1080p in your pocket (well, almost)

The Wemax Go Advanced is one of the most compact 1080p projectors you can get, and it's battery powered to boot.  (Photo: Wemax)

The Wemax Go Advanced is one of the most compact 1080p projectors you can get, and it’s battery powered to boot. (Photo: Wemax)

Are traveling salesmen still a thing? If so, they can travel a little lighter: Wemax Go is a portable 1080p laser projector that measures just one inch thick and weighs less than two pounds. It is completely self-sufficient, running on battery power and built-in apps. And just because it’s a business expense doesn’t mean it can’t handle the occasional movie night. (Shhh – we won’t tell the boss if you don’t want to.)

I spent some time trying out the projector, and let me start with the most exciting part: Even though it retails at $1,000, the Wemax Go Advanced is currently on sale for just $603.

That price puts the Go Advanced on par with the Xgimi Elfin, another portable 1080p projector. But there is one important difference: The latter requires alternating current; Wemax can run for up to 90 minutes on the battery.

Wemax Go Advanced design

Obviously, it won’t last you through most movies, but it’s more than enough for a typical PowerPoint slide show. And if you need more juice, you can plug just about any power bank into the Go’s USB-C port (which is also where it charges via the included AC adapter).

Also on the back: a headphone jack, USB port, HDMI port and two very small speakers with very low power (only 2 watts each).

It’s hard to overstate how compact this thing is; in your hand it feels like a slim bound book. Needless to say, it is incredibly easy to carry, whether in a backpack, suitcase or hand luggage.

A typical use case here is at the end of a conference room table, pointed at a projector screen on the wall. To that end, the Go Advanced has a small, hinged stand built into the underside; it can tilt the lens up a few degrees as needed.

A particularly nice touch is the gold-colored accent bar on the front edge, which actually serves a practical purpose: It covers and protects the lens. When you slide the cover to the left, it turns on the projector. Slide it back to turn it off again. However, there are no other physical controls; for everything else you need the included remote control (which is unfortunately not backlit).

Wemax Go Advanced features and performance

The Go Advanced is a built-in 1080p projector, a more than adequate resolution for most business presentations and casual movie viewing. Like many other projector manufacturers, Wemax says “4K support”, but that simply means it can work with 4K sources; it doesn’t scale up or anything like that. Wemax also provides 600 ANSI lumens, a measure of the projector’s brightness. In comparison, the aforementioned Xgimi Elfin produces 800 ANSI lumens.

In the real world, this means that Go needs a relatively low-light environment to give you the best possible image, but it definitely doesn’t need total darkness. In a conference room, you can probably get away with turning off the lights and closing the blinds.

I tested the device in my basement, where I already have a 100-inch screen in place. It is relatively dark, the only daylight coming from a small window. The projector performed just fine, generating bright, sharp, colorful images that I found very satisfying. In fact, it crushes most portable projectors I’ve tried, which were weak and washed out. (They were also priced hundreds less.)

However, there are some important considerations. First, the Go runs something called FengOS, which unfortunately no one will mistake for Android TV. It’s a simple but limited operating system, capable of running a handful of apps (like YouTube and the Firefox browser) but requiring extra steps for the likes of Hulu and Netflix. If you install these and other streamers, you sometimes have to use something called mouse mode (which turns your remote into a kind of floating cursor) to interact with them. Not funny.

Why not just mirror your phone or tablet and use it as a power source? The projector supports mirroring (which works pretty well and can be great for presentations, product demos and such), but licensing restrictions prevent you from playing most commercial content. Roots.

My advice: If you want to stream, skip all that and hook up to something like an Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, or Roku Streaming Stick. These dongles may ruin your projector’s aesthetics, but they’ll give you a vastly superior, infinitely simpler streaming experience.

Wemax Go Advanced problems

Although it worked well overall, the projector did present some issues. First, it seemed stuck in Eco Mode – which forces a lower brightness setting to conserve battery power – unless I plugged in a power supply. If this is intentional, it’s bad design: I should be able to choose the mode I want, regardless of battery status.

My main concern is the auto-keystone feature, which promises to produce a correctly sized rectangular image even when the projector is positioned above, below or next to the screen. There is also an obstacle avoidance setting that can compensate for, for example, a plant or a painting partially blocking the image.

In my tests, none of this worked properly. In some cases, the projector failed to make any noticeable adjustments to the image; in others, it overcompensated by shrinking it. I tried different angles, distances and so on; it was never able to properly fit the projection to my screen. I’ve tested other projectors that have auto-keystone and I’ve never encountered this problem.

The good news is that Go Advanced has simple manual controls, meaning you can adjust the corners as needed to achieve the desired rectangle. And auto-focus function worked perfectly every time.

Wemax Go Advanced: Should you buy it?

This is a really good projector, and it’s a stone’s throw from greatness. Super compact and portable, it delivers a sharper, brighter image than many larger models. If your business could benefit in any way from having a completely wireless projector at the ready, it’s easy to recommend the Wemax Go Advanced.

It’s also decent for the occasional movie, although I recommend using a streaming stick or something similar instead of the onboard app library. Just remember that battery life is around 90 minutes at best (but easily supplemented with a mobile power bank), and the built-in speakers are weak and tinny-sounding (so consider packing a Bluetooth speaker as well).

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