Movie experiences are often synonymous with sitting on the bench in front of the TV screen in the living room. Or you go to the cinema, or even have a dedicated home theater room with a projector at home. None of the parts are very tempting in the summer heat, then you would rather pull outdoors.
Normally, it means taking the movie experience out, staring at your mobile or tablet. And as an “ego solution” it works fine. But what if there are several who want to take part in the experience? Or that you simply think the mobile screen is getting too cluttered? The solution is a portable projector. Imagine watching the football match outdoors in the summer evening, on the “big screen”! The possibilities are many.
A portable projector can project a much larger image than you get from a tablet or laptop, something even people on the go should appreciate. It is handy during the flight or train ride, where you can watch movies directly on the back of the chair in front of you. And when you get to the hotel room, you can enjoy a 100-inch picture directly on the wall. The small hotel TV is fading in comparison! Just be aware that the image is slightly more coarse-grained than you are used to from the PC screen and tablet, as the pixel resolution is lower than HD.
If you want better sound than the rickety built-in speaker, you can use the audio output and connect a portable speaker. Just make sure the speaker has such a 3.5mm analog audio input, or if the projector has a Bluetooth connection, it can be connected wirelessly to a Bluetooth speaker. As always, the larger the speakers, the larger the sound, so you get to consider between portability and sound pressure.
Pocket Projector: Different functions
Portable projectors come in different sizes and shapes, and then it is often the case that smaller can be more practical, while the slightly larger ones have better brightness and are thus more useful in more situations. Some have a built-in player that can be fed with movies stored on memory cards, others have wireless playback from a smartphone. Some have Bluetooth connectivity to wireless headphones.
The requirement we have set in this test is that the projectors must have an HDMI input that works with both media players and smartphones. They must have a built-in battery or the possibility of this, otherwise they can not be called portable. Everyone in this test has a built-in speaker, and most have headphone output.
The pocket projector candidates
We have tried to get as many projectors as possible. It turned out not to be very easy. Many manufacturers have cut out such, others are in the middle of replacing models. For example, we expect to get the Sony MP-CD1, but it did not arrive in time for this test.
Then we ended up getting a whole bunch of Philips projectors. They may have the largest width of such among some others, so if you think this looks skewed, know that the number we got was even larger, whereupon we selected the ones we considered most relevant.
We already know the Asus ZenBeam E1, and we do the same with the BenQ GS1, which has better brightness and resolution than most. And also with an extremely short throw distance, for the largest possible images from the shortest possible distance.
This is how we tested
We have tested all the projectors with movies from Netflix via Apple TV. An HDMI splitter is used so that several projectors can display the same image at the same time. Projectors that have other functions such as wireless mirroring from mobile, video files on memory chip, etc., we have not tested this time.
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PicoPix PPX5110 is a very compact projector, which weighs little in the hand. It has a short projection distance, and folds up a 32-inch image at a distance of one meter. In addition to HDMI input, it can wirelessly mirror video from iOS and Android devices.
To reduce weight and size, the battery is at a frugal 1900 mAh. It prevents brightness, we are limited to 100 Lumens, which is in the lower layer. Prepare to keep the room dark, and do not expect sharp images over 50-60 inches. Battery life is also an unimpressive 70 minutes with projection.
PPX5110 has an upright optics, so that when it is on a table, the lower half of the image is projected along the table surface. It must therefore rise from the ground when watching movies.
With Doctor Strange from Netflix via Apple TV, the images look sharper than we had previously thought with low pixel resolution, much like a DVD. In comparison, the slightly more expensive brother PPX3417 looks a bit more serrated. But it is an illusion, as a result of a faint image that removes the focus from the large pixels.
Darker images mean fewer details. The advantage is blacker black, but such projectors should preferably be used in situations where you are exposed to a lot of light. PX5110 is also quite reddish in color, faces tend towards sunburn.
The sound works, but we would of course use headphones or connect the projector to an external speaker.
With its very travel-friendly format and low price, we can understand that many will consider the Philips PicoPix PPX5110. But the battery life is very limited and the brightness as well. Prepare to have to go for all the curtains, and keep the image size below 60 inches. The colors are a bit oversaturated, but it works.
