Want to bring the movie theaters to your home or, well, anywhere? With a portable mini projector, you can enjoy impromptu movie nights with your friends and family using your own mini home theater system! Gone are the days when projectors were huge and made loud noises. Now we have mini projectors with a technology that will make your viewing experience as close to the big screen as possible.
What Is a Mini Projector?
They may be small but today’s mini projectors are very powerful. They have become a popular trend especially because they are also becoming more and more affordable.
A mini or portable projector, as the name suggests, is a smaller version of a full-sized projector and can do almost anything that the bigger version can. Some are even pocket-sized! It works the same way as traditional projectors do but with a more advanced technology that allows it to function without all the bulk. You can enjoy full cinema vision even with a small device and sometimes, you can even watch from your mobile phone.
While some of them still use laser technology, most are designed with Digital Light Processing (DLP), which you will learn in the latter part of this guide. DLP is what makes these small projectors a powerhouse despite their size.
There are different types and they come in a wide range of prices. Take a look at our top picks below.
15 Best Mini Projectors for Fun Movie Nights
This portable home theater projector features up to 170 inches of projection display and built-in speakers. While the speakers offer excellent loud sound quality, you can also connect external ones. The AuKing Movie Projector boasts of a crisp LCD display but uses LED as a light source so it has a longer lamp life of up to 55,000 hours. Watch your favorite shows and movies in full HD 1080p resolution. You can also use it for video gaming!
You can use this mini projector with your computer, TV box, or connect your USB drive directly. It can even be connected directly to a camera so you can project photos on your screen. You can also use it with your smartphone so it also functions as a smartphone projector. Its custom portable design allows you to easily carry it with you anywhere.
If you’re looking for shows to watch on a big screen, take a look at our list of the best Netflix shows to binge-watch with friends.
The PVO Portable Projector is true to its name. It’s so portable that you can carry it in your pocket! It can project shows and movies to a maximum of 150 inches and supports a full HD display.
This pocket-sized projector is designed with multiple ports including HDMI, Micro SD, and AV interfaces so you can connect it to different types of devices. Although it doesn’t have a built-in battery, you can power the unit with a mobile phone charger or a power bank with a micro USB cord. Because of its size, it’s ideal even for watching movies in the car or inside the bedroom; perfect for a kids’ movie night!
Featuring a 1080p display and Hi-Fi level built-in speakers, the VANKYO Leisure 3 is the perfect companion for your movie nights with friends. Enjoy stunning details thanks to its LCD technology and excellent sound quality. It’s also ideal for watching sports and can be used for gaming.
This portable video projector supports a wireless connection so you can watch your movies directly from your smartphone or laptop. It’s a great smartphone projector that you can bring with you for a fun movie night with friends anywhere you are.
The ELEPHAS W13 is compatible with Android, iPhone, and Windows 10 operating systems. The great thing is you can also use your iPhone’s original cable to connect to it; no need for extra adaptors. It is also equipped with USB and HDMI ports so you can connect it directly to your Roku or Fire TV Stick, or your DVD player.
If you want to have your movie night with friends outdoors, Dr. J HI-04 is a great choice. It comes with a 100-inch projector screen so it’s an excellent value for money. You can enjoy movies even in your yard or garden!
The projector and screen both support 1080p resolution. It features multimedia connectivity and is compatible with most TV boxes, media players, gaming consoles, tablets, laptops, and PCs. This mini projector also includes an HDMI port. You can connect your home theater system or surround sound system for better audio quality.
Featuring Full HD viewing, the QKK Projector With Tripod is designed for indoor and outdoor viewing. It is designed with a dual USB port as well as HDMI and an SD Card slot. It uses LEDs and is 20% brighter than most small projectors. This mini powerhouse features up to 50,000 hours of lamp life.
The unit also has a built-in speaker with surround-sound effects. You can also connect your external speakers for enhanced sound quality. The tripod attachment is very useful since you can easily place the projector on a table or any elevated flat surface for seamless viewing.
This small projector boasts of a display that is 80% brighter than other mini projectors which makes it perfect for outdoor use. It can support up to 1080p resolution so you can watch your favorite shows, games, and movies in crystal clear color display. The CiBest Portable Outdoor Projector works with most TV sticks, media players, laptops as well as desktop PCs. You can also use it with your gaming consoles like PS4 and Xbox.
