Best portable projectors 2024: mini projectors to max out your picture

Samsung Freestyle projector at angle on stand
(Image credit: Future)

Best portable projector Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best portable projectors you can buy in 2023.

While Summer is certainly the opportune time to think about an outdoor cinema, you can still certainly set up a movie theatre in your garden during the Winter months; just make sure you wrap up warm. Portable projectors are the best way to do this, as the compact units, such as the ones found on this very list, lend themselves to being moved around frequently.

We've picked a few of our favourite options, considering how these projectors could be best used in terms of bundling them into a bag to take camping or setting them up in your back garden to enjoy a film night under a starry night. 

We haven't reviewed a portable projector in a little while, so some models like Samsung's The Freestyle have had second-generation updates, which we expect to perform similarly to the original. In fact, you can read our Samsung The Freestyle Gen 2 hands-on review if you want to find out more about that, but these options will still serve you well if you want to take the cinema experience on the go.

Home cinema projector: Samsung The Freestyle

(Image credit: Future)
And now for something completely different


Resolution : 1080p
HDR: Yes
Type: LED
Connectivity: Mini HDMI x 1
OS: Tizen
Streaming apps: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Apple TV+

Reasons to buy

Cute but practical design
Bright, sharp, colourful pictures
Impressive auto keystone/focus

Reasons to avoid

Below-par black levels
Auto keystone system isn’t perfect
A bit expensive

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

Best portable projectors 2023: Epson EF-12

(Image credit: Future)

2. Epson EF-12

A smart, small and seriously punchy projector


Resolution: 1080p HDR
Type: 3LCD
Speakers: 2 x 5W
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Inputs: HDMI (x2), USB
Audio out: Bluetooth, 3.5mm
Smart platform: Yes
Battery: No
Storage: 10GB
Dimensions (hwd): 14‎ x 18 x 18cm
Weight: 2.1kg

Reasons to buy

Tidy build
Strong black depth and dark detail
Decent sound system

Reasons to avoid

Colours lack complexity
Mains power only
Some key missing apps

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.

Best portable projectors 2023: Anker Nebula Solar Portable

(Image credit: Future)

3. Anker Nebula Solar Portable

The best Nebula portable projector so far


Resolution: 1080p HDR
Type: DLP
Speakers: 2 x 3W
Lamp: 400 lumens
Inputs: HDMI, USB
Audio-out: Bluetooth
Smart platform: Android TV OS
Battery: Yes
Storage: 8GB
Dimensions (hwd): 6 x 19 x 19cm
Weight: 1.4kg

Reasons to buy

Vivid but balanced picture
Great portable size and features
Decent spread of sound

Reasons to avoid

Sound system lacks impact
Blacks could be deeper

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.

Dan Sung

Dan is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and his job is with product reviews as well as news, feature and advice articles too. He works across both the hi-fi and AV parts of the site and magazine and has a particular interest in home cinema. Dan joined What Hi-Fi? in 2019 and has worked in tech journalism for over a decade, writing for Tech Digest, Pocket-lint, MSN Tech and Wareable as well as freelancing for T3, Metro and the Independent. Dan has a keen interest in playing and watching football. He has also written about it for the Observer and FourFourTwo and ghost authored John Toshack's autobiography, Toshack's Way.