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Best outdoor projector 2022: Enjoy movies, TV shows and sports under the open sky

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Set up your screen and grab the popcorn. It’s time to take your favourite films outside with the best outdoor projectors

From drive-ins to outdoor screenings, there’s a long history of enjoying movies outside, and with the best outdoor projectors, you and your family can experience that joy at home. Affordable screens and cheap portable projectors mean that anyone can set up their own garden cinema, share the big sports events outside or even take their big-screen entertainment with them on their travels. And when the weather doesn’t play ball? Don’t worry, because these same projectors are great indoors as well.

Of course, the requirements for outdoor projection differ from regular indoor screenings. You can’t rely on a fancy surround-sound system or soundbar for your audio, and you also have to deal with more in the way of ambient light. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to steer you towards the best projector for outdoor use, and give you some advice on the features you need to look out for.


The best outdoor projectors: at a glance


How to choose the best outdoor projector for you

Should I buy a portable or mains-powered projector?

The best projectors for outdoor use are generally portable projectors, and preferably those with a built-in power source. Sure, you can trail an extension cable out into your garden, but a battery-powered projector will be much more flexible as to where and when you can use it.

LED-based portable projectors, which use LEDs as the light source, are energy-efficient and easy to power from a lithium-ion battery. A full charge will usually see you through a Hollywood movie, and LEDs also last a whole lot longer than the bulbs used in most budget and mid-range home cinema projectors.

What resolution do I need?

The cheapest models generally feature a native 480p standard definition resolution, even if they claim that they support HD (720p) or Full HD (1080p) content. As you move up the price range, you’ll find HD and Full HD models creeping in, and we’re now seeing some 4K portable projectors. The higher the resolution, the crisper the image, and the more detail you’ll see on the screen.

READ NEXT: Display resolutions explained: HD, Full HD, 4K and more

How bright should my projector be?

Higher levels of brightness will generally mean a brighter picture with more contrast and more vibrant colours, even indoors. Outdoors, that becomes crucial. Even if you wait until nightfall to start your film, you might still have to contend with moonglow and nearby street lighting. What’s more, low brightness levels will affect how big your picture can go. The further the distance and the bigger the image, the lower the intensity of the light that hits the screen.

If you have to choose between brightness and resolution, brightness wins every time. It will normally be measured in ANSI lumens, and while you can get away with 100 lumens and still project at night, going up to 200 lumens or (preferably) 400 lumens and beyond will get you a better-looking picture.

Are there any other essential features?

The final must-haves are HDMI connectivity for hooking up your source and a decent set of adjustments for zooming and keystone correction. Without the latter, you can end up with a picture that looks less like a rectangle and more like a trapezoid, and automated correction can save you a whole lot of hassle.

Do I need special audio equipment?

Most portable projectors can output audio, and while it won’t be the full-on Dolby Digital experience, the onboard speakers can be loud and good enough for casual movie watching. If not, many have either an analogue or S/PDIF audio out or Bluetooth connectivity, which you can use to hook up a speaker or a set of headphones.

A Bluetooth speaker with a low-latency connection can be a decent stand-in for a soundbar, while headphones can be great if you’re watching alone. However, it can be a bit eerie sitting outside with headphones on at night – you might want to think twice about that Halloween movie marathon.

READ NEXT: The best portable and waterproof Bluetooth speakers

Should I budget for anything else?

We’d recommend budgeting for a portable screen, either with a tripod stand or a pull-up mechanism, to achieve a cleaner, brighter image. Alternatively, a smooth white wall or a sheet of plywood painted with white gloss or specialist projector paint can do the job, provided you get a nice finish.

It’s also worth having a tripod, stand or stable surface for the projector itself. Some portable models will sit happily on a tripod, which gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of placement. Otherwise, anything that will sit near the screen and hold the projector level is a definite plus.

What’s the best source for playing movies?

Think about getting a streaming stick (if you’re in Wi-Fi range) or a Chromecast so that you can stream Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Disney Plus to your projector, or even download content to your phone or tablet, then stream from there. It’s a bit neater and easier than using, say, a Blu-ray player for your source, not least because you’ll need to power it. Otherwise, a smartphone or tablet with your movies downloaded can make a decent source.

