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Best portable projector: The best pico and handheld projectors

If you don’t have enough space for a dedicated installation, then the next best option is to find yourself a portable projector.

Portable projectors (also known as pico) are smaller-sized models that offer you more flexibility in terms of where they can be positioned. They’re a convenient, room-friendly option for more casual living room users or for those who want to project onto a screen in their garden.

And with pico projectors gaining in popularity, more options equals more choice. We’re here to help you find the best portable projector for you, sifting through our reviews to present this list of the best performing models.

When we review pico projectors we look at how portable and flexible they are in terms of placement. We consider their build quality, their picture and sound, what features they have and how convenient they are to use, because at the end of the day, portable projectors are meant to be easy to use, not difficult.

We’ll compare against other similarly featured and priced projectors to determine models offers the best value. From that process comes the best pico projectors on this list.

If you’re new to the world of projectors and aren’t sure what to get, we’ve got other best buy lists to narrow down your options. For more advanced home cinema fans, have a look out our best projectors. For those who want to take their home cinema into the garden, we have a best outdoor projectors list you can look at.

Best portable projectors at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test projectors

We test projectors by, well, watching lots of movies on them. But not just movies: we watch sports and TV programmes to get a sense of how they work in terms of motion, sharpness, detail and overall image fidelity.

Depending on the projector, we’ll test them in a bespoke home cinema room or in our own rooms and gardens to see if they live up to the manufacturer’s claims about their performance.

If it’s an HDR projector, we’ll watch plenty of HDR content to determine if colours are correct and whether the projector can do a decent approximation of HDR. If it’s a gaming projector we’ll test the latency to determine how responsive it is.

We’ll also assess the projector in terms of its size and whether it needs a dedicated installation, as well as how much noise it makes during operation and whether that can be a hindrance to watching content. Are they easy to use? And do they require more expert knowledge to operate are considerations we also take into account.

With our reviewers knowledge of previous projectors tested, they’ll be considered to what’s come before to determine whether they offer good value, regardless of how much or how little they cost.

XGIMI Horizon Ultra

Best Dolby Vision portable projector
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  • Exceptional image quality with Dolby Vision
  • Very clever auto configuration
  • Loud and powerful audio


  • No Android TV version of Netflix

While we’ve seen the likes of HDR10+ dynamic metadata supported on JVC and Samsung projectors, it’s rare that we’ve encountered Dolby Vision on a projector. That’s no longer the case with the release of the XGIMI Horizon Ultra.

The Horizon Ultra is a smart portable projector, a step up from the Horizon Pro in terms of looks (more stylish), and practicality (a new motorised shutter to protect the lens). It can be placed on a table but also comes with a tripod mount for some more flexibility, which is welcome. The connectivity provided is very good, with an eARC HDMI for connecting a soundbar to the projector, optical, 3.5mm out, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth among the options provided.

The Horizon Ultra supports Android TV 11, but as is often the case with projectors, this interface does not come with a dedicated Netflix app. This isn’t XGIMI’s fault but lies with Netflix not certifying their app for projectors. Nevertheless you can install other major streaming apps, and we like the big and bold interface which suits a large screen that a projector can produce.

We also like the Intelligent Screen Adaptation technology that provides auto focus and keystone correction, along with its obstacle avoidance, which adds convenience to using the projector. The Ultra can also adapt for different wall colours, so if your wall isn’t white, then don’t fret as with this feature you can still get accurate colours.

The performance is one we found to offer excellent contrast, as well as rich and deep colours. It doesn’t come with a native 4K chip, instead using a Full HD chip and upscaling the image to 4K. At 2300 ANSI lumens it’s one of the brightest portable projectors we’ve tested, although the JMGO N1 Ultra is brighter still at 4000 lumens.

With Dolby Vision the Horizon Ultra delivers more convincing blacks, and retrieves more detail from the darkest parts of the image for an image that’s more reflective of how films and TV shows are meant to be seen. With brighter content, it’s capable of showcasing warm, but natural colours, marking this a definite step up from the Horizon Pro.

