Best portable projector Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best portable projectors you can buy in 2023.
Portable projectors are often about as far detached from traditional home cinema projectors as you can get. Often a lot cheaper, and not quite as cinematic, they instead focus on packing in useful features and additional brightness for use outside, as well as internal batteries and smaller form factors - ideal for taking them on the go and away from nearby plug sockets.
Think of them more like the Swiss Army Knife of the cinema world. This is why portable and mini projectors are a great choice for many. There's no need to replace your TV. Just pull out your portable when you want to go big. You can even take them around to friends’ houses for movie nights.
If you're looking for convenience and entertainment, then read on for our best portable projectors of 2023 guide.
The Freestyle, Samsung’s diddy new LED-based projector lives up to its name by enabling you to take projection to places it’s never really been able to go before. Literally. Even the usual power cable ‘tether’ doesn’t have to hold The Freestyle back from doing its thing in even the most inaccessible corners of your home or garden. This is really made for outdoor cinema use.
The sheer extent of its flexibility makes its performance feel better than we arguably have any right to expect. So if you’re prepared to show it the sort of love it needs, the Freestyle has the potential to be your home’s new best friend. Right up until the point where you end up squabbling over whose turn it is to use it, anyway.
Read the full review: Samsung The Freestyle
Epson's 3LCD projection system is squished down here and housed in a very tidy 14 x 18 x 18cm, 2.1kg box. While not quite as serious for brightness and picture quality as the company's more traditional home cinema machines, it still has a way with contrast and shading that's beyond the reach of most portable projectors.
What's more, its sound system is streets ahead of most. It's a 2 x 5W set-up that's been tuned by Yamaha. It's remarkably expressive with just enough precision to hold its own even in scenes with heavy action.
There's no iPlayer, Netflix or All 4 apps on the smart platform and we'd like Epson to have fitted an internal battery too but these are relatively minor gripes and nothing that neither a media streamer nor an extension cable can't solve. Definitely one for your shortlist.
Read the full Epson EF-12 review.
This is Anker's best Nebula projector to date and also a very, very good portable in its own right. Feature-wise, it's got almost everything one could need in an outdoor/portable projector. There's an excellent smart platform, a three-hour battery life, a good degree of brightness and plenty of source material options.
What tops it off, though, is some really rather impressive picture quality. There are brighter machines out there but, for this price, there's a great blend of both punch and subtlety to the image. In the right setting, it's just the ticket.
The onboard speakers are a touch weedy but the quality and spread of sound from them is good.
Do be warned that the app platform is missing a few of the UK catch-up services, iPlayer included, but otherwise, this feels like one of the best projectors out there for taking on your travels. It's small, convenient and very well appointed.
Read the full Anker Nebula Solar Portable review.
How to choose a portable projector
installing a portable projector is no more complicated than finding a flat surface or even a sheet hung in the garden and pointing the thing at it (though a dedicated screen is so much better). Some have kick-stands to help and almost all have tripod attachments.
A few years ago, these mini projectors were still hard to recommend despite their convenience. 'Pico' projectors had dim light sources that couldn't do justice to colours or contrast, even in a darkened room.
Today’s portable projectors benefit from improvements to LED and laser light tech. And that means a bigger, brighter picture and no more worrying about having to replace the lamp after a year or so. Traditional projector lamps tend to last 2000-3000 hours. LEDs last tens of thousands.
There’s no magic, brand-new tech in the lower-end of the portable world, of course. If a projector fits in the palm of your hand, it will not be particularly bright nor kick out top notch detail. No micro projector works well during the day or with the curtains open either.
This is one reason why our best portable projector round-up includes almost all flavours in this category. There’s a pick so small you could fit it in some large coat pockets.
The newer “lunchbox” style projector is a better fit for many, though. They offer a decent compromise of portability and performance, and will likely have the better software extras, as these are real lifestyle tech buys.
Right at the top of the tree are projectors that blur the divide between normal and portable designs. They are only slightly smaller than some normal home projectors but have built-in speakers and other convenient features such as short-throw lenses. This means the projector does not have to be as far from the screen to create a large, cinematic image, and they can be stowed away in the cupboard again once you're done with your viewing.