Best outdoor projector: great options for recreating the cinema experience outside

The best outdoor projectors for if you're missing trips to your local cinema this year

best outdoor projector
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Let’s face it, we all wish we had a home cinema room, and never more so in the past year when a trip to the cinema has become nothing but a distant memory. But there’s an affordable option - creating an outdoor cinema in your very own garden with a great outdoor projector. Capable of offering support for 4K, HDR and more, they really are the next best thing.

We’ve rounded up some of the very best projectors on offer right now, and each of them offer something that makes them recommendable. Does audio quality matter a lot to you? Or do you want the very best picture quality (or both?!)? Some also have 3D capabilities that will take your movie night to the next level and, if you’re keen on smart home products, then make sure to take into account connectivity. Scroll down to see what we thought.

Of course, if you’re not sure about incorporating an outdoor cinema into your set-up quite yet (or you don't want to wait until summer weather arrives), then take a look at our guide to the best TVs for your living room, so you can still enjoy your next Netflix binge at home. 

 The best outdoor projector 2021

Best outdoor projector: BenQ TK850 Projector

(Image credit: BenQ)

1. BenQ TK850 Projector

Best outdoor projector

Specifications
Lumens: 3000
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Contrast ratio: 30,000:1
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly bright picture+Support for 4K and HDR+Sports mode
Reasons to avoid
-No streaming apps

This projector boasts an amazing 4K resolution, boosted audio, an intense brightness and a focus on sports broadcasts, which really helps it to stand out from the crowded projector market.

This projector really is for the Live Sports Enthusiasts, and those of you who just appreciate a very impressive picture. You can replicate the football games in your living room, or garden, to create the ultimate stadium experience. This model even comes with Custom Sports modes, with powerful sounds, for that all-round home cinema experience.

The HDR-PRO technology works with the 4K HDR to enhance the viewing experience, offering a wider field of contrast to bring out every detail of the scenes as they unfold.

When the projector must be placed off-centre, such as placing it on a table on uneven ground, the vertical keystone function will adjust the image so it is ideally aligned for viewing.

Featuring a powerful 10-watt chambered speaker, this projector will enhance the sound of you games, movies and favourite shows, whether you're in or outside the house.

Best outdoor projector: BenQ (TK800M) True 4K HDR Projector

(Image credit: BenQ)

2. BenQ (TK800M) True 4K HDR Projector

Best 4K outdoor projector

Specifications
Lumens: 3000
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Contrast ratio: 3000:1
Reasons to buy
+Stunning picture quality+Dedicated Football & Sport modes+Compact profile+Good price for a 4K UHD projector
Reasons to avoid
-Not a lot of zoom

To closely follow on from the top spot for our Australian readers is this; the BenQ (TK800M) True 4K HDR Projector. It's in the position and not at the top because of the hefty price tag BUT if you are willing to spend that bit extra then this really is a good option to consider.

This projector will make the most out of sporting events or movie marathons in your backyard, all with a huge 100"+ projected 4K UHD 8.3 million pixel picture with vivid HDR colour.

The high dynamic range is on hand to offer greater brightness, contrast range, and image optimisation, to bring out every detail in 4K video content for superior cinema enjoyment.

When the projector must be placed off-centre, such as placing it on a table on uneven ground, the vertical keystone function will adjust the image so it is ideally aligned for viewing.

For stunning fast-pace imagery, this projector deploys Sport Picture Mode. It will render realistic colours with balanced green and blues so all the action can unfold across the big screen. There's also Sport Sound Mode which accentuates the acoustics so it will feel like you're surrounded by the crowd in the arena.

 

Best outdoor projector: Epson EB-E01 Portable Projector

(Image credit: Epson)

3. Epson EB-E01 Portable Projector

Best budget outdoor projector

Specifications
Lumens: 3300
Resolution: 1024 x 768
Contrast ratio: 15,000:1
Reasons to buy
+Impressive image quality for price+Very affordable +Comes with a speaker
Reasons to avoid
-Does not offer HD

If you're on a slightly tighter budget you can't look past the capabilities of this projector.

When it comes to watching films outside, the brighter the lumens the better. It means there’s a greater contrast against any background light, which should mean a higher quality image.

While it may not boast HD resolution, this projector has a pretty impressive contrast ratio, too, so there should be no compromise made to your favourite movie scenes. 

If you’re looking for an affordable, portable projector for the occasional film in the garden, then this Epson pretty much ticks all the boxes.  

best outdoor projector: Optoma H183X Full 3D HD

4. Optoma H184X 3600 Lumens HD Ready Projector

Best outdoor projector for gamers

Specifications
Lumens: 3600
Resolution: 1280 x 800
Contrast ratio: 28,000:1
Reasons to buy
+Super bright picture +Wireless streaming ability+Quick response time good for gamers, too 
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best speakers around

Movie lovers, football fans and game players will love this projector, and it gets our vote for the best outdoor projector for gamers. With a fast response time, this model is great for action films and action-heavy games.

