5 Reasons to Avoid a New Portable Projector Today

Projector outdoors home theater

5 Reasons to Avoid a New Portable Projector Today

Key Points

  • Portable projectors are smaller versions of traditional projectors, making them much more portable.
  • The image quality of a portable projector pales compared to a television or traditional projector.
  • Rechargeable batteries in portable projectors offer just a few hours of play at most.
  • High prices make it more worthwhile to consider a traditional projector instead.

Before you buy a portable projector, you should consider weighing the pros and cons first. Portable projectors offer an array of appealing features. But, there are five major downsides to consider before you make your purchase. From limited brightness to less-than-optimal image quality and a few other considerations in between, it’s essential you know the most glaring issues associated with portable projectors. Here’s why you might want to avoid a new portable projector at all costs.

5 Must-Know Facts About Portable Projectors

  • Portable projectors are marketed under many names. Pocket projectors, mini-beamers, mobile projectors, and pico projectors all refer to the same type of product. It’s an image projector you can hold in one hand.
  • Most portable projectors rely on LED or laser technology. Projecting images using this display technology helps them stay compact and energy efficient in one.
  • Some pocket projectors come with built-in rechargeable batteries. These wireless models offer unrivaled portability, allowing you to project without needing to be near a power source to do so. 
  • Pocket projectors are smaller and more portable than traditional projectors. But, they typically cannot offer the same brightness and image quality as larger models.
  • The portable projector industry has three different manufacturer types competing with one another: Micro-display makers such as DLP or Himax, light source makers such as Philips and Mitsubishi, and module makers such as Texas Instruments or 3M.
Under $200
VACASSO C12 Portable Projector
  • 1920 x 1080 display resolution
  • Supports 4K Ultra HD decoding
  • Based on 11000 lumen (bright even in daylight)
  • Advanced dust-proof technology and high-efficiency cooling fan
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12/01/2023 11:47 am GMT
Under $500
Anker Nebula Solar Portable 1080p Projector
  • 1080p Full HD
  • 400 ANSI lumens
  • 4K supported
  • Autofocus
  • Keystone correction
  • Built-in stand
  • 3-hour battery life
  • Indoor/outdoor
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11/30/2023 10:45 pm GMT
Under $600
XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro 1080P Portable Projector
  • 1080p resolution
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Android TV 11.0
  • 400 ISO lumens
  • 2 x 8W speakers
  • Supports 4K
  • Auto Focus
  • Object avoidance
  • Screen adaption
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
11/30/2023 10:45 pm GMT

The History of Portable Projectors

The portable projector industry didn’t truly begin until the emergence of Explay in 2003. In partnership with fellow tech brand Kopin, the two introduced the first major commercial handheld projector in 2005. They called it the Nano Projector. It was a pocket-sized device that could display images and videos from laptops, gaming consoles, and more.

Following Explay and Kopin’s lead, other tech companies soon entered the market in hopes of turning a profit on the potential of portable projectors. A huge step forward came later in 2005 with Texas Instruments’ introduction of Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology. This technology, which offered improved image quality and higher brightness levels, single-handedly revolutionized the burgeoning portable projection industry.

Over the next several years, portable projectors became even more compact (and even more powerful to boot). LED technology hit the field in 2008, followed by laser technology in 2010. Together, portable projectors were offering better color reproduction, higher contrast ratios, and longer-lasting light sources than ever before.

The portable projector industry saw another boom with the popularization of smartphones. Many models now offer wireless connectivity through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, enabling seamless streaming from phones or laptops. Furthermore, advancements in LED and laser technology have led to improvements in image quality, brightness, and battery alike.

Family watching photo slideshow projected on the wall.
Portable projectors have greatly improved throughout the 2000s, but they still have serious issues.

©Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.com

Why Avoid a New Portable Projector Today?

Before buying into the hype and getting yourself a new portable projector, it’s important to consider all the reasons to avoid one instead. By taking these factors into account and evaluating your specific needs, you can hopefully avoid a dreaded bad investment. Sure, portable projectors offer convenience and portability. However, they might not always provide the best viewing experience money can buy. Here are all the reasons why you might want to avoid a new portable projector today.

