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9 best portable projectors for a cinematic experience at home

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·9-min read
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Easy to install and cheaper than ever, these gadgets are all you need to create some movie theatre magic  (iStock/The Independent )
Easy to install and cheaper than ever, these gadgets are all you need to create some movie theatre magic (iStock/The Independent )

As with many things, we haven’t been able to enjoy a trip to the local cinema for a while. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t begin to replicate the feeling at home with a projector.

We’re not talking a huge, hulking square box that takes three people to install and sounds like a propeller plane when switched on: there’s a fantastic range of much more portable projectors on the market that not only work at home, but can be taken with you wherever you go, for movie nights in a tent under the Northern Lights or in a Travelodge near Kettering.

Projector technology has developed at an incredible pace, and with that comes quality products at a much cheaper price. Ten years ago, for a high quality projector, you’d be looking at spending £500 on just a bulb. Now you can get the full package for around the same price with the added bonus of it not weighing as much as a car.

Investing in the right portable projector takes some research, and ultimately comes down to a bit of a balancing act: not every projector will have a 1080p HD picture and Dolby Digital sound, but they might cost a few hundred pounds less and do close to the same job.

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After turning our eyes square and exhausting the Netflix back catalogue, here are our picks for a wide range of needs, from projectors that fit in the palm of your hand to bigger units with very little installation time.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best portable projectors for 2021 are:

Anker nebula capsule II

Best: Overall

  • Dimensions: 80 x 80 x 150 mm

  • Weight: 740g

  • Resolution: 720p

  • Projection size: 20 - 100 in

  • Battery life: Up to 3 hours

The capsule II has pretty much everything you want from a portable projector. It doesn’t have the same level of focus as a couple of the more high-end projectors on this list, but still produces a great, 720p HD picture and does the hard work for you – no need to twiddle with a focus wheel. Its sound is among the best on the list, and certainly the best for its price, with a hearty bass surround sound effect that’s much clearer than many here. It’s light, yet feels the sturdiest of all the projectors we tested: you wouldn’t have any worries about throwing this in a rucksack for a long journey or walk.

Its battery lasts around three hours, so maybe don’t choose Lord of the Rings if there’s no plug nearby, but everything about the capsule II suggests a great investment. Alongside Android TV, the capsule II has Chromecast capability, has voice activation for Google Assistant, pretty much universal connectivity, super fast charging and doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. Anker describes the capsule II as the world’s first Android TV pocket cinema – we think pocket cinema is the perfect way to describe it.

Buy now £549.99,

Epson EF-12

Best: Picture

  • Dimensions: 175 x 175 x 135 mm

  • Weight: 2.1kg

  • Resolution: 1080p

  • Projection size: 30 - 150 in

  • Battery life: N/A

This is a great-looking projector, from the sleek, cubist build to the Yamaha styling and finish. Its picture is just as beautiful, with the best colour reproduction on this list, and Yamaha’s audio tech is used to its fullest. The screen can stretch up to 150in while remaining super sharp in Full HD, and set-up is effortless, with auto focus and keystone correction. The EF-12 was almost our best buy, and was only pipped on portability, but is still easy to carry around the house: the current price is phenomenal for the picture and sound quality you’re getting, and a worthy spend for any home.

Buy now £1249.99,

Acer C250i

Best: For portrait mode

  • Dimensions: 102 x 102 x 190 mm

  • Weight: 770g

  • Resolution: 1080p

  • Projection size: 29 - 100 in

  • Battery life: Up to 5 hours

The C250i is a fun-looking projector. Its shape isn’t just a design quirk, however: the spiral design means that the projector remains stable at multiple angles, meaning it’s easy to plonk down and play, especially on the ceiling. While the picture is a clear, 1080p view, the sound isn’t the best, but does enough of a job for you not to notice. The projector is super portable, and the battery lasts up to five hours, depending on your usage: you can also use it as a power bank to charge other devices.

The C250i’s secret weapon, however, is how it cleverly adjusts to portrait mode – simply place it upright, and there’s no tell-tale black bars around your portrait videos, something that should have been outlawed at least five years ago.