The Harman Kardon sound system is excellent in our estimation, able to fill a room with ease and showcasing some good stereo separation. Bass is pretty good for a portable projector, though it obviously can’t go as deep as a subwoofer could. For £1749 / $1699, it’s an excellent home cinema in a box solution.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Review: XGIMI Horizon Ultra

Samsung Freestyle

Best portable projector
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  • Easy-to-setup big screen images
  • Surprisingly good sound
  • Built-in streaming apps


  • Limited to Full HD resolution
  • Colour gamut could be wider

The Freestyle’s cylindrical shape and stand allow it to be easily carried to and fro, with the adjustable stand able to be angled from 90 to 180 degrees, along with an image size that can stretch from 30- to 100-inches. That helps to make the Freestyle a versatile, easy to set-up and accommodating projector.

Our reviewer found the chassis felt rather robust, so it could survive a few knocks, and controls are kept simple and accessible with touch sensitive buttons for power, casting and volume, as well as a switch for activating the microphone.

Connectivity here is also kept nice and simple with a Micro HDMI port that supports HDR signals and eARC for connecting a Dolby Atmos soundbar. The USB-C port is only for connecting the Freestyle’s power adaptor. For wireless connections there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2 and Apple AirPlay 2 that offer a range of ways to connect mobile devices to the Freestyle. Wi-Fi support also allows Samsung’s Tizen smart interface with access to apps such as Netflix and Disney+, plus there is Bixby and Amazon Alexa for voice assistants.

During testing, we found the picture to very good with a clean and detailed performance and punchy HDR colours when called upon. The 500 lumens of brightness it has at its disposal is fine, but not as bright as either XGIMI Elfin or Philips PicoPix MaxTV, both of which get close to 1000 nits for a brighter picture.

We measured input lag for gaming at 44ms, and while that’s fine for a projector it wouldn’t appeal to those in need of a faster performance. We also measured noise level at 25dB at a distance of 2ft, making for a quiet enough experience when in operation. The built-in speakers sound good for such a small projector, the size of the sound is extended beyond the casing for a bigger sound than was initially expected.

Samsung has announced a follow-up with 2nd Gen Freestyle that includes features such as 21:9 screen ratio and support for Samsung’s Gaming Hub, which includes Xbox Game Pass. We’ll be looking to review that model very soon.

Reviewer: Steve Withers
Full Review: Samsung Freestyle

JMGO N1 Ultra

Best premium portable projector
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  • Extremely bright
  • Excellent image quality
  • Flexible stand


  • Stand doesn’t have a tripod mount
  • No native Netflix

By now we’ve been used to portable projectors having to comprise their performance with a low-resolution picture quality, but the JMGO N1 Ultra is a 4K pico projector that can comfortable straddle the worlds of portable projector and a high quality experience.

The design features a built in gimbal that allowed our reviewer plenty of flexibility in terms of where to point the projector, whether that was at a screen, wall or ceiling. More importantly when positioned it stayed in the same position and didn’t drop.

Set-up is a lot more straightforward that other portable projectors we’ve tested, with its Autofocus and horizontal keystone correction helping to make getting a square picture easy enough, though we would have liked a tripod mount for an extra degree of flexibility. Don’t discard the original packaging as that can be used to transport the JMGO about.

It features two HDMI 2.1 inputs, one of which is eARC to connect to a soundbar, where it can pass through Dolby Atmos audio at its highest quality. With its Android TV integration there’s also support for Google Assistant and plenty of streaming apps such as Disney+, BT Sport and Apple TV+, though Netflix is noticeable by its absence.

With a rated brightness of 4000 lumens, the JMGO is bright enough to get a reasonably sized image up on the wall during the day. However, we still found that closing the blinds/curtains is needed to get an even bigger image on screen.

And though the N1 Ultra doesn’t strictly output at 4K resolution, we found it eked plenty of detail, sharpness and clarity from what we watched in 4K, with its HDR10 support delivering bright images when viewing Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Black levels can verge towards grey, but perfect blacks are rare in the projector world unless you’re spending a lot of money.

The dual 10W speakers can also deliver a big, loud sound whether the N1 Ultra is being used in the home or outside. There’s enough detail to hear what’s said, though we found bass to be clumsily handled. Nevertheless, the eARC means you can add a Dolby Atmos soundbar to get the most out of the set-up.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Review: JMGO N1 Ultra


Best Android portable projector
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  • Bright
  • Clever automatic setup
  • Clear image
  • Decent audio


  • Expensive
  • No native Netflix

Compare the XGIMI Halo+ to the original Halo and the brightness has been upped to 900 lumens from 800, making it a brighter alternative to the Samsung Freestyle. While the boost in brightness is not massive, it does help when using it in darker rooms.

