This year hasn’t been the best for the traditional movie theater, and we think you know why. Even without… everything that’s going on in the world, the movie theater is a dying format. Why spend $20 on tickets and $50 on popcorn when large TVs, home theaters, and popcorn are affordable in the comfort of your own home?
But something is lost in translation. There’s just something about watching movies on a projector, especially outdoors on a summer night. That’s why outdoor projectors exist. You can bring the movie, video game, or another piece of media to your home. Let’s look at the best outdoor projectors money can buy.
- Here's How We've Determined the Best outdoor projector
- How Many Lumens do You Need for an Outdoor Projector?
- Can you Use an Outdoor Projector During the Day?
- How Do I Choose an Outdoor Projector?
- Verdict: Your Best outdoor projector
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best outdoor projector
When choosing the best outdoor projectors, we looked at several factors.
First, image quality. In the age of 4K TVs, you may not want a projector that looks like that old theater that is somehow still in business. Besides picture quality, you also need to think of the sound system. Does it have built in speakers? How do they sound? If you don’t have a home theater setup, are the built in speakers of good quality?
In addition, since these projectors are for outdoor use, they need to be easily portable. Not only that, but the portable projector should be able to withstand some of what Mother Nature may throw at it.
Finally, reviews. We selected the best outdoor projectors that had 4 stars or more on Amazon.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the top outdoor projectors for movies and more.
#1: Epson Pro EX9210 (Best Value – All-Purpose)
When it comes to the best outdoor projectors, you are going to find several that are name brand and several that are off-brand. The best one on this list is going to be a name-brand that is mid-range. The Epson Pro fits just that, being in the $500 range.
This projector has 3,400 lumens to play with. The more lumens you have, the more brightness you have. When you’re outside at night, you need a projector with plenty of brightness, therefore you need one with plenty of lumens.
This projector is also full 1080p. Some projectors will say they support 1080p, but there is a difference between supporting it and projecting full 1080p. This one has a 1920×1200 resolution, so it does meet that cut.
In addition, it’s a smart projector. These are projectors that use Wi Fi or Bluetooth to project video from your phone or laptop. You can use your phone as a remote, broadcasting Netflix from it to your speaker. If you want to do it wired, you do have two HDMI ports to play with. You can use the two HDMI ports to play Blu Ray or play video games from it. For instance, you could connect your Switch and play some Smash Bros.
It’s a vivid projector with great contrast ratio, big screen quality, and a Full HD experience. With two HDMI ports to play with, you can hook up your devices, be it an outdoor movie or some games.
Reviews have been extremely positive, with most saying that this is a great projector for the money. It’s one of the best outdoor projectors for those who have a medium-sized budget and who want the full HD experience but don’t need to splurge on a 4K.
Negative reviews mostly center around people getting duds. Otherwise, the complaints are minor, such as Macbooks having trouble being compatible.
#2: BenQ TK800M 4K UHD (Best Machine)
BenQ is perhaps the biggest name in home cinema, with their projectors being costly, yet high quality. With 4K quickly becoming the default, you may want a projector for movies that gives the full 4K experience.
Now, this is one expensive projector, but if you have a high budget, it’s worth it. Plus, having 4K home cinema can save you money on IMAX, especially if you invest in a good quality sound system.
It is indeed 4K, with over 8 million pixels on the screen to give you the best outdoor projector picture quality imaginable. It uses DLP, or digital light processing, technology, which means that the resolution is high quality, and it doesn’t look pixelated. Not to mention, it has a high contrast ratio, sharpening the quality even more. With 3,000 lumens, this projector is great in the dead of the night.
If you’re a gamer, having a projector can enhance your experience. There’s nothing quite like cracking some cold ones in your backyard and playing some Mario Kart with friends. However, cheaper projectors can lag. This is one of the best projectors for gaming due to its low input lag.
Reviews of this projector have been extremely positive, with most people saying it’s one of the best projectors available. For gamers, most say that this has the best image quality and the best performance. For moviegoers, it felt like going to the movies at the best drive-in money could buy.
