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Best portable projectors 2021: Mini, handheld and on-the-go projectors

Best portable projectors: Mini, handheld and on-the-go projectors
(Image credit: Love Cashmere / Amazon)
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Some of the mightiest projectors are also the smallest - here's our pick of the best portable projectors around today. These are the very best compact and easy-to-carry projectors that are ideal for transporting anywhere they might be needed.

Now, sure, portable projectors aren't the ideal way to watch the latest Christopher Nolan film as you'll want a 4K or Ultra HD screen for that, but all the devices on this list are ideal for people who often travel for work. If you're often visiting clients and colleagues and need to make presentations, the best portable projectors will allow you to quickly and easily set up your presentation in a matter of minutes.

It means you can conduct presentations quickly and easily using your own equipment – rather than having to fiddle around with cables in front of an audience - and can easily run then from apps on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

That said, they can also be used for entertainment as well, giving you an impressively large home cinema projector screen to watch movies or play games on. Make a note of maximum screen size and resolution, though, as those specs will give you a good idea of how content will look on the wall.

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Optoma ML750e HD-ready projector

1. Optoma ML750e HD-ready portable projector

The best portable palm projector

Specifications
Projection system: DLP
Resolutions: 1280 x 800
Brightness: 700 lumens
Contrast ratio: 10000:1
Video inputs: HDMI, VGA, microSD, USB
Dimensions: 106 x 105 x 39mm
Reasons to buy
+Brightness+Versatility
Reasons to avoid
-No Wi-Fi-Tablet integration requires dongle

The ML750e by Optoma is a lot more powerful than the pocket-sized PicoPix from Phillips, but it's not quite as small. Still, it weighs just 380g with a small footprint that makes this easy to carry around. The differences in size between this and the PicoPix are negligible for the power you get in return: a 700 Lumens lamp that lets you present in rooms that aren't completely darkened. The Optoma ML750e is one of the best portable projectors in the world thanks to its impressive range of ports. It comes with one MHL-ready HDMI input, a USB 2.0 slot for thumbdrives, a universal I/O slot, and a microSD card slot. The ML550 handled our 90-inch test screen with impressive results, and peaked at a 60-inch-or-so size. However, you need to buy a dongle for Wi-Fi access.

ViewSonic M1

(Image credit: ViewSonic)

2. ViewSonic M1 mini Pocket LED Ultra-Portable Projector

Best general portable projector

Specifications
Projection system: LED
Resolutions: 854 x 480
Brightness: 250 lumens
Contrast ratio: 120000:1
Video inputs: HDMI, SD Card, USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Compact design+Good range of ports
Reasons to avoid
-Low resolution-Not that bright

The ViewSonic M1 is a versatile and portable projector thanks to its decent selection of ports despite its small size. This makes it easy to hook up a good range of different devices. Its small design looks good and makes it easy to carry this projector around with you. The price isn't bad either. However, the low resolution means image quality isn't quite as good as some of its competitors, and its max brightness is a bit too low, which means that images can look washed-out when used in bright environments. Still, it's a great portable projector, especially for work presentations.

If you're looking for something newer, the ViewSonic M2 was just released in August.

Epson EB-S41 SVGA Projector

3. Epson EB-S41 SVGA Projector

Best small projector

Specifications
Projection system: LCD
Resolutions: 800 x 600
Brightness: 3300 lumens
Contrast ratio: 15000:1
Video inputs: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, VGA, HDMI, Composite, S-Video
Reasons to buy
+Small and portable+Very large projection size
Reasons to avoid
-Not high definition-4:3 aspect ratio

Usually, when you're selecting from the best portable projectors for business use, you'd expect to make a few sacrifices in order to have such a small device – but that's not the case with the Epson EB-S41. Its 3,300 lumen brightness is much brighter than many other portable projectors, and means you have more flexibility when setting up the EB-S31 in environments where there is still ambient light. The EB-S41 is small and light enough to carry around with you on business trips, but it also has a very large projection size – up to 300 inches – which makes this an incredibly versatile portable business projector.

