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Nebula Mars 2 review

More fun than the average portable projector Tested at £599 / $510

Nebula Mars 2 review
(Image: © Nebula)

Our Verdict

A useful and likeable portable projector that puts a lot of effort into making your experience fun, quick and enjoyable

For

  • Fun, quick and easy to use
  • Solid image quality in darker rooms
  • Useful built-in speaker

Against

  • Somewhat crude colour
  • Requires careful light control
  • Not the sharpest lens

The Nebula Mars 2 is part of a relatively new subset of projectors made possible by LED lamp tech. It’s a portable, but not micro-size, projector that needs no other piece of technology to function. Built-in wi-fi and a range of apps apps allow you to stream content directly.

However, this projector is not the last word in refinement. Sharpness across the image isn’t 100 per cent consistent, colour is slightly crude and the 300 lumen light source means it works best in a pretty dark room. But for £599, the Mars 2 is immensely likeable, and is plain fun to use.

Build

Nebula Mars 2 build

(Image credit: Nebula)

The Nebula Mars 2 is a mini lunchbox-like projector that seems to have taken its cues from the Bang & Olufsen Beolit range of wireless speakers. While not tiny, a carry handle means you can take it anywhere without much fuss or inconvenience.

Just about every part of the Mars 2 is easy to use. Switch it on and you’ll see a colourful pane-based homescreen that gives quick access to core features such as your favourite apps, the HDMI source and the settings menu.

But this is a front-end for Android, so there’s a good chance your phone uses the same software as the Mars 2. It’s not the same fully certified version seen in phones, so there’s no Gmail or Google Play. But there is a third-party app store that lets you download a wide selection of games and apps, including BBC iPlayer and Netflix, which came preinstalled on our Mars 2.

Features

Nebula Mars 2 features

(Image credit: Nebula)


There’s automatic focusing and keystone correction, to further speed things up, so all you need do is point the Nebula Mars 2 at a wall and it does the rest. We recommend turning off auto keystone correction and applying it manually, though. As always, it effectively distorts the raw image, reducing image quality.

The Nebula Mars 2 is a breeze to use, thanks to an almost complete lack of set-up fuss. We can imagine using it to blast a movie up on the inside wall of a family-size tent or on a handily placed bedsheet. However, it will also function perfectly as a way to let your kids watch a movie in their room without setting up a TV. And you turn it on and off by simply opening and closing the lens cover.

You don’t have to rely on content beamed from the projector itself, of course. There’s an HDMI port on the back, a USB port for playback of media stored on a hard drive or USB stick. A 3.5mm audio output lets you attach powered speakers, too. 

The Mars 2’s own speaker is solid. There’s enough volume to let it play movies in most living rooms without seeming out of its depth, and some weight to the mids and upper bass. It does not have a passive radiator or a particularly powerful driver, though, so bass depth is limited.

Still, this mini projector is the complete package in a way that most simply aren’t. The speaker is fine, you need zero extra outboard hardware and it can produce an image that can do justice to films. You can also use the Mars 2 as a Bluetooth speaker, making it a great all-in-one entertainment box for holidays.

Picture

Nebula Mars 2 picture

(Image credit: Nebula)

As a 720p projector, the Nebula Mars 2 is capable of producing a much more insightful image than the 480p models that still dominate the low-end of the market.

In a semi light controlled room, it can project a watchable image onto a 100in surface. But predictably, the 300 lumen light output is not sufficient with curtains that don’t have a thick or blackout under-layer. However, we are pleasantly surprised to find that the Mars 2 produces an enjoyable image of around 75 inches in a typical bedroom with some light intrusion. This is using a grey wall, rather than our test screen, a further challenge for the light output.

Relatively modest light output also makes it easier for the Nebula Mars 2 to achieve solid black levels. This is a DLP projector, with deeper and more convincing blacks than some LCD-based alternatives.

Solid black levels help if you use the Mars 2 for a movie night, although the sense of contrast does come largely from those blacks, not ultra-high peak brightness. Even Nebula claims 1000:1 contrast, which is modest considering the wild dynamic contrast figures most publish.

Nebula Mars 2 picture

(Image credit: Nebula)

The Mars 2’s colour, meanwhile, is only passable. While the reds of the menu system icons look punchy and bold, skin tones and natural green shades in movies tend to look less vivid and realistic than those of traditional projectors at this price. 

You have a choice of colour temperature settings, but there’s no detailed adjustment available here. Lens sharpness is less than perfect, too. The Nebula Mars 2’s autofocus is handy, but the underlying optics are unremarkable.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Portable projectors are compromised by design, making them less bright, and often lower-resolution than conventional alternatives. But the balance of the Nebula Mars 2’s compromises is unusually satisfying. You get reasonable sound, decent image quality and excellent ease of use. That last part matters in a product category more concerned with lifestyle use than an authentic cinematic experience.

Verdict

The Nebula Mars 2 is one of the most fun portable projectors available. It has a decent Android-based interface, support for apps, and even games, responsive autofocus and enough brightness and speaker volume to turn any room, tent or hanging bedsheet into a miniature cinema.

Of course, there are holes in its image quality throughout. Colour reproduction is limited, and unless you can truly kill the light at home, the image won’t look anywhere near as punchy as your television. But these issues do not stop the Mars 2 from being a likeable portable projector.

SCORES

  • Picture 4
  • Features 4
  • Build 4

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