Best Outdoor Projectors and Best Backyard Projector 2019
I remember then I bought my first projector. Pardon my language, but it was a giant piece of crap.
By giant, I mean like physically actually gigantic. It could have been used as some sort of siege defense weapon that I could hurl at attackers from my castle ramparts. It was bulky, heavy, and it just didn’t work as well as I would have liked.
But things have changed…..
If you’re looking for the quick and easy answer well, it’s the Epson VS240 Projector which dominates the market with its unbelievable color quality and brightness.
Now you can get a great quality projector for 100-200 dollars. Some units are even under 70 (This post covers which one is the cheapest and best one).
Projectors are getting cheaper and cheaper, and that is mostly thanks to
- Insane consumer demand.
- Chinese manufacturing producing them like cheap Halloween candy.
However, there are a couple of important factors to keep in mind when buying an outdoor projector. Before I start this post let my address one common question my wife and I get in our installation business…
Can I just take my living room projector and put it outside?
Yes, well…no. I wouldn’t recommend it. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Backyard projectors have a slightly different throw radius than indoor units.
- Projectors are sensitive. Humidity, mist, dew, rain or dogs aren’t good for them.
- Wiring is a pain in the ass.
In this post, I will teach you absolutely everything you need to know about finding the top outdoor projector.
But first here are my top picks.
Ezapor GM60 Multimedia
This projector is a standard model and surprisingly cheap for the features it offers. I would recommend this model to ...
CiBest Video Projector
Top Projector Choices for Outside 2019
Our Top Choice
1. Epson VS240 SVGA 3LCD Projector 3000 (Best Overall Value/Quality)
Absolutely cannot beat this for screen resolution quality
Buying a projector is an investment. One that will pay off for years and years. Think of all the time you’ll spend playing video games in front of it or watching movies with your kids.
While Epson makes some really high end projectors the VS240 is the MOST reasonable priced model. Think of it as the Ford Focus of Epson projectors it combines great value with a cost that won’t break the bank.
The VS240 is a great outdoor option because of its extremely high quality bulb and internal components. The reason that I put this at the top of my list is due to the 3X color brightness. When you’re watching a movie outdoors having a huge increase in color definition and quality will really make the video pop out of the screen.
Here’s a video I took in my living room using it.
It is also extremely easy for beginners to install. You’re looking at 1-2 minutes tops for setup. The box also comes with a visual instruction guide.
I suggest watching any of the newer Star Wars movies on this, it looks fantastic.
Let’s explain a few of them here.
- Rated time and time again as #1 for Image Quality
- 3X Color Gamut (means more microcolors)
- 3000 Lumens (very bright)
- SVGA Resolution (best at 800X600)
- Super Fast Setup (Great for Beginners)
- HDMI Ready
- Audio Jacks for External Speakers
So with this model you’re getting a super high end projector at a fraction of the cost. Combined that with the 3-chip technology your getting ultra clear definition that is only available in projectors at the $1000-2000 dollar mark.
Image adjustment and the control is really simple to use. It is also fully compatible for video games as well. My son plays Call of Duty on it during the day and it works great.
2. Ezapor GM60 Multimedia Mini LED Projector 800 x 480 – (Cheapest Projector)
This projector is a standard model and surprisingly cheap for the features it offers. I would recommend this model to anyone who is on a budget as it’s one of the cheapest models around.
You might assume that it’s low quality because it’s cheap but this projector still packs a punch with a brightness of 800 LUMENS for a crystal-clear image. The native resolution is 800×480 and the maximum projector area is 130 inches.
The cool thing about this projector is that it supports 5 different types of inputs: USB, HDMI, VGA, AV, and SD Card. I particularly like the SD Card input because it eliminates the need for you to connect the projector to a laptop or other device.
Weighing only 2 pounds, it’s specifically designed for mobility and ideal for camping or other outdoor parties – the LUMENS is a serious contender for the title of best backyard projector.
Let’s take a look at another model.
See related - Best Cheap Projectors.
3. Tronfy Full Color Home Cinema Theater (Another Good Value Choice)
Maybe one of the best backyard projectors, this unit is designed with portability in mind. Like the previous projector, it supports 5 different inputs. The TRONFY projector has a brightness of 1,000 LUMENS and a native resolution of 800×480. It’s an OK projector but I wouldn’t recommend it as the best one out there.
