Streaming video devices have been getting smaller and smaller in recent years – and quite portable. But TVs are obviously not portable – so how can you take your TV shows and movies with you? With a portable projector.
The JMGO Explorer is a mini projector that’s small and light enough to be carried around in a bag. It has powerful speakers, it can connect to streaming services directly via WiFi, and its battery can last for two hours – so all you need, when you want to watch something on the go – is a clean wall – or even the ceiling – and you’re good to go.
It’s not perfect, as you’ll see in this review – the resolution is only 720p, the built-in apps have issues, and it’s certainly not cheap. But for some, this portable projector could be a great solution. Let’s dive in…
Quick Look – JMGO Explorer
What is it: A mini portable video projector (and speakers) with WiFi connectivity, streaming apps and a 2-hour battery, that can project a screen of up to 150 inches.
Interface & Usage
- Lightweight – Truly portable and wireless
- Powerful speakers
- Decent picture quality
- The battery lasts for 2 hours
- Rotating lens (can even project on the ceiling)
- Only 720p resolution
- Native apps are buggy
- Not cheap
Features and Specs
- Native Resolution: 1280×720 (Compatible with 1080p and 4K)
- Brightness: Brightness 330~380 ANSI
- Screen Size: 40 to 150 inches
- Keystone Correction: 40 degrees
- Battery Time: ~ 2 Hours (15600mAh)
- Ports: HDMI, USB 2.0, DC
- Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
- Remote Control: Yes
- Weight: 1kg
- Dimensions: 230x72x72mm
- Extra Features: Auto-focus, 3D Glasses support, Bluetooth speaker, rotating lens, Native streaming apps (Netflix, YouTube and more)
While it’s not aimed at replacing your living room TV, the JMGO Explorer is excellent if you want a portable projector that you can easily move from room to room – or even take with you when you go on holiday or visit friends.
Table of Contents
Who Is The JMGO Explorer For?
JMGO is a popular projector company in China, having been around since 2011. They’re not a big name internationally yet, and specifically in the UK – which is something they’re now working to change, with the Explorer at the frontlines.
People who are in the market for projectors (for personal usage), are usually looking for one of two things – either a huge, high-quality screen to replace a TV in their living room, or something portable that they can take with them, thus getting an instant video screen wherever they are.
Regular projectors are usually big and bulky, quite heavy, and need to sit on a perfectly flat surface. But at just 1kg, the JMGO Explorer mini projector definitely fits the portability use-case. Shaped like a small cylinder, you can quite easily fit the Explorer in your bag and take it anywhere you go.
The built-in speakers are surprisingly powerful, and while the sound quality is average (you’re not going to use it for music in your living room), it’s more than adequate for sitting together to watch a film.
And with a rechargeable battery, you also don’t need a power supply or any wires when you use it – for up to two hours.
As for the content – you can either connect a video source via the HDMI port (a DVD player for example, a laptop, a streaming device, etc’) or use the built-in WiFi connection and streaming apps to stream content from the internet.
This ultra-portability, however, comes at a cost (and I don’t just mean in pounds – though yes, it’s expensive). The native resolution is only 720p, so this can’t really replace your main TV in the house (where you would normally want at least 1080p or better yet, 4K).
Plus, the brightness levels are a bit low (330~380 ANSI) – that’s fine for a dark room, but don’t expect top-notch results in bright surroundings.
Setting Up and Using the JMGO Explorer
When you first open up the box, you’re going to be surprised at how small and light the explorer is (especially if you’re used to full-size projectors).
The box also contains the power cable (with an adapter brick), the remote and an instruction manual.
On the back of the Explorer, hidden behind a rubber protector, you will find all the ports – HDMI, USB 2.0 and DC power, as well as the on/off button.
Before you actually start using it, you should charge the battery for a couple of hours. At that point, you can either use it wirelessly (the battery lasts for about two hours – which is the “official” number, but also what I saw in my tests – though it depends on how you use it).
When you turn the Explorer on, you’re going to notice how quickly it’s ready to go – some projectors take ages for the lamp to heat up. This one is ready to use a few seconds after you press the On button.
When you use it for the first time, you’re going to want to connect it to the internet via WiFi – at which point a software upgrade will likely get downloaded and installed.
And that’s it – you can point the Explorer at a screen, or a wall and it’s ready to go. One of its most unique features is the rotating lens – so with the projector standing in place, you can rotate the lens up and down – which means you can lie in bed and project the screen on your ceiling.
Yep, it’s that dream from our childhood – watching TV on the ceiling. But even when you’re a grownup, it can be fun, especially if you don’t have space for a TV in your bedroom.
The JMGO Explorer’s Remote
Remotes from Chinese companies (especially TVs) are all-too-often confusing and full of weirdly-arranged buttons. However that’s not the case with the JMGO Explorer – the remote is very comfortable to hold in your hand, and the arrangement of the buttons is quite good.
The main circular button is used to navigate around the interface (left/right/up/down), with Back, Home and Options buttons underneath it. You can also use the remote to control the volume and focus.
