Did you watch the Super Bowl this year? I did and if you are like me, you probably watched the game with friends and family. For the past couple of years, I have been working on creating an amazing home theater that would accommodate events such as this. As such, I have found the use of a home theater projector to be more cost effective than many of the large screen televisions available today. This year, my neighbor wanted to debut his new home theater system and host the Super Bowl, but unfortunately, his projector was not delivered in time. Luckily, I had a portable projector and it integrated flawlessly with his system.
8 Best Portable Home Theater Projectors Under $300
- VANKYO Leisure 3
- DR. J Professional Portable Projector
- APEMAN LC350 Video Projector
- Anker Nebula Capsule
- AuKing Mini Projector
- APEMAN NM4 Mini Portable Projector
- ViewSonic M1 Portable Projector
- Vamvo S1 Mini Projector
Portable home theater projectors are a great way to watch movies, games, and shows at home or while out, compared to their stationary counterparts that are better for everyday TV watching (we’ve touched on this before). If you enjoy mixing up the environment and traveling, a portable home theater projector can give you the flexibility to bring your personal cinema virtually anywhere. (If you are looking for a full-sized projector, check out my list of recommended home theater projectors!)
What Is a Portable Projector?
A projector is a device that receives an image or video and projects it onto a surface or screen at a much larger scale. Today, integrating a projector into a home theater has never been easier. Additionally, projectors often cost less than televisions that offer the same specs.
A portable projector, also known as a mini projector, is smaller than a full home theater projector, and are designed for easy portability. Some are so small, they can even fit in your shirt pocket! Some portable projectors, like pico projectors which we’ve talked about before, come with a built-in, rechargeable battery, which means you need one less outlet to power your projector. Unlike the lamps used in most full sized projectors, the lights in the mini counterparts often last up to 30,000 hours.
A downside to a portable projector is that it is condensed in size, which means they cannot include all of the components of a full-sized model. Perhaps the most notable difference lies in the image contrast. Contrast, which we will explain below, helps your image appear clear and crisp. While portable projectors can still provide beautiful images, the room will need to be darker than if you were using a full-sized projector.
What to Look for in Portable Projectors
There are a host of different specs you should look for when it comes to portable projectors for your home theater. These include:
- Type: There are four types of projectors available today. Digital Light Processing (DLP) projectors are the most common type. DLP projectors offer sharp images, however darker shades, like black, may appear slightly muddy. Liquid-Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) projectors are typically large and used in theaters; they offer superior contrast but are not commonly used for home theaters. Liquid-Crystal Display (LCD) projectors fall between the DLP and LCoS options. Light Emitting Diode (LED) projectors are not as bright as some of the other options, but are lighter and last much longer. You should note that LED technology may be used with DLP and LCD projectors.
- Brightness: Measured in ANSI lumens, brightness affects the quality and richness of the projected image. For rooms with a lot of ambient light, you need at least 3,000 lumens. For rooms that are subjected to moderate lighting, 1,500 lumens is considered acceptable. For dedicated theater space, a minimum of 1,000 lumens will suffice.
- Resolution: Resolution is a measure of the highest number of pixels a projector is capable of displaying. The higher the resolution, the bigger you can project your media without distortion. For the best resolution, you should consider the type of source material. For example, Blu-ray players and gaming consoles typically issue 1080p signals. This means, a high definition (HD) projector would be ideal for these sources because it offers a 1920 x 1080 resolution. However, Wide XGA (WXGA) is another popular choice. Offering a 1280 x 800 resolution, WXGA also displays 1080p signals clearly, just not quite as clear as the HD model would. Portable projectors often include 840 x 480 resolution displays which aren’t too great.
- Contrast Ratio: Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks. At a minimum, projectors should have a contrast ratio of 1000:1. Look for an ANSI contrast ratio to be sure you are receiving the most accurate contrast value. BrilliantColor and sRGB are great bonus features as they allow you to control your projector’s color processing capabilities.
