Everyone loves a movie night but heading outside into the backyard for a movie under the stars makes it way more exciting.
Even when it’s cold out, movie nights in the backyard, snuggled under a mountain of blankets with a hot chocolate, can be super fun and cozy. And the best outdoor projectors are the perfect way to create an amazing backyard movie experience.
Whether you’ve bought a screen or you’re improvising with an old bedsheet, we’ve pulled together a list of the best outdoor projectors so that you can sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
This selection includes small easily portable projectors, as well as options with built-in speakers and Android TV, for ultimate convenience. There are even rechargeable projectors for when you’re not near a power supply, which means you can create an outdoor movie experience just about anywhere.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Outdoor Projector
Projector technology has improved significantly, and it’s possible to get high-quality visuals and audio like in a movie theater. One of the most significant factors that will determine your ideal model is the environment where you’ll be watching movies.
Weather conditions and your personal preferences help determine the ideal type of projection, technical features like resolution and brightness, which accessories are useful, and a few other points discussed below.
Purpose and Environment
The conditions for using a projector outdoors are unique to every space. Ignoring these factors, including the type of content, could result in choosing a backyard projector with visual and audio issues such as poor visibility, low volume, or excessive brightness.
With each projection type having advantages and disadvantages, it’s wise to understand how these influence the right outdoor movie projector for you. Outdoor projectors utilize three main projection types.
Brightness in regard to projectors refers to the strength of the bulb inside the projector. Too dim a bulb could result in poor visibility, especially in a situation that isn’t pitch dark. Projectors are usually listed with a rating for brightness measured in units called lumens. Keep the following important general rules and points in mind:
Much like TVs, resolution in projectors is measured in pixels(p). Simply put, the more pixels a projector has, the better the image quality will be. The most common resolutions for outdoor projects include:
An overlooked but critical aspect of picture quality is contrast ratio, the difference between the maximum dimness and brightness of a projector. A contrast ratio that produces a crisp picture, regardless of resolution, is typically 5,000:1. If picture clarity matters to you, don’t settle for a contrast ratio lower than this. Otherwise, a contrast ratio greater than 2,000:1 should suffice.
While most outdoor projectors have built-in speakers, many people supplement the visuals with a separate audio device or sound system. The onboard speakers in many projectors, even high-end units, can have limited sound output, meaning additional outdoor speakers are often required to experience sufficient volume.
A growing number of outdoor projectors are designed as all-in-one machines that produce both great picture and quality sound. However, in most cases, great sound on a projector should be looked at as a bonus, not a requirement.
In the modern tech world, connectivity refers to an electronic device’s ability to connect to and communicate with other devices and systems. For projectors, connectivity features and accessories include:
Our Top Picks: 10 best outdoor projectors 2022
The ViewSonic X10-4KE is wildly expensive if you just want a projector for the occasional backyard movie night, but if Ultra High Definition picture quality is your priority and you’re prepared to pay a bit extra, this projector will transition well between indoor and outdoor settings.
It doesn’t have a built-in battery so you’ll need a power source close by when setting up your backyard movie theater, however, it does come with two 8W Harmon Kardon speakers that offer a convenient integrated audio solution.
As you’d expect, it’s got autofocus and auto-keystoning and you can stream content directly to the projector via mobile devices. The integrated SmartTV also gives you the option of downloading apps directly to the projector for easy viewing.
It’s designed with a carry handle which makes it pretty portable even if it’s not the most compact projector. Overall it’s a great option if you want an indoor projector that you can also use in the backyard.
This is the ideal projector for outdoor settings that aren’t in the comfort of your own backyard. It’s designed to be drop-proof from table height (2.3 ft) and the splash-proof coating means it’s not the first thing you’ll need to rescue in a sudden rain shower. Plus, it comes with a soft carry case for a bit of extra protection on the way to your outdoor movie location.
The 2.1 speaker setup offers better audio than you’d expect to get from a small portable projector and it’s got optimized sound modes for everything from gaming to sports. Intuitive controls plus autofocus and auto keystoning make it simple to set up. And with Airplay or Chromecast you can stream directly to the projector or use the built-in Android TV to access movies and shows via your favorite apps.
