2022 Ultimate Portable Projector ComparisonDecember 22, 2022
Mounting a TV on the ceiling, or bringing one with you when traveling isn’t practical, and in those cases a portable projector might be the solution. The question is, does a $400 projector perform the same as an $800 one, and are lasers better than LEDs? Let’s find out.
In the first test we’ll see which projector has the brightest picture and best contrast.
Then we’ll test their battery life.
We’ll also test picture quality on a purpose built projector screen.
Then we’ll see which projector has the loudest and highest quality speakers.
For gamers we’ll test input lag.
And last we’ll look at built in app compatibility and SmartOS performance.
With a street price of $399 the least expensive projector we’ll be testing is the XGIMI MoGo Pro. The Mogo Pro has 1080p resolution and is equipped with a 44.64 watt hour battery that XGIMI claims will last up to 2.5 hours, we’re going to test that. The MoGo Pro runs AndroidTV 9, has auto focus, 4 point keystone, HDMI and USB connectivity with audio out, and a standard quarter twenty tripod mount. The MoGo Pro is made out of plastic and metal and the construction feels high quality, weighing in at 904 grams, the MoGo Pro is made in China.
The most important feature of any projector is brightness so in the first test I used the ANSI lumen standard to measure their actual brightness by taking a reading at 9 separate points on an all white screen, averaging those measurements and multiplying by the screen size in square meters.
In this test the MoGo Pro had 236 ANSI lumens on full brightness, which is less than its advertised 300 lumens and has only 52 ANSI lumens on Battery Saver Eco mode. Comparing the all white screen to an all black screen the MoGo Pro has a contrast ratio of 513:1. The fan noise from the MoGo Pro was barely noticeable at 31.6 decibels.
At a price of $450 is the Nebula Mars 2 Pro. The Mars 2 Pro has 720p resolution and a 48 watt hour battery. The Mars 2 Pro is the oldest projector we’ll be testing, running Android 7.1. The Mars 2 Pro has auto focus, auto vertical keystone, HDMI and USB connectivity with audio out, and a standard quarter twenty tripod mount. The Mars 2 Pro is mostly plastic and feels less sturdy compared to the MoGo Pro. The Mars 2 Pro weighs 1559 grams. The Mars 2 Pro is made in China.
The Mars 2 Pro measured 560 ANSI lumens on full brightness, which is 60 more than advertised and more than double the brightness of the MoGo Pro. Eco mode on the Mars 2 Pro extends the battery life significantly and still puts out 330 ANSI lumens. The contrast ratio on the Mars 2 Pro was about 90 less than the MoGo Pro at 428:1. The fan noise of the Mars 2 Pro was much louder than the MoGo Pro at 39.1 decibels.
With a street price of $499 is this projector from BENQ, the GV30. The GV30 has 720p resolution and doesn’t list battery capacity anywhere, but after disassembling it I found 3 pouch style lithium batteries with a total capacity of 35.4 watt hours which BENQ claims will last for 2.5 hours of viewing. The GV30 runs Android 10.0 with auto focus, auto vertical keystone, HDMI, audio out, and USB-C connectivity which can be used to play files off an external drive or provide additional battery life with a power bank. The GV30 is made of plastic and feels very well built. In addition to a standard quarter twenty tripod mount the GV30 also comes with a magnetic base for easy tilting and aiming. The GV30 and base are the heaviest yet at 1667g. The GV30 is made in China.
During brightness testing the GV30 was very close to its advertised 300 ANSI lumen rating on full brightness and has just over 100 ANSI lumens on battery saving Eco mode. The GV30’s contrast was the highest yet, at 654:1. The fan noise of the GV30 was the loudest yet at 43.0 decibels.
Also with a street price of $499 is the LG PF50KA. The LG has 1080p resolution and a 44.4 watt hour battery. The LG has manual focus and automatic vertical keystone correction and runs WebOS 3.5 which is the same as LG’s smart TVs. The LG has the most connectivity with 2 HDMI ports, USB-A, USB-C supporting power delivery, audio out, coax in, and an ethernet port for a wired network connection. The LG has all plastic construction and feels a bit cheap, but weighs the same as the MoGo Pro at 904 grams. The LG has a standard quarter twenty tripod mount. The LG is made in Korea.
