The Dangbei Mars Laser is a mid-range projector that has a lot going for it, with strong picture quality, high brightness and a premium design. But for a wider selection of in-built apps and issues with casting it would be an easier recommendation.
- Good picture quality
- Decent speakers
- Strong connectivity options
- Iffy software
- Small selection of apps installed
- Some occasional keystoning issues
- PictureSupports HDR10 and HLG HDR formats
- Game modeLatency claimed to be less than 20ms
- AudioDolby and DTS Audio compatibility
Spurred by a series of launches from Chinese manufacturers both big and small, the projector market is heating up. Traditional players like Epson and Optoma are being confronted by upstarts like Dangbei, hungry for success and ready to fight.
The Mars Laser is the latest offering from the firm and is a definite statement of intent. As the name suggests, it features laser projection, up to 2100 ISO lumens, an official Netflix license and 10W speakers, all for just under £1000.
That’s more than a lot of the competition offer, if not dramatically so, and shows Dangbei wanting to move its brand name into more ‘premium’ waters.
With plenty of competition, at and below the price point, does it do quite enough to earn a place in your home cinema set up? Read on for our full review.
- Premium looks
- Weighs more than expected
- Has decent connectivity options
Though not an absolute dictum, the design of the standard ‘smart’ projector tends toward portability as a mantra. They are often intended to be devices that can be taken and plugged in anywhere, even if they mainly lack battery packs.
The Dangbei Mars Laser is decidedly not of that ilk, at 4.5kg it is portly rather than portable. That isn’t an issue if it will spend its life in one spot or be moved around the home, but it is important to note regardless.
Weight aside, this is a mostly good looking projector, made of high quality glossy plastics and metals. The heft lends it a sturdy feeling, and on the rear it has a generous selection of ports, with two HDMI slots, an optical audio pass through, USB and more. It is a device that should fit into most home TV set ups comfortably, being at once expensive looking and discreet. Not that most will need it, but it also has as an Ethernet port.
Setting the device up into position is a little more complex. This is a projector that likes to sit at direct angles to its intended screen. There’s no little foot as there is on the likes of the Emotn N1 to prop it up at an angle to project. Though this is far from an essential inclusion, it is definitely a nice extra that gives a projector a little more flexibility in use.
On the control front the Dangbei comes with a Bluetooth remote that pairs on set up and works quickly. It has dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, and was generally reliable in testing. The on-device controls are limited to a touch-sensitive power button on the top of the device. Power is supplied via a barrel-pin plug.
In all the Dangbei Mars Laser looks worth the price of entry, but lacks a little of the versatility that could have made it an easier sell for those with unconventional set-ups.
- Built-in casting options
- Netflix installed by default
- Has a very slight app store included
If there is one fundamental point to the existence of smart projector over a ‘dumb’ projector, it is the promise of cutting out the middle man, of connecting directly to Wi-Fi and launching an app without a streaming stick or the like.
The great promise of the Dangbei is its in-built support for Netflix, which is considered such a big selling point it is plastered over almost everything else. It also has Prime Video and YouTube built-in, which are nice to see.
Within the pre-installed apps, performance was smooth and content there looked great. There came a few hiccups however, which negatively impacted the experience of using the projector. The first was a proper lack of Chromecast support. Despite being tested on two separate Wi-Fi connections, only YouTube worked for casting, Netflix didn’t play ball. Casting isn’t an essential feature, but it is a quality of life addition that caters to different kinds of users and their preferences.
Second came the quality of the apps that aren’t Prime Video, Netflix or Youtube, there are a few installed and they are terrible. Particularly egregious is ‘TikiLive’ which features One America News as its main station when launched. None of the other apps offer any kind of breadth of content, and in the included ‘app’ store the only inclusion worthy of mention is Plex.
So if your viewing habits consist solely of YouTube, Prime Video, and Netflix, you’ll be able to just plug-in and play with the Dangbei. For people who want to watch the likes of iPlayer or Channel 4, a streaming stick plugged in the back will do the needful.
There’s a few baked in options to cast to the device too, called HomeShare and MirrorCast. In my experience none of these worked reliably, often simply failing to recognise a device trying to connect, whether Android, iOS, or Windows. This can potentially be fixed with an update, but it is troubling on a device costing just shy of £1000.
On a more positive note, the 10W speakers that the device sports produce sound that is powerful and clear, working well to fill a room when required. Although they won’t challenge the likes of a proper sound bar or surround sound set up, they get the job done when watching movies on the fly.
- Multiple auto-adjustments offered
- 1080p resolution
- Laser tech
Beyond anything else, there’s one great promise baked into the very name of the Dangbei, that coming from the word ‘Laser’. Laser projectors are a superior breed of device to many more traditional types, offering better brightness, improved colours and more noticeable contrast.
In addition the projector offers multiple automatic modes of adjustment, including auto-focus, keystone correction, ‘intelligent screen fit’ and ‘intelligent obstacle avoidance. There’s also a Time of Flight (ToF) sensor on the front that helps when adjusting the image.
Starting with this, no matter the surface projected onto, the Dangbei managed to correct quicky and confidently. There is a slight caveat to this however, that being when projecting at an angle. The device needed a bit of help with keystoning in these situations, though this of course won’t be a problem if you keep it in a static position and use a static surface to project onto.
Set up in general was a breeze, and should present no difficulty for most people.
Coming to the question of picture quality, on the whole it is very positive. Starting with brightness, 2100 lumens is stated as the maximum, and I found this was enough to deal with ambient light if not direct sunlight. There is the proviso that these lumens are not your grandfather’s lumens, they are ISO lumens, rather than the more common ANSI measure. Assuming 1 ANSI lumen is equivalent to 0.8 ISO lumens, that means a maximum output of 2520 ANSI lumens for the Mars Laser.
Colours are bold and punchy, blacks exhibit some noise though it isn’t especially noticeable – it was hardly a day of high cinema but Paw Patrol: The Movie shined and stood out on the big screen, much to the delight of a resident toddler.
As might be expected from the size of the casing, the Dangbei has a large fan included, though for the most part in operation it proved to be quiet. The bulb included with the projector is rated for 30,000 hours of use.
HDR10 compatitibility is advertised, and indeed supported content looks great, though you’ll find this easiest from the build in apps. As regards gaming, I found that twitchy shooters didn’t work particularly well, with the device exhibiting just a bit too much input lag. Pretty much any other title worked well however.
Should you buy it?
If you are looking for a powerful laser projector on a budget: The Dangbei offers laser technology, which isn’t common at the price point and comes with multiple advantages.
If you want the ‘smartest’ projector: It has some apps in-built, including Netflix and Prime Video, but lacks many popular streaming apps or the ability to install them.
Making it big in the projector market is no easy task, there’s a lot of powerful traditional players around who are making big strides to innovate. Smaller players like Dangbei need to do quite a lot to stand out, but with the Mars Laser it has a chance.
Featuring laser technology, great picture quality, strong speakers and a premium design, for the entry price of £1,000 it offers a surprising amount in return. But for more apps installed and a more polished casting experience it would be an instant recommendation. If you are looking to upgrade your setup but don’t want to go too far into the post-£1000 price zone, this will serve as a capable and rewarding alternative.
How we test
We test every projector we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for more than week
Tested with real world use
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For the best performance, Dangbei recommends that the image shown is between 80- and 150-inches, with 100-inches described as the most optimal size.