Best Mini Projectors of 2018

Anna Burleson ·
Updated
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We tested mini projectors for more than 20 hours to compare these tiny, useful devices. In our evaluation, we looked at a multitude of data points including image quality, compatibility, and size and weight and found the Optoma ML750ST is the best out there. This mini projector has a clear, bright picture and works in a multitude of settings. It’s compact, lightweight and perfect for use at home or work. 

Best Overall

Optoma ML750ST

The Optoma ML750ST has impressive image quality and works well in a wide variety of settings thanks to its low throw ratio.
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Best Budget

AAXA M5

The AAXA M5 sports sharp brightness levels and picture quality in a compact package with a relatively inexpensive price. With its full suite of ports, the M5’s connectivity options make it stand out.
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Most Portable

Optoma ML550

The Optoma ML550 is one of the smallest, lightest mini projectors we evaluated. Despite its small size, this machine projects a crystal-clear picture.
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Our Test Results

Product
Price
$493.02Amazon
$399.00Amazon
$479.00Amazon
$546.99Bhphotovideo
$599.99Bhphotovideo
$339.99Amazon
$386.72Amazon
Overall Rating
9.4
9.1
8.5
7.9
7.8
7.5
5.5
Picture Quality
10
8.5
8
6
5.8
5.3
6
Connectivity
8.8
10
8.8
9.3
9.3
10
3.3
Build Quality
8.5
9.3
8
9.3
10
8.3
6.8
Help & Support
10
8
10
10
10
8
10
Sound Quality
A-
A
C+
B
B-
C+
C-
Battery Life (hours)
No Battery
1:05
No Battery
1:35
2:10
0:55
2:42
Weight (pounds)
0.8
1.9
0.8
1.4
0.77
0.97
0.46
Remote
N/A
Dimensions (inches)
4.1 x 4.2 x 1.5
6 x 6 x 1.8
4.1 x 4.1 x 1.5
6.9 x 4.3 x 1.7
4.5 x 4.5 x 1.3
5.9 x 3.8 x 1.5
5.9 x 3 x 0.5
Live Chat
N/A
N/A
Phone
Online Help
Email
Warranty
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
Native Resolution
1280 x 800
1280 x 800
1280 x 800
1280 x 720
1280 x 720
1280 x 800
1920 x 720
Brightness (lumens)
700
900
500
550
350
400
32
Throw Ratio
0.8
1.2
1.5
1.4
1.47
1.38
1.3
Image Quality
A+
A+
A
B-
B
B-
C+
Projection Type
LED
LED
LED
LED
LED
LED
Laser
Video Output
HDMI
HDMI
HDMI
HDMI
mini HDMI
HDMI
mini HDMI
Composite
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
VGA
N/A
N/A
Bluetooth
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
USB Storage Support
N/A
Wireless Streaming Support
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
microSD
N/A
N/A
Best Overall

Optoma ML750ST

Its amazing image quality and ability to project from up close make the Optoma ML750ST the best mini projector overall. What really makes this projector stand out is its throw ratio, which is the distance the projector is from the screen versus the width of the image it displays.
We prefer a low ratio because it gives you the freedom to project from very close to the wall. The ML750ST has a 0.8:1 throw ratio, the lowest of any projector we evaluated. It has a native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and can upscale video content to 1080i. The bulb inside is rated at 700 lumens, which makes it the second-brightest bulb of any projector we tested and guarantees you’ll be able to see your video clearly even if there is lots of ambient light. The only thing this LED projector is lacking is Bluetooth compatibility, so you have to plug your speakers into it. This projector’s audio quality is slightly better than most of the other devices we tested, but keep in mind that no mini projector has great sound. It's one of the smallest projectors we looked at, really earning the moniker of pocket-sized projector. The fan is quiet, even during long movies, so there's no need to worry about having to deal with that annoying whirring sound.
Pros
  • It can project from up close or farther away from a screen or flat surface.
  • It’s sleek and lightweight.
  • This projector comes with a very bright bulb.
Cons
  • It lacks Bluetooth connectivity.
  • The sound quality is poor.
  • It doesn’t come with a built-in battery.
$493.02Amazon
Best Budget

AAXA M5

The AAXA M5 has incredible image quality and is one of the more affordable options. This LED projector has a native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and can also upscale video content to 1080p. Those features, paired with the 900-lumen bulb, make for a clear picture that's easy to see.
This projector's connectivity includes a full-size HDMI input, microSD slot and standard audio port. While it lacks Bluetooth capability and a wireless screen monitor, the M5’s internal battery that lasts over an hour. The M5's throw ratio is another bonus. This is the distance the projector is from the screen versus the width of the image it displays. A low ratio means the projector works when placed close to the projection surface, and the M5's ratio is 1.2:1, the second lowest in our comparison. While this machine isn't the smallest we found, it feels well-built. And even though it's on the heavier side, it's still extremely easy to move around. It also comes with a battery that will last you about an hour. The audio quality is lacking and the M5's fan is noticeably loud, but given its clear picture and reasonable price we still recommend it.
Pros
  • It’s inexpensive compared to other mini projectors.
  • The M5 has great image quality and brightness.
  • It comes with a built-in battery that lasts about an hour.
Cons
  • The fan is a little noisy.
  • It isn’t Bluetooth compatible.
  • It’s heavier than some mini projectors, weighing almost 2 pounds.
$399.00Amazon
Most Portable

