It seems like only yesterday that if you wanted to enjoy your favorite movie or TV show in the comfort of your own home, you needed to invest in a large and needlessly cumbersome television in order to get the job done. Thankfully, plenty of home theater improvements have come and gone since, and we’re in the midst of another home entertainment revolution that’s putting flat-screen TVs to shame: The home projector revolution, which makes it incredibly easy to project virtually any kind of digital content onto virtually any surface in the home, with screen sizes ranging from a few inches to upwards of twenty feet.
This new reality makes it easier and more affordable than ever for anyone with a love of movies and a modest budget to enjoy a full-fledged home theatre experience, and small portable projectors get the job done just as well as their larger and more cumbersome counterparts. Whether you’re headed out camping or building a portable home theater, these are some of the best portable projectors money can by.
If you’re after the best combination of price, portability, and picture quality, it’s hard to beat any of Anker’s offerings. With prices ranging between $300 and $600, Anker has perfected creating full-size portable projectors that can outlast most major Hollywood films, making them perfect for camping, outdoor movie showings, or bringing to a friend’s house without having to worry about power cables. It’s tough to pick the single best projector from Anker—even we had to pick two for our list—but their Apollo model comes closest. At $399—and on sale for as low as $319—Anker’s Nebula Apollo manages to supply a big battery, bright projection, and fantastic features.
Like most of Anker’s projectors, the Apollo features a vertical design that allows for most of the body to be made up of a large, 270-degree 6W speaker. No matter where you’re sitting, you should get a full sound experience from this device, and with the ability to pair additional speakers over Bluetooth, you’ll always have a great sound experience. The picture is truly where the Apollo excels, of course. The 200 ANSI lumen DLP lamp is twice as bright as Anker’s Nebula Capsule, and is capable of displaying a 100″ image. Unfortunately, at 480p, it’s not the sharpest image around, but in this price range, it’s a solid picture.
Unsurprisingly, Anker’s Nebule Apollo hits the battery life department out of the park. With an estimated battery life of four hours, it’s hard to image what anyone could find to stream that would outlast this projector. Even if you’re looking forward to streaming The Irishman in your personal home theater, the Apollo should make it through that film’s entire three and a half hour runtime, with enough juice for a couple snack breaks in between. And since the Apollo runs Android, Netflix and Hulu Originals are easy to start right from the device itself—no HDMI necessary.
All in all, the Apollo isn’t the biggest or best from Anker, but it’s the best combination of picture and audio quality and price, giving any movie lover the perfect way to experience entertainment on the big screen. If you’re at all interested in portable projectors, it’s a great place to start, and our best pick for 2020.
- Fantastic battery life
- Great sound
- Android built-in
- Could be brighter
- 480p resolution
Next to Anker, ViewSonic is one of the best projector manufacturers on the market today, and both their M1 Mini and full-size M1 are well worth a look. At $169, the M1 Mini is the cheapest projector on our list, and while it might not be the most powerful, it’s hard to beat for the price. The design is cute and playful, with a folding stand and a light blue colored cover that makes it stand out in a field of black and silver projectors (grey and yellow covers are also included). Despite its bulk, the M1 Mini isn’t much larger than your smartphone, and should fit neatly in your pocket or a backpack. Its 480p output matches the Apollo from Anker, and an integrated speaker from JBL makes it easy to watch a movie without pairing a separate speaker.
At 120 lumens, its LED bulb isn’t the brightest around. If you can get your room dark, it should be good enough for most movies. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the M1 Mini’s battery: rated for 2.5 hours, there are plenty of movies that just can’t be played back without an external power source. Thankfully, the M1 Mini works well with USB battery banks, but it’s an additional purchase that some of the other projectors on our list don’t need. Still, the M1 Mini is a great buy for anyone looking more for a source of fun than the best picture quality imaginable. It’s easily the best projector on this list for kids, and if you’re looking for an impressive gift, it’s well worth the cost.
- Super affordable
- Customizable faceplates
- Middling battery life
- No built-in apps
The Apollo from Anker remains our favorite of their Nebula lineup of projectors, but if money is no object, it’s hard to beat the Mars II Pro. At $549, this is an expensive projector, but if you’re looking to throw the best summer movie nights on the block, it’s the one to get. This is an absolute beast of a projector, capable of outputting a 720p image at 150 inches with 500 lumens of brightness. Dual 10W speakers along the sides of the projector negate the need for additional speakers. The built-in battery manages to power the Mars II for up to three hours, a notable decrease from the Apollo, but understandable considering the pure power of this thing. Still, if money is no object, this is the projector to get. Though at this rate, you might be better off waiting to see if Anker releases a full 1080p project in the next year or two.
- Most powerful projector on this list
- Fantastic audio and video
- Built-in Android apps
- Huge size makes it less portable
- Less battery life than the Apollo
- High cost
If you like the idea of ViewSonic’s M1 Mini, but you need something a bit more portable, their standard M1 projector is a great option. At $289, it’s a decently affordable device with a similar design to the M1 Mini, only larger. With built-in speakers from Harman Kardon, the M1 is capable of putting out some serious sound, even though this specific projector is definitely designed for the board room more than your backyard. That said, with an estimated battery life of six hours, this is easily the longest-lasting projector on the market today. It’s also one of the few projectors that includes internal storage, with 16GB available to load your favorite movies and shows onto. With a 480p resolution, it’s not exactly the sharpest image, but it’s bright and vivid, and the battery life is unbeatable.
- Fantastic battery life
- Internal storage
- Made for offices
- A bit expensive
APEMAN’s NM4 Mini is one of the smallest projectors on our list, making it one of the only true portable monitors you can buy today. Instead of relying on a bulky design to prop up the NM4 on a table correctly, an included tripod helps you transport the unit without having to worry about bulk. The design of the NM4 means that it’s virtually silent when in use, with its fans managing to not overpower the built-in dual speakers along the side of the device. Unfortunately, the NM4 does fall short in a couple of key places: its brightness barely manages to hit 100 lumens, while its battery life is only rated for two hours of use at a time. It’s a solid projector, but the ViewSonic’s M1 Mini is a similar device with better battery life and a cheaper price tag.
- Small and silent
- Tripod design
- Outperformed by ViewSonic's mini-projector
- Poor battery life