Table of Contents
- What to Pay Attention to When Looking for a Projector for Outdoor Movies?
- Best Projectors for Outdoor Movies – Comparison Table
- 6 Best Projectors for Outdoor Movies in 2021
- 1. Best 1080p 3D Projector Under $600 – Optoma HD146X
- 2. Best Short-Throw 4K Gaming Projector Under $1000 – Optoma GT1080HDR
- 3. Most Versatile 1080p 3D Projector – BenQ W1070
- 4. Best 4K Projector Under $3,000 – Epson Home Cinema 5050UBe
- 5. Best 4K Gaming Projector Under $2,000 – Optoma UHD50X
- 6. Best Smart 4K Projector Under $1,500 – ViewSonic X10-4KE
Throwing an outdoor movie night in your backyard is a great way of spending some quality time with your friends and family. You just need some snacks, drinks, a projector screen, and of course, a quality projector. Now, buying snacks and drinks is the easiest part. Even buying the projector screen is not that hard. You can even make it on your own. But buying a good-quality projector is the tricky part. And we’re here to help you with that. Our article about 6 best projectors for outdoor movies in 2021 is designed to help you understand what to look for when buying a projector and to present you with some nice options.
Before we start, it’s important for you to know that there are no projectors that are designed for outdoor use – there’re no weather-proof or waterproof projectors. Many business projectors or home theater projectors can be used outdoors but you have to take some precaution measures and protect your equipment.
What to Pay Attention to When Looking for a Projector for Outdoor Movies?
The quality of a projector is determined by a great number of features. In order to buy the best projector for your needs, you have to understand the key specs and do some serious research.
Based on the ratio between the image size and distance required to project that image, we can make a difference between standard throw, short-throw, and ultra-short-throw projectors. This ratio is called the throw ratio and it is a very important value. It can tell you what kind of distance between the screen and projector you need for the specific image size. If you have a very small backyard, then you should consider this value very seriously. In some cases, you will have to use a short-throw projector (and you should know that short-throw projectors are usually more expensive). If you have a large backyard, a standard-throw projector will do the job just fine.
Once you determine what kind of throw ratio you need, the next thing to check is the image quality. This is a crucial thing for home theater projectors and is determined by many features and specs including max supported resolution, supported aspect ratios, brightness, contrast ratio, color output, etc. In all these cases, you should be looking for the highest possible values. The majority of today’s projectors support 1080p (1920×1080) while the higher-end projectors also support 4K (or can upscale 1080p or 2K video to 4K). The majority of projectors also support various aspect ratios including 16:9, 16:10, and 4:3. Cheaper projectors may not support 16:9. The brightness is usually expressed in lumens and the main rule is – the higher the value the better the image. If you’re going to use the projector by night and in dark rooms, you need at least 2.000 lumens. 3.000 lumens and more will allow you to use it by day or when there’s some ambient light.
Furthermore, you should pay attention to the available inputs and overall ease of use and installation. You should be looking for the projector with multiple HDMI inputs, audio outputs, and some additional video inputs (VGA and component video inputs). Some high-end projectors also have USB Type-A and Type-C inputs, mini USB inputs, etc. Some even feature Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Setting up a projector and positioning it can be a tricky thing. The features that can help you with this and make it much easier are vertical keystone correction and lens shift (vertical and horizontal) so make sure that these features are supported.
Best Projectors for Outdoor Movies – Comparison Table
|Projectors for Outdoor Movies||Rating||Price||Review|
|Optoma HD146X||4.3||Check Amazon|
|Optoma GT1080HDR||4.3||Check Amazon|
|BenQ W1070||4.5||Check Amazon|
|Epson 5050UBe||4.6||Check Amazon|
|Optoma UHD50X||4.1||Check Amazon|
|ViewSonic X10-4KE||4.1||Check Amazon|
After long research and a number of tested projectors made by all the popular manufacturers, we’ve finally put together the following list of 6 best projectors for outdoor movies in 2021. All these projectors are great for both outdoor and indoor use and you won’t make a mistake if you chose any of them. You just have to establish your budget and go through our list. These are our top choices.
6 Best Projectors for Outdoor Movies in 2021
1. Best 1080p 3D Projector Under $600 – Optoma HD146X
Optoma HD146X is a great DLP standard-throw projector with 1080p support and great brightness (3,600 ANSI lumens). It’s not extremely versatile but it has one HDMI input and it projects a very accurate and vivid image. It is also a pretty good choice for gaming (16ms response time). The best thing is that it’s quite affordable – it is our top choice under $600.
