A best buy projector under $100, turning a phono preamp off and on (Week 11, 2024)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 11, 2024

Q. I am occasionally asked to say a few words at funerals, weddings and other events. This summer I will be speaking at my nephew’s wedding in another state. I would like to project several pictures from my iPhone during my speech. Do you have a recommendation for such a projector that would travel well?

-J.B., Minneapolis, MN

A. Last year I discussed sub-$100 portable projectors with permanent LED light sources, meaning no lamp to replace. Some of them have surprisingly good image quality with maximum projection sizes over 150 inches. The downside was the wireless screen mirroring did not work on any of the projectors I tried. I recommended the projectors with the caveat they only be used with HDMI connections. To project from a phone or tablet you can use a cable that converts USB-C or Apple Lightning to HDMI. (I have had great success with the Uni brand cable, under $20.) You can also use the HDMI inputs with gaming consoles, satellite/cable boxes, Blu-ray players and Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices.

The screen mirroring caveat does not fully apply now as I found a sub-$100 projector to rule them all. The Howwoo 4K Projector with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth not only delivered the best image quality and user experience of any sub-$100 projector I have tried, the wireless screen mirroring function is easy to set up and works very well. (Please note it is a 1080P projector, not a 4K projector. It can accept a 4K input for better color and deeper-looking images, but projects at 1080P resolution.)

There is a full set of picture adjustments, the image looks quite good at large sizes and a foldable 100-inch screen (like a sheet) is included. The maximum projection size is rated at 200 inches. I projected up to about 150 inches and it held up well. The sound from the built-in speaker is adequate and the projector’s white plastic housing looks great, with its faceted, modern look. It all adds up to one outstanding budget projector, and the low cost makes it easy for anyone to own one. It’s especially fun to play video games at extra-large sizes, and paired with a good indoor/outdoor projection screen with stand (also available for under $100 these days) exciting movie nights for family, friends and social groups can become a regular event.

Though the screen mirroring will work for projecting images from your phone during your speech, I did uncover a limitation when I tried to use the projector with my tablet’s streaming apps such as Netflix, Paramount+ or Max. The apps have integrated copy protection that will not work over the Howwoo’s wireless connection, but you can still use them with a wired connection. I used my Uni HDMI-to-USB-C cable to connect the projector to my iPad Pro and was soon enjoying “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” in the totally immersive way that is only achieved with a huge, projected image. The Howwoo 4K Projector with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is currently under $95 on Amazon. There are some user video reviews on Amazon showing actual projected images if you want to see it in action before you buy.

Q. My external phono preamp does not have an on/off switch or 12 V trigger, but I want to turn it off when I am not using it. Any recommendations?

-J.B., Blaine, MN

A. It won’t hurt to keep it turned on and the power usage is very low, but if you insist I recommend using a Smart Plug and voice commands with Amazon Alexa or Google Home.