The Best Outdoor Projectors for Backyard Movie Nights

The Anker Nebula Solar Portable is the winner

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Father and son watching a movie outdoors with a movie projector

petrunjela / Getty Images

The perfect backyard movie night starts with finding a projector that’s portable and bright enough for your environment. When researching the best outdoor projectors, we evaluated products for brightness, portability, connectivity, and ease of use.

Our favorite outdoor projector, the Anker Nebula Solar Portable, comes with an internal battery that keeps it going for about three hours, powerful built-in speakers, and is simple to set up, thanks to autofocus and keystone correction.

Here are the best outdoor projectors.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Nebula Solar Portable

Nebula Solar Portable

Amazon

What We Like
  • Small and lightweight

  • Clear, bright picture

  • Good battery life

  • Autofocus and keystone work well

What We Don't Like
  • No carrying case

  • Doesn’t work well in full sunlight

The Anker Nebula Solar Portable has everything you need in an outdoor projector. This projector earns our best overall spot because it's small and lightweight, bright, has a long battery life, and has built-in speakers that work so well you might feel tempted to use it as a Bluetooth speaker for other devices. It has a native 1080-pixel resolution, with support for HDR10 (high dynamic range) for colors that pop, and you can use it with screens up to 120 inches. It's also bright enough to use outdoors in dim light, but the picture will look washed out if you try to use it during the day.

The 10,000-milliamp-hour battery provides enough power to run the Anker Nebula Solar for more than three hours, or you can plug it in for a marathon. As a bonus, the Nebula Solar Portable comes with an Anker PowerPort III charger. This 65-watt charger is powerful enough to charge the big battery in the Nebula Solar Portable while the projector is in use or quick-charge your iPhone or power devices that take power over USB-C—like a MacBook.

The Nebula Solar Portable is easy to set up for movie night. It has a built-in stand, or you can mount it on a standard tripod mount. It also includes automatic keystone correction, so you don't need to be an expert to get the picture squared up, and it has an auto-focus feature. This projector doesn't come with a carrying case, though, so you may want to budget for one if you plan on taking advantage of this model's portability.

Brightness: 400 ANSI lumens | Resolution: 1080 pixels | Dimensions: 7.6 x 7.6 x 2.3 inches | Projector Type: DLP | Ports: HDMI, USB-A, USB-C | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast


Best Mini: XGIMI MoGo Pro

XGIMI MoGo Pro

Amazon

What We Like
  • Quick auto-focus

  • Speakers from Harman Kardon

  • Small and lightweight

  • Built-in battery

What We Don't Like
  • Missing some key streaming apps

  • Too dim to use during daylight hours

  • Gets even dimmer on battery power

Mini projectors are great for use outdoors because they’re easy to grab and go. The XGIMI MoGo Pro embodies everything that makes for a great mini projector, with a small, lightweight frame, built-in battery, powerful onboard speakers, and Android TV built right in. The battery has enough power to keep the MoGo Pro running for at least two hours. You can stream over your Wi-Fi network or from your phone, so this mini projector is really all you need to start your own backyard movie night.

The XGIMI MoGo Pro is very straightforward to get up and running, even if you aren’t a projector expert. It includes an auto keystone correction feature, which means you don’t need to have the projector directly in line with the screen, and the projector will automatically adjust the picture. It also has two 3-watt Harman Kardon speakers built-in, which makes this mini projector the complete package.

Brightness: 300 ANSI Lumens | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels | Dimensions: 3.7 x 4.2 x 5.7 inches | Projector Type: DLP | Ports: HDMI, USB, Audio | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Best Budget: TMY Projector 7500 Lumens with 100 Inch Projector Screen

TMY Projector 7500 Lumens

Amazon

What We Like
  • Excellent price

  • Small and portable

  • Includes a 100-inch screen

What We Don't Like
  • Needs to be dark outside to see picture

  • No wireless connectivity

  • Built-in sound is weak 

The TMY projector is a great jumping-off point if you want to get a backyard movie night going on a tight budget. This affordable projector is small and lightweight, so it's easy to carry outside for an at-home screening. It includes big adjustment wheels for focus and keystone that are easy to understand if you're new to projectors, and it also comes with a 100-inch projector screen as a bonus. 

This model is a pretty basic projector without many extra features, and that's reflected in the price. There is no built-in streaming platform or wireless connectivity, but you can connect your phone, laptop, or media streaming device via an HDMI adapter. The TMY projector also includes a secure digital (SD) card slot and USB port for playing compatible media files. However, the picture quality is a little on the dim side, so it's best used outdoors after dark.

