The 18 Best Outdoor Projectors
The 18 Best Outdoor Projectors
Technology may have afforded us the opportunity to watch full HD movies in the 6 inches provided by your smartphone – but do you really want to? The magic of the big screen can never be truly overcome, especially once you factor in the added charm of a warm summer’s night with your crew or family, or a romantic picnic.
Thanks to outdoor projectors, you can now stop waiting for your city’s main park to organize the screening of a movie you’d actually want to watch. A relatively small investment in the right kind of equipment can help you turn your own garage, backyard, or even the back of your campsite into a private outdoors cinema.
Outdoor projectors have moved a long way from the small 16-color boxes that used to be the standard in conference rooms and classrooms. Coupled with an internet connection and a decent pair of outdoor speakers, they will help you gain access to limitless catalogs of entertainment for the upcoming summer. But how do you make sure that your new investment is truly the best use of your money? This list breakdown the best available offers right now, followed by a guide teach you how to recognize a good outdoor projector.
Check out the 18 best outdoor projectors below.
BenQ DLP HD 1080p Projector
BenQ has developed a well-rounded product with their DLP HD. A relatively cost-effective option that manages to keep its definition in the big-player range, this projector is also small, light, and offers basic and intuitive features.
Despite its office-worthy appearance, this little guy should not be mistaken for something that can only handle PowerPoint presentations. The plastic case keeps it light and protects it from the occasional bump and scratch. Beneath its hides a decent manual 1.3x zoom option, a smartly placed vertical lens shift, two HDMI input ports, and audio in/out jacks. This is usually more than what you can expect in this price range, but once you factor in the Blu-Ray, S-video, and composite video support, it becomes a steal of a deal.
To round it up, this projector offers you a brightness of 2000 lumens and a contrast ratio of 10,000:1. This provides you with natural colors, great contrast, and little to no lag: if you want to bring your multiplayer experience to a big wall, this is the projector to go for.
As for portability, this BenQ model weighs only 7 pounds.
Epson Home Cinema 3020 1080p
As one of the best-established brands in the projector segment, everyone expects a certain degree of reliability from Epson. This is often in detriment of its excitement factor, which their Home Cinema 3020 system should prove to be an unwarranted myth.
A moderate price tag, rounded edges, and a polished silver surface are just the casing here. What you will truly get here are friendly and sharp images, 3 RGB panels, and full 3D compatibility (2 sets of glasses are included). However, they have not sacrificed the old for the new, as you will still be getting two HDMI ports, and a basic VGA adapter, as well as a couple of reliable and sturdy AV ports.
LCD projectors often suffer in the blacks and shadows department, although the Home Cinema has done away with this thanks to its high resolution and high-tech triple crystal technology.
The Epson Home Cinema 3020 is also fairly light at approximately 13 pounds.
Acer H9500BD 3D 1080P Home Theater Projector
The Acer company stands for flexibility, durability, and a strong history of integrating well with other products from their massive catalogs.
Acer fans will, therefore, find that their Home Theater Projector offers quick installation and excellent image quality for a relatively low price, and they would perhaps even fail to be surprised – just very impressed. Featuring real-time conversion into 3D, this projector is a great option for those who love the immersive experience but are still building their Blu-Ray collection.
An NVIDIA video card, full HD images, and a superb DVI port only improve what is already a more than decent product. A contrast ratio of 60,000:1 and 2000 lumens means that you will have cinema-worthy images in your own backyard. And carrying it there won’t be too difficult either as this project weighs less than 17 pounds.
Optoma S316 Full 3D SVGA DLP Projector
This is an ideal choice for those who need to amplify their image and are willing to sacrifice some resolution in exchange. The Optoma S316 does not offer a full HD image, but thanks to its 3200 lumens and 20,000:1 contrast, it can offer a great alternative for those who are not willing or able to close their curtains –or who can’t help the neighbor’s lights from interrupting the movie night on your side of the fence.
Because resolution is kept as a very modest 800×600, the price tag is also significantly slashed. In addition, the projector itself is light (approximately 5 pounds) and small enough that it can be mounted on most standard projector stands. The connectivity options are flexible without being overwhelming, which makes setting it up a quick and painless process. Maintenance is also kept user-friendly thanks to its increased lamp-life of up to 10,000 hours.
