Portable projectors are picking up popularity. I have several of my peers who are on the lookout for affordable models, some costing less than S$100 from China Online sites. My word of advice: these portable projectors are nowhere compared to the big units powered by AC. Just manage the expectations and you will be fine.
Over the years, I have reviewed a handful (pun not intended) of portable battery-operated projectors from Sony (MP-CL1), Canon (Rayo i8), and even the smartphone Moto Mod. When ASUS announced the availability of the ZenBeam E1 projector in Singapore, I requested for a unit to review.
- Supports MHL and HDMI connection
- 6000 mAh battery delivers up to 5 hours usage (at 50 Lumens)
- USB port supports power bank charging of other devices
- 150 Lumen brightness with WXGA (854×480) resolution
- Auto keystone correction
- Built-in ASUS SonicMaster speaker
- Sliding lens cap
- Tripod screw mount
- 307 grams
Operations are relatively easy. 4 buttons on top of the projector allow ease of toggle on the on-screen menu. First button is to adjust ASUS Splendid display mode (Standard, Presentation, Eco, Presentation, flashlight). Second and Fourth buttons are adjusting volume. Third button accesses other menu settings like brightness, contrast, manual keystone, aspect ratio, projector position (front, rear), language, auto keystone. Under this setting, pressing the 2nd and 4th button moves the selection left or right, while pressing the 3rd button selects it, or the 1st button to go to previous menu. Powering up takes about 10 seconds, which is relatively fast. There is a focusing ring to adjust focus manually.
The ZenBeam E1 does not support wireless connection, which is a shame, so you need special MHL cable (not included) to connect to smartphones or tablets. The good thing, however, is that since the ZenBeam E1 comes with a USB charging port, the MHL device can be powered with the projector too. Once the device is connected, the audio will be redirected to the E1, which also comes with 3.5mm audio jack for alternative audio output.
Among the portable projectors, ZenBeam E1 is the only one that is usable even during the day. I was seated at my dining table in the cloudy afternoon and projected the ASUS Transformer 3 Pro via HDMI connection to the wall 2 metres away in extended display mode. When in complete darkness, the ZenBeam E1 brightness is only a tad less bright than my EPSON home projector.
As the ZenBeam E1 supports only 854×480 low resolution, it is not recommended to project text-based content. Still, its delivery of 150 Lumens is the brightest among all the portable projectors I have reviewed by far. While it is also the thickest and marginally heaviest, it is still very portable, comes with soft case with an opening to access the USB for charging other devices. It also comes with a sliding lens cap which is not offered on the other portable projectors I reviewed. No wonder it won several design awards in 2016.
The ASUS ZenBeam E1 beats most competition with its brightness and longer battery life. At S$539, the price is the lowest among the pico projectors I reviewed (except Moto Mod Insta-share Projector which only works with Moto Z phones), making it my current recommendation for portable projector. The biggest drawbacks would have to be the lack of wireless connectivity and low-resolution display.
- Bright projector with 150 Lumens
- Large battery capacity for long usage period per charge
- Works as a power bank
- No wireless connectivity
- Low resolution