As the last few years have come to teach us, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on a large screen for viewing movies, streaming content, and video games. No longer does a 42-inch screen seem like something only your rich friends have access to; we’re all buying things in excess of 55-inches.
While TVs have gotten thinner, less expensive, smarter, and generally “better”, so too have projectors. Indeed, it’s also fairly easy to find something that projects an image of 100 or more inches and without spending a ton of money.
As it comes to 4K projectors, though, that’s a rather nascent industry. Sure, they definitely exist and there are a number of options to choose from, but it’s somewhat expensive to get a feature-rich 4K projector.
The Dangbei Mars Pro is a 4K UHD laser projector with smart features and a very attractive price tag. It’s incredibly quiet, features a number of input options, and offers up a 300-inch 3,840 x 2,160 pixel image. But does it make this the right projector for your needs? Read on to learn more and help come to the right conclusion.
What’s in the Box?
In addition to the Mars Pro projector itself, the box includes a remote control, microfiber cleaning cloth, and a sticky washer for when using the mounting hole. Of course you also get the power brick and cable and instructions, too.
The Dangbei Mars Pro is an aluminum cube of a unit that has 2.5D glass on the top. There’s a 10W speaker on each side, input and output ports on the rear, and a 1/4-inch threaded socket on the bottom. Also on the underside are four non-slip feet which help keep the projector from sliding on a tabletop surface.
There is a touch-sensitive button for power and an ambient light sensor on the top, and a laser light capable of putting out 3,200 ANSI lumens on the front.
While the 1/4-inch thread is an industry standard, you might want to think twice about using your old tripod. At 10 pounds, the Mars Pro is not exactly light — or cheap. If you’re going this route, make sure to use a solid tripod and do your best to avoid accidental touches.
The Dangbei Mars Pro houses two HDMI ports on the rear, one of which supports HDMI 2.1 and eARC. A pair of USB-A ports let user connect external devices such as a streaming stick for gaming on a massive screen.
You can connect speakers or a sound system using the S/PDIF optical audio port, or take advantage of the 3.5mm audio jack and go old school with headphones or speakers. Bluetooth is also present so you can pair your favorite headphones, too.
A LAN port is also located on the back and ensures your projector has a stable connection at up to 100Mbps.
The Mars Pro has a throw ratio of 1.27:1, putting it in the category of long-throw projectors. In other words, at a 1.27m (4.2-feet) distance from the screen or wall, the Mars Pro will project an image width of 1m (50 inches).
The Dangbei Mars Pro supports projection screen sizes from as small as 30 inches all the way up to 300 inches (76.2cm to 7.62m). For what it’s worth Dangbei recommends a projection distance of 11.15 feet (3.4m) for the best experience.
The projector packs its 10-pound frame with great technology and features, all which lead to a great image and decent sound. Images are crisp and color reproduction is excellent in our testing with rich colors and a dark black in low-light environments.
The Advanced Laser Phosphor Display (ALPD) technology can deliver 3,200 ANSI lumens, which is good enough for projection in daylight — as long as the sun isn’t beaming directly on your wall or screen. If you’ve got an older projector or a starter unit, you’ll know the aggravation of having to draw the curtains or blinds to watch something before sunset.
At 4K resolution the Mars Pro runs at a 60Hz refresh rate but should you dial down to 1080p, you can get up to 120Hz refresh rate. If you’re using the projector to display your gaming console, you’ll appreciate that buttery smooth movement. And with just 20ms latency, the Mars Pro is well above the average for projectors and response times.
As you no doubt understand, unless you mount or set your projector perfectly straight out from the wall, you end up with an uneven screen. Nearly every projector on the market will give users manual control over the keystone feature, allowing for dragging of corners and edges to create the properly formatted image.
In most of the mid-range and upper-end projectors automatic keystoning is a feature that helps to quickly calibrate things for the environment. The Mars Pro comes with this capability, but I did find it struggled to correct itself. More often than not it acted as if there were obstacles in the way or, worse, landed on an image that was still skewed.
The included remote control and software do make it pretty easy to adjust things, and once they are in place you do not have to worry about it each time you power on. For some reason I also found that I had to occasionally tweak the focus as the automatic setting didn’t lock onto something that felt right.
It’s here where I remind you that unless you are mounting from the ceiling or placing in a firm position, you could run into adjustment problems. The tiniest nudge of a tripod might be all that it takes to throw things off, forcing you to recalibrate the image ahead of viewing content.
The Mars Pro’s two 10W speakers support both Dolby Digital Plus and DTS surround sound, putting out a rather respectable sound. It’s plenty loud and clear for quiet environments with no perceivable distortion at upper levels.
The virtual surround is good enough, I’m of the opinion that an external speaker setup is better. If not the full-on, four corners of the room stuff, at least go with a soundbar to spread things out a bit. And if you’re gaming, it might be advisable to go with something wired in that 3.5mm jack. You don’t want to end up on the losing end of a battle because your sound was off just a smidge.
The Mars Pro is really quiet on its own and is almost imperceptible in most situations. Air seems to draw into the right side and out through the left and you’ll barely hear it unless you go looking for it.
Software and other Features
Whereas the Mars Pro itself feels like quite the premium device, its remote is about as cheaply designed as they come. Composed of plastic, it requires a pair of AAA batteries (not included) and feels generic in the hand.
There are very few buttons to worry about, leading to a rather simple and straightforward experience. You won’t be looking at it too long as you’ll figure things out quickly.
The Dangbei Mars Pro runs on a custom version of Android 9 but it’s not Android TV, nor does it look like something you might have spent time with. It’s minimal and pretty easy to get the hang of, but I’d rather take advantage of one of the HDMI ports and use an Android TV stick.
Also worth noting, the projector is not officially licensed for Netflix; however, you can find workarounds using a GMS (Google My Services) installer and Netflix unlock. Then again, a media stick with Android TV solves for this.
The Mars Pro has a few handy built-in features such eye protection and self-cleaning. The former turns itself on should the projector detect a person or object in front of it, dialing down the brightness. Once you or the object moves out of the way things go back to normal.
Using the projector’s menu, you can enable the self-cleaning mode, which more or less cycles air through the vents to remove dust.
There’s also a screensaver you can have automatically turn on to transition through images, keeping you from staring at the same screen all day long. On a related note you can always have the unit turn itself off after periods of inactivity.
When it comes to food there’s an axiom that says you can pick any two features: cheap, good, or fast. It’s quite difficult to get all three of those in one spot. That’s more or less the situation with projectors — you can have affordable price, great performance, or solid design.
The Dangbei Mars Pro is that rare exception where you get all three of those features. It’s a well-built projector with a big, beautiful image, and an attractive price tag.
It’s not perfect, as I did have to get past a few quibbles early on with the keystone and focus, plus I never loved the remote control. And once I changed my software experience to something more familiar, I was really happy.
The picture quality is sharp, smooth, and accurate, even at 300 inches. Sound is about as good as I anticipated but I’d recommend mounting the projector and using your own speakers. But to be clear, that’s something I’d suggest for pretty much any projector ever.
You can learn more about the Mars Pro at Dangbei’s website, or head directly to Amazon to pick yours up. As of the time of this review the price was listed at $1,699 on Dangbei’s site and $1,799 at Amazon.