One of the most feature-laden projectors we’ve tested, the LG CineBeam is a marvellous box of tricks. It presents a decent 4K HDR image between 66 and 150in, has stereo sound and offers plenty of sources – both smart and local.
It’s blessed with the excellent webOS platform, which means direct access to all your video apps over wi-fi (assuming the signal stretches into your garden), and its Miracasting and Bluetooth abilities make for easy and intuitive ad-hoc connections to a range of mobile devices.
In terms of physical connections, there are two HDMI ports and two USB ports – the latter being handy for connecting a hard drive or USB stick with video content.
The built-in 7W speakers are supplied by Harman Kardon, but there’s Bluetooth, a 3,5mm aux and optical connections for external speakers.
It’s expensive, but for those who want the flexibility to throw a film up in their garden whenever and however they choose, this is a fantastic option.
The great thing about the Mars 2 is that it needs no other piece of technology to function, making it a superb option for casual movie nights. It’s a true all-in-one solution comprising built-in speakers, wi-fi and a range of streaming apps.
It has its own dedicated app store where you can download Netflix, BBC iPlayer and countless other apps to run directly from the Mars 2. Simply pair the device with your smartphone and you’re in business. You can even download games; your phone’s touchscreen doubles as the controller.
It offers 720p Full HD resolution rather than 4K, but produces a great image around 75in. It’s a breeze to use, with little in the way of set-up quirks. If you only have a bedsheet or white wall to view it on, this could be a good option.
Brightness is 300 lumens, so this projector works best after dark, but the contrast is good, with solid black levels and a nicely balanced, colourful picture that isn’t hugely compromised.
If you’re looking for a fuss-free, battery-powered outdoor projector capable of streaming movies out of the box, the Mars 2 is a great shout.
This bargain-priced projector has the same feature set of much pricier models, including full HD 1080p resolution and massive 200-inch image size. The user experience is exceptional — 4.5 stars based on nearly 6,000 reviews on Amazon, with many consumers singling out the bright picture quality and solid sound from the pair of built-in speakers. It’s also plenty versatile with connections, whether you want to hook up your smartphone, laptop, or streaming stick.
The Anker Nebula Solar is a 1080p projector you can take anywhere. With projection that can be scaled down for an intimate movie for two or get ramped up to 120 inches, you won’t sacrifice what you see.
HDR10 and 400 ANSI lumens push the picture to the max, packing detail and color into every square inch. We loved the detailed contrast of the darker images but did notice the picture is best in dim to dark lighting.
It’s easy to set this projector up. With the built-in stand, you can adjust the angle up to 13 degrees. No matter which angle you set it to, the Nebula’s quadrilateral keystoning makes sure your image is perfectly squared at any angle.
There’s also no need to play around with settings. The super-fast autofocus quickly sets your picture to exactly what you need.
The Horizon Pro has incredible picture quality. True 4K technology, HDR10 and super bright 2,200 ANSI lumens make it clear enough to use at any time of the day.
Horizontal and vertical keystone correction plus auto-alignment and focus make it an impressive choice, especially when you’re moving it around.
What makes this one of the best options is not just the fact that this projection display ranges between 30 and 300 inches. Beyond that, the screen size adjusts automatically to fit your space.
This means you don’t have to move the projector around and figure out how to get the best picture. Auto-size, autofocus, auto-alignment and keystone correction do the work for you.
Although some may consider this a pricey outdoor projector, this Epson Home Cinema projector offers a lot of value for the money making it our pick for the best outdoor projector overall. And in some ways, it’s Epson’s pixel-shifting technology at work that makes it such an excellent deal for a family who wants to build a mini-Ziegfeld theatre in their suburban backyard.
Essentially, this Epson projector allows you to experience 4K with pixel shifting. But like most projectors you can set it for lower resolutions, including 720p, 576i and 576p and 480i and 480p. It even has the ability to display 3D video footage in full HD. However, it’s not just the 4K-like resolution that makes this an all-around best buy. It also offers both 10-bit HDR support and HLG support, so it can reproduce even very subtle details in dark shadows and bright highlights, and it does so in a consistent manner, whether you’re showing 4K, HD or SD-resolution footage.
Billed as a lifestyle projector, the size and shape of the EpiqVision Mini EF12 will appeal to those who have an eye for design and are on the lookout for a portable model.
