Best outdoor projector: recreate the theater experience outside

The best outdoor projectors for your backyard if you’re missing those trips to the local theater

best out door projector: QKK AK81 projector outdoor cinema
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(Image credit: QKK)

Let’s face it, we all wish we had a home cinema room to enjoy, and never more so than when a trip to the theater has become something of a distant memory.

But there’s an affordable option - creating an outdoor theater in your very own backyard 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 theater into your set-up quite yet (or you’re not enjoying the right kind of weather), then take a look at our guide to the best TVs for your lounge, so you can still enjoy your next Netflix binge at home.  

 The best outdoor projectors 2021

best outdoor projector: BenQ TK850

(Image credit: BenQ)

1. BenQ TK850 Projector

Best backyard projector

Specifications
Lumens: 3000
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Contrast ratio: 30000:1
Dimensions: 11 x 10.3 x 5in
Weight: 9.2lbs
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly bright picture+Support for 4K and HDR+Sports mode
Reasons to avoid
-No streaming apps

The BenQ TK850 projector boasts an amazing 4K resolution, boosted audio, and an intense brightness and a focus on sports broadcasts, which really helps it to stand out from the crowded projector market.

This projector is a top pick for sports enthusiasts, as well as anyone who appreciates impressive picture quality. You can replicate the football games in your living room, or backyard, to create the ultimate stadium experience. This model even comes with Custom Sports modes with boosted sound for that all around 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-center, for example, 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 your games, movies and favorite shows, whether you're in or outside the house.

best outdoor projector: Vankyo C630

(Image credit: Vankyo)

2. Vankyo C630 Performance Full HD Projector

Best outdoor projector under $200

Specifications
Resolution: 1080p
Contrast ratio: 6000:1
Dimensions: 18 x 12.6 x 6.2in
Weight: 8.8lbs
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Good connectivity+Great image resolution and contrast ratio
Reasons to avoid
-No streaming apps-Not specifically designed for outdoor use

The Vankyo Performance V630 is a fantastic budget-friendly option that boasts 1080p Full HD image resolution, great connectivity and more. It's small and light enough to be portable and will last 50,000 hours without losing brightness.

If you are someone who is bothered by the whirring noise that comes from many projectors, potentially drowning out he sound from what you're watching, then the Vankyo comes recommended. Due to its in-built cooling system and other clever tech, it cuts fan noise by up to 80%.

You won't have trouble finding ways to play media through your projector, as it has 2 x HDMI ports, AB, VGA, USB, SD Card and Audio Out. In addition to this, you can connect the V630 to streaming sticks, X-BOX, PS4, PCs and laptops, USB sticks and Android/iOS mobile devices. Basically, if you want to watch something through the projector, you probably can.

best outdoor projector: BenQ TK800M

(Image credit: BenQ)

3. BenQ TK800M

Best outdoor projector for sports

Specifications
Lumens: 3000
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Contrast ratio: 3000:1
Dimensions: 13.7 x 5.1 x 11in
Weight: 9.2lbs
Reasons to buy
+Stunning image quality+Dedicated sports mode+Compact+Good price for a 4K UHD projector
Reasons to avoid
- Not a lot of zoom capability

The only reason the BenQ TK800M True 4K HDR Projector is in the position and not at the top of our list is because of the hefty price tag BUT if you are willing to spend a little extra then it’s really 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: QKK AK-81projector

(Image credit: QKK)

4. QKK Mini Projector AK-81

Best entry-level outdoor projector

Specifications
Lumens: 6500
Resolution: 1080p
Contrast ratio: 2000:1
Dimensions: 7 x 6 x 2.3in
Weight: 4.3lbs
Reasons to buy
+Projection screen included+Really light and portable+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Sound from in-built speakers could be better-Not as bright as some

The QKK portable mini projector is the most affordable on our list, but it still holds its own against many more high-end alternatives. With built-in speakers and a really lightweight design, it's also ideal for those who want to use the projector outside the majority of the time.

Some reviewers questioned the brightness (it is best used in very dark conditions), but overall it comes recommended for those who need an affordable option with good connectivity and ease-of-use.

While most outdoor projectors come as a single unit by themselves, the QKK mini projector arrives fully equipped with its very own screen. This makes it a good choice if you want to get your garden theater or drive-in up and running as soon as possible, as it comes ready to use, even if you don't currently have a white wall big enough.

best outdoor projector: Optoma UHD60 3000 Lumens 4K UHD Projector

(Image credit: Optoma )

5. Optoma UHD60 3000 Lumens 4K UHD Projector

Best outdoor projector for contrast

Specifications
Lumens: 3000
Resolution: 4K
Contrast ratio: 1,000,000:1
Reasons to buy
+ Boasts stereo speakers + Incredible 4K resolution 
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Does not support 3D

If you're looking for the best 4K viewing outdoors, and you're prepared to pay the hefty price tag, then this is the projector for you.

For your money, you're guaranteed to receive stunning 4K quality and incredible color contrasting. This means enjoying your favorite film and TV series in the best possible quality. 

As well as a stunning visual experience, this model also boasts impressive stereo sound. This is where the Optoma UHD60 really makes an impression compared with other models on the market.

Arguably, this is the kind of stereo you buy for your cinema room (it’s hard to justify the outlay otherwise), but when you want to benefit from the full 4K quality of your Blu-ray DVDs outside, this is the kind of money you’re going to have to spend.

 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 cozy backyard theater

Outdoor projector in use in garden with couple laying on floor

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to recreate an outdoor theater 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 backyard 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 put up A TON of string 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 comforter and hang up a net canopy to create your own 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 cozy feel. Pop some blankets in baskets and over the back of your furniture, and you can even add a fire pit or a chimenea. Get creative and 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 backyard.

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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.