The 9 Best Mini Projectors of 2021

Home or office? Why not both?

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The best mini projectors can give you a sharp, clear picture anywhere you need. Mini projectors are by definition portable and compact. Projectors are particularly handy because they can cast a picture onto any surface and turn it into any size screen you need. They're handy for entertainment and for business presentations. Often projectors are installed permanently or semi-permanently. 

In this case, we're focusing more on "take-and-go" projectors. Mini projectors can be installed permanently or semi-permanently, but for the most part, they're not designed to be. Mini projectors are more for an impromptu movie night or a presentation in a room with no TV. Basically, they go where they're needed.

Finding a good balance of features and size is the main challenge. We've already discussed portability and size, so other things you can look for include a remote, good sound, and whether or not they come with a carrying case and/or cables. Add to that, projectors with varying specifications including nits, brightness, and lumens, and there's a lot to consider. Our experts have looked at dozens and we've rounded up some of our favorites. Check them out below!

The Rundown
Along with the built in operating system comes an app store for downloading apps like Netflix of Hulu, plus you get the added bonus of built-in Google Assistant.
This projector is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket or a small bag making it ideal for campers, hikers, or really anyone who wants to tote their own projector around
This projector is a great budget option that will work well in your home, as its name implies.
Best for Business:
Optoma ML750ST at Amazon
The tiny size, combined with the high contrast picture makes this an ideal companion for business presentations on the go.
This is a neat projector that fits in your back pocket and keeps itself protected when it's in transit.
This is a projector that can hit the road with you and plug into anything you need along the way.
Best for 4K:
AAXA 4K1 LED at Amazon
For a 4K picture that you can fit into your bag, you won't do any better.
Best for Gaming:
BenQ HT2050A at Amazon
If you want to take your gaming to the next level, this is an amazing projector to take you there.
This projector has a ton of great features in a small package and will serve you very well.

Best Overall: Anker Nebula Capsule II

The Anker Nebula Capsule is our pick for best overall mini projector.
4.3

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Setup Process
    3/5
  • Image Quality
    4/5
  • Sound Quality
    4/5
  • Connectivity
    4/5
What We Like
  • Android OS built in

  • Autofocus/keystone

  • Google Assistant

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Only Android 9

  • 720p output

When considering mini projectors, portability is one of the prime considerations, and when it comes to portability, being the size of a soda can is about as portable as you can get. What makes that particularly convenient is most bags and backpacks have pockets designed for carrying drink-sized items. Be careful of the exposed lens, but beyond that, you've got a built-in compartment.

Also included on the projector is its own Android operating system. Granted, it's Android 9 which is almost three generations old as of this writing, but you still get a ton of basic functionality. Along with the built-in operating system comes an app store for downloading apps like Netflix or Hulu, plus you get the added bonus of built-in Google Assistant. 

Overall, we really like the Nebula Capsule II, and if you have a little extra money, you can check out the Nebula II/Star Wars tie in which is downright adorable.

Resolution: 720p | Brightness: 200 ANSI lumens | Contrast Ratio: Not listed | Projection Size: 40 to 100 inches

"Perfect for those looking for a portable projector with lots of bells and whistles." — Hayley Prokos, Product Tester

Anker Nebula Capsule II

Lifewire / Hayley Prokos

Best Portable: APEMAN M4 Mini Portable Projector

The apeman M4 is our pick for best Portable mini projector.
3.1

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Image Quality
    3/5
  • Sound Quality
    3/5
  • Connectivity
    2/5
What We Like
  • Very small

  • Good sound

  • Built-in-battery

  • Includes tripod

  • 1080p

What We Don't Like
  • Very dim

  • Battery Life

Keeping in line with the portability comes the Apeman M4 DLP projector. This projector is about the size of three CD cases stacked on top of each other and speaking of CDs, comes with very decent sound for its size. The compact size also results in a fairly dim picture though, so you'll want to set this projector up in as dark a room as possible.