Brightness: Not listed | Resolution: 720 pixels | Dimensions: 7.48 x 3.78 x 2.83 inches | Projector Type: LCD | Ports: VGA, USB, Micro USB, HDMI | Connectivity: No wireless

Best 4K: AAXA 4K1 LED Home Theater Projector

AAXA 4K1 LED Home Theater Projector

Courtesy of B&H

What We Like
  • Great price for portable 4K

  • Super lightweight and portable

  • Seems brighter than the claimed 1500 Lumens

What We Don't Like
  • Finicky focusing procedure

  • No wireless connectivity

Ultra high definition (UHD or 4K) projectors tend to be prohibitively expensive, but the AAXA 4K1 delivers crystal-clear 4K resolution (around 4000 pixels) in a portable and affordable package. This projector weighs under 4 pounds, and it’s only about 2.5 inches thick, so it’s perfect for grabbing and for outside entertainment. It isn’t quite bright enough for daytime viewing, at 1500 lumens, but you can use it with up to a 200-inch screen after the sun goes down.

The AAXA 4K1 projector doesn’t have wireless connectivity, but you can connect a streaming device, laptop, or phone to the HDMI port. It includes a Micro SD card reader and a USB port that allows you to display compatible video and image files. It also has dual 2-watt speakers and an audio output if you want to connect headphones or an external speaker. It doesn’t have a lot of extra bells and whistles, but the picture quality is the selling point here, and this is the best 4K projector you’ll find for the price.

Brightness: 1500 lumens | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels | Dimensions: 8.3 x 7.2 x 2.4 inches | Projector Type: DLP | Ports: HDMI x2, USB, AV | Connectivity: Micro SD

Best Portable: Viewsonic M1 Mini+ Portable Projector

Viewsonic M1 Mini+ Portable

Amazon

What We Like
  • Extremely lightweight and portable

  • Smart stand doubles as a lens cover

  • Good sound from JBL speakers

  • Automatic vertical keystone

What We Don't Like
  • Needs to be fully dark outside to see the picture 

  • Flimsy remote 

There are different degrees of portability in outdoor projectors, and the ViewSonic M1 Mini+ is just about as portable as they come. This tiny projector weighs under 10 ounces, and it’s just a hair over an inch thick. It’s small enough to put in your pocket, making it the perfect portable outdoor projector to use in the backyard or wherever your travels happen to take you.

The ViewSonic M1 Mini+ is incredibly compact, but it’s also self-contained. It runs on battery power, and a full charge is enough to keep it going for about an hour and a half. You can run it off any portable power bank with an 18-watt quick charge (QC) port if you're planning a movie marathon. It also has Wi-Fi connectivity and runs on the Aptoide platform, so you can stream directly from the projector, from your connected phone, or play media from the built-in storage. It is a little on the dim side, though, so it works best in complete darkness. But you won’t have to worry about getting the right angle (it will adjust for you), and the JBL speakers are impressive for such a small device.

Brightness: 50 ANSI lumens | Resolution: 640 x 480 pixels  | Dimensions: 4.3 x 4.1 x 1.1 inches | Projector Type: LED  | Ports: USB-A, USB-C, HDMI | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Aptoide

Best Sound: Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 Projector

Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 Projector

Amazon

What We Like
  • High-quality internal speakers by Yamaha

  • Autofocus and automatic keystone work well

  • Laser light source for long life

  • Bright picture with vivid colors

What We Don't Like
  • Not bright enough for daytime use 

  • Contrast is a little weak 

Most projectors that include built-in speakers suffer from weak, lifeless sound, but the EpiqVision Mini EF12 bucks that trend. It contains a custom-designed audio system from Yamaha that sounds just as good as many dedicated soundbars. The speakers get their quality from the internal design of the projector housing, which acts as a custom 3D acoustic enclosure to improve sound quality further.

In addition to the excellent audio, the EpiqVision EF12 also ticks all the other boxes to be a top-notch portable projector. While the contrast isn't the best you'll find, and it's too dim for daytime use, this projector puts out a decent 1000 lumens, projects a crisp 1080-pixel image, and weighs under 5 pounds. There’s no built-in battery, but the light weight, compact form factor, and top-of-the-line speakers make it great for use both indoors and outdoors.

