Projectors aren’t just massive machines you mount onto your home theater’s ceiling. These five devices prove that projection technology can easily function on the go.
Taking movies with you on the road has always been a clunky process. Laptops and smartphones are often the go-to ways to bring your viewing content outside the domain of your home. But many people still feel something is lacking. That void is missing large, high-quality screens. We can’t just pack our 50 inch 4K smart TVs with us every time we go to school, work, or go on a trip with friends or family.
That’s why I’m here to highlight the convenience of the portable projector. Many of them are roughly the size of a DVD or Blu-ray player or a small gaming console. Some of them are even smaller than that, much smaller. If you’re new to this kind of technology then you’ll be surprised at how nifty these things really are, so read on. My first impressions with these projectors will help give you a sense of what it’s like to own one.
My Buying Guide
There are a few essential things to look out for when selecting a portable projector. The most important features are the size of the machine itself, max screen size and max resolution. You won’t want something that can only project 480p at 30 inches. Battery life is also important because anything that won’t last as long as the movie you want to watch is self-defeating for obvious reasons.
Bonus accessories are something I look out for since they are sparse on the market. Anything from extra cables to carrying bags that come free with the product. Wireless functionality like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi certainly matter to me as well. Looks and aesthetics don’t play that big of a part for me, but I know it matters to many which is why I often bring it up.
Lastly, the quality of the built-in speaker is something you should consider since you will often not have a separate speaker system you can hook up to your portable projector.
With that preamble done let’s get on to our first projector:
Vankyo Leisure 3
Vankyo’s projector is a great choice for people looking for an entry-level device. It’s a simple and modest looking machine that is also modestly priced. Not only that but it’s the cheapest model on my list today which is why I wanted to bring it up first.
As for the basics, is an all-new model that was released at the end of 2017. It supports 1080p display and the screen size can go up to 170 inches. This is a massive size for a unit in this price range. You do typically tend to see some blurriness the farther you go but if you’re like me then you can’t resist a massive screen.
The projector itself is only two pounds which is more lightweight than expected considering its dimensions. The carrying case was a very welcome addition. The case’s materials do not feel cheap at all and are adequately padded. The inner compartments allow you to store cables quite easily.
The screen quality itself is pretty solid but it’s not really over and above the competition. The contrast is pretty good, so darker or brighter scenes will show up decently whether you’re watching Blu-rays or DVDs or your Playstation is connected.
I really appreciated the guard they equipped around the lens. It allows the light bulb to focus easier and it protects the lens itself from dust or scratches. More companies should take note from Vankyo and include this.
The biggest gripe I have with the is that it has no battery. It only runs when connected to a wall outlet, so it’s not ideal for outdoors usage at all. But at home or for work, or even on break from classes if you’re a student, this definitely can fit your profile.
I happen to not be fond of the looks, the eggshell white seems a little bland and overused and doesn’t fit in with many home theater set-ups. I wouldn’t worry much about this though because the functionality of this device is solid.
Affordability & Value: 4/5. The value here is undeniable, you truly get bang for your buck with the Leisure 3. Perhaps one of the best portable projectors under $100.
Reliability: 3.5/5. The casing itself is not terribly thick or sturdy but the lens guard and the carrying case add extra measures of protection. Plus the HD and color contrast will make this machine more than good enough for any viewing content.
Versatility: 2/5. Vankyo made a great indoor budget projector, but if you ever wanted to use this outdoors such as on camping trips then, unfortunately, you’re probably out of luck.
Nebula Capsule Smart Mini Projector
- Great design
- Very portable and small
- Clever 360-degree speakers
- 4-hour battery life
- Android OS and Wi-Fi capabilities
- 1 pound, very lightweight
- A little pricey
- Only comes in two colors
- 100-inch screen is a little small
Our next projector is much different from the previous one and I’m not just talking about the price range. The Nebula Capsule isn’t just a mini projector but it is an Android projector. This means it comes with Android 7.1 and all the benefits of this operating software including Wi-Fi and the ability to download apps.
Most portable projectors can only be used if an external device is connected via the HDMI, like a DVD player or a gaming console. This projector has an HDMI connector as well as two USB ports- mainly for mouse and keyboard functionality.
But what’s really cool about this capsule is that it is so portable, so extremely friendly to on-the-go usage. It’s literally the size of a soda can and has an impressive battery life of 4 hours. It also has a very clever 360-degree speaker design that allows you to hear audio clearly regardless of your sitting position.
The screen size reaches a maximum of 100 inches. This might seem a little small to people who really want to go the extra mile and achieve 150 inches or more. I am one of those people and I admit there were times I wish I could go even bigger, but 100 inches is still pretty big.
Because the Nebula Capsule has the Android OS this means you can easily download various apps like YouTube or Netflix. You can watch content from these services as long as you have Wi-Fi and don’t need to hook up your laptop via a cable which is a nice convenience.
The picture quality does go up to 1080p but it does have relatively low contrast, meaning the light and dark scenes won’t be that great to make out.
Affordability & Value: 4/5. Buying this projector might set you back a bit but it is a worthy investment considering how often you’ll want to be using it.
Reliability: 3.5/5. The battery life is excellent but the loading screens and 100-inch max screen size will weigh on you a little bit.
Versatility: 4.5/5. Incredible portable design and very well made speakers make the Nebula Capsule an excellent choice if you plan on using it indoors and outdoors often.
ViewSonic M1 Portable Projector
- Great stand
- Amazing battery life
- Powerful speakers
- Sleek looks
- 100-inch max screen size
- No HD picture
- Weak bass
It may look like a fancy portable air conditioner at first glance. But this is really a finely crafted portable projector that is equipped with some high-quality components.