The Jinhoo Outdoor Projector features both USB and WiFi connectivity. You can sync your smartphone to watch movies directly from your device. It’s one of the most user-friendly mini projectors for iPhone available, but it is also compatible with Android devices. This unit is ideal for use in low-light environments. It comes with built-in stereo speakers but you can also connect your own. The package comes with a projector screen that is also portable.
If you are looking for a projector that fits in your hand, the Kodak Ultra Portable Projector is a perfect choice. It is palm-sized and lightweight and is ideal for business use or entertainment. You can easily put it in your purse or pocket!
This ultra-small projector is also designed with a user-friendly system. You don’t need to work out how to use buttons and complicated menu screens. All you have to do is plug, project, and play. You can connect it to your Mac or PC, cable box, gaming console, and video players. It is also a great smartphone projector and is compatible with iPhone and Android mobile devices.
The HOMPOW Video Projector is one of the few mini projectors that support Dolby audio. It has built-in speakers but also features the option to connect external speakers. This unit also has one of the largest screens, supporting up to a 176-inch display for a fully-immersive viewing experience. It also functions as a smartphone projector and is compatible with a variety of devices like DVD players, TV sticks, USB drives, and computers. The HOMPOW features Full HD viewing and up to 50,000 hours of lamp life.
Another palm-sized projector, the APEMAN M4 is a true mini powerhouse that supports both indoor and outdoor viewing. Its upgraded DLP technology provides a display that’s 70% brighter than other pocket-sized units. The images displayed are 50% sharper, and it supports full 1080p videos as well. Enjoy up to 100-inch screen size and within one to four-meter distance. It’s perfect not only for home movie nights but also for outdoor parties and camping. The unit comes with a tripod so you don’t have to worry about where to place your pocket projector. It is designed with a built-in battery but can also be used with a power-bank.
Our Premium Pick, the Anker Nebula Capsule is perhaps one of the most advanced mini projectors in the market. It features an advanced DLP lighting technology that makes the display remarkably bright, suitable for dimmer environments.
The unit is equipped with a powerful speaker that pumps out excellent-quality surround-sound. It has a unique can-shaped design, which makes it really easy to carry around. This mini projector is also ideal for outdoor use. You can connect it with different media players and TV sticks through its HDMI and USB ports. It also features Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity so you can watch directly from your mobile devices. Despite its size, it features up to a 100-inch display.
Perhaps, the best value for money, the MVV comes with a projector screen that is suitable for indoor and outdoor viewing. It’s one of the most affordable mini projectors but with a great quality display. It features cutting-edge LED technology so you can watch with more vivid colors and crisper images. The unit is designed with built-in speakers that produce high-intensity audio for a heightened cinematic experience. You can also use it for video gaming!
This portable mini projector is so versatile that you can use it for all types of devices from media players, gaming consoles, and smartphones or tablets. Its WiFi interface is compatible with Android and iOS. Aside from the usual HDMI and USB ports, it also has an AV and SD output so you can use your portable projector with different media players, gaming consoles, and computers. The VicTsing also features Bluetooth connectivity so you can use your wireless earphones if you prefer to watch alone or a Bluetooth speaker for watching movies with friends. If you don’t have your own speakers, the unit has a built-in speaker with stereo sound quality.
Featuring true HD viewing, the Bomaker WiFi Projector allows you to watch your favorite shows and movies with no cables required. It also features wireless screen mirroring and you can project videos and photos directly from mobile devices. However, you can still connect it to your DVD players and gaming consoles because it still has HDMI, AV, and USB ports. So, it’s a perfect all-around portable unit! This mini projector features a 300-inch screen display, which is one of the largest compared to other mini models. It also has a sleep timer.
The WOWOTO is one of the few mini projectors that can play 3D movies. You can watch 3D movies directly with your 3D glasses (not included). It features a 200-inch screen to give you a full cinematic experience. Play 3D games directly from your console anytime, anywhere. It also supports 4K videos and is suitable both for indoor and outdoor viewing.
How Do Mini Projectors Work?
Three main technologies make portable video projectors possible. Some models are designed with a combination of these, but it is mainly the DLP mentioned above that makes mini projectors work. But first, let’s take a look at how DLP and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projectors work both in the standard and portable versions.