The only downsides? While the Optoma S316 is compatible with 3D Blu-Ray, it does not come with any glasses, so you will need to buy them separately. The zoom is also rather insignificant, with a ratio of barely 1.1.
iDGLAX Idg-787w LCD Video Mini Portable Projector
For those of us who are always on the move or minding our budgets, going for small and resilient gadgets is a matter of necessity.
Texas’ own iDGLAX has managed to combine a small price tag with superior portability with this model. It is barely 7.3 inches long and 5.8 inches wide with a weight of 2 pounds, so will fit inside a backpack without feeling it at all. Sure, this means that they are not able to offer zoom or 3D compatibility, but HD resolutions work without a hitch, and its USB input and SD card reader will allow you to stream anything you have on you, without you needing to extend your Wi-Fi range. Meanwhile, the power bank will let you watch a full-length feature film uninterrupted, or can be used to charge your smartphone in case of emergencies.
On the other hand, the contrast ratio barely reaches 1000:1. If you have the benefit of a dark room or night, however, this will offer everything you need.
Dr. J 4 Inch Mini Projector
Across the pond, Dr. J has established itself as one of the leading providers of professional and amateur high-tech AV equipment in the United Kingdom. Their 2018 model shows exactly how they have achieved this. Long lamp life, an upgraded 10% extra lumens and a wide 170’’ display make for an interesting alternative for those who need something beyond basic.
How have they managed to offer superior brightness and contrast on such a small device? The first key is hiding beneath its unique five layers of LCD lenses. The resolution this offers is excellent and far beyond the requirements of modern HD. However, by getting rid of any direct light sources, this also makes their equipment safer on your eyes and more energy-efficient, while still retaining beautiful colors and natural displays. Their light system is designed to last for up to 10 years of daily use.
All the standard plugs, bells, and whistles (USB and HDMI ports, VGA ports, sound input and output) can be easily found and set up. The built-in stereo offers good sound, although if you are expecting a larger crowd, it will need an external speaker as well. Finally, this device is compatible with wireless HDMI dongles (not included). And only 3 pounds, you can take it anywhere.
Optoma HD141X DLP Home Theater Projector
Slightly bulky but weighing only 5 pounds, the Optoma combines good HD resolution with above-average audio capabilities and full smartphone connectivity, thanks to its MHL port.
The contrast can only be described as superior, with a full ratio of 23,000:1. Combined with 3000 lumens, this translates into clear images that can be as large as 8 feet on distances of up to 20 feet. As most living rooms and patios are not as large as a college classroom, this is likely more than you need to exceed your expectations. In addition, the vertical keystone corrections increase image quality and keep the rainbow effect from getting out of hand.
Finally, the Optoma HD141X works great with 3D images, even when functioning in its energy-saving Eco mode. Granted, 3D Blu-Ray will still look better on bright mode, but you won’t be sacrificing much if you’re chasing a smaller electricity bill.
Sony VPLHW45ES Home Theater and Gaming Projector
Placing your bet (and your hard-earned dollars) on a big player like Sony comes with unexpected perks, in addition to very reliable performance and warranty policies. With a screen size ranging from 51 to 82 inches from a distance of only 8 feet, but capable of growing up to 162 inches from 16 feet, the Sony VPLHW45ES adapts easily to wide spaces and minimalist apartments alike.
The lumens may initially appear unimpressive, as it stays around the 1800 range. However, thanks to its calibrated brightness option, you will get the amount of brightness that you need without risking overheating or shortening your lamp life.
Two HDMI ports and the possibility to adjust vertical and horizontal shifts up to 71% will keep the device easy to set up, versatile, and running smoothly. The panels have an impressive response rate, which shows its best face to gamers – especially if they choose to use it to project their experiences from Sony’s own PS platforms, to which they integrate with nicely. Finally, it is RF 3D compatible, and while glasses are not included, any standard RF glasses will work.
This Sony model is a little heavier than some of the others at 20 pounds but is worth the extra weight.
ViewSonic PJD5555W WXGA DLP Projector
A great budget option for those who want to keep their 3D capabilities top-notch, the ViewSonic offers a wide variety of resolutions and features and looks equally in place at home or in the office.
The PJD5555W weights barely 4.5 pounds and is smaller than a shoebox (12.44’’x 9’’ x 4’’). Despite its minimalism, it offers 3300 lumens and a contrast ratio of 15,000:15. Audio features and compatibilities fall right in the current industry’s averages or just above. You’ll get the expected HDMI port, VGA in/out ports, S-video and audio input/output jacks at 3.5mm.