READ NEXT: The best streaming sticks from Amazon, Roku and Google

The best outdoor projector to buy in 2022

1. ViewSonic M1 Mini Plus: Best outdoor projector under £250

Price: £215 | Buy now from Amazon

The M1 Mini Plus is tiny, but despite its pocket-sized dimensions, its pictures can still pack a punch – in the right conditions. With 150 lumens to work with, you’ll have to wait until nightfall to start watching outdoors and, taking into account the limited 854 x 480 resolution, you won’t want to project as large as the theoretical maximum 100in. However, keep the screen size a little smaller, and you’ll find that the picture is perfectly watchable. It’s a shame that the built-in speaker is so tinny, but you can hook up a Bluetooth speaker for an audio boost.

With a battery life of just 90 minutes, you’ll either need to keep your movies short or the charger plugged in, as this isn’t a projector you can run from a mobile power bank. However, there are a few extras to compensate: Wi-Fi connectivity, a built-in Android media player and the Aptoide marketplace for steaming apps. All told, this is a great little projector for the money, with better image quality than most of the other budget brand options you’ll find at this price.

Key specs – Resolution: 848 x 480; Brightness: 150 lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: HDMI, USB-A, USB-C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Battery: 1.5 hours; Built-in apps: Yes; Tripod mount: No; Dimensions: 110 x 104 x 27mm; Weight: 280g


2. ViewSonic M1: Best budget outdoor projector

Price: £337 | Buy now from Amazon

If you can stretch toward this price, things really start to get interesting. With the M1 Mini Plus’ stablemate, the original ViewSonic M1, you’re still stuck with the same 848 x 480 resolution, but with an extra 100 lumens of brightness, you get a more impactful and vibrant picture that holds up reasonably well once the sun has set. The sound quality from its built-in speaker is also a big step up, and the battery life will get you through a decent-length movie on a single charge. Eco options are needed to hit the full six-hour quoted battery life, which comes at the expense of a dimmer image.

Connectivity is good, with everything you need to hook up an Android smartphone or streaming stick, and there’s also a headphones output. We’re big fans of the integrated handle, which doubles as a stand to tilt the projector upwards, though you can also mount it on a tripod. If you don’t want to seriously splash out on your outdoor cinema, this is the best budget model you can buy.

Key specs – Resolution: 848 x 480; Brightness: 250 lumens; Speakers: 3W dual Harman Kardon speakers; Connectivity: MicroSD, USB-C, USB-A, HDMI 1.4, 3.5mm headphone/audio; Battery: 2.5 to 6 hours; Built-in apps: No; Tripod mount: Yes; Dimensions: 126 x 148 x 40mm; Weight: 689g


3. LG CineBeam PH510PG: Best low-cost HD outdoor projector

Price: £379 | Buy now from Amazon

The LG CineBeam PH510PG feels like a step up into real home cinema, but it still comes in at under £350. Unlike the ViewSonic M1 and M1 Mini Plus, it has an HD resolution, albeit only an HD-ready 720p. Better still, brightness gets a boost to 550 lumens, which gives you a watchable image at twilight and a brighter, richer image after dark. The built-in battery lasts for up to 2.5 hours, too. With decent black levels, strong colour performance and a wider range of adjustments than most cheap projectors, this is the projector to go for if you want good image quality without breaking the bank.

It’s got convenience on its side as well, with wireless smartphone mirroring via LG’s Screen Share and Miracast plus Bluetooth audio – the latter much appreciated, as the built-in audio is weedy. Plus, with a USB Type-A port and an HDMI 1.4 port, you can easily hook up a streaming stick. You also get a good selection of adjustments, including automatic keystone correction, and even support for 3D.

