Image Source: PinterestFor some, watching video content in the comfort of your own backyard is the ultimate in entertaining. An outdoor projector lets you break free from the living room couch so you can enjoy video content in the great outdoors of your backyard. Whether it’s the latest Hollywood blockbuster, the big game, or your wedding videos, seeing it all on a big screen in your backyard amps up the enjoyment and entertainment levels. Invite friends or neighbors, fire up the grill, and you’ve got yourself a great night out without leaving home.
Choosing and buying an outdoor projector is not something that should be rushed into. There are a number of things that need to take into consideration before laying out your cash, so let’s take a look at a few of them. While the following will give you a good overview of what to look for in an outdoor projector, you’ll still want to do deeper research, so you can get what you want at a price that works with your budget.
Lumens, or candle feet, is the measurement of how much light is emitted by the projector, or how bright the projector is. The typical 75W incandescent bulb emits 1100 lumens. In general, the more ambient light in the viewing area, the higher the lumens.
When choosing an outdoor projector, go with the highest lumen model you can afford. The brighter the better, but we recommend a minimum of 2,000 lumens for outdoor projectors. The more ambient light that’s around you, the higher lumen rating you need.
You’ll need to take your environment into consideration when choosing an outdoor projector. If you’re watching at night, you can get away with a lower lumen level. If you’re watching with ambient light such as a porch light or even while the sun is setting, your lumen level needs to be higher so that you can see the screen.
Resolution and Aspect Ratio
Resolution refers to the number of pixels or tiny dots used to display images from your projector onto a screen. More pixels will give a sharper image, while less pixels will give a softer picture image.
When it comes to outdoor projectors, the higher the resolution the better, especially if you’re the type who demands a clear, crisp picture. If you’re planning on watching high definition movies or playing video games, go with a 1080p output projector (the minimum should be 720p). The resolution for 1080p is 1920 × 1080.
Be aware that while higher resolutions will give you a better movie theater experience, they can also be pricey. If crystal clear image quality is not an issue for you, standard definition or non-HD projectors are certainly a more affordable option. Also, keep in mind that you’ll probably be sitting further back from the screen than you would in your living room, so the higher resolution will help you see clearly even though you’re farther away.
Another important consideration in choosing an outdoor projector is throw distance, or how far the projector can “throw” an image to the screen. Screen size plays a big part in determining throw distance. The height and width of the screen determine how far your projector can be and the distance you need to sit from the screen in order to see a clear picture. Larger screens and set-up distance call for higher ratios.
To calculate the throw distance, think one square foot of screen for every two feet between the projector and the screen. So, if your screen is 10 feet wide, then you would place the projector approximately 20 feet away. This is a rough estimate and you may have to play with the distance until you find a placement to your liking.
If outdoor projecting space is an issue, look for projectors with a short throw lens that will allow you to place the projector closer to the screen while providing a large screen size range.
These days, choosing a projector that’s easily connected to a laptop or smartphone greatly increases your entertainment options, so make sure the outdoor projector you choose comes with the connections you need. Most importantly, look for projectors with a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port for high-quality image and audio output. HDMI 1.4 or higher offer the best performance. If your laptop has a DVI output rather than a HDMI output, you must be certain the projector has DVI input to support the connection your laptop has.
Also, be sure the projector you choose has USB connections. This way, videos you have on your computer or laptop can be loaded onto a USB flash drive rather than bring your computer outside. This will also allow you to stream video from your smartphone.
However, with Wi-Fi connectivity capabilities, you won’t need any type of port connection to play a device. With a Wi-Fi connection, you can stream content from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu or any other online service. Being able to stream content wirelessly also eliminates the amount of wiring and cables in the backyard. However, a strong outside Wi-Fi signal is essential, so make sure to check that before splurging on a Wi-Fi-ready projector.
Depending on quality, features, resolution, and other factors, outdoor projectors can range from nicely affordable to super expensive. A 1080p (and up) projector with a minimum of 2,000 lumens of power should run in the $500-$700 range. Lower budget 720p options with the same lumens could run between $200 to $400. Fully loaded top-of-the-line models can go for $1000 or more.
Outside projectors that come with wireless capability tend to more expensive than those with simply wired connections and ports and will need to be a budget consideration.
