Welcome to Our Annual Outdoor & Portable Projector Buyer’s Guide.
In this guide, we will discuss a wide variety of projectors suitable for outdoor and other portable applications. When we are reviewing projectors as well as when choosing award winners for this guide, we consider several different projectors from different manufacturers and how they are best used in different situations.
Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the movie theater industry and although movie theaters are, for the most part, reopened many people are loving the idea of staying in the comfort of their own home or backyard to enjoy a movie on a big screen. Portable projectors make that experience even more possible since they can be used in so many locations and for a variety of applications.
Typically, when you think about a projector, you may visualize a board room, museum exhibit, or man cave because a great many projectors are specifically designed for those types of spaces. It’s safe to say most projectors are designed to be the opposite of portable. Many projectors are big and bulky and extraordinarily sensitive pieces of equipment, with carefully considered technologies designed to deliver amazing picture quality with a larger format screen capability.
Of course, an increasingly popular way to use a projector is outside. In fact, one of our most popular articles is titled Best Outdoor Projectors which you can read here. This comprehensive article not only covers our favorites but also goes into more detail and describes the technologies that make a projector truly “portable” and not simply “movable.”
We also wrote an article covering five unique ways to use a portable projector that you can read here. From #VanLife to office retreat, a projector is a fantastic tool to enhance any adventure with a large screen experience.
We wish to thank BenQ for sponsoring the 2022-2023 Outdoor & Portable Projector Report and Buyer’s Guide.
Features to Consider When Choosing an Outdoor/Portable Projector
This should go without saying, but having enough Brightness is extraordinarily important when considering a projector you’ll likely use outside or in another unpredictable lighting environment. We recommend something that can comfortably deliver at least 300 ANSI lumens, which will ensure the proper delivery of the image on the go.
Further, we need to address the situation of power. While there are more opportunities to remotely power products than ever before with the latest camping equipment and vehicles, it’s still a good idea to consider a projector with a built-in battery. This reduces headaches when it comes to projecting truly anywhere and is an important consideration when you want an option that is truly portable.
Next, we need to address Sound Quality. Yes! When you take a projector with you somewhere, you expect it to sound great. It’s not always assumed that projectors come with built-in speakers, and in the case of higher-end models, they don’t. For a truly portable projector, it needs to have great-sounding speakers built into it so your friends and family can hear just as well as they can see, no matter where the projecting is taking place. We recommend identifying something that has at least a 2.1 channel capability, giving you great-sounding treble and bass and at least 15W of power to ensure everyone around the campfire can hear what’s being said on screen.
Access to the latest content is another critical factor when discussing portable projectors. If you’re out in the woods, chances are you’re not going to have your cable box or DVD player handy. You definitely won’t want to lug a PC, set of cables, or any other additional device. At a minimum, you will need to play something off a memory stick or USB or cast to the unit from your smartphone.
Including access to favorite streaming services. You will appreciate a smart projector that can easily access content like Android TV or the ability to cast directly from your phone. If you have an Android TV at home, you’ll find it very comfortable to navigate a portable projector with the familiar Android TV user interface. Many of us rely on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube to access the hottest movies, TV shows and entertaining clips. Truly portable projectors are smart and include the same features found in your smart TV at home. Including access to favorite streaming services. You will appreciate a smart projector that can easily access content like
Android TV or the ability to cast directly from your phone. If you have an Android TV at home, you’ll find it very comfortable to navigate a portable projector with the familiar Android TV user interface. You’ll still need an internet connection to bring it to life, but that’s what the glory of mobile hotspots are for anyway.
Some smart projectors are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant so you can use simple voice commands to turn it on or off, change the input, or adjust the volume. No more scrambling for a remote or fiddly little buttons in the dim light from the stars!
Also, knowing that you’ll be taking a projector with you to strange new environments does present some unique challenges when it comes to projection. Namely, the ability to properly autofocus, keystone, and project at an angle. We recommend identifying a projector that offers maximum flexibility for these factors, including at least 135-degrees of projection angle and +/- 40 degrees of vertical keystone for placement.
Finally, for portable projectors to be considered truly portable, you need to consider something that is life-proof. Between destructive kids, pools, lakes, rivers, rain, and everything in between, taking projectors outdoors does require a bit of a tougher build than a traditional projector. We recommend identifying something with an IPX rating, which determines the amount of water and drop-proof a product is. It should effectively protect the projector against accidental spills, drops, and dust from being outdoors. Bonus points if you can get one with a carrying bag and handle, which makes it even easier to tote around with the remainder of your gear.