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.
If you’re looking for a very bright and colorful projector for both indoors and outdoors, then you’ll enjoy the Viewsonic PA503S. The PA503S’ main feature is ...
Dr. J Professional HI-04
Vankyo Leisure 3
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.
- L x W x H → 4.33” x 11.57” x 8.58”
- Weight → 7.14 lbs
- Display Technology → DLP
- Connectivity Technology → Mini USB Type B, HDMI, VGA, 3.5mm Audio Out and In, RS232
- Image Brightness → 3,600 lumens
- Contrast Ratio → 22,000:1
- Resolution → SVGA (800x600)/ 1080p Support
- Lamp Life → Up to 15,000 hours (Dynamic Eco Mode)
- Bright in any Environment
- Long Lamp Life
- Reduced Input Latency
- 3D Blu-Ray Ready HDMI Input
- Vertical Keystone Correction
Viewsonic PA503S Review
If you’re looking for a very bright and colorful projector for both indoors and outdoors, then you’ll enjoy the Viewsonic PA503S. The PA503S’ main feature is its brightness. With 3,600 lumens, it’s bright in nearly any environment. This combined with its SuperColor, for amazing color accuracy, and it’s very high contrast ratio of 22,000:1 all come together to make very vivid images and amazing picture quality.
Unfortunately, this projector does not support 1080p, but SVGA (800x600). Its resolution will not be as great as others because of this. Also, since it is a DLP projector, there’s a possibility of getting that dreaded rainbow effect.
DLP or not, the PA503S has a very strong build. It’s sturdy, small, and light - so perfect to carry around without having to worry. While its speakers aren’t good, though what projector speakers are, and there are very minimal instructions included for it, the PA503S makes up for all of this with great features such as an astounding remote control for very easy and quick access.
This projector lasts up to 15,000 hours on its SuperEco mode, which dims its brightness up to 70%, and it also has vertical keystone correction to get rid of the trapezoidal-look that can arise when you don’t position the projector directly perpendicular from the screen’s center.
If you needed any other reasons to check this out, let them be that the PA503S is 3D Blu-Ray HDMI ready, so it can process 3D images from Blu-Ray devices opening up a whole avenue of possibilities, and it even has an input latency of only 16ms which makes it a great projector for gaming.
Though it doesn’t have great resolution, this is a great outdoor projector with a lot of brightness and color to add to your screen.
- L x W x H → 7.8” x 2.7” x 6.02”
- Weight → 3 lbs.
- Display Technology → LED-LCD
- Connectivity Technology → TV BOX, HDMI, VGA, USB, AV, SD, 1080p supported
- Image Brightness → 1800
- Contrast Ratio → 2,000:1
- Resolution → 800x480
- Lamp Life → 40,000 hours
- Multimedia Home Projector
- Portable Smartphone Connection
- TV Function Support
- Built-In Speakers
- Five Layer LCD Lens Display
- Advanced Fan Cooling System
- 100” Portable Projector Screen Included
Dr. J Professional HI-04 Review
Not everyone has all of the money in the world. The durable Dr. J Professional HI-04 is a great cheap projector for those looking to be more money-conscious. Not only is this very portable 3 lb projector under $100, but it also comes with a 100” portable projector screen for all of your portability needs.
The HI-04 is great for its value. With 1800 lumens and a 2,000:1 contrast ratio, this projector is brighter than many expect, though it is really only good in the darkest environments and not in the daytime or in rooms with ambient light at all. This makes it perfect for outside movie nights! Even though it uses an 800x480 resolution and supports 1080p, but that 1080p isn’t great. This just throws this out of the window for some of you, but it is still worth its price and has a pretty good picture quality. Here’s a more in-depth look into its image and unboxing:
The HI-04 has a very long lamp life like all LED projectors of 40,000 hours. This is an LED-LCD hybrid, using a five-layer LCD lens display to give you the best detail that it can. Smaller builds end up overheating a lot faster, but with the HI-04’s advanced silent fan cooling system, there’s not much need to worry.
This is a Multimedia home projector. It comes with a bouquet of connections from smartphone to Roku Stick to video game consoles and more with its HDMI, USB, VGA, TF Cards, and AV in/out, so you’re going to be able to connect a lot to this bad boy. Not only can you connect electronics like video game consoles, but this projector is also pretty good for gaming considering everything else.