I measured the brightness of the LG at 295 ANSI lumens which is less than half of it’s claimed 600 ANSI lumens, and on Eco mode the LG had around 90 ANSI lumens. The LG’s contrast was 491:1 which puts it in third place so far. The LG’s fan was very noticeable at 40.7 decibels.
For $550 the Kodak Luma 450 has 1080p resolution and a 38.8 watt hour battery. The Luma 450 runs AndroidTV 9 and has manual focus and manual horizontal and vertical keystone correction. The Luma 450 has HDMI, audio out, USB-A and USB-C connectivity with support for power delivery via USB-C. The packaging for the Luma had a very unpleasant chemical smell. The Luma has plastic and metal construction and feels very high quality. The Luma is not only the smallest projector yet, but also the lightest at just 547 grams. The Luma has a quarter twenty tripod mount. The Luma is made in China.
The Luma claims to have 200 ANSI lumens and I measured 30 less than that at 170 ANSI lumens on full brightness and 110 ANSI lumens on Eco mode. The contrast of the Luma was 435:1. The fan noise was quiet at only 34.1 decibels, but noticeably higher pitched than the rest of the projectors.
For a street price of $599 the WEMAX Go Advanced has 1080p resolution and at 39 watt hour battery. The WEMAX runs AndroidTV 9.0 and has auto focus, and auto 4 point keystone. The WEMAX has HDMI, audio out, and USB-A and is powered by USB-C power delivery at 20V. The WEMAX is nearly all metal and looks and feels very premium weighing in at 790 grams. The WEMAX doesn’t have any on device controls, or mounting locations, and only has a small collapsible kickstand for aiming. The WEMAX is made in China.
Unlike the rest of the projectors that use LED light sources, the WEMAX Go Advanced uses a laser light source. In general laser light sources are more efficient with higher brightness and greater color saturation. The WEMAX claims to have 600 ANSI lumens, and I measured slightly above that at 607 putting it into first place for brightness. However, that high brightness is only achievable when plugged in, and running on battery the WEMAX is limited to a maximum brightness of 302 ANSI lumens. The WEMAX Go also had the best contrast ratio so far at 790:1. The WEMAX Go was very quiet at 35.2 decibels.
The Samsung Freestyle has an MSRP of $900, but can now regularly be found for a much more reasonable $499. For this video I also purchased the $200 official battery base bringing the total street price to $699. The Freestyle has 1080p resolution, and as I mentioned does not come with a built in battery, but the optional battery base has a capacity of 115.2 watt hours, which is more than twice the capacity of the rest of the projectors. The Freestyle runs Samsung’s Tizen OS and has auto focus, and auto 4 point keystone. The Freestyle has limited connectivity with only a single USB-C port for power, and an HDMI micro port. The Freestyle is made of plastic and metal with a silicone cover and with the battery pack the Freestyle is the largest and heaviest yet at 1695 grams. The Freestyle has a convenient aiming solution built in, but no quarter twenty tripod mount. However, the optional battery base does include a tripod mount. The Freestyle is made in Korea.
Samsung doesn’t specify the ANSI lumens of the Freestyle and instead just lists a generic 550 lumens. In my measurements the Freestyle had 256 ANSI lumens, which indicates the 550 lumens listed on Samsung’s website are something called LED lumens. The Freestyle doesn’t have separate full brightness and battery saving modes. The Freestyle had the lowest contrast ratio yet at 410:1. The Freestyle’s fan was also quite noticeable at 39.2 decibels.
At a price of $719 the Nebula Capsule 3 is the newest projector in this video and has 1080p resolution and a 52 watt hour battery. The Capsule 3 runs AndroidTV 11.0 and has automatic focus and automatic 4 point keystone. The Capsule 3 has a single HDMI, audio out, and is powered by USB-C power delivery at a variety of compatible voltages. The Capsule 3 has all metal construction and feels very high quality. The Capsule 3 weighs 950 grams and has a quarter twenty tripod mount on the bottom.
