What is a Smart Projector? Why Do You Need a Smart Projector?

You’ve probably heard of the smartphone and smart TV. Unlike their non-smart counterparts, they give a little extra to the user. A smartphone is a cellular phone that works like a handheld computer with apps and a Wi-Fi connection. A smart TV is like a regular TV but with apps and a Wi-Fi connection. Thusly, any device that’s considered “smart” is quite computer-like in versatility.

With that said, did you know that there’s such a thing as a smart projector? What is a smart projector? Why you will need a smart projector in the future depends on how forward-thinking you are. 

What is a Smart Projector?

The term “smart” isn’t just a marketing gimmick (although it’s also a marketing gimmick for sure). When you say “smart projector”, it refers to the class of projector that has its own interface, operating system, and apps as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. It’s like you have it hooked up to a laptop, smartphone, or tablet but it instead relies on its own computer inside of it. You can do your Netflix viewing or app downloading through its OS and interface for good measure.

What Is A Smart Projector?

Is a Smart Projector Worth it?

Sure it is. It’s like how a smartphone or smart TV is worth it if you can afford it. The “smartness” of a given device is extended so that it can do extra things care of apps and Internet connections on top of its main function of making calls if it’s a phone or watching movies and TV shows if it’s a TV. It’s also a device with extra Internet connectivity for wireless connections and streaming services as well as additional inputs galore.

Why are Smart Projectors Different?

A projector that’s smart makes certain things easier for you to do, like streaming Netflix on it without hooking up a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick on its HDMI port. It makes your home theater more streamlined, especially if it’s capable of recognizing and connecting to other devices by its own Bluetooth or Internet connectivity. You don’t need as many cables with it and some even allow you to save movies on it by USB for instantaneous offline viewing.  

Why will you need a Smart Projector?

You will have to need a smart projector sooner rather than later in the 2020s. Why? Like HDTVs that swept the 2010s by storm, so too will smart projectors. They’re head above heels much more useful than an ordinary digital video projector since it can double as a computer the same way a smartphone can double as a camera or a radio and so forth. It can even serve as its own streaming device while connecting wirelessly and effortlessly to other smart devices in the area.

Characteristics of Smart Projectors

A smart projector has some unique and beneficial characteristics that separate it from its non-smart projector counterparts. 

  • Feature-Rich Operating System: A smart projector has a built-in computer inside of it that you can work with using the on-board interface screen or the projection image itself since it can double as its own computer monitor too. Like Windows, iOS, or Android, the operating system’s capabilities can be expanded using a number of mobile apps available for download on the Internet. It’s like having a laptop inside your projector so that you don’t have to connect a laptop to it.

 

  • Internet Connectivity: Speaking of which, the smart projector also has Internet connectivity. This is important because this projector wouldn’t be half as “smart” or “smartphone-like” without having the ability to download or purchase apps on App Stores and communicate wirelessly with other smart devices using the Wi-Fi Internet. It’s also capable of Internet streaming for movies and TV shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney+ for good measure.

 

  • Built-In Speakers: Smart projectors also have built-in speakers that are at least as dependable as the speakers that come with your iPhone or Android smartphone. This allows you to be more mobile when using a mini smart projector when camping, glamping (glamour camping), or having an outdoor backyard movie night. It also makes it easier for you to do presentations without lugging around a speaker system (save for a compact Bluetooth one, maybe).

 

  • Communication Capability With Other Smart Devices: Like with other smart devices, a smart projector should be able to connect to other supercomputers like it whether they’re smartphones, smart tablets, smart TVs, smart computers, and so forth. They can do it through Wi-Fi networking, Bluetooth, or some other wireless technology.

 

  • Speech Recognition: On top of autonomously communicating with your Wi-Fi network, speaker system, or each other, smart devices like the smart projector is also dependable when it comes to recognizing speech in order to follow speech commands. With certain smart devices from Amazon.com, you get Alexa as your speech recognition assistant. With Microsoft it’s Cortica, with Apple it’s Siri, and with Google, it’s the Google Assistant.

