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Best Outdoor Projectors

In order to get the best picture quality possible, whether you’re giving a PowerPoint presentation or watching a movie, you’ll need the right kind of projector based on how you plan on using it. While most projectors are able to handle any type of media, they all generally do one thing the best- whether that’s data-based content or entertainment-based content.

Because we’re on the hunt for the best outdoor projectors, we’ve focused more on projectors that are known to produce the best entertainment-based content.

We have compiled a list of the top five projectors on the market, each model is known for their own unique, outstanding qualities ranging from longer lamp lifespan and user-friendly setup to brighter image quality and best value.

The home theater projectors we looked at are able to project thirty-six times larger than a fifty inch HDTV, so you can catch every detail, every gameplay, and every color.

Changing the Way you Watch Movies Forever

top projector for outside useThese home theater projectors are designed to emphasize high contrast and image quality, with richer color saturation and deeper blacks. They can also simulate a dark movie theater environment, and because of this, they tend to work best in a dedicated room where you can control the amount of light that enters from other areas.

However, you can also compensate for ambient lighting by selecting a model with a reputation for brightness. This style of projector is recommended for movie nights, home theaters, sports game, 3D movies, photo slideshows, and even video games.

So, why should you choose a home theater model?

They tend to offer the best image quality for large screen viewing and also come equipped with quiet operating fans which equals less background noise.

A pico projector is another option and they’re perfect if you need a model that’s small enough to fit in your backpack or purse. These pocket-sized projectors are so small you can hold one in your hand, but they’re powerful enough for movie viewing with a smaller group of people.

Since they typically weigh less than three pounds, this type of projector can be taken anywhere. Their high portability comes in handy for consumers in need of a travel size model.

These compact projectors are recommended for personal use on the road or at home, and for use in small rooms.

We’ve included both styles of projectors in our top five reviews, with the hope that you’ll find a home theater projector that will fit both your needs and your budget.

ProductConnectivityLumensSummaryPriceLowest Price
BenQ
HDMI x2
2,200A top of the line model and one that’s perfect for outdoor use and home theater viewing, this model’s versatility and energy efficiency make it a great replacement option if you’re considering ditching your old TV or you need a reliable projector to take on the road or want to host movie nights in your own backyard. $$$$$Check Price
Optoma HD 142
hdmi + mhl
3000This projector truly shines with outdoor nighttime viewing, offering a cinema mode that will really make you feel like you’re at the theater. This isn’t a model we’d recommend for permanent use in a home theater, but it might be just what you’ve been searching for if you’re in need of a highly portable projector that will impressive your friends and neighbors at your next movie night. $$$$Check Price
BenQ

hdmi +VGA
2,200A very compact model that truly shines when used for outdoor viewing and gaming, for the price, you really can’t beat the image and sound quality it offers. $$$Check Price
ViewSonic
hdmi+mhl
3,200Offering brighter image quality that allows you to view any style of movie in a wide range of lighting conditions this is an all in one system that is highly adjustable. However, we felt that the projector was best suited for users with more experience and not designed for beginners with a lack of tech know-how. $$Check Price
Philips
hdmi +usb
100This ultra-small, compact pocket projector works well with any PC setup. Its lack of internal batteries and a built-in sound system makes it a poor choice for a permanent spot in your home, but it’s a good buy if you’re shopping around for a portable model you can use on the fly.$Check Price

1. Optoma HD142X Home Theater Projector Review- Best Outdoor Projector

Optoma HD142X Home Theater Projector ReviewOften, we find that consumers who are looking for an outdoor projector want a model that’s easy to setup, store, and transport, and one that’s also capable of performing well at night, both in power and image clarity.

Enter, the HD142X, Optoma’s leading model for outdoor use.

The Optoma HD142X home theater projector offers a vibrant image with flesh tones that look natural, good contrast, and a ton of shadow detail. When it’s calibrated for optimum viewing it offers more than enough brightness for a dark home theater.

If needed, you can essentially double the light output for gaming in moderate lighting conditions.

The manufacturer also boasts a lamp life of over five thousand hours, even when it’s in full power mode, and significantly longer when it’s in eco mode. This means you won’t have to fork over a lot of cash for lamp replacement.

The projector is rated at three thousand lumens and has the ability to tolerate high ambient light, yet can still display an image that isn’t washed out. This model features a twenty-three thousand to one contrast ratio, and can still give an image some pop, even in a small sunlit space.

