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Article updated on February 5, 2024 at 3:00 AM PST

We Tested Five Ultra-Cheap Mini Projectors and Found the Best One

Most of the projectors in this group cost less than $100. Are any of them worth your money?

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Written by 
Geoffrey Morrison
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Geoffrey Morrison Contributor
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
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Our Picks

$90 at Amazon
The Auking M8-F on a blue background.
Relatively good, for the price
AuKing M8-F
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$150 at Amazon
ultracheap-projectors-15-of-21
An OK 1080p option
Hision HIUS-LP-M7
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$72 at Amazon
ultracheap-projectors-01-of-21
Ultracheap projector if you really must
Meer YG300-Pro
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$63 at Amazon
ultracheap-projectors-07-of-21-jpg
A projector for the price of a video game
Elephas JingHuier
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$35 at Amazon
ultracheap-projectors-11-of-21
A projector nobody should buy
MissYou YG300
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Technically, you can find a projector priced under $100. They do exist, but just because the price is nice, doesn't mean the product will be. Simply put, most ultra-cheap projectors aren't good options. In fact, they're hardly watchable. We were able to scare up a handful that can generate a reasonable, TV-size image -- as long as you use them in a dark room. Of the best projectors we've reviewed, most go for somewhere between $500 and $1,500. If that's more than you want to spend, you can manage on a model as cheap as $65. If spending a bit more isn't an issue, these gems for just a few hundred bucks are worth checking out.

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After raising the spending limit to $250 or so, I found that models like the AAXA P8 and the Vimgo P10 fared surprisingly well in my comparison tests. They delivered big, perfectly watchable images for less than the price of a cheap phone

Even among the sub-$100 projectors, some are notably better than others. We tested several, using the same tests and measurement gear we use to review "real" projectors, and we got some interesting results. Here's how they looked.

$90 at Amazon

Relatively good, for the price

AuKing M8-F

The AuKing M8-F is a sort of "best of the worst" option in the sub-$100 category. It's by no means what I'd call good, but against some pretty abysmal competition, it's decidedly not bad. Its light output, contrast ratio and color are all as good, if not better than the other ultra-budget projectors we tested. 

If you consider that this $58 projector can create a quite-dim-but-watchable image, that's something. As long as you don't expect miracles, and aim for a TV-size (60 inches or less) image, you could definitely do worse. 

$150 at Amazon

An OK 1080p option

Hision HIUS-LP-M7

Saying the Hision is one of the best projectors in this roundup is a little misleading. It is one of the least bad projectors in this roundup. It can create a watchable image, mostly, and is bright enough to get that image to roughly at least TV-size. It's even 1080p resolution. Thus end the superlatives, such as they are. The AuKing M8-F's image is a little better, and it's a little cheaper, but both are far better than the other options below.

The Hision is not particularly bright, in the ballpark of mini and portable projectors. The contrast ratio isn't much worse than some projectors we've reviewed, though that isn't saying much. It's surprisingly loud. The uniformity is bad, making the center of the image noticeably brighter than the edges. 

It also had some bugs. Well, one bug. Literally. Forever entombed between the image sensor and the lens, it appeared as an ovoid splotch of darkness a few dozen pixels wide near the middle of the image. Charming.

The Hision was good only in comparison to most of the others here. If you just want to spend around $150 and you want 1080p, you could do worse.

Here's where I mention that pricing on all of these ultracheap projectors varies quite a bit, sometimes from day to day. If the Hision costs more than $100 when you read this, it's an even worse value. For around $250 the Vimgo P10 and AAXA P8 are both brighter and far more watchable, and definitely worth saving for in my opinion.

$72 at Amazon

Ultracheap projector if you really must

Meer YG300-Pro

The YG300-Pro isn't good. It's half as bright as the Hision and has a worse contrast ratio and worse color (and that's saying something). It shares many of the same issues, including abysmal uniformity. Some colors, like red, are very undersaturated, making for a lifeless, cold image. It's 720p, so the pixels aren't the size of paving stones at least.

Bottom line: The Hision and AuKing are definitely better, but if either is significantly more expensive when you read this, the Meer makes a solid runner-up if you simply can't save up for a better cheap projector.

$63 at Amazon

A projector for the price of a video game

Elephas JingHuier

The Elephas JingHuier is half the price of the more "expensive" options on this list, but it's easily twice as bad. In its favor, the design features a friendly, round focus knob and a rather pleasant curvy design with a yellow front. Unfortunately, it's the second-dimmest projector we've ever reviewed, putting out a nearly invisible 33 lumens. The image isn't the worst I've seen, but it's so close. 

Dominated by big, SD-resolution pixels and mediocre color, its biggest strength is that it's not the MissYou YG300 (see below).

