One of the best ways to consume entertainment at home is with a screen and a capable projector.
With a quality projector, you are not confined to display sizes and can enjoy an authentic multimedia experience anywhere in your home with minimal setup. Of course, having a mini or portable projector can significantly expand the possible use cases.
Mini or portable projectors have been catching on in popularity over the years while also improving in quality, performance, and features.
In this article, we will be taking a look at three popular and feature-rich models: the Xgimi Elfin, the Xgimi Halo+, and the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro. If you plan to purchase a portable projector in the near future and have been considering these models, this article will answer all your questions and help you come to a decision.
We will compare these projectors based on image quality, connectivity, and other important features.
More than any other factor, the two most important factors to watch out for when choosing a portable projector are price and resolution.
While the price dictates whether a particular model will be within your budget, the resolution is the chief criterion for image quality and will dictate the kind of media formats you would be able to play on the projector. Apart from this, other factors to watch out for can be brightness, maximum display size, audio capabilities, battery backup, etc.
On the price spectrum, the cheapest product of the three is the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro, coming in at an MSRP just north of $500. This portable projector comes with a built-in battery but can only support a maximum resolution of 720p.
In contrast, both offerings from Xgimi operate at a maximum resolution of 1080p. The Xgimi Elfin is the cheaper of the two at a sub-$700 MSRP, while the Xgimi Halo+ is the more expensive by a couple hundred dollars, with an MSRP that approaches a thousand USD. While both are upgrades over the Mars II Pro, there are quite a few feature differences between the products.
This high degree of differentiation between the products in terms of basic and added features can make it easier for you to make a choice based on your specific requirements. For example, if you want a 720p projector for cheap, the offering from Anker becomes the automatic choice. With that said, if you want a 1080p projector, you can choose between the Xgimi models based on your feature requirements and budget.
The better the resolution support for your projector, the better the image quality. This also gives you more flexibility in terms of the content you can play back. For example, if you have a full-HD capable projector, you can also play back HD and SD content on it without any issues, and often with better results.
With this in mind, the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro has a maximum resolution of 720p. Depending on how far you place the projector from your screen, you can get an effective display size ranging from 40 inches all the way to 100 inches.
The peak brightness of the image is 500 lumens, which means that this projector is only ideal for dark or dimly lit environments. As a point of reference, outdoor projectors (which must be capable of operating in well-lit environments) often have 2,000+ lumens.
If you discount the lower resolution, however, there are many convenient features. The projector uses autofocus tech to instantly focus the image onto the screen, no matter how far you place it. Needless to say, this feature is much appreciated with a portable projector.
There is also the option of automatic vertical keystone whereas the horizontal keystone control is manual. This gives you plenty of control over the characteristics, orientation, and clarity of the image. Although Anker doesn’t market the throw ratio, the calculated throw ratio is ~1:1, which is actually better than the other two products on the list.
With the Xgimi Elfin, you have an effective resolution of 1080p with a peak brightness of up to 800 lumens, making it a much more capable performer in areas with more light. You will be able to use it with a screen size of 60 inches all the way to 120 inches, making for a truly immersive big-screen experience.
The projector has a 1.2:1 throw ratio, which is better than a standard projector and therefore will function better in a smaller room.
Apart from this, the projector also comes with excellent features that include auto vertical and horizontal keystone correction, autofocus tech, intelligent screen alignment, and intelligent obstacle avoidance, making for a truly seamless experience.
The Xgimi Halo+ is even more capable in terms of image quality, with a maximum resolution of 1080p coupled with a peak brightness of 900 lumens, allowing you to use it even in brightly lit areas with very little distortion or color shift. It has the same 1.2:1 throw ratio and all the intelligent display correction features as the Elfin.
Apart from this, while the Mars II Pro does not come with HDR certification, the Xgimi Halo+ comes with the HDR certification while the Elfin has HDR+ certification. Both Xgimi models also have an in-built game mode which lowers the latency of the display significantly for gaming use.
Battery backup can be an important quality for portable projectors. With an in-built battery, you can enjoy the entertainment experience without being tethered to a wall outlet or continue watching without breaks even during a power outage.
Of the three models under review, only the Xgimi Elfin does not contain a built-in battery. This means that it needs to be powered at all times during use.
The Anker Nebula Mars II Pro bundles a 12,500 mAh battery that can provide up to three hours of playback purely in battery mode.
The Xgimi Halo+, on the other hand, includes a 59W battery that is good for up to 2.5 hours of video playback on battery mode.
For a complete entertainment experience, a projector needs to have a reliable audio solution built in.
Of course, you can choose to connect external speakers in an ideal environment — no built-in speakers can compete with a dedicated sound system. But since we are looking at portable minis, a projector with astounding in-built speakers is more convenient to use and negates the need for extra cables and connections.
The Anker Nebula Mars II Pro does well in the audio department thanks to its dual 10W speakers that provide deep bass and 360-degree audio tuned particularly to movie watching. In relation to this, there are no surround audio certifications available with this product.
The Xgimi Elfin, on the other hand, has much smaller speakers. It provides dual 3W units. Stemming from this, it comes with Dolby Audio and DTS surround certification, which means that you can play back content encoded with those audio standards without any problems.
