Summer is still here, kind of, so getting one of the best outdoor projectors will be a worthy addition to your home tech setup. While we may be starting to creep back outside to the park, most of us never thought we’d spend so much time at home this year. We never thought we’d actually be bored enough to finally knock-up that shelf or paint the living room. But why stop there? Why not treat yourself to one of the best outdoor projectors and create the outdoor home cinema or gaming arena of your dreams at home? When there are no new summer blockbusters in cinemas, bring your old favorites to your own big screen. It’s been a rough year, you’ve earned it.
But first, we must remember that light is always the key when it comes to projectors, and the best outdoor projectors are no exception. For context, cinemas aren’t dark just so you can cuddle up in the back row; the light from the projector wouldn’t be able to make the colors so strong and vivid if it was competing with house lights. Similarly, even the best home projector is no match for a gigantic ball of light in the sky. Any projector is going to struggle with a sunny day, even in a shady area. But as the summer evenings get longer, there’s more time to stretch out with the last barbequed burgers and take in a great film or pit all your friends together in a FIFA tournament to make up for missing Euro 2020.
Of course, everyone’s finances have been affected a lot one way or the other this year. But here there’s something for everyone to get one of the best outdoor projectors, whether you’ve saved what you would usually spend commuting and socializing or if money’s tight. While “you get what you pay for” applies to outdoor projectors maybe more than any other bit of entertainment tech, you can still find great units at affordable prices.
We should let you know, however, that due to the kind of year and summer we’ve had so far, these products do tend to go in and out of stock on both sides of the Atlantic. Our price finding gadget will always present the best available prices for you, and always point you in the right direction where there isn’t currently a price. Also, check back here regularly as we intend to add more and more to this list to broaden your selection.
When putting a projector indoors, there’s a reasonable chance of having a white wall that the image will look great on. Outside, this is less likely. So not only is the TMY V08 great value in itself, but it includes a free 100-inch screen sheet, saving you having to buy one separately. It’s a small touch, but a very useful one that few brands provide.
It’s a bright outdoor projector which will give as good an image and clear sound as you’ll find in this price range. Some users have reported issues having all areas of the screen in focus but this is only noticeable if you’re using it as a secondary monitor with lots of text, and not something which interferes with your home drive-in watching pleasure. It’s well worth the low price.
The sound of one of the best outdoor projectors might not be the first thing on your mind, but not having to carry out speakers every time you want to use it makes set up much less of a chore and lets you get on with what you want to do: sit down and enjoy your own outdoor cinema. The L21 boasts not one but two great speakers, and it’s a rare treat to get stereo at this price.
Convenience is key here – the L21 is quick to set up and a glance at the simple and unfussy remote reflects the commitment to keeping things simple. BDPower boasts about the quality of its dual-fan cooling system, but the drawback is that this fan noise means both speakers will have to be turned up loud to drown it out.
If you’re worried your small or narrow garden doesn’t have room for a projector, you need short throw. The wide lens of the Optoma GT1080 can give huge images even when close to the projection surface, opening up viewing possibilities in the cosiest space.
It also boosts a gaming mode with minimal input lag. Most projectors will be fine for the majority of gamers, but the hardcore – particularly those who play online – will need something as responsive as the GT1080.
The only real niggle with this is that lacks a full USB input, with only a mini USB slot, which means you’ll need a device which outputs HDMI rather than popping a Fire Stick straight in, for example.
BenQ is one of the biggest names in projectors because they offer great quality at a price well below similarly specced competitors. The TK850 gives true 4K UHD for incredibly sharp pictures and intense, detailed color. Its 3000 lumens mean this unit is incredibly bright and will be watchable when other projectors are still waiting for nightfall, while the backlit remote means you’ll still be able to change settings in the dark.
For anyone who wants to replace the full stadium experience while the stands are empty, the TK850 is made for whatever sport you’ve been missing. It has custom sports modes, helped by its low lag so you can watch even the fastest matches seamlessly. This includes sound settings, which gives you every bit of the dubbed crowd or shout from the pitch through its chambered 10W speakers. Projector speakers can be a mixed bag but these are loud and clear enough to not require dragging a sound system outside.
It’s a simple unit to set up, and as well as vertical keystoning offers a lens shift wheel to move the image up or down – making it easier to get a great picture when you don’t have the perfect spot for it to rest. The only downside is that the input lag of 83ms is slower than the ideal for gaming, although it would take a keen eye to spot this. At the premium end of the spectrum, this is the best outdoor projector.
