Choosing the best portable projector isn’t easy. Right now, the market is saturated with mini and compact projectors, and while a lot of them have similar features and strengths, they’re not all created equal. Two rival projectors, for example, with the same size and shape might not have the same features. Or, if they do, they might not deliver the same performance.
Another thing that’ll make choosing one trickier is the fact that there are many cheap projectors out there that might distract you from better quality options. The idea of a sub-$200/£200 projector online might be very appealing, but it’s likely too good to be true. The cold, hard fact is that portable projectors are fairly new, and as with any new tech, they won’t come cheap.
You can, however, find affordable models that still deliver top-notch quality. Just like you can find high-end options that are more than worth the splurge. That’s why we’ve tested a number of these popular projectors ourselves to see which ones are worth your hard-earned money.
From budget options that might be slimmed down but will save you a lot of money, to premium projectors that deliver truly breathtaking performance and picture quality, we gathered the best we’ve tested so far on this guide for your benefit. Take a good look at our list before you buy.
If you're looking for something bigger, brighter or with more resolution, try our best projector guide for 4K and HDR models.
The best portable projectors, ranked
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On a price to performance ratio, the Xgimi Elfin is the undeniable winner. This smart projector might not be the most compact – and technically, Xgimi classifies it as a smart home projector, rather than a portable one – but its small and squarish pancake design still makes it an excellent travel companion. That’s whether you’re hopping on a transatlantic flight or driving across the country.
Better than being portable, however, it’s one of the best performing yet surprisingly affordable smart projectors we’ve tested. As we say in our Xgimi Elfin review, it is “surprisingly robust, capable and effortless to use for one that you can easily slip into your tote bag or backpack.”
It’s not just snappy in performance. Its 800 ANSI lumen brightness and X-Vue 2.0 image engine deliver such bright, vibrant visuals and excellent picture quality that you will start to wonder why you still have a massive TV taking up a lot of space in your living room. Meanwhile, its Intelligent Screen Adaption (ISA) technology makes manual keystone adjustments practically unnecessary. In fact, this projector has perhaps one of the most intuitive auto keystone corrections we’ve ever encountered. And, those are just to start.
Other praise-worthy features here are its Android TV 10.0 OS, plethora of connectivity options, and 16GB of storage, which should come in handy when Wi-Fi isn’t available. It also boasts a whopping 200-inch maximum projection so you can also use it in larger rooms during a Super Bowl or FIFA World Cup party. Sadly, there’s no built-in battery and Xgimi still hasn’t obtained certification for Netflix support, but those aren’t exactly deal-breakers considering everything else you’re getting.
If you want the best portable projector bar none, then our pick would be the Xgimi Halo+, which takes everything we love about the Elfin, bumps it up a notch, and crams everything in a robust yet incredibly compact package. And, really, the only reason why this hasn’t made it to the top of the pile is because its steep price does put it out of many consumers’ reach.
However, if you do have the budget for it, you won’t be disappointed. Also boasting Xgimi’s X-VUE 2.0 image engine as well as its integrated 60Hz motion compensation technology (MEMC) and 900 ANSI lumen brightness, you’re getting a viewing experience that’s more elevated than, dare we say, anything else on this list. As our Xgimi Halo+ review says, it “manages to stand out from the crowd of smart portable projectors out there. It’s so close to perfection, in fact, that you’ll be hard-pressed to find fault in it.”
You’re not just getting bright, vibrant, and sharp images, you’re also getting smooth and clean visuals. That’s on top of its snappy performance when opening apps and starting content. You can even adjust the refresh rate, if you’re not feeling the lifelike movements at 60Hz. Of course, it also comes with Xgimi’s intuitive Intelligent Obstacle Avoidance and Intelligent Screen Alignment so you’ll never have to waste time on manual keystone adjustments ever again.
Another standout here is its dual 5W Harman Kardon speaker system that delivers 180-degree audio, boasts DTS and Dolby Audio support, and is surprisingly loud. Oh, and did we mention it’s got a built-in battery and 16GB of storage to perfectly round out its portable nature?
The thing that makes the HP CC200 Citizen Cinema unique, especially compared to other projectors on this list, is that it goes back and sticks to the basics. HP has decided to make this a minimalist portable projector with no smart TV features, and that puts it right in the middle of a severely underserved market and in the perfect position to target budget-minded consumers who want a high-quality portable projector with true 1080p native resolution but cannot afford all those over $400/£400 options.