Brightness: 1000 lumens | Resolution: 1920x1080 pixels | Dimensions: 6.9 x 6.9 x 5.0 inches  | Projector Type: LCD (3LCD), Laser | Ports: HDMI, USB-A, Mini USB  | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast

Best Splurge: Viewsonic X10 4Ke 4K UHD Projector

Viewsonic X10 4Ke 4K UHD Projector

Amazon

What We Like
  • Great for ambient light

  • Bright 2400-lumen lamp

  • Excellent Harman Kardon speakers 

  • Sharp 4K picture

What We Don't Like
  • Controller doesn’t work well

  • HDR oversaturated

  • Built-in apps aren’t great

If you’re looking to set up a deluxe outdoor viewing experience, the Viewsonic X10 4Ke is a splurge that’s very much worth the ticket price. This model is a full 4K projector, which is something you typically see in much more expensive devices. It’s also extremely bright at 2400 lumens, which puts it right on the edge of usability during daylight hours. The design is ideal for ceiling-mounting, but it’s actually quite portable, with a convenient carrying handle that flips down for ease of handling.

The ViewSonic X10 4Ke is a short-throw projector, which means you can place it fairly close to the screen or wall. You don’t need to have a ton of space to use it with a huge screen, and you’ll never need to have it out in the middle of your yard. While the controller and built-in apps aren't the most impressive on the market, the X10 4Ke includes built-in Harman Kardon speakers that are surprisingly rich for a projector of this size and price point. You can also pair a soundbar via Bluetooth if you need to, but the built-in speakers are good enough that you won’t necessarily need external speakers.

Brightness: 2400 lumens | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels | Dimensions: 10.3 x 10.7 x 6.5 inches | Projector Type: DLP LED | Ports: HDMI, USB-A x2, USB-C, Audio | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Aptoide

Best for Durability: BenQ G2S Wireless Portable LED Projector

BenQ G2S Wireless Portable LED Projector

Amazon

What We Like
  • Drop- and splash-proof

  • Quick and easy setup

  • Sharp, detailed picture

What We Don't Like
  • A little dim

  • Built-in speakers are quiet

  • Can’t mirror everything from phone

Most of the best outdoor projectors are just indoor projectors that are durable and light enough to be carried outside for movie night. The BenQ GS2 Wireless Mini Portable Projector stands out from the crowd as it is both IPX2 splash- and drop-resistant. That doesn’t mean you can throw it around carelessly, but this projector is durable, making it perfectly suited to outdoor use.

The BenQ G2S is a remarkably small and lightweight cube that measures about 5.5 inches on each side and weighs less than 4 pounds. It comes with a convenient carrying bag with space for the power supply, remote, and a streaming or storage device of your choice. The sound is modest, and there are no built-in streaming functions. But you can stream media over Wi-Fi, and it also supports both Chromecast and AirPlay to mirror from your phone. It also has a built-in battery that lasts up to three hours.

Brightness: 500 ANSI lumens | Resolution: 1280 x 720 pixels | Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.7 inches | Projector Type: LED | Ports: HDMI, USB-A, USB-C, Audio | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best for Streaming: Epson EF100 Projector

Epson EF100 Projector

Amazon

What We Like
  • Includes Android TV

  • Works with major streaming services

  • Easy to use your own streaming device

  • Stream via Bluetooth from your phone

What We Don't Like
  • Low resolution for the price

  • Short power cord

The Epson EF100 is a projector built from the ground up with streaming and portability in mind, which makes it a great option if you’re looking for something you can easily move from room to room in your house, then carry outside for movie night. One downside is the short power cable, but instead of having a bunch of inputs and a cumbersome built-in smart platform, it has a single HDMI input that connects to an included Android TV stick. This stick works with all major streaming services right out of the box. You can also stream to the Android TV stick from your phone using Chromecast.

The big innovation here is that the Epson EF100 uses a removable Android TV stick instead of having Android TV or any other smart platform built into its hardware. That means you can pull out the Android TV stick and replace it with a Fire TV Stick, Roku, or any other streaming device. In many cases, you can even slide the replacement device right into the rear compartment of the EF100 and put the rear panel back on for a seamless installation.

Brightness: 2000 lumens | Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels | Dimensions: 8.3 x 9.1 x 3.6 inches | Projector Type: LCD (3LCD) | Ports: HDMI, USB-A, Mini USB | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast (Android TV Stick)

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Anker Nebula Solar Portable because it’s small and lightweight, bright enough to use outdoors, has a battery with enough power to keep it running for three hours, and has built-in speakers so you don’t need to hook up external speakers. If you’re okay with lower battery life, the XGIMI MoGo Pro is a mini projector that’s even smaller, weighs less, and comes equipped with powerful Harman Kardon speakers.

What to Look For

Brightness

Brightness is the single most important factor for an outdoor projector because it dictates whether or not you’ll be able to use the projector outside. Since there’s usually at least some level of light pollution outside, an outdoor projector has to be exceptionally bright if you want the picture to look really good. Many of the smallest, most portable, and most affordable outdoor projectors sacrifice brightness to offer other features, but that's a trade-off for those extras.