Reduced Brightness

Whether inside or outside, the pitch-black conditions required for the best portable projector picture quality aren’t always possible. Because of their reduced size and limited power supply, some portable projectors might not be able to offer the kind of sufficient brightness you need in a display. If you plan to use the projector outdoors or in a brightly lit room, the brightness of the portable projector’s display might not be high enough for you to see the full picture. This reduced brightness is a serious concern for any hopeful portable projector owner.

Lower Image Quality

Larger, wired projectors are more than capable of 4K image quality. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for portable projectors. These smaller products tend to offer much lower image quality than their larger counterparts. Simply put, portable projectors sacrifice resolution and image quality for their smaller size and wireless power components. They can still provide decent visuals in 1080p. However, they can’t achieve the same kind of sharpness, clarity, or high-definition range as a larger projector model.

Limited Connectivity

Connectivity options for portable projectors have come a long way since 2003. Still, not all portable projector models can support a wide range of sources. It’s yet another important feature sacrificed for smaller size and wireless power. Many portable projectors limit connectivity options to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with no support for other wired connections. Others lack the proper cables for an HDMI or USB connection, requiring you to jump through hoops to connect such sources. You simply won’t face these hurdles with a larger projector.

Short Battery Life

Portable projectors are typically powered by built-in rechargeable batteries. This wireless power is essential if a projector truly wants to call itself portable. Sadly, the battery life of a portable projector only delivers a few hours of viewing at most before you need to recharge it again. If you’re planning to use the projector for extended periods without access to a power source, shorter battery life is going to seriously hinder your plans. Imagine watching a longer movie and having the projector die partway through. What a nightmare.

High Prices

Lastly, we have the sheer cost of portable projectors. Looking past all these other reasons to avoid a new portable projector, high pricing alone could be enough to turn you away. With some high-end models nearing $1,000 or more, you’re almost better off investing in a proper projector instead of a portable one. Why pay so much to get so little? It doesn’t make any sense. Especially when you can get a much more capable projector for the same price or less. If you have a limited budget and don’t necessarily require portability, you might be better off with a traditional projector instead.

Projector displaying images in an outdoor setting.
Before investing in a portable projector, consider its many downsides.


In Review: Reasons to Avoid a New Portable Projector

It’s very important to consider these five factors and evaluate your particular use cases before investing in a portable projector. While they certainly offer convenience and portability, portable projectors simply can’t meet the requirements of every situation like a high-quality wired projector could. Before you head to the checkout, let’s review the five reasons to avoid a new portable projector below.

  • Portable projectors aren’t as bright as traditional ones
  • The image quality of a portable projector pales compared to a television or traditional projector
  • Portable projectors have very few connectivity options
  • Rechargeable batteries in portable projectors offer just a few hours of play at most
  • High prices make it more worthwhile to consider a traditional projector instead

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a portable projector and a traditional one?

Portable projectors are smaller, lightweight devices designed for easy transportation and on-the-go use. They are typically battery-powered and offer compact sizes, making them convenient for travel. Regular projectors, on the other hand, are larger, stationary devices commonly used in classrooms, conference rooms, and home theaters. They often provide higher brightness, image quality, and connectivity options compared to portable projectors.

How do you connect to a portable projector?

Most portable projectors have multiple connectivity options. A majority come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, while some also include HDMI and USB ports. This allows you to connect smartphones, laptops, tablets, gaming consoles, and other devices.

Are portable projectors bright enough to use during the day?

In order to use a portable projector during the day, the projector should have a brightness of 2,000 lumens or more. Anything less than this will be better suited for dimly lit rooms or nighttime use. Any projector with a brightness less than 1,000 lumens will be noticeably dim. While there are some that achieve this, most aren’t bright enough for outdoor use.

Can you use a portable projector to make a presentation?

Yes, portable projectors can be used for presentations. However, they’re better suited for smaller conference rooms than big auditoriums. They might not be bright enough for everyone in a large room to see the display.

Can I replace my TV with a projector?

While portable projectors offer plenty of flexibility and mobility, they probably aren’t going to satisfy your needs to the point of replacing your traditional TV. Portable projectors have limitations in terms of brightness, image quality, and screen size compared to TVs. Plus, there’s the matter of battery life. All in all, portable projectors are better suited for casual viewing. Keep the TV.

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