The projector comes with a 3,400 mAh battery built-in which is good, but it'll barely get you through a 2-hour movie which is not. You can also charge your phone off the battery but that obviously leaves even less power for the projector. Still, we like to see that kind of versatility in devices.

You can connect your devices using the HDMI input or plug in a USB drive to display photos and movies. The included tripod lets you point the projector anywhere you need it to go. By default the projector's resolution is 480p, but it can project up to 1080p depending on the source. Overall, this projector is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket or a small bag making it ideal for campers, hikers, or really anyone who wants to tote their own projector around.

Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 50 ANSI lumens | Contrast Ratio: 2000:1 | Projection Size: 30 to 100 inches

"If you value extreme portability over raw power, the Apeman Projector M4 provides a sleek, modern design you can fit in your pocket with surprisingly solid image- and audio quality for its size." Eric Watson, Product Tester

Apeman Projector M4

Lifewire / Claire Cohen

Best Budget: Vankyo Leisure 3

The Vankyo projector is a very portable projector.
3.5

Our Ratings
  • Design
    3/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Image Quality
    3/5
  • Sound Quality
    1/5
  • Connectivity
    5/5
What We Like
  • Carrying case

  • Multiple inputs

  • Low price

What We Don't Like
  • Not very bright

  • Short foot to aim

The Vankyo Leisure 3 is designed for the home, and it comes with a carrying case for when it needs to go out on the road. There are a ton of input options, including VGA, HMDI, USB, MicroSD, and RCA. The projector itself isn't terribly bright. Our reviewer, Benjamin writes, "The bulb is not very bright, though, and the only way to get a decent projection is in a very dark room. We weren’t really satisfied until we closed the blackout curtains and had very little ambient light around us."

It's also a little hard to set up. There are no feet on the bottom for leveling the projector and there's only a comparatively short foot in front for vertical adjustment. In short, you'll probably need to prop the projector up in front to get the image to go where you want it to go. But beyond all that, it's hard to argue with the price.

In short, this projector is a great budget option that will work well in your home, as its name implies. You'll need a sufficiently dark room, but if you have that, you'll get a sharp 1080p picture with a good 2000:1 contrast ratio and solid color reproduction.

Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 2400 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 2000:1 | Projection Size: 32 to 176 inches

"The Vankyo Leisure 3 is a good value for its level of quality and a very popular option, mostly because it is so affordable." Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester

Vankyo Leisure 3

Lifewire / Katie Dundas

Best for Business: Optoma ML750ST

The Optoma ML7520 is our pick for best business mini projector.
3.4

Our Ratings
  • Design
    3/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Image Quality
    5/5
  • Sound Quality
    2/5
  • Connectivity
    4/5
What We Like
  • Awesome colors

  • Short throw

  • Included carrying case

What We Don't Like
  • Wireless dongle sold separately

  • Pricey

When you're talking about mini projectors, there's "mini" and then there's the Optima ML 750ST. Photos of the projector don't really show just how very small this projector is. It fits in the palm of your hand. It's also a short-throw projector which means you can have the projector close to the screen and still have a full-sized picture. In this case, you can get a 100-inch projection from just six feet away.

The size becomes even more deceptive when you consider the 700 ANSI lumens and 20,000:1 contrast ratio you get in this powerful machine. It's ideal for business because it's bright enough for a conference room and small enough for a briefcase or backpack. You will want to make sure your presentation room is as dark as possible though.

The projector is also a little on the expensive side. The lack of wireless connectivity is disappointing, and the fact that Optima sells a dongle to correct that oversight for an additional cost is borderline insulting. But the tiny size, combined with the high contrast picture makes this an ideal companion for business presentations on the go.

Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 700 ANSI lumens | Contrast Ratio: 20,000:1 | Projection Size: 16 to 135 inches

"The Optoma ML750ST is a solid compromise between the power of a full projector and the portability and size of a mini-projector." Eric Watson, Product Tester

Optoma ML750ST

Lifewire / Jordan Provost

Best Design: ViewSonic M1+ Smart Projector

The Viewsonic M1+ Smart projector is our pick for Best design mini projector.
4.3

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Image Quality
    5/5
  • Sound Quality
    4/5
  • Connectivity
    5/5
What We Like
  • Versatile stand

  • Solid battery life

  • Great sound

What We Don't Like
  • Limited to 480p resolution

  • Glitches in auto keystone and focus

The ViewSonic M1 smart projector is one of our favorite projectors on this list because of its self-contained versatility. The stand that is built into the projector swings up to protect the projector lens when it's closed.  When open, the stand can point the projector where it needs to go. Overall the projector gets high marks for design because of its clean look and built-in kickstand.

On the downside, this projector tops out at 480p, and the keystone adjustment tends to be glitchy. But the projector has an amazing 120,000:1 contrast ratio and a long-lasting battery that can go for up to six hours when the projector is in eco mode. Inputs range from microSD, USB-C, HDMI, and USB-A. It can also output sound with a 3.5mm audio jack. 

Our reviewer Hayley, also notes that the autofocus feature tends to have trouble maintaining focus. She also notes that such a shortcoming is common in projectors with the autofocus feature. If that isn't a problem for you, then you have a nice little projector that fits into your back pocket, keeps itself protected, and lasts for hours.

Resolution: 480p | Brightness: 300 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 120,000:1 | Projection Size: Up to 100 inches

"Perfect for those looking for a portable projector with both practical and bonus features." Hayley Prokos, Product Tester

ViewSonic M1+ Portable Projector

Lifewire / Hayley Prokos 

Best for Travel: AAXA P7 LED Projector

The AAXA P7 LED projector is our pick for Best for Travel mini projector.
3.9

Our Ratings
  • Design
    3/5
  • Setup Process
    3/5
  • Image Quality
    3/5
  • Sound Quality
    2/5
  • Connectivity
    4/5
What We Like
  • Lots of input options

  • Good LED Life

What We Don't Like
  • Poor battery life

  • Bad included tripod

  • Audio is not good

Finding a projector that is portable is one thing, but finding one that travels well is another. In addition to being portable, a travel projector has to easily fit into a bag, and work under most conditions.  The AAXA P7 is a tiny cube about 4 x 4 x 3 inches (LWH) and has a lot of input options considering its size. You can plug in via HDMI, USB, MicroSD, and mini-VGA. Basically, any device you come across in your travels should work with this projector.

The sound isn't very loud, which is something of a theme for AAXA projectors, unfortunately. The battery will last for 90 minutes on a charge which is fine for business presentations, but you'll need to plug in for a feature-length movie. The projector comes with a tripod for aiming the device, but be sure you have a sturdy base since the tripod isn't all that good.

But you will get 30,000 hours of LED life out of the bulb and our reviewer Hayley says you'll get "picture quality similar to that of what you see in a modern HDTV...It’s bright and contains a good amount of contrast, so the colors appear vibrant." This is a projector that can hit the road with you and plug into anything you need along the way.

Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 600 lumens | Contrast Ratio: Not listed | Projection Size: Up to 120 inches

"The AAXA P7 LED Projector might be worth the price to a specific buyer. However, it won’t beat out other solutions on sound or image quality for those who aren’t picky cinema viewers and who aren’t fazed by the price tag." — Hayley Prokos, Product Tester

AAXA P7 Projector

Lifewire / Hayley Prokos

Best for 4K: AAXA 4K1 LED Home Theater Projector

AAXA 4K1 LED Home Theater Projector
What we like
  • Great picture

  • Bright

  • Dual HDMI

  • Included remote

What we don't like
  • Remote is finicky

  • Audio too quiet

  • No leveling or aiming

  • Non-responsive Keystone controls

4K projectors can also be mini projectors, though the AAXA 4K1 is a little bigger than some. But so is the beautiful picture you get from this 4K beast. The projector is still smaller than a bread box, and it comes with a carrying case that can hold all the cables and the remote quite nicely. It would also fit into a backpack if you didn't need to carry much else with it. Speaking of the remote, it comes with a remote, though the IR port where you need to aim the remote is recessed into the body of the projector slightly making it sometimes tough to aim.

