Outdoor projector devices are a wonderful way to enjoy an evening with family and friends. But before choosing a flick, consider adding the best outdoor projector for your setup.
Though similar to their indoor classroom/office counterparts, projectors for outdoor movies are significantly brighter, have a clearer picture, and can be used on larger screens than models intended for slideshow presentations.
With outdoor projectors becoming increasingly popular, there are many to choose from, with varying prices and specifications. Read on to learn about the features to look for and some of the best backyard projectors on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: DBPower L21 LCD Video Projector
- RUNNER UP: Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K 3LCD Projector
- UPGRADE PICK: Benq HT3550 4K Home Theater Projector with HDR10
- BEST FOR 3D VIEWING: Optoma HD141X1080p 3D DLP Home Theater Projector
- BEST FOR AUDIO: XGIMI MOGO PRO Mini Portable Projector, 1080p Full HD
- BEST PORTABLE: Nebula by Anker Mars II Pro 500 Portable Projector
- BEST ACCESSORY: VIVOHOME 16 Feet Inflatable Movie Projector Screen
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Outdoor Projector
Projector technology has improved significantly, and it’s possible to get high-quality visuals and audio like in a movie theater. One of the most significant factors that will determine your ideal model is the environment where you’ll be watching movies.
Weather conditions and your personal preferences help determine the ideal type of projection, technical features like resolution and brightness, which accessories are useful, and a few other points discussed below.
Purpose and Environment
The conditions for using a projector outdoors are unique to every space. Ignoring these factors, including the type of content, could result in choosing a backyard projector with visual and audio issues such as poor visibility, low volume, or excessive brightness.
- Location: Consider where the projector will be used. If you’ll be watching from under a covered spot like a porch, canopy, or covered outdoor living space, weather resistance may not be necessary—while the absence of those features may cause damage to the projector in open outdoor settings.
- Time of day: Will you be watching during daylight hours, or at night? Factors including brightness potentially distracting surroundings, such as a noisy neighborhood road or the presence of decorative lighting.
- Intended use: Outdoor projectors can be used in various ways, from converting your backyard into a movie theater, to photo presentations, to watching sports games poolside. How you plan on using your projector and the context of outdoor use determines the most suitable type of projection, brightness, and other factors discussed below.
- Portability: The smaller (and lighter) the projector, the easier it is to transport, set up, and pack away for next time. That ease of use, though, usually comes with a loss of picture and audio quality. Bigger, bulkier projectors are able to include the technology necessarily to create optimal images.
With each projection type having advantages and disadvantages, it’s wise to understand how these influence the right outdoor movie projector for you. Outdoor projectors utilize three main projection types.
- Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology is standard for entry-level projectors, which often prove brighter, cheaper, and quieter than models with LED and DLP. LCD projectors offer lower contrast ratios which can give projected images a washed-out look. But, with the correct outdoor projector screen or DIY equivalent and a high-contrast LCD, they can be a solid choice for many outdoor theater setups.
- Light-Emitting Diode (LED) projectors aren’t as bright as LCD, but they have the advantage of being light, quiet, and energy-efficient. LED projectors feature the longest-lasting bulbs, the most portability, and can often outperform DLP projectors in terms of brightness and resolution.
- Digital Light Projection (DLP), also called “laser” projection, utilizes lasers instead of light bulbs, other than that the technology is the same. DLP projectors are used in the majority of movie theaters today. Larger than LCD and LED projectors, DLP projectors offer smooth video and very high contrast. DLP is common in indoor home theaters where serious movie buffs hope to replicate the authentic experience of an outdoor cinema.
Brightness in regard to projectors refers to the strength of the bulb inside the projector. Too dim a bulb could result in poor visibility, especially in a situation that isn’t pitch dark. Projectors are usually listed with a rating for brightness measured in units called lumens. Keep the following important general rules and points in mind:
- If you’ll be watching movies at night, the best outdoor movie projectors have 2,000 to 2,500 lumens for high-quality viewing.