A solid unit in the mid-range of projectors, the EB-S41 is bright and reliable. Epson is a brand pitched a little more towards business rather than pleasure, and there is something about the unit which looks more at home in the office than home or garden, but that’s not something to worry about when you’re watching its great picture. It offers WiFi connectivity and casting, although you need an additional accessory for this.
The carry case helps you to easily take it out into the garden and store it safely when not in use, or for if you’re sick of being the host and want to make someone else’s back yard a cinema. One of the few models in this price range to offer horizontal and vertical keystoning make it easier to set up in new places too. However, the native 4:3 aspect ratio shoes this may be more of an office projector you can use for outdoor viewing rather than a genuine video specialist.
At the size of a large drinking glass, the Anker Nebula Capsule II is slightly bigger than its predecessor but upgrades on it in several ways. It now has Android TV installed which means all your favorite streaming apps can run on it (although you need a quick workaround to install Netflix). Set up is a breeze as you can connect your Android phone to import WiFi and app account details, and even use the phone as a controller rather than needing to type using the remote. Automatic focus and keystoning means you’ve got a clear picture fast.
If you’re venturing out to camp, be sure to pack this. You can take it anywhere with three hours of video playback (30 hours of music) on a single charge and 8GB of storage (plus a USB port for a memory stick or external hard drive). The picture isn’t the sharpest, brightest, or the biggest, with a throw distance of about 60cm to 3m (around two to ten feet), but this can be used anywhere, in seconds. This isn’t about perfect high fidelity, this is about fun and portability.
When I last bought a projector in 2017, I was warned off anything in this price range. But the GooDee Upgraded’s glowing reviews and status as one of the top sellers on Amazon shows that affordable LED projectors are no longer a huge quality drop off from lamp units twice the cost.
There are some practical issues. A lack of display size control means you’ll have to move the projector forward and backward to control the image dimensions. A three setting front leg instead of a screw means a lack of precision in height controls, making it more likely you’ll have to balance strategically sized books under the front of the unit to set the height of the projection. But with sharp, bright picture and stereo sound through good speakers at this price, compromises can be made!
Budget brand Vankyo shows just how fast projector technology is moving, and how much cheaper it’s getting. The most recent Leisure 3 is 6% brighter than previous models and has 2400 lumens for great picture quality of up to 170inches. It even comes with a carry case for ease of transport or to safely store it inside when not in use. And carrying or storing a device this small will be easy.
At this end of the market, you’re going to need to wait until the sun is down, but if you’re on a budget or just want something for occasional use and full HD imagery is less important to you than the excitement of getting your own garden projector, this may be the perfect entry point.
We are living in a horrible dystopian future, so why not get the fun side of sci-fi and have a projector which has full Alexa capability? Link it up to your smart home and control your projector with your voice while you flip sausages on the barbeque?
The UHD51 has a fantastic 4K UHD picture and for watching anything from bright Pixar movies to darker films like Bladerunner 2049, with incredible depth of blacks, often a weak spot of home projectors.
This projector isn’t without minor flaws though: the 5W speaker is weak, especially given that this unit is noisy. It can be hard to hear over its own fan at times, let alone a noisy child singing along to Frozen 2. The range of modes it offers isn’t the most useful either, and it can be hard to tell what the difference between them is. What does make this stand out is the 3D capability, a trick Optoma always does very well, if only in 1080p here. These slight negatives do not take away from the whole package though, as the UHD51A is still a seriously quality Optoma projector.
A final note: The UHD51A model is different from the UHD51 by virtue of that Alexa compatibility. The former is more prevalent in the US and the latter in the UK.
A perennial drawback with outdoor projectors, especially in the summer, is the heat they give out. Personally, the heat of mine indoors stops me using on summer days. But the Goodee G500’s LED light rather than a traditional lamp runs with little heat, making it ideal for an outdoor unit. Anyone who’s phone has overheated and shut down in the last few weeks knows how annoying hot tech in the sun is!
The picture here isn’t perfect, 720p rather than 1080p, but it gives beautiful images. While it advertises a picture up to 180 inches, image quality does drop noticeably before you get there. If you only have 4k sources but want to dip your toe in the projector water, don’t worry; it downscales well without the visual issues some cheaper projectors have with this. It’s also got a wide range of inputs, should you need to connect something pre-HDMI. The inbuilt speaker is poor and you’ll need external ones to plugin but that’s often to be expected at this price point.
Overall, you have some fine options here, and we will keep adding to as often as we can. If you’re looking for the more traditional gaming screens then you have to check out our guides on the best gaming monitors and the best gaming TVs.