Like the WEMAX, the Nebula Capsule 3 also uses a laser light source but advertises half as much brightness as the WEMAX at only 300 ISO lumens. Using the ANSI standard I measured about 10% over that at 331 ANSI lumens on high brightness and 187 ANSI lumens on battery saving mode. The Capsule 3 had a contrast ratio of 682:1 which is enough for second place behind the WEMAX , and the fan noise of the Capsule was only 35.1 decibels.
Last, the most expensive projector we’ll be testing today is the $810 XGIMI Halo+. The Halo+ has 1080p resolution, and a 59.5 watt hour battery. The Halo+ has AndroidTV 10.0, automatic focus, and automatic 4 point keystone. The Halo+ has HDMI, USB, and audio out ports and includes a standard quarter twenty tripod mount as well as a small kickstand. The Halo+ has premium plastic and metal construction and weighs 1686 grams.
XGIMI claims the Halo+ has 900 ANSI lumens, but in my testing it was around 30% less than that at 665 ANSI lumens which was still enough to take first place from the WEMAX, and like the WEMAX this maximum brightness is only possible when plugged in, and the maximum brightness on battery was only 302 ANSI lumens, while the brightness on battery saving mode was just 126 ANSI lumens. The XGIMI had a contrast ratio of 495:1 which puts it in the middle of the pack. And even when plugged in the Halo+ had the quietest fan measuring only 31.2 decibels which is close to the noise floor of my testing room.
So overall the brightest projectors when plugged in were the XGIMI Halo+, WEMAX Go Advanced, and the Nebula Mars 2 Pro. But in battery saving mode the Halo+ fell to the middle of the pack and the Mars pro, WEMAX go, and Samsung Freestyle took the top 3 spots. But how much battery life can you expect from these projectors and how long can they be extended by using battery saving mode?
For this test I set up all the projectors streaming from YouTube using their built in YouTube app connected to my home WiFi. The first test was on the maximum brightness the projector would allow on battery power. In this mode the BENQ GV30 really struggled lasting less than 30 minutes, while the gigantic battery pack of the Samsung Freestyle lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes before shutting off, very impressive.
In the second test I turned on battery saving features and set the brightness to Eco mode. In this test all the projectors except the WEMAX Go and Nebula Capsule 3 made it to the 3 hour mark before turning off. The Kodak had playback issues in battery saving mode and the screen went blank multiple times during my testing. Each projector also had very different brightness during these tests so I calculated something called lumen minutes were I multiplied the brightness by the minutes of battery life.
On high brightness this put the Nebula Mars 2 Pro on top with over 57,000 lumen minutes followed by the Samsung Freestyle with 49,000 lumen minutes and then the Nebula Capsule with 31,000 lumen minutes.
On Eco mode the Nebula Mars 2 Pro was again in a league of its own with 61,000 lumen minutes compared to the 2nd place Samsung Freestyle at 49,000 lumen minutes and the WEMAX Go Advanced with 29,000 lumen minutes.
So for a purely battery powered projector, the Nebula Mars 2 Pro was the clear winner followed by the Samsung Freestyle in second. Also consider that the inclusion of USB-C ports enables the use of specific PD power banks to extend battery life further on all the projectors except the XGIMI Halo+, XGIMI MoGo Pro, and Nebula Mars 2 Pro.
Next, let’s look at picture quality. For this test I set up a side-by-side comparison with each projector generating a 55” picture on my 0.8 gain ambient light rejecting screen. A 1080p 60hz signal was sent from an Amazon FireTV max through an HDMI splitter connected to each projector via HDMI. I ordered the projectors from the least expensive to the most and ranked their video quality from 1-5 by judging effective contrast, color accuracy, color saturation, and image clarity using the Dolby Atmos Natures Fury test video. In each round I picked a winner and used that as the comparison for the next round.
