Why you must belief us

Adrienne Maxwell has reviewed projectors and residential theater tools for over a decade. She is an ISF Stage II Licensed Calibrator, so she’s conscious of what makes for a great picture and the best way to get that out of a projector. She has a full complement of goal testing gear to measure and consider the efficiency of those projectors, in addition to the data to get the very best efficiency from them. To get a layperson’s perspective, employees author Daniel Varghese examined every projector to judge its usability and efficiency with real-world content material. Their work builds off of the testing that was performed in earlier years by employees writers Chris Heinonen and Sabrina Imbler.

Who can buy this

If you wish to benefit from the occasional impromptu film evening however do not essentially need a big-screen TV taking on area in your house, a transportable mini projector enables you to simply show video on a wall anyplace. They’re sufficiently small to hold from room to room and might present a 50-inch-plus picture on a wall or display. You will not be capable to use a mini projector as a TV substitute in the event you have a tendency to observe TV in the course of the day or in a really vivid room, however at the hours of darkness they appear nice and are nice area savers.

Many of those fashions are battery powered and have apps like Netflix inbuilt, so that you need not lug round energy cords and supply units—which makes them nice to take with you to a pal’s home or on trip. These projectors possible aren’t vivid sufficient for an outside film evening, however in the event you preserve the picture small and your yard is darkish, it would work. In a pinch, the brightest transportable mini projectors also can present a PowerPoint or different presentation in a room with the lights on, however these aren’t primarily enterprise projectors.

This isn’t the kind of projector you need for a devoted dwelling theater room. They aren’t vivid sufficient, and their black-level efficiency and colour accuracy are lower than dwelling theater requirements. For the very best image high quality, look to our information to the very best dwelling theater projector.

In the event you want a projector that is transportable however you do not want it to run off of a battery, take a look at our information to the very best low cost projector. These projectors use commonplace metallic halide lamps, somewhat than the little LED lamps inside these mini projectors—to allow them to be 5 to 10 occasions brighter and might simply create pictures 100 to 120 inches in dimension. They often have extra inputs and extra video changes to supply a extra correct image. If you would like a projector to observe films on the wall and nonetheless be capable to sometimes take it with you, a type of may be what you are after. However in the event you want one thing much more transportable, a battery-powered mini projector ought to do the trick.

How we picked and examined

Over the previous few years, we have researched over 43 transportable mini projectors and known as in over 15 fashions to check. To find out which projectors to check for our newest replace, we thought of the next parts:

  • Connection/supply choices: We solely thought of projectors that supply a number of enter choices so as to entry content material in numerous methods. We required all projectors to have a full-size HDMI enter, since that is about as common a connection as now we have as we speak (and will not require you to hold round an HDMI–to–Mini-HDMI adapter). We additionally thought of whether or not a projector has a slot for a USB thumb drive and if it has inner apps that can help you stream content material with out plugging in an exterior supply system.
  • Image high quality: A terrific mini projector ought to be capable to produce a fairly vivid, high-definition picture, so we regarded for fashions with at the very least a 720p decision and a said brightness round 300 lumens (realizing that the real-world quantity would possible be much less).
  • Portability: We regarded for projectors which might be battery powered and are at the very least small and lightweight sufficient to hold between rooms and put in a backpack.

With these parameters in thoughts, we narrowed the listing to 6 projectors to check in opposition to our earlier decide, the AAXA P300. Our take a look at group included the AAXA P6 (the up to date model of that earlier decide), the AAXA M6 (a barely greater projector that promised a brighter picture), the LG PF50KA (a preferred mannequin with a built-in digital TV tuner), the Anker Nebula Mars (which was virtually a decide final yr earlier than a rep mistakenly informed us it was being discontinued), the Anker Nebula Mars II (which guarantees an extended battery life than the unique Mars and provides assist for a distant app controller), and the Anker Nebula Mars Lite (which has the identical design because the Mars and Mars II, however no inner streaming apps).