The Halo+ also comes with Dolby and DTS certifications and uses dual 5W speakers to deliver audio. In both cases (Elfin and Halo Plus), the audio solutions are specially manufactured by outstanding audio brand Harman Kardon. Even Michael Bay would be impressed with their products.
All three projectors can also be used as Bluetooth speakers for audio playback. The Xgimi projectors support the latest Bluetooth 5.0 and BLE standards while also allowing Wi-Fi connections. The Anker, while also providing Wi-Fi, operates on the Bluetooth 4.0 standard. All three have built-in headphone jacks you can use with wired headphones or as an aux output for external wired speakers.
With many people starting to use projectors in place of smart TVs, a good operating system has become a necessity when considering products.
Anker uses its own operating system. This is based on the older Android 7.1 architecture and users can only download apps and content from the Nebula Manager Store. Newer Anker mini projectors, like the Nebula Cosmos and the Nebula Capsule II, both feature the updated Android 10 operating system, which gives you access to the Google Play store (at a similar price point to the Nebula Mars II Pro.
The Xgimi projectors emerge as the clear winner in this category as they are both Android TV certified. Based on the newer Android 10.0 architecture, this gives users the familiar Android TV interface and the ability to download apps from the Google Play Store.
Both have a built-in Chromecast device for easy casting. While both have 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, the Halo+ also has a fast boot feature where it can boot in six seconds or less. This is another great feature in a portable device.
With all three projectors, you can connect different media directly using either HDMI or USB.
In the Anker, the HDMI port only supports the HDMI 1.4 standard while both of the Xgimi projectors have support for HDMI 2.0. The Xgimi Halo+ also supports the HDMI ARC standard for one-cable operation. All three also come with versatile Bluetooth remote controls for easy operation.
With all three, you have many options regarding placement or installation as they all support front, rear, front ceiling, and rear ceiling placement. Apart from the remote, you also have access to physical buttons on the units for navigation and quick control.
All three come with long-life projector lamps while the Xgimi projectors are also equipped with special high light transmission coated lenses for better longevity.
Furthermore, you can expect a total lamp life of up to 25,000 hours with the Xgimi projectors while the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro has a total lamp life of up to 30,000 hours. There are in-built fans that keep the lighting elements cool.
In the $500-$1,000 MSRP range, any of the three models being discussed is a pretty solid purchase.
But if your budget is significantly higher or lower, we have some competing models that are worthy of consideration.
With a sub-$300 price tag, the Anker Nebula Capsule provides many of the same features as the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro. It only emits 100 lumens, so it won’t function well in a bright environment, but this “soda can sized” product is an affordable gateway into the world of mini/portable projectors.
Alternatively, if you are looking for the best product without any concern for budget, Xgimi also makes a top-of-the-line Aura 4K which packs every feature you can dream of.
The Xgimi Aura will set you back a couple thousand dollars, but you get 4K resolution, ultra short throw technology, 2,400 lumens of brightness, 60 watt Harman Kardon speakers, and a list of other great extras. So if you want crystal clear picture in a bright, non-ideal environment, it is hard to top the Xgimi Aura 4K.
Ease of Setup & Usability
When it comes to choosing a projector, it’s not just about the tech specs, it’s also about how user-friendly the device is. An intuitive and hassle-free setup process can be a game-changer, especially if you’re planning to move the projector around or use it for outdoor movie nights or presentations.
The Anker Nebula Mars II Pro shines in this department with its plug-and-play setup. Its autofocus feature allows the device to quickly adapt to new environments and screen sizes, which can be a huge advantage if you plan on using your projector in different locations.
Similarly, the Xgimi models also offer autofocus, but they also add intelligent screen alignment and intelligent obstacle avoidance, which can be especially handy when setting up in a room with irregular surfaces or objects.
As for usability, all three models are accompanied by a Bluetooth remote control. However, the Xgimi models also have an added convenience of quick boot feature in their Halo+ model, which can be an attractive feature for users who do not like to wait.
This gives a clear picture of the capabilities of all three portable projectors, all of which are great value packages with excellent performance.
Depending on your budget, any requirements you have regarding image resolution and brightness, and other features, any of these three can satisfy both in terms of audio and video.
What does the throw ratio mean and why is it important?
The throw ratio is the relationship between the distance from the projector lens to the screen (throw distance) and the width of the screen (screen width). A smaller throw ratio indicates a projector can create a larger image at a shorter distance, which is beneficial if you’re dealing with space constraints.
What’s the benefit of having HDR certification on my projector?
HDR (High Dynamic Range) enhances the contrast of images, making the dark areas darker and the light areas lighter. This results in a more realistic and vibrant image. If you’re going to watch movies or play games that are HDR-enabled, having a projector with HDR certification is a significant advantage.
Do Anker & Xgimi projectors support gaming?
Yes, all these projectors can be used for gaming. However, the Xgimi models come with a specific game mode that reduces latency for smoother gameplay.
Can I Anker Nebula or Xgimi Halo+/Elfin projectors outdoors?
Yes, these projectors are portable and can be used outdoors. However, remember that projectors are best used in low-light environments. While the Xgimi models are brighter and can be used in areas with more ambient light, none of these models are designed for full sunlight.
What’s the advantage of having an Android operating system in a projector?
Having an Android operating system turns your projector into a smart device. You can download apps, stream content, and browse the internet directly from your projector, eliminating the need for additional streaming devices or computers.