 

  • Video Gaming Capability: Smart projectors are better for your needs when it comes to video gaming. Why? It automatically communicates with your game console, allowing for wireless connections. You can double your sound output with its built-in speakers. It can work hand-in-hand with your game console like an HDTV as opposed to a computer monitor with an HDMI connection exactly because it has an on-board computer that links up with the console as well.

 

  • Home Automation and Security System Support: Because your projector is a smart device, it can double as your means of security system support. If you have a doorbell camera or home security camera, you can check that system out with your smartphone and HDTV. You can also use your projector to get a live feed of what your camera sees on a bigger screen. It also works well with smart device home automation, especially if it’s compatible with Amazon products with Alexa or Apple products with Siri.

 

  • Video-Calling Capability: Smartphones like iPhones or computer programs like Skype allow you to do video calls or teleconferencing with your contacts. This is impressive in light of how on sci-fi films and television shows, people have been predicting face cam technology for the better part of the 20th Century. This tech is now a reality and your smart projector is capable of allowing you to video-call someone, whether it’s with smartphone assistance or with your projector having its own Wi-Fi camera included in the package.

See more some Smart Projectors here:

Characteristics of Smart Projectors

Notable Features of Smart Projectors  

Not coincidentally, many of the features found in standard modern projectors are also present with smart projectors, but with a “smart” twist that makes them more convenient to use. 

  • Display Technology – Light Source: The light source for a smart projector is more likely to be a Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lamp used for Digital Light Processing (DLP) projectors than a standard halogen or metal halide lamp used for Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projectors.

This is because LED lamps are more modern and can only be equipped with DLP projectors, which were invented back in 1987 (as opposed to LCD projectors made back in 1968). LED lamps to last for 50,000 hours while metal halide lamps last for 20,000 hours and halogen lamps last for 2,000 hours.

  • Resolution and HDR: Resolution refers to image size and HDR refers to 4K resolution image quality technology.
    • Resolution: Resolution refers to how many pixels your image is. The more pixels there are the more detailed your picture will become even when you stretch or blow it up on the big screen. It can also refer to the total number of pixels in an image or the dimensions of the image by pixel.
    • HDR: High-dynamic-range is the technology that ensures you don’t only have extra millions of pixels from 4K. With this feature, you can get a brighter, clearer picture (higher dynamic luminosity) and a wider range of color detail, resulting in increased image quality.
  • Home Theater Formats: Here are the common aspect ratios in use for home theaters or HDTV-type projections of HD shows, streaming videos, and DVD/BD movies.

 

    • Standard (4:3 aspect ratio): This used to be the standard “square” ratio of vintage Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT) television. Classic TV up until the 2000s supported the 4:3 aspect ratio (for every 4 inches of width there’s 3 inches of height).
    • Cinemascope (2.35:1 or 2.4:1 aspect ratio): This is the cinematic or theatrical aspect ratio that’s also quite close to the widescreen aspect ratio of films up until they went digital. It’s not exactly that ratio but it is close enough.

 

  • Business Formats: Business formats for aspect ratio refer to the most common computer monitor aspect ratios for SVGA, XGA, WXGA, and WUXGA business projectors.
    • Standard (4:3 aspect ratio): Like with classic standard definition (SD) TV sets. the big-box computer monitors of the 1980s and 1990s were all following the 4:3 aspect ratio standard, so projectors also projecting square 4:3 aspect ratio interfaces. 
    • Widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio): Widescreen isn’t only the standard aspect ratio of HDTV, HD films, and HD videos nowadays. It’s also close to the aspect ratio used by widescreen computers and laptops.

 

  • Brightness in Lumens: Smart projectors are supposed to be state-of-the-art, so expect them to maximize their brightness by lumens so that they’re not limited to use in home theaters alone. Lumen or lux is the unit of measurement for brightness.

Therefore, expect your projector to be around 2,000 lumens or higher to allow you to get a decent image even when projecting outdoors. Otherwise, the smaller pico or pocket smart projectors can go as low as 1,500 lumens or lower depending on the size of their LED lamps.

  • Contrast Ratio: Your smart projector’s contrast ratio is the ratio of brightness to darkness or how high the luminance of your projector’s brightest color is compared to black or zero brightness. CR can be measured using the ANSI or full on/full off method.

