These portable projectors have been tested indoors, and outside for movie nights on both pricey screens and off-white walls.
A portable projector can create a small, theater-like experience in a family room, backyard or camper with minimal setup.
Despite their convenience, consumers in search of a portable projector for indoor movies and backyard use can easily get bogged down with marketing jargon.
Portable projectors are sometimes referred to as mini projectors or pico projectors. Many models also get lumped in with “smart projectors” because the projector has an operating system with built-in streaming apps.
But portables are a class of their own, little hand-held machines that you can easily carry to your yard or across the country. These kinds of projectors are designed for entertainment instead of office or business use.
You can go directly to my bullet list summary of the best portable projectors, go to individual sections for each best projector, or read the entire review.
I started testing out portable projectors in 2017 with the Anker Mars Pro II. Over the last six years, I conducted hands-on tests and side-by-side comparisons of portable projectors from AAXA, BenQ, Nebula, XGIMI and Dangbei.
I have likewise spent time trying out home theater projectors and have started using an ultra short throw projector. Many models that I have reviewed use built-in Android TV software, and streaming sticks. Some of these units can use a TV tuner over Wi-Fi so I can watch free over-the-air TV.
My quick takeaway? The newest portable projector models aren’t always the ones to buy.
Some of the best projectors are portable models that are a couple of years old. Portable projectors that came out within the last year or two don’t come at a premium price tag, especially if you keep your eye out for sales, or Amazon Prime Day.
Image quality is often touted as a key metric for picking a projector. But after spending hundreds of hours watching movies and live TV outdoors, audio quality, Wi-Fi range, fan noise, and lumens rating are equally important.
Best portable projectors for 2023
XGIMI Halo Plus is the best portable projector for 2023. The Halo Plus has 900 lumens, Full HD (1080p) picture resolution, and HDR10 support. Its compact frame makes it easy to carry. The projector has two robust 5W speakers by harman kardon and a rechargeable built-in battery.
BenQ GS50 is the best portable projector for outdoors and camping. Its splash-proof frame and drop-proof frame delivers 1080p picture resolution, 500 lumens brightness and powerful speakers. The GS50 has two 5W, 2.1 Channel Bluetooth Speakers.
Anker Nebula Capsule II is still the best portable projector for traveling. The Capsule II has 720 picture resolution and only 200 lumens, but delivers an impressive picture in the dark, and great sound with an 8W Bluetooth speaker. Its soda can sized frame makes it very easy to take on the road, and use any place that has a flat surface for a screen.
XGIMI Halo Plus
The XGIMI Halo Plus is my favorite portable 1080p projector for its image quality, and portability. The Halo Plus is powered by Android TV 10 which has most streaming and movie apps from the Google Play Store.
The brightness and color make the XGIMI Halo Plus stand out with Full High Definition, 1080p picture resolution. The HDR10 support is a nice extra if you are streaming movies on Disney+ or Amazon Prime, which offers HDR in their streaming services at no extra cost.
The projector has 900 ANSI lumens. I can watch TV or a movie in my office with ambient light. Nighttime viewing is ideal.
The Android TV software includes Google Chromecast, which gives you the option to stream apps from mobile devices such as iPhones, laptops or tablets. The built-in battery is advertised as having four hours of power. It lasted just under the three hour mark in my testing.
There is a difference in brightness when you use a power outlet. Battery use gives you a slightly dimmer, but watchable picture. For maximum brightness from the lamp, you are better off using it with its power cable.
The Halo Plus body is square and compact at 6 ½ inches tall. But you probably want to handle the projector with two hands. It weighs about 3 and a half pounds. The build quality is very good. The Halo Plus has a hard plastic frame that looks and feels metallic. The speakers can function as a standalone Bluetooth speaker for music apps.
There is an HDMI port in the back so you could connect a different streaming device or a game console. The XGIMI Halo Plus is a follow up to the XGIMI Halo, which has 800 lumens, and many of the same features and specs with minimal design changes.
The Halo Plus remote control is feature rich with Google Assistant and dedicated buttons to dive into the settings and switch inputs. With buttons and toggles for autofocus and keystone correction, it makes getting your best picture quality essentially idiot-proof.
XGIMI Halo Plus specs
- 900 ANSI lumens
- 1080p picture resolution (1920 x 1080)
- Keystone correction (vertical / horizontal)
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth speaker
- Outlet or Battery-powered (approx 3 to 4 hour playtime)
BenQ GS50 is the best portable projector for camping and outdoors thanks to its splash-proof body.
The sides of the chassis have a rubberized finish. Each port has snap-in covers to keep out moisture. The rugged exterior doesn’t impact the internal specs or picture quality. The GS50 weighs just over 5 lbs. It is not as lightweight as the XGIMI Halo+. But the GS50 is still easy to carry, especially since it has a strap attached to its side.
