Presentations (and More) in Your Pocket

Only a few years ago, the concept of having a projector small enough to take with you in your bag, let alone in your pocket, was just wishful thinking. But as projectors have come down in size, portable models have certainly come into their own, making it possible for you to project your data and video anywhere you go. Not only that, but portable projectors encompass a surprisingly wide range in size, brightness, and features. Here, we will help you sort out their differences, as well as highlight our favorite models.

Pico and Palmtop Projectors

Pico or pocket projectors are a little larger than smartphones. Because they can accommodate videos and photos for on-the-go entertainment, in addition to slides and charts for business or classroom presentations, these models can essentially be thought of as multimedia display systems. Though convenient and snazzy, they tend to be of low brightness and relatively expensive for their performance.

So-called palmtop projectors are larger (and brighter) than pico projectors, typically a bit too large to comfortably fit in the palm of your hand, even with your fingers outstretched. Still, they are lightweight enough that you wouldn't think twice about packing one in a bag or backpack. Most are brighter, and have more connection options, than pico models.

Most pico and palmtop projectors can run files from a USB thumb drive and/or SD card, so you don't need to lug your laptop with them. (If you do want to bring a laptop with you, though, check out our roundup of the best ultraportable laptops.) Some even have 1GB or more of internal memory for storing media files. Many can project content from a smartphone or tablet, either wirelessly or via a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL)-enabled HDMI port. Several models come with built-in rechargeable batteries so you can use them away from a power outlet.

Related Story See How We Test Projectors

Larger, Brighter, but Still Portable

Many manufacturers have introduced LED-based mini projectors that are generally a bit larger than palmtops, but considerably brighter. They pack a relatively high (WXGA, or 1,280-by-800) resolution, and their larger frames let them include more connection ports than their smaller brethren. Although a few have internal rechargeable batteries, most run solely off of AC power.

Thin-and-light projectors are as wide, deep, and bright as standard models but barely an inch thick, and weigh in at about 4 pounds. They are highly portable, but you pay a premium for their svelteness, and they usually have a limited set of connection choices.

Finally, some standard projectors are still small and light enough to be easily portable, whether you're moving them between classrooms or taking them on a cross-country flight. Many come with soft carrying cases, but they could just as easily be slipped into a travel bag or backpack.

The projectors we highlight here are relatively lightweight, with the heaviest weighing just more than 2 pounds and the lightest just more than 4 ounces. They vary considerably in size, brightness, features, and performance. Any one of these could be your favorite travel companion. Be sure to also check out our full list of projector reviews, as well as our roundup of the best projectors overall.

  • LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) Review

    MSRP: $549.99
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    Bottom Line: The lightweight and portable LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) can project television shows thanks to its built-in TV tuner, has a wealth of connection choices, and boasts very good video an…

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  • AAXA M6 Micro Projector Review

    MSRP: $599.00
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    Bottom Line: The AAXA M6 Micro Projector is a good portable projector for businesspeople who give detailed presentations while traveling.

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  • AAXA P2-A Smart Pico Projector Review

    MSRP: $209.00
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    Bottom Line: The AAXA P2-A Smart Pico Projector, despite a few flaws, is a triumph of miniaturization and a good value, its tiny frame bristling with ports and with a touchpad on top.

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  • Magnasonic LED Pocket Pico Video Projector Review

    MSRP: $169.99
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    Bottom Line: The Magnasonic LED Pocket Pico Video Projector performs surprisingly well considering its low brightness, resolution, and price.

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  • Philips Pocket Projector PPX4350 Wireless Review

    MSRP: $399.99
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    Bottom Line: The Philips Pocket Projector PPX4350 Wireless delivers watchable video and lots of connectivity options. But at $400 it should come with the AC charger required to run it when the battery di…

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  • RIF6 Cube Review

    MSRP: $299.00
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    Bottom Line: The RIF6 Cube, a tiny, elegant projector that can mirror the screens of mobile devices and project content from a microSD card, is good for casual use, although its video quality could be be…

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