The higher the contrast ratio of your projector the better since you can see the detail better, like text and texture, compared to a lower or more saturated image that looks gray or muddy when projected unto your projector screen. CR has similarities with HDR. 

  • Throw Ratio: Throw ratio refers to how far your projector should be in order to get a proper 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio image relative to the size of your projector screen. To calculate throw ratio, you need to divide throw distance over image width. To calculate throw distance, you need to multiply throw ratio with image width. To calculate image width, you need to divide throw distance over throw ratio.
  • Aspect Ratio: As covered earlier, the aspect ratio is the ratio of image width to height. How many inches height-wise and width-wise is a given image. Most modern smart projectors follow the 16:9 or 16:10 HD aspect ratio standard. If an image or video is 4:3 that means for every 4 inches of width there are 3 inches of height, leading to an SD square aspect ratio. 

If it’s instead 16:9, it’s in widescreen and for every 16 inches of width, it has 9 inches of height, leading to a cinematic or rectangular HD image.  In the film photograph, the most common aspect ratios are 1.85:1 and 2.39:1. In still camera photography, it’s 3:2. In television, Internet videos, computer screens, and projectors, it’s 4:3 and 16:9. 

Notable Features of Smart Projectors

  • Image Correction Features: If you were forced to mount a projector in one place, you need image correction features to allow you to correct image distortions without moving the device.
    • Keystone: The keystone effect is when your projector is projecting the image at an angle or the surface itself is angled, resulting in a trapezoidal result with the lower or upper portion of the image tapers off to an almost flat-top pyramid or keystone. Keystone correction is a digital feature that allows you to correct the keystone effect until the image looks square or rectangular once more.
    • Lens Shift: Simply put, it’s the ability of a lens to shift from left to right or up and down in order to properly adjust to a poorly aligned or misplaced projection unto your screen. It’s best used when you cannot move your projector physically at all.
    • Lens Zoom: Lens zoom comes in two variants—digital zoom and optical zoom. Optical zoom works better than digital zoom because you’re using the telescopic lens of your projector to magnify or shrink an image to the correct size of your projector screen without moving your projector physically. Digital zoom blows up the digital image itself, leading to more pixilation and artifacting compared to optical zoom.
  • Projection Mode: Like in the case of a smartphone, a smart projector might have so many extra functions from its built-in computer to its ability to communicate to other smart devices wirelessly using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

It’s important to remember that at its heart it’s still a projector the same way a smartphone is still a phone. Therefore, projector mode refers to the main function of the projector when you cut away at all its trimmings, other modes, operating system, and advanced computerized interface. 

  • Customize the Size – Screen Size: A smart projector is able to customize the size of the image no matter what its aspect ratio is. It can shift resolutions as well so its native resolution is merely its limit or highest resolution, whether it’s 1080p Full HD or 4K Ultra HD (there are no 8K  

It’s the same way some apps or media player programs on your desktop/laptop computer can crop, stretch, letterbox, and adjust a video’s screen to fit into the native resolution of the projector. 

  • Connectivity – Ports & Connections: Some smart projectors only have the HDMI port available since it’s the current A/V standard of the 2010s and 2020s. It allows the projector to connect to HDTVs as well modern laptops, desktops, tablets, and similar high-definition devices.

Other projectors have HDMI and USB ports, with the USB ports giving power to certain converters or allowing access to flash drives and external HDDs. Wi-Fi is a must for any smart projector that’s worth its salt. Screen mirroring should be a smart projector feature as well instead of something you can only do after adjusting the settings of your phone or laptop. 

  • Short-Throw: Many standard projectors only have standard throw or long-throw projections, which means it has a standard throw ratio of 2.0 or 2/1. This means to project on a 20-inch screen, you need 40 inches or 3 feet of space between the screen and the projector.

A short-throw projector has a throw ratio ranging from 1.0 to 0.4. To project on a 20-inch screen, you only need 20 inches to 8 inches of distance between the screen and the projector (it’s practically right beside the screen).

  • Voice Control: As covered earlier, some smart projectors can be activated, paused, rewound, fast-forwarded, stopped, resumed, or turned on/off using voice control a la an iPhone using Siri, a Windows machine using Cortica, or an Amazon FireStick using Alexa.

