With the right portable or in-home projector, your home entertainment experience has just got a whole lot bigger.

Projectors used to be the domain of very dedicated entertainment enthusiasts. The best results needed a pitch-black room, retractable screen, and a bulb budget for when the main one inevitably conked out, likely mid-movie.

Thankfully, projectors have come a long way. These days, instead of just being dedicated mini cinemas, projectors offer higher resolutions and are built to play nice with a range of multimedia, including movies and TV, a growing photo collection that’s begging to be embiggened, and even biggest-screen gaming from the comfort of your couch.

Some projectors don’t even need a couch!

Smartphone screens are all well and good for playback on the go, but you can enlarge your playback realities with a projector that’s built to travel. Forget about lugging a screen around with you; just find an appropriate surface and you can have a big-screen experience that fits in your backpack, suitcase or overnight bag.

Screen Optional

As with the cinema (remember that place?), projectors are usually best paired with a dedicated screen that reflects light. That said, in a pinch or as a permanent fixture, a wall will work. Plain white is the best wall colour – other colours tend to mess with what you’re watching – but you can also whip out a white sheet for a budget-friendly impromptu fix.

You can, for instance, take that meme-worthy video you were cackling at on a small smartphone screen in the corner of the room and blow it up on the wall for everyone to enjoy. It’s basically a must for millennials.

The Philips NeoPix Easy+ Projector is an easy pick for a first portable big screen. You get a whopping 30,000 hours of battery life via a powerful LED source that’s built to show off vivid colours. It can project images up to 80 inches in size (from under two metres away), and it’s ready to go out of the box. Plug in power, then everything else is wireless.

Inbuilt Bluetooth and wireless means you can connect the external essentials, while Wi-Fi screen mirroring lets you cast from supported smart devices. As for the all-important audio, the Easy+ comes with inbuilt stereo speakers so no external sound source is needed.

For people who love the idea of projecting without the need for constant power, the Philips PicoPix Nano Projector is a solid pick. The PicoPix makes the already slimline NeoPix look bulky by comparison, because it can actually slip into your pocket.

Beefier Sound

If your ears demand more than inbuilt speakers in a compact projector, both of these Philips projectors also have universally friendly 3.5mm audio jacks to blow up your sound alongside your watch-anywhere screen. Use this port to connect to compatible speakers, big or small, or headphones. Bluetooth support on the NeoPix Easy+ means you can up the external audio possibilities with Bluetooth speakers or headphones.

Despite the palm-sized build, there’s some impressive power at play. Images can be projected up to 60 inches, and there’s still an inbuilt speaker so the mobility isn’t hampered by a need for external sound support. Plus, there’s 80 minutes of battery life, which is the right length for watching the footy. Combo it with a compatible power bank to increase longevity while preserving mobility.
The PicoPix Nano also boasts that same 30,000-hour LED life, which means you can rely on this pocket projector pal for many illuminating years. As for content playback, you can stream via Wi-Fi or plug in with MicroSD and USB ports.

It may not be the freshest of references, but Anchorman’s Brick Tamland loves lamp and we reckon there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with a lamp projector. If you’re looking for a more permanent projector in your home but aren’t looking to splash out on laser, lamp-based projectors are the logical next step. As you might expect, this type of projector uses a big ol’ bulb to project images (ideally) onto a screen, meaning they’re a lot closer to what you’re used to experiencing in a cinema.

Lamp projectors tend to be a cheaper entry into a fixed projector setup in the home. While projector bulb life used to be measured in hundreds of hours, it’s in triple-zero territory these days.

Compared to their portable pals over the page, this is where fidelity starts to ramp up. BenQ is considered to be a market leader for projectors, and it’s absolutely worth considering the power of the TK850i. This 4K-capable projector offers gorgeous results via 8.3 million pixels and an impressive 3000lm high brightness for lit-room viewing, with support for HDR Pro. Expect killer on-screen results from the TK850i, plus a 10-watt chambered speaker means it’s ready to entertain out of the box.

Fully lit

Modern projectors don’t need you to dim the lights for them to wow you with great images. The minimum lumens number you’re looking for is 2,500, so anything above that rating is a win for those hoping to use their projector day and night.

