Skip to main content

Best outdoor projectors 2021

Best outdoor projectors Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best outdoor projectors that you can buy in 2021.

The drive-in movies of the 1950s might be a thing of the past, but the best outdoor projectors mean you can enjoy al fresco movie nights any time, anywhere! Whether you opt for a balmy evening or a heap of cosy blankets, there's no better way to turn your garden, rooftop or patio into a home cinema. Grab a deckchair as we rundown best outdoor projectors 2021...

The smallest and most portable projectors feature built-in batteries, making them a complete all-in-one solution. But beware: extreme portability can come at the expense of top-notch picture quality.

Built-in speakers come in handy, but quality won't be the best. And a projector with an 3.5mm audio output or Bluetooth will give you the option to connect to a portable wireless speaker, which should give the sound a major boost.

Brightness is also key – particularly if you live in a city or somewhere with lots of light pollution. Set up your projector in the evening for the best results, but the higher your projector's light output level, the more watchable the image.

You'll also want to think about sources. Are you going to trail a Blu-ray player outside to plug into the projector's HDMI input? You could use a streaming dongle such as a Chromecast Ultra to get a picture, if you can get a decent wi-fi signal in your garden. The easiest way to solve that conundrum would be to opt for a projector with built-in wi-fi and maybe even some onboard storage too.

You should save a chunk of your budget for a portable projector screen. In theory you can project video onto a white sheet or white wall, but picture quality will be compromised. Check out our handy guide on how to choose a projector screen for more on that.

Ok, you're primed and ready to buy. Here's a comprehensive list of the best outdoor projectors we've tested, including HD and 4K options...

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

1. Epson EH-TW7100

A brilliantly well-judged and affordable 4K projector

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 4K HDR pixel shift | Type: 3LCD | Speakers: 2 x 5W | Brightness: 3000 lumens | Inputs: HDMI 2.0 (x2), USB 2.0 (x2) | Audio out: Bluetooth, 3.5mm | Smart platform: No | Battery: No | Storage: No

Reasons to Buy

Excellent contrast handling
Balanced, nuanced colour palette
Good connectivity options

Reasons to Avoid

No 4K motion processing

It's a shade pricey for an entry-level device but, make no mistake, this is the king of affordable 4K projectors. It’s easy to set up and install, and produces a picture that’s reminiscent of what you'll get at the cinema.

You'll get a great image right out of the box without needing to be any kind of expert at tinkering with the settings. All the preset modes are very well judged and it gives an excellent level of black depth and dark detail for a projector at this price. Colours are balanced and motion is naturally smooth.

That said, it's as much the convenience of this machine that makes it so good. Bluetooth allows for direct connection with a wireless speaker or soundbar, and the high luminance means that it's usable in even moderately well lit conditions. In other words, an AVR, speaker package and home cinema room are not entirely necessary. How's that for a superb family projector?

Read the full Epson EH-TW7100 review.

Best outdoor projectors 2021: budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)

2. LG CineBeam HU80KSW

Pricey, but one of the best all-in-one, do-it-all outdoor projectors you can buy.

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 4K HDR pixel shift | Type: DLP | Speakers: 2 x 7W | Brightness: 2500 lumens | Inputs: HDMI (x2), USB (x2) | Audio out: 3.5mm, Bluetooth, S/PDIF | Smart platform: webOS | Battery: No | Storage: No

Reasons to Buy

One-box, truly portable system
Impressive 4K HDR picture
Easy to build a system around

Reasons to Avoid

Lacks a little detail
Motion could be better
Built-in speakers only adequate

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.

Read the full LG CineBeam HU80KSW review.

Best outdoor projectors

3. Optoma UHD40

The best outdoor projector that combines a brilliant picture with sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 4K HDR pixel shift | Type: DLP | Speakers: 5W | Brightness: 2400 lumens | Inputs: HDMI (x2), USB | Audio out: 3.5mm, S/PDIF | Smart platform: No | Battery: No | Storage: No

Reasons to Buy

Punchy colours
Insightful detail
Smooth motion
Built-in speakers

Reasons to Avoid

Black detail could be better

If you want a high-quality picture at an affordable price, this projector is just the ticket.

It's small enough to fit on a patio table and features built-in speakers. They might not match the stunning 4K picture, but they're certainly convenient for the garden. Plus, there's a 3.5mm audio output, so you can always wire the projector to the aux input of a decent wireless speaker.

In addition to two HDMI inputs, this model has a USB Type A connection so you can hook up a 4K Blu-ray player or media streamer. More importantly, the UHD40 has more than enough brightness, so expect a crisp, vivid, silky smooth image that improves as the sun sets.