Besides the negative reviewers who got a dud, one criticism is that the built in speakers aren’t that great. Sadly, this happens with most projectors. They are merely a placeholder until you’re able to get a better home theater sound system.
With that said, never pay what you can’t afford. If you want 4K image resolution, remember how fast 4K TVs fell in price. 4K projectors may soon fall in price as well.
Nowadays, most devices have connectivity with WiFi. The ability to project Netflix or other streaming services using your phone is so convenient, and you can find an outdoor projector that has WiFi built-in. As long as the outdoors is near a good hotspot, this one is great.
It has 5000 lumens, making it great for a smaller outdoor projector. You can get HD quality without any issues. It is able to put movies and other media on the big screen without much of a hassle on your end. In order to mirror, you just enter a simple password for it to work.
Reviews of this outdoor projector have been positive. Most say that it’s a great projector for the price, giving you an easy way to stream movies off your phone with decent picture quality and screen size. There are some negative reviews that say it won’t play streaming services, but most positive reviews say it does, so likely, the negative reviews are from people who got a dud or who don’t know how it works.
Plus, the main movie showcased on this projector’s Amazon page is Alita: Battle Angel, so you know the manufacturers have taste.
#4: Mini Projector 2020 (Best Low Cost)
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Back in the day, finding an outdoor projector for under $100 would be a tough task unless you got lucky and found a good one used. However, these days it’s easier to find one.
This home theater system does support 1080p, even if the end result is a little lower. Still, it has a 2000:1 contrast ratio, meaning that it’s decent quality. It has pretty much everything you need from a portable projector, including built in speakers, a lamp that will last for years, and the ability to connect multiple devices to it. It also has a two-year warranty.
Reviews for this speaker have been positive. Most are aware that this isn’t the most high quality projector around, but it offers decent image quality, screen size, and decent sound for the price.
Negative reviews mostly center around the projector being low quality, and it not being plug and play. But as we said, it’s a cheap projector. If you need one on a budget, it’s still worth considering.
#5: ViewSonic M1 Mini (Best Tiny Projector)
There are many smaller projectors you can buy. These make great outdoor projectors, as you can bring them to and from your backyard without much hassle. However, you can’t put any of them in your back pocket. Also, they are still powered by outlets, so if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you may be out of luck.
Until now. This is a projector that you can take anywhere. It’s 4×4″ and it has a built-in stand as well. The screen size isn’t great at 480p, but what do you expect from something so small?
It has plug and play as well, meaning you can connect your devices to it. For a little more, you can get a smart version with WiFi.
Since it is powered by battery, you may be wondering if it’s enough for a movie. It does last 2.5 hours, meaning it should work for most movies. You probably won’t want to watch your Lord of the Rings Extended Blu Ray on it, though.
Reviews have been generally positive, but this is the worst-rated projector on this list. Most people say that it does its job. It’s a tiny projector that gives you decent picture quality. However, some reviewers had a hard time getting the remote to work or had trouble keeping it charged. Since this is a newer technology, there are probably some kinks to work out. However, if you want a decent projector for true outdoor use, you can’t go wrong with this one.
How Many Lumens do You Need for an Outdoor Projector?
When it comes to an outdoor projector, movies and games are only good if you can actually see them. Some cheaper projectors are hard to see, even in the dark of night, and this is because they lack enough lumens. Lumens are needed in sufficient quantity for the best outdoor movie night experience.
Obviously, the more lumens, the better. However, if you’re on a budget, what is the bare minimum you need in order to make movie night a blast and not something that your people are struggling to see?
It’s going to depend on the screen size. The bigger screen you’re going to project the movie on, the more lumens you need, and vice versa. For something smaller, such as a screen size of 9×5 feet, you need a minimum of 2,500 lumens. However, the ideal resolution should be 3,000. For something that is 16×9, you need 3,500 minimum, or 4,000 ideally. If you are going really big, such as 40×22.5, you’re going to need one that is 5,500 minimally or 12,000 ideally.
