Best outdoor projectors Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best outdoor projectors that you can buy in 2022.
Getting the big screen experience at home is great, but its not always feasible. Not all of us have a spare room to set up as an at-home cinema, or perhaps you don't want to be stuck inside a dark room during a warm summer evening. This is where an outdoor projector comes into its own as it can take advantage of whatever outdoor space you have.
And it doesn't just have to be during the summer months, as the best outdoor projectors can work well all year round. Whatever the weather, there's no better way to turn your garden, rooftop or patio into a home cinema than these outdoor projectors. Grab a deckchair as we rundown the best outdoor projectors for 2022...
How to choose the best outdoor projector
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 will be when there is still some light around.
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 with Google TV to get a picture, assuming 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 on-board 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.
Right, 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...
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, which helps make it our pick as the best outdoor projector to choose right now.
Read the full Epson EH-TW7100 review
The Freestyle, Samsung’s diddy new LED-based projector lives up to its name by enabling you to take projection to places it’s never really been able to go before. Literally. Even the usual power cable ‘tether’ doesn’t have to hold The Freestyle back from doing its thing in even the most inaccessible corners of your home or garden. This is really made for outdoor cinema use.
The sheer extent of its flexibility makes its performance feel better than we arguably have any right to expect. So if you’re prepared to show it the sort of love it needs, the Freestyle has the potential to be your home’s new best friend. Right up until the point where you end up squabbling over whose turn it is to use it, anyway.
Read the full review: Samsung The Freestyle
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, which makes it ideal for using as an outdoor projector.
What's more, its sound system is streets ahead of the one tacked onto the TW7100 at the top of this list - another bonus for an all-in-one outdoor cinema system. 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
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
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 worth noting when planning 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 very good 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 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
It’s obvious as soon as you look at it that the BenQ X1300i isn’t your typical home entertainment projector.
From its fancy cube-like sculpting to its built-in sound system from audio brand Trevolo, integrated Android streaming system and surprisingly well-developed focus on video gaming, the X1300i does everything it can to stand out from today’s increasingly crowded projector shelves.
While its limitations showing dark scenes may give serious home cinema fans pause for thought, for gamers and more casual movie fans the X1300i’s bright, punchy and sharp pictures and unusually capable built-in audio talents make it an unexpectedly impressive and, most importantly, fun addition to the AV landscape.
Read the full review: BenQ X1300i
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 projector system 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 Nebula Mars 2 is a great shout.
Read the full Nebula Mars 2 review
Think portable projector and it’s likely that the stubby, cylindrical form of the Anker Nebula Capsule II will spring to mind. Famous for its ‘go camping and project it on the side of your tent’ marketing, it’s the first port of call for the would-be travel projector buyer.
This device is one of three Nebula Capsule projectors made by Anker Innovations (see above for another), and its 720p resolution, 200 ANSI-lumens light output and Android TV 9.0 smart platform make it the top-spec model of that trio.
Those little extras cost money, though, to the point that the price of the Nebula Capsule II comes close to that of some of Anker's higher-end Go Anywhere models.
How we test the best projectors
Testing projectors involves taking the time to explore their capabilities fully, including plenty of settings-tweaking and content-watching. This includes checking all the features, and individually tweaking picture settings to ensure the projector is giving us the best visual performance it can.
We conduct these tests in our state of the art testing room in Bath, which is fitted with a 100-inch screen and a plethora of external sources, including 4K Blu-ray players, video streamers and games consoles. This is also where each of these projectors meets its rivals, as every product is tested side-by-side against the competition so that its place in the market is considered as a whole – no product exists in a vacuum after all.
We review projectors using a wide range of content from 4K Blu-rays, to streaming services, video games and standard definition DVDs. This helps us find the strengths and weaknesses of each projector.
At the end of this process, a verdict is reached by a team of What Hi-Fi? reviewers who work closely together in order to ensure that each projector is tested fairly, and to avoid the possibility of any personal preference creeping in. This is also to make sure our reviews are consistent and thorough, and so that no feature or flaw is missed within our testing process.