The best outdoor cinema projectors for private screenings at home

Popular mechanics; Courtesy of GooDee

A good outdoor cinema projector lets you enjoy that great theatrical experience wherever you want. Whether you’re projecting onto a patio wall, garage door, or specialty outdoor movie screen, taking your entertainment outside makes any movie feel like an event. Whether you’re watching a classic movie with friends, playing the big game over a barbecue, or just watching TV outdoors, the options are endless. That’s why we’ve put together a list of our favorite outdoor movie projectors, so you can spend more time entertaining and less time shopping.

The best outdoor cinema projectors

    What to consider

    While it’s nice to be able to pick one of our recommendations out of a hat, there are a few things you should think about before buying an outdoor cinema projector:

    Portability

    First, consider whether you want your projector to live outdoors full time or travel between indoors, outdoors, friends’ houses, etc. Some projectors require wired power, while others have built-in batteries and wireless connectivity.

    Brightness

    Measured in lumens, it is the brightness of an image that your projector can display. If you’re projecting in a well-lit area, you need a projector with a high brightness rating. In total darkness, you can get by with far fewer lumens.

    screen

    Don’t forget what you are going to project on. Smaller projectors may be better suited for tight spaces, but larger ones are better suited for gigantic film-like projections.

    audio

    Although many outdoor floodlights have built-in speakers, they are generally not very powerful. Consider a set of outdoor speakers to enhance your outdoor cinema experience. If your projector supports Bluetooth, Bluetooth speakers are among the most portable and convenient options available.

    How we selected

    To assemble this list of recommendations, we carry out intensive research, reviewing content from expert sources such as PCMag, The edge, CNET, Tom’s Guide, Digital trends, and others, plus thousands of consumer reviews from online storefronts like Amazon and Walmart. As for the products themselves, we evaluated them based on performance, design, build quality, and price.

    For more ways to enhance your outdoor space, check out our picks for the best projectors, outdoor movie screens, and outdoor speakers.

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    1

    Best overall

    Nebula Portable 1080p Solar Projector

    • Excellent autofocus for clear images
    • Built-in Android TV
    • 3 hour battery

    Key specs

    • Resolution: 1080p HD (can downscale 4K)
    • Maximum screen size (in inches): 120
    • Brightness (lumens): ANSI 400 / 1100
    • Connectivity: HDMI, USB-A, USB-C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
    • Power: Up to 3 hours of battery life
    • Speakers: Yes; two 3W

    This projector offers just the right combination of features to be ideal for almost anyone. At around 3 pounds, it’s portable and lightweight, and can run on battery or plugged in. It has extensive connectivity and uses Android TV for easy access to all major streaming services. Its image quality is also solid, with 1080p resolution and a large maximum screen size.

    It’s not the brightest option out there, but it has it all, making it a great all-around outdoor floodlight.

    2

    Best premium

    True 4K HDR-PRO projector

    • Native 4K resolution
    • HDR Pro and HDR 10
    • Extremely bright

    Key specs

    • Resolution: 4K UHD
    • Maximum screen size (in inches): 120
    • Brightness (lumens): 3000 ANSI / 7200
    • Connectivity: HDMI, USB-A (2)
    • Power: Connect
    • Speakers: Yes; two 5W

    If you use your projector all the time and want best-in-class image quality, the BenQ TK850 is the way to go. Picture quality is stunning, with 4K resolution, excellent HDR (high dynamic range), incredible brightness and razor-sharp clarity. Unlike most projectors, the built-in speakers here are actually decent and good enough for small gatherings. Simply connect the media of your choice via HDMI and enjoy an incredibly detailed picture wherever you are.

    3

    Best budget

    Enhanced native 1080P video projector

    • Excellent value
    • 1080p resolution
    • Built-in speakers

    Key specs

    • Resolution: HD 1080p
    • Maximum screen size (in inches): 230
    • Brightness (lumens): ANSI 300 / 720
    • Connectivity: HDMI, USB-A
    • Power: Connect
    • Speakers: Yes; two 3W

    Maybe you’re new to the spotlight and not sure how much fun you’ll get out of it. In this case, we recommend a more entry-level model, like this GooDee YG600, to test the waters. It’s by far the most affordable option on our list, but it still offers a great projection experience.

    The GooDee YG600 achieves the essentials: native 1080p resolution, HDMI connectivity, built-in speakers and a big picture. Just make sure to use it in dark conditions as it is not very bright.

    4

    Great for games

    Short Throw Gaming Projector

    • 120Hz refresh rate
    • Short focal length lens
    • Big speaker

    Key specs

    • Resolution: 1080p HD (can downscale 4K)
    • Maximum screen size (in inches): 120
    • Brightness (lumens): 3800
    • Connectivity: HDMI (2), VGA, USB-A
    • Power: Connect
    • Speaker: Yes, a 10W

    Gaming on a projector may seem strange, but with the Optoma GT1080 it can be just as enjoyable as gaming on a TV screen. The main selling point of this projector is the fast refresh rate and low response time, two essential specs for enjoying video games. Outside of gaming, this projector is no slouch, with good brightness, image quality, and excellent throw distance.

    5

    Ideal for travel

    1080p wireless outdoor projector

    • great speakers
    • IPX2 splash proof
    • 45 watt power supply

    Key specs

    • Resolution: HD 1080p
    • Maximum screen size (in inches): 100
    • Brightness (lumens): 500 ANSI / 1200
    • Connectivity: HDMI (2), USB-A, USB-C, Bluetooth, WiFi
    • Power: Up to 2.5 hours
    • Speakers: Yes; two 5W, one 10W

    The BenQ GS50 is designed for frequent outdoor travelers. It features a portable and durable design that’s not afraid of a little water or a few bumps along the way.

    The projection itself is highly adjustable and auto-focuses quickly. And built-in Android TV means you can enjoy tons of streaming apps without needing a separate device. Overall, the GS50 is easy to pack away for any outdoor adventure.

    6

    Most Portable

    Nebula Capsule II Mini

    • Incredibly wearable
    • Built-in Android TV

    Key specs

    • Resolution: HD 720p
    • Maximum screen size (in inches): 100 inches
    • Brightness (lumens): 200 ANSI lumens / 480
    • Connectivity: HDMI, USB-A, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
    • Power: Up to 2.5 hours
    • Speakers: Yes; one 8W

    If portability is your top priority, no other projector can match the Anker Nebula Capsule II Mini form factor. It weighs 1.5 kg and is about the size of a soda can. Built-in Android TV means you can just box the projector without needing any additional devices to connect it. Battery life, especially considering the size, is solid, although the single 8-watt speaker is only enough with small groups.

    seven

    Long-lasting entertainment

    Smart diffusion laser projector

    • Long-lasting laser illumination
    • Bright lighting

    Key specs

    • Resolution: HD 720p
    • Maximum screen size (in inches): 100
    • Brightness (lumens): 2000
    • Connectivity: HDMI, USB-A
    • Power: Connect
    • Speakers: Yes; a 5W

    Unlike all the other projectors on our list, this Epson EF-100 uses laser lighting to project its image. Laser lamps have a much longer lifespan than traditional bulb lamps. The EF-100’s laser light is rated for 12,000 to 20,000 hours, far longer than our other recommendations.

    Lighting aside, this projector is pretty standard, with HDMI connectivity, a built-in Android TV, and above-average brightness. But, in terms of longevity, it’s an excellent choice.

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