Thanks to a massive 3,600 lumens and an excellent contrast ratio, you can expect to experience a great picture whether you’re inside or out. And 3D fans are catered for, too. You can choose how you connect with multiple in / outputs: HDMI, VGA in/out, Composite video, Audio in/out, RS232. Just to keep things simple..

best outdoor projector: Goodee Upgraded Video Projector

(Image credit: Goodee )

5. GooDee Upgraded Video Projector

Best entry-level outdoor projector

Specifications
Lumens: 5800
Resolution: 1080p
Contrast ratio: 3000:1
Reasons to buy
+Good picture quality+Easy to set up
Reasons to avoid
-Fan is a little noisy

This projector is another good option if budget is tight, and it comes highly recommended on Amazon with reference to an easy setup and good picture quality, too.

This model is an upgrade from one of the best selling projectors at GooDee, and they've upgraded the lumens to make it a whole lot brighter. Together with the 3000: 1 contrast ratio and wider viewing, you'll be able to enjoy this bigger, brighter image in low light or in an outdoor spot like the backyard.

This projector works on a wide variety of screen sizes, with a viewing screen range of 44"-230", at distances of 4. 9ft - 18ft. It works optimally with a 98" screen at a distance of 10 ft. away. 

This video projector can easily connect to a range of devices: Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast, PC, laptop, tablet, and so on, via the HDMI, USB, VGA and AV ports. (Phew! That's a lot of entertainment coverage, right there!) So, with this in mind, you can not only stream content from a range of devices but you could also set up some surround sound with 2 built-in 3W speakers, too.

best outdoor projector: Vankyo Leisure 3 Projector

(Image credit: Vankyo )

6. VANKYO LEISURE 3 Projector

Best mini outdoor projector

Specifications
Lumens: 2400
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Contrast ratio: 2000:1
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful, clear picture+Quick and easy to set up+Projects a large screen
Reasons to avoid
-Requires a dark room (or for the sun to be fully set) for the best performance

If you're looking for a portable projector to use around your house or backyard then this projector from Vankyo should fit the bill.

This 2019 model underwent a tech update, so it now projects a 6 percent brighter picture than what it achieved before. It's also been updated with the 2018 revolutionary renewed 2400 lumens for an incredible picture quality.

You can choose to watch your favourite movies on any screen sizes from 32in, right up to a massive 170in. And you can pretty much position it anywhere within viewing range thanks to a projection distance of between 4.9ft to 16.4ft.

Setup is mega easy with a HDMI lightning cable for iPhone, plus a MHL cable for Android, although you will have to buy these separately to take advantage of the connection.

Alternatively you can easily stream content from the Amazon Fire TV stick, video consoles, PCs, laptops (etc) with the HDMI input.

How to choose the best outdoor projector

When it comes to choosing the best outdoor projector to suit your needs, there are a few factors worth careful consideration.

Image quality

For a projector to provide a quality image outside, 2,000 lumens is the lowest you can go in terms of brightness. Outdoor projectors should also playback in at least HD resolution to ensure the picture is of reasonable quality.

Screen

Aside from those fairly important tech specs, consider whether you’ll need to purchase a screen or whether the side of the house or your garage door will do. 

Film source and sound

Consider the source of your film – will you need to bring a laptop or games console outside? Many outdoor projectors have limited volume so some good outdoor speakers will also always help, especially if you are broadcasting to a crowd. Browse our list of the best outdoor speakers to connect with your projector.

Also note: most outdoor projectors are not compatible with Dolby Digital, so if you find that you're having trouble with sound, turn off Dolby Digital on your device.

How to create a cosy outdoor cinema

Outdoor projector in use in garden with couple laying on floor

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to recreate an outdoor cinema from summers past then all you really need are a few things which are probably already in the house. Technically, a sheet, or a white wall and an outdoor projector is all that's required, but we think it's the extras that make it all the more special plus a little imagination... 

Step one: set up the outdoor projector
It's best to do this first because it might determine where you can set up your outdoor cinema. You will have to have it connected to a video source so do that first so you can work out how far away from the source you can have it. Pop it on a side table and a stool and then you can move on to sorting out your screen. 

Step two: rig up your sheet
Obviously, if you have a blank white wall in your garden you can skip this step because you will be projecting straight onto that. If you are using a sheet,  we think the least damaging way to get it up is to peg it to a washing line – you could try using a very strong masking tape to tape it to a wall too. 

Turn on your projector now and check it's straight and the picture is central. 

Step three: get decorating
So with the essentials sorted now comes the fun bit, making it look like the most Instagrammable thing you have ever created in your life. Basically that means string up A TON of fairy lights, the more the better. We love the look of festoon lights and you could also add some lanterns to create even more of a lovely glow. And if you are feeling really extra, bring out you duvet and hang up a net canopy to create am almost outdoor bedroom. Dreamy!

Make sure your garden furniture is extra comfy by adding plenty of cushions and roll out an outdoor rug to create an even more outdoor living room feel. Pop some blankets in baskets and over the back of your furniture, and if you want to get really cosy add a fire pit or a chimenea. You could even toast some marshmallows – kids and adults alike would love it!

What is the best outdoor projector?

If you want the best outdoor projector (in our opinion) then we wouldn't hesitate to buy the BenQ TK850 Projector. It has an out-of-this-world 4K resolution, boosted audio, an intense brightness and a focus on sports broadcasts so, really, it has the complete package for a fab movie marathon in the garden.

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Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been part of the Real Homes ecommerce team in the UK since the start of 2021, after working for the last decade as a journalist across publications in technology, entertainment and more. In her spare time she's usually obsessing about space-saving and DIY hacks for small spaces, and how to affordably make a rental feel like a home.