The projector delivers 1080p picture resolution with 500 ANSI lumens. It is brighter and has better picture quality than a number of smaller handheld mini projectors. There are two 5W built-in speakers (2.1 Channel Bluetooth Speakers) and a 10W woofer.
The GS50, includes a streaming dongle that runs on Android TV (Android 10) and supports most streaming apps such as Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. Google Assistant is included. The projector’s remote control has dedicated buttons for autofocus and keystone correction.
The GS50 can double as a portable speaker that you can pair with a smartphone for music.
The Wi-Fi is dual band, and connects to 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz.
Assuming that you are using the GS50 outdoors, and far away from any kind of internet connection, the three input ports come in handy. There is a USB-C port that allows you to plug in hardware that supports DisplayPort functionality. There is a HDMI port (Version 2.0b) that has Arc support and a USB-A 2.0 port.
The GS50 has a rechargeable, built-in battery that can last up to 2.5 hours in low-power mode. You can plug it into a power outlet to maximize the projector’s brightness.
BenQ GS50 specs
- 500 ANSI lumens
- 1080p picture resolution (1920×1080)
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
- 5W x 2 (2.1 Channel Bluetooth speaker)
- LED light source
- Android TV (Android 10)
- Google Assistant
- Rubberized finish
Nebula Capsule II
The Anker Nebula Capsule II is the best portable projector for travel. Anker should be credited for driving the popularity of battery-powered portable projectors in recent years, largely in part because of its Capsule series of mini projectors.
The Capsule II, like its predecessor and its new sibling the Nebula Capsule III, is the size of a pint glass. The built-in rechargeable batteries hold up well for both movie watching or using a standalone Bluetooth speaker.
The battery life lasts 2 ½ to 3 hours as long as you fully charge it before first use.
The Capsule II’s picture quality is pretty exceptional for a mini projector of this size. It has 720p picture resolution and 200 ANSI lumens.
The Capsule II runs on Android TV software that’s been regularly updated since its debut in 2019. The latest software update added the Discover tab, which recommends movies and shows.
Auto-focus and automatic keystone correction makes it very easy to quickly set up. And that’s a big deal if you’re away from home, whether you are in a hotel, camping area or outdoors.
There is a universal tripod fitting on the bottom. In my experience, even though the Capsule is very lightweight, it’s better to use a tripod because you can get the right picture level and elevation much quicker.
The remote control is similar to what you would get on a streaming device — it has buttons for power, volume, Google Assistant and navigation. It uses two triple AAA batteries.
There is an 8W Bluetooth speaker with really impressive bass. You can use the projector as a standalone speaker for streaming music on Spotify, Tidal or whatever you use.
The Capsule II is a quiet projector. The fan is barely noticeable.
The Nebula Capsule II has the lowest lumens rating out of my three picks. That means you will only want to use this in a dark room. If you’re outside, you can start using this around dusk, but pitch black is going to give you your best experience.
I’ve watched a lot of movies on the Capsule II, using both streaming services, and on an external hard drive. And I’ve been very pleased with the overall experience.
With Netflix, you do need to sideload the app by first downloading File Explorer from the Google Play Store.
You can then launch Netflix through the Nebula mobile app. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it does give you a sideloaded version of Netflix that works, and allows you to even download content if you don’t plan on having an Internet connection.
Even though the Capsule II is the least brightest out of these three projectors, it definitely has the best audio — especially when it comes to bass.
If you’re serious about HD picture quality, great audio but want something really small and portable, the Nebula Capsule II checks off a lot of boxes, and makes for a great little projector.
Nebula Capsule II specs
- 200 ANSI lumens
- 720p picture resolution
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Android TV software with Google Assistant
- Netflix works (sideloaded)
- 8W Bluetooth speaker
Other projectors I have reviewed and tested
Nebula Solar Portable is a 1080p projector with 400 ANSI lumens of brightness. The Solar Portable has two 3W speakers that support Dolby Audio, and can connect to your other Bluetooth speakers to fuller sound.
AAXA P6X is the best cheap pico portable projector that can be used for a movie night. The P6X supports 720p resolution and is surprisingly bright with 1,100 LED lumens. (Generally speaking, 1,000 LED lumens converts to 417 ANSI lumens.) The color is saturated a little too much, and lacks the contrast you will find with more expensive projectors.
The Dangbei Mars Pro 4K is a laser projector that sits somewhere between portable and home theater projector. It has a box-like frame and no battery. It’s one of the brightest projectors I have tested with 3,200 ANSI lumens. The native software is a bit of a mixed bag, so you are better off using your own streaming device. Expect to pay a premium for the bright, crisp picture.
