Best Outdoor Projector: Open air cinema


What are the best outdoor projectors?

Best outdoor projectors 2020: The sun is out, the weather is (just about) warm, why not take your home cinema out of the living room and plonk it in an open-air setting?

Most projector can be used outside, but there are some things to consider for using an outdoor projector, one of which is brightness. We’d recommend projectors with a brightness of 2000 lumens and more. When it comes to outdoor cinemas, the brighter the better.

This list is of our most recommended projectors for outdoor use. If none here quite fit your needs, others up for consideration are the BenQ TH535, which puts in a bright performance. There’s also BenQ’s GV1, a pico projector that can be produce a big-screen performance but comes with a clunky interface and low brightness..

Related: How to set-up an outdoor projector

  • Best value outdoor projector: BenQ W5700
  • Best outdoor projector: Viewsonic X-10 4K
  • Best entry-level outdoor projector: Epson EH-TW650
  • Best big-screen outdoor projector: Optoma UHD40
  • Best outdoor projector for brightness: Optoma H116ST
  • Best portable outdoor projector: Epson EF-100

1. BenQ W2700

Great vale 4K HDR projector

Pros:

  • Great value for what’s on offer
  • Easily the best HDR picture we’ve seen at this price point
  • Crisp, clean 4K playback

Cons:

  • Slightly high input lag for gaming
  • Black levels only fair to middling for SDR playback
  • Minor rainbow effect

This 4K HDR projector from BenQ offers tremendous value, and with a brightness of 2000 lumens its suited for outdoor use.

While not a native 4K projector, it puts in a crisp and clean performance, with colours showing nuance and depth while HDR content looks outstanding. It’s also more than capable with HD and SDR images, offering natural-looking colours and punchy contrast. You may want to turn off the Wide Colour mode when watching HDR content in a bright environment, as this makes images look brighter.

ViewSonic X10-4K

2. ViewSonic X-10 4K

A very portable effort

Pros:

  • Bright and punchy images
  • Effective HDR performance
  • Excellent motion handling
  • Sound system surprisingly good
  • Long-lasting LED light source
  • Portable and easy to install
  • Extensive smart features
  • Stylish and well made

Cons:

  • Weak black levels and shadow detail
  • Resolution isn’t native 4K

The ViewSonic X10-4K’s features make it ideal for use in an outdoor cinema set-up.

For one it’s a short-throw projector, so can be placed close to a screen, producing a 120-inch image from just 2m away. It’s easy to set-up, portable (thanks to its handle) and with built-in Wi-Fi and access to the Aptoide store, you can stream from apps such as iPlayer and Netflix.

It delivers a bright, punchy picture – its brightness of 2400 lumens is another tick on the outdoor list – and the integrated Harmon Kardon sound system has real size and depth. For movies though, you’ll may want to seek a better sound system.

Epson EH-TW650

3. Epson EH-TW650

An extremely bright entry-level effort

Pros:

  • Bright and punchy picture
  • Excellent colour reproduction
  • Detailed and clear images
  • Great price

Cons:

  • Poor black levels and shadow detail

This Epson delivers big-screen entertainment for a relatively small cost.

It’s extremely bright (3100 lumens), which means it can withstand plenty of ambient light for outdoor use. It can also beam an image up to 300-inches if you have a white wall big enough. It’s easy to set up, beaming Full HD images that offer plenty of detail, clarity and richly saturated colours. Black levels can be middling, but unless you’re watching it at night you’re not likely to notice.

Optoma UHD40

4. Optoma UHD40

Good value 4K performance

Pros:

  • Pictures look surprisingly 4K
  • Surprisingly and consistently enjoyable HDR pictures
  • Remarkably good value

Cons:

  • Black levels are average
  • Occasional rainbow effect
  • No real support for wide colour technologies

An affordable ‘4K’ projector, the Optoma UHD40 can display images up to 300-inches wide.

Lumens is rated at 2400, which is brighter than some more expensive efforts. It only supports the Rec.709 colour standard, so it can’t extract as much out of wide colour gamut content if you plan on watching HDR content.

Black levels are a bit weak too, but it does a reasonably good job with Ultra HD, producing a picture full of detail, as well as rich in texture and clarity.

5. Optoma H116ST

Short-throw effort with a big image

Pros:

  • Great picture quality for the money
  • Short-throw lens works well
  • Living room-friendly design

Cons:

  • Slight detail crushing in dark areas
  • Mild rainbow effect
  • Only one HDMI

Another short-throw projector and one that’s available for around £500, the H116ST is a cracking little projector.

Its 3600 lumens of brightness is extremely high for casual projector, making it effective for outdoor use. It delivers a consistently enjoyable picture quality, with good contrast levels and colours that look rich and natural. Those sensitive to the Rainbow Effect (which varies person-to-person), may find its appearance here to be slightly aggravating.

6. Epson EF-100

A portable laser projector

 Pros:

  • Very bright for its size
  • Smart TV stick-friendly design
  • Fairly sharp lens

Cons:

  • Significant “screen door” effect
  • Poor black level
  • Speaker distorts with some content
  • Poor resolution

Epson’s first portable laser projector offers plenty of options in terms of placement. At 2.7kg it’s not too heavy, and at 2000 lumens of brightness means its strengths are more suited for use in brighter environments than at night.

Day time use covers up the projectors rather disappointing black levels, and its HD-ready resolution doesn’t help matters, revealing visible pixel structure in what’s on-screen. If you can put those issues to one side, it’s a punchy performer, with colours that retain a sense of vibrancy and images that offer good contrast.

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