The only other drawbacks are that there’s minimal keystone correction, only 15%, which doesn’t appease everyone, and its speakers are just bad, but projector speakers are rarely ever good. These do not drag this projector down. This is a good projector worth its value even if its 1080p isn’t the best.
- L x W x H → 7.9” x 5.9” x 3.1”
- Weight → 2.1 lb
- Display Technology → LED-LCD
- Connectivity Technology → HDMI, VGA, USB, AV, TF CARD, TV BOX, 1080p Supported
- Image Brightness → 2400 lumens
- Contrast Ratio → 2,000:1
- Resolution → Full HD Supported
- Lamp Life → 40,000 hours
- Superb Contrast and Color
- Plug & Play
- Carrying Bag & Tripod Included
- Large Projection
- Dual Speaker
- Focus Innovative
- Smartphone Connection
Vankyo Leisure 3 Review
Another inexpensive option that is known for portability and gaming is the Vankyo Leisure 3. You can carry this projector with you anywhere you want with its included carrying bag and tripod and plug anything into it to immediately enjoy including a TV stick, laptop, gaming console, Fire Stick, TV box, and more. It’s very durable and was designed with nice and sturdy material, so you’re sure to get the most of it that you can.
The Leisure 3 casts large images from 32” to 176” which you can focus on two ways: either sliding its focus ring or rotating the lens’ hood. The Leisure 3 casts bright and nice images with its 2,400 lumens and 2,000:1 contrast. While it’s images aren’t always clear nor truly good unless you’re in the darkest of environments like outside at night, they’re colorful and very worthy of their value. This would be a great choice for your outdoor movie theater. It supports 1080p, but isn’t really 1080p, so it will produce nice 1080p images but not as well as native Full HD projectors can. Check this out if you want to see its image firsthand and know exactly what you’re getting:
1080p support, a lot of colors, great contrast, and seemingly no lag add up to the Leisure 3 being a great option for gaming. Like about every projector on this list, one of its main flaws is its sound quality, but that’s not really a big deal - you should be connecting your speakers/surround sound to it anyway. This projector is amazing for its value and is a great choice for nightly outdoor get-togethers.
- L x W x H → 9.5 x 9.2 x 4.4 inches
- Weight → 3.09 lb.
- Display Technology → LED-LCD
- Connectivity Technology → TV BOX, HDMI, VGA, USB, AV, SD, 1080p supported
- Image Brightness → 2,200 lumen
- Contrast Ratio → 2,000:1
- Resolution → 1080p Supported
- Lamp Life → 50,000 hours
- Long Lamp Life
- Built-in Speaker
- Low Radiator
- Multimedia Connection
- Big Projection Size
- Supports 1080p
QKK Mini Projector Review
The QKK Mini Projector is a 50,000 hour long lasting LED-LCD projector coming in at only 3.09 lb. This is a very portable projector with a lot of versatility including your smartphone, laptop, game console, headphones and more from its HDMI, USB, VGA, TV box and other connections.
This is a great budget projector coming in at a great price for its value. It’s bright at 2,200 lumens with a 2,000:1 contrast ratio and a lot of colors from its LEDs. While not everyone likes its brightness, it’s brighter than most think and works great in the darkest of environments, though also only operates well in these environments.
This projector has a decent picture quality that’s pretty good compared to others out there - especially for its price. It supports 1080p, though it’s not real Full HD, so its images look nice but not as great as native 1080p projectors. Another concern here would be its 15% keystone correction. This is very small and doesn’t really help most users with correcting their images. Here’s a firsthand look at its unboxing and images:
The QKK Mini Projector can project up to 170”, which many of you will love, but the bigger you project, the less clear your images become. This isn’t as bad when you’re in dark places, but it may not be up to your standards when projecting outside at night.
When it comes to sound quality, the sound is okay. Like the rest, it’s not really good, but it’s just… eh. You’ll probably just want to connect it to your own speakers as with any other projector. Concerning fan sounds, it has a very low radiator noise of less than 45.3dB, so you most likely won’t be bothered by it.
This is still a great LED projector. Portable and colorful, this projector has more lumens than most LED projectors and is a good choice for your backyard movie theater.
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.