It’s a brilliant move, especially because even if you do have to purchase a streaming stick to use with it, you’re still spending a whole lot less than any of the other options here. And, you can enjoy Netflix without going through hoops. If you don’t want to spend anymore, you always have your laptop or a USB flash drive. Don’t let its 200 ANSI lumen brightness turn you off; it’s still plenty bright, even if the dynamic range isn’t very wide. Plus, the colors are vibrant and the images are sharp and clean. It also comes with a remote that has focus buttons, which we do appreciate and have used often during our testing.
Because there aren’t any special features, setup is quick and painless. That’s despite the fact that there’s no auto keystone correction or auto focus. As we say in the HP CC200 Citizen Cinema review it “skips the frills, opting to focus instead on picture quality, audio, and affordability.”
The Anker Nebula Solar looks like it could be a direct rival to the Xgimi Elfin because it’s sporting that same squarish pancake form factor that’s travel-friendly and wobble-resistant. However, a closer look at both projectors’ specs will show you that the Elfin is the superior of the two, with the Solar cutting that 800 ANSI lumens brightness in half, only offering a 120-inch maximum projected display, and not being as snappy in performance.
However, those compromises might be worth it for not-so nitpicky viewers who don’t care about having a massive display, super bright visuals, and blazing fast performance. As our Anker Nebula Solar review says, “its biggest drawback is that it might not be bright enough, but only for the most discerning viewers.”
That’s especially since the Solar is much cheaper with its sub-$500/£500 price tag. In the world of smart 1080p portable projectors, that’s practically a steal. Even more impressive is that it stays cool and relatively quiet under pressure. As for its picture quality, you’re getting sharp and clean visuals and vibrant colors.
Plus, it comes with its share of unique features like the Bluetooth speaker mode that allows it to function as a Bluetooth speaker (without having to go through the user interface) and a built-in kickstand, both of which should come in handy. The built-in speakers are nothing to write home about, but connect it to a separate Bluetooth speaker, and you’ll get a better audio experience.
The Anker Nebula Cosmos might be the biggest portable on this list, and it’s best-suited for home use, especially when you’re trying to save space and don’t have room for a TV. Still, we’ve stuffed this in a backpack and brought it with us to another location, and we’re happy to report that it definitely still counts as portable. You might not be able to bring it with you on the plane – you can, but it isn’t practical – but you’ll be happy to take it with you on camping trips or take it outside for a movie night under the stars.
In fact, it’s ideal for such occasions, especially if you’ve got a few people in your party. Its built-in 20W speakers are designed to deliver 360-degree sound, ensuring that everyone around it gets the same audio experience. And, they can get pretty loud as well. As we see in the Anker Nebula Cosmos review, it delivers, touting great smart features, a snappy performance, and a fairly powerful set of pipes.
Plus, its 900 ANSI lumen maximum brightness means that you can start enjoying movies at sunset, instead of waiting until it's dark. As for its performance, it might be slow to wake, but it’s snappy when opening apps and playing content. The picture quality is sharp and vibrant as well.
We’re not big fans of its egg-shape design, but that’s a matter of preference. What does matter is its size and weight – be sure that you’re bringing with you a sturdy surface or robust tripod to mount this on.
Think of the Kodak Luma 450 as a compromise between the HP CC200 and any of the smart portable projectors on this list, except in a much smaller package. As we say in the Kodak Luma 450 review, “next to [this], other portable and mini projectors out there feel like absolute behemoths.” It has some smart TV features, even very rudimentary Netflix app support, but like the CC200, you’re better off porting a streaming stick not just for convenience but to get more apps as well.
It doesn’t look like the Luma 450 is trying to compete with any of the options on the market, however. It’s doing its own thing, which is to deliver that projector function in the smallest form factor possible. This projector is so portable that you can slip it into your jacket pocket, and no one would notice. Don’t judge it by its tiny frame, either. This little projector that could delivers snappy performance – likely due to its light-as-a-Chromebook operating system, a 150-inch maximum image projection, and a 3,500:1 contrast ratio.
Just when you think Kodak couldn’t possibly fit any more in there, it surprises you with built-in speakers and a built-in battery that gives you three hours of viewing time when you’re on eco mode. The on-device user interface isn’t the most seamless, but it comes with Kodak Luma App support, which should improve the way you interact with the projector.
It seems that no brand has mastered finding that price to performance sweet spot quite as well as Xiaomi, at least when it comes to home and lifestyle tech products, so we’re happy to see it hit the portable projectors market as well. The Mi Smart Compact Projector 2 is not just compact and a great performer, making it a top contender if you’re looking for the best portable projector, but it’s beautifully modern and minimalist, which allows it to fit in just about anywhere.