Things we like
HD146X comes with a power cable, nice backlit remote, user manual, and a warranty card. Mounting equipment is sold separately.
The projector is compact and fairly light. It has a simple input panel on the back – there’s one HDMI 1.4a input, USB Type-A power output (can’t be used for playing movies), 3.5mm audio output, Kensington lock, and power input.
To control the unit, you can use the control panel on the top, or the included remote.
Setting up the projector is fairly easy. The throw ratio is 1.47-1.62 (with 1.1x zoom). HD146X features vertical keystone correction (+/-40°) which makes the placement quite flexible. To project a 120in image, you have to place the projector 13-14in away, while the max screen diagonal is 300in (max zoom at 32ft distance).
The native resolution is 1080p (1920×1080 with 16:9 aspect ratio). The max brightness is 3,600 ANSI lumens, and the contrast ratio is 25,000:1. The projector is compliant with the HDTV Rec.709 color standard. The colors are quite accurate and vivid.
Thanks to dynamic black technology, you will get a much better image depth and much more detailed and clearer dark scenes. The projector can display 3D video content from all kinds of 3D sources.
When using the game mode, the response time is only 16ms which makes it perfect for gaming.
The advertised lamp life is 15,000h in dynamic. You will get 10,000h in eco mode and 4,000h in bright mode.
The projector delivers a very quiet operation. The fan produces only 26dBs of noise (ECO mode) which is perfectly acceptable. It gets slightly louder in bright mode but it’s still pretty quiet.
HD146X has a built-in 3W speaker, which is better than having no speakers at all but it’s not great.
Things we don’t like
You can’t play movies from a USB drive. The USB port is for power supply only. You will get only one HDMI 1.4a port and no VGA ports.
2. Best Short-Throw 4K Gaming Projector Under $1000 – Optoma GT1080HDR
This is already the second Optoma projector on our list of 6 best projectors for outdoor movies in 2021. The reason why we love Optoma so much is simple – Optoma offers such great value for your money. Their projectors often have better specs and deliver better performance than you can get from other same-priced projectors made by other manufacturers. Optoma GT1080HDR is a great short-throw projector offering excellent value for money. It’s very versatile (HDMI x2 + VGA), it has a high brightness rating (3,800 ANSI lumens), it supports 4K UHD, it’s MHL-enabled, and it has a very low response time which makes it an excellent choice for gaming.
Things we like
GT1080HDR comes with a power cable, backlit remote (batteries included), user manual, and a 1-year warranty.
The projector features a simple but attractive boxy design. It’s compact and fairly light.
All the inputs are on the back and there’s plenty of them. You have two HDMI inputs – one HDMI 2.0 and one HDMI 1.4a ((both HDCP2.2 compliant with HDR10 support). You also have VGA input and VGA output, USB port (for power supply only), RS232 port, 3.5mm audio input, 3.5mm audio output, Kensington lock, and power input. HDMI 2.0 input supports 4K UHD at 60Hz, while the HDMI 1.4a supports 1080p and 4K at 30Hz.
GT1080HDR features 0.8-2.0x digital zoom and its throw ratio is 0.5:1. For placement adjustments, you can also use vertical keystone correction (+/-40°). Thanks to all these features, placing and installing the projector should not be a huge hassle. It can be on the ceiling, on the rear wall, or you can simply place it on a table. The max supported screen size/diagonal is over 300in and it will require more than 10ft distance. For a 120in screen, the required distance is 4.4ft.
GT1080HDR has an impressive set of features. The max brightness is 3,800 lumens which means that you can watch movies even in bright rooms or by day. The native resolution is 1080p and the max supported resolution (through HDMI 2.0) is 4K at 60Hz. The contrast ratio is 50,000:1. It’s compliant with the HDTV REC. 709 color profile and it supports HDR10 technology which provides brighter white levels and deeper blacks. The image clarity and the quality and sharpness of the colors are truly impressive. The projector also supports 3D video playback from all kinds of video sources.
Like the previous Optoma projector, GT1080HDR is great for gaming. It’s even better than the HD146X – at 1080p (at 60Hz), the input lag is 16ms and at 1080p (at 120Hz) it’s lower than 9ms.