Key specs – Resolution: 1,280 x 720; Brightness: 550 lumens; Speakers: 1W stereo speakers; Connectivity: D-SUB RGB, USB-A, Composite/Component AV in, HDMI 1.4, 3.5mm headphone/audio; Battery: 2.5 hours; Built-in apps: No; Tripod mount: Yes; Dimensions: 175 x 109.5 x 44mm; Weight: 650g


4. ViewSonic M2e: Best all-around outdoor projector

Price: £550 | Buy now from Amazon

The M2e is a slightly cheaper version of ViewSonic’s M2, with the same Full HD resolution but a slightly lower 1,000 lumens output and no built-in video streaming features. Those 1,000 lumens are still enough for a fantastic image of up to 100 inches in size, and with auto-focus and instant auto-keystone features, you can get there without too much hassle. What’s more, with coverage of 125% of the REC.709 colour standard, the picture quality is a clear cut above most portable projectors.

There’s no built-in battery in this projector, but the M2E has a nice little workaround in that you can plug in a 45W power bank. It also has great connectivity, with USB Type-C and Type-A ports, HDMI 1.4 and Wi-Fi, plus direct streaming from ViewSonic’s vCastSender app. It also has Bluetooth connectivity for speakers or headphones, although the onboard audio is good enough for you not to need a separate audio system plugged in. If you’ve got the budget for the best outdoor cinema projector, look no further: this is it.

Key specs – Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Brightness: 1,000 lumens; Speakers: 2x 3W stereo speakers; Connectivity: HDMI 1.4, USB Type-A, USB Type-C, microSD, 3.5mm audio, Bluetooth 4.2, 801.11n Wi-Fi; Battery: No; Built-in apps: No; Tripod mount: No; Dimensions: 184 x 184 x 54mm; Weight: 990g


5. Anker Nebula Solar: Best outdoor projector for features

Price: £550 | Buy now from Amazon

The Nebula Solar comes stacked with features while also delivering on picture quality, with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution and a brightness of 400 ANSI lumens. It even promises HDR10 support, though you need to be realistic about your expectations, given that there’s not really enough brightness on offer here to give a proper HDR experience. Still, it’s very convenient to use, with automatic focus and keystone correction, along with Google Assistant support via the bundled voice remote, which makes it incredibly easy to search for new apps and content.

The onboard Android TV features give you access to most of the major streaming platforms, including Disney Plus, Prime Video and Apple TV, though strangely no BBC iPlayer or Netflix. However, you can get around this by casting content directly to the projector via its built-in Chromecast receiver, including content you’ve downloaded to your phone or tablet if you’re out of Wi-Fi range. Picture quality isn’t up there with some pricier projectors, but this makes it into our line-up as a great all-around package.

Key specs – Resolution: 1920 x 1080; Brightness: 400 lumens; Speakers: 2x 3W stereo speakers; Connectivity: HDMI 2.0, USB Type-A, Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Battery: 3 hours; Built-in apps: Y; Tripod mount: Y; Dimensions: 192 x 192.5 x 590mm; Weight: 1Kg


6. Anker Nebula Capsule II: Best outdoor mini-projector

Price: £550 | Buy now from Amazon

The second-generation Nebula Capsule projector improves on the already great original by bumping up the resolution from 480p to 720p and doubling the light output from 100 to 200 ANSI lumens. That’s just enough to get a bright, sharp picture, especially if you wait until nightfall, and while the colours aren’t always the most natural, they still make for an enjoyable watch. The auto-focus and auto-setup features also mean you never have to fiddle with tricky adjustments.

This is another projector with built-in Android TV functions, giving you Chromecast features for easy streaming. Meanwhile, the 2.5hr battery life should see you through the evening’s entertainment. The other big plus with this projector is the audio, with a beefy little 8W speaker that gives the sound more weight and body than most mini-projectors could hope to deliver. It might be pricey, but this is the king of ultra-portable projectors.

Key specs – Resolution: 1,280 x 720; Brightness: 200 lumens; Speakers: 8W 270° speaker; Connectivity: HDMI 1.4, USB-C, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n Wi-Fi; Battery: 2.5 hours; Built-in apps: Yes; Tripod mount: Yes; Dimensions: 80 x 80 x 150mm; Weight: 740g


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