Top Outdoor Projectors
With a whopping 3000 lumens and a 23,000:1 contrast ratio, the Optoma HD142X Outdoor Projector delivers the top-notch picture quality usually found in movie theaters. Its high brightness level makes it a projector that can be used in any ambient light condition. We were especially impressed with the solid contrasts and accurate colors of the picture. We also liked the remote that let us adjust the picture size to match any size or orientation, which makes it great for use on uneven surfaces. While we thought the overall design was a bit meh, it’s amazing array of features more than compensated for its dull visual appeal. Even better, all these great features and more come at a very reasonable price!
|Quiet||Occasional rainbow effect|
|Accurate colors||Weak mono speaker performance|
|3000 lumens||Dull design|
4.0 out of 5.0 stars
The Epson Home Cinema Outdoor 1040 Projector is a high-performing outdoor projector that comes at an attractive price point that won’t break your budget. Like most of the outdoors projectors we’ve reviewed here, the Epson 1040 comes with full digital HDMI connectivity and 3LCD technology. The full 1080p native resolution and 3000 lumens let it display a clear, bright image. The 10,000 hours of lamp life (when the unit is in Eco mode, 5000 hours when it’s not) was also impressive. While not as locked and loaded with features as some of the outdoor projectors on this list, you still get a lot of projector at a great price.
|Good value for money||Weak 2-watt speaker|
|Works well in ambient light||Noisy fan|
|Excellent connectivity||No 3D capabilities|
4.0 out of 5.0 stars
We found the BenQ W1070 Outdoor Projector to be an affordable and reliable outdoor projector that produces a crisp 2D image that looks more expensive than it is. We really liked the “Colorific” technology that let us easily switch between day and night modes as the evening light began to fade. We also liked the versatility of this model, especially how two full HDMI ports let us stream content from multiple sources. We thought the 3D picture was close to perfect, although we would have liked it more if 3D glasses came with the kit. Kick in 2000 lumens of brightness and full 1080p resolution, and the BenQ W1070 Outdoor Projector is a winner.
|Excellent picture and color quality||Known to overheat|
|3D capabilities||No 3D glasses|
|2 HDMI ports||Crushed low-level shadow details|
4.5 out of 5.0 stars
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 Outdoor Projector is an outdoor projector that’s souped up and ready to go! Where do we start? Its full 1080p HD, 2000 lumens and 3LCD technology produce images of impressive brightness and eye-popping color vibrancy. We especially liked the high-tech features like full HDMI connectivity and MHL and 3D compatibility that make this model so versatile. We were also very impressed with the Epson PowerLite’s amazing ability to produce images up to 300” diagonally for movies in theater-like sizes. If you’re looking for a technologically advanced outdoor projector that delivers a movie theater experience, check out the The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 Outdoor Projector.
|Excellent throw distance||Noisy fan|
|Full HD 1080p||Focus issues|
|2000 lumens||No lens shift options|
4.5 out of 5.0 stars
When it comes to outstanding picture quality, it’s hard to surpass the Optoma EH500 High Brightness Outdoor Projector. Want bright? With its amazing 4700 lumens, the Optima EH500 delivers the brightness, producing clear and crisp high-quality images, even in less than ideal lighting conditions. We liked the DLP BrilliantColor technology that produced bold and accurate colors, and how the 10,000:1 contrast ratio made black and whites sharper and deeper. A deep array of ports ensured total connectivity, and we liked the automatic shutdown mode that helped conserve energy. All this plus 3D capabilities! If you’re looking for an outdoor projector that will make you think you’re in an indoor movie theater, look no further than the powerful Optoma EH500 High Brightness Outdoor Projector.
|Value for money||Pricey|
|Amazing picture quality||Short lamp life|
|3D capabilities||Unreliable remote|
4.8 out of 5.0 stars
When it comes to excellent features and crisp image quality, you don’t get much better than the Epson EX9200 Pro WUXGA 3LCD Projector Pro. With its super-bright display technology and handy wireless capabilities, this outdoor projector scores big on so many levels. Its 3200 lumens mean you get a great picture even when it’s not completely dark and its 3LCD display will give you eye-popping images and colors. The HDMI connection gave us superior audio and video quality and we especially liked the multiple adjustments that let us adjust the picture to our likings. The 10,000-hour bulb life was also something we liked a lot. Overall, Epson EX9200 Pro WUXGA 3LCD Projector Pro should be high on your list if you’re looking for an top-of-the-line outdoor projector at an excellent price point
|Vivid 3200 lumens||Confusing instructions|
|Excellent picture quality||Noisy fan|
|Versatile input choices|
5.0 out of 5.0 stars
We put the ViewSonic PJF7720HD Home Theater Outdoor Projector at the top of this for good reason. From the affordable price to its amazingly bright 1080p HD, 3200 lumen lamp that produce stunningly clear images even in ambient light, we found so much to like here. Shall we talk about the 10,000 hours of lamp life? How about the versatile HDMI/USB port that allows for easy connectivity? We also liked its “no fuss, no muss” ease of operation: plug in two cables and you’re off! While we initially found the fan to be a bit noisy, this was not a problem in an outdoor environment. A high quality outdoor projector at a sweet price, the feature-packed ViewSonic PJF7720HD Home Theater Outdoor Projector is sure to be the star of your next backyard movie night.
|Excellent picture quality||Poor sound quality|
|Light weight||Noisy fan|
5.0 out of 5.0 stars