The first round was the XGIMI MoGo Pro on the left and the Nebula Mars 2 Pro on the right. The flickering of the Mars 2 Pro wasn’t visible in person but was caused by sending a 1080p signal to the 720p native projector resulting in a message saying the resolution was not well supported.
Either way the MoGo Pro had significantly better contrast, color saturation and clarity moving it onto the next round vs the BENQ GV30 on the right, and this round was basically equal with the MoGo Pro on the left having more saturated blues and the GV30 on the right having more saturated reds and more accurate whites. But ultimately I preferred the slightly better clarity from having a 1080p native resolution on the MoGo Pro vs 720p on the BENQ GV30.
When the LG on the right went up against the Samsung Freestyle on the left, and again this was a very even round, with both projectors performing well with reasonably high contrast and clarity. The Freestyle image on the left was extremely saturated, and had noticeably pumped green levels, which helped it appear brighter overall, but also made the image look unnatural. I’ll be giving the Freestyle and LG equal scores for overall viewing experience, but I prefer the image from the LG, so it moves on to the next round.
So round 5 put the Kodak Luma 450 on the left an the LG PF50KA on the right, and this round was not particularly close, with the Kodak doing the same green pump that the Samsung Freestyle did in the previous round, but still managing to appear dimmer than the LG even with the unnatural colors. This round easily went to the LG.
Round 6 put the WEMAX Go Advanced on the left and the LG PF50KA on the right, and this was the first time during this test that I was legitimately impressed by one of these projectors. The WEMAX Go Advanced was bright, crisp, and vibrant showing excellent detail in both highlights and shadows while maintaining accurate colors and good black levels. The WEMAX Go Advanced was in a completely different league here and easily took the win.
Round 7 put the two laser projectors against each other, the WEMAX Go Advanced on the left, and the Nebula Capsule 3 on the right, and this went about how you would expect it to given the projectors have extremely similar specs, except for the Nebula Capsule 3 on the right being half as bright. I think the Capsule 3 and the LG PF50KA have very similar overall picture quality and that matchup would have been a fair fight, but as it stands the WEMAX easily won this round.
So for the last round the WEMAX on the left goes up against the XGIMI Halo+ on the right. And this match was a another toss up with the WEMAX having noticeably better black levels and color accuracy, but the Halo+ had better saturation, shadow detail, contrast, and peak brightness.
So the final scores for viewing experience put the WEMAX Go Advanced and XGIMI Halo+ on top with 5 points, followed by the Nebula Capsule 3, Samsung Freestyle, and LG PF50KA with 4 points, then the BENQ GV30 and XGIMI MoGo Pro with 3 points, and the Nebula Mars 2 Pro and Kodak Luma in last with 2 points.
Picture quality is only half the overall experience though, and unlike other projectors that are likely to be hooked up to a surround sound system, these portable projectors will need their own high quality speakers. For this test I recorded the same clip at a distance of 5 feet behind the projector using a Rode VideoMic Pro and I’ve included a frequency graph divided up into 3 sections, the orange section is what is commonly called bass, or low frequencies, the blue is midrange were most vocals reside, and the pink is treble which are the highest pitch frequencies. To score the projectors I awarded up to 2 points for frequency response in each of the three sections. Quick warning for headphone users, I didn’t do any post processing on these clips and the true volume of the projectors is reflected in the audio. Let’s take a listen from least expensive to most.
To my ear the XGIMI Halo+ was the best by far and was even through the full spectrum earning it all 6 possible points. The Nebula Capsule 3 was also very good, but was slightly midrange heavy. The BENQ GV30 sounded very good as well, but lacked high end even though it definitely had the strongest bass of all the projectors. The Samsung Freestyle also performed very well, but was a little light on the low end.
The WEMAX Go Advanced was plenty loud, but very harsh and completely lacked any lower frequencies.
The LG was also very anemic and generally not fun to listen to.
And the Kodak Luma 450 was easily last place with quiet overall volume focused heavily on harsh high frequencies.