The projector has no feet nor mechanism to aim it, so you'll need to prop it up on something to aim it. That's not ideal. But you do get dual HDMI ports and USB-A for inputs. There's an aux output and headphone jack for audio output, which you'll need because the speakers on this projector are very soft. What do you get is crisp, 4K video with excellent sharpness, so much so that you don't mind the low contrast ratio. 

The remote also handles keystone adjustment, but the keystone adjustment isn't very responsive. You have to adjust it a lot to change the picture even a little. Would like to see more course controls there. But overall, for a 4K picture that you can fit into your bag, you won't do any better.

Resolution: 4K | Brightness: 1500 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 2000:1 | Projection Size: Up to 300 inches

Best for Gaming: BenQ HT2050A

BenQ HT2050A
4.4

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Image Quality
    5/5
  • Sound Quality
    4/5
  • Connectivity
    4/5
What We Like
  • Virtually non-existent input lag

  • Bright

  • Multiple input options

What We Don't Like
  • Not portable

  • Mounting brackets not included

Using a projector for movies and presentations is nice, but cranking up a game onto a 300" projected screen is next level. To do that you need low input lag, and that's just what this projector delivers. If your projector takes too long to process the commands it's being given, you will not do well in your game. The BenQ HT2050A is designed with low latency with gamers in mind.

At 2,200 lumens, it's also the brightest projector on our list, so you won't have to close the curtains when your friends come over for a gaming session. You also get a high contrast ratio meaning your drake won't be washed out. You can connect up to two HDMI ports, RCA, VGA, and microSD.

Though small, the projector is not portable. It doesn't come with a case, though it will fit into a larger bag. It also doesn't come with a mounting bracket, though you can buy one separately. But if you want to take your gaming to the next level, this is an amazing projector to take you there. 

Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 2200 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 15000:1 | Projection Size: Up to 300 inches

"It offers 1080P resolution and 2,200 lumens and produces a crisp and vibrant picture."Hayley Prokos, Product Tester

BenQ HT2050A

Lifewire / Hayley Prokos 

Best Sound: XGIMI Elfin

What We Like
  • Google TV/Chromecast built-in

  • Auto keystone and obstacle avoidance

  • Great remote

  • Loudspeakers

What We Don't Like
  • No battery

  • No aiming or leveling

  • No native Netflix

The XGIMI Elfin is an indoor projector with 800 ANSI lumens that delivers a ton of features in a small package. The projector comes with built-in Google TV as its operating system, complete with a collection of streaming apps along with it. You can set up this projector and be watching a movie within minutes. Unfortunately, Netflix has been left out of those apps, the projector not qualifying as a supported device, for some reason. You can work around that by casting to the projector or using a streaming stick on the HDMI port on the back, but really, you shouldn't have to.

The base of the projector is round with rubber feet and a tripod mount in the center. The round base makes propping the projector a little awkward because there's also no aiming mechanism to allow you to point the projector where you want it to go. But what outshines most other projectors is the auto keystone and auto obstacle avoidance built-in. When you aim the projector at the screen or wall, the projector will automatically fill the largest possible space while avoiding other objects on the wall like shelves or lamps. It's really slick and makes this projector super easy to set up.

Finally, the sound on this projector is loud and clear. It's tuned by Harmon Kardon, and the dual 3W speakers get as loud as you need them to be. There isn't much bass here, so if you're looking for thump, you'll want to add an external speaker or soundbar, but by itself, the speakers are really solid. The brightness could be brighter for sure, but overall, this projector has a ton of great features in a small package and will serve you very well.