We started our analysis by testing every projector’s goal efficiency. Adrienne Maxwell used SpectraCal’s CalMAN software program with a DVDO iScan Duo test-pattern generator and an i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer to measure every projector’s mild output, distinction ratio, and colour accuracy. Adrienne forged a 55-inch picture from every mannequin on a 1.1-gain Elite Screens matte white display. Colour accuracy was not superb with any of the projectors we measured, and although some provided a number of image modes and/or restricted image changes, none of it actually helped. However given the supposed use case for this sort of product, we expect that mild output and distinction ratio are a very powerful parameters, so listed here are the numbers we received in these areas:

Mannequin identify

Native decision

Measured distinction ratio

Max brightness (lumens)

Anker Nebula Mars II

1280×720

392:1

336

Anker Nebula Mars

1280×800

566:1

252

Anker Nebula Mars Lite

1280×720

341:1

223

LG PF50KA

1920×1080

275:1

159

AAXA P300

1280×800

353:1

180

AAXA P6

1280×800

228:1

191

AAXA M6

1920×1080

395:1

590

After these measurements had been full, Adrienne despatched the projectors to Daniel in New York for real-world testing. Daniel spent a number of hours utilizing every projector—by means of at the very least one run of its battery life—streaming films and TV from his laptop and, when attainable, utilizing the inner streaming functions. Daniel forged the picture instantly in opposition to a white wall, which is how we expect most individuals will use this sort of product.

In figuring out what makes the very best transportable mini projector, we prioritized ease of use over absolute picture high quality. With this sort of product, we imagine that though folks do worth a nice-looking picture, they’re keen to just accept some sacrifice in image high quality to get probably the most user-friendly expertise. So we set the next standards throughout our evaluations:

  • Person interface: We regarded for projectors that had well-designed menus that made it straightforward to change between varied inputs and regulate projector settings. If the projector had inner apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify, we made certain that these apps had been as straightforward to make use of because the cell and desktop variations (and that they obtain common updates).
  • Management choices: At minimal, the distant included with the projector ought to have buttons for energy, supply choice, and quantity that truly work. A really perfect distant is light-weight with a easy format that makes the entire major buttons straightforward to seek out, and never crowded by different choices. Some projectors provide the choice to obtain a distant app in your cellphone that you should use as an alternative of the included distant. We considered this as a bonus, so long as the app linked rapidly and was straightforward to make use of.
  • Image setup: Focusing and vertically keystoning (making your picture seem rectangular, even in the event you’re projecting a picture at an angle) your protector must be straightforward. We gave further factors to these projectors that did one or each of those capabilities mechanically.
  • Image high quality: We checked out how every projector measured objectively, in addition to how the picture regarded with real-world content material.
  • Speaker high quality: We needed to discover a projector that sounded adequate that you just will not want an exterior speaker as a way to get pleasure from no matter you are watching. However we made certain that, in the event you needed to, you might join one, both instantly or with Bluetooth.
  • Battery life: It is best to be capable to use your projector’s inner battery for at the very least the period of a median film, about 2½ hours.
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Our decide: Anker Nebula Mars II

Portable mini projector

Picture: Sarah Kobos

Of all of the mini projectors that we examined in 2018, the Anker Nebula Mars II is the simplest to arrange and use, and it delivers a reasonably vivid, correct picture with stable distinction and element. The Mars II has a clear interface, a well-designed distant, and an optionally available iOS/Android management app—all of which make navigating between linked sources and built-in streaming video apps like Netflix and Amazon Video easy. Its inner speaker is respectable sufficient that you just should not must hook up exterior audio system for an off-the-cuff film evening, though you’ll be able to simply join audio system instantly or by means of Bluetooth. And if you wish to use the Mars II unplugged from the wall, its inner battery lasts virtually 4 hours, even in the event you’re utilizing the built-in Netflix app your complete time.

Portable mini projector

The Mars II works with the Nebula management app, which makes navigating the built-in streaming apps like Netflix a lot simpler. Picture: Sarah Kobos

The Mars II employs the Android TV interface, like considered one of our favourite media streamers. When testing TVs, we have discovered that the Android interface will be laggy and unresponsive. On the Nebula Mars II, nevertheless, the software program labored precisely as anticipated. Having such a sublime interface made it straightforward to toggle between an HDMI supply like our Nintendo Change, a USB supply to see images from a latest journey, display mirroring with a cell system, or one of many many inner apps.

We had been capable of navigate the Android TV interface utilizing each the included distant—which is laid out cleanly and options solely the buttons you may use—and the smartphone app. Some inner apps, together with Netflix, require you to make use of the management app to navigate inside their interfaces. If you open these apps, a pop-up seems on the display telling you to make use of the management app. You possibly can try to make use of the distant anyway to carry out very fundamental navigation, however you may discover it would not can help you choose particular episodes or regulate settings in addition to the smartphone controller app. We initially discovered this annoying, however finally we ended up preferring to make use of the app over the distant—not having to dig into the folds of our sofa simply to regulate the amount is fairly nice.

