First, let’s talk about three, great budget-friendly options that are more than bright enough for awesome backyard movie nights. All three of these units do not include a battery option; you will need to plug into a power outlet to enjoy these projectors. Need a more portable projector? Check out our shortlist of the Best Battery Powered Projectors.
EPSON HOME CINEMA 880 (3300 lumens) $499
The Epson Home Cinema 880 can produce up to a whopping 3,300 lumens of brightness and delivers good color accuracy. It can project a screen size up to 130 inches.
You can easily connect a cable box, Blu-ray player, gaming console, or streaming device to the HC880 via its HDMI input. The HC880 has a USB-A input that can be used to display content stored on a USB memory device. The Epson Home Cinema 880 projector can also support Mira casting with mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, or tablets. The Miracast feature lets you project or mirror a device wirelessly without any additional software.
This projector does have a built-in 2-watt mono speaker, located on the left rear side of the projector. However, the speaker is not very powerful and lacks bass. If you are using this projector in a large, outdoor area, you will likely want to use the Audio Output connection to connect a more advanced /powerful sound system.
The unit is fairly compact – Width: 11.9 inches (302mm) Height: 3.4 inches (87mm) Depth: 9.8 inches (249mm), weight 5.95 lbs (2.7kg).
The Home Cinema 880 is a very basic projector, it utilizes a lamp-based light source, and it doesn’t have many smart features. However, at $599, it is very affordable and produces good picture quality for its price. With an ANSI Lumens rating of 3,300 and a lamp life of 6,000 hours (12,000 hours in ECO mode), you will get years of outdoor enjoyment.
The HC880 walks a fine line between convenience, performance, and value. The projector delivers a bright picture with accurate colors. With a resolution of 1920×1080, combined with 3,300 lumens, it is a great addition to home entertainment system or backyard theater.
The BenQ TH585 is also a 1080p unit with dual HDMI inputs and a USB input. This projector offers excellent brightness at 3500 lumens. If your goal is to project on a very large screen, the BenQ TH858 has the power to produce a vibrant picture, even with some ambient light.
If you are into outdoor gaming, you will want the lowest input lag possible. The highest acceptable input lag for serious gamers is about 55ms. Input lag refers to the amount of time, measured in milliseconds, that it takes for a signal from your source (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, etc.) to travel to the projector and end up on your screen. With projectors, most TVs, and many monitors, there is some level of delay. We have a scale of input lag speeds ranging from acceptable, to excellent.
Acceptable: 41ms to 50ms Good: 33ms to 40ms Great: 21ms to 32ms Excellent: 16ms to 20ms
In our own tests, the BenQ TH585 measured in the 16-17ms range, which is really outstanding. Time to invite the neighborhood kids over for epic pwnage, gamers are going to get smooth gameplay in even fast-paced games.
The BenQ TH585 is relatively compact, measuring 4.33” high and 12.38” wide. It weighs about 6.2 lbs. Like the Home Cinema 880, this projector will sound better when connected to a larger sound system, but it does have 10-watt built-in speakers for a fairly decent sound out of the box.
If you are considering using your projector someplace with less ambient light or with a smaller screen and you can sacrifice some brightness in your projector, the Epson EF12 brings a maintenance-free laser light source, upgraded sound system, and smart features to your outdoor adventures.
The Epson EF12 is a Smart, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), laser-powered home media projector that can deliver 1000 ANSI lumens of brightness. Most compact portable projectors in the EF12 price range utilize an LED light source. The EF12 has a multi-array laser diode light source that can deliver 1000 ANSI lumens from a very compact package. The light source has a rated life of 20,000 hours, which ensures years of maintenance-free operation. When the laser light source is combined with the 3LCD imagers, the result is more accurate colors and better blacks than most of the competition.
It offers Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution, and its 1,000-lumen laser light source has a rated life of 20,000 hours in normal/quiet mode. While the EF12 is a 1080P projector, it can accept a 4K signal which is downconverted to HD before it is displayed.
Since it has built-in Android TV, it is packed with all the features of a Smart TV, as well as Wi-Fi. To deliver all the convenience of a Smart TV, the EF12 utilizes an Android TV interface that provides easy access to streaming apps like Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+. In addition to the pre-loaded streaming apps, there is also a wide variety of other apps available in the app store.
You can also use Chromecast to share content from your tablet, phone, or computer on the screen. If you have a Google Home ecosystem, you can connect the projector and use Google Assistant voice control to control it via the remote or any compatible Google Home device. The projector also has a built-in media player that can access files via its USB inputs. There are two USB inputs that can be used to play all types of media (Videos, MP3, Photos, etc.).
This projector boasts a custom-designed speaker system built by Yamaha that sounds better than most flat-panel TVs and can rival many small sound bars. The Yamaha-designed sound system utilizes twin drivers and a custom 3D acoustic enclosure to produce room-filling sound from a compact cube. You can also connect a mobile device to the EF12 via Bluetooth and use it as a standalone speaker.
As far as portability, the Epson EF12 is very compact, weighing only 4.7lbs and measuring 7 inches by 7 inches. The fun-size EF12 is a fully self-contained unit that requires no additional or external devices to function. It can very easily be moved from room to room, or to the back yard, or packed to take on a trip to anywhere in the world with a power source and a projection surface.