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...
- Upgrade your audio: best wireless speakers
- Explained: how to choose a projector screen
- How to build an outdoor cinema in your garden
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.