Of course, there are other factors that can change this as well, such as what you’re projecting it on.
Can you Use an Outdoor Projector During the Day?
Ever tried to use a screen during the peak of a summer day? It’s not that fun. You squint to see the screen, and no matter how much you play with the brightness, it never seems to be ideal. Therefore, if you are considering outdoor projectors for a matinee, you may wonder if they can give you an ideal resolution and brightness.
It’s possible. Most outdoor projectors can handle a daytime show, but you have to be smart about it. Here are some tips.
The More Lumens and the Higher the Resolution, the Better
If you are looking for an outdoor experience, you need a projector that’s around 5,500 lumens or more. Anything less can make the picture hard to see, no matter what the resolution or brightness. However, if the lumens are high, you may be able to get an image that looks good during the day.
Resolution is important as well. Don’t go with standard definition. Look for a full HD projector. These create an image that is sharp in resolution, which will cut through any challenges you may have using outdoor projectors during the day.
You Need a Proper Screen, Too
One convenient way people use an outdoor projector is to broadcast it on their house or use an ordinary piece of cloth.
At night, this may work fine enough, but if you’re going to be playing it during the day, use a proper projector screen. These are reflective, which means that they will enhance the brightness and resolution. These can be a little pricey, but if you’re going to be broadcasting movies during the day, you will need one if you want to have the best outdoor home theater experience.
Location and Time is Important
In order to get the best brightness and resolution, it’s important to put the screen in the right location. You may have guessed the best location for the most brightness and resolution, and that is the shade. A garage, under some thick trees, a porch with a roof – these are some places you can put it.
The same applies to time. Depending on the time of day, the sun may mess with your brightness and resolution. Late afternoon is the ideal time, while peak sunlight hours are the worst. Depending on the time of year, these can differ, so do your research.
Also, for an audience who are a bunch of early birds, sunrise can work as well. The problem is that it will get brighter with time. So your best bet is still later in the afternoon, especially if the movie day can become a movie night in an hour or two.
How Do I Choose an Outdoor Projector?
When you’re looking for an outdoor projector, there are several factors you need to consider. Let’s look at them.
The more lumens, the more brightness. Depending on your setting, you may need more or less. For an outdoor space at night, you may need around 2-3K lumens, but the more, the better.
No one wants an outdoor projector with poor image quality. Most can deliver HD quality movies for a cheap price, but there are several factors that can determine image quality. There’s the Wide XGA, which has 1280x800p, and there’s the HD, which is 1920×1080. The latter has a better image and is more compatible with Blu Ray players, modern game consoles, and more.
With that said, if you’re playing something in lower quality, it may look bad if it’s blown up in size. Be mindful of that when you’re projecting.
Now, let’s talk about the contrast ratio. This is something you may hear discussed when looking at the best outdoor projectors, but you may have no clue as to what it is. It’s the difference between the whitest of the whites and blackest of the blacks. However, bigger doesn’t mean better. The projector should have tech like sRGB or BrilliantColor, which can control for shades of gray that the projector couldn’t display normally.
Native Aspect Ratios
You may see aspect ratios that are in numbers such as 4:3, 16:10, or 16:9. This is the shape of the chip inside the projector. For example, 16:9 is the home theater resolution. This is something you want to look for if you want to have the best movie experience.
All projectors use a lamp, and just like the lamp you have at your bedside, it has a limit before it breaks. You can replace the lamp after it’s broken, but it’s not like spending a couple of bucks on a light bulb. It can cost hundreds of bucks for a new lamp.
Lamp life obviously depends on use. Higher-end lamps have about 4,000 hours of life. Let’s say you are going to use the projector as your normal TV, and you use it for 2 hours a day. It’ll last you around 5.5 years. If you use the projector for occasional movies and events, it can last much longer. A good one may last up to 15 years.
It also depends on what type of projector you have. Most DLP or LCD projectors should give you the ideal lamp life, which is between 2000-4000 hours of life.
Also, the life can depend on your maintenance. If you replace filters and do a tune-up, it can last you a long time.