The EF12’s internal features aid portability, since there’s a built-in Chromecast and decent Yamaha speakers that pump out well-rounded sound that isn’t at all harsh. There are also two HDMIs with ARC support, and the unit runs on a snappy Android TV platform, so it’s a doddle to set up.
The EF12 is a Full HD projector, which could put off those who insist on 4K resolution, but it’s as good as we’d expect in a projector of this size.
The laser-powered picture is colourful and clear, with a distinct lack of blurring in fast-moving images. But as great as it is for sports and films, gamers will be disappointed by the long lag, which makes many games unplayable. On paper, it outputs at just 1,000 lumens, but don’t let that put you off – as it looks a decent amount brighter than that. The EF12 is also extremely power-efficient, drawing around a third of energy when compared to its competitors.
10. Optoma GT1080
If you’re worried your small or narrow garden doesn’t have room for a projector, you need short throw. The wide lens of the Optoma GT1080 can give huge images even when close to the projection surface, opening up viewing possibilities in the cosiest space.
It also boosts a gaming mode with minimal input lag. Most projectors will be fine for the majority of gamers, but the hardcore – particularly those who play online – will need something as responsive as the GT1080.
The only real niggle with this is that lacks a full USB input, with only a mini USB slot, which means you’ll need a device which outputs HDMI rather than popping a Fire Stick straight in, for example.
How We Decided
Our first point of discussion when identifying the best outdoor projectors was to measure each option’s brightness output. While the exact brightness you need – measured in ANSI lumens – depends on the ambient light you’re expecting while you watch movies outside, we still gave preference to projectors with higher light output, preferably at least 3,000 lumens. However, that being said, we did still include projectors on our list with lower brightness ratings because they still offer a lot of value when used in dark situations. They simply scored fewer points in this category.
Next, we looked at portability and user-friendliness. Since you won’t be leaving your projector outside once you’re done using it, you’ll want an option that is easily transported back and forth between your house and your backyard. We preferred projectors with slim profiles and lightweight designs, and we awarded bonus points for additional portability features like carrying handles or cases. We also awarded more points for projectors that offered wireless connectivity options for more convenience.
Finally, we scored each projector based on its overall picture quality. This score was a composite of the resolution, color accuracy, and contrast ratio. All three of these features work together to create image quality. We gave the most points to full HD and 4K outdoor projectors, but still including options with 720p resolution above. We preferred accurate, true-to-life color reproduction and gave more points to projectors with a higher contrast ratio for better black level performance.
How to set up outdoor projector?
In addition to owning a good-quality outdoor projector, you’ll also want to get a good projection screen. If you don’t have one, you could use a large, white bed sheet. But if you expect there to be any wind, you’ll want to have the sheet tied down so it doesn’t affect the projected image. You’ll want the projected image to be around 120 inches, if you have room, so your screen should be around that size or a little larger. You’ll also want to be sure to set up any audio, depending on the type of outdoor projector you buy. You might only need the on-board audio speakers or, if there’s an audio port on the unit, you can use external speakers. Also, many projectors let you hook up speakers via a Bluetooth connection.
How many lumens do you need for an outdoor projector?
The number of lumens you need for your outdoor projector can vary greatly depending on what kind of lighting you expect while you watch movies. If you’re watching at night, look for a projector in the realm of 2,000 to 3,000 lumens. If you’re watching with any kind of daylight, you’ll want a projector with more than 3,500 lumens for a clear experience.
Can all projectors be used outside?
Yes, all projectors can be used outside, but they should not be left outside for extended periods of time. This is because projectors don’t usually include any kind of weatherproofing or water resistance functionality.
Can you use an outdoor projector inside?
Yes. The only difference between an indoor and outdoor projector is that outdoor projectors are generally lighter (under 10 lbs.) and more compact. Also, some outdoor projectors can run on battery power and come with water-resistant exteriors.
Can you use a gray projection screen for your outdoor projector?
Although a white screen might seem like the obvious choice, a gray screen might actually be more effective. Here’s why: Experts say that if you don’t have an environment that’s completely dark and free of ambient light, a gray screen can do a better job of minimizing the effect of that ambient light on the projected image. It can also allow the projector to maintain the deep black levels of the image.