The advertised lifetime of the lamp is quite long – up to 15,000h in dynamic mode or up to 4,000h in Bright mode.
GT1080HDR has a 10W speaker built inside, which is decent. You can hardly get a bigger speaker when buying a projector. Still, considering the image size, that’s not much.
Things we don’t like
The USB port can only be used for power supply (5V/1A) and not for movie playback.
10W built-in speaker is not bad for a projector but you still need a bigger pair of speakers for such a large screen. Upgrading the sound is strongly recommended.
3. Most Versatile 1080p 3D Projector – BenQ W1070
W1070 is an incredibly versatile DLP projector with numerous video inputs, 1080p native resolution, and 2,000 ANSI lumens of brightness. It allows flexible installation and provides you with pretty great image quality. Depending on the seller the price can vary, but if you’re lucky, you can get it for less than $1,000.
Things we like
W1070 comes with a power cable, backlit remote, user/installation manual, and a 1-year warranty. Mounting equipment is sold separately.
The projector features a very attractive design with a sleek shiny gray finish. The rear panel is crowded with all kinds of video and audio inputs/outputs. W1070 has two HDMI 1.4 inputs, a set of component video inputs, VGA PC input, S-video input, RCA audio input, 3.5mm audio input, and 3.5mm audio output. The projector also has a 12V trigger, USB mini Type-B port, and an RS232 port. As you can see, this thing is compatible with a wide variety of video sources.
All the controls are located on the top panel, but you can set everything up with the included backlit remote.
The throw ratio ranges between 1.15 (max zoom) to 1.5:1 (min zoom). To adjust the image, you can use vertical keystone correction (+/-20°) and vertical lens shift (110-130% +/-5%). Thanks to these features, finding the best position for the projector should not be an issue. To get a 120in screen, the projector should be 10-13ft away from the screen (depending on the zoom). The max screen size is 235in (the required distance varies between 19.5ft and 26ft).
W1070 has the max brightness of 2,000 ANSI lumens and a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. With this kind of brightness, you will get pretty great performance without ambient light or if there’s a small amount of ambient light. However, the projector can’t handle bright rooms with lots of windows. The native resolution is 1080p (1920×1080) and the native aspect ratio is 16:9. W1070 also features 3D video support (via HDMI). You can choose one of 4 color modes (standard, dynamic, cinema, and 3D) and you can also set 3 custom profiles.
Depending on the mode, lamp life varies between 3,500 hours (Normal) and 6,000 hours (Eco).
W1070 is not the quietest projector on the market. In normal mode, it will produce 33dB noise but that’s perfectly acceptable at higher volume levels (or when using external speakers).
The projector has a built-in 10W mono speaker. When it comes to projectors, that’s pretty much the max you can get. Cheaper projectors either don’t have speakers or have smaller 3W/5W speakers.
Things we don’t like
W1070 doesn’t support 4K. The max supported resolution is 1080p.
Even though it’s incredibly versatile, W1070 lacks a USB Type-A power-out port so it can’t power a Chromecast or Amazon stick.
It’s highly recommended to use some louder powered speakers to get a better experience. That built-in 10W speaker is fine but won’t create the listening experience that would match the watching experience.
4. Best 4K Projector Under $3,000 – Epson Home Cinema 5050UBe
The next projector on our list of 6 best projectors for outdoor movies in 2021 comes from Epson, a company famous for its printers, scanners, and of course, projectors. Epson Home Cinema 5050UBe is an amazing 3LCD 4K projector. It is versatile, it delivers incredible brightness, color accuracy, and image clarity.
Things we like
5050UBe comes with a great-looking backlit remote (with 2 AAA batteries), power cable, HDMI cable clips, and a wireless HD transmitter (with its own power cable). This transmitter has four HDMI inputs and allows you to stream video content wirelessly in 4K at 30Hz.
5050UBe has a pretty large footprint and it’s quite hefty (weighs more than 25lbs).
All the connections are on the back. The projector has two HDMI 2.0 inputs (with HDCP 2.2 and HDR10 support), one VGA PC input, two USB Type-A ports (one for optical HDMI cable and one for wireless connection and firmware), one mini USB port (for service purposes), one LAN port, RS232 port, and a 12V trigger.