It’s important to keep in mind that this projector can’t display 1080P movies. In other words, if you try to run a 1080P movie with this projector, the video resolution will be reduced to the projectors resolution which is 480P.
I suggest that you still only watch HD movies with this projector because if you watch a 480P movie, the projector will reduce the quality further due to its native resolution. It’s also a decent pick for if you’re looking for a projector for gaming.
But even though this projector can’t run true high definition movies, that doesn’t mean the video quality is bad.
On the contrary, the video quality is very good, especially if you keep the projector 1-2 meters from the screen, any further and the quality will be reduced. The Lumens is definitely out picks.
4. Crenova XPE460 LED Video Projector (Great for Smaller Rooms)
The Crenova XPE460 is a great portable projector that you can use for your outdoor cinema. It has a brightness of 1000 LUMENS and a native resolution of 800×480.
There are two things about this best outdoor theater projector that stood out to me. For starters, it just looks good, the sleek modern look really appeals to me. Secondly, its capable of projecting 1080P movies.
See related - Best Portable Projectors.
So if you want to watch your favorite movie in high definition with your whole family than this projector is the right choice for you. It’s a little bit more expensive than the previous models but it’s well-worth the price.
I love this projector because it’s really small, compact, light, and the video quality is superb. However, some customers have complained that the internal fans are a bit loud, a problem that can be solved by increasing the volume on your speakers. Overall, we’d say the Crenova is a great budget option in the best outdoor projectors category.
5. LED Projector, Dinly 1500 Lumens Video Projector (Great Budget Projector)
Coming in with 1500 Lumens and a 170” maximum size, you’re looking at a pretty solid projector if you decide to go with this one from Dinly. While it’s not quite bright enough to let you get into sunset showings of your favorite flicks, it’ll do the job as long as you’re willing to break out the blankets for a comfortable movie night.
It shows in 1080p high definition as well, so you’ll have a clear screen once everything is set up and ready to go.
There is one tiny problem with it,. however, you’ll need to let it sit every few hours of run time in order to maximize its life. Frankly, the fans can’t keep up with the heat the bulb creates which can be something of a nuisance if you want to plan an all-night affair. Just add a couple of intermissions, and you’ll be good to go, though.
For the price, you simply won’t be able to get anything comparable, and while it’s not perfect, it’s still a lot better than most of the competition.
See related - Best 4 LED Projectors
Some of us want to make sure that we get the very best, and you’d be surprised at just how cheap you can manage to do it. You can grab this projector which will suit just about anyone, even those who are touchy about the quality of their picture. Compared to the 200” it can display at, you’re looking at a buck an inch or so.
It’s bright enough that you won’t even have to wait for the sun to go all the way down, coming in at an absolutely impressive 2600 Lumens, it’s light and portable if you want to use a temporary set up, and it supports just about anything that you might want to try and use.
It also supports widescreen, coming with a good 16:9 ratio right out of the box and allowing you to view your movies in their intended format for a true big screen experience.
You can also mount it in just about any fashion you choose since the native software will allow the screen to be flipped, perfect if you want to install it underneath your platform in order to get a little bit of further protection from the elements.
The price is beyond right; it’s absolutely crazy. While there are definitely better projectors out there, you won’t notice the difference for your outdoor theater experience. Pick up this one for your big screen experience, and I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.
How to Setup Your Projector
To Stand or Not
The biggest obstacle you will come across when setting up your projector system is where to put it. As you calculate your throw radius, you’ll need to take your distance and projection height into account. You basically have two options when it comes to setting up your “projector tower.”
Option 1 – Make a Temporary Projector Tower
Basically like the title says, you just need to stack a bunch of stuff up until you reach your desired height. Just make sure it’s stable.
A couple of options:
- Empty Beer Cases
- A Cooler
- Radio Chair/Table
- Hood of Your Car (if watching in driveway)
The big thing to consider here is wiring. Hauling wiring in and out of your living room is a pain and if you’re like 99.99999 percent of Americans the messy mess of wires behind your entertainment unit is a “no man’s land” of dirty, dust and more dust.
If you just can’t bring yourself to deal with the wiring every time you want to go with a projector, go with the second option and you’ll find that it’s a hell of a lot easier.
Option 2 – Make a Permanent Projector Tower
Making a permanent tower is actually much easier than it sounds. Basically, you build a wooden platform where you can place your outdoor movie projector. Wiring is run through the unit and to the house via an adjacent underground PVC pipe. This avoids the mess of setting up the the wires every time. You can get a better understanding of how to do this in my guide to setting up your own backyard theater.