- If decorative lights or sunlight are present, consider projectors above 3,000 lumens to ensure that surrounding light won’t “wash out” the picture. When this happens, movie scenes set at night or in the shadows become nearly impossible to see.
- Note that high-brightness projectors tend to be noisier, much like average Christmas light projectors. If you’re sensitive to other sounds, this may take away from your viewing experience.
- Projectors with high brightness are the most suitable option for surrounding ambient light.
- Some projectors are listed with brightness ratings determined by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI lumens are 240 percent brighter than standard lumens, so make sure you’re clear on which rating applies.
Much like TVs, resolution in projectors is measured in pixels(p). Simply put, the more pixels a projector has, the better the image quality will be. The most common resolutions for outdoor projects include:
- 1080p resolution: The standard resolution for mid-range outdoor projectors is 1080p, which should provide a clear, sharp picture comparable to that of high-definition television.
- 720p resolution: Some low-cost projectors have 720p resolution, resulting in an image that, while not terrible, is noticeably lower quality compared to 1080p.
- 4K resolution: There are also projectors that serve up 4K—meaning roughly 4,000 pixels—resolution, which gives you an impressive picture quality four times better than 1080p, but most projectors with 4K are quite pricey.
An overlooked but critical aspect of picture quality is contrast ratio, the difference between the maximum dimness and brightness of a projector. A contrast ratio that produces a crisp picture, regardless of resolution, is typically 5,000:1. If picture clarity matters to you, don’t settle for a contrast ratio lower than this. Otherwise, a contrast ratio greater than 2,000:1 should suffice.
The aspect ratio in regard to projectors refers to the shape of the projected image. It is calculated by the ratio of width to height. For example, 5 feet wide by 3 feet tall would produce a 5:3 aspect ratio. There are two common aspect ratios:
- 16:9 aspect ratio: the standard on any flat-screen television, laptop, movie theater screen, and outdoor projector
- 4:3 aspect ratio: the standard for old-school tube televisions found on some outdoor projectors today
To understand different aspect ratios, think of a smartphone. When viewed in vertical mode, photos and videos appear with black “negative” space above and below and do not fill up the entire backyard projector screen. Rotate your phone sideways to horizontal mode, and the video will fill the whole screen. A mobile phone in horizontal mode is the same as a 16:9 aspect ratio.
A projector with a 16:9 aspect ratio will fill up the entire illuminated area with the image. A projector with a 4:3 aspect ratio will have a lot of wasted negative space, like a mobile phone in vertical mode.
While most outdoor projectors have built-in speakers, many people supplement the visuals with a separate audio device or sound system. The onboard speakers in many projectors, even high-end units, can have limited sound output, meaning additional outdoor speakers are often required to experience sufficient volume.
A growing number of outdoor projectors are designed as all-in-one machines that produce both great picture and quality sound. However, in most cases, great sound on a projector should be looked at as a bonus, not a requirement.
In the modern tech world, connectivity refers to an electronic device’s ability to connect to and communicate with other devices and systems. For projectors, connectivity features and accessories include:
- WiFi: While not every projector features it, a growing number of affordable outdoor TV projector models do include some kind of wifi connectivity. Some projectors even function much the same as a smart TV, with streaming apps for Netflix, Amazon, and other services that connect wirelessly to the projector.
- Ports: Many of today’s tech users access streaming devices and other digital content through personal electronics such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, Bluetooth speakers, and DVD/Blu-Ray players). For projectors, ports refer to the types of cables that can be plugged in and connected to these devices. USB port options are particularly prevalent, with others including HDMI (for TVs), VGA (computers), and audio out.
- Adaptors: Depending on the model you choose, you may need an adaptor to connect the projector to personal devices with an incompatible port. Luckily, these issues are fairly common and can be solved by getting an adaptor that acts as a conductor between the device and the projector. Before buying a projector, find out whether or not an adaptor is required to play movies using the device of your choice.
Our Top Picks
These projectors rank high for technical specifications, price, and performance for a wide array of outdoor viewing setups. Check out the best outdoor movie projectors for backyard entertainment.
For ample compatibility with multiple devices, the DBPower L21 LCD Video Projector has a 4.3” LCD display with the help of powerful LED light sources. Resolution options range from 1280 to 1080p HD picture. For those with large outdoor screens, this projector can fill a 40 to 200-inch screen from a 1 to 5-meter distance. For the clearest image, project from 1-2 meters while adjusting the focus.
The LED light technology in this outdoor video projector also offers ample brightness with over 8,000 ANSI lumens provided for up to 60,000 hours of use, making it the brightest outdoor projector on our list. As for compatibility, this model works with smartphones, Chromecast, TV Box, TV Stick, PCs, laptops, tablets, speakers and much more.
But, this video projector comes with its own integrated speaker system as well as a cooling system to prevent overheating. As for the downsides, this model is not compatible with Excel programs or presentations and use with a smartphone may require an HDMI cord or Wi-Fi display dongle.
- Brightness: 8000 ANSI lumens
- Image Quality: 1280 to 1080p
- Connectivity: TV Box, Amazon Fire TV Stick, PCs, Laptops, Tablets, Speakers, ChromeBook, DVD players, SD Cards, USB Flash Drives, Media players, iPad, iPhone, and Android smartphones
- LED light technology provides full HD resolution
- Compatible with 40 to 200-inch projector screens
- Speaker system included
- Built-in cooling system prevents overheating
- Not suitable for Excel softwares or apps
- HDMI cord or Wi-Fi dongle required for smartphone connectivity
For an easy-to-use and high-resolution projector for backyard movie night, the Epson Home Cinema Projector comes with everything you need. With its 3-chip design, this projector has High-Dynamic Range (HDR) technology that is able to display 480 to 4K 2160p picture with over 3000 ANSI lumens of light. The built-in 250-watt lamp delivers up to 3,500 hours of use while the included lens shift and manual zoom prevent blurring.
The dual HDMI inputs also allow you to have multiple devices connected at once for shifting, while the USB port can be used to connect smartphones, tables, or laptops. Plus, this model has Bluetooth connection for wireless casting and comes with a remote control. This model also works with small or large screens of 40 to 300 inches. This projector also operates at a quiet 35 decibels, but comes with 10-watt speakers to hear your films easily.
- Brightness: 3000 ANSI lumens
- Image Quality: 480 to 4K 2160p
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI, and USB
- Accommodates screens of 40 to 300 inches
- High-Dynamic Range technology included
- Built-in 250-watt lamp; 3,500 hours of runtime
- Bluetooth connectivity included
- Batteries for remote control may not be included
- Requires plug-in power source
One of just a few outdoor projectors currently available that displays in native 4K resolution, the HT3550 is a good projector for outdoor movies. This model was designed for customization and fine-tuning, thanks to a full range of different settings you can use to tweak brightness, contrast, and more to get the picture that feels just right for you.
Another excellent and unusual feature is High-Dynamic Range (HDR), which increases picture vibrance and makes each color more accurate to real life. This enhancement boosts the already staggering 30,000:1 contrast ratio to make images even more dynamic. This projector also packs a fairly high-quality speaker; it’s not a replacement for a sound system, but it’s pretty beefy for a device that focuses on picture, not sound.
- Brightness: 2000 ANSI lumens
- Image Quality: 4K resolution
- Connectivity: 2 HDMI and USB ports
- High-Dynamic Range (HDR) technology included
- 30,000:1 contrast
- Speakers included
- Provides 40,000 hours of runtime
- Not Bluetooth or casting compatible
- Expensive price point
The HD141X was purpose-built to replicate the feeling of seeing a 3D movie in the theater. It’s supremely bright, putting out 3,000 ANSI lumens, making it one of the brightest outdoor projectors on this list and fully capable of working in settings other than total darkness.
