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What are the best outdoor projectors and how many lumens do you need?

There's nothing like a movie under the stars, and an outdoor projector can make it happen. The best outdoor projectors transform your space into a home movie theater.
Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Emery Wright

There are many ways to watch our favorite content, but an outdoor projector in your yard is one of the best. You have the comfort of home with real cinema-quality streaming that takes your viewing to the next level. 

But first, you need to find the best outdoor projector for your home -- that's where we come in. We regularly survey the market to find the best outdoor projectors on the market and compare top models. 

These are the five best outdoor projectors available.

Also: What are the best projector screens and what size do you need?

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Vivid picture
  • Fantastic audio
  • 1080p
Cons
  • Limited battery life
  • Poor brightness
More Details

Tech Specs: Connectivity: HDMI, USB-C | Display resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Dimensions: 11.5 x 9.1 x 7.4 inches

The BenQ GS50 1080p outdoor projector is far from just a projector. CinematicColor brings images to life on screen for stunning clarity. With both HDMI and USB-C connectivity, you can enjoy 1080p viewing with extra bass from two midrange tweeters and a 10-watt woofer feeding sound from the 2.1-channel Bluetooth speaker. 

It's easy to set up with an adjustable stand, four-corner adjustment, and auto-focus. Plus, it features an integrated Android TV, which allows you to connect from your mobile device or computer via AirPlay and Chromecast. The best part? It still manages to remain splash-proof and drop-proof for greater durability.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 4K picture
  • Long-lasting laser light
  • Excellent Netflix integration
Cons
  • Lacks optical zoom settings
  • Expensive
More Details

Tech Specs: Connectivity: HDMI | Display resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Dimensions: 10.35 x 6.5 x 8.66 inches  

The Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K may be pricey, but at 2400 ISO lumens, this is an extremely powerful outdoor projector that allows you to watch any time, even when the sun is shining bright. The 4K UHD visuals are incredible and further boosted by Anker's Intelligent Environment Adaptation (IEA) Technology. 

Dolby Audio and a 3D soundscape allow for top-tier sound to match the stunning visuals. It's convenient, too, with an easy tabletop design you can set up anywhere. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 4K UHD
  • Easy to set up
  • Built-in Chromecast
Cons
  • Limited brightness
  • Lacks 3D support
More Details

Tech Specs: Connectivity: HDMI | Display resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Dimensions: 6.89 x 6.89 x 5.04 inches

With the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 smart streaming laser projector, visuals take top priority with a pronounced focus on color and clarity. Epson MicroLaser Array Technology joins a 4K picture for incredible brightness and coloring. Yamaha supplies audio for exceptional sound, and the built-in speaker is Bluetooth-compatible. 

Plus, the built-in Android TV takes care of content, allowing you to use voice search and Google Assistant to access your favorite programming. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Enormous imaging
  • Excellent brightness
  • Stunning clarity
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Lacks short-throw ability
More Details

Tech Specs: Connectivity: HDMI, VGA, USB | Display resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Dimensions:  10.6 x 12.4 x 4.6 inches

If you are a gamer, the Optoma UHD38 4K home theater and gaming projector is your best bet for an outdoor projector. Designed to be used for gaming, it offers a brilliant picture in 4K Ultra HD with both HDR10 and HLG technologies. 

The UltraDetail picture has more than eight million on-screen pixels, with Enhanced Gaming Mode to eliminate lags and enable interruption-free gaming. You can enjoy multiple inputs and the ability to stream via your computer or mobile device. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Simple set up
  • Chromecast integrated
  • Bluetooth connectivity
Cons
  • Lackluster user guide
  • Lacks SD card support
More Details

Tech Specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI, Wi-Fi | Display resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Dimensions: 5.51 x 3.94 x 3.54 inches

The XGIMI MoGo Pro can project a 100-inch screen wherever you go. From the built-in battery to the embedded Android TV, the thoughtful design is meant to simplify use. Stream all you want on the move with access to your favorite apps. The portable design allows you to take your outdoor projector anywhere. That doesn't mean you sacrifice picture, either, because the 1080p picture has 300 ANSI lumens. 

Read the review: XGIMI MoGo Pro review

What is the best outdoor projector?

With an affordable price tag and reliable performance, the BenQ GS50 1080p outdoor projector wins ZDNET's pick for best outdoor projector overall. To see how the top performers compare, here is a bird's eye view of the best outdoor projectors.

Best outdoor projector

Price

Resolution

Brightness

BenQ GS50 1080p outdoor projector

$749

1920 x 1080

500 ANSI lumens

Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K

$2,200

3840 x 2160

2400 ISO lumens

Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 smart streaming laser projector

$800

1920 x 1080

1000 lumens

Optoma UHD38 4K home theater and gaming projector

$1,500

3840 x 2160

4000 lumens

XGIMI MoGo Pro

$500

1920 x 1080

300 ANSI lumens

Which is the right outdoor projector for you?

Here we offer our expert recommendations to help you find the best outdoor projector for your needs.

Choose this best outdoor projector...

If you want...

BenQ GS50 1080p outdoor projector

An affordable, high-performing outdoor projector

Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K

To splurge on high-end projector

Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 smart streaming laser projector

The best picture available

Optoma UHD38 4K home theater and gaming projector

To use your projector for gaming

XGIMI MoGo Pro

To take your projector on the go

How did we choose these outdoor projectors?

To find the best outdoor projectors, we consider several factors during our search.

  • Streaming: How you stream content will make a huge difference in how you can use an outdoor projector. Many of the best outdoor projectors offer access to popular apps like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and HBO Max. 
  • Picture: This is one of the most important factors to consider during your search for the best outdoor projector. Brightness and clarity can make or break your viewing experience, making it well worth it to invest in an outdoor projector with an excellent picture, such as the ones listed here.
  • Sound: Some outdoor projectors have sound incorporated into the designs. For example, the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K includes Dolby Audio for a premium, all-in-one package. 
  • Cost: The price of an outdoor projector can vary significantly, as seen here. Prices can run the gamut, so look for a model that fits your personal budget.

How many lumens do I need for an outdoor projector?

We recommend looking for an outdoor projector that has about 500 lumens or more for a full-size projector. However, less than 500 lumens will still provide reasonable brightness if you're looking for a portable outdoor projector, like the XGIMI MoGo Pro.

What types of lumens are there?

There are two types of lumens: ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization). ANSI lumens are more than two times larger than ISO lumens, so be sure to keep this in mind as you shop for your best outdoor projector.

How much does an outdoor projector cost?

Outdoor projectors can vary significantly in cost, depending on your specific needs. For example, a small portable speaker can be far more affordable than a large setup. That said, the best outdoor projectors range in cost from $500 to $2,200, depending on the model you choose.

Are there alternative outdoor projectors worth considering?

During our search, we found many outdoor projectors that could also fit the bill. These are three favorites that almost made our list of the five best outdoor projectors.

For other options, check out our expert picks for the best portable projectors, the best 4K projectors, and the best cheap projectors for your home or office.

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