Projectors in the past have been noisy, clunky, and sacrificed picture quality, with an internal lamp that’s expensive to replace once it burns out. But things have drastically changed for the better. The best projectors now offer so much more, including improved 4K picture, sharper graphics, reduced fan noise, and Bluetooth capability. The best smart projectors are also compatible with voice command programs like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It lets you do everything from powering the unit on and off, to adjusting volume, changing inputs, and controlling playback all using just your voice.
TV vs Projector
So why choose a projector over just a TV? First off, the best projectors are capable of stretching your screen to a much, much larger surface – usually over 100 inches. If you’ve got the wall space, this can really give you the full cinematic feel, especially in a room with dimmable lighting. The same goes for gamers too, as a projector can provide an immersive experience like no other.
Screen Size: This is the biggest draw to getting a projector, and screen size can range from 50 inches all the way up to 300 – recreating a real theater right in your house. A “short-throw” projector is great if space is limited, as you can put this within centimeters of the screening wall and it’ll still beam up a full picture. Long-throw projectors require placement some distance away from the screen, usually about a meter or more. But these are only recommended if you’ve got a large amount of room. Some units also may offer the feature of horizontal and vertical lens shifts. The latter lets you adjust and move the projected picture without having to physically move the projector.
Picture: The brightness of smart projectors is measured in “lumens”, and the higher the lumens count, the brighter the picture will be. Brighter rooms require a higher lumen count (around 2500 and up) to project a clear image. At the same time, darker rooms fair better at about 1000-1200.
Noise: A loud projector can be distracting while watching a movie. This is mostly from the cooling fans that kick in when the unit starts to get hot. Different projectors deal with this in various ways, and some of the newest projectors don’t even have fans at all.
Temperature: The last thing you want is for your projector to overheat. Check the listed operating temperature before you go all-in: -41 to 104°F (5 – 40°C) is the usual range, with about 85% max humidity.
Resolution: The most important thing about getting a new and smart projector is getting a clear image – you want to be able to see as much detail as possible. This is measured in the number of pixels it can show off. The most basic on this list has a 720-pixel image, which is a bit outdated for our tastes but good enough if you’re on a budget.
Full HD (1080p) smart projectors are the most common, but the modern standard is 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) which all movie aficionados should hunt for. You might find some models capable of 8K reproduction which is a future trend that “doubles the visual quality”, though it isn’t quite ready for general consumption yet.
Modes: Depending on what you’re watching (or games you’re playing), various modes can greatly enhance the experience. For example, a “Natural” model might work well for a movie, as it gives vivid colors and accurate flesh tones, but for a classic film, a “Black and White” setting will help bring it into a sharper focus.
Sound: Some smart projectors offer built-in speakers, but the quality varies. If it’s within your budget, a set of external speakers can really expand the sound.
Ports: When it comes to connecting all your devices, ports are important. You may not need them all now, but consider what you might be connecting with in the future as technology evolves. At the very least, it should have HDMI, USB, and AV inputs for you to connect a media source or device.
Remote Capability: Having to get up on a chair and mess with the smart projector unit can be a pain, especially when you’ve got guests waiting to watch something. While voice command can handle a good amount of tasks, the rest relies on the remote. Some even feature backlit buttons for easy use during a darkened movie screening.
Dimensions – Planning an outdoor cinema session for your mates? You’ll need a SMART projector that is small and light enough to carry out into the garden. The ones on this list range from half a kilo to just over 4kg and come in varying sizes. More portable ones will be roughly the size of a laptop (small enough to put in a rucksack if you need to), while the heavier ones will be about as big as a microwave.
Best smart projectors
LG 4K Smart Home Theater CineBeam
There’s a lot to unpack in this LG smart projector that truly lives up to its name.
Their CineBeam tech inside gives you precise pictures on every frame, and a screen up to 140 inches from about 12 to 13 feet away. The light output is solid, at 1500 lumens, and works best in a dim room.
Ports are plentiful here: There’s an Optical Digital Audio Out, LAN/Ethernet, Antenna/Cable In, USB, HDMI, and even a headphone jack, just to name a few.
Pairing it with other devices is fast and simple too. Thanks to MiraCast, you can quickly project content onto the screen from mobile phones and tablets, and pair it with Bluetooth audio as well. LG also offers their webOS Lite service for consolidating all your content streaming platforms into one practical place. You can control it with LG’s AI ThinQ platform (which comes with Alexa and Google Assistant installed). If you prefer to keep your voice down, the LG “Magic Remote” with motion control can navigate through everything as well.
Epson EpiqVision Mini EF11 laser projector
If budget isn’t an issue, then consider the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF11 Laser Smart Projector. The projector, despite its price tag, is one of the more affordable of Epson’s EpiqVision projectors. With 1080p resolution and 3LCD projection technology, this Epson device boasts stunning picture quality for movies, gaming, sporting events, and more. It includes color and white brightness of 1,000 lumens and a projection size of 30-150 inches.
The Epson EpiqVision Mini EF11 has impressive connectivity to streaming solutions such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon FireTV, and Android TV. It has a built-in HDMI port to make streaming content easy. The device has a dual-speaker audio system. One speaker is specifically designed for high frequencies, while the other is for bass-reflex and low frequencies.
The Epson projector has excellent reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Customers especially like its brightness, picture quality, and remote control.
