Projectors for presentations have come a long way in recent years. With today’s technology, even low-priced units can project an impressive, sharp image.
We’re here to help sort it out, whether you’re new to the wonder of modern projectors, or are an experienced early-adopter looking to update your stock.
To help sort through the marketing hype, our Buyer’s Guide explains what to look for and what the jargon means, and we’ve selected 5 of the most popular high-value models to review.
Best Projector For Presentations of 2019
|Model||Max Screen |
|VANKYO Leisure 510|
|200||1280 x 768||5.49|
|VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini||170||854 x 480||2.1|
|ViewSonic PA503S||300||800 x 600||7.14|
|APEMAN Projector Mini Portable||100||854 x 480||1.04|
|APEMAN Mini Portable LC350||180||800 x 480||2.16|
1. VANKYO Leisure 510 – Projector With Highest Resolution
Electronics manufacturer VANKYO makes a number of popular projectors with a lot of performance for the price and, at 13.8 x 13.1 x 6.2 inches, this is one of their beefier models. It can project a screen up to 200″ wide, which makes it suitable for a home theater or outdoor setup. It delivers a bright picture, impressive resolution, and surprising audio quality for most home and office video uses.
The VANKYO 510 gives you higher resolution than most economical projectors, so you can put together a nice system on the almost-cheap. The crisp view has nice contrast to deliver a clear image.
The color rendition is another highlight. The LED bulb uses an Advanced Color Engine to take advantage of the 16.7-million color palette, and the acceptable brightness level brings out detail which, together with nicely saturated color, offers a rich viewing experience.
One quibble is a small amount of light bleed on the edges of the screen. This isn’t unusual or overly distracting, but it’s there.
The 510 doesn’t quite match the 3600-lumen labeling, but it’s bright enough to view in non-direct sunlight if you reduce the image to ¼ of the stated maximum (to about 50 inches wide). If you want a full-sized image over 100 inches, you’ll need to darken the room.
VANKYO announces 1080p supported resolution on the label, but the actual “native” resolution is 1280×768. This isn’t HD, but it’s pretty good for an economy machine, and one of the best on the market outside of expensive higher end projectors.
The optical quality, color depth and brightness work nicely together, and bring the image up to a nice standard.
Portable and Convenient
To achieve the mammoth 200″ super-wide picture, you’ll have to move the projector 18.4 feet away. There’s a convenient focus wheel to fine-tune the picture.
Placement is versatile, too. For typical mounting on a flat surface, the feet are spring-loaded foot to raise/lower the projected angle, which can be adjusted to eliminate distortion with the vertical keystone.
You can also turn the model upside down to project from the ceiling overhead: there are convenient mounting holes under the rubber feet, and a setting to flip the image.
Packaging & Service
The Leisure 510 comes with a soft carrying case which packs the AV, HDMI and power cables. You won’t want to drop the soft case, but it is waterproof and has a handy carrying strap. PRO TIP: The remote’s AAA batteries aren’t included.
It connects via HDMI, VGA, AV, USB and Micro SD, with Dual HDMI & USB ports.
Overall, this is a versatile unit that performs almost as well as its specs claim — and better than most units at this price. You can make a modest home theater to watch the game or host a small outdoor showing without breaking the bank. The projector is also well suited for office presentations.
2. VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini – Quietest Portable Projector
This is the smaller cousin of the VANKYO model we just reviewed, and at under $100 it’s even more affordable. It lacks the higher resolution and brightness, but this little unit beats out many models that cost and weigh much more.
Big Screen in a Little Projector
2019 saw an update to an improved LED which brings impressive color to a bright-enough screen. It doesn’t actually project a 1080p image really, of course — but it does throw a bright and colorful screen in a darkened room. Forget about daylight viewing; but, for outdoor shows at night, it does nicely.
The official projected screen size is from 32” at 4.9 feet, up to 170” from 16.4 feet, with a recommended distance of about 6.5 ft.
Quiet Fan … and Audio
The built-in speakers are less successful … you’ll want to plug them into decent exterior ones for the sound experience.
Super Portability and Connectivity
Compact size and light weight are highlight features. The Leisure 3 Mini weighs just 2.1 lbs and comes with a custom bag, so you can always bring your home entertainment system along.
You can easily connect via smartphone, PS3, PS4, X-Box ONE or Wii. Not Bluetooth though, and you’ll have to buy an adapter separately for use with an iPhone.
This is a great portable model for small showings of video games, sports, and movies. It’s not for reading text, so you won’t score points with anyone by using it in a formal office or classroom.