The TK850i delivers great results whether you’re watching disc-based Blu-rays or 4K UHDs via the projector’s HDMI ports, or streaming 4K content.

To make streaming entertainment a bit easier, the TK850i is a Google-certified Android TV, which means it has Google Play Store support so you can download your favourite streaming apps and other supported visual entertainment apps (there are more than 5,000 of them) to take full advantage of this projector. This is as easy to use as any Android TV.

The BenQ W2700i is also a worthy alternative. If your movie night needs to feel like you’re actually at the movies, you can bring the popcorn and mid-flick smartphone interruptions, and the W2700i delivers a colour-accurate experience via BenQ’s CinematicColor tech that’s like a visit to the cinema. Both the TK850i and W2700i BenQ 4K-capable projectors can deliver a great 100-inch picture with just 2.5 metres of space, but this can stretch up to a 200-inch screen if you have more projector runway. The W2700i also boasts chambered stereo audio.

Nitty-gritty lumens

A lumen is unit of measurement for bulb brightness. The bigger the lumens number, the brighter the bulb. While lumens measure brightness in terms of time, nits are a similar measurement of light as it relates to space. You can multiply nits by 3.426 to determine lumens (or divide lumens by the same value to get nits).

They’re both built to use on a tabletop, so no fancy mounting is required, while lens shift allows for surface flexibility, and the same is true of the BenQ TH685i. This BenQ projector is built with gamers in mind, including an inbuilt 5-watt speaker with audio-accentuating Game Sound Mode. The TH685i has 4K compatibility and is viable as a competitive screen thanks to a 120Hz refresh rate and 8.3 millisecond low-input latency. Couple this with an incredibly bright 3,500 lumens rating and it means gamers can dominate online as well as enjoy big-screen gaming offline day or night.

When it comes to projectors, laser projectors need a whole lot less space to project massive images. Instead of the usual approach of pointing a projector horizontally at a screen or wall, certain laser projectors are more hologram-like, sitting beneath that same screen or wall and effectively projecting the image upwards.

As sci-fi has taught us, lasers are incredibly bright, and laser projectors are no exception. Despite the brightness boost, laser projectors are rated for long lives in the tens of thousands of hours, they generate less heat than their bulb-bearing older siblings, and generally don’t require any tweaking or maintenance after initial configuration.

Just like you’d put a telly atop a TV unit, these laser projectors can be similarly placed (or even lower) to project an image upwards onto a screen or surface without having to sit too far forward. The results, though, should put you on the edge of your seat.

Take the Hisense 100L5F, for instance. Like the lamp projectors overleaf, this is effectively a smart projector with inbuilt Android TV, 4K capabilities, and that gorgeous HDR finishing touch. The projected result is a natural, cinema-like experience with a rich colour palette that’s projected onto an included generous 100-inch screen that’s built for best results.

The included screen helps make this a fully out-of-the-box entertainment solution, but the included award-winning dbx-tv cinematic sound with an embedded 30-watt speaker is the cherry on top, so you don’t need to factor in an external sound source. To keep things light on additional cables, the 100L5F also includes inbuilt Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for straightforward connectivity.

Types of projectors

There are three types of projector: lamp, LED, and laser. Lamp is the most common because it’s based on the traditional approach to projection. Because of this, it also tends to be the cheapest for permanent projectors, but recent advances mean longevity is greatly improved. LED projectors are uncommon and tend to not be as bright. Laser projectors are a newer more popular technology that tends to have great brightness and can also project from incredibly short distances.

If 100 inches isn’t quite the right size for your big-screen entertainment, then you need the formidable new Samsung Premiere range of projectors. Available in two different models, the single laser Samsung LSP7T can hit a whopping 120 inches while the triple laser Samsung LSP9T stretches to 130 inches. Despite that impressive screen real estate these laser projectors only need to be a handful of centimetres away from the wall (11.3cm to be exact).

Both projectors are capable of producing 4K images, and the 2,800 lumens rating means they’re great for night-time movies and capable of daytime viewing, too. To make things look even prettier, these Samsung projectors are also HDR10+ certified with a fully featured colour palette. Low input lag will keep the gamers happy, and 2.2- channel sound inbuilt into the LSP7T and 4.2-channel sound in the LSP9T provides big sound to rival the big screen.