Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2: High Style, Low Brightness, High Price - CNET
It’s the rare projector that crosses my path with an aesthetically beautiful design. There are plenty of cool projectors, some cute projectors and even some that could generously be called “neat.” The Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2 is as stylish as any projector I’ve seen, and would look right at home surrounded by Apple devices on an Eero Saarinen table flanked by Corbusier chairs.
Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2
- Gorgeous design
- Built-in Android TV
- Looks like an Apple product
- Not bright enough
- No battery
- Priced like an Apple product
Unfortunately it’s relatively expensive and the picture quality and features don’t quite match the excellent design. It’s not very bright, the colors are a bit off, and its contrast is adequate at best. And unlike most truly portable projectors, it lacks a built-in battery.
For less money the Anker Mars II Pro offers more brightness, the same contrast, and a battery that lets you watch movies anywhere. Overall the Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2 is a bit of a miss, though just by a (stylish) bit.
Specs and such
- Native resolution: 1,920×1,080 pixels
- HDR-compatible: Yes
- 4K-compatible: No
- 3D-compatible: No
- Lumens spec: 500
- Zoom: None
- Lens shift: None
- Lamp life (Normal mode): Not listed
The Mi Smart Projector 2 has what I consider standard specifications for a projector of this price and size. Full HD (aka 1080p) resolution is good, as many inexpensive projectors are 720p or less. While it is HDR compatible, keep in mind it doesn’t have the contrast ratio to do anything with high dynamic content (but to be fair, many projectors are bad at HDR).
The 500-lumen rating is common for small portable projectors. However, I measured 162, lower than most of its competitors. It’s dimmer than the Anker Solar, Anker Mars II Pro and even the Samsung Freestyle, all of which are rated for close to the same lumens. Remember that higher brightness, in addition to improving image quality, also allows a projector to create a larger image that still looks decent.
As is usually the case with small projectors like this, there’s no lens shift or zoom. The only way to change the size of the image is by moving the projector. The autofocus works fairly fast, though, which is good.
Android TV, HDMI and Wi-Fi, but no battery
- HDMI inputs: 1
- USB port: 1
- Audio output: Headphone output
- Internet: 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4GHz/5GHz
- Remote: Not backlit
It’s always great to see a small projector with a full-size HDMI input. You probably won’t need to use it, though. Like several projectors we’ve seen lately, the Smart PJ 2 has built-in Android TV, so you get the full version of whatever streaming services you want. Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and so on are preinstalled. Others, including HBO Max, you can install via the included Google Play Store.
The sound is pretty good, thanks to two 5-watt drivers. A bit too much treble for my taste, but more bass than you’d expect for such a small box. Like anything this size, it falls apart if you turn it up too loud. That limit ends up being plenty loud, though, and in a small room you’d have to raise your voice to talk over it.
The small, thin remote has a dedicated Netflix button. Unlike several of the Smart PJ 2’s competitors, however, there’s no dedicated phone app.
My biggest gripe is that this small portable projector lacks a battery. Most in this size and price range do. Those that don’t, such as the Samsung Freestyle, typically have the ability to run via a USB battery pack, but the Xiaomi can’t do that either. You’ll have to plug it into a standard power outlet via the included power adapter. It’s the same size as a large phone/tablet charger, but connects to the projector via a small round DC power connector rarely seen anymore in small devices like this. Meanwhile, the USB connection on the Xiaomi can charge your device if the projector is plugged in, but can’t supply the projector itself with power.
Picture quality comparisons
The Mars II Pro is as close to a direct comparison as you can get. It’s almost exactly the same size, and is rated for the same 500 lumens. The Anker is lower resolution and $50 cheaper. I connected them to a Monoprice 1×4 distribution amplifier and viewed them side-by-side on a 102-inch 1.0-gain screen.
Read more: How We Test Projectors
As you’d probably expect, these projectors are far closer to one another than not. Their contrast ratios are nearly identical. However, the Anker lacks any picture adjustments, so there are some aspects to the image that are better on the Xiaomi. Shadow details, for instance, look far more gray and less realistic on the Anker than with the Xiaomi.
Colors are not very accurate on either projector. Both are about equally wrong, and quite cool or bluish in color temperature. On a home projector I’d have a bigger issue with this, but for a small portable it’s probably fine. Nothing looks overly unnatural, but everything looks a bit off.
The 1080p Xiaomi’s greater detail was definitely noticeable. The Anker looked a little soft when viewed side-by-side. That’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch though, because resolution is just one aspect of picture quality. If you didn’t have the two next to one another, it’s doubtful you’d notice.
The most noticeable difference is actually the brightness. The Anker looked quite a bit brighter than the Xiaomi. I measured approximately 162 lumens out of the Xiaomi and 337 out of the Anker. So yeah, roughly twice as bright. It’s common for manufacturers to, shall we say, fudge their brightness claims. Here’s what that means in practice. And before you give Xiaomi flak for being so much lower, Samsung rated the $900 Freestyle at 550 lumens and it puts out 197. The morale? Don’t trust any manufacturer’s lumen claims.
The Xiaomi has a mode that you’d think would boost brightness, but instead it just makes the image exceedingly green. Maybe you’d be able to watch a projector mode that makes everyone look like Kermit, but to me it’s not easy being…
Brightness aside, there’s not a clear winner between the two in terms of picture quality: the Xiaomi has better detail, the Anker greater light output. If the Anker had picture settings, that’d probably nudge the needle in its favor. But then, you’re probably not buying either of these based solely on picture quality.
There is, however, one significant, possibly crucial, difference: The Anker has a battery. It can project an image anywhere, whereas the Xiaomi needs an outlet. That’s big.
I love the Xiaomi’s design. It’s just a fantastically chic projector. If you slapped an Apple badge on it, no one would question it.
The problem with the Mi Smart Projector 2 is the Mars II Pro. It’s slightly cheaper, brighter, and it has a battery. It doesn’t look nearly as stylish, but that’s a small negative when we’re talking about something smaller than a lunchbox. It’s not like it’s going to dominate your living room. If the next version of the Xiaomi has a battery, or is two to three times brighter, it’d be a real contender.