You might have also noticed some lip sync issues where the sound and the image weren’t quite lined up. This can happen due to video input lag which is caused by the projector doing extra processing on the image like local contrast enhancement, MEMC, and keystoning and input lag can cause big problems for gamers where you need the response to button presses to be as instantaneous as possible.
In general input lag between 0-20ms can satisfy even the most hardcore competitive gamers, between 20-50 milliseconds is acceptable for casual gaming, between 50-100ms starts to feel weird but may be acceptable for less demanding games like Mario Cart, and input lag above 100ms significantly limits your ability to play video games.
I tested each projector using the industry standard Leo Bodner lag tester that generates a flashing bar which is then measured by a photoresistor on the sending unit. All the input lag measurements were taken at 1080p 60hz, and if available I used the specific gaming mode picture presets on the projectors.
The Nebula Capsule came in first with an impressive 23ms of input lag, followed by the Halo+ in gaming mode which had 28ms. The BENQ GV30, Samsung Freestyle, and MoGo Pro were all in the mid 40s and the LG was right at the acceptable limit around 55ms. The Mars Pro, WEMAX Go, and Kodak Luma all came in over 100ms and would not be acceptable for gaming.
Last, I mentioned that these projectors all have SmartOS features and apps, and normally I would advise people not to worry about what SmartOS comes on your TV or projector because you’re better off getting an external streaming solution like a FireTV Max or AppleTV, but in the case of portable projectors you want to minimize the number of dongles and wires that you need to carry around.
So looking at their built in apps on each projector I tested mobile streaming from Android and iOS and logged into and tested the premium services Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and YouTubeTV, and rated their compatibility either 0, 1, or 2. With 0 being completely nonfunctional, 1 meaning functional with workarounds like using mouse mode or a phone app, and 2 meaning perfect compatibility as you would expect from an external streaming device like a FireTV, or AppleTV.
The Samsung Freestyle earned a perfect score and all the apps were fully functional without any work arounds although the onboard processor is underpowered leading to laggy navigation and slow app loading times. In second was the BENQ GV30 with perfect compatibility for everything except Netflix which didn’t work at all, and the Halo+ and Nebula Capsule 3 had at least some functionality in all the apps, but required work arounds like mobile Netflix and the Airstream app for Apple Airplay.
So which portable projector is the best? That really depends on how you plan to use it.
With an average ranking of 2.4 the XGIMI Halo+ is the clear winner with the best brightness, sound, and picture quality, and the lowest fan noise and input lag, but while you can use it on battery power the Halo+ performs best when plugged in, and if you’re looking to project on the ceiling I’d also recommend picking up a miniature tripod like this one from Neewer.
For a fully wireless experience the Samsung Freestyle with battery base delivers good picture quality and sound with perfect app compatibility and it comes with a mounting and aiming solution built in. But with 1/3 the brightness of the XGIMI Halo+ you’ll definitely be more limited in where and when you can project. If you can score a deal that includes the Freestyle and battery base for under $600 I think it is absolutely worth it.
For business use to put in a laptop bag and project on the go I really like the WEMAX Go Advanced which combines a bright, sharp 1080p image with an ultra compact and sleek form factor. USB-C power means that you can use the same battery bank or charger for your projector and laptop, so you have one less thing to put in your bag. I do wish the WEMAX Go Advanced had a tripod mount, but in a pinch one designed for an iPad will do the trick.
And last, if you’re looking for portability on a budget, the Nebula Mars 2 Pro can frequently be found on sale for under $400 and has impressive battery life with over 3 hours of playback over WiFi at 330 ANSI Lumens. The Mars 2 Pro doesn’t have the highest resolution or app compatibility, but for a relatively inexpensive travel projector and speaker it’s hard to beat.
Links to all the projectors tested in this video are down in the description and if you appreciate the time, effort, and money it takes me to make a video like this I’d appreciate if you could use those links since as an Amazon affiliate I do earn a small commission on the sale at no cost to you.
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