$35 at Amazon

A projector nobody should buy

MissYou YG300

The MissYou YG300 is very bad. It's unquestionably the worst projector, and probably the worst display, that I've ever seen. The image is a smeary, joyless mess of washed-out colors and sadness. The color red is barely a suggestion. It puts out enough light to imperceptibly brighten a shoebox. Every one of its 23 lumens -- the lowest I've ever measured -- seems to struggle their way to the screen, then resent being there. Reviewing the YG300 made me question my life choices as a projector reviewer.

Even for $35, which is what we paid at the time, don't buy this. Since then the price has gone up, which is the only thing that can make me recommend this projector less.

We need to talk about picture quality

A stack of ultra-cheap projectors.
Geoff Morrison/CNET

The projectors above, except perhaps the Hision and AuKing, look worse than pretty much any modern Tv, no matter how cheap. You definitely need to recalibrate your expectations for what you're getting here. I've used the word "watchable" a lot in this guide which is somewhere between generous and Olympic-grade hyperbole. Here are a few key reasons why:

  • Light output
  • Contrast
  • Color
  • Resolution

In every measurable way, spending $150 more will get you a vastly superior product. The best cheap projectors we've reviewed are substantially brighter, better looking, more accurate and more detailed. I hate recommending anyone pay more for something, but in this case, it's well worth it. Unless you're considering these as a disposable toy, I'd advise getting something else or saving up and getting something better.

One of the understandable points of confusion is the specs and marketing of these projectors. They're filled with… shall we say, "gifts for fiction"? One of them claims 8,000 lumens of brightness. I measured 141. Another claimed a resolution of 1080p. I measured 240, which is the same resolution as VHS tape. Lots of marketing will twist the truth to sell you a product, but these projector descriptions were especially bad.

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Why you should spend a bit more on a projector

Here's a Closer Look at 4 Sub-$100 Projectors

See all photos

I'm all for spending as little as possible to get something cool, or at least useful. We've reviewed several inexpensive projectors recently that aren't bad for the price. The ones in this roundup are decidedly not good, even for the price. They're exceptionally dim, so they can't create a very large image, and it would be generous to call their color and contrast "marginal." 

What do you get with slightly more expensive projectors, starting at around $250? Picture quality is an obvious one, in terms of resolution, detail and color, most noticeably. Spending even a little bit more gets you significantly more light output, which means the picture is easier to see and you can create a larger image as well. Some have built-in batteries so they can work completely wirelessly. Lastly, many more expensive projectors have built-in streaming. This means no external device is needed to watch Netflix.

Watch this: How to buy the best home theater projector

If you're considering one of these $100-ish projectors to have on hand for the kids to occasionally watch a show in a room without a TV, the TV is absolutely a better option. It will be easier to use, easier to watch, and can be seen with the lights on. It's not even that different in price. We recently spotted a deal on a 32-inch TV with streaming built in for $100. It's less portable, for sure, but infinitely more useful.

If you were considering these projectors for something inexpensive and portable for camping, the Meer and MissYou can technically run off a battery. Even then, they're even dimmer if you can believe it. Don't expect to create an image much larger than the smallest of TVs. If it doesn't break your budget, something like the AAXA P8 is way brighter, or the Anker Mars II Pro which is good all-around for a bit more.

The lenses on 4 ultra-cheap projectors.
Geoff Morrison/CNET
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How does CNET test budget projectors?

The same way we test more expensive projectors. For specifics, check out how we test projectors.

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Ultrabudget projector FAQ

Do these ultracheap projectors actually work?

Surprisingly, yes! Not well, mind you, but they do create an image on a flat surface for $100 or less. 

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Can you stream Netflix on one of these projectors?

Yes, but with some significant caveats. Generally speaking, the easiest way to stream to these is by using a streaming stick connected to their HDMI inputs, which does work. These projectors don't have built-in apps, despite their marketing images implying otherwise. Don't expect to be able to mirror your phone's screen and watch Netflix that way. There are copy-protection restrictions that make this unlikely to work. 

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Can I connect a gaming console (Xbox, PlayStation, etc.)?

Technically, yes, anything with an HDMI connection should work. That said, it's worth noting that with the exception of the Hision and AuKing, these are extremely dim projectors. You won't be able to see much, if anything, with the lights on. Even with the lights off, a 50-inch image will still be hard to see.

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Do I need a screen?

Yes and no. You technically don't need a screen. Any smooth, flat surface will work. A screen will improve the image, as they typically have no texture, and many can reflect back more of the light toward where you're sitting and less elsewhere. This means the projector will seem a little brighter. That said, a screen isn't going to make a $35 projector look like a $3,500 projector or probably even a $350 projector. If you have the budget to add a screen, you're probably better off getting a better projector now and saving up for a screen later.

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As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarinesmassive aircraft carriersmedieval castles, epic 10,000-mile road trips, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his tours and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines and a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.