The Anker Nebula capsule is smaller than a soda can, but it can create a large image. Well, maybe not “big”, but “TV-sized” for sure. It’s not particularly bright, or particularly loud, but for something that can fit in your pocket, it’s great. The other options here offer a far brighter and better picture, but if size is your main concern, the Capsule looks better than you’d expect for its price and stature.
Read our Anker Nebula Capsule review.
Other products we tested
: The LG PH30N is small even compared to other portable projectors, even smaller than the AAXA. However, it is not particularly bright, nor does it have built-in applications. The battery doesn’t last as long as AAXA either, although it’s a bit cheaper. Read our LG CineBeam PH30N review.
: The small, cylindrical Freestyle is an interesting idea, but it’s short. About the size of a Bluetooth speaker, and can actually double as one, the Freestyle can swivel on its stand to project an image at any height onto walls and even the ceiling. Its built-in streaming is far better implemented than most portable projectors. However, it lacks battery and its performance is average, at best. Even worse, it’s priced a good 50% higher than it should be based on how it looks and performs. .
: Another relatively expensive projector we didn’t like, Xiaomi at least has a beautiful Apple-like design. We appreciated the compact size, 1080p resolution and built-in Android TV streaming, but the cons outweigh the pros. It’s relatively weak, especially for the price, and lacks a built-in battery and USB power source compatibility, so it’s not exactly portable. .
: The HT2050 isn’t technically a portable projector, but it’s compact and about the same price as one of the more expensive “portable” options. Its image is also much better in almost every way, so if you’re looking for a projector to use around the house, or perhaps in the backyard, and don’t need a battery, it’s worth considering. .
How we test portable projectors
Every projector we review goes through detailed objective and subjective testing. CNET editors choose the products and services we write about based on editorial merit. When you purchase through our links, we may receive a commission.
How is a mini projector different from a full size projector?
The biggest difference is the light output. Traditional full size projectors can get much brighter than any portable mini projector. Most portable projectors use an LED lamp, while full-size projectors have either UHP lamps (which are basically high-power bulbs) or laser light sources. The light output of a projector is measured in lumens. The brightest portable projectors we reviewed have around 350 lumens, while a traditional home theater projector measures 1,500 lumens or more.
A great projector can produce a larger image and looks better when there is little light around. For this reason, dimmed portable projectors are best enjoyed with smaller images and in as dark an environment as possible.
Brightness aside, mini projectors are much smaller (of course), can run on battery power, and usually include built-in streaming and decent speakers. Traditional projectors have more lens adjustments, including focus, zoom and lens shift, and can run louder.
Does the mini projector have to be plugged in?
It depends. Many portable projectors have built-in batteries that can run for two or three hours before needing to be plugged in. Some can also be plugged into external USB batteries that allow them to run without power from the outlet. On the other hand, many smaller portable projectors, especially the cheaper ones, do not have a built-in battery or operate with battery packs. They will need to be plugged in to work.
Can you watch Netflix on a portable projector?
Yes. Many mini projectors have built-in streaming that allows them to display Netflix and other streaming services when connected via Wi-Fi. For projectors that don’t have built-in streaming, you’ll need to connect another streaming device, such as a Roku or Fire TV Stick, to the projector’s HDMI input to stream Netflix and other services.