Optoma ML550

Weighing less than a pound and with dimensions of 4.1 x 4.1 x 1.5 inches, the Optoma ML550 is the most portable mini projector we tested. However, its small size doesn't mean it's lacking in any other important features like image quality or brightness.
Aside from being easy to move around, this projector’s color accuracy really makes it stand out. While some projectors cast muted or altered colors, the ML550 displays oranges as orange, grass as green and so on. This LED projector has a native resolution of 1280 x 800 and comes with a bulb that has a brightness rating of 500 lumens, one of the brighter bulbs of the machines we looked at. As with most mini projectors, sound quality is lacking, but you can easily connect your own speakers with an auxiliary cord. While its throw ratio of 1.5:1 means it’s hard to work with in small spaces, this projector is still worth looking at if portability is your main priority.
Pros
  • It is small, lightweight and easy to move around.
  • The color accuracy and image quality are impressive.
  • It comes with internal memory.
Cons
  • It does not come with a built-in battery.
  • Because of its throw ratio, it doesn’t perform well in compact spaces.
  • It lacks Bluetooth compatibility.
$479.00Amazon

How We Tested 

For hands-on testing, we used each mini projector in controlled, real-world environments. We looked at picture quality and brightness both in dark rooms and areas with ambient light. We also looked at color accuracy using a colorimeter in a dark environment to make sure colors were true to life.

We listened to audio quality and discovered it was lacking in every mini projector we tested. If you’re watching videos, we recommend connecting to your own set of speakers either through an auxiliary cord or Bluetooth.

Review units were either purchased or loaned to us by the manufacturer. Companies had no input on our testing processes, and our data was not shared with them prior to publication or in any more detail than is presented in our reviews.

Important Features to Consider When Choosing a Mini Projector 

Brightness & Picture Quality
Most mini projectors are built around either laser or LED projection hardware. While both have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to image quality, their differences illustrate the importance of brightness. If you project in a non-traditional environment like outside or during the daytime with lots of ambient light in the room, you need a bright projector to create a clear picture. Projectors with brightness ratings of at least 250 lumens display usable media in most viewing environments.

Technical image quality plays an equally important role in your viewing experience. During our testing, we evaluated each projector’s color accuracy by measuring how well each model rendered a variety of colors. While laser-based projectors tend to have low brightness ratings, their high-quality hardware has some advantages over that of traditional LED pico projectors. During our picture quality testing, the laser mini projectors we reviewed had substantially better color accuracy marks than competing LED models.

Sound Quality
In our hands-on testing, we found audio fidelity is rarely a strength for mini projectors. Because of their small statures, these projectors often have to rely on a single low-powered speaker for audio. While high-end models can usually reach high volumes, the audio quality is often thin and poorly defined. Most mini projectors come with 3.5 mm audio output or Bluetooth connectivity so they can connect to external speakers for better sound quality.

Picture Quality & Resolution
As with standard home laptops and desktops, each projector is built with a default resolution. Default resolution varies by projector but is usually comparable to a standard- or high-definition television. Most low-resolution projectors can still display high-definition content like Blu-ray movies and video games, but because the image has to be downsized, image quality generally steps back.

Room Sizes & Throw Distance
If you plan to frequently move your projector around your home or office, make sure you know the projector’s throw specifications. A projector’s throw ratio determines screen size range, and it is calculated by dividing how far the projector is from the screen by the width of the projected image.

Projectors with small throw ratios display large images when close to the surface you project on, while large-ratio models need to be farther away to create a large display. The ideal throw ratio depends on where you plan to use the projector.

Battery Life 
A mini projector is a portable device, and especially if you’re moving from office to office or are on the go, you need its battery to last. While you will rarely use your projector anywhere that doesn’t have a power outlet, it is inconvenient to have to tailor your use around how long the battery lasts. Mainstream projectors have batteries that last between one and two hours. High-end models often trade an included battery for better image quality.

Connectivity

Home users usually only need an HDMI port, but business users benefit from projectors with more diverse connection options. If you’re moving between offices or businesses, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be connecting to a device with modern inputs and outputs. Along with standards like HDMI, business-friendly mini projectors feature options like VGA ports and audio output.

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