Portable mini projector

The Mars II makes use of the Android TV OS, and the interface is clear and easy. Screenshot: Sarah Kobos

A lot of the mini projectors we examined produced a great, however not nice, picture, and the Nebula Mars II was no exception. What made the Mars II (and the entire Nebula projectors) stand out was how straightforward it’s to arrange that picture. It is because the entire Nebula projectors can mechanically focus and vertically keystone their picture in order that it is all the time optimized to your desired throw distance and angle. Everytime you transfer the projector to a brand new location, it pauses what’s taking part in and corrects the picture to its new distance and angle. This was a lot simpler than with the opposite projectors that require you to fiddle with a dial to focus (just like the LG PF50KA) or trapezoidal buttons on the distant to keystone (just like the AAXA P300)—and the ensuing picture regarded extra crisp and clear than what I used to be capable of dial in manually with a number of the different fashions.

Portable mini projector

The Mars II distant affords solely the buttons you actually need, in an intuitive format. Picture: Sarah Kobos

Although the Mars II was not the brightest or most correct projector in our take a look at, in vital areas like brightness and distinction, its goal numbers did land close to the highest (see the chart above). And the picture regarded actually good with actual content material—it is vivid sufficient and has a excessive sufficient distinction ratio that the picture was vibrant even in a room with some ambient mild.

On the audio aspect, its speaker was the most effective that we examined. Though it is just a little mild on bass, the sound from the Nebula Mars II is undistorted and full. You will haven’t any hassle understanding dialogue and listening to sound results, though you may lose a number of the particulars inside an underlying orchestral rating. Contemplating that different projectors we examined from AAXA and LG sounded compressed and actively disagreeable, we do not suppose the shortcomings of the Mars II are an enormous deal—particularly since you’ll be able to simply join exterior audio system by way of a 3.5 mm enter or Bluetooth.

Portable mini projector

The Mars II connection panel contains HDMI and USB inputs, plus a 3.5 mm audio output to attach an exterior speaker. Picture: Sarah Kobos

In our assessments, the projector’s battery lasted about three hours, 45 minutes whereas frequently streaming video from Netflix—so long as it was in battery mode, which decreases the brightness of the projector barely to preserve battery life. This must be greater than sufficient energy to final by means of a whole film. Whereas some projectors we examined dramatically reduce out in the course of a scene—Sopranos model—when their battery life expired, the Nebula Mars II offers you ample warning that it is time to go seize your charger.

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Flaws however not dealbreakers

As we stated earlier than, the Anker Nebula Mars II would not have the very best picture high quality, objectively talking, of the mini projectors that we examined. Each the AAXA M6 and the Anker Nebula Mars produce a brighter picture and have the next distinction ratio, and the AAXA P6 is extra color-accurate. However these projectors lack some usability options that we expect are extra vital to the general expertise.

The Anker Nebula Mars projectors are the most important mini projectors we examined. You possibly can match them in a backpack, however it will be awkward to hold a lot else. That stated, in the event you’re focused on lugging the Mars II solely in between rooms or out to the yard, this should not be an enormous deal. The truth is, the skinny deal with on the highest really makes this simpler.

Runner-up: Anker Nebula Mars

Portable mini projector

Picture: Sarah Kobos

In the event you prioritize picture high quality over usability, the Anker Nebula Mars is a wonderful different to the Nebula Mars II. The Nebula Mars affords the very best total picture high quality of any projector we examined for this replace, and it has the identical inputs, Android TV interface, distant design, and dimension and form as its newer sibling. Nevertheless, the older Mars would not assist the iOS/Android app, which makes it troublesome to make use of a number of the up to date variations of the inner Android apps, like Netflix. Plus, its battery life is just a little bit shorter than that of the Mars II, and this mannequin prices extra.

Portable mini projector

The Mars and Mars II have an equivalent design, with a handy carrying deal with. Picture: Sarah Kobos

The Mars shouldn’t be as user-friendly because the Mars II. Though it additionally affords the identical set of inputs (HDMI and USB), screen-mirroring assist, distant, auto focus and keystone system, and Android TV functions because the Mars II, the dearth of assist for a management app makes the Mars much less intuitive to make use of every day. Among the inner apps are optimized to be used particularly with the cell app controller and do not fairly work as anticipated whenever you use the distant. For instance, when streaming Netflix on the Mars II, we had been simply ready to make use of the app distant to pick the precise season and episode of Parks and Recreation that we needed to indicate to our associates. (Season 2, Episode 22: Andy brings a pet into the workplace, and it licks Ron’s mustache.) With the Mars, we had been unable to make use of the provided distant to select an episode apart from the one we had been beforehand watching.

