If you live or work in a smaller space like a dorm room, studio apartment, or home office, you may be considering a portable projector for entertainment and work presentations. That’s because regardless of how compact your space, projectors support really big screen displays. But not all portable projectors are made equal and several key aspects should guide your choice.
Certain constraints do come into play when using projectors in confined spaces. If you get the wrong one, you’ll compromise viewing experiences. For example, choosing a full-size long throw projector with 4K and HDR may sound appealing if you have the budget. But that projector simply won’t work in a small studio apartment because it needs big living room distances to function. By the same token, a compact portable projector that weighs less than your laptop has a lot of appeal. But without Wi-Fi and Bluetooth it’ll be nearly useless and not much help for streaming content, entertainment or otherwise.
Don’t despair. The right portable projector for you is out there, and you want it because you’ve come to the conclusion that a big screen TV or large monitor may not be the best solution for your needs.
Let’s quickly review a laundry list of essentials to look for in portable projectors that will help you make the most of a small space.
The whole point of portable is movability. So naturally a true portable projector has an integrated power source. Be wary of so-called portables that seem compact but then have an external power brick that must be tied to the wall at all times. Those aren’t really portable, clearly. Good portable projector models use power efficient designs to extend battery life, providing you with at least three hours of non-stop binge watching or business presentations. Smart portable projectors give you options when it comes to power management. For example, you can opt for 480p or 720p instead of 1080p to slightly increase battery life, turn wireless connectivity on and off, and select from several light source modes.
In any case, a good portable projector runs on its own power for several hours and recharges quickly. Don’t compromise here.
There’s no point of having a portable projector that relies entirely on cables, as that defeats the whole portability aspect. Look for models with Wi-Fi (preferably dual channel 2.4GHz/5GHz) and Bluetooth. With those on board, connecting to everything from your router to your smartphone becomes easy, so you have access to all your apps and content just as with other devices. Sure, good portable projectors have HDMI and USB-C, but those should not come at the expense of proper cable-free performance.
Wireless connectivity also allows projectors to remain updated with the latest firmware, downloading patches and new features without having to shut down or connect physically to the network.
Many cheap portable projectors get cheap by using very basic lens arrays and image processing. Those typically stay on the non-HD side of things, maxing out at 480p with no support for higher resolutions. While functional, they’re certainly not impressive, don’t do your content justice, and don’t leverage advances in technology.
Modern portable projectors support upscaling to full HD 1080p, which looks great and is more in line with the resolutions of current full size projectors, TVs, and monitors.
A true portable projector works like this: you take it out of your bag, put it anywhere, and power up. That’s all there is to it. No wires, no lengthy setup or bootup. Intuitive user interfaces and a complete independence from wires are what you need. A good portable projector gets you viewing on big screens or your nearest wall in seconds.
You want a portable projector that can be plonked anywhere to showcase on almost anything. You don’t want to have to think about viewing angles, surface densities, ambient light conditions, and next week’s weather forecast. Portability is simplicity.
It’s fine for expensive, big, and very serious cinephile projectors to have intricate setup and a control panel that looks like it came from a next gen space shuttle. But for portable projectors things need to be as streamlined as possible, like one button streamlined. Place and play serves as the guiding principle. In addition to working anywhere, portable projectors must have HDMI and USB, preferably USB-C. If you see a portable projector with component or composite connectors, avoid it.
Because good portable projectors have great sound through an integrated speaker and also include Bluetooth, they invariably work as projectors and, you guessed it, Bluetooth speakers. Double duty and twice the value, because you enjoy the full audiovisual spectrum based on your needs. Want to stream music from your phone in the morning to help liven up a team meeting? A portable projector can help. Want to have movie night at the office after a long day of brainstorming? Yes, a portable projector can help.
Designed to be taken on the road and join you on your adventures, portable and compact projectors must have proven resistance to water and drop hazards. IP54 and up required, IP67 a definite nice to have. The more durable, the better. Even at home or your office, elemental resistance proves a valuable asset in protecting your projector and freeing you from worries.
Portable projectors need to recharge and therefore connect to a power source on occasion. But you don’t want a cable that’ll bring the projector tumbling down if accidentally pulled on. Magnetic breakaway power connectors offer a safe and practical alternative, and are included on good portable models. Look for them in spec sheets when shopping.
Hopefully the list of features and key points above will help you find the perfect portable projector. There’s really no room for compromise because portable projectors serve a very specific purpose, and that’s to deliver large format viewing in a limited space at any location. Compromising will prevent you from accomplishing that goal, and you don’t want to do that.