Buy now £370.52,

ViewSonic M1 mini

Best: For portability

  • Dimensions: 110 x 104 x 27 mm

  • Weight: 300g

  • Resolution: 480p

  • Projection size: 24 - 100 in

  • Battery life: Up to 2 hours, 2.4 hours in eco mode

The M1 mini certainly delivers on its name: it’s the smallest projector on this list, yet still produces a decent picture and good audio. The sound and picture obviously aren’t near the best on this list, but when put in the context of its size, both aspects become pretty impressive. The design is clever, the arm to hold the projector up neatly folding into the unit’s body, and swappable plates on top give you a range of colour options. If you’re looking for a projector that literally fits into your pocket, looks fun and gives you a good viewing experience, you’ve found the right place.

Buy now £144.00,

Epson EF-11

Best: For portability in the home

  • Dimensions: 175 x 175 x 65 mm

  • Weight: 1.2kg

  • Resolution: 1080p

  • Projection size: 30 - 150 in

  • Battery life: N/A

The EF-11 serves as an extra-portable version of its EF-12 relative, with superb picture quality and great sound. The old adage of getting what you pay for is true here, as you get a hell of a lot for your outlay. It feels like a luxury product, strong while streamlined, and the tech inside is almost on par with the EF-12: screen size is also up to 150in, it has autofocus, and features such as Chromecast capability and content mirroring are a tap away. You can also place the EF-11 at any angle from the wall and you’ll be greeted with a flat screen. Movie magic.

Buy now £799.99,

ViewSonic M2e

Best: For ease of set up

  • Dimensions: 184 x 184 x 54 mm

  • Weight: 1kg

  • Resolution: 1080p

  • Projection size: 24 - 100 in

  • Battery life: N/A

The ViewSonic M2e pushes the brand into the upper echelons of portable projectors. The Harman Kardon speakers give listeners crisp, clear audio that outperforms the projector’s size, while the autofocus is immediate and bang on the money, producing a sharp 1080p picture that works in most lighting situations. The M2e is also supremely portable, its slimline frame making it easy to slip in an overnight bag – ViewSonic even gives you a carry case in the box, so no worries about scuffing the machine.

Buy now £550.80,

Anker nebula solar portable

Best: Wireless experience

  • Dimensions: 190 x 190 x 60 mm

  • Weight: 740g

  • Resolution: 1080p

  • Projection size: 60 - 120 in

  • Battery life: Up to 3 hours

The Nebula Solar offers a great 120in, 1080p picture that wouldn’t look out of place from a much larger projector, and Dolby tuned sound that gives viewers a good amount of oomph. The picture output is a little dim, but this isn’t particularly noticeable in dark settings. Its flat design makes this a brilliantly portable unit, and the in-built Android TV makes wireless streaming an absolute doddle. It’s an easy projector to use that delivers solidly on all fronts.

Buy now £599.99,

Acer C202i

Best: Picture in your palm

  • Dimensions: 115 x 115 x 42 mm

  • Weight: 350g

  • Resolution: 480p

  • Projection size: 29 - 100 in

  • Battery life: Up to 5 hours

Slightly bigger than the ViewSonic M1 mini is Acer’s C202i, but only just – it still fits nicely in the palm of your hand. The tech inside is rather handy, too, with a surprisingly rich, clear picture, and WiFi capability for wireless streaming. The audio could be better, with low volume an issue, but you’re probably not looking at filling a room anyway. As a no-nonsense, portable projector that offers a solid viewing experience and a battery life of up to five hours, the C202i does a great job.

Buy now £258.54,

Asus H1

Best: For gaming

  • Dimensions: 405 x 283 x 99 mm

  • Weight: 5.7kg

  • Resolution: 1080p

  • Projection size: 40 - 200 in

  • Battery life: N/A

Granted, this is pushing the idea of “portable” to the extreme, but the H1, while wide, is still light, sleek and no problem to carry around the house to different viewing spots. This is the perfect projector for gaming: the picture is up there with the EF-12 (£899.99, – incredibly clear even in full daylight – and there’s zero lag when it comes to replicating your computer screen thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate. The picture can also stretch to 200in, comfortably the most on this list, and the sound is decent, with a jack round the back for headphones.

Buy now £1099.00,

The verdict: Portable projectors

Portability is subjective: some of these projectors might push the boundaries of being portable, while others might even be too small. The Anker nebula capsule II manages to get it just right, matching sturdiness and size with visual and audio performance. Add to that its wide-ranging connectivity options and Android TV capability, and you have a projector that will continue to impress for years. For pure screen quality, the Epson EF-12 produces an incredible picture while retaining a good level of portability.

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For high quality sound on the go, we review the Sonos Move Bluetooth speaker

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