Best outdoor projector: recreate the theater experience outside

The best outdoor projectors for your backyard let you catch your favorite films (or Netflix series!) and enjoy the summer weather, too

Included in this guide:

best outdoor projector: NEBULA Mars II Pro
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(Image credit: Anker)

We all wish we had a home cinema room to enjoy, and never more so than now, with a trip to the theater becoming something we've been doing a lot less of recently.

But there's a more affordable option - creating an outdoor theater in your very own backyard 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.

 The best outdoor projectors 2021

LG CineBeam PH510P HD Ready Mini Projector

(Image credit: LG)

1. LG CineBeam PH510P HD Ready Mini Projector

Best outdoor projector overall

Specifications
Type: DLP
Native resolution: 720p
Brightness: 550 lumens
Contrast ratio: 100,000:1
Noise: 30dB
Distance: 4.1-10.2ft
Screen : 25-100"
Lamp life: 30,000 hours
Dimensions: 1.7 x 6.9 x 4.3in
Weight: 1.4lbs
Reasons to buy
+720p HD resolution+Excellent contrast ratio+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Low brightness-Smaller maximum screen size

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 favorite 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 traveling, 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. 

DBPOWER L21 LCD Video Projector

(Image credit: DBPOWER)

2. DBPOWER L21 LCD Video Projector

Best outdoor projector on a budget

Specifications
Type: LCD
Native resolution: 720p
Brightness: 8,000 lumens
Contrast ratio: 5,000:1
Distance: 3-16ft
Screen: 40-200"
Lamp life: 60,000 hours
Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.9 x 3in
Weight: 2.3lbs
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Good brightness and contrast ratio+720p HD resolution+Affordable price
Reasons to avoid
-N/A

The DBPower L21 LCD Video Projector is the ideal companion for backyard parties and camping trips alike - a more affordable option that's still lightweight enough to be transported anywhere your heart desires. It's designed with portability in mind, even coming with a carry case included.

Brightness and contrast won't blow anyone away, but you'll be able to enjoy a clear 720p HD image with 1080p support up to a decent screen size of 200". In addition, the projector is compatible with Amazon Fire TV Sticks, PCs and laptops, phones, tablets, USB drives, and more, besides ensuring that you'll be able to watch exactly what you want.

Vamvo L6200 1080P Full HD Video Projector

(Image credit: Vamvo)

3. Vamvo L6200 1080P Full HD Video Projector

Best outdoor projector for movies

Specifications
Type: LCD
Native resolution: 1080p
Brightness: 5,000 lumens
Contrast ratio: 8,000:1
Distance: 12.4-30.2ft
Screen: 45-300"
Lamp life: 50,000 hours
Dimensions: 14.7 x 11.3 x 5.8
Weight: 7.8lbs
Reasons to buy
+1080p Full HD resolution+Decent brightness and contrast ratio+Good 300" max screen size+Affordable price
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than some other portable projectors-Noisy fan-Minimum distance of 12.4ft from the screen

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 yard - 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.

NEBULA Apollo Smart Portable Projector

(Image credit: Nebula)

4. NEBULA Apollo Smart Portable Projector

Best smart outdoor projector

Specifications
Type: DLP
Native resolution: 480p
Brightness: 200 lumens
Noise: 30dB
Distance: 3.8-9.6ft
Screen: 40-100"
Lamp life: 30,000 hours
Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 5.1in
Weight: 1.6lbs
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Android 7.1 built in a+Nebula Connect app
Reasons to avoid
-480p resolution-Low brightness-Smaller maximum screen size

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.

NEBULA Mars II Pro Smart HD Ready Portable Projector

(Image credit: Nebula)

5. NEBULA Mars II Pro Smart HD Ready Portable Projector

Best outdoor projector for camping

Specifications
Type: DLP
Native resolution: 720p
Brightness: 200-500 lumens
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Distance: 3.4-8.7ft
Noise: 32dB
Screen: 40-100"
Lamp life: 30,000 hours
Dimensions: 7 x 5.2 x 4.8in
Weight: 4lbs
Reasons to buy
+720p HD resolution+Android 7.1 built in a+Nebula Connect app
Reasons to avoid
-Low brightness-Smaller maximum screen size-Heavier than some-Expensive

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. 

Kodak Luma 150 Portable (1080p Compatible) Projector

(Image credit: Kodak)

6. Kodak Luma 150 Portable (1080p Compatible) Projector

Best mini outdoor projector

Specifications
Type: DLP
Native resolution: 480p
Brightness: 60 lumens
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Screen: up to 150"
Dimensions: 3.1 x 3.1 x 0.87in
Weight: 1lbs
Reasons to buy
+Very lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-480p resolution-Very low brightness and contrast ratio-Smaller maximum screen size

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. 

NEBULA Capsule

(Image credit: Nebula)

7. NEBULA Capsule

Specifications
Type: DLP
Native resolution: 480p
Brightness: 100 lumens
Distance: 3.7-9.4ft
Screen: 40-100"
Lamp life: 30,000 hours
Dimensions: 2.6 x 2.6 x 4.7in
Weight: 1lbs
Reasons to buy
+Good sound quality+Compatible with streaming services+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-480p resolution-Low brightness-Smaller maximum screen size

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.

 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.

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 play back 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 summer's past, then 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 backyard, 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 to 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!

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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.

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