3D glasses are not included but are a worthy investment for this projector. In addition, a couple of extra notable perks show that a lot of thought was put into the PJD5555W’s design: 2-watt speakers are fully integrated, and a cleverly-hidden back hood will help you hide any spare cables.
Epson 72HD MovieMate
If you need something that is specifically designed for entertainment and therefore does away with most business-savvy options, then don’t forget to check out the MovieMate.
This projector turns any home theater into a true home cinema instantly. Weighing in at 9.3 pounds, it is not exactly portable despite its small size. However, its contrast rate of 3,000:1 and 10-watt Dolby speakers offer clear contrasts and even clearer sounds without the need for external speakers.
In addition to the standard HDMI, RCA and VGA ports, the MovieMate also offers an efficient microphone input, USB ports, a DVD player, and very low lag. Use it as preferred – for movies, hardcore gaming, or karaoke nights.
On the other hand, despite its impressive brightness and accurate skin tones, the display can sometimes be too vivid for AV experts or professional video experts. The shadow detailing is superb, though, and makes up for its slightly gray blacks.
QKK 2400 Lux Full HD LED Video Projector
QKK has upgraded their offering with their latest video projector, which features one of the highest resolutions currently available in the “Home” segment. A great deal of engineering has gone into ensuring that this model offers the cleverest solutions that home users have been asking for, at the lowest price possible.
Its total resolution can go up to 1920 x 1080, which should be enough by itself to make this product remarkable. The big screen display can be adjusted between 32” and 176’’, and it works best at a distance of 3.5 meters. In addition, it features two full 5-watt USB ports, which will allow you to queue up a movie immediately after you are done with your Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick. The multimedia suite is fully equipped with HDMI, VGA, and SD Card ports as well, providing this QKK with superior versatility.
Setting it up for the first time requires some tweaking, as getting the right amount of keystone correction and distance in order to ensure a sharp image will take a few minutes. However, image scaling is excellent, which significantly eases up the process.
Nebula Mars II Portable Projector
Nebula is the immersive entertainment branch of Anker Innovations, a cult-worthy brand that has taken the Seattle and Jakarta media scenes by storm. Their portable projector looks and feels like the sort of gear that you would expect to find in the trunk of the well-traveled and tech-conscious, and its actual performance does not disappoint.
High-end DLP means that the Mars II can give you the vibrancy and details that are missing from most LCD projectors but will still keep rainbows well-hidden. Miracast compatibility will allow you to mirror your phone easily. Whether you want to use this for a quick slideshow or some serious selfie analysis will be up to you, since the Mars II can handle both.
Finally, the battery life will last for up to 4 hours, and you’ll get HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity features in a 4-pound package.
BenQ W200 3D Home Cinema DLP Projector
Nothing says “immersion” like 3D visuals and truly powerful sounds. That is exactly what the BenQ W2000 offers, thanks to its 20-watt speaker and fully featured 3D playback capabilities. The resolution leaves nothing to the imagination, benching with 1920 by 1080. Meanwhile, the contrast ratio of up to 15,000:1 and 2,000 lumens mean that this projector is powerful enough to handle standard city conditions without making your movies blurry or grainy.
Expect fast action scenes to offer the occasional rainbow effect, however. This is unavoidable with DLP projectors up to a certain point, and to be honest, you would find the same amount of rainbows in many projectors that cost twice as much. Their HDMI support, on the other hand, is more than just a port; it allows you to transmit and play full stereo sound, with rich basses and decent volumes.
The Home Cinema projector weighs nearly 8 pounds.
Epson VS240 SVGA Projector
If you are not yet completely sold on the necessity of 3D, then the Epson VS240 will offer you one of the most competitive prices and an equally impressive image quality. It weighs only 5.3 pounds, but its slim construction makes it easy to carry and fit in any nook and cranny. Being 11.7 inches in length, but only 3.2 in height means you can squeeze it where your old cable box used to go.
As it has both USB type-A and type-B ports, it will quickly adapt to most PC video outputs, laptops, or even smartphones. Lamp-life is highly dependent on the type of use, however: keeping images on bright or vivid mode will bring down the full potential of 10,000 hours (provided by Eco mode) to around 5,000.
The image quality remains great both at night and with moderate daylight, and colors remain truer than your local politicians. On the other hand, while an integrated speaker is included, it keeps its volume modest and its sound quality a bit deficient. Nonetheless, those who need an entry-level gadget will be more than happy with the VS240.
