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Anker Nebula Capsule II review

Portable projector convenience comes at a cost Tested at £550 / $530

Anker Nebula Capsule II review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Overpriced and under-specced, the Capsule II is easily out-performed by similarly priced portable projectors

For

  • Natural colour palette
  • Decent contrast at 720p
  • Dynamic sound for its size

Against

  • Too expensive
  • Poor motion handling
  • Not bright enough

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, 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.

Pricing

The Anker Nebula Capsule II costs £550 ($530). If you’re happy to drop down to a mobile OS in the shape of Android 8.1, then the Nebula Capsule Max offers some savings at £480 ($420) while keeping many of the same key specifications

The baby of the bunch is the original Nebula Capsule, which costs £340 ($280) but is only rated at 100 ANSI-lumens. It also comes with a maximum output resolution of 854 x 480 and a less powerful 5W sound system compared to the 8W of the other two.

Build

Anker Nebula Capsule II build

(Image credit: Future)

The build of the Nebula Capsule II might be its best facet. It’s not just the compact size of the device, it’s the solidity, sturdiness and shape that make it so portable. It will fit in any bag and even a coat pocket or a desk drawer. There’s no water or shock-proof certification, but it’s well made enough to survive a few bumps, bruises and brushes with spilled drinks.

The only added protection we’d like to see is a sliding lens cap, but so long as you avoid putting the Nebula in the same compartment as keys and coins, you should have little to worry about.

Inside is a one-chip DLP projection solution, backed by that 200 ANSI-lumen LED light and a single driver 8W sound system for the audio. There are four sockets of note on the rear: an HDMI 1.4 input, a USB type A for flash drives, a USB-C for charging and a 3.5mm headphone-out. There are some control buttons on the top and one for power on the rear, but the small voice-operated remote control will be your main interface.

Features

Anker Nebula Capsule II features

(Image credit: Future)

Video and music streaming services are a good option for the Anker Nebula Capsule II, with its Android TV 9.0 OS offering access to over 5000 apps on the Google Play store.

Anker Nebula Capsule II tech specs

Anker Nebula Capsule II

(Image credit: Future)

Inputs HDMI 1.4, USB-A, Bluetooth

Resolution 720p, 1080p input

Brightness 200 ANSI-lumens 

Size 20-100in

Throw ratio 1.3:1

Battery life 2.5 hrs (eco mode)

Autofocus Yes

Storage 8GB

As long as you’re in range of a wireless network, the likes of Twitch, Hulu, Plex, YouTube, Tidal, Spotify, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video are all on the menu. Chromecast will stream most other apps, including All 4, BBC iPlayer, Rakuten and Now, but it’s not possible to cast either Netflix or Apple TV.

The Nebula Manager Android app brings a mobile version of Netflix along with a web browser and an app for mirroring content from iOS devices. As with other Nebula projectors, though, it’s not the best Netflix experience. Navigation can only be done through the Nebula Controller app, which can be quite frustrating. Most of the content is not even at Full HD levels either, but that’s less of an issue for the Capsule II given it can only output at up to 720p.

In some respects, sideloading local files onto the Capsule’s 8GB internal space or playing media from a flash drive are the better options, although that does rely on a decent and up-to-date source of downloadable content.

There’s a battery onboard for that true portable projector experience, which lasts 2.5 hours at low brightness – just don’t expect much more than half that at full brightness.

Setting up the Capsule II is easy. It boasts a one-second autofocus feature, which, though it takes more than one second, is easy to manually adjust if needed. There’s no auto-keystone feature and no horizontal movement of the picture at all. You can still adjust the vertical plane, but it’s not the best system. Fortunately, the device is so small and easy to prop up that setting it up to project straight on in the first place is rarely much of a problem.

As with most portable projectors, it’s a fixed lens device, so no zooming in and out. It has a 1.3:1 throw ratio and can create a picture between 20-100 inches. Anker recommends a projection distance of between 40-80 inches for best results and that means an on-screen image of 36-71 inches. While there’s definitely a little more sharpness and detail to be had in Anker’s sweet spot, a 100-inch picture still looks good, particularly given that, at only 720p, this is far from a hi-res experience.

You won’t get a picture from a 4K input and there is no HDR for the Nebula Capsule II either, but even though 720p is its maximum output resolution, it can still handle a Full HD signal.