Despite the temptingly low price, we would rather spend a little more on a better projector.
The Asus S1 is slightly larger and heavier than the smallest projectors, but goes almost in the trouser pocket and slides smoothly into a handbag. The built-in 6,000 mAh battery lasts for around 3 hours. It can also be used as an emergency charger for mobile phones. The projector does not read video files, but has an HDMI input that also supports MHL for Android phones.
For just 50 bucks more than the Philips PPX5110, the Asus S1 provides a significantly better picture experience. The resolution is the same, and round objects may look somewhat serrated, and S1 is not optimal as a text viewer. But for video it works quite ok, with about the same resolution as the old picture tube TVs.
The brightness is in a completely different league than PPX5110, and here you actually see the picture in all the scenes, even if you do not necessarily have it darkened in the room. Though, as always, it pays to draw the curtains. Doctor Strange provides a good picture experience, and the colors look neutral and nice. No burgundy faces here. The black level is a bit paler than, for example, Philips PPX3417, and the images are therefore somewhat flatter. But we think the compromise works well, and we like the extra brightness. The projection distance is short, here you get a 41 inch image from just one meter away, which is very good.
The 2 watt sound is louder than many of its competitors, which only have 1 watt. Of course, it gets much better with a speaker, which can be connected via the headphone output.
The Asus S1 is a compact travel projector with 200 Lumens, and is among the brightest in its class. It does not have the best black level, but with natural colors and short throw distance combined with a good battery life, the compromise is still one of the best we have come across in this price range.
That you can use the projector as an emergency charger for your mobile is a nice bonus, but not something we have emphasized.
ZenBeam E1 comes in a simple and functional aluminum case, in a size that in a bygone era would have suited a Walkman. A sliding lid protects the lens, and along the sides there are holes for ventilation. The battery gives you up to five hours of portable home theater, with no cable other than the one from the player.
The connection is simple. There is a simple HDM input, and beyond that you will find only 3.5 mm headphone jack, power connection and a USB port for charging. In other words, it is exactly what is needed. But it would have increased the possibilities drastically if you had also been able to play movies from SD cards or USB media. Not to mention wireless playback from Android devices via Miracast.
The brightness is E1’s Achilles heel. Even in a darkened living room late at night, the picture seems a bit dull. The projector provides a maximum brightness of 150 lumens. That is roughly equivalent to a 15 watt light bulb. And it is noticeable when it is running at full pressure. In Eco mode, where the battery life is stated at five hours, the brightness drops to 50 lumens. The resolution is also limited. The projector accepts Full HD signals, but has only a physical resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. That is barely a quarter of Full HD.
The built-in speaker is inherently very small, but delivers surprisingly powerful and good sound. As a portable giant TV with Internet TV from the PC, you can easily follow the program. It was even necessary to turn down the volume.
Asus ZenBeam E1 is a projector, which by virtue of its size can come in places where few others have been before it. It has its limitations in both image quality and features, but it is still a charming little guy! During working hours, it takes up almost no space in the bag when you are giving a presentation. And during the holidays, it can act as a big screen in the hotel room, in the cabin or at the campsite. If only one could shrink the PC accordingly, the world would be perfect.
PicoPix PPX3417W differs from many other pocket projectors by being a real multimedia machine. In addition to the HDMI input also supporting MHL which is important for getting picture from Android phones, it can also play video files directly from an SD card or USB memory.
A remote control is included, which simplifies use. Here is also the option to set brightness and choose between different image modes. Also «Bright mode», which provides extra bright images, which then reduces the battery life to from 2 to 1.5 hours.
The projector has a long throw distance, we had to place it about twice as far away from the wall as with the nearest, and had to 2.5 meters away to get a 60 inch image.
The image is brighter than the faintest, roughly on par with the Asus S1. This projector can be used in a room in the middle of the day if the curtains screen well. The pixel resolution in standard DVD quality is not impressive in itself, but you can live in movies and TV series here. The pictures are sharp, and the colors are lifelike.
The sound is ok but does not impress anyone. It is as one would expect from a 1 watt speaker.
The biggest cut in the sea with the PicoPix PPX3417W is slightly annoying fan noise.
There are few other projectors that can boast the same functionality as the Philips PicoPix PPX3417W. In addition to HDMi input, it can stream video wirelessly with an associated Wi-Fi dongle, and it also plays video files from USB memory and SD card. A remote control makes it easy to use.
The image quality is surprisingly good, the brightness is just inside to work well in most situations. The disadvantage is a very long throw distance in relation to the image size, which limits the use if space is tight. We also charge for fan noise.
Philips PicoPix PPX4835 looks like gold on paper. A resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels provides a good starting point, combined with a brightness of as much as 350 Lumens. Built-in 3-watt speaker also provides louder sound than many other similar projectors, although this can not be compared to an external speaker.
There is no built-in player for video files or wireless functionality. Instead, they have opted for a pure HDMI input. It supports MHL and can thus receive video from Android mobiles, while iOS users can use an HDMI adapter.
The brightness of the PPX4835 is in a different class than its cheaper competitors. The Marvel movie Doctor Strange is more visible in bright surroundings, and you can project a larger image without it getting too dark. And round objects are smoother, without the saw teeth they get from the lower resolution projectors. So far so good.
But there are some serious problems, and then we ignore that the fan makes some noise. First, the focus is not sharp enough. Both PPX3417W and Asus E1 have sharper images. Furthermore, faces look almost sunburned, due to too little intensity in green.
But the biggest problem with the projector is color banding. Where the sky should have even shades between dark and light areas, it instead looks like the cross section of an onion. With powerful jumps from level to level. This is how it gets annoying in the long run.
What on paper looks so good, with 720p resolution and a hefty brightness of 350 Lumens, is ruined by the fact that the image is never quite sharp enough, and a slightly energetic green color makes faces too reddish and the images generally flat. The worst is the color banding, which makes the sky and other scenes that should have even shades, instead look like the cross section of an onion.
Then it helps little with a fairly powerful speaker and that you can use the projector as an emergency charger.
BenQ GS1 is a Columbi egg of a projector, which makes it possible to take the great movie experiences out into the world.
Takes up less space than even a small TV, but provides a great image with a short projector distance. Can play directly from USB key or Android mobile, thanks to built-in Android media player.
It costs like a full-fledged projector. It is not possible to play all types of movies, and a mouse and keyboard are often required. The brightness is limited - but hey, it can run for three hours on batteries!
The BenQ GS1 is not in pocket format, but still compact enough to carry in your luggage on your holiday trip. With the battery pack fitted, it is the size of a lunch box. On the front is the short-throw type lens, which can project a 60-inch image from just one meter away. At the top you will find buttons for operation (the same as on the remote control). The back is well equipped: HDMI input, two USB ports, audio output and a microSD card reader.
The brightness is a maximum of 300 lumens. It is just enough for indoor use in the caravan, in the hotel room or under the open night sky with a stretched sheet as a movie screen
In addition to the physical connections, the GS1 is equipped with Wifi and Bluetooth. An Android-based media player is hiding in the box office. If you want great sound for the movie, you can connect a Bluetooth speaker. In the same way, you can connect a mouse and keyboard, and in practice get a complete computer. The media player supports most common video and audio formats, as well as PDF, PowerPoint, Excel and Word files.
As the ultimate test, we stuffed the projector in our backpack, and took it out into the warm May evening to enjoy Rogue One in the open air. A JBL Xtreme wireless speaker ensures noise and crashes on the banks of the Akerselva. Ok, brightness is less than at home, the canvas flutters in the wind, and you are eaten by mosquitoes. But it lasts all the way!
BenQ GS1 is a small Columbi egg of a projector. With the built-in battery pack and media player, you only need to add a screen and a video file to watch movies, wherever you want. The picture quality is good, although the brightness is somewhat modest, and thanks to its extreme portability, it almost calls for finding new ways to watch movies.
In practice, you can have an entire cinema show in a backpack. Including a Bluetooth speaker, a sheet for projection, a sixpack – and a bag of chips!