The past year has reminded us that there really is no replacing a traditional movie theater experience, but tech has advanced far enough to give audiences a taste of the big-screen feeling at home. That’s thanks to a near-endless supply of digital projectors on the market that beam movies and TV shows across any wall or screen in your house, both indoors and outdoors.

As tech is wont to do, the next step for these projectors is to get smaller and more portable. And that's the market Cinemood is trying to crack. By offering a projector no bigger than an apple, the company is betting that its on-the-go convenience will outweigh some of its own built-in limitations. To see if it hit the mark, the company provided me with its latest model, the Cinemood TV, to give it a test run. Here's what I found.

A Pint-Sized Projector for a Younger Crowd

There’s one major theme that runs throughout Cinemood’s brand: portable kids entertainment. Just take a look at the company’s website and you instantly meet the smiling faces of Mickey Mouse, Aladdin, and Frozen's Elsa, to drive home the point that this projector is meant for parents who want to occupy their tots during those rainy afternoons inside. And for that, it mostly works.

The projector itself comes preloaded with Netflix, Disney+, and various other kid-friendly content like guided storybooks with voiced narration and illustrations. While the library isn’t stocked with an endless amount of stories, the 50-plus that are available for free should probably keep the 6-and-under crowd hooked for a while.

You'll also find a handful of games on the device, though you won't mistake it for a Nintendo Switch anytime soon. Ghost Hunt, for example, tasks players with handling the Cinemood like a controller and aiming it to zap the ghouls projected onto the wall. It’s a novel diversion that takes advantage of the device's 360° capabilities, but in terms of depth, think of it as a rudimentary mobile game. While a few games and those 50-plus stories come free on the device, other titles need to be purchased through the Cinemood store, which is why the device allows you to upload your payment information once you register. (Parents might not love the idea of their kid's projector also housing their credit card numbers, though.)

Getting Started

The installation itself is fairly painless—you just have to register your Cinemood with an email address and connect it to your Wi-Fi (you'll also be asked for your credit card information immediately, which you can just ignore). From there, download the Cinemood app on your phone from Google or Apple and pair the two devices through Bluetooth. The phone app basically acts as your remote control if you don't want to navigate menus using the buttons on the device itself. It's definitely the easier option but not without its drawbacks, which I'll get into later.

Cinemood

Then there’s that whole portability thing. Measuring in at around 3 inches on each side, the Cinemood can certainly be brought pretty much anywhere you go, and it projects just fine from a few feet away, making it an easy distraction for a kid on a long car trip. At home, whatever you’re watching can be beamed right onto a flat white wall or ceiling without too much of an issue, so my drab, undecorated apartment was the perfect test bed for movies in the living room and YouTube recipe tutorials splashed across my kitchen walls. While you don’t really need a white screen to display on, it might be worth it if you're investing hundreds of dollars in a Cinemood.

So, how does it perform?

Outside of the kid content, the biggest selling point of the Cinemood is being able to project Netflix, Sling, YouTube, Amazon Video, Disney+, and Hulu content directly from the device's pre-programmed apps. And once I logged into my accounts and got streaming, I noticed the picture compared favorably to my 2017 MacBook Pro, if not a little better. The company states that the device has a resolution of 848x480, and while I’m no expert there, it's definitely clear enough to be enjoyable. Once I found the sweet spot for distance, positioning, and focus, the image stayed vivid and crisp, with legible text and a decent amount of visible detail. It wasn't 4K quality, but it was more than serviceable.

To get the most out of the image, you’ll want to make sure the room is pitch-black and that you’re only around 6 to 12 feet away from your wall or screen. You could move even closer and retain the same resolution, of course, and the company says even a distance of 200 inches away should work fine. But everyone's home setup is different, and I found 8 to 10 feet away to be ideal.

The results were less promising during the day in my living room, which attracts a lot of light due to my double glass doors. The image got noticeably fainter, and I had to move rooms to find a suitable viewing spot to continue testing. It looked fine in daylight if the Cinemood was only two or three feet away from a wall—but nobody will do that outside of a kid in a playroom. If you're looking to sit down for a movie during the day, you might need to make some room adjustments first.

Cinemood

One of the downsides of Cinemood's built-in version of Netflix is that it can be a chore to navigate. When using the phone as a remote, you're forced into a trackpad-like setup that makes it difficult to scroll up and down the menus. At one point, the system was so unresponsive that I was forced to just stick to Netflix's search function to find a movie to test out. Frustrated, I just typed in “Batman” and hoped for the best.

This led to me watching The Dark Knight on my ceiling as I laid on my back with the projector on my chest—but it didn't matter, because I found myself completely sucked in within minutes. In the right pitch-black environment with the proper distance from the screen, the Cinemood does its job well. And while the image quality holds up fine, the biggest surprise was the rock-solid audio offered from the tiny device’s built-in speakers. I was getting plenty of deep, trembling bass, but never did it overshadow the dialogue or the score. Taken together, the device does provide an absorbing experience under the right circumstances.

Where the Cinemood Lags Behind

What the device touts in portability it lacks in flexibility. Once you get past the pre-installed streaming apps, you’ll quickly find your options pretty limited. Unlike other models on the market, there’s no HDMI port on the Cinemood to hook up to your laptop, Blu-ray player, or video game console. So, you’re out of luck if you’ve got shelves of movies and TV shows on discs that you want to show off.

This forced me to be a little creative when finding more uses for the device. I used Google Home to mirror content from my phone onto the Cinemood, which was a revelation when I realized I could project comics from my Comixology app onto my ceiling. With the app’s guided click-through feature, I had vivid comic panels displayed across my apartment with text that was more than big enough to make out clearly. But if you want to project an outside app like HBO Max or Apple TV+, you’ll have to hope it’s not blocked from screen mirroring and that the quality doesn’t get dinged along the way.

And just as I was getting into The Dark Knight, I quickly noticed the projector’s other big drawback: the battery life. In 10 minutes, the battery drained around 11 percent. Do the math, and you’ll see how tough it would be to remain wireless during an entire movie or TV marathon. To really get some mileage out of this thing, you’ll have to remain tethered to the charging cable, which kind of hurts the whole portability thing. The company says the battery will last around two-and-a-half hours at maximum brightness while streaming content online, though that sounds like a generous estimate. They suggest putting the projector in offline mode and watching downloaded content to get four hours out of a charge.

The Verdict

At $999 (temporarily reduced to as low as $449 if you pre-order for a June delivery), the Cinemood TV isn't a perfect fit for film buffs and proud bingers who want an authentic indoor/outdoor theater experience for the home. The limited number of apps, short battery life, and the funky controls aren’t geared toward marathon viewing. But if you have kids who want to watch Disney+ wherever there’s a spare wall, or are financially comfortable enough to splurge on a portable device that can stream Netflix onto your ceiling at night, there might be a spot in your ever-increasing army of tech for the Cinemood, especially if you can get it during its current Easter sale.

You can learn more about the Cinemood TV here.