Portable mini projector

The Mars and Mars II remotes are equivalent, as effectively. Picture: Sarah Kobos

The image high quality of the Mars, nevertheless, is healthier than that of the Mars II by each metric. The picture is notably brighter (336 lumens in contrast with 252 lumens for the Mars II), and this projector has the next measured distinction ratio than any projector we examined for this spherical. Plus, it has probably the most correct colour temperature, which implies the “colour of white” will not look too blue or too pink. Even in the event you’re utilizing the Mars in an setting with some ambient mild, you must be capable to get pleasure from a well-saturated picture with a pleasant quantity of element, and the upper mild output enables you to go bigger on the display dimension and nonetheless get a vivid image.

The Mars has a barely worse battery life than the Mars II—two and a half hours versus virtually 4 hours—but it surely’s lengthy sufficient to final everything of most films and a number of TV episodes. Its inner speaker sounds just like that of the Mars II, and you should use your personal audio system, both by plugging them into the three.5 mm enter or by means of Bluetooth.

Price range decide: Anker Nebula Mars Lite

Portable mini projector

Picture: Sarah Kobos

The Anker Nebula Mars Lite lacks a number of the options that make the Mars II really easy to make use of in quite a lot of environments, together with inner functions like Netflix and assist for the smartphone management app. However in the event you plan to make use of your mini projector primarily with exterior sources like a pc, media streamer, Blu-ray participant, or thumb drive, the Mars Lite affords surprisingly good picture high quality and lengthy battery life at a a lot cheaper price than our different picks.

Portable mini projector

The entire Nebula projectors have a slide-up cowl to guard the lens. Picture: Sarah Kobos

In contrast to the Mars and Mars II, the Mars Lite would not use the Android TV working system, so it lacks inner streaming apps, in addition to assist for display mirroring. So as to use it, you need to join an exterior system to its HDMI or USB port. This makes it just a little tougher to simply sit down and cue up one thing to observe, and it makes the system much less transportable as a result of it’s important to take supply units together with you. That stated, as soon as your units are linked and able to go, the Mars Lite’s easy interface makes it straightforward to toggle between inputs and regulate the projector’s settings.

Portable mini projector

The Mars Lite lacks the Android TV OS and built-in apps of its costlier siblings, so the consumer interface could be very fundamental. Screenshot: Sarah Kobos

When it comes to measurements, the Mars Lite emitted a barely dimmer picture with a decrease distinction ratio than the Mars II, however its picture was extra color-accurate (it earned the second greatest rating of the seven projectors we examined). Maybe extra vital, the Mars Lite has the identical auto focus and keystone system because the Mars and Mars II, which makes the Lite’s crisp picture simply as straightforward to achieve with out a lot further effort.

Portable mini projector

With no built-in streaming providers, the Mars Lite depends on HDMI and USB for sources. Right here we’re working HDMI from a laptop computer. Picture: Sarah Kobos

The Mars Lite’s battery life is about three hours—lengthy sufficient to final by means of most films and several other TV episodes, however not so long as that provided by the Mars II. The Mars Lite’s speaker is relatively just a little worse than that of the Mars II. At max quantity, the Mars Lite’s speaker is just a little quieter, however you may nonetheless be capable to perceive dialogue and listen to the rating. And though you’ll be able to nonetheless join exterior audio system instantly by way of the three.5 mm enter, the Mars Lite would not can help you join exterior audio system by means of Bluetooth (despite the fact that you should use the Lite as a Bluetooth speaker itself).

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What to stay up for

In October 2018, Anker introduced the Nebula Capsule II, a follow-up to the Anker Nebula Capsule. Even though the unique Capsule employs the identical easy-to-use software program because the Nebula Mars II, we dismissed it from consideration as a result of it might show pictures at a most decision of solely 480p. The Capsule II will likely be a bit extra highly effective than the unique—reportedly able to outputting pictures with a 720p decision and 200 lumens of brightness. It additionally costs over USB-C, has a extra highly effective speaker, and contains Google Assistant. We’ll think about testing the Capsule II as soon as it’s launched.

The competitors

We examined the next projectors in 2018 and determined to not advocate them.