Weighing 5kg, it's not the most portable, but we think the Optoma UHD40 has the perfect balance of picture and portability, making it the best outdoor projector by far.

Read the full Optoma UHD40 review.

Best outdoor projectors

(Image credit: Future)

4. Epson EF-12

A smart, small and seriously punchy projector

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 1080p HDR | Type: 3LCD | Speakers: 2 x 5W | Brightness: 1000 lumens | Inputs: HDMI (x2), USB | Audio out: Bluetooth, 3.5mm | Smart platform: Yes | Battery: No | Storage: 10GB

Reasons to Buy

Tidy build
Strong black depth and dark detail
Decent sound system

Reasons to Avoid

Colours lack complexity
Mains power only
Some key missing apps

Epson's 3LCD projection system is squished down here and housed in a very tidy 14‎ x 18 x 18cm, 2kg box. While not quite as serious for brightness and picture quality as the company's more traditional home cinema machines, it still has a way with contrast and shading that's beyond the reach of most portable projectors.

What's more, its sound system is streets ahead of the one tacked onto the TW7100 at the top of this list. It's a 2 x 5W set-up that's been tuned by Yamaha. It's remarkably expressive with just enough precision to hold its own even in scenes with heavy action.

There's no iPlayer, Netflix or All 4 apps on the smart platform and we'd like Epson to have fitted an internal battery too but these are relatively minor gripes and nothing that neither a media streamer nor an extension cable can't solve. Definitely one for your shortlist.

Read the full Epson EF-12 review.

Anker Nebula Solar Portable

(Image credit: Future)

5. Anker Nebula Solar Portable

The best Nebula portable projector so far

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 1080p HDR | Type: DLP | Speakers: 2 x 3W | Lamp: 400 lumens | Inputs: HDMI, USB | Audio-out: Bluetooth | Smart platform: Android TV OS | Battery: Yes | Storage: 8GB

Reasons to Buy

Vivid but balanced picture
Great portable size and features
Decent spread of sound

Reasons to Avoid

Sound system lacks impact
Blacks could be deeper

This is Anker's best Nebula projector to date and also a very, very good portable in its own right. Feature-wise, it's got almost everything one could need in an outdoor projector. There's an excellent smart platform, a three-hour battery life, a good degree of brightness and plenty of source material options.

What tops it off, though, is some really rather impressive picture quality. There are brighter machines out there but, for this price, there's a great blend of both punch and subtlety to the image. In the right setting, it's just the ticket.

The onboard speakers are a touch weedy but the quality and spread of sound from them is good.

Do be warned that the app platform is missing a few of the UK catch-up services, iPlayer included, but otherwise, this feels like one of the best projectors out there for taking on your travels. It's small, convenient and very well appointed.

Read the full Anker Nebula Solar Portable review.

Best outdoor projectors

(Image credit: Future)

6. Epson EH-TW7000

An entry-level 4K projector done right

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 4K HDR pixel shift | Type: 3LCD | Speakers: No | Lamp: 3000 lumens | Inputs: HDMI 2.0 (x2), USB 2.0 (x2) | Audio out: 3.5mm, Bluetooth | Smart platform: No | Battery: No | Storage: No

Reasons to Buy

Strong 4K and HD detail
Excellent use of HDR
Flexible for positioning

Reasons to Avoid

No 4K motion processing
SDR settings can vary

This entry-level 4K projector is the baby brother of the Epson at No.1 in the list. The chassis and most of the features are the same apart from the missing internal speakers on this model which is of note when planning some outdoor viewing. Fortunately, both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm socket are fitted to help get sound to a speaker.

There are differences on the inside compared to its bigger brother too. It's still a 3LCD machine but the projection technology will only allow for a picture with a stated contrast ratio of 40,000:1 compared to the 100,000:1 on the TW7100. That said the picture performance is still excellent and very fair for the money.

HDR handling and dark detail are very good and, considering the price point, this projector is capable of some brilliant detail. Black depth and motion processing isn't a patch on more expensive models but the results are very appealing nonetheless and give a wonderfully naturally cinematic feel for very little outlay – a masterclass in budget projection.

Read the full Epson EH-TW7000 review

Best outdoor projectors 2021: budget and premium

(Image credit: Nebula)

7. Nebula Mars 2

A smart, battery-powered projector that's ideal for outdoor use.