Xiaomi Wemax A300
The body of the smart projector is made in black, like previous models, so the design is in a minimalist style. On the upper part, in a hollow at an angle, there is a laser lens for the projection of the picture on the screen. In addition to it, the manufacturer decided to install an infrared sensor on the front panel, which automatically turns off the laser projection when a person’s face is detected. Since the laser beam is a danger to your eyes, additional protection will not be superfluous.
On the front, there is a plastic grille that protects the speakers. The sound in the projector is one of the best thanks to the speaker from Dolby Sound.
Also, the projector Xiaomi WEMAX A300 in our test is equipped with a cinematic sound effect. On the reverse side are the main ports – these are three HDMI, one of which is ACR, USB 3.0, audio and AV outputs, S/PDIF port, and the last Ethernet connection. There is also another additional USB 2.0 port and a number of adjustment wheels for manual autofocus. Also on this site, you can see another speaker, which provides a stereo effect.
Any projector has active cooling, and this model of the projector is no exception. The noise level is within 40 dB. This means that the noise will be the same as your laptop. Therefore, noise from cooling coolers will not be a problem when watching movies or TV shows. You can also find Four rubber feet on the bottom surface of the projector so that the laser projector did not shake and scratch your furniture. Also on the center is a sticker with technical specifications.
Xiaomi WEMAX A300 has a brightness of 9000 ANSI lumens or 250 nits, which is ideal for home movies. If we recall, the model Wemax ONE PRO was with 7000 ANSI lumens.
The native resolution is 4K or 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is four times more than the projectors with 1080p resolution. On the projection screen – the image quality is in large part clearer and more detailed.
Of course, a good quality image depends not only on the smart projector but also on the quality of the projection screen. When choosing a projector, you should also consider this option if you want to watch movies and TV shows instead of the TV.
An important parameter of the device is the projection ratio of 0.233: 1. It means a short distance from the projection screen, which is from 14 to 50 cm. For example, a distance of 14 cm – the projection diagonal will be 80 inches, and 49 cm – 150 inches.
The contrast is 4000: 1, the projector has a good depth of black details and scenes for viewing in daylight. At night, the brightness and richness of the colors are much better. Thus, the latter makes it one of the best in its class.
ViewSonic M2 portable smart mini projector
The ViewSonic M2 Portable Mini Projector has excellent video quality, with 1080p resolution and screen projection from up to 100 inches. It also has excellent color accuracy and built-in premium Bluetooth audio.
The ViewSonic device is known for its smart device capabilities. It includes a Wi-Fi connection to the app store, allowing you to use various streaming services. You can also utilize voice control for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It also has connectivity via HDMI and USB Type C to media players, PCs, Macs, and other mobile devices.
The ViewSonic projector has good reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Customers especially like the quality of material, value for the money, and sound quality.
Optoma UHD 50X Smart Projector
With 8.3 million distinct addressable on-screen pixels, the resolution here is absolutely stunning and gives four times more detail than full HD.
The vertical lens shift gives you a nice choice of widescreen size options. And if you’ve got the right media and glasses, 3D videos look beautifully realistic.
Motion blur is minimum here while providing peak picture quality. This is also fully compatible with HDR video – the brighter elements give extremely crisp detail. There are built-in speakers as well, plus the remote is compact and especially simple to use (and features backlit keys for easy use in the dark).
It is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use your voice to power on and off, adjust volume and settings, change inputs, and more.
Samsung The Premiere
After more than a decade since its last home cinema projector, Samsung has exploded back on the scene with The Premiere LSP9T projector.
This ultra-short-throw beamer makes use of 4K HDR laser projection, with a three-color laser removing the need for a color filter and therefore allowing The Premiere’s 2,800 lumens brightness to really shine across a max 130-inch image. Pictures are punchy and colorful, and Samsung’s world-first introduction of the HDR10+ format. It adds in scene-by-scene picture calibration incompatible films and TV shows.
This projector also benefits from the full implementation of Samsung’s smart TV operating system. It is a bit sluggish at times – is incredible to have on a projector over the basic and poorly-organized interfaces we’re used to.
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The Epson EH-TW9400 is one of the excellent home theater smart projectors. You’re not getting the laser projection of some of the models above, but as lamp models go, it’s a stunner.
We gave this beamer five stars for its impressive color reproduction, HDR support, and 2,600 lumens brightness, making for bright and impactful images. While this isn’t a native 4K projector (something you just don’t get at this price), even upscaled images are detailed and come across well, with highly natural skin tones and an impressive amount of shadow detail. Blacks could be deeper, and motion could be smoother, but there’s really little to complain about here.
The EH-TW9400 boasts advanced capability all around, from its 3D compatibility to motorized lens controls – the latter point allowing for real precision and an easy setup. There’s even a lens cover to prevent dust from creeping in!
Just keep in mind that it doesn’t come with built-in speakers, meaning you are reliant on connected audio equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions about smart projectors
Do portable projectors need to be plugged in?
Many smart portable projectors come with batteries. To clarify, you can use them for several hours at a time without needing to plug them in.
Can you watch Netflix on a portable projector?
Many smart projectors allow you to stream Netflix and other streaming services. But some limit your ability to mirror and stream subscription-based content.
How to choose a suitable projector?
There are many portable projectors on the market. And it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you. To choose the best portable projectors for 2021, we considered a variety of factors. The factors include price, resolution, connectivity, picture quality, and more. So, consider all essential factors mentioned above when buying a projector.