back to article Lighty and flighty: Six sizzling portable projectors

Portable projectors are improving their image. What were once dim curiosities – of use principally to travelling hucksters – have evolved into surprisingly powerful display devices. Designed to project HDMI or laptop sources, USB sticks and SD cards, this new breed of beamers can cast images virtually anywhere. Even that old …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All under 1080p. WTF did I just walk into the dark ages. Projectors suck.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: resolution

      I don't think resolution is an issue for this sort of projector. These are (with one exception) mainly designed for portable use by the sort of travelling rep who used to carry a flip-book of pictures around with him. For those purposes 1200 x 800 is absolutely fine, though even 1,000 lumen seems rather on the dim side.

      Mind you, people still make 4:3 Powerpoint presentations even when they are told that the projector is 16:9. 1200x800 is 16:10ish, which is an odd aspect ratio that you would have to set up manually in Powerpoint. Showing a 4:3 presentation on a 16:10 projector will result in black bars to either side and a lot of wasted screen.


      1. Mage
        Thumb Down

        Re: resolution

        480 vertical is rubbish outside north America (Their SD is only 480). In UK/Europe, Mid East, Russia, Africa, Australia the SD is 576 lines.

        only the 800 line model is worth considering

        The old analogue bias of NTSC / 480 favouring North America and Japan and ignoring the higher quality in the rest of the world is alive in the digital age.

        576 rescaled to 480 looks dreadful

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still a rip off...

    I got one of the Viewsonic (rebranded) from China for 1200 rmb.. which converts to roughly £120.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still a rip off...

      Got to be careful with the word "interpolated" when speccing-out Chinese projectors. They often claim HD or 720p or whatever but if you read further you'll find that is "interpolated" (ie, fluffed up with software) from a "naive resolution" of sod-all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still a rip off...

        *Native resolution. Dammit.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Still a rip off...

          I think the original worked, as that's what they're relying on the buyer to be

  3. MastaBlasta

    No progress in then

    I've had my LG PB60G for over 2 years now (paid about €400 new), and I was expecting the devices reviewed here to at least have 1080p resolution. However the specs barely improved at all.

    Alternatively the prices should have dropped by now. What the hell have the manufacturers been doing over this time?

  4. Anonymous Custard


    Given that the major point of the article is about the portability of the things, it would have been nice to have actual physical dimensions for them rather than just for the last one.

    I know we can get some idea of it from the pics (scaled with the size of the HDMI or USB ports), but a bit more information would have been nice to go with the weights of each.

  5. TheProf


    "a consistent 28dB hum

    low-level 30dB operational whine

    a controlled 33dB whir/jumps to 38dB

    rather high at 36dB"

    Well that all sounds (sic) rather scientific. Except you forgot to mention from how far away these measurements were made. 'As loud as a jet engine' is often used by 'the media' but it's not that loud if the jet is 50,000 feet away.

    1. John Bailey

      Re: Noise

      "Well that all sounds (sic) rather scientific. Except you forgot to mention from how far away these measurements were made. 'As loud as a jet engine' is often used by 'the media' but it's not that loud if the jet is 50,000 feet away."

      I would imagine, approximately one string length away.

      How far away do you think they would be measured from? Normal use distance!

      It would be kind of pointless to measure the fan noise form the other end of a runway would it not?

      So assume indoors in the same room with soft furnishings present.

      And the decibels were probably measured by an app on someone's phone, not a professional grade recently calibrated meter in an anechoic chamber.

      1. Tony W

        Re: Noise

        The right way to specify noise is sound power in decibels A-weighted relative to one picowatt. The actual sound level will depend on the direction, the distance and the room.

      2. Tony W

        Re: Noise, more than you wanted to know

        The right way to specify equipment noise is sound power in dB relative to one picowatt, A-weighted.

        The sound level (SPL) will depend on direction, distance, the room and its contents, and where you and the device are in the room, in relation to sound reflecting and absorbing surfaces. The vibration of your eardrums will depend on all these things plus which way you turn your head.

  6. Martin an gof Silver badge

    That's odd...

    The Canon looks like a clone of the Mitsubishi 320ST projectors we have been using for several years now. Ours are on 7½ hours a day in "low power" mode and in that mode the lamp has a rated life of 5,000 hours; 3,500 hours at high power. By the time it gets to that number of hours its output is probably nearly half what it was when new. This also goes for LED projectors, though their expected life is somewhat longer. While our four 320s are now just over 10,000 hours and still going strong, three of our four Mitsubishi 250 projectors which we thought were based on a similar chassis (both are DLP) failed shortly after 5,000 hours, which is pathetic. Failure mode was growing numbers of stuck and dead pixels.

