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Why this $280 smart projector is essential for me during the holidays

If you're looking for a smart projector to watch Netflix or other digital content on a screen or a wall, check out this model from Emotn.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Emotn N1 video projector and remote.

This little projector packs a serious punch.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Emotn N1 Smart Projector is available on Amazon for $280 at the time of writing. It retails for $399.
  • Easy setup and spot-on video make this a must-have for anyone needing to project video to a large screen.
  • You'll need to be patient during the initial setup process. Auto-keystone and auto-focus features work well, but only if the projector is at a set distance.

When I think of projectors, I get images of elementary school children staring blankly at a screen or a group of business team members looking on as a meeting drones on. 

Up until now, I never would have thought a projector could so easily spread Netflix films or TV on a wall or a screen with ease, but that's exactly what the Emotn N1 does -- and it does this task with a simplicity that truly surprised me.

Also: The best cheap projectors you can buy right now

When I received the Emotn N1 for review, I thought it was going to be another instance of a device streaming low-quality video that would take considerable effort to set up. I couldn't have been more wrong.

This small projector only requires a minimum amount of effort to get a maximum amount of results.

The Emotn N1 setup was as simple as it could be. Turn it on, face it toward a large, flat surface (think wall or screen), pair the remote, connect it to your wireless network, connect it to your Netflix account, and start watching. It really was that simple. 

Also: I tested the world's first Dolby Vision-supported long-throw projector, and it's game-changing

And, much to my surprise, the video was amazingly crisp and without the slightest lag. With Emotn N1 set up, I suddenly realized how it could be used most effectively -- during the holidays. Imagine a large gathering of people, such as a family or office party, where you might want to have Christmas movies playing without forcing people to gather around a television. This projector is perfect for that task.

But the Emotn N1 isn't just about watching Netflix (although it is officially licensed for that particular service). The projector can also deliver YouTube, Amazon Prime, and content from any device that allows you to connect via HDMI or USB. And if you don't have Wi-Fi available, you can use a wired connection or even tether the projector to a phone or hotspot.

The specs

  • Native 1080p FHD quality, HDR10+HLG with a 1.25:1 throw ratio and 500 ANSI Lumens
  • 60" to 120" projection size and zoom feature from 100% to 50%
  • ToF Auto Focus and Auto Keystone correction
  • Cinema-like sound, enhanced with Dolby Audio, with two 5W speakers and a noise level of less than 26dB
  • 5G wireless and wired connectivity, as well as Bluetooth 5.0 (so you can connect external speakers)
  • Integrated flip-out stand with an additional threaded connection, so you can attach it to a stand
  • Dimensions -- 7.16 x 4.92 x 7.55 inches
  • 50,000-hour LED lamp for long-lasting usage without having to deal with replacements

My experience

I've used projectors before and they can be a hassle to get right. There's always the keystone issue to deal with (making sure every angle is at 90 degrees), but the Emotn N1 does this task automatically (and very well). And, wow, was the video crisp. The only problem I had was finding a suitable wall to throw the video onto. My wife has an impeccable eye for interior design, and she makes good use of every inch of space, so I wound up testing the projector on a closet door. That issue aside, the video was impressive (even with the lights on). 

Also: The best 4K projectors for your home theater

Of course, for $399 (or $280 at the time of writing), the video should be sharp. As far as sound goes, that was almost as impressive. What you can expect from the dual 5W speakers is sound that's every bit equal to your TV speakers. No, it's not soundbar-level quality, but with Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, you can always connect it to an external speaker to enhance the sound. With USB-C to HDMI, I was even able to connect my Nintendo Switch through the projector.

The rear panel of the Emotn N1 smart projector.

The Emotn N1 offers HTMI, Wired, and USB connectivity.

I did read some reports of the auto-keystone feature not working as expected. What I found is that the automatic feature only works if the projector is set at a proper distance from the screen or wall. Place the device too close or too far and the automatic mode will not work. Fortunately, there is a manual mode that is very easy to use. That feature also means you can get the projected image correct, no matter the angle of the projector. And with a user-friendly menu system, anyone can configure this projector properly.

Also: Samsung's latest swiveling projector is secretly the best gaming console you can buy this holiday season

Although the Emotn N1 Smart Projector isn't quite as "smart" as you might want it to be, at $399 -- and with the clarity of image and sound -- you could do a lot worse.

ZDNET's buying advice

If you're looking to show movies, TV, or other videos for parties and gatherings, the Emotn N1 is a great option. Just don't assume this projector will do everything for you. Chances are pretty good that you'll have to manually adjust the focus and keystone (unless you get the distance and angle just right), but given how easy the menu is to navigate, that task shouldn't be a problem for anyone. And if Netflix, Amazon Prime, or YouTube are your go-to for movies and television, this little projector is worth every penny.

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