Thanks to numerous adjustment options, the placement is quite flexible. The max zoom is 2.1x and the throw ratio ranges between 1.35 and 2.84. 5050UBe also features manual vertical keystone correction (+/- 30°) as well as vertical and horizontal lens shift (vertical – +/-96.3%, horizontal – +/- 47.1%). The max screen size is 300in (30-62ft distance required). You will get a 100in screen from a 10ft-20.7ft distance (depending on the zoom).
Epson 5050UBe uses an advanced 3LCD technology to deliver an amazing image quality. The brightness is outstanding (2,600 ANSI lumens – color brightness and white brightness) and the contrast ratio is 1,000,000:1. The native resolution is 2K but it can upscale it to 4K. It can also play 3D video content in 1080p. Thanks to full HDR10 color processing, colors are incredibly lifelike and the image is sharp and has an exceptional contrast and depth. There are 6 2D color modes (dynamic, natural, bright cinema, cinema, B&W cinema, and digital cinema) and 2 3D color modes (3D Cinema and 3D Dynamic). You won’t experience any rainbow effect or image degradation with this projector. Its performance is absolutely flawless.
Depending on the mode, you will get up to 5,000h of lamp life in Eco mode (3,500 hours in High mode).
The noise levels are perfectly acceptable. Depending on the mode, it varies between 20dB and 31dB.
Things we don’t like
The only flaw of Epson 5050UBe is the lack of a built-in speaker. But that’s not a big issue since we always recommend using external speakers. After all, even the projectors with built-in speakers don’t deliver a very good listening experience.
5. Best 4K Gaming Projector Under $2,000 – Optoma UHD50X
UHD50X is another great Optoma projector. It’s highly versatile, it supports 4K UHD, it has a high brightness (3,400 lumens) excellent contrast ratio (500,000:1), it’s 3D ready, and the installation is quite flexible.
Things we like
UHD50X comes with a power cable, backlit remote, user/installation manual, and a 1-year warranty.
The projector is quite versatile and allows you to connect various video sources. It has two HDMI ports – one HDMI 2.0 input with HDCP 2.2 and MHL support and one HDMI 1.4 input. Furthermore, it has a VGA PC video input, two USB Type-A ports (one for service and other for power supply), two audio outputs (optical SPDIF and 3.5mm), one 3.5mm audio input, an RS-232C connector, and a 12V trigger.
The placement is flexible. The zoom can be manually adjusted (1.3x max) and the throw ratio varies between 1.21:1 and 1.59:1 (depending on the zoom). For image correction, you can use the vertical lens shift (+10%) and vertical keystone correction (+/-40°). The max screen size is 300in (required distance – 26.4ft). For a 120in screen, you need to place the projector 10.5-13.9ft away.
UHD50X delivers amazing image clarity and color accuracy. It’s very lifelike and provides an incredible movie-watching experience. The brightness is rated at 3,400 ANSI lumens and the contrast ratio is 500,000:1. The native resolution is 1920×1080 (1080p). The max resolution for the HDMI 2.0 input is 4K @60Hz, while the HDMI 1.4a input supports 1080p @60Hz max. UHD50X is also compatible with HDR10 and HLG, which guarantees vivid colors with deep black levels and bright whites.
Another thing this projector is great for is gaming. Thanks to its very low input lag in gaming mode (16ms at [email protected], 23ms at [email protected], or 25ms at 4K) UHD50X is an excellent gaming projector.
The lamp life varies depending on the mode. It goes up to 15,000 hours in Eco mode (4,000 hours in bright mode).
UHD50X provides quiet performance. The average noise level is 26dB so it won’t affect your watching experience.
The projector has a tiny 5W mono speaker built inside. It can come in handy in certain situations but upgrading the sound is definitely recommended.
Things we don’t like
It’s highly recommended to use external speakers. That tiny built-in speaker can’t provide the kind of sound a big screen requires.
6. Best Smart 4K Projector Under $1,500 – ViewSonic X10-4KE
ViewSonic X10-4KE is a short-throw projector with an amazing set of features. It supports 4K video playback as well as 3D, it’s wi-fi enabled, it can work with Google Assistant and Alexa, it’s incredibly versatile (HDMI x2 + USB-C + micro SD, USB 3.1), and it delivers very reliable performance. Oh, and it is compact, highly portable, and has two Bluetooth-enabled Harman/Kardon speakers built inside.