    I wouldn't really want to carry one around in a bag; they are quite bulky and the lens is a large lump of glass. They also get very hot and take ages to cool down. Very short throw though at a magnification of 0.7 or so and with a high degree of "look up". Mitsubishi pulled out of the projector market a couple of years ago.

    Oh, and the web interface to the Crestron software is a nightmare. I don't know how it integrates with a centralised Crestron system, but as a stand-alone thing it's not worth the ROM space it takes up. All our projectors are networked and fortunately the Mitsubishi 320 also talks PJLink - presumably this Canon does too. I have a little utility running on a scheduled task that uses PJLink to send "on" and "off" commands, and another that queries lamp hours so we can pre-order lamps. The only downside is that both the 320 and the 250 occasionally "forget" the network and can't be reached by any means. Sometimes it's solvable by re-applying the network settings from the onscreen menu, other times it needs a hard reboot.


  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


    I bought a projector in this size range more about 10 years ago. It was a tad noisy but is the size of a Jack Reacher paperback and has native 1024x768 resolution. Cost around £1100 back then.

    I'm in the market for a replacement device now. It has to be 1080p as a minimum. After all, these things have to last a tad longer than the latest smartphone don't they?

    As many of these devices seem to quote rather small native resolutions might it be possible to know if 720i, 720p, 1080i or 1080p output is supported?

    That would make the comparisons an awful lot easier.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone who uses projectors answer my question of why are you using them still? (genuine question) my company junked them years ago and replaced all small meeting rooms with large screens (65") which are both better quality, generally give a larger picture size and can be used with the lights on and the blinds open in the middle of summer. Our lecture hall of course uses a projector because of the size of the hall (400 person capacity) but the projector there is a whole different beast. Overall we would never ever use projectors in meetings or with an audience of less than 30 people because the large screens are just better in every way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The answer to your question is

      pure portability

      A heavy white sheet streched over a frame is a simple but portable screen. Even conventional projector screens are pretty cheap these days.

      Not all venues have their own screen.

      Compare that to trying to lug an 86in TV Screen about in the back of your company Focus....

      I've even been known to strap my screen to the back of my motorcycle for a show at another venue. The projector plus PC easily fits in the Top-Box.

      1. wdmot

        Re: The answer to your question is

        We use a projector as our "TV" at home. (That is, for watching movies and a few shows from Amazon Prime or Netflix.) Whilst I wish we had a higher resolution projector -- ours is only 1024x768 -- I really like our 0 mm thickness screen. The living room layout in our flat is such that I don't think I could find a good place for even a relatively thin flat screen display and still have a good furniture arrangement. Someday it will become a high enough priority that we'll spend the money for a nice full HD or 4k projector.

  9. petur


    Did the reviewer actually try tge Optoma? It's closer to 40dB, high-pitch and thus incredibly annoying. No wonder, it has 3 super tiny fans inside.

    The firmware is buggy, and the only way to get it upgraded is sending it to support - the update menu on the projector is for support, not you.

    Mine went back for the noise (so much over spec I thought it was a fault) and an annoying HDMI bug. The noise was within spec as the spec is an average of the noise from all angles, top and bottom are lower...

    The HDMI bug is still there, so the order of booting and connecting matters or the (very low quality) internal speaker starts hissing like hell.

    Shipping cost well spent (NOT).

    Actually, buying the Optoma was wasted money...

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I'm also puzzled at who these are targetted at. Having used a variety of projectors in the past, I know that just projecting onto a whith-ish surface is rarely good enough, so the value of the extreme portability is moot. Certainly they will in no way compete with modern flat screen displays, not on clarity, brightness, or resolution.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      I'm also puzzled at who these are targetted at

      As a previous poster said, travelling salesmen, onsite trainers, portable displays. There are plenty of use-cases where carrying a small (or even a large) projector of mediocre resolution about together perhaps with a portable screen is the only solution when presenting something to medium or large groups of people. You can't count on the venue either having a projector or a TV and if they do have a TV, the chances of it being as large as a projection are vanishingly small. Likewise the chance of it being mounted high enough for those at the back to see properly; this is easier with a projector.

      Brightness - viewability in a daylight-flooded room - is the main weakness and these projectors are woefully lacking in that department, with the possible exception of the Canon.

      I speak here as guardian of a fleet of 35+ projectors at a museum; our dimmest, smallest-image projectors are rated at 2,000 lumen as used and most of our displays work best with 4,000+. These projectors would be no good for us, but that doesn't mean they are no good for anyone.