Hidden inside the remote, you’re also going to find a small USB dongle, which isn’t mentioned in the manual for some reason. It’s an optional add-on, that – when connected to the Explorer’s USB port, turns the remote control into a mouse-like device (so when you move the remote around, the arrow on the screen moves with it).
It’s an important addition, because of how some of the native apps behave (apparently they were originally made for touch screens – more on that later) – it’s sometimes impossible to control the apps with the left/right buttons, and you need to be able to move the cursor like a mouse – which is what the dongle lets you do.
That being said, the dongle then uses up the single USB port, which you might need for other uses – so it’s a tradeoff. Would have been better if that mouse-control option was already built into the device…
JMGO Explorer’s Interface and Apps
The Explorer’s operating system is based on Android 6.0, which means it’s pretty straightforward and easy to use. (It’s a shame that we’re so far behind with 6.0, but that’s still better than some projectors where their OS is just some ugly menus).
The main screen shows you the Explorer’s main options, and underneath that you’ll find the apps you’ve installed.
Once the Explorer is connected to your WiFi network, you can stream content in one of two ways – either by using the built-in Chrome browser (so you go to specific websites like YouTube or Netflix), or by installing some of the native “apps”.
Although the OS is based on Android, you’re not going to find Google’s official Play Store here. Instead, the Explorer has a “FUN Store” (yes…)
In the “FUN Store” (I can’t get over the name) you’re going to find a small selection of video apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, BBC News and more (Plex is absent though).
It’s a neat idea – but the implementation isn’t very good. Most of the native apps are, unfortunately, bad – and either keep crashing, or don’t behave as well as they should – I suspect they were originally made for older touch-screen devices.
The YouTube app, for example, was able to play videos – but kept crashing every time I tried to sign in with my username. The Netflix app didn’t even let me login – until I realised I had to use the remote’s “mouse-like” function.
But even then, it kept crashing occasionally, wouldn’t let me search for titles properly, and it goes on and on.
So that’s a dissapointment. However, you’ll do much better by going via the Chrome browser – and JMGO were kind enough to supply a list of shortcuts to some popular websites:
If you want to keep it all wireless, you can even use the Explorer’s USB port to power the streaming device (it worked flawlessly when I tested it with a Chromecast) – though that would also reduce the battery time.
With a Chromecast connected, the Explorer became a real joy to use. I could “cast” anything from my phone (or laptop) to the big screen on my wall – Netflix, Prime Video, Plex – everthing that’s supported by the Chromecast, basically.
So while the Explorer CAN work without an external streaming device – you’re still going to have a lot more streaming options when you use one. I do hope they manage to fix the native apps issue in the future – because then you really won’t even need another streamer.
JMGO Explorer’s Picture and Audio Quality
Features and portability are important – but a video projector is only as good as its video quality – so how did the Explorer fare in that department?
First, as mentioned, the native resolution is only 720p (you can still connect 1080p and 4K sources – but the resolution will be downgraded).
To me, that’s very noticeable – I know some people struggle to see the difference, but if you’re used to 1080p, things aren’t going to be as sharp as you’re used to.
In addition, picture quality depends on your, well, “screen”. if you use a high-quality white screen, things are going to look better than if you, for example, project on a wall or the ceiling.
That being said, with portability being one of the Explorer’s main selling points, it was important to test it on these more widely available screens – i.e., walls – and the picture quality on those was quite good, all things considered.
It struggles a bit in darker scenes, where the dark colours get smudged – but in brighter scenes, the sharpness is good (again, with the 720p caveat).
The projector’s brightness level is on the low side at 330~380 ANSI, so don’t expect to use it in very big rooms – and mostly, you need to darken the room as much as possible. You still see the picture in a bright room – but it won’t be good enough for a full watch.
A lot of projectors botch this part, with tiny speakers that get drowned out completely in a room with several people sitting around.
The JMGO Explorer, however, has two 3w speakers built-in – and they were louder than I expected.
While connecting external speakers (or even Bluetooth headphones) would always give you an improved sound quality, the built-in speakers are certainly adequate and can be used on their own for watching a movie alone or with other people.
With the Explorer’s Bluetooth support, you can even use it as a standalone Bluetooth speaker (with the battery lasting for up to 10 hours, without the projector working).
It’s not going to replace your living room’s speakers, and probably not even your Echo device (if you use it for music) – but it’s a nice feature to have in a pinch, when you’re out and about and want to play some music to other people.
Bottom Line: Is the JMGO Explorer Worth It?
The JMGO Explorer projector is a clear case of asking – What is your use-case?
With 720p and limited brightness, this is not a TV replacement for your living room.
However, if you’re in the market for a truly portable projector, one you can move around (either inside the house – or to take it with you to friends or on holiday) – then this is an excellent device for that, as it’s totally wireless for up to two hours.
The built-in apps are a nice “bonus”, although they’re better on paper than in practice – but with the included Chrome browser you can just skip them and stream anything from any website – which, again, is perfect when you’re out and about with the projector.
The main downside? The price. It’s pretty expensive, especially at this resolution level – but the ultra-portability, and being able to lie in bed and watch a movie on the ceiling – might make up for that.
Note: The Explorer was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.