While all of this sounds reasonable, it’s worth noting that the Anker Nebula Capsule II costs pretty much the same as both the Nebula Solar Portable and the Nebula Mars II Pro portable projectors. These two other machines have similar features but offer far more in the way of luminance (400 and 500 ANSI-lumens respectively). On top of that, the Mars II’s sound system is even beefier (2x 10W) and the resolution on the Solar goes up to Full HD with HDR and support for 4K inputs.

Of course, both of these more midrange portables are bigger, but they will still easily fit in a backpack. Ultimately, it's a choice between extra portability and extra performance.

Picture

Anker Nebula Capsule II features

(Image credit: Future)

There’s a pleasing enough tonal balance to the early scenes of The Martian on Blu-ray when downscaled to the Nebula Capsule II's 720p output. Black depth is reasonable, and there’s enough skill with dark details in the shadows made by the harsh sunlight on the red planet's surface. There’s an evenness to the handling of mixed lighting with differences in the reds and oranges and some granular texture to the sand and rocks.

Colours work well too. It’s easy to impress with these off-world hues, but more prosaic staples such as grass and trees in the scene at the cemetery look correct too. This is something of a relief given that the only image setting available is Colour Temperature. Choose ‘Cool’ for the best performance possible out of this device.

Some kind of motion processing option might be useful, given that movement is not handled well by the native capabilities of the Capsule II – it’s significantly worse than the Mars and Solar devices on this front. Even slow pans are quite juddery with a Full HD source and Watney’s panicked movements don’t look quite right.

Things look smoother at standard definition as we watch Minority Report on DVD, even as Tom Cruise waves his arms about at the famous gesture UI. The details on the actor’s face are quite impressive too – his stubble is clear and there are no distracting artefacts.

Contrast control takes a bit of a dive, as dark and light areas become oversimplified. The sky is a uniform white as Cruise and the Pre-Crime unit make their raid at the start of the film, and any detail in the backstreet scene where the protagonist buys his drugs is lost to a single-tone shadow.

Turning the lights up shows how little luminance there is to play with here. Expect to lose plenty of the action whenever there’s ambient lighting. That’s not a big problem if you’re looking at taking the Capsule II out camping in the countryside, but unless your garden is extremely dark, you might struggle with outdoor cinema use.

Sound

As with most portable projectors, the Anker Nebula Capsule II has a side hustle as a Bluetooth speaker and it will just about out-perform a mobile phone.

It scores best for dynamics. The opening section of Biffy Clyro’s Many Of Horror is particularly enjoyable. The vocals are expressive and the track has a good sense of depth and separation with the words, the simple drum beat and the lead guitar, and it builds nicely and with purpose towards the first chorus.

From thereon in, the weaknesses of this mono system become exposed. It’s not a particularly agile performer and it doesn’t have the balance or depth to stop everything from becoming cluttered as the rhythm guitar and more vigorous percussion kick in. The instruments battle to be heard in the narrow midrange and treble sweet spots and the best moments of this song become largely lost.

While it’s a notable failure on the music front, this presentation isn’t such a bad compromise for film. The scale and texture of the audio in the opening of The Martian works well. The simple score swells and shrinks with the drama, the midrange is good enough to convey the emotion and some texture to dialogue and there’s just about enough precision for the Capsule to portray the grit of the sandstorm. We can hear individual particles hitting the metal of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), and that’s good enough not to detract from the entertainment. It’s a little bright but passable.

As with the Biffy track, though, big action scenes don’t come off too well – when the MAV jets burst into life, the Capsule’s grip is lost – but such moments are fairly few.

Verdict

The Nebula Capsule II is not a bad projector. It isn’t buggy, nor is it missing any significant features. It isn’t horribly imbalanced for picture and sound and we can imagine relaxing into a perfectly good mini cinema experience on the go with it. But it’s simply too expensive and much better picture performance is available at the same price from the likes of the Nebula Mars II and Nebula Solar Portable.

If portable convenience is your prime concern, then you might choose the Capsule II over the others. However, we’d need to see it significantly discounted before we could wholly recommend it.

SCORES

  • Picture 3
  • Sound 3
  • Features 3

MORE:

Read our guide to the best portable projectors

Read our Anker Nebula Mars 2 review

Read our Anker Nebula Solar Portable review

Read our Epson EH-TW650 review

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