The Viewsonic M1 is a very stylish looking device. When I first opened it out of the box I was instantly impressed by how smooth it both looked and felt. Weighing in at only 1.5 pounds the M1 is a fabulous addition to any home theater setup as well as having the ability to fit right in at any outdoor location. The bright blue light emanating from the light bulb only adds to the cool futuristic look.
The built-in swivel stand is a very clever choice of design. It folds around the projector itself for storage and can easily be placed for firm stability on many surfaces. No matter where I placed the M1 it always looked cool. Viewsonic even designed a cover for the USB and HDMI ports, something you rarely see with portable projectors. This helps protect the ports from dust or other stuff getting in there.
Easily one of the best features of the M1 is the magnificent battery life of 6 hours. This essentially guarantees your ability to watch at least two movies back to back, something even the Nebula Capsule would have problems accomplishing.
I mostly enjoyed the quality of the speakers. I often had the Viewsonic M1 angled in such a way that the speakers would be pointing back towards me. This also made it easier for sound to travel as far as possible throughout whichever room I was in. The speakers are undoubtedly powerful but their bass could have been a little more audible.
The picture quality is probably my least favorite thing here. While the screen size can only go up to 100 inches, the picture quality still looks a little watered down even at this size. The resolution is definitely not high definition so if that’s a requirement for you then you may have to look elsewhere.
Affordability & Value: 3/5. Everything about this portable projector is great, except when it comes to the screen itself. It doesn’t reach gargantuan sizes or high resolutions so anyone looking to do HD gaming or Netflix will be very disappointed.
Reliability: 4/5. The stand and the battery life alone make this a very dependable machine. If you hate having to worry about charging your devices then the M1 will help put your mind at ease.
Versatility: 3.5/5. The speakers and the stand work great in- or outdoors, and this projector would be a great choice for school or work presentations where picture quality isn’t so important.
Apeman Mini Portable Projector
If the lack of 1080p from the previous portable projector turned you off of it then no worries are needed here. The is advertised as a “pocket projector” to realize emphasize its portability.
And let me tell you, the first thing I did when I opened the box was take the projector and check to see if it really could fit in my pockets. Lo and behold the attempt was a complete success. It was a bit of a tight-fit and I still preferred to put it in a bag or carrying case. But nitpicks aside this is undoubtedly a very small and sleek device.
Apeman, fortunately, included a nifty tripod with this projector because without it it is kind of tricky to get the right angles. Another reason why putting the device in your pocket is a little useless because you’ll probably want to bring the tripod, cables and other accessories with you on the go—thus the need of a bag of some kind.
The brightness of the screen is very nice and clear. While it doesn’t have the insane contrast or HDR of expensive TV sets you can still display 1080p content with a powerful projection that will show up clearly on a variety of surfaces. The fan is also very quiet and is impossible to hear even at low volumes.
There are some technical limitations. The screen size of the only goes up to 100 inches which, again, wasn’t enough for me but may very well be more than enough for you. The battery life is also fairly sparse, going up to 120 minutes only.
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Affordability & Value: 3.5/5. At this price, you get quite a fair amount of functionality. I easily would have improved the score if the battery life were 3-4 hours long instead.
Reliability: 3.5/5. The portability and the bright screen really take things to the next level. You won’t have to worry if this random wall at your school or work won’t display the picture properly with a light bulb like this.
Versatility: 3.5/5. The 2-hour battery restricts how much you can do with this on the go. But in your home, just about any device can be easily connected to it without issue.
Nebula Mars Portable Cinema
- Decent 3-hour battery life
- 4K support
- Great speakers
- Decent looks
- Android and iOS support
- Bulky and doesn’t come with carrying case
I saved this projector for last because it is the most technical and most expensive one on my list. By just about all measures this is the best portable projector I have to discuss. But of course, the question always is: is it worth the price?
The Nebula Mars is made by the same people who brought us the Nebula Capsule. They even look similar, just differently shaped. The Nebula Mars has a handle and a rectangular design that reminded me of a lunchbox you bring on picnics. It weighs 4 pounds so it’s still lightweight.
The picture quality and lens are very high quality. This projector is capable of 4K projection, the only one on this list that can support this resolution. It can also wirelessly connect to Android or iOS devices for streaming apps like Hulu, Netflix or Youtube. A great addition as this is likely where you’ll be getting a lot of your 4K content.
The battery life is 3 hours which to me is what projectors should at least have. 2 hours is barely enough time to guarantee many movies so 3 hours just surpasses that sweet spot for me.
The speakers are definitely more powerful and clear than any other ones I’ve looked at before. Voices and bass which are normally a little hard to discern are easily audible regardless of how far you are from the projector.
Everything about the Nebula Mars is just top-notch but is it worth $600? That depends. This would be a great substitute to buying an expensive 4K television. But if you already have a great TV and just need a projector that acts as your secondary screen, the Nebula Capsule would be the better bet in my opinion. Unless you crave 4K quality on the go, you can find better values than this.
Affordability & Value: 3/5. The Nebula Mars is not overpriced, but unless you want a second 4K screen it doesn’t have as much value as some other devices on the market.
Reliability: 4/5. Durable, powerful and has a decent battery and bulb life. This projector will definitely last you years and years.
Versatility: 4.5/5. Few projectors have Android support and 4K. This combo alone makes this state of the art machine hard to top. This would have been a perfect 5/5 had the size been just a little more portable.
You should apply your own preferences to these five great portable projectors to figure out which one is the best for you. How much you want Android support, 4K, an internal battery, and other factors should all be considered when deciding on a new device.
I personally found the Viewsonic M1 and the Nebula Capsule to be the top two of the list, but you may feel differently.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and learned a little more about the benefits of portable projection screens.
Last update on 2023-05-22 at 04:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.