How DLP and LCD Projectors Work in General
The standard or the larger DLP projectors are usually designed with a mechanical color wheel that spins in order to produce images, which then pass through some sort of lamp and out to the screen. This color wheel only has the primary colors, red, green, and blue (RGB), and they spin to produce and animate the different colors required to complete every image in a video. The light is reflected off of miniature mirrors fixed inside a Digital Micromirror Devices (DMD) chip. There could be as many as two million mirrors assembled inside this tiny chip! They vibrate and move to bounce off the light beam to create the final image that you see on the screen.
An LCD projector is the modern equivalent of a traditional overhead projector. The traditional lights used in LCD units are still more superior to the ones used in modern DLPs. LCD projectors naturally produce sharper images precisely because they still use the metal-halide lamp. It works similarly to how most TVs work. Instead of a color wheel that spins, the unit is designed with three liquid-crystal panels, each tasked with projecting one of the RGB colors. All three colors are projected on the screen at once which allows you to see a crisper, full-color image.
New LED Technology on Mini Projectors
In mini projectors, the light source used is usually a Light Emitting Diode (LED) instead of the lamp in large video projectors, which gets intensely hot. LEDs are much more efficient because they are powerful and produce less heat. However, mini projectors still require a fan to cool these LED lights. More on this LED technology later. The main advantage of using LEDs instead of traditional bulbs in mini projectors is it eliminates the need to replace the bulb regularly.
How to Choose a Portable Mini Projector
Here are some considerations when choosing a portable projector for fun movie nights with friends.
As discussed, there are three main types of technology used in mini projectors, LCD, DLP, and LED. Some models combine two of these. The key thing to remember when choosing which type of projector is right for you is that LCD projectors still produce the sharpest images, but its main disadvantage is you will have to replace the lamp more often. DLP and LED models require less maintenance, and they also tend to be more affordable.
The image quality is a critical factor when choosing a projector. You should always check how much resolution the unit is capable of displaying. It should match the resolution that you frequently use.
Whether you intend to watch your movies indoors or outdoors, the brighter the projection is, the better. Ideally, your portable projector should have a capacity of at least 200 lumens so that it can display a minimum of 40 inches. The higher the lumens count is, the brighter your videos will be.
It’s important to determine what type of connectivity you will use with your mini projector. What type of ports comes with the model? If you want to play videos directly from your mobile phone, it should have a port for a smartphone cable or should feature wireless connectivity. Choose a model that has USB ports if you want to watch directly from your thumb drive or computer. Playing games or watching movies directly from a gaming console requires HDMI capabilities. These are all important factors that you should consider when buying.
This probably plays the biggest role when it comes to buying mini projectors. Some models can weigh as little as five pounds! These are perfect for people who like to travel a lot and intend to bring their projectors with them. You must also consider the screen you would use with it. If it comes with a projector screen, it should be just as portable as the projector unit. Check if the package comes with a carrying case to protect both the unit and the screen.
Mini projectors vary in price. They can range anywhere between $50 and $300. As with any technological device, the sturdier the unit is, the higher it will cost but there are still some budget projectors that can last a while. You may also want to consider the versatility of the unit. If it features Full HD viewing plus a few extras like wireless connectivity and 3D viewing, then a $200+ model is a great value for money in the long run.
What Screen Should You Use With a Portable Projector?
Ideally, you would watch your videos on a screen specifically made for projectors. A portable projector screen is typically made of some type of fabric, usually polyester. It is usually white or gray in color. This fabric should be well spread and tightly fastened on all corners to keep it flat and crease-free at all times while you are watching. As you may have seen on the list above, not all mini projector units are sold together with a screen.
You will find plenty of projector screens available online that are suitable both for standard and portable projectors but it is better to choose one specially made for portable units. They can either be mounted on a wall or would come with a stand or a tripod. If you are planning to carry your mini projector around so you can watch on the go, it is ideal to choose a screen that is also portable. Some of these screens can be folded or rolled up, along with their stands. There are inflatable ones too!
There are fewer complications to consider when choosing a projector screen that you intend to use indoors compared to one that you would use outdoors. Indoor projectors are made with fabrics that are more delicate than those intended for outdoor use and are usually more compatible with HD viewing.