We really do live in the future if we can use talking and speech in order to control a device with all the right voice commands and whatnot. The best of the best smart projectors include this capability.

  • Onboard Operating System: A smart projector is computerized, so naturally it should have an onboard operating system not unlike Android, iOS, macOS, or Windows. Many smart projectors have their own propriety operating systems. Others, like BenQ, elect to use Android itself to make it easy to purchase apps from the Google Play Store.
  • App Store: Speaking of the app store, the app store you can use in order to download various apps you can use with your projectors such as the apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney+, CrunchyRoll, WWE Network, and Hulu depends on what operating system your smart projector is using. Chances are you can download apps from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
  • Streaming: Another reason why smart projectors are becoming more and more popular is that their OS and computer hard drive make it easier for them to stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the like.

You can download the Netflix app or any streaming service app directly on your smart projector instead of depending on a streaming device, phone, or computer to mirror their screens with Netflix for you. 

  • 3D Modes: Some smart projectors include 3D mode. This allows you to watch 3D movies. The 3D effect in projectors gives whatever you’re watching more depth and volume as though you’re really seeing them in real life through a technique present in the Nintendo 3DS. You don’t need special 3D glasses to see the 3D effects from your projector’s 3D mode.
  • Focus: The autofocus available on digital cameras can also be accessed through the typical smart projector. Long story short, the auto focusing on smart projectors work by sensing whether the projection on the screen or wall is as sharp as possible, without you having to manually fiddle with the focus yourself.
  • Eye Protection: Blue light from your projector can be quite damaging to your eyes, so never look at the lens of a running projector directly with your eye. Although projectors are already safer than HDTVs when it comes to diffusing blue light exposure, the smart projector also comes with safety features such as temporarily turning off the projection when objects get too close to the lens.
  • Premium Speakers: Although most users elect to use Bluetooth speakers or their home theater stereo rig, others might be satisfied with the built-in speakers of some high-end smart projectors. There are some that can do HD sound from Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio.
  • Wireless Projector: Using Wi-Fi and other wireless communication technologies, it’s possible for your projector to access the video and audio files from your laptop, PC, smartphone, or tablet and then display them in full-screen glory without hooking the devices up to it. You can significantly reduce cable clutter by going full wireless with your projector connections to your HDTV, cable box, game consoles, and/or DVD/BD media players.
  • Battery Life: Smart projectors should also have long battery life. This should be hand-in-hand with projector portability. Many consumers want a projector that can last at least as long as a fully charged laptop (4 to 6 hours), if not longer. Some batteries can last as long as a workday (8 hours) after a full charge but at minimal settings and screen brightness.
  • Portability: A smart projector doesn’t necessarily need to be portable in order to be considered smart, but it seems like it’s par for the course for a smart device to be lithe and sleek or at least more compact than usual. Most smart DLPs fit this category to a t. Meanwhile, smart LCD projectors are more like compact lunchboxes than anything else.

What do you need to consider before buying a Smart Projector? 

Ask yourself if you need a smart projector. If you don’t find it annoying to have to buy a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick in order to watch Netflix on your HDTV and projector then don’t buy a smart projector. Otherwise, you’ll need to do the age-old balancing act of price versus function because the more features your smart projector has (as featured above), the more expensive it will get. Base your decision on your budget and the features you absolute want out of your projector.

What is the best smart projector?

What is the Best Smart Projector? 

According to Google, the latest, best-selling, and state-of-the-art smart projectors that are must-haves for the Year 2020 include the LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550), Sony MP-CD1 Mobile Projector, Epson PowerLite 1795F Wireless Full HD 1080p Projector, APEMAN NM4 Mini Portable Projector, RIF6 Cube, AAXA P7 Mini HD Projector, Anker Nebula Capsule II, Magnasonic LED Pocket Pico Video Projector, Sony Home Theater Projector VPL-HW45ES, AAXA P2-A Smart Pico Projector, Kodak Luma 150 Portable Wireless Projector, and LG Smart Home Theater CineBeam Projector with Alexa Built-in LG webOS Lite Smart TV (Netflix, and VUDU)

Not coincidentally, many of the latest HD and 4K projectors currently are of the smart projector variety. Smart device capabilities have also taken the projector industry by storm the same way the smartphone revolution revolutionized cellphones back in 2007 with the introduction of the first iPhone.