We should mention that projectors do die slowly. You won’t find a projector that has a full brightness throughout its life, then just suddenly breaks one day. The longer you use it, the dimmer it will be. The hour count you see on the projector is the half-life. For example, if the projector has a half-life that is 2,000 hours, it will start to dim at 2,000 hours, then eventually die. It won’t die the second it clocks in at 2,000 hours. At around that time, however, you should consider buying a new lamp, as you may end up with a dim projector.
When you are using a projector, you do need to be careful with it. For example, if you are using tabletop projection, which is how most outdoor projectors will be used, you’ll want to put it on a table that is sturdy. You should also put a cover over the projector in the event of rain. However, no matter how careful you are, accidents happen. Maybe you’re having a movie night for the kids and one of them smacks the projector off the table.
A good projector may take a few blows here and there, especially the more lightweight ones. While no projector can survive a fall off a building, it should be durable enough.
Many movies are shot at 24 frames per second, or FPS. However, you may need a projector that can handle more, especially when you’re going to game. How many gamers have you seen arguing over the amount of frames a game needs to have? The bigger the area, the more FPS you’re going to need. Many projectors will use something known as frame creation/interpolation. When you see a fast-moving object in a movie, the projector can make up for all the frames. With some projectors, a fast-moving object will look terrible. However, there are some that can make up for that and then some.
Back in the day, you just needed to have a projector that connected to your DVD or Blu Ray player. But nowadays, many people don’t use physical media. They may use Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or another of the billion streaming services.
That’s why many projectors have wireless connectivity. You can broadcast from your phone or computer to make it much easier. Other projectors may use HDMI connectivity, which can work on a laptop, but a smart projector is just so convenient. Your phone can be the remote control, stopping the movie if you need to. It’s so easy and convenient that you can’t imagine a projector without it.
Picture quality is great and all, but unless you’re watching silent movies like it’s 1920, you’re going to need decent speakers.
Ideally, you should buy a home theater sound system or external speakers for your projector in order to have the best sound. This isn’t the article for soundbars, so we will not discuss that here, but you get the idea. We will tell you that with the right home theater soundbar and projector, your outdoor experience can be on par with some of the higher-end theaters. However, there are times when you forget your speakers, or you need a temporary pair to get you by.
This is when built-in speakers come in handy. Obviously, many of these speakers are made almost as an afterthought, and as a result, they aren’t going to be the best. However, some projectors do have decent quality speakers, making them acceptable enough if you don’t have speakers of your own.
Verdict: Your Best outdoor projector
There we have it. These are the top 5 outdoor projectors. If you’re looking to watch some movies, projector viewing can make the experience much better. Let’s summarize the best outdoor projectors again.
First, we have the Epson Pro EX9210. This is the best-balanced one. It’s fully HD, has two HDMI ports as well as wireless device connectivity, and is mid-range on budget. It’s probably the best projector for most uses, especially if you’re wanting an outdoor movie night.
Second, we have the BenQ TK800M. This projector is fully 4K. For those who want the best outdoor projectors that can give you an IMAX experience, this one has you covered. It’s pricey and meant for those who have a higher budget, but most people say that you won’t regret it – especially if you’re using it for games, as the input lag is minimal.
Third, there’s the Bomaker. This is a projector that’s good if you’re looking for a budget Wi Fi. It doesn’t cost too much, and the resolution and brightness are decent for the cost.
Fourth, we have the Mini Projector 2020. This is a budget projector. It doesn’t have the best image resolution, brightness, speakers, or contrast ratio, but most people say that for the price, this is one of the best outdoor projectors for movies. For projectors under $100, this is usually a tall order.
Finally, there’s the ViewSonic M1 Mini. This is a projector you can put in your pocket, with a battery life of about 2.5 hours. Obviously, you’re not going to get HD image resolution or powerful brightness with this, and the speakers are tiny. However, if you want something truly portable, this projector is for you.
And there you have it. The projector market is big, especially as the movie theater business takes blow after blow. If you’re looking for the best outdoor projectors, now is the time to do so.