Things we like
X10-4KE comes with a power cable, backlit remote (batteries included), USB-C cable, wi-fi Dongle (for connecting to your home wi-fi network), user manual, and a warranty card (3-year warranty on parts and labor + 1-year lamp warranty).
The projector has a very attractive design and a fairly small footprint. It even has a handle on the top, which makes transportation much easier.
X10-4KE is highly versatile. It has 2 HDMI inputs (both support HDCP 2.2), 2 USB Type-A ports (USB 2.0 and USB 3.1), one USB-C port, one micro-SD card slot, one optical SPDIF audio output, one AUX output, one AUX input, LAN port, and a port for the wi-fi dongle.
The installation should not be a huge hassle. This is a short-throw projector with a 0.8:1 throw ratio and automatic zoom and vertical keystone correction. The throw distance varies between 1.6ft and 11.5ft, while the max screen size is 200in. To get a 120in diagonal, the projector should be 7ft away from the screen.
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The image quality is quite good but it’s not exactly on par with the same-priced traditional projectors. The projector uses an LED light source and the brightness is rated at 2,400 lumens (these are LED lumens, not ANSI lumens). The max supported resolution is 4K (3840 x 2160). The color performance is better than average – the unit features HDR10 support and is compliant with the Rec. 709 standard. Still, it’s not as good as Optoma UHD50X.
What makes this projector stand out from others is the wi-fi connectivity and smart features (Google Assistant and Alexa support). The vCastSender app allows you to stream video content from a smartphone/tablet and to control the unit. If you have a smart home setup, you can control the projector (adjust volume, select input, control autofocus, turn the unit on/off) with Alexa or Google Assistant. In order to do that, you have to install the ViewSonic Remote app and link your Google Assistant/Alexa account to it.
Thanks to its LED light source, the lamp life is prolonged. In NORMAL mode, you will get up to 30,000 hours.
Another thing that makes X10-4KE special is the speaker. In fact, two. This projector features two Bluetooth-enabled Harman Kardon 8W speakers. X10-4KE is louder than most other projectors on the market and the sound is pretty clear.
Things we don’t like
The projector is bad for gaming due to the high input lag.
The contrast is not on par with other similarly priced traditional (non-smart) projectors.
This concludes our list of 6 best projectors for outdoor movies in 2021, but don’t go away yet. In our FAQs section, you can find short and concise answers to some common projector-related questions. If you need any advice or want to share your experience with projectors, leave us a comment below.
Q: What is the best projector for outdoor movies?
A: It’s practically impossible to give just one answer to this question. Budget, screen size, available space, and numerous other factors can have an effect on your choice. The only thing we can say with certainty is that you can find at least one unit on our list of 6 best projectors for outdoor movies in 2021 that’s perfect for your setup.
Q: How many lumens do I need for an outdoor projector?
A: If you are going to use it only by night, 2,000 lumens should be enough. If you want to use it by day or in situations when there’s some ambient light, 3000 lumens or more is recommended. In any case, a higher brightness rating is always better. Your lower limit should be set at 2,000 lumens.
Q: How do I play a movie outside with a projector?
A: The same way you would play it indoors. You need a source (like a PC, laptop, Blu-ray or DVD player, etc.), a projector, and a projector screen. And you need a power supply for your source and your projector. Since you’re going to use all the equipment outdoors, it’s probably smarter to use some highly portable source – the best choice is obviously a laptop. You will use a video cable (preferably HDMI but you can also use VGA) to connect the laptop to your projector. The biggest problem with outdoor projections is probably the sound. You can always use the speakers built inside your projector (most projectors have them) but they are really tiny and can’t really match the projected image. That’s why it’s recommended to use a pair of powerful active speakers with analog inputs (AUX or RCA) and connect them to your projector’s audio output.
Q: What should I look for when buying a projector for outdoor movies?
A: As discussed in the introduction, the list of features to look for in a projector is quite long. To simplify things, all the features to look for can be divided into 4 categories – throw ratio (describes the distance you need to project the image of a certain size), image quality (max resolution, brightness, contrast ratio, aspect ratio, etc.), available video/audio connections, and ease of installation and use. If you want to use the projector for gaming and not just for movies, you should also check the input lag (should be lower than 40ms) and refresh rate (60Hz or higher).
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.