      Check out Panasonic's "large venue" DLP offerings - there are some spectacularly bright units there :-)

      Most of the projectors I look after are from this range:


    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      @Will Godfrey

      "I'm also puzzled at who these are targetted at."

      Me (a few years ago).

      I have in the near past gone into community centres, libraries, adult education centres, pubs (when closed), works canteens, and Quaker meeting houses for the purpose of teaching maths to adults.

      Laptop, projector, sometimes a Mimio, flipchart, chunky pens. When I did this kind of stuff I was lugging a huge Phillips projector in a rucksack along with a 15.6" laptop, web'n'walk dongle for Maths Web sites and remote Moodle access, (paper) workbooks and marked work. As I don't drive that was all going on the bus. It worked.

      I'd want 2k lumens or so. That Canon looked ok, and I like the look of the short thow lens, the rest are toys for my use. Don't care about 'flesh tones'. 1024x768 is fine. I need crisp bright projection of what is on the screen including a 'magic notebook' type device.

      I'm in classrooms these days. I miss the improvisation. My favourite was the quite nice looking if rather low-ceilinged classroom in a community centre. We got started, all going nice, when suddenly there was the Mother of all thumping noise from the ceiling. The 'classroom' was under the stage of a small hall, and the ladies had just started their exercise class. 20 of them and they were not svelte...

  11. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

    What about networked tablets?

    For similar money, how hard could it be to get 3-4 landfill tablets, all screen-sharing via wifi, or doing some other solution for sychronised presentation. Put them round the table, and run your presentation face-to-face.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: What about networked tablets?

      ... like this :-)

    2. DNTP

      Re: What about networked tablets?

      "Hey, can I keep this?"


      Repeat times the number of sales visits to client sites, times the number of representatives from each client you're presenting to.


      "If I place an order do I get to keep this?"

  12. Mage

    480p = VGA

    A 1987 standard.

    The projector chip isn't large, so 720, 800, 1080 or 1200 lines would make little difference to size of package. Obviously since that's the expensive bit, they have cost reduced to level where these are pointless, except for the 800 line model.

    1080p may be HDTV, but it's NOT HD for computers, 1200p is over 14 years old.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's not 1080p, WAAAH!"

    Seriously people? The LCD panel used in these projectors would literally fit in the palm of your hand.

    You seriously expect a panel that big to do HD? They might get there eventually but for now there's a limit to how small they can make a pixel.

    1. Haku

      Re: "It's not 1080p, WAAAH!"

      Yes I certainly expect to see small portable projectors with full 1080p today.


      Because I have some Sony Glasstron PLM-S700E video glasses which have tiny 0.7 inch LCD screens in them that have a native resolution of 832 x 624, and those video glasses were made back in 1998, 17 years ago!

    2. Swarthy

      Re: "It's not 1080p, WAAAH!"

      I have a 2560x1440 screen that literally fits in the palm of my hand. Okay, there is a bit of overhang with the LG G3 at 140mm, the Samsung S5 fits the same resolution on 130mm; I think we can be forgiven from expecting similar resolutions from a projector, not to mention laptops that all have the bloody "Full HD" stickers on them, and are comparatively HUGE.

  14. Mage

    The LCD panel ... literally fit in the palm of your hand.

    It's cheaper to do a miniature reflective LCD, actual pocket TV LCDs are only used in home brew projectors.

    Most of the cost of LCD is area of glass. secondarily the driving electronics. Having 1200 x any number of columns is driven as 2 off 600 x any number columns on on panel. Or even as four panels on one substrate/glass.

    DLP for 1080p is tiny, but these won't use DLP, too expensive and needs either 3 + prism or a colour wheel.

    Typical full HD LCD on Silicon (LCoS) cells are about 1-3 centimeters square and about 2 mm thick. They are reflective. Larger projectors use three chips/cells and optical combiner.

    Whilst initially developed for large-screen projectors, LCoS displays have found a consumer niche in the area of pico-projectors, where their small size and low power consumption are well-matched to the constraints of such devices.

    NO-ONE commercially produces projectors based on transmissive pocket TV style LCD panels any more, most of those were only 640 x 240 or less though! Even at 6" Look at the resolution of most cheap "photo-frame" displays, they don't even do 480 lines!

  15. Crisp

    The article needed a summary at the end

    Maybe a table of how the projectors compared? So you can see at a glance how much they cost and what kind of display you can get out of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The article needed a summary at the end

      Also, a photo of all of the projectors side-by-side, perhaps next to a laptop or some other item to see the relative sizes would be helpful.

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