The Acer C250i is a fun unit that looks to offer the performance of one of the best projectors in a small package, but with a unique twist, literally – it has a twisted design to its body.
This portable projector boasts a good range of connectivity and viewing angles in a compact unit you can take anywhere. But how does it stack up, and what’s it like to use for movies, sports, and gaming?
Design & Features
The most striking thing about the C250i is the twisted case. Rather than a round unit like the similar-sized Nebula Capsule II, the C250i offers 12 faces which offer a range of viewing angles, as well as portrait phone screen mirroring when stood on its base. As projector positioning and angling can be so important in a portable unit this looks to be a great idea, but in practice the options are limited.
I found there were three positions for front projection: straight ahead, which was too low for my projection surface; the next angle up had half the projection off the top of the screen; and the final one up was on the ceiling (although, if its what you’re after, the next one straight up onto the ceiling was good for watching lying down). When quickly setting up a projector I’ll often slip something under an edge to tilt the angle, but the structure of the Acer C250i means that this isn’t possible. To position the picture I mostly used a stand, which felt like it rather defeated the point.
There were other niggling setup issues too. I initially placed this projector “upside down” and the image didn’t flip in line with the alignment of the unit, surprising when it’s designed to move between positions quickly. I had set it up this way because the short power cable would only reach the nearest power socket on that side, meaning I needed to use an extension. The remote control uses IR which needs to be pointed at a particular spot, too – an issue solved in many newer projectors by using Bluetooth remotes. There’s no built-in operating system, so you’ll need to connect media via HDMI or a range of Bluetooth or wifi-based screen mirroring options. Individually these are quibbles, but altogether it did become frustrating.
Positively, the image was instantly in focus, although setting keystoning through the menus was tricky, especially with the issues from the remote. The integrated speakers are decent and fairly loud for a small projector, while the front speaker gives clarity even if projecting onto the ceiling. You can charge your phone from the USB-C port so you won’t run out of battery while casting from it while away from power sources. There’s a smart carry case to protect it if being transported in a bag and it feels sturdily built.
The image is sharp and quite large for such a small unit. You can make out the grid of the image though, which does detract slightly. The image is clear even in ambient light, but the brightness, in general, is low and I found myself straining to watch at points. Darker images are particularly hard to see and playing tomb sections of Assassins Creed Valhalla was nearly impossible with even gentle ambient light, which means it is unlikely to top many folks’ best projector for PS5 or Xbox Series X lists. However, the low brightness may help save power to ensure a five-hour battery life -a really strong feature for a portable projector.
The lack of published or available data on input lag and refresh rate, as well as no dedicated gaming mode to improve these stats, shows that this isn’t built with gaming specifically in mind. Input lag isn’t disruptively noticeable for casual gaming, but it certainly won’t satisfy the hardcore or competitive gamer’s need for top-of-the-line stats.
Overall – should you buy it?
The C250i on paper seems to be designed for portability, but many of the features don’t quite deliver. Particularly, the twisted case doesn’t give the range of positioning options you’d hope. But excellent battery life, good speakers, and quick autofocus are great features for true portability, and it could find life as one of the best outdoor projectors, but its weaknesses do hold it back.
The low level of brightness does mean this isn’t likely to be your full-time home projector, and it’s priced slightly above the level of “casual portable projector”, but if you want a dedicated portable unit for casual watching out and about in the dark you can get hours of entertainment.
3 out of 5
The Acer C250i is a projector that offers true portability and has some great features to serve that niche beautifully, but it is held back by low brightness and some positioning issues.