This model can even work as a very capable data projector. In its preset vivid or bright modes, even the smallest typefaces are still rendered sharp and clear. The only limitation for data usage involves the lack of a VGA input. Because of this, you’ll need HDMI outputs from whatever data source you happen to use.

However, one of the HDMI inputs is also MHL compatible, allowing the user to display content from mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

While this projector can serve as an entry-level projector for a home theater, it definitely hits its stride as an outdoor projector, when you have a crowd over for weekend entertainment.

It’s also very compact and lightweight, weighing in at a little over five pounds, so it’ll work fine if you’re searching for a projector you can take out on the road.

Pros

  • The projector’s video image is sharp and clear from top to bottom and edge to edge.
  • The internal fan is also quiet-running, so you can still enjoy your viewing experience, even if you’re stuck sitting right next to the projector.
  • The model’s cinema mode is our favorite viewing option.
  • This mode features well-defined shadow detail, a reduction in brightness, a slight boost in contrast, and very natural flesh tones.
  • With dark scenes, we felt that black levels were excellent, offering smooth transitions so even small gray scale differences were easy to distinguish.

Cons

Considered an entry-level projector, the seventy percent brightness uniformity is adequate.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

Optoma HD142X Home Projector ReviewWe felt that the HD142X by Optoma is capable of producing more pop when set to ideal calibrations.

The projector is easy to use and setup, and perfect for outdoor use and travel.

The cinema mode makes this model one of Optoma’s top sellers.

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2. Epson Home Cinema 2040 Home Theater Projector Review- Best Moderately Priced Projector

Epson Home Cinema 2040 Home Theater Projector ReviewThe Epson Home Cinema projector is one of the more affordable models we looked at, and while somewhat basic in style and design, it still has quite a bit to offer in terms of image and sound quality.

This projector is built around a three-chip LCD engine, which will guarantee that the projector won’t display rainbow effects.

Aside from that, it offers almost perfect image quality, and video processing features that were typically only available on more expensive models, until recently.

This projector offers what we consider an evolutionary improvement over their last year’s model, the 2030.

It’s definitely brighter, featuring 2,200 lumens instead of just two thousand. And it comes equipped with frame interpolation.

It also costs much less than past Epson projectors but offers better image quality and more features that the user can calibrate for an optimal viewing experience.

Pros

  • The projector’s built-in five-watt mono speaker shows that this model was clearly designed for home entertainment use. The projector also only weighs in at a little over six pounds.
  • This model features a stereo audio out port, so the user can connect an external sound system, while still being able to quickly change the audio source when the image source is changed. We felt that the speakers delivered similar sound quality to that of an average HDTV.
  • The projector is bright enough to throw a reasonably large image that’s able to stand up to ambient light in a wide range of space sizes.
  • Another feature that helps make the 2040 standout is it’s shorter lag time, which is perfect for users who plan on hooking up a gaming platform for traditional gaming or as a streaming source.
  • You can expect sixty frames per second, which is pretty fast for a projector and a huge selling point for gamers.
  • The projector’s setup is typical. It offers a 1.2 X manual zoom, so you’ll enjoy a ton of flexibility when it comes to how far you can place the projector from the screen.
  • You’ll find connectors on the back of the projector for HDMI, VGA, and a composite video port.
  • The 2040 also delivers excellent color quality and handles flesh tones particularly well. It also strives to do a great job of avoiding posterization and maintaining shadow detail.

Cons

While 3D compatible, you can expect to shell out more cash for 3D glasses, however, this is pretty typical with lower priced projectors. Some consumers felt that this model was simply too basic for the price and didn’t offer enough calibration options to fine-tune the setup and image display in different lighting situations.

Epson 2040 Home Theater Projector Review

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

This is a great projector for the consumer on a tight budget. It doesn’t offer as much as higher priced models by Epson, but it’s very versatile and can be used for home theater setups or backyard viewing. It’s also the perfect choice for the avid gamer looking to take their gameplay to the next level. Overall, it offers decent lamp life, image quality, and a pretty solid sound system.

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3. ViewSonic PJD7828HDL Home Theater Projector Review-Brightest Image Quality

The ViewSonic PJD7828HDL home theater projector is a DLP single-chip model that is easily able to distinguish itself from other projectors in this price range, thanks to its significantly brighter image quality.