The Nebula Capsule Max has 720p resolution, and 200 ANSI lumens. The Capsule Max is a stripped down model of the Capsule II because it lacks Android TV software, yet has a workaround for using Netflix (mobile app) that is a bit better than other solutions that I have tested. The Capsule Max has a great 8W Bluetooth speaker, decent battery life and stays portable with its pint-sized design.
The BenQ GV1 is fun and easy to carry around. I really like its compact design and its adjustable neck, which pivots 15 inches. The adjustable neck is great, and I would love to see a follow up with this kind of design. The GV1 has 200 ANSI lumens, but unfortunately, only 480p resolution.
Best Portable Projectors FAQs
How many lumens is good for a portable projector?
Portable projectors are generally not very bright, especially compared to home theater projectors and ultra-short throw projectors. You are not going to find the same brightness as a TV.
To watch a portable projector in the dark, you should pick a projector with at least 200 ANSI lumens (e.g. Check out Anker’s Nebula Capsule II.) XGIMI’s new Mogo Pro 2 has 400 ANSI lumens.
Lumens measures the brightness of the light source inside your portable projector. The higher the lumens, the better chance you will have a full, bright picture.
Home theater projectors range between 1,000 to 2,500 lumens, which can give you a great picture, but they get expensive quickly. With portable projectors, your range of lumens should be at least half that, but there are some good models that are less bright.
What is the best portable projector capable of full HD?
There are a number of models that are capable of Full HD (or 1080p resolution). The XGIMI Halo Plus has Full HD resolution and support for HDR10. Models by Nebula, BenQ, Epsom, and others also have portable projectors with Full HD.
What portable projectors came out in 2023?
There are some newer models that hit the market in 2023, including the Nebula Capsule III Laser, the Nebula Mars 3 and XGIMI’s Mogo 2 models that I have yet to test out.
The Capsule Laser III has 300 ANSI lumens and 1080p resolution. The Nebula Mars 3 has 1,100 ANSI lumens and 1080p resolution.
The XGIMI Mogo 2 has 400 ANSI lumens with 720p resolution. The XGIMI Mogo 2 Pro has 400 lumens with 1080p resolution.
Why aren’t there any 2023 projectors on the list?
I have spent many months testing out the durability of the portable projectors listed in my review. There may be something brand new portable projector that’s great and tops previous models, but only time can really determine that.
I generally spend weeks or months testing out a model, and then write a stand-alone review. If a projector merits “best of” status for meeting a number of performance benchmarks, I will update this review accordingly.
What should I look for in a portable movie projector?
If you want a portable projector for watching movies outside your home, you should buy one with a strong battery life, decent speakers and a minimal amount of fan noise.
Models that have a version of Android TV software are convenient because it supports most major streaming apps, including Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, but probably not Netflix. (Keep reading to find out why.)
A great portable projector should also be easy to set up and use regardless of whether you mount it to a tripod, small end table or a stack of books.
Price is always an important consideration when you’re shopping for a portable or mini projector. While you don’t want to spend too much, buying a cheap projector in the $100-to-$200 range has its pitfalls. Many of these projectors have colors that bleed and generally overpromise on the picture resolution.
Is there a best portable projector for Netflix?
Not really. The one streaming app that is missing from most portable projectors is a native Netflix app.
Netflix, according to at least one projector company I spoke with, only certifies products with at least 1 million units in circulation. I was never able to confirm that claim. But routinely, you will see projector makers, including the bigger names such as Anker and BenQ try to offer a version of Netflix by sideloading a mobile version of the app through Android.
The results are often mixed, and based on my experience, not a great user experience. You should use a streaming stick with your projector whenever you want to watch Netflix.
A Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, or Chromecast with Google TV will do the job.
I have yet to find a portable projector that’s been certified by Netflix to run its native app. I have read online that XGIMI is in the process of applying to get Netflix certified, but at the time of this review, you’ll need to plug in a separate streaming device to watch Netflix.
Are portable projectors worth it?
Portable projectors are a great way to have an outdoor movie night, or bring a large-screen experience with you.
But for a decent picture that will work well in a mostly dark environment, you should expect to spend at least $500. You want a portable projector with enough brightness to show a watchable picture at dusk outside, or a semi-dark room indoors. If you want a watchable picture in ambient light, be prepared to pay a lot more.
Everyone will have different opinions on what makes for a great picture, and have different price points on what they’re willing to spend.
Now that there is a generation of smart projectors equipped with Android TV or Google TV software, portable projectors are essentially portable Smart TVs capable of producing a much larger picture.
Their ability to stream Hulu, Disney+, Sling TV and YouTube TV without an added streaming stick or device also make them more portable and easier to use.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble