The Best Outdoor Projectors of 2022

Make backyard movie night a truly cinematic experience with the best outdoor projector for your style, space, and budget.

By Jared Wilder and Markkus Rovito | Updated Jun 7, 2022 10:59 AM

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The Best Outdoor Projectors Options

Photo: Markkus Rovito

An outdoor projector device offers a wonderful way to enjoy an entertaining evening with family and friends. But before choosing a flick to watch on it, consider upgrading your setup with one of the best outdoor projectors from our hands-on testing.

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.

Outdoor projectors are becoming increasingly popular, and there are many to choose from, with varying prices and specifications. We tested the following models extensively for ease of setup and operation, included features, audio quality, and picture quality in both low-light and bright-light conditions. Read on to discover the results and to determine which features to consider when looking for the best backyard projector for your needs.

  1. BEST OVERALL: BenQ GS50 Wireless Outdoor Projector
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: DBPower WiFi Bluetooth Projector 9000L
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K PRO-UHD Projector
  4. BEST FOR GAMING: Optoma UHD38 4K UHD Gaming Projector
  5. BEST FOR AUDIO: Xgimi Halo True 1080p Portable Projector
  6. BEST PORTABLE: Anker Nebula Solar Portable 1080p Projector
  7. ALSO CONSIDER: Anker Nebula Cosmos Full HD 1080p Projector
The Best Outdoor Projectors Options

Photo: Markkus Rovito

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 that re-creates a cinematic experience at home. One of the most significant factors in picking the ideal model is the environment.

Weather conditions and personal preferences shape the choice of type of projection, which technical features to seek (like resolution and brightness), accessories that are most useful, and other details that are discussed below.

Purpose and Environment

The particular conditions for using a projector outdoors are unique to every space. Ignoring these factors and the type of content (movies, gaming, sports, etc.) could result in choosing a backyard projector with visual and audio problems, such as poor visibility, low volume, or excessive brightness.

  • Location: Consider where the projector will be used. If the location is under a covered spot like a porch, canopy, or covered outdoor living space, weather resistance may not be necessary. However, damage to a non-weather-resistant projector is more likely to occur in open outdoor settings.
    Time of day: Watching during daylight hours or at night is another consideration and can affect factors like brightness. Assess the presence of decorative lighting and potentially distracting surroundings such as a noisy neighborhood or a busy road nearby.
    Portability: The smaller (and lighter) the projector, the easier it is to transport, set up, and pack away. That ease of use, though, usually comes with a loss of picture and audio quality. Bigger, bulkier projectors can include the technology necessary to create optimal images.
    Intended use: Outdoor projectors can be used in various ways, including converting a backyard into a movie theater, creating photo presentations, and watching sports poolside. How a projector will be used, and the context of outdoor use, determines the most suitable type of projection, brightness, and other factors discussed below.

Projection Type

Different types of projections offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, so it’s wise to understand how these influence the right outdoor movie projector for a specific situation. Outdoor projectors utilize three main projection types: liquid crystal display (LCD), light-emitting diode (LED), and digital light projection (DLP).

  • 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 a high-contrast LCD with a DIY equivalent, they can be a solid choice for many outdoor theater setups.
    Light-emitting diode (LED) projectors aren’t as bright as LCD projectors, but they have the advantage of being lightweight, quiet, and energy efficient. LED projectors feature the longest-lasting bulbs and the best portability, plus they 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. However, the rest of 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 high contrast. DLP is common in indoor home theaters where serious movie buffs hope to replicate a cinema-authentic viewing experience.

Brightness

Brightness in regard to projectors refers to the strength of the bulb inside the projector. Too dim a bulb can 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 about brightness in mind:

  • Nighttime viewing: When watching movies at night, the best outdoor movie projectors have 2,000 to 2,500 lumens for high-quality viewing
    Decorative lighting: 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.
  • Noise sensitivity: Note that high-brightness projectors tend to be noisier, much like typical Christmas light projectors. For those who are sensitive to other sounds, this may take away from the viewing experience.
  • Ambient light: 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 to be clear on which rating applies to the projectors being compared and considered.

Image Quality

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 the following.

  • 1080p resolution: The standard resolution for midrange 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 of noticeably lower quality compared to 1080p.
  • 4K resolution: There are also projectors that serve up 4K resolution—meaning roughly 4,000 pixels—which provides an impressive picture quality four times better than 1080p. Most 4K projectors are quite pricey, though.

An overlooked but critical aspect of picture quality is contrast ratio, which is 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 is important, don’t settle for a contrast ratio lower than this. Otherwise, a contrast ratio greater than 2,000:1 should suffice for most users.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio regarding 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 produces a 5:3 aspect ratio. There are two common aspect ratios:

  • 16:9 aspect ratio: 16:9 is the standard on any flat-screen television, laptop, and outdoor projector.
  • 4:3 aspect ratio: 4:3 is 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. Rotating the phone’s screen sideways to horizontal mode allows the video to 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 an image. A projector with a 4:3 aspect ratio will have a lot of wasted negative space, like a mobile phone in vertical mode.

Sound

While most outdoor projectors have built-in speakers, many users 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 high-quality sound. However, in most cases, great sound on a projector should be looked at as a bonus, not a requirement.

Connectivity

In the current 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:

  • Wi-Fi: While not every projector features it, a growing number of affordable outdoor TV projector models do include some kind of Wi-Fi 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 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, VGA, and audio out.
  • Adapters: Depending on the model, an adapter may be needed to connect the projector to personal devices with an incompatible port. Luckily, these problems are fairly common and can be solved by getting an adapter that acts as a conductor between the device and the projector. Before buying a projector, find out whether an adapter is required to play movies using a particular device.
The Best Outdoor Projectors Options

Photo: Markkus Rovito

Our Top Picks

We tested the following projectors extensively with a variety of demanding media, including big-budget action movies, 3D animated movies, and sporting events. All the projectors tested rank high for technical specifications, price, and performance, but they vary in terms of the ease of setup and operation, included features, audio quality, and picture quality during both low-light and bright-light conditions. Check out the test results for some of the best outdoor movie projector options for backyard entertainment.

Best Overall

The Best Outdoor Projector Option: BenQ GS50 1080p Outdoor Projector
Photo: amazon.com

When it comes to the complete package within a single portable outdoor projector, the BenQ GS50 Wireless Outdoor Projector just about has it all: fantastic image quality, built-in Android TV streaming apps, high-quality audio, ample wireless and wired connectivity, and the size and durability for truly portable use. The 5-pound, cube-shaped projector was built with IPX2 splash protection and drop protection from 2.3 feet high, and it comes with a sturdy zip-case for the GS50 and all of its accessories. That includes a handy remote control that helps set up and operate the projector. After positioning it and powering it up, the GS50 auto-focuses its picture very effectively, and the remote has easy-to-operate corner correction with the flexibility to place the projector in a variety of positions away from the screen or wall. An adjustable stand allows angling the GS50 by as much as 15 degrees.

It’s easy to connect the GS50 to a Wi-Fi network, and the enclosed HDMI Android TV stick gives access to 7,000+ apps for movies, TV, music, games, news, and more. Unfortunately, Netflix does not support the GS50, but it can connect to Netflix via another device through the HDMI input. Other mobile devices and drives can connect over USB-C and USB-A, making offline entertainment possible when there’s no Wi-Fi to be had.

The GS50’s DLP technology does not have the brightest output, but the colors, contrast, and detail of the picture really stand out, especially for a portable outdoor projector. The GS50 looks best in dimmer daylight or low-light conditions. It’s still a possibility in the daytime, but for best daylight results, move the projector forward to create a more compact picture. Otherwise, the GS50 looks wonderful at a recommended max size of 110 inches (from about 9 feet away). We also tried it with the picture size closer to 150 inches, and it still looked acceptable. The 2.1-channel speaker system sounds clean, balanced, and potentially quite loud for a projector of this size. The GS50 can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker streaming from other devices. All in all, the GS50 is the most well-rounded outdoor video projector we tested. It costs a little more than comparable compact projectors, but users will get their money’s worth.

Product Specs

  • Brightness/contrast: 500 ANSI lumens/100,000:1
  • Picture: 1080p (1920 x 1080) full HD; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity: Built-in Android TV (including “Hey Google” voice control), Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, Chromecast, HDMI, USB-A for thumb drives, USB-C for Displayport, Wi-Fi

Pros

  • Beautiful picture with sharp details, vibrant colors, and deep contrast
  • Loud, high-quality audio with Bluetooth speaker capability
  • Comprehensive design for convenient portability
  • Super-accurate autofocus accessible from remote control button

Cons

  • Short battery life of 2.5 hours under restricted conditions
  • Netflix playback only over HDMI or with desktop browser Chromecast
  • Moderate brightness for daytime use

Get the BenQ outdoor projector at B&H Photo or Adorama.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Outdoor Projector Option: DBPower L23 9000L Native 1080P WiFi Video Projector
Photo: amazon.com

Users cannot get much more out of a portable outdoor projector for under $200 than what’s offered with the DBPower L23 1080p Full HD LCD projector. It has many connectivity options, including the ability to screen-mirror iOS and Android mobile devices, or to play video, audio, and photo slideshows from a USB drive of up to 64 GB (as long as it’s properly formatted). It also has Bluetooth audio streaming to speakers and headphones, should the rather low-powered 3-watt internal speaker not be enough. The L23’s 50,000-hour LED lamp driving the LCD display is powerful, although its listed 9,000 lumens are “lux” lumens, which seem to correspond to the rough conversion of 3,750 ANSI lumens. Regardless, it’s plenty bright enough for daylight viewing, although users may need to manually increase the brightness setting, as the several preset picture modes don’t go higher than 60 percent of the max brightness.

Beyond the connectivity, DBPower is also generous with the accessories, which include an HDMI cable, a three-prong RCA A/V to 3.5-millimeter adapter cable, a remote control, lens cap, and a good-quality zippered and handled carrying case, making the 3-pound, 8.7 by 6.9 by 3.5-inch projector all the more portable. We welcome that case, because the build quality of the L23’s chassis does not inspire the most confidence for durability. The remote control also feels a bit flimsy, and the springs that connect to the batteries are weak.

However, the picture quality is a projector’s bottom line, and the L23 puts out a satisfying and detailed 1080p image, with smooth motion handling. When compared with 1080p DLP projectors like the BenQ GS50, the L23’s colors and contrast are not as rich and vibrant, but again, the overall picture at this price point looks very good. An image size of 35 to 300 inches can be achieved by placing the L23 4 to 25 feet from a surface, with the sweet spot for best results being between around 50 to 100 inches. Unlike other projectors we tested, the L23 will not focus properly when placed too close to a screen. There were also some limitations to the screen mirroring from mobile devices over Wi-Fi. For example, the technology used for mirroring Android devices is not supported by a large number of smartphones made by Google, Motorola, and Samsung. And the L23 seems to support 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi networks only, which provided less stable AirPlay connections in our testing compared to AirPlaying to a TV over a 5-GHz network.

Those issues aside, the L23 offers enough options for projecting various sources that users can always find something that will work. It’s a good outdoor projector, but when it comes to value for the money, it stands alone within this guide.

Product Specs

  • Brightness/contrast: 9,000 “lux” lumens/10,000:1
  • Picture: 1080p (1920 x 1080) full HD; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity: Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, HDMI x2, USB-A for powering a device, USB-A for thumb drives, VGA, analog video input (with included adapter cable), Wi-Fi

Pros

  • Many connectivity options
  • Generous assortment of accessories
  • Excellent value for the price

Cons

  • Runs a little loudly from the fan
  • Not the most durable build quality
  • Some limitations for streaming from mobile devices

Get the DBPower outdoor projector at Amazon, DBPower Shop, or Walmart.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Outdoor Projector Option: Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K PRO-UHD Projector
Photo: amazon.com

For those looking for the best backyard projector for a cinema-style experience, step up to the Epson Home Cinema 3800’s 4K resolution. With four times the pixel count of a 1080p full-HD projector, the Home Cinema 3800 drives its 4K picture with powerful 3,000 ANSI lumen brightness, a three-chip LCD array, and full 10-bit high-dynamic range (HDR) technology, which together ensure a dazzling moving image with luscious colors, deep contrast, and minute details even when projecting a very large screen size. Epson counsels a maximum of 300 inches for the projection size; we tested it at around that size with no appreciable loss in detail quality. Internal processing can also “upscale” a 1080p full-HD video source to 4K resolution.

While setting up the projector is an easy affair of plugging in, powering on, feeding it a video input, and adjusting the picture with the manual lens shift and zoom controls, the Home Cinema 3800’s size (16.1 by 13.75 by 6.5 inches) and weight (15.2 pounds) make it best for backyard movie nights rather than grab-it-and-go scenarios. The larger projector also has a longer throw than the short-throw portable projectors, so it needs to be placed away from the screen a little more than others. Its two internal 10-watt speakers get reasonably loud enough for close quarters, but they don’t exhibit a lot of bass. For more wide-open spaces, or just to enjoy fuller sound, the Home Cinema 3800 has Bluetooth aptX technology for connecting to speakers. And fortunately, the aptX Bluetooth standard has very low latency, which is important when audio needs to match the video.

While the Home Cinema 3800 does not have Wi-Fi, it does have two high-bandwidth HDMI 2.0 inputs for connecting multiple devices at once, such as an iPad and a gaming console. The projector supports 3D content and can also accommodate gaming on the latest-generation consoles like the PlayStation 5 with 4K HDR video at 60 frames per second (fps). These kinds of high-level features come at a price and a larger footprint than compact outdoor projectors, but this is still a gem of a backyard projector for those with the space and the budget for it.

Product Specs

  • Brightness/contrast: 3000 ANSI lumens/100,000:1
  • Picture: 4K ultra HD (3840 x 2160); 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth aptX, HDMI 2.0 x2, RS-232C, and USB

Pros

  • Accommodates screens up to 300 inches
  • High brightness for daytime use
  • 4K HDR video at a 60Hz refresh rate—good for gaming and sports
  • Rich colors and processing for upscaling images to 4K

Cons

  • No weather-proofing features
  • A little large for true portability
  • No battery power
  • Pricey

Get the Epson outdoor projector at Best Buy or Epson.

Best for Gaming

The Best Outdoor Projector Option: Optoma UHD38 4K Home Theater and Gaming Projector
Photo: amazon.com

Gamers usually prize large TVs or computer monitors, and they often pay a premium for sizable 4K screens. But why do that when it’s around the same price for a picture of up to 300 inches? That’s the largest recommended projection size for the Optoma UHD38 4K DLP projector, a great indoor/outdoor video projector for any use, but with particular appeal to gamers. That comes from the UHD38’s speedy refresh rates, which gamers covet for handling demanding fast-motion scenes smoothly. The UHD38 can run 1080p video at 240 fps from a PC (because only PCs can output 240 fps at this time), or 1080p at 120 fps from a new game console like the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. Alternatively, the projector can play back full 4K material at 60 fps. Its 4.2-millisecond response time is not as fast as some high-end monitors, but it is still more than adequate for gaming.

Regardless of whether it’s being used for shows, games, live sports, 3D movies (which it also fully supports), or anything else, the UHD38 treats viewers with a stunning picture. Its clarity of detail is marvelous, and it features extraordinary color reproduction and contrast. The DLP lamp lasts up to 4,000 hours at its brightest level (or up to 15,000 in lower modes), and it’s bright enough for daytime use while also looking brilliant at night.

At about 12.5 by 10.5 by 4.5 inches and weighing 10 pounds, the UHD38 is noticeably smaller and lighter than the smallest projector we reviewed, but also larger than the other compact projectors in this guide. It has neither Wi-Fi nor Bluetooth, but it does have two HDMI 2.0 inputs, as well as a VGA input. The two 10-watt internal speakers can get reasonably loud, but the sound is a bit dull and flat compared to better-sounding competitors. Fortunately, the UHD38 comes equipped with both analog 3.5-millimeter and digital (S/PDIF) audio outputs for connecting to larger speakers. Despite its lack of any wireless tech, the Optoma UHD38 could be the best backyard projector for any high-level video performance—especially gaming.

Product Specs

  • Brightness/contrast: 4,000 ANSI lumens/1,000,000:1
  • Picture: 4K ultra HD (3840 x 2160); 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity: HDMI 2.0 x2, VGA, USB-A (for supplying power only), 3.5-millimeter audio input, 3.5-millimeter audio output, S/PDIF digital audio output

Pros

  • Spectacular colors pop off the screen
  • Handles action movies, sports, and games smoothly
  • Very bright for daytime viewing, but also has deep-black levels

Cons

  • Built-in speakers sound a little flat
  • Takes a little time to get the best picture after first setting up
  • Remote control buttons occasionally stick in place

Get the Optoma outdoor projector at Best Buy or B&H Photo.

Best for Audio

The Best Outdoor Projector Option: Xgimi Halo True 1080p Portable Projector
Photo: amazon.com

For nearly 80 years, Harman Kardon has designed and produced home audio and car audio hi-fi equipment. That’s a large legacy to fit into the Xgimi Halo mini outdoor projector’s two 5-watt speakers, but the difference in the details of these small speakers can be heard. They handle the complicated sound design mixed with cinematic music in big-budget action movies with admirable clarity across the frequency range. For example, during a scene in Avengers: Endgame, the low rumble of explosions, the high-pitched shattering of glass, and the midrange strains of brass and stringed instruments in the score all come through with precise definition. For music, it’s not meant to replace a home system, but it’s great for a day at the pool or in the park.

Besides the attention to its sound system, which can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker for other devices, the 1080p full HD DLP projector is brighter than many other 1080p DLP portable projectors. At 800 ANSI lumens, it’s still not ideal for bright daylight conditions, but it can perform in a pinch. In dimmer or dark conditions, it displays the kind of pure color saturation and natural black levels that often distinguish DLP projectors from LCD or LED units.

The Halo has built-in Android TV for hosting and displaying thousands of downloadable apps. And for inscrutable reasons dealing with hardware compatibility, the Halo can download Netflix, unlike the other Android TV projectors in this guide. For any content not available on internal apps, the Halo has an HDMI input, a USB input for thumb drives, and Chromecast for wireless streaming from other devices.

While the Halo is compact and weighs only 3.5 pounds, its thick, oblong shape makes it a little less natural to hold and stash in a bag for portability. It does, however, have a decent rechargeable battery that provides 2 to 4 hours of video playback, depending on the projector settings, or up to 8 hours of streaming music. With those sweet built-in speakers, that still may not be enough.

Product Specs

  • Brightness/contrast: 800 ANSI lumens/100,000:1
  • Picture: 1080p (1920 x 1080) full HD; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI, USB-A for thumb drives, USB-C for Displayport, Wi-Fi, built-in Android TV (including “Hey Google” voice control)

Pros

  • Built-in rechargeable battery
  • Automatic Keystone Correction
  • Two 5-watt Harman Kardon speakers included
  • Compact, portable design

Cons

  • Dim brightness compared to larger models
  • Compatible with screens 100 inches and smaller only

Get the Xgimi outdoor projector on Amazon or Xgimi.

Best Portable

The Best Outdoor Projector Option: Anker Nebula Solar Portable Projector
Photo: amazon.com

Everything about the Anker Nebula Solar Portable 1080p DLP projector points toward compact portability. Its flat, square shape is 7.6 by 7.6 by 2.3 inches, and it weighs slightly more than 3 pounds. It doesn’t include a carrying case, but it tucks easily into a laptop bag. Even the power supply takes up a low footprint: a small AC power brick connects a standard USB-C cable (included) to the Solar Portable. That USB-C port is for power only, but it also charges the internal battery, which provides 3 hours of operation in the battery mode (or 2 hours in the standard mode). There’s also a USB-A port to connect a thumb drive for media playback, as well as one HDMI 2.0 input, which accepts 4K signals that the projector will play back as 1080p.

The Anker Nebula Solar Portable Projector also runs the Android TV operating system, for easy, all-in-one access to more than 7,000 apps, including most major streaming apps (except Netflix). It also has Chromecast streaming from Mac and PC computers or iOS and Android mobile devices. Once past the somewhat lengthy process of signing into Android TV with a Google account and signing into apps, the Solar Portable is very easy to navigate, operate, and reposition in new locations, thanks to a one-button autofocus on the remote, a built-in stand that elevates the picture by 13 degrees, and the user-friendly interface. The portable projector can fit in modest-size spaces, and it projects a 40-inch image from 3.44 feet away. The maximum recommended picture of 120 inches is from 10.43 feet away. The stereo 3-watt speakers have a surprisingly full-bodied—although not very loud—sound, especially when sitting directly behind the unit. And the projector can be used as a Bluetooth speaker or paired to output to connect to other Bluetooth speakers.

Because of a relatively low brightness rating, the manufacturer recommends the Solar Portable for dim light conditions. It doesn’t have to be pitch dark, but during the day, a well-shaded area will provide much better viewing than sitting in the sun. That said, the DLP 1080p picture does look much better than portable LCD projectors in terms of the color and contrast. It does not handle fast-action scenes quite so effortlessly as something like the much more expensive Optoma UHD38, but for a portable outdoor projector that can be taken nearly anywhere, this one does not disappoint.

Product Specs

  • Brightness/contrast: 400 ANSI lumens/1,000:1
  • Picture: 1080p (1920 x 1080) full HD; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI 2.0, USB-A for thumb drives, USB-C for power, Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5 GHz), Chromecast, built-in Android TV (including “Hey Google” voice control)

Pros

  • Easy to take and use almost anywhere
  • High picture quality for a portable projector
  • One-touch autofocus
  • Good wireless connectivity options

Cons

  • Not extremely bright
  • Only 3 hours of video playback on battery power
  • No Netflix from built-in Android TV

Get the Anker Nebula Solar outdoor projector at Amazon, Newegg, or Nebula.

Also Consider

The Best Outdoor Projector Option: Anker Nebula Cosmos Projector
Photo: amazon.com

We also tested the Anker Nebula Cosmos 1080p DLP projector, which turned out to be a very good backyard projector but didn’t stand out in any one category. It has good picture quality, user interface, and features such as autofocus. It has 900 ANSI lumens, and it has two HDMI and two USB-A inputs, as well as wireless connectivity like Bluetooth and Chromecast.

The Cosmos has built-in Android TV, providing access to 7,000+ apps, although there’s no option for Netflix, due to a lack of hardware support. The operating system makes the Cosmos, as well as the other Android TV projectors, quite user-friendly to operate, and it has a remote control that includes a dedicated button for the voice-controlled Google Assistant.

We found the Cosmos to be larger (11.4 by 7.8 by 3.6 inches) and slightly heavier than the other 1080p portable projectors tested, and it doesn’t have weather-proofing features, height adjustment, or 4K resolution for gaming. However, it does perform well and is a little brighter than some of the other portable projectors. It could be a suitable choice for anyone who likes its particular combination of rich DLP colors and black levels, fairly loud speakers, and many wired and wireless connectivity options.

Product Specs

  • Brightness/contrast: 900 ANSI lumens/1,000:1
  • Picture: 1080p (1920 x 1080) full HD; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI x2, USB-A x2 for thumb drives, optical digital audio output, Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5 GHz), Chromecast, built-in Android TV (including “Hey Google” voice control)

Pros

  • Generous wired and wireless connectivity
  • High DLP picture quality with HDR10 support
  • One-touch autofocus
  • Good performance from stereo 10-watt speakers

Cons

  • No height-adjustment capability
  • No battery power
  • No Netflix from built-in Android TV

Get the Anker Nebula Cosmos outdoor projector at Amazon, Newegg, or Nebula.

Our Verdict

The BenQ outdoor projector is our top-rated outdoor projector because it has the overall best combination of performance and rugged, resilient build quality that many want out of the best projector for outdoor movies. Its picture quality equals or exceeds the other 1080p DLP projectors, and its three-speaker sound system matches or exceeds the Xgimi Halo’s excellent audio.

The BenQ’s built-in Android TV is a nice but not necessary addition, so for those who want the convenience of a good portable outdoor projector without Android TV, without the DLP picture quality, and with a less robust build, the DBPower outdoor projector presents the best value at a budget-friendly price.

How We Tested the Best Outdoor Projectors

To figure out which outdoor projectors are the best, we put every model through extensive, real-word use. We evaluated each one on its setup, including the physical positioning and the setup of internal functions like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and projector settings; picture and audio quality; brightness performance during day, dusk, and night conditions; user-interface operation; and any additional features included in each projector.

We tested every unit with a variety of demanding material, including big-budget action movies, 3D animated movies, and sporting events. For a consistent reference, among all the other material, we made sure to watch and evaluate clips on every projector from Avatar and the Imax-enhanced Avengers: Endgame on Disney+.

Tips for Using Outdoor Projectors

Before setting up an outdoor projector for a movie night, there are a few important things to consider. Here are a few of the most important tips for using outdoor projectors:

  • Do not leave an outdoor projector outside for long periods of time or overnight when temperatures can drop, or moisture may 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 a projector.
  • For the best viewing experience, it is recommended that an outdoor projector is used on a stand rather than a piece of furniture or homemade setup. Not only does a stand ensure stability, but it also prevents the projector from being knocked over or exposed to moisture.

FAQs

Though many projectors are easy to use and set up, there are still some complications that may come up while using a new media tool. To get the most out of your new outdoor projector, consult these answers to some common questions about outdoor movie projectors.

Q. How do I choose a good outdoor projector for a movie?

Start by setting up the entire movie viewing space before buying the 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 can be. Then, with a full idea of what the projector will need to do, you can better 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?

A resolution of 1080p is fine almost every time. However, if the screen is going to be bigger than 96 inches, 1080p may be stretched to its limits, and 4K resolution should be better. Still, if you want perfect-as-possible images with a smaller screen, 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 any moist weather, even a drizzle.

Q. Does it need to be completely dark outside to use a projector?

No, it doesn’t need to be completely dark outside to a projector. However, the darker it is, the higher quality the images will be.

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 I need to watch in daylight?

To ensure clear visibility, an outdoor projector should emit 2,500 ANSI lumens in daylight conditions.