We are not sure if the U included in the model’s name is supposed to mean “Uber,” but it may as well because the 4K resolution offered by the UHD60 may cost more than the average product on this list, but it will be a worthy investment if you can afford it.
In addition, its fully powered stereo will fill an entire room with high fidelity sounds, or will beam the blasts on your next action flick across your entire yard. The contrast ratio is 1,000,000:1, which is not a typo. Add in 3,000 lumens, and the resulting image will be worth every dollar.
These weighty features are reflected in the 16-pound carrying load.
Epson Home Cinema 730 HD
It’s a rare projector that has the ability to keep its potency outdoors and its sharpness indoors. The Epson Home Cinema 730HD is, therefore, a rare jewel, with more than enough advantages to make up for the lack of 3D compatibility.
Not that it lacks the ability to be connected to almost anything in your home. Two USB ports (Types A and B), an HDMI port, composite video, fully-featured VGA display options, and decent integrated speakers offer a well-rounded package. Furthermore, weighing only 5.3 pounds and with less than 12 inches in length, it falls well within the range of “portable” that we all have a secret craving for.
Thanks to its LCD technology, rainbow effects are nonexistent. Colors remain sharp and bright under dark and light environmental conditions alike. Low graphic noise makes it a good option for games, although you may miss a kill move at some point.
LG HF80JA Laser Smart Home Theater Projector
A Laser Class 1 Product may be a bit of a hassle at an international border, but it should never be said that the image quality it offers is not worth the price and time. This is a fully featured LCoS projector, although LG has still managed to keep the price down. It’s on the same level as many high-end LCD outdoor projectors.
This model provides full HD images with a resolution of up to 1920 x 1080. The display can grow as large 120 inches wide, although resizing works without a hitch. Setup may be a bit complicated the first time, but thanks to its lamp life of up to 20,000 hours, you will get the kind of product that will be a part of your weekends for years to come.
In addition, rather than looking like an oversized cable box, the design is pleasant and only slightly futuristic: deep and tall rather than thick, with a smooth front curve that provides the speaker with extra accuracy. The wireless screen shares a connection that can be set up easily with your smartphone, laptop, or any other Bluetooth-compatible device.
APEMAN Mini Portable Projector
The final entry on this list is Apeman’s miniature but reliable gadget. When they say this is the ultimate pocket-sized projector, they truly mean it. We are talking about 3.8 x 3.8 x 0.85 inches and a little over 1 pound. You can pull this out of your trench coat or purse, plug it in through its USB or HDMI ports, and begin projecting immediately.
The James Bond vibe of Apeman’s creation is further compounded by the low-noise, low-heat construction. The estimated lens life is 45,000 hours, despite the full HD images it offers. The full display size can grow up to 100’’ at a distance of only 4 meters. The contrast ratio is barely 1000:1, but that does not make this product any less of an engineering wonder.
Outdoor Projectors 101 – What Counts?
Unless you were an AV geek back in high school, the chances are that a lot of the terminology used when describing projectors is confusing and means little to you. However, behind acronyms and resolution numbers lays the promise of the image quality that we may get or not.
When looking for the ideal outdoor projector, there are three main types to be considered. LCD (liquid crystal) projectors are among the most popular nowadays and are generally the least expensive ones of the bunch. They offer bright colors, they consume less energy, and although they have a tendency to make their blacks look a bit gray, especially when external light pollution is factored in.
DLP (digital light processing) projectors, on the other hand, offer truly black blacks and sharper color definition. However, they are a bit more expensive, and the low to mid-range models don’t perform well with fast frames. They are liable to something called the rainbow effect, which makes complex colors appear as a quick series of red, greens, and blues, producing a fast-moving rainbow.
LCoS (Liquid crystal on silicon) projectors are the unmistakable winners among all projector categories, as they combine the high definition of LCD with the reflection of DLPs projectors and also feature the best contrast available. However, they are still relatively new and scarce, and therefore supremely expensive. They are usually reserved for professional equipment and may be out of the range for a home user.
There are two features that you should pay close attention to, regardless of the projector type: lumens and contrast ration. Lumens indicates the brightness of the overall image projected (with higher numbers indicating brighter results). Meanwhile, the contrast ratio refers to the full difference between the whitest white and the blackest black offered by a specific projector. The contrast ratio is usually a game breaker for indoor AV equipment. In the case of outdoor projectors, though, light pollution makes it take a backseat.