AAXA M6: This projector is extraordinarily vivid, greater than twice as vivid because the Anker Nebula Mars II. Its image can be comparatively color-accurate with a excessive distinction ratio, however the colour temperature appears to be like overly inexperienced. Sadly, not solely does this projector lack inner apps, but it surely additionally can not keystone its picture. In the event you’re making an attempt to observe a film from the consolation of your sofa, you might need to place the projector on a tripod to ensure that its picture to look at eye stage—you’ll be able to’t simply prop it at an angle with a ebook.

AAXA P300: Our earlier high decide, this projector options only a few connection choices. In the event you’re planning to hook up a tool by way of solely HDMI, it really works nice, however the mannequin we examined did not enable us to play the video information we had loaded onto the thumb drive that we plugged into the projector’s USB enter. As a result of the projector lacks inner apps and the flexibility to hook up with Wi-Fi, this mannequin’s portability is proscribed since you’ll by no means be capable to depart your laptop and HDMI cable at dwelling. As well as, the P300 would not have auto focus or keystone, which makes producing a transparent picture tougher. And even whenever you’ve optimized the picture to your placement, it appears to be like just a little dim and reddish.

AAXA P6: The P6 is brighter and extra color-accurate than its predecessor, the P300. Its inner speaker additionally sounds higher—you’ll perceive the dialogue from films and TV, however you may not be capable to make out the rating. That stated, it has the identical usability points. We expect you would be higher off with one thing that has inner apps, automated focus, and automated keystoning.

LG PF50KA: This projector has loads of connection choices (it even features a TV tuner) and a well-designed consumer interface. Sadly, you’ll be able to’t say the identical about its included distant, which is crowded with tons of buttons that do not serve important capabilities. Plus, its picture is way dimmer than that of the Anker Nebula Mars II and noticeably bluer than it must be.

In earlier years, we examined and dismissed these projectors:

AAXA P300 Neo: This projector regarded like a more recent, smaller, cheaper model of the AAXA P300. However the picture wasn’t as vivid or clear as that of the unique P300, sporting a distinction ratio below half that of the AAXA P300, and we could not get the keystone correction to work.

AAXA P4X: Though it is small and transportable, this projector is not vivid sufficient for many conditions, and proprietor critiques are typically unfavourable.

Anker Nebula Capsule: A scaled-down model of the Nebula Mars that is across the dimension of a tall soda can. It runs on the identical Android software program because the Mars and Mars II, which implies it’s simply as straightforward to make use of and claims its battery lasts as much as 4 hours. However its 854×480 decision is simply too low for streaming films. It is also a lot dimmer than the Nebula Mars Lite.

Asus S1: A previous decide, this small projector comes with a carrying case and has a built-in battery that delivers as much as three hours of use. It produces a big picture and not using a lengthy throw distance, but it surely delivers simply 90 lumens at 480p, which is way too dim and small for a film screening at dwelling. The picture can be noticeably washed out. This is absolutely the smallest transportable projector we examined, so in the event you want an ultralight, compact projector in a pinch, you may test it out.

Asus ZenBeam E1: This projector produces a tiny 854×480 image at 150 lumens. Measuring 4.Three by 3.27 by 1.14 inches and weighing 11 ounces, it is smaller than even the Asus S1 (and with a 6,000 mAh battery, it lasts for 5 hours—two hours longer than the S1). Nevertheless it’s simply not vivid sufficient.

DBPower T20: This frequent Amazon greatest vendor claims to supply a particularly vivid picture (1,800 lumens) and a 1080p decision. It manages to supply all these lumens by including an extreme blue tint to the picture, which makes it seem brighter however produces a horrible picture. Chris known as it “by far the worst show system I’ve ever examined, with a grayscale that’s excessively blue and colours that aren’t correct in any respect, with very low HDTV gamut protection.” It is also simply giant and heavy, however with no inner battery and not one of the perks. We do not advocate anybody purchase it.

Optoma ML550: Compact and transportable with a rated 500 lumens, this projector has no battery possibility. With sufficient fashions obtainable that supply battery energy, it did not make the reduce.

Vivitek Qumi Q6: This projector has twin HDMI inputs and helps 3D, but it surely reveals video processing bugs that cut back the picture high quality. It must be nearer to the wall than the Anker Mars II to supply the identical dimension picture. There are posterization artifacts with shifting objects, particularly on faces, which makes it a worse selection for films. The interior Wi-Fi lets a number of folks join and undertaking content material for shows, however this does not make up for its different points.

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