2019-08-04
Electronics Aug 04, 2019

Is a Mini Projector Worth It? Mini Projector Comparison

Projectors are impressive pieces of hardware. Despite their small size, they’re capable of showing off huge images. The basic principles have remained the same since the early days of cinema: a strong beam of light shines through a filter, and projects the image onto a surface. In the cinema example, the filter is the cut film of the movie, and the surface is the big screen.

This simple yet awe-inspiring technology eventually made its way into consumer markets, with the major selling point of bringing the cinema-like experience into your living room! Many bought into the early hype train, only to be disappointed by the blurry, unfocused images indicative of a new innovation that has yet to mature.

Portable projector on desk

Thankfully, projector technology has had a ton of time to grow, and modern day home projectors are more than capable of producing stellar video quality. Some companies even produce projectors that support 4K resolution and HDR, without the high cost associated with similarly spec’d-out TVs. Just look at BenQ’s HT3550, that’s a legitimate high-end TV alternative just below the 2000$ price point.

Mini Projectors

  That’s not what we’re here to talk about though. Today, we’ll be shining the spotlight on mini projectors.

The mini projector, sometimes known as pocket projectors, is a somewhat new piece of tech that has been making the rounds since 2015. As the name suggests, these are miniature versions of their tried-and-true bigger brothers.

Mini Projector fits in backpack
A projector that fits perfectly into your backpack (or even into your pocket!).

That’s the biggest selling point of mini projectors, their size. Having a projector that you can carry around without too much hassle is a huge boon people constantly on the move. If you’re working in the corporate world, a mini projector ensures you’ll always be ready for presentations. If you’re travelling, you won’t need to catch up on your video subscriptions using your phone’s tiny screen. It’s a simple tool, but it does work.

The convenience factor isn’t just limited to size either, most mini projectors come with a rechargeable battery like those included in battery banks and phones, meaning you don’t even need a plug point to use them!

Finally, its also worth noting that mini projectors are a lot cheaper. You can get mini projectors at any price point from $50 to $500 with corresponding quality. This is but a fraction of the price of a fully fledged projector, making pocket projectors ideal for people on a budget.

The Drawbacks

Of course, not everything is perfect with mini projectors. The smaller chassis size means less internal space. This demands compromises, and the biggest points that suffer are the image brightness and contrast.

Brightness is the main point of contention here. Smaller lightbulbs and lower throwing power means you’ll get a dimmer image. As such, mini projectors are less suited for brightly lit viewing environments. Be sure to check how many lumens your projector can output. As a rule of thumb, 1000 ANSI Lumens is good enough for home cinema use.

camping with mini projector
It needs to be very dark in order to use a portable projector (perfect for camping?).

Contrast ratio goes hand-in-hand with brightness, and covers how distinct the blacks and whites of your image are. Mini projectors are naturally less proficient in this regard, so don’t expect anything too amazing.

Also, you might be worried about the bulb life. Projectors run hot, and the bulbs are doing the brunt of the work. Well, we’re glad to report that modern bulbs, even on the cheap sub $50 projectors, function well enough for around 1000 hours of active time.

At last, sound is a major weak spot for mini projectors. Though, to be fair, you should always opt for external speakers if you want good sound, even the best full-sized projectors are weak when it comes to this. Mini projectors don’t have the space required for stereo speakers and large bass drivers, resulting in a narrow, tinny soundscape that isn’t the best for movie watching experiences.

DLP or LCD

Finally, it’s worth talking about the two main projector types. There’s Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projectors out there, and in our opinion, DLP projectors are the way to go.

DLP projectors use microscopic mirrors and a colour wheel to project bright and clear images, and is based on the same principles used in modern cinemas. Compared to the LCD projector, you’re also using less power. DLP projectors are clearly the better choice.

The only problem with DLP projectors is the “rainbow effect”, which affects a small percentage of the population. This is characterized by flashes of red, blue and green shadows across the image. If you’re susceptible, chances are you already know about this.

Alternatively, you could consider LED projectors, which seem to be getting traction as of late. These deliver a similar degree of quality to DLP projectors, though they do come at a higher cost. I’d keep an eye on the prices, as we foresee a steady drop as the technology becomes more mainstream.

Which Mini Projectors to Buy?

Now that you know what to look for, I think its clear that mini projectors cater to a somewhat niche market. I’d summarize it into a single point of consideration: do you need a portable projector?

If you do, these are the cream of the crop, and our score aggregator shows that each ad every one of these are well worth every penny.

Best Mini Projector Hands Down – Anker Nebula Capsule

Anker Nebula Capsule reviews

Anker’s Capsule is easily the best mini projector on the market right now. Anker crowdfunded this product on the promise of delivering a mini projector capable of visuals you’d expect from their full-sized brethren, and it’s 72% Metascore shows that it comes close.

A 1000 Lumens lens, a 360-degree speaker and app control makes this the complete package, ad Anker has focused their efforts in construction and image quality. The positive reviews are praising the unparalleled contrast and spectacular 4-hour battery life, and the fact that it fits into a beer-can sized enclosure.

The reviews that bring the score down discuss the lacklustre image and sound quality when compared to larger projectors, and they do bring up a valid point. The Anker is a little on the expensive side, but if a mini projector is what you want, this really is the best available.

Best Portable Mini Projector – Apeman M4

Apeman M4 reviews

While the Anker Capsule tries to do it all, the Apeman M4 sets its sights on being the most portable mini projector that still delivering good image quality. While it’s not a high-end product, the 73% Metascore shows that reviewers love it for what it is.

The big turn off for most people will be the 50 Lumen LED lamp, which is tinny compared to the competition. However, reviewers are quite impressed with the great contrast ratio of 1000:1, as well as the support for 1080p. Sacrificing a bit of brightness for decent image quality is definitely a worthwhile trade-off here.

The best thing about the M4 is its ease of use. This may not be the smallest mini projector, but if we’re looking for a balance between price, performance and portability, you can’t go wrong with the Apeman M4.

Best Mini Projector for Business – Epson EX7240 Pro

Epson EX7240 Pro reviews

We’ve discussed how mini projectors are ideal for business presentations. In this use case, clarity and a short throw distance is a must, and companies like Epson and Optoma have been fighting to take the lead in this category.

The Epson EX7240 is expensive at more than double the price of the Anker Capsule, but the extra cost gets you a sleek yet sturdy design and solid image quality.

Reviewers praise the EX7240 for its clarity and ease-of-use, and most importantly, it’s ability to adapt to small rooms as necessary. With the lenses being tuned for short throw distances, you can get a large image without too much hassle, meaning you can get right into presenting with the 1280x800 resolution and 700 Lumens brightness.

Most importantly, it’s lightweight! Business projectors have a reputation of being backbreaking, and Epson should be praised for delivering a lightweight product without sacrificing build quality.

 

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