In terms of picture quality, while it lacks the nuances of an actual TV – we doubt most of these projectors can measure up to a 4K TV – and lacks the deep blacks and detail in dark scenes, it’s more than good enough for streaming content, especially when a TV isn’t actually an option. Plus, its built-in speaker, which supports Dolby Audio and delivers dual channel sound, is more than loud enough to fill a small-sized room.
The best part about this 1080p projector, however, is its Netflix app support. While most of the other smart projectors out there are struggling to get it, this one’s certified for official Netflix app support. In fact, it’s the first-ever Android TV projector to secure it. That makes it ideal for all the loyal Netflix fans.
As we say in the Mi Smart Compact Projector 2 review, While its capable of large screen sizes, you’ll need to dim the lights to enjoy it as the brightness is a little lacking but for the bedroom or movie night on the sofa, it’s ideal.
If we were to pick a 1080p projector we’d want to bring with us on our long travels, we’d pick the Xgimi MoGo Pro+. It might not be as small as the Kodak Luma 450, but it’s the second smallest on this list. Better yet, it comes with excellent features that only adds to its portability, including a built-in battery that gives you up to four hours of playtime, dual Harman-Kardon speakers with enough volume to fill a small room, and Android TV for smart TV viewing. That’s not to mention 16GB of storage space that can store up to 10 movies and 1,000 songs.
Performance-wise, it delivers true 1080p display resolution, a 76-inch projected display at two meters, and immersive image quality. Even if it’s just at 300 lumens, you can enjoy viewing at dusk. And, while it might not come with the Elfin and Halo+’s intuitive screen alignment and obstacle avoidance technologies, it comes with its own keystone correction function that minimizes manual adjustments from your end.
Because it is lightweight and has a cuboid form factor, it’s not exactly the most stable. So, be sure to place it on a very secure, solid surface; lest, you risk a wobble-filled night of streaming. As we say in the Xgimi MoGo Pro+ review, “If you’re looking for a mini projector that you can take and play just about anywhere, it can’t get better than this.”
How we test projectors
All of our projectors have been tested by experts in the field who have used hundreds of models over the years and understand what makes a good projector. Each model is used for a period of time in a home environment – often the same setup – to watch a wide range of content, including movies and TV shows. We assess not just the quality of the image but also the sound and the useability of the projectors, commenting on the setup, operation and even the noise and heat it generates in operation. For more on our reviewing process, see our how we test (opens in new tab) page.
What to look for in the best portable projector
Price is certainly one of the biggest factors to consider when you’re shopping around for the best portable projector for your needs. However, know that these projectors aren’t going to be cheap – at least not the great quality ones, and especially not the ones with smart TV capabilities.
While we’re on that topic, not all portable projectors come with that smart TV functionality. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth a look, especially if they save you quite a bit of money. After all, there are a number of cheap streaming sticks out there that you store in your pocket and can easily port into projectors via their HDMI port.
Be prepared to invest more than $200/£200 of your money. If you find something that’s under that, then likely it’s not powerful enough or it has a resolution of under 720p – essentially, a toy. You’re better off saving up for something that’s better quality.
In terms of what you should look for in a portable projector, you need to take a good look at the resolution, projected display size, maximum brightness, and projector size. Most options out there come with 1080p resolution and up to 120-inch projection, but you’ll find some great 720p and 4K offerings as well as a handful that can deliver a 200-inch display size.
When it comes to maximum brightness, we’ve noticed that the higher a projector’s maximum brightness is, the more expensive it is. So, if you’re trying to save money, something with 200 to 500 ANSI lumens should be enough to use with the lights off. If you’re more flexible with your budget, pick something that’s around 800 to 900 ANSI lumens. And, if you’ve got deep pockets, you’ll find some pricey options that will blast your eyeballs with over 2,000 ANSI lumens.
Size-wise, we’re defining “portable,” for the sake of this buying guide, as something you can conveniently put in a bag and travel with. Decide early on what size is best for your needs. If you plan on taking your portable on flights, for example, you shouldn’t get anything that might take up more than a quarter of the space in your carry-on luggage. However, if you need one for your summer RV road trips, getting a bigger one isn’t going to be an issue.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you require a built-in battery. Although it seems like a given, considering their portable nature, not all portable projectors have a built-in battery. If you plan on using yours in places where outlets aren’t readily available, definitely consider getting one with a battery. Know though that you’ll just have anywhere from two to four hours of video playback per charge.