All you’ll need to do is pick up a few items, and you’ll be good to go:
- PVC Pipe
- PVC Couplings
- A Shovel
- Your Projector
- Some Fiberglass Insulation
You can find more detailed instructions about building an projector stand here or follow these really basic steps….
- Build a platform using 2/4s and have a solid reinforced platform with a flat surface.
- Dig a small ditch to the house.
- Place a basic small PVC pipe in the ditch.
- Insert wiring to the unit.
- Pack PVC pipe with fiberglass or another insulator to avoid rodents nesting inside.
First, you’ll need to decide where you’re going to run the projector.
Once you’ve figured out where you’re DIY screenplanning on keeping it, you’ll want to grab your shovel and get digging. Dig about eight inches down along the length from the outlet you plan on using to wherever you’re going to run the projector.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to lay down the pipe in the ditch. Run the wires through it and pull them tight along the length of the pipe.
If you really want to make the whole thing a snap, cut the pipe into 36” sections beforehand. Make sure that you place the wire through the couplings when you’re getting everything together, or you’ll have to pull the whole mess again.
While you could stop here, you really want to make sure that you don’t have any pipe for rodents to get in. Not only does it make a safe, close-to-home shelter for these pests, but they also have a nasty habit of chewing on pretty much anything available, and your wires are bound to be next if you’re not careful.
The easiest way to do this is to rip up fiberglass installation and stuff it along the length of the pipe. If you chopped the pipe beforehand, then you’re in good hands since it should only take a couple of minutes to cover stuff each one nice and tight.
You don’t want just to go with “end caps” of insulation for this process. Rats, mice, and insects will get right through it, and now their home is even more secure. Trust me, just stuff the pipe full of insulation in order to get the best results.
Once you’ve got the pipe run, it’s time to build a platform for your projector. Even if you’re not particularly handy, you shouldn’t have much of a problem getting this one done.
Create a base frame that’s a few inches bigger than your projector on each side, use 2x4s and you’ll be good to go. You can attach them in a few ways, but the easiest for an amateur is probably just to use a few pre-made metal brackets to hold the whole thing together.
Next, you’ll make legs for the platform, you can either “rip” the legs at 45° angles along their length in order to create one that fits snug around the inside corner, or you can go the easier route and just zip them to the sides of the frame. Either way, make sure they wrap around the corners.
If you really want to make sure that your platform is stable, dig the legs down a bit and cover them up with some packed dirt to make sure the platform stays in place no matter what, but before you go about doing that you’ll need to make it a platform instead of a legged frame.
Attach a piece of particle board to the top of the frame, just cut it to fit. Use a screw on each corner, and maybe one in the middle of each portion of the frame in order to ensure a tight fit.
Afterward, you’ll want to coat it with some weatherproof paint since it’ll be outdoors. It’ll also add a little bit of a “finishing touch” to the whole project and make it look more professional.
Then all you’ll need to do is hook up your projector on top of the platform, aim it at your screen, and you’ll be able to enjoy your movies.
How to Find the Top Projector
We talked about the backyard projectors and outdoor inflatable movie screens, but an backyard movie experience won’t be possible without a projector. Choosing the right projector for your outdoor cinema can be quite difficult especially if you don’t know much about the products.
Thankfully, it’s not nearly as complex of an undertaking as you probably think it is. With a little bit of knowledge, you’re on the way to making sure that the projector you choose is absolutely perfect for your own needs.
The main things to keep in mind are the following qualities, roughly in this order:
The brightness of the projector you choose is a huge factor in making sure that you get the clarity you want out of the screen. The brightness of a projector is typically measured in Lumens, which can make it seem a little bit esoteric to the layman but it’s really not that hard to figure out.
1000 Lumens is appropriate for an area with virtually no ambient lighting, so it’s usually not quite right for an outdoor theater. You want at least 2000 Lumens for any kind of outdoor use, and the closer you get towards 3000+ the better off you’ll be.
2000 Lumens will work fine in most cases if you’re looking to cut costs, but you’ll have to wait until the sun has been down for a while before you can enjoy your flick so keep it in mind.
Too light and you’re not going to be able to see anything even in optimal conditions and keep in mind that outdoors you’re almost never going to have them. Go as bright as you can, pretty much at the expense of anything else. The Lumen output should be your go-to quality before you make a final decision.