- Available Inputs: The number of inputs on your projector affects how many devices you can connect to it. Likewise, it also affects the types of devices you can connect to your projector like smartphones and more (our guide on connecting smartphones to projectors). High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and Digital Visual Interface (DVI) inputs have become industry standards for home theater projectors. Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick (more on these in our guide), for example, all use HDMI connections, making this a vital feature. If you want to connect all 3 at once, you would need at least 3 HMDI ports that allow you to do so. USB ports allow you to share media from your tablet, phone, or even a USB flash drive.
- Zoom and Lens Ratios: Portable projectors are often used on various screens. This means you want a projector that allows you to zoom, which makes it easy to adapt to various screen sizes. Lens throw ratios tell you how far the projector needs to be from the screen for max display. Lens shift functions allow you to move the lens without having to move the projectors. Vertical shift (up and down) and horizontal shift (left and right) let you perfectly position the picture on your screen.
- Noise Level: Home theater projectors typically include internal fans. Projectors with a 30 decibel (dB) noise level are considered acceptable by most users. Few have successfully reduced this level down to 19 or 25dBs, but these are measurements typically reserved only for the most expensive projectors.
Best 8 Portable Home Theater Projectors for Under $300
There are a lot of portable home theater projectors on the market today. However, the vast range of prices and features can make finding the perfect one overwhelming. After reading countless reviews and checking out several models myself, I have developed my personal list of the best 8 for under $300. Let us take a look at the most recommended portable home theater projectors available today.
VANKYO Leisure 3
The VANKYO Leisure 3 is an LCD projector designed for portability. An HD portable projector, the VANKYO Leisure 3 supports 1920 x 1080 resolution. Employing the latest in LED technology, the Leisure 3 is 16% brighter than many of its counterparts. VANKYO also states their LEDs will last up to 40,000 hours. It also comes with a 2000:1 contrast ratio. The Leisure 3 includes several input options. This includes HDMI, USB, Micro SD, VGA and AV ports. Weighing slightly more than 2 pounds, this portable projector offers quality imagery up to 176 inches. Able to project in small or large spaces alike, this model has a projection distance between 4.9 feet and 16.4 feet. Built-in dual speakers mean you can use your projector even when your speakers stay home. An aspect ratio of 4:3 to 16:9 give you scalability options.
Pros: The VANYKO Leisure 3 has 1800 lumens, making it viewable even with a moderate amount of ambient light. At less than $100, this model offers several connection options, uses long-lasting LED technology, and is easy to set up. Plenty of users have stated that their expectations were far exceeded by this portable projector. VANKYO also includes a 3-year, 100% money back guarantee with the purchase of this projector.
Cons: The built-in speakers leave much to be desired. Additionally, potential buyers should be aware of the native resolution spec. The VANYKO Leisure 3 can receive 1080p signals, but the native output is actually 840 x 400. This will limit your resolution when it comes to large-scale projections.
Bottom Line: The VANKYO Leisure 3 is a great option for those on a budget. The resolution is the biggest down fall of this unit, but for medium size projections, this shouldn’t be an issue.
DR. J Professional Portable Projector
The DR. J Professional Portable Projector is ideal for home theater use. Another LCD LED projector, this model has an aspect ratio of 4:3 to 16:9. It also offers a contrast ratio of 2000:1, with a lamp life estimated to be upwards of 40,000 hours. With a projector distance of 1.5 to 5 meters, the DR. J Professional Portable Projector provides viewers with a watch size between 32- and 176-inches. This model is compatible with multiple types of devices thanks to HDMI, USB, SD, AV, TF and VGA ports. At roughly 3 pounds, this model supports 1080p, but has a native resolution of 800 x 480. A built-in surround sound speaker is also included.
Pros: The newest model comes with 1,800 lumens. The long-lasting LEDs, coupled with the multiple port options, and high contrast ratio makes this a highly recommended projector. The DR. J Professional Portable Projector comes with a 3-year 100% money back guarantee as well.
