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What’s cheaper than a new television but authentic enough to bring that “real cinema” feel to your living room? A projector!
For home entertainment enthusiasts who want large-scale entertainment on a small-scale budget, the latest mini projector trend has a lot to offer.
A mini projector is exactly as it sounds: a compact version of a regular projector that you can take just about anywhere.
Pop it in your briefcase and deliver a high-tech presentation at your morning meeting. Throw it in the car and enjoy movie night at a friend’s house.
You can even “game in style” by projecting the progress of your video game saga on a wall.
Indeed, a mini projector provides an economical way for you to share exciting visuals with others. But finding the best projector for your needs can be tricky.
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If you are ready to buy a mini projector now, please check out our five top suggestions in the matrix, above.
If you’d like to learn more about mini projectors and how to choose the right one, please continue reading this shopping guide.
All projectors have a built-in feature called Default Projection. This is the standard setting it has when it first powers on, and it gives you a clear picture at a certain distance. This setting can be adjusted as needed.
One of the most popular reasons for buying a mini projector is the comparative value it brings to your entertainment center. Perhaps you long for a 72” television for your home theater, but you just don’t have the funds to buy a TV that costs $2,000. Enter the mini projector, an item that costs somewhere between $200 and $600 depending on the make and model.
You could easily create the look and feel of a 72” TV by adjusting your mini projector’s distance from a screen or wall. The image might not have the crystal clarity of a pricey TV, but it comes close. And if it turns out you don’t like the size, you can adjust your broadcast to the dimensions you prefer.
If you’re wishing for a 72” TV but your budget gravitates toward the friendly price of a mini projector instead, you’re in luck; the market has lots to offer.
Unlike a television, you can join a multitude of other devices to a mini projector using HDMI, VGA, and USB connections.
This includes DVD players, laptops, cell phones, gaming systems, cable/satellite boxes, media drives, computer towers, streaming media players, and more.
Rafe Needleman has been testing and writing about technology products for over 20 years. He has evaluated hundreds of products as editor of CNET and reviews/editorial director of Yahoo Tech.
A mini projector is small enough that you could feasibly stash it in a satchel, purse, or perhaps even a pocket.
So if you wanted to showcase text, photos, video, or other visuals to a group of people, you could do so with a portable mini projector.
Nobody in the audience would be straining their eyes or craning their neck to see, and you could say goodbye to bulky AV equipment, the fatiguing setup process, and tired arm muscles.
Portable chargers operate off of internal battery power and must be periodically charged. Always keep a charging cord with you in case you run out of juice.
Mini projectors offer several versatile applications that you just can’t get from a standard projector, including the following:
Business presentations can be set up “on the fly” by linking your mini projector to your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can easily showcase websites, apps, photo galleries, and more to a group of coworkers.
You can easily bring your mini projector to classrooms, auditoriums, or other functions where you might be presenting to a group.
You can take this portable unit to a friend’s house for movie night or to the park for a group gaming session after sundown.
Projectors with brightness rating of at least 250 lumens work better in non-traditional viewing environments. (LED projectors usually fit this bill.) If you broadcast in ambient light, this is an important consideration.
Two primary types of projectors exist on today’s market: LCD and LED.
An LCD projector transmits an image the same way a camera or video recorder would: by grabbing the signal from the device and sending a feed to the projection source behind the lens.
LED projectors work on the same principles as LCD projectors, save the fact that the lighting source is different. In short, the picture is brighter and the light source for the picture will last longer with an LED projector.
A third type of machine uses DLP (digital light projector) technology. This tech uses reflective sources within the device to take the signal and reflect an image through the lens rather than broadcast it.
Before you dive into a new purchase, take these factors into consideration:
Every projector comes with materials (software, controls, and so on) that enable you to connect it to other devices and project images. For some consumers, a user-friendly interface makes all the difference in the world.
Mini projectors have a wide range of software and lens options to help you achieve best picture quality possible. An LED projector has hardware specific to the lens' function, while many LCD designs utilize laser projection hardware.
Laser-based projectors usually have a lower level of brightness, but the hardware has better color accuracy than that of LED projectors, making the picture sharper.
Projectors include some hookups, they don’t have everything you’d need for every situation. It’s wise to have extra cords on hand, just in case the projector’s cables aren’t compatible.
There are three primary ways you can hook up your devices (laptops, tablets, video systems, smartphones) to a mini projector: VGA, HDMI, and WiFi.
The VGA port is a blue-colored monitor port for computers and laptops.
The HDMI port is primarily used for video systems.
WiFi allows you to connect remotely via your tablet or smartphone.
Most, but not all, mini projectors include their own assortment of connection cords (like HDMI) and USB ports for media drivers to be hooked up in case you don’t have a cable at the ready.
A mini projector’s sound quality depends in part on the projector’s volume control and in part on the setting of your device (laptop, smartphone, etc.).
Some models have built-in speakers that produce quality audio, but they can also be plugged into an audio board or speaker system with the right connection to the headphone jacks.
A mini projector’s speakers may be small, but they can pack a punch. Take care not to blow them out by turning the controls too high and keep your warranty is up-to-date just in case.
A large number of mini projectors run on battery power. This adds to their convenience and portability.
However, it’s important to check the specs before you make an investment, as some mini projectors, though portable, require electricity to run.
It helps to know the battery life of a given mini projector before you purchase it. The owners we surveyed have experienced battery run times between 60 and 90 minutes.
You may want to keep spare batteries on hand in case you lose power midway through a presentation.
You can charge your projector's battery as it plays. However, this isn’t recommended for frequent use or extended periods of time, as it may damage battery cells and reduce charge time for future.
In projector terms, “resolution” refers to the amount of detail a single image holds.
“Aspect ratio” refers to the ratio of the width of an image or screen to its height. “Contrast ratio” refers to the ratio of the luminance of the brightest color to that of the darkest color the system is capable of producing through the lens.
In projector terms, the “lamp” is the source of the projector’s light. It could be a bulb or a display found in the hardware. The lamp’s expected duration of functionality is called the “lamp life.”
Q. What is the difference between a mini projector and a pico projector? The terms seem to be used interchangeably.
A. A mini projector is designed to be easily stored in a backpack or suitcase. But a pico projector takes “lightweight” and “portable’ to the next level. This type of projector is small enough to fit into your pocket and weighs less than three pounds.
Q. Can I connect my mini projector to my Android phone?
A. You can do this with some, but not all, mini projectors. If you own a mini projector that will not connect to your Android, consider buying an adaptor from a third-party source.
Q. Can a mini projector produce a slideshow?
A. Yes, but not in the traditional sense. Mini projectors do not have a source to input frames. You’ll need to build a slideshow on a PC or laptop if you want to broadcast it through a mini projector.
Q. How much heat do mini projectors produce?
A. Most mini projectors produce little heat, but some produce enough to be slightly warm. The hottest areas will be the top and on the lens, but the heat is minimal.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.