Screen Size

Projectors can work with a range of screen sizes, and you can typically adjust the size of the projection by moving it toward or away from the screen or by adjusting a size setting. However, if you try to project an image that’s either bigger or smaller than the rated size, you’ll find it to be blurry and difficult to watch. The right size depends on the size of your yard and how far away you want to sit from the screen.

If you haven’t yet bought a projector, you can figure out the best size screen for your yard and then look for a projector that will work with that screen size. To get in the right ballpark for screen size, measure the distance from your seating area to the screen and divide that by 1.5. For example, if you’ll be sitting 10 feet (120 inches) from the screen, an 80-inch screen would work.

Portability

Some outdoor projectors are highly portable in that they're lightweight, small, and even run on battery power. Other outdoor projectors are portable because they're light enough to pick up and carry around, but they're not necessarily totable. Many of the best outdoor projectors with the highest picture quality fall into that category. If you want an outdoor projector to use in your backyard, that's the kind you should look for, as the projector only needs to be lightweight enough to carry outside for movie showings. If you want to be able to take your outdoor projector with you and use it at a friend's house, a park, or camping, then a portable battery-powered model is the better choice.

Connectivity

There are a few kinds of connectivity to consider when looking at outdoor projectors. The most important is wireless connectivity, which comes in the form of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. If a projector has Wi-Fi and built-in streaming apps, you can connect it to your home network to stream movies in your backyard. If it has Bluetooth, you can connect to your phone and stream from there. Some projectors also feature USB ports and SD card slots that let you load media and HDMI ports to connect a DVD or Blu-ray player or a streaming device like a Roku.

FAQ
  • How do I set up an outdoor projector?

    Setting up an outdoor projector starts with picking a site. Depending on the configuration of your house and yard size, you may or may not have the luxury of choosing where to set up your projector. Look for an area where the screen won't be in direct light and where you'll be able to set up a comfortable seating area. You can then set up your screen or locate a flat surface on the side of your house, garage, or elsewhere that can function as a screen. "It's important to have the right surface to project onto," advises Carl Prouty of Abt Electronics. "A matte-colored, flat surface is ideal. Also, you'll want to turn off any additional outdoor lighting in your yard when the projector is operating to decrease any ambient light." 

    If your projector isn't battery-powered, you will need to plug an extension cord into your house and run it out into your yard. Make sure to select an extension cord that's rated for outdoor use. If your projector is battery-powered, you don't need to worry about that, but you need to charge the battery fully. You can turn the projector on and adjust it so that the picture fills your entire screen. Then your projector is ready for your DVD player, streaming device, or whatever media source you plan to use.

  • What’s the best brightness for an outdoor projector?

    The best general range for outdoor projector brightness is between 1500 to 2500 lumens, but your experience will vary depending on the amount of ambient light in your area and the size of your screen. "As the picture gets bigger, the light gets dimmer," says Prouty. "Ideally, you'd want to start with at least 2000 to be safe." If there's a lot of ambient light from street lights, neighbors' houses, or decorative lighting in your own yard, then look for a projector that's at least 3000 lumens. Projectors at the lower end of the scale are fine if there isn't a lot of ambient light present, you're projecting on a small screen, or you don't care if the picture is a little washed out.

  • Can I use an outdoor projector during daylight?

    You can use an outdoor projector during the day, but it won't provide the best viewing experience. In fact, you have to wait about half an hour after sunset until ideal viewing conditions set in, and even then, ambient light can ruin the effect. If you really want to use your outdoor projector during the day, and you're okay with the fact that the picture will look washed out, it's important to choose a projector that's really bright. "You'll need one that's at least 3000 lumens," says Prouty. You'll be able to see the picture at that brightness, although it may still look washed out. Prouty also advises that "you'll likely have better success with laser projectors as they generally have a brighter output than LED projectors."

Why Trust the Spruce?

This article was written by Jeremy Laukkonen, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. He’s been running backyard movie nights at his own home for years, and he has over a decade of experience reviewing electronics for outlets like Lifewire and Digital Trends in addition to the Spruce.

To gain a deeper understanding of the features an outdoor projector really needs, Jeremy contacted Carl Prouty, the resident technologist from Abt Electronics. With Prouty’s expert insight, Jeremy looked at factors like brightness and portability, along with ease of setup and use. Size plays a big factor since an outdoor projector needs to have at least some degree of portability, and priority was given in many categories to battery-powered projectors since they’re so much easier to set up.

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