Resolution: up to 4K | Brightness: 800 ANSI lumens | Contrast Ratio: unannounced | Projection Size: Up to 150 inches

Final Verdict

Overall, we love the compact portability of the Anker Nebula Capsule II. It was just made to be toted around anywhere you cared to go. The built-in Android operating system is what puts it over the top for us. It's a great thing when you don't have to plug anything into it to start watching content. If you want something even smaller, we also love the Viewsonic M1+. The long battery life alone sets it apart from most mini projectors. The fact that it was built with portability in mind ratchets it up a level for us.

About Our Trusted Experts

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade and is also the creator and host of the Benefit of the Doud podcast, which reviews and discusses popular technology.

Hayley Prokos has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, focused on travel-friendly consumer technology. She reviewed several of the portable projectors on this list, including the AAXA P7, ViewSonic M1+, Anker Nebula Capsule II, and others.

Benjamin Zeman has written for Lifewire since 2019 and boasts 20 years of experience in the tech industry. He reviewed the Vankyo Leisure 3, a portable and popular projector.

Eric Watson has years of experience as a freelance reviewer for tech and gaming websites like PC Gamer and Polygon. He's written for Lifewire since 2019 and reviewed several of the projectors on its list, particularly the Apeman NM4 and Optomo ML750ST.

FAQs

What's the difference between ANSI lumens and lumens?

Lumens are a measurement of luminous flux, or the observed power of light. ANSI lumens are measured as per the standards set forth by the American National Standards Institute, which means that the light is measured the exact same way every time. It gives you a more exact figure as to how projectors compare with one another. Other measures of lumens are valid, but they're not as strictly controlled.

Do you need a screen to use a projector?

Typically you will get a much better picture if you use a projection screen, however it's not strictly necessary. You can use a blank, white wall as a screen and it'll work just fine. Keep in mind that the wall's color will have an effect on the colors from the picture. For example, a tan wall will skew colors toward the brown range.

Can you get a projector instead of a TV?

Yes! Good projectors will sometimes offer a better picture than a TV would. Plus, it has the benefit of going away when you're not watching it. You can roll up a screen, or even just cast your projection onto a white wall and not have to worry about a screen. Many projectors, including most of the ones in this list, take the same kinds of inputs as a TV, too.

APEMAN NM4 Mini Portable Projector

Lifewire / Claire Cohen

"Placement, regular maintenance, and transportation are important qualities to extending the lifespan of your projector. Keeping the projector in a relatively dust-free space helps keep the air filter and vents clean. Cleaning your projector’s filter every few months is also important in maintaining the projector’s temperature." — Carlos Regonesi, Senior Product Manager, Epson America Inc.

What to Look For in a Mini Projector

Contrast Ratio

You've probably seen some contrast ratios that look like 1,000:1, or 10,000:1. The contrast ratio is defined as the difference between the brightest color possible and the darkest color possible.  The bigger the difference, the more the projector will differentiate between colors. Lower contrast ratios will result in pictures that look either too dark or washed out. Contrast ratio is denoted as "XXX:1". The higher the first number is, the better.

Brightness

Obviously, how bright your picture is will determine how dark your environment has to be in order to watch. Brightness is measured in lumens or ANSI lumens (See above). A brighter picture is more visible even when there's a lot of ambient light. Generally speaking, a higher brightness is better.

"When purchasing a projector, shoppers need to be cautious of misleading metrics listed as 'Lux,' 'LED lumens,' 'Lamp Brightness,' or 'brightness at the source' that fail to provide useful information about on-screen light output performance." — Carlos Regonesi, Senior Product Manager, Epson America Inc.

Battery/Battery Life

One of the benefits you'll get from a portable projector is the ability to set it down anywhere and go. Batteries ensure you don't even have to worry about a power source. If you want to get through a movie, look for a battery life that exceeds 2 hours. Obviously, in this case, higher is better, because it gives you more freedom of placement.

Anker Nebula Capsule II

Lifewire / Hayley Prokos

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