Overall, this economical projector can work for a small home theater — for a few folks, in the dark, not too far away. It’s limited, but also a serious value that punches up, and offers a nice experience for small, casual gatherings.
It’s also nice to have a decent projector you can use with kids and not get too stressed about collateral damage.
3. ViewSonic PA503S – Sharpest Image for Text Display
If you can step up in price, this compact mid-sized projector gives a sharp picture that’s bright enough to see text—even with the lights on. It can handle small classroom and office presentations with dim ambient light.
Mid-Size Throw Range
The projection has a wide range, from 30 to 300 inches—but you’ll lose a lot of picture at the maximum size. You’ll also be 43 feet away. But, it’s adjustable.
The best quality to size ratio isn’t given, but between 10 and 15 feet works well for many users. At that distance, you’ll get about a 120-inch screen with impressive quality, even with moderate ambient light. It’s nice for a small group.
Sharp Optical Quality[green] The projected image is a highlight of this model, and it does better than its class despite limitations. The screen is bright and crisp, and uses upgraded DLP technology for brighter colors and near-HD detail.
The actual image projected is 800×600. It’s not quite as suitable for “small business environments” as the claims say, but you can get by with a small group in a dimly-lit room.
Easy to Use and Lots of Connectivity
The ViewSonic’s setup is simple: just plug-and-play. The system is easy to learn for newbies, too. There’s a SuperEco mode that automatically shuts off the bulb to preserve life up to 15,000 hours.
Users often forget to turn off projectors, especially in common areas such as classrooms and office meeting rooms. The projector’s sleep timer allows you to select a period of inactivity that will determine when the projector automatically goes into sleep mode.
The ViewSonic PA503S also has many connectivity options for convenience. It supports most media players, PCs and Macs, and a host of mobile devices including HDMI and VGA.
4. APEMAN Projector Mini Portable – Best Pocket-sized Mini Projector
If you like the previous mini-projector but want a bump in performance, the APEMAN M4 Mini is a popular model without a lot of frills. It’s perfect for small home presentations, in a darkened room, and has lots of connectivity options.
High-end Optics in a Compact
At under four inches square and less than an inch deep, the sleek M4 fits in your pocket for easy transport. It’s less than a half-pound in weight: about that of a typical smartphone.
The minimalist design isn’t overloaded with options and features, but along the device’s rim are all the basics: a jack for external speakers or a headphone, HDMI cable and micro-USB ports, and buttons for volume, focus, and power.
The screen is well-lit at 50~100 lumen with advanced DLP technology at surpasses mere LCD display. It’s plenty of power for small get-togethers to watch video, delivering a sharp 854×480 native resolution image.
Plug in Convenience and Power
Simplicity is a high point of the M4. It’s very much a plug-and-play device that anyone can use, regardless of experience. It connects to a wide variety of sources, including a teevee, camera, PS3/4 console, or either a MacBook or PC. With an adapter (purchased separately), you can stream from an Android smartphone.
The power options are convenient, too. The built-in rechargeable battery lasts 1.5 to 2.5 hours on a single charge, enough to view a standard movie.
Quality Features, but Stripped Down Options
The slick casing looks nice, but the M4 isn’t fancy. It supplements the streamlined functionality with a few high-end options.
The lens has a generous 45,000 hour lifetime, which supposedly means you can watch a 3-hour movie for 40 years. It doesn’t produce much noise, either, which is nice for small quarters.
The custom 360-degree tripod looks futuristic and lean, but there isn’t a wireless interface, and forget about flipping the image for a ceiling mount. You don’t get a keystone correction function, so you’ll have to keep the projector level and fairly plumb to avoid distortion. No remote functions either.
Overall, this is a super-convenient and portable way to bring a party around in your pocket. It needs a pretty dark environment to see well, so it’s not for business presentation.
5. APEMAN Mini Portable LC350 – Best All-Around Mini Projector
Bright Colorful Enhanced LCD Display
The 4.0 LCD uses advanced technology to up the brightness. Of course the 3500 lumen specifications listed is meaningless—it’s actually just 50 lumens according to regular ANSI-standards—but for a low-cost option it does pretty well.
The LC350 isn’t for a classroom or formal office presentation, because it lacks the clarity needed to read text, but it projects video in a darkened room well enough for a modest home theater setup.
Adjustable, Variable Wide Screen
The 800×480 native resolution accepts 1080p signals and projects images from 34 to 180 inches … though the best viewing dimensions are between 50 and 120 inches. The projector distance can be set between 3 and 12 feet away, with an optimal range between 3 and 9 feet, great for intimate gatherings or a small space.
