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Projector Portability

By Art Feierman

"Basic" Projector Portability

Let’s deal with portability now, because it’s always a game changer, when it comes to selecting the best projector for your situation.  Let’s say there are two types of portability to start.  One type is basic.  The projector will not be permanent.  “Tuesday night is movie night – or, Sunday is football.  Take the projector, set it up on a low table in the living room and shine it on a white wall, or a screen.  In such cases, I believe most folks will have some sort of wiring (running along the floor (neat, or not), that provides power, and content (signal from your Blu-ray or DVD player, satellite or cable box, game console, etc.  Thus you also probably have good sound in the room.  In such a case, your issues are very much like a permanent installation, just that it’s not.

"Real" Projector Portability

The other type of portability is really planning to use the projector in different locations.  The “classic” example is having a projector that you watch indoors – on a table in whatever room, living room, family room, basement…, but not always.  It might be summer, so you grab an extension cord, set it up outside and show movies to the kids shining it on your garage door, or in your back yard, on a sheet or portable screen.

Things to Consider: Sound

Now there are some extra things to think about:  Sound.  OK, moving a projector outside is one thing, but now you need to bring out sound too.  Are you really going for the “I’m going to move my surround sound system outside?  Not likely.  Therefore, realize that many home entertainment projectors have one or two built in speakers.  Some are anemic, others might be as much as two 10 watt speakers.  Much better but don’t expect any real serious bass.

If you’re looking or a projector with internal speakers for such convenience, you might carefully look for one additional feature on that projector:  An audio output.  With that audio out, you could feed sound to a boom box, or stereo, but again, are you bringing that gear with you?  Best bang for the bucks with an audio output, is to get yourself a small powered subwoofer.  Plug it in next to your projector run the signal from the audio out, and now folks you’ve added some real bass to your movie night out.

Things to Consider: Content

Don’t forget, you need content, not just a projector, screen, and power.  Where’s that Blu-ray player?  That satellite box is inside somewhere, right?  What’s the way to get content to your outdoor setup, with the least complication?  Interestingly one projector manufacturer address that more than all the others combined, although there are “outboard” (3rd party solutions as well).  I’m talking wireless HDMI.  That’s right, as long as the range isn’t too long, you can place an HDMI transmitter by your DVD/Blu-ray/cable box/satellite box, and plug those HDMI devices into the transmitter.  The rare projector with built in wireless HDMI can receive the content, so no need to bring that other gear outside.  A 3rd party example is the itrio by Peerless, which I have found to work very well, and over longer distances than several others.

But there are projectors that offer the wireless HDMI, it’s just that at this moment only Epson is offering that, in the form of two projectors, their lower cost Home Cinema 3020e, and their higher end Home Cinema 5020Ube!   The 5020 I have here is the 5020UBe version.  The wireless HDMI works great (even if switching takes a little longer), and allows me to plug in 5 HDMI devices back where my equipment is.  Truth is, I use it in my theater, but I considered moving the 5020Ube outside for my Superbowl party, I just didn’t end up doing it.  Probably next year!  (Extra Tidbit:  HDMI does carry the audio, so if the projector has speakers – such as the lower cost Home Cinema 3020e, then all you need outside, is the projector, and power to it, for your outdoor movie night.  That means setup can take only a minute or two.  (Be sure to use an outdoor safe power cord!)

All-In-One Portables

There’s one more type of home entertainment projector suitable for moving around, and perhaps even better for taking out doors, and that’s the “all-in-one” projectors.  They are rare, as Optoma who used to make several, stopped. Again, you’ll find that the only player left is Epson, they offer an MG50 and MG850. Both have built in speakers, and both can run movies and other content through an iPad, iPhone etc.  (The iPad directly mounts to the MG850 shown here.

Those Epsons both do have an audio out for that suggested subwoofer.  Mind you these types of portables work at least as well indoors. And they are small and light enough to take on your summer vacation, if desired.

Those Epson all-in-ones aren’t the only game in town.  There are also pocket and pico projectors for this, but, of course, typically they are still far less bright, and their speakers are so small they are essentially all pretty tinny sounding so far.  Still those much smaller projectors can typically run content from SD cards, or USB, or, even Apple TV.

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Bottom Line

You should now have a good idea about what your options look like if you aren’t permanently mounting your projector.

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