The smart projector segment has witnessed exponential growth in recent years. These models are becoming popular because a single device can fulfill the functions of a projector, DVD or Blu-Ray players, streaming boxes, and even speakers. Users don’t have to purchase multiple devices separately, saving money and reducing clutter. Most smart projectors have a portable form factor and can be transported easily. As consumer demand for these devices has increased, more models are being introduced by companies. The wide range of options available has made the buying decision tricky for consumers. However, it does not have to be so. Basic knowledge about smart projectors, their functioning, and the specifications to look for can assist buyers in choosing the right one.
What is a Smart Projector, and How Does it Work?
A smart projector is quite similar to a standard projector in most aspects. It projects images in the same way and can be connected to media playback devices. However, many features distinguish a smart projector from a regular projector. Most of their functionalities are similar to smart TVs, but they project images instead of displaying them on an LCD screen.
Smart projectors come with a full-featured operating system that can perform most functions of handheld devices, like tablets and smartphones. They have an integrated Wi-Fi module that allows them to connect to a wireless network. Users can browse the Internet, install applications, play games, shop online, and stream content. It eliminates the need for a dedicated media device like DVD or BluRay players or streaming devices like Roku Stick or Apple TV. Smart projectors have integrated speakers and don’t need to be necessarily connected to external speakers or headphones. Many of them support scream mirroring, allowing users to stream content from their smartphones on a large screen.
How to Choose the Right Smart Projector?
Here are a few features and specifications to consider when buying a smart projector. They can assist buyers in choosing the right smart projector for their requirements.
Like all other projectors, the primary hardware specification to consider in smart projectors is their resolution. Most models either have an HD (720p) resolution or a Full HD (1080p). The content being streamed online today is available in 1080p, and Full HD devices are the right fit for it. Therefore, the ideal and most popular projector resolution today is 1080p. Imagery projected in this resolution retains adequate sharpness for screens as large as 100 to 120 inches. Viewers will be able to enjoy movies and videos in well-detailed quality. Buyers must consider a smart projector that projects imagery in 1080p resolution. Many smart projectors have HD (720p) resolution, especially in portable models. They still provide decent image quality for watching movies on large screens. Users who are on a budget can consider 720p smart projectors. A few 4K smart projectors are also available for buyers who want a premium model.
The brightness rating is an important specification to consider when buying a smart projector. It is ideally expressed in ANSI lumens and generally ranges between 200 lumens to 3,000 lumens. A projector’s brightness rating determines how well is the projected imagery visible in different ambient light. Rooms with more ambient light will require a device with a higher brightness rating. The picture from a model with 800 ANSI lumens brightness rating may appear clear in a dark room but washed out in an area with moderate ambient light. Therefore, buyers must choose a smart projector whose brightness rating is adequate for their installation environment. Generally, a model with a brightness rating in the range of 1,600 to 2,000 ANSI lumens will be suitable for most scenarios. Users who have a smart projector with around 800 ANSI lumens brightness rating can control the ambient light to improve image visibility. Smart projectors generally employ an LED light source with premium models featuring a laser light engine.
Throw distance is another important specification to check out in a smart projector. Models that have an ultra-short throw ratio can project a large image when placed a few inches away from the screen (generally an 80 to 100-inch image at a distance of 6 to 9 inches from the screen). They occupy very little space and can be installed almost anywhere. Smart projectors with a short throw ratio are also available and must be installed 3 to 6 feet away from the screen for yielding large imagery. Buyers can choose a model whose throw ratio suits their installation scenario.
App Store Access
One of the primary highlights of a smart projector is that it enables users to install apps. The device must provide access to an app store for the same. Models featuring the Android TV OS allow users to visit the Play Store from Google and download apps available on it. Some other smart projectors may facilitate access to proprietary app stores. Users should ensure that the store has the apps that they require.
Virtual Assistant Integration
Many smart projectors are compatible with one or more virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. They may allow users to access the voice assistant and issue commands for controlling different devices or services. It might even enable them to control the projector via voice commands. They may be able to turn the smart projector on or off, adjust its volume, and change the media source through Alexa or Google Assistant. Users of virtual assistants may want to consider a smart projector that supports their preferred service.
Screen Mirroring is a handy feature to have in a smart projector. It should allow users to cast the content streaming on their smartphone on a large screen through the projector. Screen mirroring can be useful in a smart projector if a wireless network is not available, as you can stream content from your smartphone or tablet.
Image Adjustment Features
Buyers must consider the image adjustment and correction features present in a smart projector. Most modern models come with autofocus for yielding sharp imagery. Besides this, keystone correction is another feature required in smart projectors. It can be used to rectify unproportionate imagery due to the projector and screen not being aligned properly with each other. Ideally, buyers must consider a projector supporting both vertical and horizontal keystone correction, but cheaper models may only have the former. Many projectors also have auto keystone correction, making image adjustment easy.
The connectivity options available on a smart projector must be taken into account as well. It should have an adequate number of ports to fulfill the user’s requirements. An HDMI port (preferably 2.0), a 3.5mm audio-out jack, a USB port, and a LAN port for ethernet must be present at a minimum on a smart projector. Most devices will support 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, but models with dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) are even better. If wired mirroring is needed, a USB-C port that supports the screen sharing capability should be present.
As smart projectors come with integrated speakers, buyers may want to pay attention to their audio quality. Some models may have weak speakers that can’t be heard from more than a few feet away, while others may be able to fill a medium-sized room with audio. Buyers must opt for a model whose speakers can produce adequate volume levels for their usage scenario. They may also want to check if the device can be used as a portable Bluetooth speaker.
Portability is an important characteristic to consider in smart projectors. Quite a few of them are designed to be transportable. They have a compact, lightweight design and occupy minimum space in a bag. Users can take them to their backyards or even on a trip to watch movies. An integrated battery may be present, allowing the projector to be used without a power source. If you want to carry the device with you, then consider a portable smart projector, probably with a battery. A handle for easy transport is an added bonus.