There’s a adjustable padded foot that can change the height of the projector, and along with a focus wheel and a keystone to true up the picture. With these adjustments, you can easily cast an undistorted image from whichever distance and level you choose.
Good Audio with Low Fan Noise
Since we don’t expect much from factory speakers at this price range, the built-in dual speakers have a surprising amount of volume and sound quality. It’s even loud enough for video games.
Their efficient cooling system has fans specially designed to be quiet. You don’t get wifi or Bluetooth, though.
APEMAN’s portable projectors are easy to use and very plug-and-playable. You can connect to PCs and laptops, consoles, smartphones, TV Sticks and Chromecast.
There’s an assortment of ports for HDMI, VGA, Micro SD, RCA AV interfaces, and the crucial USB.
Not so Bright
The color stands out well enough in a darkened room, but is easily washed out with ambient light. It won’t do for anything but watching videos with a small group, or alone—which is all most people need anyway.
If you’re going to go for full-out economy, this is one of the best buys for its wide screen and sharp picture. It’s has good connectivity options and adjustments to make the image clear. It’s hard to go wrong buying at this price for a projector, but it’s still nice to know you’re not.
The newer projector technology is impressive, but the specs are usually overstated—let’s try to clear out the hype.
Before explaining the gamed “advertising” numbers, we’ll start with one of the honest specs you can count on: weight. Mini projectors are relatively new, and typically weigh from 1 to 3 lbs … most full-sized portables are under 10 pounds.
It’s easy to get tripped up on this, because manufacturers make up numbers for marketing purposes. Everyone wants 1080p HD, and that number may be prominently displayed … but if you look more closely, you’ll usually see it’s “supported” 1080p, which just means the input can be high resolution, which is reduced for actual display.
The native resolution is the actual resolution you’ll see and, for economy models, it will be in the 800 x 600 ballpark. If you’re set on getting a 1080p image, you’ll need to look for a more expensive projector. Before breaking your budget, however, remember that 800×600 is still nearly double that of a standard television.
Another specification that should have a laugh track, marketers put the number you want to hear, called the “advertising” lumen rating. The actual lumens are a piddly, sad figure. For example, a brand might advertise a projector as having 3600 lumens when its actually, officially, only 50. So look for the true lumen rating in the fine print or online, so you know what you’re dealing with.
One point to remember is that a high lumen output is really only needed in classroom or other professional settings, which require participants to read text from the expanded screen in a lighted room. Economy models can deliver a surprisingly good home movie or teevee experience at short range in a darkened room.
There’s a lot of options of devices you can use, but be aware that Bluetooth or other wireless connection are premium features. The best bargain projectors keep it simple—and we can probably consider that a mercy where wireless is concerned.
Do pay attention to which devices a projector can use, because you can’t assume anything in that regard. Smartphones can be a trickier option than it should be, so check to see what adaptor thingies you’ll need to finish the picture.
You want rechargeable batteries. Life is too short. They are almost universal, but make sure.
Check out their expected charge life, and shoot for at least 3 hours to get the whole movie in before a maintenance check is needed.
A loud fan can ruin a movie, and you can get low-noise models.
Mounting options moutnin/ceiling Make sure the mount is compatible with your desires. If you contemplate a ceiling mount, make sure the system lets you flip the image, and that the mounting assembly is appropriate for you.
There are cheap models that sound terrible, which only matters if you’re not connecting them to real external speakers. Some projectors have a lot of sound quality, but you have to make sure. It’s not a given.
Many economy projectors are streamlined to the basics of connecting, powering up, and beaming the image. If you want Remote Control, Wireless, a custom carrying case, an adjusting keystone, etc, you can expect to pay more.
Pro Tip: Don’t be overly impressed with how many hours some component might last: most economy projectors are as close to disposables as manufacturer’s can make them.
Warranties – One year is about the minimum useful period for a projector. Longer terms naturally signal better-made equipment: a three-year warranty is quite good.
Our roundup of high value economy projectors include the most popular on the market today. We’ve explained the basic product terminology, and reviewed 5 bestsellers that meet the criteria.
Interest in the newest projectors is increasing not only because of lower prices, but also the nice image quality and different fun it brings. People invent positive things to do with a projector they wouldn’t have otherwise thought to try, such as impromptu photo-shows, or screening movies outdoors or at group venues.
Creatives are experimenting with making artful projections that add to the surroundings in novel and exciting ways. The future will probably soon bring wireless, and find a cost-effective way to increase brightness so a room can be moderately lit.
It can be fun living in the future, and we’re living in an era that puts superior optical quality into amazingly cheap crap. Which is great … just do your homework before buying.