Equally impressive, the HD141X has a contrast ratio of 23,000:1. When you consider that a top-quality TV has about a 7,000:1 contrast ratio, you realize that this outdoor projector will provide the blackest blacks, the whitest whites, and the most vibrant colors possible, all in 3D. For 3D viewing, it might make sense to go all out—and the HD141X may well satisfy. This model is also compatible with PCs or MacBooks through its USB port or with DVD players or Blu-Ray players through the HDMI port.
- Brightness: 3000 ANSI lumens
- Image Quality:1080p
- Connectivity: HDMI and USB port
- Contrast of 23,000:1 for clear picture
- 3D picture included
- Built-in speakers
- Lightweight design
- Not Bluetooth or casting compatible
- No remote control included
This XGIMI mini outdoor projector is like a smart speaker, smart TV, and compact projector rolled into one impressive package. Featuring Harman/Kardon speakers, the sound specs on the MOGO Pro beat out most wireless speakers. That’s a pretty serious accolade, considering that this is first and foremost a video projector.
There is no need for connecting extra speakers, adapters, cords, or extra devices to make movie night sound as good as it looks. Aside from a screen or surface, this portable outdoor projector truly is an all-in-one device. Stream from your favorite services using a mobile device or straight from the Android TV app on the projector.
With a brightness rating of only 300 ANSI lumens, the MOGO Pro isn’t quite as bright as some other video projectors, but when used in properly dim settings, viewing should be issue-free.
- Brightness: 300 ANSI lumens
- Image Quality: 1080p
- Connectivity: HDMI, USB, and Bluetooth
- Built-in rechargeable battery
- Automatic Keystone Correction
- 2 3-watt Harman/Kardon speakers included
- Compact, portable design
- Dim brightness compared to larger models
- Compatible with screens under 100 inches only
Backyard cinema can be cool, but what about backcountry movie nights? If you want a quality projector you can tote on a camping or RV trip and set up quickly, the Anker Nebula Mars Pro II is ready to go. The projector has a loud sound system, so extra speakers are usually not required.
The Nebula Mars Pro II has Android TV built in, so if users have an internet connection, they can stream at will, with no need for a DVD/Blu-Ray player. Plus, this model has a 3-hour battery life—long enough for almost any film—as well as a standard wall plug.
The only drawback of this model is its slightly lower screen resolution, 720p, as compared to the 1080p resolution of most other projectors. But with so many attributes packed into a pint-sized device, it’s a mini outdoor projector with maximum appeal.
- Brightness: 500 ANSI lumens
- Image Quality: 720p
- Connectivity: Built-in Android TV
- 3-hour battery life
- Loud, built-in speakers included
- Lightweight, portable design
- Built-in carrying strap
- Low resolution compared to similar models
- Slightly more expensive than other portable models
Have a blast with VIVOHOME’s blowup projector screen while hosting outdoor movie nights or other outdoor events. This 16-foot screen comes with a fan pump to blow up the screen and keep it inflated while in use. The fan operates quietly so as not to distract from the viewing experience. A storage bag, 250-watt air blower, and yard stakes are included with each set.
This inflatable projector screen is made from a high-quality 210D Oxford cloth that is durable and weather resistant. It features wide feet to ensure stability and straps that can be adjusted to flatten the screen for a smooth projection surface. The screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and can be used with either front or rear projection.