Depending on what type of media you’re going to use with your projector, you’ll want a diversity of ways to transfer data to it. Thankfully, this isn’t quite as important as it used to be since an HDMI port will generally take care of things for you as long as you’re using modern equipment.
You’ll need different ports if you’re planning on using an old VCR or DVD player, however. Get an idea of what you plan on using before you make your final selection and ensure that you have the ports you want to use available.
Make sure you have what you need to set up your audio systems as well if you’re going to tie them to the projector instead of your media holding device for your outdoor movie theater.
You’ll have to do some calculating beforehand, measure the area you’re planning on setting it up in, your chosen screen, and the maximum distance you can get. This should give you a rough estimate of what kind of size you’ll need in order to get an excellent picture.
If you’re using a permanent emplacement for your projector, it’s super important that you make sure you’ve got the room for what you want.
Sizes are generally measured in diagonal, just like flat screen TVs, so keep that in mind when you decide to look for a screen.
Unlike indoor projectors and TVs, you’ll find out that resolution isn’t quite as important with your set-up. You’re farther from the screen, so the crystal clear HD quality of some of the high-end projectors isn’t really necessary.
The fact is, you’re not going to have a perfect picture outdoors for the most part. Ambient light can pollute the image of even the highest-rated backyard projectors and there’s bound to be a ton of it no matter where you’re at.
Don’t sacrifice lumens for resolution, but by all means look for the crispest picture you can afford at your designated price point.
The aspect ratio isn’t the most crucial of components, but most people will want to give it at least a thought when they’re getting set up.
Here’s the thing: business class outdoor movie projector are a lot cheaper, and they’ll have a “mask” which can cover up and make things look widescreen. A native 16:9 projector, however, will look a lot better since it won’t have any “light bleed” for you to deal with at the end of the day.
One of the main things about setting up an outdoor theater is to get something that works together since so much stuff will be going on anyways. The fact is if you want a perfect picture for everything you’re better off setting up a dedicated room indoors. You can read more about adjusting aspect ratios in our drone review.
How Much Does It Cost?
The cost of an outdoor movie projector is always going to be a factor for those of us who aren’t made of money. While a good one can be had for less than a hundred dollars, the best for use outside are going to run for more than a hundred bucks unless you’re going to get into commercial quality projectors which often run well into four figures. You can also opt for a 4k projector if you want something a bit more high end.
It’s really not worth it to invest that for an projector in the back yard, so stick with something under $200 or so and you’ll be able to host a respectable movie night without any issues.
By keeping all of the above in mind when you’re trying to pick out your projector, you’ll be able to make sure that you choose the right one for your own use. Examine carefully; it’s a little bit of an investment and even spending your time returning them really isn’t in your best interest.
I went ahead and found some of the best projectors that you can order and have them arrive on your doorstep in a matter of days. It won’t be long until you’re relaxing in your backyard sipping a cold one and watching your favorite movie with your friends.
You might think that finding the best outdoor projector costs an arm and a leg but that’s not the case, you can get one for a lot cheaper than you might think. Any of these will serve, but remember that you get what you pay for at the end of the day.
Please check out my other guides to find out more about:
- How to Pick the Best Outdoor Movie Screen (Including Our Top Best Value Picks)
- The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up Your Home Theater
- How to Calculate Throw Distance
We talked about outdoor movie screens and outdoor inflatable movie screens, but a movie experience won’t be possible without a projector. Choosing the right product for your outdoor movie projector can be quite difficult especially if you don’t know much about the products.
Hopefully you took the time to read this, it won’t be long until you’re relaxing in your backyard sipping a cold one and watching Netflix with a couple of your friends.
Our Final Thoughts on Finding an High Quality Backyard Projection Setup
So now you know about all the different parts you need to create an amazing outdoor movie experience for your family.
But we’re not done yet.
There are still some more things that you might want to consider.
For starters, if you want to build your own movie screen somewhere in your house or outside, then you’ll need the right material.
Here you can order the material for your screen and choose the size you want. This is perfect for people who like DIY projects and for anyone who’s building an entertainment room. If you got a spare room in your house, it would be a good idea to convert it into a mini-home cinema.
I’ve added a comparison chart below to show you our favorite types of projectors. If you have any questions, don’t feel shy to ask or help you recommend the best outdoor theater projector for your home.