One of the most common types of indoor projectors is the pull-up screen. This is something that you have to install in your home and is ideal if you plan to watch a lot of shows indoors because the screen is a lot more secured.
For Outdoor Viewing
Tripod projector screens are more ideal for outdoor viewing. This way, you don’t have to worry about bringing a table or a stand or worry about where to mount your screen. However, make sure that the fabric used is durable enough to withstand outdoor weather conditions. Your screen’s stand or base should also be stable so that it stays in place in case it is windy outside.
How to Make Your Own Projector Screen
If you are not willing to buy a projector screen, you can also make your own or use other materials in your home as a screen! The most important element required for a projector screen is a smooth surface that is clean and is ideally plain white. Here are a few ways you can build your own projector screen at home.
To build a screen with a fixed frame, you will need some supplies including a piece of fabric or seamless white paper, boards for the frame, screws, braces, and picture hangers. Ideally, you would use polyester fabric but since that can be expensive, you can use a blackout cloth. Make sure to know or measure the dimensions of the screen that your mini projector supports.
Make the frame using pine boards or poplar boards according to the size of your screen. Alternatively, you can also use wood. This frame is what will keep the screen flat. You can cut the boards with a handsaw and place a brace in the four corners where they meet. Make sure to screw the braces tightly on the boards. Check that the final frame is stable and does not wobble.
Attach your screen by laying your chosen fabric or seamless white paper flat on the floor. Your screen material should be a bit larger than your frame. Pull the extra material over the frame’s edges and staple them as tight as you can on the backside of the frame.
The picture hangers will serve as the mounts for your screen. Attach them to the top of the frame and make sure they are evenly distributed. You can now mount your projector screen on your wall.
To enhance the display, you can add dark borders around the screen. This will cut down any light reflection when you are watching.
If you want a portable projector screen to use with mini projectors, you can build one using PVC pipes, ropes, and a white tarp. You would need a drill to create holes in the pipes, glue, and high-quality tape.
Build a frame with the PVC pipes according to the size of your projector screen. You would need straight pipes for the frame and elbow pipes to connect them together in the corners. Use a T connector pipe to build a stand on the base of the frame. Use strong glue and tape to piece the frame together.
Drill holes in the four corners of the frame where you will then attach your screen or tarp. You can use ropes or cords to attach the screen to the pipes’ holes. Tie them tightly so that the screen is flat and straight.
Here’s a video that shows a more advanced process of creating a portable projector screen using PVC pipes.
You can also choose an area in your home with a bare wall to use as your screen. This is called a painted screen. You would need to paint the entire wall first and then paint an area that will be your actual screen.
After painting the entire wall, turn on your mini projector and mark the area where you want the screen to be. Put a border on this area then paint the inside white. Make sure non-reflective paint.
Add a simple frame around the screen using black velvet tapes or any dark material that will serve as a frame on the wall.
How to Watch 3D Movies on a Mini Projector
To watch 3D videos using a projector, both your projector and your screen need to be 3D-ready. You will know if a movie projector is capable of playing 3D movies if it says that it has a “3D sync port.” There is a piece of equipment called a 3D Sync Transmitter that you would have to connect to this port for the projector to play videos in 3D.
Not all mini projectors are 3D-ready. The last item on our list, the WOWOTO Mini 3D Projector can play 3D movies as long as your output (projector screen) and source are also 3D-capable. In some cases, you would have to use a special HDMI cable to connect your device to the unit; this cable is specially designed for 3D viewing. Some Blu-ray disc players and cable boxes are 3D-ready as well as gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4 (PS4).
Can You Use a Portable Projector With Your Mobile Phone?
You can use your smartphone to watch movies on your mini projector if the unit either has a port for an iPhone or Android cable or features wireless connectivity. A few of the models on the list above feature mobile phone viewing. Your movies or videos have to be downloaded and saved on your device or streamed online from your device.
Get a Mini Projector Today!
Mini projectors allow you to enjoy watching movies and TV shows with your friends and family wherever you are. They let you recreate the cinematic experience in the comfort of your home without needing to install large equipment. While there is no single projector that will give you every feature that you want, you can decide which model is perfect for you by looking at the above considerations. Hopefully, the list above has given you a better idea about which model to pick. Happy watching!