Portable Projector vs. Mini Projector – Which Should You Choose?

portable projector vs pico

Portable projector and mini projector are the two terms that buyers who are searching for a transportable projection device come across. While the two expressions may seem to refer to the same category, it is not the case in reality. There are numerous differences between a portable projector and a mini projector. The suitable device for a buyer will depend on their requirements and which features they are willing to sacrifice.

Portable Projector vs. Mini Projector – What is the difference?

The primary feature that distinguishes portable projectors from mini projectors is size. Portable projectors are designed to facilitate a large-screen experience for viewers on the go. They come with an integrated battery and don’t require a power source, making them equally suitable for a night in the backyard or the outdoors. Most of them have handles for carrying them easily. However, they may not necessarily be small and can weigh quite a bit. It also means that they don’t necessarily compromise on features or hardware. Anker Nebula Mars II Pro is one such portable projector model that weighs 3.94 lbs (1.78Kg). The Anker Nebula Capsule is a smaller portable projector from the company.

Mini projectors, also known as micro, pico, or pocket projectors, are designed to be extremely compact and lightweight. Most of them are no larger than a tennis ball, fitting easily in the palm of the hand. Many of their versions can fit in a pocket of a bag or even a trouser, making them super easy to carry. The size limits the amount of hardware and features that can be packed into the device. Mini projectors often compromise on attributes and specifications due to their size restrictions. As a result, the image quality and brightness will be low as compared to larger portable projectors.

Portable Projector vs. Mini Projector – Which Should You Choose?

The right option between a portable projector and a mini projector for a buyer will depend on their requirements.

Image Quality – Portable Projector

Buyers who prioritize image quality over all other features should choose a portable projector over a mini projector. Models of the former type have a resolution of at least 720p (HD), with some models generating a 1080p (Full HD) image. They also have better display engines, allowing viewers to enjoy content in high definition and with good picture quality. On the other hand, mini projectors have a resolution of 360p or 480p at most. The display technology used is also far inferior to their portable counterparts. As a result, their image quality is poorer and more suitable for casual viewing. If you consider bad image quality a deal-breaker, then avoid mini projectors.

Screen Size – Portable Projector

The supported screen size is a vital factor to consider when choosing between a portable projector and a mini projector. You must determine how big of a screen you want. While not all models have the same specifications, most portable ones are still capable of producing an image between 80 to 100 inches. Mini projectors support an image size range of 24 to 60 inches. However, their image quality gets even worse when projecting a large image. Users will have to keep the screen size under 40 inches for a satisfactory viewing experience. They must be placed closer to the screen as well. Therefore, portable projectors are the obvious choice if you need a big screen with a decent quality picture.

Brightness – Portable Projector

You need to evaluate how bright of a projector you need. It will depend on where you want to use the projector. As all portable projectors run on a battery, they won’t match the brightness of their standard home or office counterparts. Still, their brightness rating can vary a lot. Most of them are rated between 200 to 500 ANSI lumens, with a few models going up to 700 ANSI lumens. Mini projectors have a weak light source and a small battery and rarely go above 200 lumens. Another issue with them is that their manufacturers specify their brightness rating in lumens and not ANSI lumens, which can be quite misleading. A projector with 500 ANSI lumens may perform decently in some ambient light or outdoors, but a 100 ANSI lumen project will have to be used in absolute darkness. Therefore, portable projectors are better when good brightness is one of the requirements.

Features – Portable Projector

When it comes to features, portable projectors generally triumph over mini projectors. Their larger size can accommodate more hardware. The number of ports will be more, the size and quality of integrated speakers will be better, and the focus and zoom adjustment will be present. The feature set of mini projectors is limited by their size, making them less lucrative overall.

Battery Life – Portable Projector

Battery life is an essential factor in determining if a portable projector or a mini projector is the right option for you. Large-sized models will consume more power, but they will also have a battery with a higher capacity. Their runtime ranges from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the model. Due to their compact design, mini projectors have batteries of a limited capacity. You can expect them to run for 1 to 2 hours on a single charge. Therefore, if battery life is an important consideration, then select a portable projector over a mini one.

Size – Mini Projector

The primary reason to consider mini projectors is their size. If you want to carry a device on the go, these micro and pico models are perfect. Most of them can fit in the pocket of jeans or be stored in a backpack easily. Due to their smaller size, they weigh far less as compared to portable projectors and won’t increase the weight of your backpack significantly. Portable projectors, being larger and heavier, may cause a slight inconvenience. They can add three to four pounds to your bag easily. You can’t fit them in a small pocket either. Therefore, from a size standpoint, mini projectors may be the better option.

Cost – Mini Projector 

One of the main advantages of mini projectors is that they are incredibly cheap. You can purchase one such model for as low as $30, with a multitude of options available for less than $100. Buyers have many choices and can find one that fits their budget easily. Portable projectors start from $300 and go all the way up to $1,200, with most of the options costing between $500 and $700. Their better feature set comes at a slightly higher cost, which may not suit shoppers on a restricted budget, such as college students. Therefore, price-wise, mini projectors are very affordable.

Quite often, buyers and even sellers confuse portable projectors with mini projectors. Shoppers may choose a model that does not meet their requirements unknowingly. Having a knowledge of the same can assist buyers in their decision. Evaluating your requirements and considering the above recommendations can help you to choose between a portable projector and a mini projector.


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