Over the last few decades, projector technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds. Lamp bulb life can now be measured in the hundreds of thousands of hours and resolutions has doubled, even tripled, where a projector spouting native 1080p is commonplace now. One area that has blossomed from all this improved technology has been mini projectors. With smaller form-factors, long battery life, internal storage and long-lasting, bright LED bulbs, mini projectors are fast becoming a viable piece of technology for consuming entertainment whilst away from home as well as for use in the workplace or outside and inside the home.
My main desire for owning a portable mini projector is for use whilst travelling. If you regularly fly abroad and you like to wind down a busy day of sightseeing with an evening of watching the latest movie or TV show on services such as Netflix of Android Prime, some hotels, apartments and AirB&Bs are unlikely to be equipped with TV displays that equal the size of the large-screen entertainment setup you may have at home – there’s nothing worse than down-sizing from a 64″ smartTV to a 28″ bargain-basement display that’s hanging on a hotel room wall.
This is where owning a mini projector, such as the VANKYO GO300, comes in. This small projector is as big as a couple of rolled-up clothes, so it can be easily stowed away in your luggage without compromise. It packs a ton of media connectivity options to watch your media from. From connecting to your smartphone, tablet or laptop to via HDMI or USB. You can load content from an inserted SD card. You can even connect it to Wi-Fi and stream your content online directly to it via the many Android apps you can install onto its built-in 16GB of storage space. Once connected to your media the GO300 is capable of projecting it up to a huge 110-inch in size, whether it’s onto a nearby blank wall, bed sheet or ceiling – Try and find a cheap hotel room with a TV that size on the wall!
In the box comes the GO300 mini projector itself, a small Apple TV-sized remote, a bundled 1m-long high-quality HDMI cable, a DC wall charger to power it, and a full English manual. At first, the size of the box got me worried about how small the GO300 was going to be, but on opening it, I was surprised to see it sitting there, surrounded in thick foam. The projector took up just a mere quarter of its packaging box – this thing is tiny! Measuring 13.5cm long, 6.5cm deep and 6cm tall, the form factor comes close to a mini portable speaker in size. Its weight does too, measuring 517g. It feels solid to the touch, just like a portable external speaker, but for a minimalist traveller, it may not be exactly ‘travel light’. Its weight does help with its stability however, once placed on a table, its weight makes it less likely to jump or move if the table/surface becomes knocked.
On the back of the GO300 you’ll find the power on/off button, DC power connection port, a USB-A port, an HDMI port and a 3.5mm headphone jack if you wish to connect the projector up to some external speakers or a pair of wired headphones. On one side of the GO300 there is a sensitive manual focus dial, a microSD card slot and another USB-A port, should you wish to point the projector upwards onto a ceiling whilst connected to a USB device. Connecting an iPhone to either of these USB ports would begin to charge it. This isn’t great if you want to stream off of the projectors internal battery, away from a wall outlet, as it will simply reduce the battery of the projector even faster. So that’s something to bear in mind.
I was disappointed to learn that you could not charge or power the GO300 via its USB ports, for use with a battery pack or alongside a laptop etc. Its bundled DC wall charger is the only way to power its 7000mAh internal battery, which once charged, it will give you around 2-hours of screen-time. This may be enough for a film or a couple of TV episodes, but after that, you’ll need to connect it back up to the DC adapter again. You can opt to keep the power cable permanently connected, but its 1m60cm cable length may limit your options on where you can position and use the projector.
The only control you’ll be using on the projector itself is the silver-coloured manual focus wheel. With no zoom function on this travel-sized projector, its placement will determine the size of the display being projected onto a nearby wall, ceiling or screen surface. Setting up the GO300 from a 1m distance I was able to project a 34-inch display, at 2m distance I projected a 69-inch display, and at 2.62m it projected an 83-inch display. So in all, the short throw distance is more than enough to casually watch a movie or TV content or business slides. Its 150ANSI Lumen lamp will not blind you whilst viewing in broad daylight, but at night or in a darkened room, the standard brightness level is certainly acceptable.
Once powered on, using the switch on the back of the projector, you control the projector with its bundled remote, which sadly doesn’t come with the two AAA batteries you need to operate it. I would have preferred some controls on the projector itself, so I wouldn’t have to rely on packing the remote along with the projector, but if the GO300 is a little out of reach, the remote can come in handy if you’re lazy and already settled down on the sofa or bed. Via the remote, you can navigate and browse the home screen menus and the Google Play App Store, switch between connected and wireless sources, enabled Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, or alter the projector’s settings. The remote can also act as a pointer mouse once paired via Bluetooth, making it even easier to navigate and use its on-screen menus and keyboard (you can also connect to the GO300 via the EShare app and control all this using your smartphone screen and keyboard too). Lastly, there are the volume controls, which operates the volume of the fairly decent onboard speaker inside the GO300.
Connectivity varies on where you will consume your media. It was possible for me to connect to the GO300 via my iPhone using either the Lightning cable to the USB port, or wirelessly over AirPlay Screen Mirroring using the GO300’s built-in EasyShare media app. Once connected I was able to mirror my display, view my photos and play videos from my Camera Roll and also stream from my media server via the Plex app. I had problems using iOS apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and AppleTV, where I wasn’t able to play anything in these apps, yet the iPlayer app had no issues. This is likely due to the Apple OS restricting copyrighted content over wired or wireless Screen Mirroring. On iPad Pro, the story is the pretty much same when connecting via USB or Screen Mirroring. I could, however, bypass the copyright issue on iPad Pro by connecting a third-party USB-C dongle with HDMI, such as the Satechi USB-C Pro Hub Adapter for iPad Pro. So as far as travelling goes, I just needed an iPad Pro loaded with media content, a USB-C dongle with HDMI, an HDMI cable, the GO300 and its remote. Then I could have large room-filling movies streamed to a spare blank wall in my hotel room.
Retailing for $299.99 (get 10% off your order using promo code “CARPLAYLIFE” at checkout) from VANKYO directly, there is a lot to like about the VANKYO GO300. With its versatile Android app store, it’s small travel-sized form-factor and lite weight, mixed with its variety of connectivity options, it can easily make you forgive its price tag. They say good things come in small packages, and the same can be said for the GO300. So if you’re looking for a travel companion that’s capable of easily connecting to Wi-Fi and streaming your content onto a nearby wall, at up to 110-inches, then grab a VANKYO GO300 and pop it in your backpack or travel luggage and enjoy consuming your media on the big screen.