We all wish we had a home cinema room to enjoy, and never more so than now, with a trip to the theatre becoming something we've been doing a lot less of recently.
But there's a more affordable option - creating an outdoor theatre in your very own garden with one of the best outdoor projectors. Capable of offering support for 4K, HDR, and more, they really are the next best thing.
We've rounded up some of the very finest projectors on offer right now, and each of them offers 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 consider connectivity.
You can see which products we ranked highest below, as well as some advice on how to choose the right one for you. Alternatively, if you're looking for an indoor option, take a look at our guide to the best projectors.
The best outdoor projectors 2021
Our pick for the best outdoor projector all-rounder, the LG PH510P HD LED 3D Portable CineBeam Projector, is a mid-range option with 3D support and incredible contrast ratio - perfect for enjoying your favourite movies in 720p HD resolution. However, the brightness could be better, so we'd recommend using it only at night in darker conditions.
Portability is good, too, with the projector weighing in at just 1.4lbs. It's small enough to carry in a bag when you're travelling, or just from the living room to the garden, and you can use it for about two and a half hours on a single charge. It can project up to 100", or as small as 40" depending on where you are.
There's an integrated stereo speaker, but you can easily connect external speakers via Bluetooth if you want to ensure great sound to go along with the picture.
If you're looking for brightness and depth of image, then the Vamvo Video Projector has you covered, putting out 5,000 lumens with a contrast ratio of 8,000:1. This makes it ideal for many different situations, including daytime movie watching in the garden - offering a native 4K image that will look fantastic.
The projector can reach an impressive maximum screen size of 300". There is also a built-in 5W Hi-Fi stereo speaker with Dolby Support, allowing you to get away with not purchasing an additional Bluetooth speaker.
It's incredibly versatile, too, with ports for HDMI, AV, USB, VGA, SD cards, and audio out connections. HDMI and AV cables are included with your purchase, along with a handy carrying bag that lets you pack up the projector and take it wherever it's needed.
The only downside is the weight, which comes in heavier than other 'portable' projectors, and some reviewers complained of a loud fan.
The first entry in our list for Nebula, a popular brand for solid portable projectors, the Nebula Apollo Smart Projector has Android already built-in to allow users to watch content from Netflix, YouTube, and other apps without needing it to connect their phone or laptop. You can also stream via AirPlay, Miracast or Bluetooth if you prefer.
You will need the Nebula Connect app to control the projector or use the transparent touch panel on the top of the device. The Apollo offers around four hours of movie watching on a single charge, or up to 30 hours when used as a speaker in battery mode.
The big drawback is the brightness, which will require you to use the projector only in very dark settings.
A super cute projector that you can use outside, the Nebula Mars II Pro is the company's most naturally portable offering, with its convenient carry handle included in the design. Offering a brightness of 500 lumens (which beats out the Apollo above) and a 720p native resolution, it's not the most high-end projector on our list, but its ease of use earns it a place.
Those with sensitive ears might want to connect a separate Bluetooth speaker for maximum sound quality, but the dual 10W speakers built into the Mars II Pro do an adequate job.
It can also project up to 150", with HDMI and USB ports to connect everything from your laptop to your PlayStation. The projector runs on Android 7.1, so you also have all of the apps on offer there.
If you're looking for an ultra ultra-portable pico projector, then the Kodak Luma 150 is a great option. With a built-in speaker and rechargeable battery on board, you can literally pop it in a backpack or handbag and take a screen size of up to 150" with you absolutely anywhere.
Of course, while the Kodak projector can be used to watch movies or play games on the go, it's also perfect for a lot of other things. Reviewers reported using it to project images for drawing, for example, which may be more suitable for the unimpressive 60 lumens of brightness. Or you can use it for your next work presentation.
Sporting a built-in Bluetooth speaker and an app selection that dwarfs much of the competition, the Nebula is a big projector in a tiny package.
The battery life lasts about four hours, and there are a few different ways to access content. An HDMI connection is included, but the Capsule sets itself apart with built-in smarts running on Android, allowing you to access apps including Netflix and YouTube. There's also AirPlay to cast from your iPhone.
The image quality projected by the Nebula Capsule is best at night, with the projector struggling a little in daylight conditions. We recommend this projector for its convenient app library but, if you're looking for the very best image quality, you may want to look elsewhere.
One of the few outdoor projectors on our list that comes with its own projector screen, the YABER Wi-Fi Mini Projector is recommended for those who are short of time but want the full garden cinema package.
The Yaber mini projector can be used either wired or wireless, and you can mirror content from iOS and Android devices and via AirPlay. Maximum display resolution goes all the way up to 4K Ultra HD, with a native resolution of 1280x720, and in-built HiFi speakers mean you have the choice of whether to connect your own Bluetooth or outdoor speakers.
Some reviewers of the projector complained of the cooling fan being too noisy, which can be a common problem for projectors. Some ways to alleviate some of this annoyance are to place the projector far enough away, so it is less of a bother and place it in a shady spot away from direct sunshine.
How to choose the best outdoor projector
When choosing the best outdoor projector to suit your needs, there are a few factors worth careful consideration.
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 play back in at least HD resolution to ensure the picture is of reasonable quality.
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 outdoor home cinema
If you want to recreate an outdoor cinema from summers past, all you really need are a few things that are probably already in the house. Technically, a sheet, or a white wall and an outdoor projector are 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 to 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. However, 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 solid 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 your duvet and hang up a net canopy to create an almost outdoor bedroom. Dreamy!
Make sure you've got the best garden furniture with plenty of cushions, and roll out one of our choices for the best 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!
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