Enjoying a movie with your family is great. Enjoying it outside, relaxing under the stars, is even better. As projectors have gotten smaller, brighter and cheaper, it’s become easier than ever to set up a backyard movie night. You can choose between easily portable, battery-powered models, or wired models with built-in streaming and tons of brightness.
Ideally, you’ll have some sort of screen, but even a big sheet or posterboard can do the trick. All the projectors on this list have speakers, but if you have a big yard, or want the movie to be heard over the ruckus of some younglings, it’d be best to connect to a Bluetooth speaker. If your Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough to reach where you want to show the movie, you can turn your phone into a hotspot. In a few cases you can download some content to the projector itself, but don’t expect this from every model nor with every streaming service.
Here are the best outdoor projectors we’ve tested.
The small Mars II Pro isn’t the brightest, nor smallest, nor cheapest projector on this list. It’s not even the easiest to use. But it does combine a pleasing image with decent sound for a good price. It’s an all-around great option without the serious drawbacks of many other portable projectors.
The main issue with the Mars II Pro is it doesn’t use the full version of the Android TV streaming service like some newer models. As such, it’s not as easy to use and you won’t get every streaming service. The big ones are here, of course, like Netflix and Disney Plus, but no HBO. You can connect a streaming stick, of course, and there’s a USB connection to power it right on the back.
The battery lasts about the length of a long movie.
Read our Anker Nebula Mars II Pro review.
The Xgimi Halo Plus is a 1080p projector with a built-in battery. It’s reasonably bright, looks good and has Android TV built in. That means it streams a wider variety of content, and does so with less hassle, than most portable projectors. Overall it looks better than most portables as well. However, it’s fairly expensive, and doesn’t perform nearly as well as more traditional home projectors that cost the same. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to use, offers good away-from-an-outlet picture quality, and don’t mind paying for it, this is a great choice.
The AAXA P6 throws out an impressive amount of light, and lasts up to a promised four hours with its built-in battery. You’ll need to add a streaming stick to watch anything, but there’s a USB connection to power one so that’s easy to do.
Overall the image quality is OK, but not great. The colors are off, the contrast ratio isn’t great and its resolution of 1,280×800 pixels is noticeably softer than 1080p and especially 4K projectors.
That said, it’s bright and inexpensive, which is a great combination.
Read our AAXA P6X review.
The AAXA P8 is tiny, like the Nebula Capsule below, but rectangular to that projector’s cylindricalness. It’s significantly brighter than the Capsule, but it lacks that projector’s battery.
Like its big brother, the P6X, the P8 doesn’t have the best picture quality. However, it’s inexpensive and bright, two things we like a lot. For similar money the Vimgo P10’s picture quality is arguably a little better, but that projector has its own serious drawbacks.
All ultrabudget projectors have concessions to price, but with the P8 those concessions don’t include brightness and size.
Read our AAXA P8 review.
The adorable Capsule is the size of a soda can, but has a built-in battery, streaming, and even a speaker. For something to take on a backpacking overnight, it’s ideal.
The main downside is it’s very, very dim. While the other options here can easily create TV-sized images or more, the Capsule’s image is more like computer monitor sized. Not necessarily a dealbreaker, if your main concern is size.
Read our Anker Nebula Capsule review.
The Vimgo P10 regularly hovers around $250, and often drops even cheaper. It’s a strange product, doing something right and a lot of things wrong. The image it produces is watchable, and has an impressively high contrast ratio, but the colors are flat-out atrocious. The brightness and sharpness uniformity are some of the worst I’ve seen, which means everything that’s not dead center in the image is dimmer and softer than the middle. It also has no upwards throw, so it needs to be placed at the same height as the middle of the screen, which is, like I said, strange for an inexpensive projector.
The biggest drawback for this list is its lack of a battery. But for the added price of an extension cord it’s still cheaper than most other projectors on this list.
Read our Vimgo P10 review.
The Laser 4K’s claim to being portable and “outdoor” boils down to a huge handle built into its design. It lacks a battery, is quite heavy, and it’s really expensive.
It is, however, exceptionally bright. One of the brightest projectors we’ve ever tested. It has built-in Android TV too. It’s more portable, and better suited to outdoor movie nights than, say, the Epson 5050.
The Optoma UHZ50, the BenQ HT2050A or the Epson Home Cinema 2250 are better overall, however. They’re all bright, cheaper and easily carried, though they lack a stylish handle.
Read our Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K review.
Other products we’ve tested
Anker Nebula Solar Portable: The Solar’s sibling, the Mars II Pro, is better. The Solar’s main disadvantage compared to others on this list is its relatively dim image, which means it can’t project as large a picture and still look good. If you want a sleek, budget-friendly portable with 1080p and plan on keeping the image on the small side, however, this is a solid choice. Read our Anker Nebula Solar Portable Review.
LG CineBeam PH30N: The tiny LG PH30N is only slightly larger than the AAXA P8. It’s not particularly bright, however, nor does it have built-in apps. The battery doesn’t last as long as the AAXA P6X although it is a bit cheaper. Read our LG CineBeam PH30N review.
Samsung Freestyle: The small, stylish, cylindrical Freestyle is an interesting idea, but it’s not very bright, lacks a battery, and is quite expensive. Read our Samsung Freestyle review.
Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2: Is another relatively expensive small projector that could be better. You may appreciate the compact size, 1080p resolution and built-in Android TV streaming, but it’s relatively dim, especially for the price. It also lacks both a built-in battery and compatibility with a USB power source, so it’s not truly portable. Read our Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2 review.
How we test outdoor projectors
We don’t treat outdoor projectors any differently, testing-wise, than any other projector. Just because a projector has the convenience of being portable doesn’t mean it shouldn’t perform to reasonable standards. The biggest difference is checking the performance on the battery vs. plugged in. That almost always just results in a difference in light output.
Read more: How We Test Projectors
Outdoor projector FAQs
Can any projector work outside?
Yes! Well, sort of. No projector should live outside. The humidity and temperature variations will quickly ruin a projector, just like it will with a TV. But if you plan to bring it inside after every use, something we highly recommend, you can use any projector outside.
What if my Wi-Fi doesn’t reach outside?
Most phones can work as a Wi-Fi hotspot, using your cellular data instead. If you’re not on an unlimited data plan, this can drain your available data however. Also consider some free, or low cost, improvements to your home’s wireless network. That might extend the reach enough.
Do outdoor projectors have streaming apps? Netflix, Disney?
Sometimes. Most of the projectors on this list either have full, or partial, streaming interfaces like you’d find in a modern smart TV. They might not have every streaming app, however. Netflix is pretty much a given, but beyond that, it varies.
All the projectors on this list have an HDMI input, and all except the Capsule also have a USB connection, so you can connect any streaming stick to them and get all the apps you’re used to.