Posted on August 12, 2019 By Scott Wilkinson
At Projector Reviews, we cover not only home-theater, home-entertainment, and business/education projectors, but also mini projectors designed for packing light. One of the most popular such models on Amazon is the Vankyo Leisure 3, which measures a mere 7.8 x 5.8 x 2.7 inches and weighs in at only 2.4 pounds.
That’s about the size of a small laptop, making it easy to schlep anywhere you need a projected image. The included carrying case has room for the projector, cables, and remote, and it’s small enough to pack along with anything else you might need. Even better, its list price is only $99.99 with a $10 savings on Amazon as of this writing.
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The Vankyo Leisure 3 is a single-chip LCD projector that uses white LEDs as its illumination source. Wait, what? A single-chip LCD projector? That’s what the company tells me. In my communication with Vankyo reps, they never completely confirmed that it uses a color-filter wheel like a single-chip DLP projector, but when I told them I assumed as much, they said, “Glad you found the answer on your own!”
In a single-chip DLP projector, some viewers notice a “rainbow effect”—momentary rainbows that trail bright, moving objects on a dark background—which is caused by the color-filter wheel. I have no idea if it causes the same problem in a single-chip LCD design, though I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t.
Most inexpensive projectors have relatively high black levels, and at such a low price, this one probably does too. I don’t imagine it has a dynamic iris or LED modulation, which are used only on much more expensive projectors.
At the other end of the brightness scale, the Leisure 3 claims a peak light output of 2400 lumens, which is pretty high for such a low price tag. But of course, any such manufacturer claim must be taken with a grain of salt, and small, low-cost projectors like this often claim wildly inflated light-output numbers.
As Art Feierman, editor and president of Projector Reviews, points out, “A projector with a measurable 2400 lumens typically draws at least 220 watts (110V); this projector draws only 50. This is typical for these entry-level models. I think the Vankyo Leisure 3 should be typically bright for its class, which is to say a few hundred lumens.” On the other hand, the LEDs might be much brighter than low-cost bulbs; there’s no way to know without measuring it.
The Leisure 3 also claims a contrast ratio of 2000:1, but again, there’s no way to know if this is accurate without measuring it.
The native resolution of the Leisure 3 is only 800×480, but it accepts content up to 1080p and downscales it. No wonder the product web page says, “Not recommended for PowerPoint or office presentations”! Interestingly, the web page includes a conceptual illustration of the difference in resolution between 1080p and 720p, but I don’t see what it has to do with the end result on the screen with this projector.
Another oft-repeated feature is the ability to fill screens in a wide variety of sizes, from 32 to 170 inches diagonally, and a throw-distance range from 4.9 to 16.4 feet. But the lens has no zoom function, so the size of the image is controlled entirely by the distance from the projector to the screen.
The Leisure 3 does not provide lens shift, but most projectors under $1000 don’t, so no surprise there. It does offer vertical keystone correction to compensate for geometric distortions arising from less-than-ideal placement in the vertical direction. But such correction inevitably softens the picture, so I strongly recommend against using it, especially since the native resolution is quite low to begin with.
The projector has stereo speakers built in, each powered by 2 watts. That’s fine in a pinch, but any outboard speaker will probably sound much better. A 3.5mm analog-audio/headphone output lets you connect external speakers; even better, the projector can send audio wirelessly to Bluetooth speakers.
Another interesting feature is an “innovative cooling system with heat dispersion.” I confirmed that this is a cooling fan, so I’m not sure what’s innovative about it. In addition, the company’s product page cites a noise-suppression technology that cuts fan noise in half, but I could find no details about it.
Also, I was unable to learn anything about the Leisure 3’s input lag time, so I have no idea if it’s well-suited for gaming.
The inputs on the Vankyo Leisure 3 are located on the side of the unit rather than the back. They include one HDMI 1.4 input along with a VGA input, USB port, and 3.5mm AV input (which, I assume, accommodates composite video and two channels of audio).
The only other connection is a TF card slot, which accepts Micro SD memory cards. The specs include a long list of supported video, audio, and photo file types, which means the Leisure 3 includes a built-in media player. This allows it to play files from a MicroSD card as well as a USB storage device.
The USB port provides power, which is perfect for streaming dongles such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Stick. You can plug a streaming stick into the HDMI input and connect its power cord to the USB port, and voila—you have a “smart” projector!
Another point made on the company’s product page is the ability to mirror a smartphone, tablet, or computer on the projector. That doesn’t mean some sort of wireless casting, but rather a wired connection. In fact, you need a lightning-to-HDMI adaptor for iOS devices and a micro USB-to-HDMI adaptor for Android devices.
The remote is super simple. Aside from power and input selection, it offers basic transport controls, four-way cursor rocker, menu access, and volume up/down controls.
If the number of verified-purchase reviews is any indication—and I think it is—the Vankyo Leisure 3 is one of the most popular mini projectors on Amazon, with over 5000 reviews as of this writing, 90% of which are 4- or 5-star ratings. Most other projectors, even much better-known models, typically have several hundred reviews. So, it must be doing something right.
Its main strengths are small size and LED light engine, which should last tens of thousands of hours. Plus, it has a media player built in as well as stereo speakers, and you can easily turn it into a smart projector with the addition of a streaming stick.
On the downside, its resolution is quite low, and it has no lens shift or even zoom, so placement is very inflexible. You have a little wiggle room with keystone correction, but that softens the already low resolution.
Of course, no one said The Vankyo Leisure 3 is a home-theater projector. In fact, I might call it a family projector for games with the kids or movie night under the stars.
If you need something this portable, its low price lets you give it a try without risking much—in fact, it will probably be fun!
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