Cons: The internal fan is louder than desired according to several users. Additionally, some users have stated that gaming in particular leaves much to be desired as the graphics are not as clear as one would hope for.
Bottom Line: The DR. J Professional Portable Projector offers decent picture for the price without the need for additional speakers.
APEMAN LC350 Video Projector
The APEMAN LC350 Video Projector is an LCD projector that utilizes LED technology. Due to the internal cooling system, the LEDs used in the LC350 have an estimated life of 45,000 hours and a brightness of 3,500 lumens. The LC350 can project up to 12 feet, although APEMAN recommends a 3 to 9-foot distance for optimal viewing. Like other models, the LC350 supports 1080p, but has a native resolution of 800 x 480. Aspect ratios include 4:3 and 16:9 and a display size of 34- to 180-inches. HDMI, VGA, micro SD, USB, and AV ports are also included with this portable projector. With built-in dual speakers, the LC350 weighs in at 3.5 pounds.
Pros: The APEMAN LC350 Video Projector comes with a 12-month warranty. It is easy to set up and comes with enough lumens to operate even in ambient light. It runs cool and provides a sharp image at the APEMAN suggested distance. The built-in speakers also provide acceptable sound quality. It also includes a built-in tripod for easy set up anywhere.
Cons: APEMAN only offers a 30-day refund if you are unhappy with the projector. Additionally, gamers may find the picture quality lacking and even a bit blurry during fast-action play.
Bottom Line: Given the cost, the APEMAN LC350 Video Projector is great for tiny spaces and videos on the go.
Anker Nebula Capsule
The Nebula Capsule by Anker is considered a pioneer of immersive entertainment. This smart cinema provides stunning picture up to 100-inches wide. Utilizing a combination of DLP technology and IntelliBright algorithms, the Nebula Capsule provides up to 100 ANSI lumens and weighs less than 15 ounces. Capable of supporting 1080p, the Nebula Capsule has a native resolution of 854 x 480. The built-in rechargeable battery offers up to 4 hours of video play on a single charge. With a 16:9 aspect ratio, Anker recommends you place this projector 1.15- to 3.08-meters from the screen for the best quality image. Additionally, the 360-degree speakers mean you can enjoy quality sound from anywhere in the room. (If you want to just stream music through the Nebula Capsule, you can! It acts as a Bluetooth speaker and can last up to 30 hours if you just want to play music.) Perhaps best yet, the Nebula Capsule connects via HDMI, Micro-USB, Bluetooth technology and Wi-Fi. (You can download Netflix and Hulu apps directly to the projector, making it an all-in-one steaming device.) Using Screen Mirror, you can control the device from your phone as well.
Pros: The Nebula Capsule was the recipient of the Reddot Design Award in 2018; it comes highly recommended from users of all types. The all-in-one, multipurpose capabilities make this a versatile device. When used in a dark room, the image quality delivers. The built-in speaker is also superior to many of those in comparable portable projectors.
Cons: If used in a room that has moderate to large amounts of lighting, you will be disappointed in the image quality. The projected image is easily overpowered by light, so make sure it is used in a dark setting!
Bottom Line: For those looking for the newest gadgets, the Nebula Capsule has a lot to offer with little fuss. It’s extremely unique in design and is bound to impress your friends and family while treating them to an all-in-one movie viewing experience.
AuKing Mini Projector
The AuKing Mini Projector weighs in at under 2 pounds. Using a combination of LCD and LED technology, the AuKing Mini Projector has a lamp life of up to 55,000 hours and includes 2,400 lumens. At a distance of 1.5 to 5 meters, it can project between 32- and 170-inches. As with other similar projectors, the AuKing Mini Projector supports 1080p but has a native resolution of 800 x 480. AuKing claims it can be used for up to 24 hours on a single charge of its built-in rechargeable battery. The AuKing Mini Projector accepts HDMI, VGA, micro SD, USB, and AV inputs. It also includes built-in speakers.