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 1280 x 720 | Type: DLP | Speakers: 2 x 10W | Brightness: 300 lumens | Inputs: HDMI, USB | Audio-out: 3.5mm, Bluetooth | Smart platform: Android 7.1 | Battery: Yes | Storage: 8GB

Reasons to Buy

Truly portable
Fun to use

Reasons to Avoid

Not Full HD
Basic colour reproduction

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.

Read the full Nebula Mars 2 review.

Best outdoor projectors

8. Optoma UHD65

This 4K HDR projector performs brilliantly for the money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 4K HDR pixel shifting | Type: DLP | Speakers: 2 x 4W | Brightness: 2200 lumens | Inputs: HDMI (x2), VGA, USB | Audio out: 3.5mm, optical | Smart platform: No | Battery: No | Storage: No

Reasons to Buy

Impressive level of detail
Good range of colours
Upscales HD and SD films well

Reasons to Avoid

Dark scenes could be more detailed
SDR to HDR conversion best avoided

It might not be the obvious choice to take into the garden, but if you want top-notch performance at a competitive price, this sophisticated, 4K-capable, HDR projector will please movie, sports and gaming fans who want to take the action outside. 

The UHD65 is smaller than you might expect, measuring around 50cm wide and around 30cm deep. The throw ratio comes out at 2.22:1, and the projector has a claimed 1,200,000:1 contrast ratio with 2200 lumens coming from its bulb – more than enough oomph for a light summer evening.

It features built-in 4W speakers, two HDMI ports – one is HDCP2.2-compatible, so will support 4K HDR content – and a USB-A port for powering streaming sticks, such as a Google Chromecast.

Considering there are more expensive models on the market that are neither 4K nor HDR-compatible, those looking for a great home cinema projector to use indoors and out should give the Optoma UHD65 serious consideration.

Read the full Optoma UHD65 review.

Best outdoor projectors

9. Nebula Capsule

A hugely convenient and fun projector with outdoor aspirations.

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 854 x 480 | Type: DLP | Speakers: 5W | Brightness: 100 lumens | Inputs: HDMI, USB | Audio-out: 3.5mm, Bluetooth | Smart platform: Android 7.1 | Battery: Yes | Storage: 8GB

Reasons to Buy

Neat design
Solid sound
Passable pictures

Reasons to Avoid

Doesn't like dark scenes or lit rooms
Needs fuller range of apps
Short of connections

This Capsule is another ingenious piece of tech: a tiny, beer can-sized projector with a built-in Android-like app store and the ability to double as a dedicated Bluetooth speaker.  

Whether streaming from Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer or YouTube, the sleek Capsule presents a decent picture to rival similarly-priced micro projectors. You can also stream video from Apple’s smartphones and tablets through its AirPlay connection, as well as Miracast for Microsoft devices.

Picture quality is good given the specs, and despite the maximum brightness level being just 100 lumens, its handling of colour and skin tone is natural and balanced and there's a solid level of detail on show for the money.

At the bottom are two ports: an HDMI connection and microUSB input for charging the battery, which has a life of around four hours. The built-in speakers do a good job, but it's a shame there's no 3.5mm output port to plug in an external speaker.

Still, factoring in the size, stylish design, battery life and impressive smart tech on board, the Capsule is good pound-for-pound fun.

Read the full Nebula Capsule review.

Best outdoor projectors

(Image credit: Viewsonic)

10. ViewSonic M1

A tiny outdoor projector with built-in Harman Kardon speakers.

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 854 x 480 | Type: DLP | Speakers: 2 x 3W | Brightness: 300 lumens | Inputs: HDMI, USB, microSD | Audio out: 3.5mm | Smart platform: No | Battery: Yes | Storage: 12GB

Reasons to Buy

Neat design
Low price
Great range or ports
Decent battery life

Reasons to Avoid

Unsophisticated picture
Lacks brightness

The M1 is a clever pint-sized projector with a handle that doubles as a stand. It's tiny, yet packs in wi-fi, a microSD card slot, plus USB Type-A and USB Type-C connectors, meaning you can draw video from almost any source. 

The stand makes projecting an image onto angled walls easy and the built-in Harman Kardon speakers deliver enough volume for movie night. 

Image quality is a mixed affair, and not up to the standard set by the slightly larger Nebula Capsule (above). That's hardly surprising as the resolution is low at 854 x 480 pixels. Still, the M1 throws out a watchable image, even at 100in. Battery life is three hours.

Focusing is fiddly, the controls require some finger gymnastics and you'll need to wait until dark to get the best picture. But if you want the most compact, affordable solution, and are happy watching a movie in standard definition now and then, the Viewsonic M1 does a fine job.

Read the full Viewsonic M1 review.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


Read more about how we test