- Screen Size: 11.3 feet by 6.2 feet
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Includes: Inflatable screen, blower, ground stake, tethers, and carry bag
- High-quality 210D Oxford cloth screen
- Front or rear projection
- Fan operates quietly
- Lightweight and portable; weighs less than 17 pounds
- Does not include projector
With so many outdoor projectors on the market, it can be difficult to choose the one that can accommodate your needs. One of the best backyard options available is the DBPower outdoor projector has an 8000 ANSI lumen brightness that provides resolutions of 1280 to 1080p. Plus, it has nearly unlimited options for compatibility with devices and casting.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a portable, lightweight projector for camping or road-trips, the XGIMI MOGO PRO is made to be compact while still providing 300 ANSI lumens of light and a 1080p display. It is also USB, HDMI, and Bluetooth compatible for easy laptop or smartphone casting.
How We Chose the Best Outdoor Projectors
A top-rated outdoor projector can make your backyard movie night, road-trip, or camping adventure more enjoyable and fun. With Bluetooth, USB, and/or HDMI ports included in most models, you are able to watch movies and TV shows with your streaming apps or DVDs with the help of a purchased or DIY movie screen.
Many of the featured projectors also come with high resolutions to choose from, ranging from 480 to 4K 2160p picture quality. These resolutions are aided by the ANSI lumens provided, which range from 300 to over 8000 for ample brightness with ambient light or during dark nights. Many of these top picks can also handle various screen sizes, with most being able to accommodate 40 to 200 inches, while others can cover a 300-inch screen.
Since these models are made to be portable and easy to use, many also have built-in speaker systems, adjustable lenses and lens covers, and long-lasting battery lives. However, some of these picks may require outdoor extension cords as they are not powered by batteries.
Tips for Using Outdoor Projectors
Before setting up your outdoor projector for the next movie night, you should note a few of the important things to consider when using products like this. Here are a few of the most important things you should note:
- Leaving an outdoor projector outside for long periods of time or even overnight as temperatures can drop or moisture can affect the functionality of the machine.
- Though commonly used at night for better visibility, using an outdoor projector during the day is also possible. However, ambient light may interfere with the picture quality and UV exposure may also tamper with your projector.
- For the best viewing experience, it is recommended that you use your outdoor projector on a stand rather than a piece of furniture or homemade setup. Not only does a stand ensure stability, it also prevents the projector from being knocked over or exposed to moisture.
Though many projectors are easy to use and set up, there are still some complications that may come up while you are using your new media tool. To get the most out of your new outdoor projector, consult these answers to frequently asked questions from outdoor projector reviews.
Q: How do I choose a good outdoor projector for a movie?
Start by setting up the entire movie viewing space before buying a projector. Measure how far the screen will be from where you intend to set up the projector. Observe what the viewing area looks and sounds like so you know how bright/dark and noisy/quiet the setting will be. Then, with a full idea of what the projector will need to do, you can select the right outdoor projector for your situation.
Q: How many lumens do I need for an outdoor projector?
There are two main factors to help you decide: lighting and screen distance. If you are projecting at a distance farther than 16 feet, in more well-lit areas, or before the sun goes down, go with more lumens. As a general rule, 3,000 ANSI lumens should suffice.
Q: What outdoor projector resolution is right for me?
If the screen is going to be bigger than 96 inches, 1080p will begin to be stretched to its limits, and 4K resolution will be better; 1080p is fine almost every other time. However, if you want perfect-as-possible images, jump straight to 4K.
Q: Are outdoor projectors waterproof?
Not really. While some outdoor portable projectors may be water-resistant, the lenses that produce the image should not get wet, nor should water get inside the device. Ideally, no outdoor projector should ever be left out in even so much as a drizzle.
Q: Do you need a dark room for a projector?
No, you don’t need a completely dark room for a projector. However, darker rooms will yield higher-quality images.
Q. Do I need a special screen for a 4K projector?
If you want to take full advantage of the advanced technology and sharp images possible with a 4K projector, purchasing a 4K screen is a good idea. These screens will feature a completely smooth texture, as opposed to a matte texture, which will allow 4K images to show up more clearly and with less distortion.
Q: How many lumens do you need to watch in daylight?
To ensure clear visibility, an outdoor projector should emit 2,500 ANSI lumens in daylight conditions.