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Portable projectors are everywhere – is this the end of home theater as we know it?

 XGIMI Horizon Max projector on motorized gimbal.
XGIMI Horizon Max projector on motorized gimbal.

A big video trend at CES 2024 was an increase in portable projector offerings from a range of brands both well-known and relatively unknown. There were so many being displayed at CES across various venues that I only had time to track down a few at the show for an in-person look.

Unlike the best 4K projectors, the best portable projectors are typically 1080p “Full HD” resolution models. They also typically have limited brightness, and use Android TV for streaming – a platform known for spotty usability and for omitting popular apps like Netflix.

But the projectors announced at CES marked a potential sea change in the portable category, with new models featuring 4K resolution and advanced streaming platforms like Google TV, LG’s webOS, and Samsung’s Tizen (the latter two now being made available for third-party use – another important bit of CES news). Along with portables, CES saw the launch of a number of new ultra short throw (UST) models, a growing category that offers an alternative to the traditional ceiling-mounted long throw projector.

Does this proliferation of new, sophisticated, and mostly portable projectors mean the end of home theater as we know it? Long throw models were largely absent from CES, although that could be a reflection of the changing nature of the show, which is now more focused on gadgets and other types of technology rather than high-end audio/video and home theater. What was clear is that these new projector types perform better than ever, and they offer a level of flexibility that makes them an easy fit with a wide range of living spaces.

Samsung The Premiere 8K projecting a football match, with its wireless connection box on a separate unit
Samsung The Premiere 8K projecting a football match, with its wireless connection box on a separate unit

Samsung goes all in on UST

Samsung introduced a range of new projectors at CES, including an 8K version of its The Premiere UST. The company’s new triple-laser DLP projector has an impressive 4,000 lumens brightness, receives up to 8K signals wirelessly using a One Connect Box, and uses the same Tizen smart TV system found in Samsung TVs.

Another notable new Samsung UST is The Premiere 5, which is a compact, portable model that can beam a 100-inch image when situated 17 inches from a wall. Although Samsung didn’t have the portable UST set up at its CES booth, I received a demo of it in late 2023 at the company’s headquarters and was impressed with its ability to also be used as an interactive touchscreen display for gaming.

LG CineBeam Qube projector on side table
LG CineBeam Qube projector on side table

LG’s cool CineBeam Qube

LG’s Cinebeam Qube portable projector looks like a heavy metal version of Samsung’s The Freestyle. The company is positioning the Qube as a “stylish interior accessory,” and depending on your sense of style, it could be just that.

The new portable is a 4K DLP model with an RGB laser light source that can beam images up to 120 inches. It uses the company’s webOS 6.0 smart TV platform for streaming, which features popular apps such as Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video. Cost and availability weren’t announced at CES, but given this projector’s design and specs, we expect it will be one pricey portable when it arrives.

Projectors get Google TV

Hisense had its 2023 projector lineup on display in the company’s sprawling CES booth, and was also previewing a ‘Pro’ version of its C1 Laser Mini, a portable 4K model with Dolby Vision HDR support. Although it's not available in the new portable, a notable new feature of the company’s UST projectors is the Google TV smart interface, which is also found in the company’s TVs.

Hisense wasn’t the only company showing Google TV-powered projectors at CES. Anker was displaying its new Mars 3 Air and Capsule 3, both 1080p portable models that run the Google TV platform to provide a quick Netflix streaming fix anywhere you set them up. These projectors feature a built-in battery that holds a 2.5-hour charge and are both priced under $599.

XGIMI Aladdin ceiling projector in lamp mode
XGIMI Aladdin ceiling projector in lamp mode

XGIMI Horizon Max – the ultimate portable?

Perhaps no projector on display at CES 2024 embodied the ‘next-gen portable’ theme better than the XGIMI Horizon Max. This somewhat odd-looking 4K projector (it’s got a strong 1970s sci-fi vibe) is a long throw model that’s compact enough to be moved around, and has an Intelligent Screen Adaptation feature that can store optimized adjustments for different environments where it may find itself set up. At CES, XGIMI had the Horizon Max positioned on a motorized gimbal (shown in this story's opening pic) that moved around to demonstrate the projector’s ability to automatically align its picture on different surfaces, and the feature clearly worked as advertised.

Specs for the Horizon Max are impressive for a compact, portable model. It can hit 3,100 lumens brightness, uses a Dual Light 2.0 light source that combines an RGB laser with a phosphor wheel, supports Dolby Vision HDR, and is IMAX Enhanced certified. XGIMI says that its new projector will be available by the end of 2024 and should be priced under $3,000.

Along with the Horizon Max, XGIMI was demonstrating the Aladdin (shown above), a short throw projector that doubles as a ceiling lamp and 360-degree Bluetooth speaker. The lamp part was significantly brighter than the 500 lumens image put out by the projector, but it’s hard to deny that XGIMI has come up with a clever and potentially very useful product concept here. Price and shipping info was not available for the Aladdin.

Formovie 4K Max projector beaming battle image from Dune
Formovie 4K Max projector beaming battle image from Dune

Formovie gets bright

Formovie had its new 4K Max ultra short throw projector on hand at CES, where its super-bright 4,500 lumens picture did a great job holding up on a 150-inch projection screen under the equally bright Las Vegas Convention Center Central Hall lights. The new Formovie UST, which supports Dolby Vision HDR, is available now from importer ProjectorScreen.com for $3,699 and comes bundled with an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K for streaming.

Xming Page One portable projector at CES
Xming Page One portable projector at CES

Formovie’s sister brand Xming was also at the LVCC, where it had a range of portable projectors on display, including the new Page One. The 1080p-resolution Page One uses an LCD light engine to beam images up to 120 inches with up to 500 lumens brightness. It also has Google TV for streaming and features Netflix among other apps.

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