Pros: The interior cooling fan does produce some noise, but most users claimed it was quiet overall. The AuKing Mini Projector is easy to use, lightweight and allows users to adjust the pitch and zoom easily. The 2,400 lumens make this viewable even with a bit of ambient light.
Cons: The projector does not display text well, which may be inconvenient if you are using closed captioning or subtitles.
Bottom Line: For the low cost, the AuKing Mini Projector delivers on both sound and picture.
APEMAN NM4 Mini Portable Projector
APEMAN makes this list for a second time. This time, however, we want to talk about the APEMAN NM4 Mini Portable Projector. The APEMAN NM4 utilizes advanced DLP technology. At just under 1 pound, this is an exceptionally small projector that can easily fit into a pocket. It measures 50 to 100 ANSI lumens. The built-in rechargeable battery can last up to 2 hours on a single charge. With an aspect ratio of 16:9, APEMAN recommends you project from a distance of 0.8 to 2.6 meters. This will allow you to project on a screen that is between 30- and 100-inches. Like other models, the NM4 supports 1080p, but has a native resolution of 854 x 480. It also features a 1000:1 contrast ratio and HDMI and USB ports. Built-in dual stereo speakers come with the NM4. The LED lights have a lifetime of 45,000 hours too.
Pros: The APEMAN NM4 Mini Portable Projector is truly a lightweight, portable device. The efficient cooling technology keeps the device cool while producing little to no noise. It is easy to set up and provides brilliant imagery when used in a dark environment. The APEMAN NM4 comes with a 3 year warranty as well.
Cons: That being said, the APEMAN NM4 should only be used in a dark room with little to no lighting. This may limit the projector’s usability. It only includes one HDMI port as well, which can be an issue for those who want to hook up multiple devices.
Bottom Line: For those on the go, the APEMAN NM4 offers quality DLP technology and easy usability.
ViewSonic M1 Portable Projector
The ViewSonic M1 Portable Projector pairs DLP functionality with 30,000
Pros: The all-in-one design makes the ViewSonic M1 great for various situations. The sound quality is quite good and users have enjoyed the internal storage feature. The ViewSonic M1 also comes with a 3-year limited warranty on parts as well as a 1-year warranty on the light source. The 6 hours of battery life and built-in storage are also very
Cons: There is no zoom function on the ViewSonic M1. While it has a short throw and the 60-inch projection will be quite clear, you cannot readjust the lens for a clearer, larger picture. You must reposition the entire device.
Bottom Line: The ViewSonic M1 Portable Projector is a great option for those looking for a lightweight, all-in-one option they can use anywhere. The built-in stand, 6 hours of battery life, and storage are great features that a lot of other units don’t have.
Vamvo S1 Mini Projector
The compact Vamvo S1 Mini Projector weighs less than a pound and can be easily carried in a suitcase or purse for convenience while on the go. It utilizes DLP technology in addition to 1800 lumens of LED projection. The contrast ratio of 1000:1, as well as the built in SRS speakers helps you immerse yourself in your media. It also supports 1080p, with a native resolution of 800 x 480. HDMI and USB ports allow you to seamlessly integrate media from your phone, gaming console, or other sources. From a distance of 1.6- to 10-feet, you can project up to 130-inches, with an aspect ratio of 16:10. The built-in, fast charge battery allows for more than 2 hours of continue use.
Pros: The Vamvo S1 has an extremely quiet operation; it produces little to no distracting fan noises while being used. Additionally, many users have found the image quality to be rather impressive for such a small device.
Cons: The internal speakers, however, leave a lot to be desired for the Vamvo S1. In addition to this, you can only plug in one auxiliary device at a time.
Bottom Line: For those who like to take their projector everywhere, from the living room to travel events, the Vamvo S1 Mini Projector is a great choice.