Smart Projector FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding smart projectors by consumers.

  • Can you play Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu through a smart projector? Of course. One of the main selling points of getting a smart projector is being able to download apps like the Netflix app directly on the projector itself so that you can watch Netflix for on-demand streaming content whenever you want.

All this is possible without hooking up any cable boxes, laptops, or smartphones on the computerized device. The projector basically acts as its own notebook PC or iPhone without any USB-C or Lightning hookup necessary. The computer is inside the projector itself.

 

  • Can you connect PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Wii, Wii U to Smart Projector? Yes. It’s amazingly simple, in fact. The projector practically doubles as an HDTV. Being able to game on your smart projector is another appealing thing about this projector type.

Sure, you can do the same with non-smart projectors as well, using them as your HDTV or computer monitor mirror. But gaming with a smart projector comes with perks and benefits you can’t get with their more cumbersome non-smart counterparts. 

  • How do you connect a USB device to a smart projector? It’s all plug-&-play. Just hook the device up through the USB port. If your specific smart projector doesn’t have a USB port (unlikely, unless it’s a super-portable type of pico projector), get an HDMI to USB converter to access your USB flash drive or external HDD.

The computerized smart projector should easily recognize any media files on your USB device. Getting a smart projector without USB support is as unlikely as getting a modern laptop without USB support. It goes hand-in-hand with HDMI support. A non-smart projector might use its USB ports exclusively to give power to certain devices. A smart projector can actually read and play files from a USB flash drive or HDD. 

  • How do you play MP4 on a smart projector? A smart projector is practically a computer and media player in one device.  Therefore, playing an MP4 is as simple as hooking up a storage or media device with the media, selecting it, and hitting play. It can download MP4 videos on the Internet and play them.

It can download YouTube videos using an app that turns them into MP4 files and then plays them fine too. There are smart projectors that can also play AVI, MOV, 3GP, MP3, WAV, OGG, FLV, and so forth. It depends ultimately on the projector, but even the most basic of the smart projector can at least play an MP4 video on its own.

  • Can you connect Bluetooth speakers to a smart projector? Yes. Absolutely. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Just because most smart projectors have their own built-in speaker, it doesn’t mean that it can’t use other speakers. A projector can run exclusively on Bluetooth external speakers/earphones.

Or you can have their sound amplified along with the built-in speakers with the speakers of your HDTV, home cinema, and computer/laptop. You can tweak things any way you like. What’s more, since all smart projectors use the HDMI connection standard, you can daisy-chain your speakers unto the projector instead of hooking it up to your laptop or splitting the signal of your Blu-Ray/DVD media player. 

What do you need to consider before buying a smart projector?

The Last Things of Note 

Long story short, if you can afford a smart projector then by all means get one. However, unlike a smartphone or computer, it won’t have as ubiquitous a role in your life. You won’t be using it to browse the Internet or anything. The main appeal of a smart projector is that it’s easier to use or connect with media players and devices compared to a regular non-smart projector.

You won’t have to pay extra for Roku or the Fire TV Stick in order to watch Netflix and Hulu, for example. You won’t have to buy splitters or wireless transceivers to connect your projector to different HDTVs, laptops, desktops, and so forth either. What you’re paying for is convenience. 

References:

  1. Smart Projector“, WhatIs.com, May 1, 2017
  2. Is a Smart Projector Worth It?“, Entertainment Den, May 7, 2019
  3. What Is A Smart Projector? (And Why You’ll Want One)“, ViewSonic.com, September 16, 2019
  4. Smart Projectors – What Makes Them ‘Smart’?” JMGO.com, February 28, 2019
  5. Steve Dent, “How and why to buy a projector in 2019“, EndGadget.com, September 25, 2019
  6. Anker Nebula Capsule Smart Wi-Fi Mini Projector“, Amazon.com, Retrieved June 10, 2020
  7. Nebula by Anker Mars II Pro 500 ANSI Lumen Portable Projector“, Amazon.com, Retrieved June 10, 2020
  8. Projector Buying Guide“, Best Buy, Retrieved June 10, 2020

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/

James Core
I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right projector.

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