LG CineBeam PH550G Portable Projector

4. LG CineBeam PH550G Portable Projector

Best compact and wireless portable projector

Specifications
Projection system: RGB LED
Resolutions: 1280 x 720
Brightness: 550 lumens
Contrast ratio: 100000:1
Video inputs: USB, HDMI, Composite, RBG
Dimensions: 174 x 109.5 x 44mm
Reasons to buy
+Easy to carry+Plenty of connectivity options
Reasons to avoid
-Not HD-No microSD

The LG Minibeam PH550G is a brilliant portable projector that's ideal people who often work on the road thanks to its compact size - more than justifying its place on our list of the best portable projectors. It's also wireless as well, allowing you to connect a smartphone or tablet to it, and showcase your presentations or media quickly and easily. This is great for impromptu meetings, and despite its small stature, it offers brilliant image and sound quality. 

ASUS ZenBeam E1 Portable LED Projector

(Image credit: ASUS)

5. ASUS ZenBeam E1 Portable LED Projector

Best pocket projection

Specifications
Projection system: DLP
Resolutions: 854 x 480
Brightness: 150 lumens
Contrast ratio: 3500:1
Video inputs: HDMI, MHL
Dimensions: 110 x 29 x 83mm
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous design+Small
Reasons to avoid
-Low resolution-Low light output

The Asus ZenBeam E1 is a beautifully designed pocket projector that's small and light enough to carry around with you if you often make presentations on the road - or if you like to watch movies while travelling. Despite its small size, it can project images up to 120 inches in size, and it has a built-in 6,000mAh battery that can power the projector for up to 5 hours, which makes it rather flexible, as you don't have to worry about finding a plug socket to power the device. In a rather nice touch, the projector can also double as a power bank for other mobile devices. The Asus ZenBeam E1 isn't the most powerful portable projector, but its versatility, ease of setup and eye catching design gives it a place on our list of best business projectors.


How to choose a portable projector

So, what should you look out for when buying the best portable projector for your needs? 

For a start, you should make sure the portable projector has all the connectivity options you require. Most should have HDMI, which will let you plug in almost any device into it, though some will have a mini HDMI port, so you'll need a special cable.

Meanwhile, other portable projectors have a simple USB output, which allows you to connect laptops and other compatible devices to it. Some of the best portable projectors also offer wireless connectivity, which makes broadcasting from your smartphone or tablet easy. 

The best portable projectors also have batteries, which makes them easy to place for optimum image quality. However, there are some that still need to be plugged into a power supply, so bear that in mind when choosing the best portable projector for your needs.

You should also check to see if a portable projector has built-in speakers. If it does, it means that's one less thing to carry around with you, but don't go expecting cinema-like sound quality from those small speakers.

As well as listing the best portable projectors, we also have our very own price comparison tool that will help you find the best prices as well.

What to look for when buying a portable projector?

It’s important to know what to look for when buying a smart projector. By considering how you’re going to use it, you’ll get the right mix of features. We asked Luke Chen, senior business line manager at Viewsonic Europe, a display and projector specialist for his point of view (no pun intended).

First off, you need to think about the situations you’re going to be using your projector and find one that fits your requirements. Taking your smart projector on-the-go? Consider how well the projector achieves a portable design. Does it come with a carry handle? Or can it fold into a travel-ready container? If your projector is going to sit on your coffee table, make sure it says it’s a “short throw.”

Think about durability, LED technology avoids dimming projector issues, allowing smart projectors to shine brightly for up to 30,000 hours. LED light sources run much cooler than bulb-based light sources (meaning less fan noise). “Lamp-Free” is what to look for. It means you no longer have to rely on bulbs, which need to be replaced over time. They’re eco-friendly, too. Lamp Free means no glass bulb is needed, which means no mercury.

Something else to consider is resolution. Smart projectors are much smaller than standard projectors, this makes resolution the first thing to go. For those who enjoy camping, and just want some form of entertainment next to the campfire, a lower resolution works. Mini projectors have the hardest time with resolution. But, not all smart projectors suffer from poor resolution. 4K Smart LED projectors are now on the market. If home entertainment is your preferred use, opt for 4K resolution. The highest-end smart projectors will call themselves “True 4K” projectors.

Apps - your projector is only as smart as the apps running on it. So, it makes sense to have an app store enabled on your projector. Does the projector you’re looking at come with app store integration? To work with apps, enable voice commands, and stream movies (all at the same time) look for a smart projector with ample processors, memory, and storage.

Most smart projectors have to compromise on sound. This is the only way to fit all the components into such a small size. If you don’t already have a premium sound system integrated into your home theatre, opt for premium speakers. In short, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all projector.

Matt Hanson

Senior Computing editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar's Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of magazines and websites, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. If you're encountering a problem or need some advice with your PC or Mac, drop him a line on Twitter.