Image size can go as far as 200-inches, though we found half that size to be more than adequate. The XGIMI supports resolutions up to Full HD, and we found it produced bright images with vibrant and rich colours, especially when dealing with brighter content. Contrast is generally good, although blacks do veer to grey and it can be difficult to get a sense of detail in darker scenes – the addition of HDR10+ helps by revealing more detail.

Boasting dual 5W Harman Kardon speakers, we found the audio quality was decent with good volume and clarity. The lack of bass puts a spanner in offering a true cinematic experience but for casual viewers it’s a solid performance. Battery life we found to be around two hours when unplugged from the mains, which means average length films should be fine but the Halo+ will likely struggle with epic runtimes. The XGIMI’s LED lamp is claimed to last up to 30,000 hours, which is around ten years of use if the XGIMI were used for eight hours a day.

For a portable projector, there’s convenience in the form of an automatic procedure that optimises the picture when the Halo+ is moved, meaning you won’t have to worry about fiddling with the image each time. Android TV is supported with its convenient and intuitive layout, and although there’s access to Google Play Store library we found that Netflix wasn’t supported for this projector an apps such as NOW aren’t available. consider adding a Fire TV Stick or have a look at Freestyle, which has more supported apps.

In terms of its size the Halo+ can fit into a bag or suitcase, but is pushing at the threshold of portability considering it lacks a handle like the Anker Nebula Capsule Max. There is a room for positioning the projector, as it can be placed on a flat surface, used with its integrated kickstand to angle the projector up, or propped on a tripod mount.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Review: XGIMI Halo+

Anker Nebula Capsule Max

Best portable projector under £500
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  • HD resolution
  • Great build quality
  • Good battery life
  • Nice app
  • Android built-in


  • Not very bright
  • No Google Play Store
  • No lens protector

By the standards of portable projectors, the Anker Nebula Capsule Max is tiny. At 15cm tall, with a diameter of 80mm, it’s smaller than a good proportion of Bluetooth speakers. Its weight of 737g means it’s lighter than most portable projectors, making it easy to carry around or stash in a bag.

Control are kept simple on the device itself with buttons for volume, cursor keys, select and back that are handy for quickly pausing or changing something but both the remote control and Nebula Connect app offer more extensive means of operation. Around the back of the unit is a port for power, 3.5mm audio output, a USB port for connecting external storage and an HDMI port. The Anker runs on Android 8.1 which allows access to a good set of apps, with the likes of Netflix and Prime Video, although at the time of review there was no Disney+.

The Capsule Max can automatically adjust its focus and keystone to make optimising the image much simpler and convenient for those who a desire a no-fuss experience. While we didn’t measure the fan noise, it was noticeable even when we weren’t watching anything. There’s a built-in battery for portable use, able to run for 90 minutes on full brightness or 4 hours when brightness is reduced.

Sticking with the theme of brightness, the quoted 200 lumens is okay for general viewing and we found we could only go the 100-inch screen size when it was dark to get the best from its picture performance. Contrast is fine, though like the Halo+, blacks erred towards grey. Colours proved to be reasonably accurate with decent vibrancy, and sharpness and resolution (720p) was a step up on the original Nebula Capsule for a more detailed image.

With an 8W speaker, the Anker provided good volume and surprisingly meaty bass. Provided the room you’re watching is quiet, it’s a decent performance, but the 3.5mm audio jack there’s the option of adding an external sound system for a better, louder experience.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Review: Anker Nebula Capsule Max

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Are pico projectors any good?

Yes, especially for those that don’t have much space for a more dedicated installation, then a pico projector can work its magic by offering more flexibility in terms of placement. They’re not as good as dedicated projectors, but are fine, affordable efforts for more casual viewing.

Comparison specs

Size (Dimensions)
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Projector Type
Brightness Lumens
Lamp Life
Contrast Ratio
Max Image Size
Types of HDR
Refresh Rate
Audio (Power output)
Display Technology
Projector Display Technology
Throw Ratio

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