The Sonic Expert sound system and color system are both huge selling points for consumers who are searching for a projector that has it all.

Straight out of the box you’ll notice the projector’s top-heavy chassis, glossy white finish, and the overall bold design.

This model offers both MHL and HDMI connections and supports screen mirroring, media streaming, and content broadcasting. You’ll also find other notable connections including a powered USB port, and D-sub PC port.

Like most projectors in this price range, this ViewSonic is equipped with a built-in speaker so you don’t have to hook it up to an external sound system, making this projector a great option if you’re looking for a model that can be used outdoors with a minimal setup.

However, this isn’t your run of the mill sound system. The speaker is a 16 W, which is very powerful, compared to a basic onboard projector speaker. It features both a distortion reducing design and an enhanced frequency range.

Pro Tip: The projector’s brightness is rated at a very high 3,200 lumens, while the contrast ratio is around twenty-two thousand to one. This type of ratio fights excessive grayness during dark scenes.

Because the projector’s lumens rating is so high, the lamp life expectancy is nothing short of impressive, with a reputed four thousand hours of run time.

Pros

Among the projector’s many highlights you’ll find there are offset and gain tweaks for the color components, noise reduction options, a series of color presets, four lamp settings, five gamma presets, and a color management system for gain and saturation of yellow, magenta, blue, green, and red color elements that can be fine-tuned. There’s also a brilliant color option designed to boost vibrancy.

Selecting the Super Eco lamp mode helps to minimize the rainbow effect and in turn, improves the vibrancy of blacks, however, it can also make certain colors appear washed out.

Cons

The projector gets off to a great start with its accuracy and responsiveness from its 1.36 X optical zoom, however, there is no optical image shifting that would allow the user to move the picture down or up.

This can mean the user will have to resort to using a digital keystone correction to make an image appear with perpendicular edges instead of the usual trapezoidal edges. The projector’s onscreen menus are small, resulting in a cluttered look that makes it difficult to navigate.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

While the number of tweaking options will definitely be a big deal for consumers who enjoy fine-tuning their projector viewing experience, they can be a bit overwhelming and complicated for the consumer who is simply looking for an easy to use model for entertainment purposes.

The complicated settings and cluttered menu can make it difficult to get the type of optimal viewing performance you’re looking for in a projector in this price range if you don’t know what you’re doing. But on the other hand, if you’re looking for a highly adjustable projector, this ViewSonic could be the right one.

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4. BenQ DLP HD 1080p Projector HT2050 Review –Most User-Friendly Setup

The BenQ DLP HD1080p projector offers a more pro viewing experience that features a lower light output compared to more affordably priced models. This model is designed to achieve better black levels and over two thousand lumens.

This BenQ model offers whisper quiet operation, with a reputation for a fan that emits the lowest level of fan noise in this price range, so you can enjoy hearing the movie, not the projector’s fan.

The HT2050 is easy to setup and install, equipped with a throw ratio of 1.15.

A projector’s ability to produce a darker shade of black is very important when it comes to quality.  The black levels this model offers are a big step above competing projectors.

The projector’s vertical lens shift allows the user to position the projector lower or higher relative to the screen and still offers perfect geometry, all without having to use a keystone control.

The lens delivers a short throw distance. If you want the 3D viewing experience with this model, you’ll have to purchase 3D glasses. This model uses a DLP link, which is compatible with a number of third-party glasses or the popular BenQ’s DGD5 glasses, which are priced around sixty dollars each.

This projector also offers great sound.  The included dual 10W speakers produce the clearest and loudest we’ve come across. However, it lacks the dynamic range, bass, and surround sound features that you’d want for movie viewing, but it offers the best onboard substitute for a surround sound system that you’ll encounter in this price range.

Pros

  • Overall, the picture is great, it’s compact, sleek, and lightweight.
  • The projector is also very energy efficient, equipped with SmartEco technology.
  • The auto standby mode works to prolong lamp life and saves energy.
  • The longer lasting lamp can operate up to seven thousand hours.
  • The projector’s color wheel is designed to produce twice the amount of color lumens than competing models offer. It features over two thousand white color lumens and over fourteen hundred color lumens. So, what does this mean? It means that the colors on the screen will look brighter in ambient lighting and at longer distances.

When you run this model for several thousands of hours, the heat that comes from the projector’s lamp won’t cause the lens to warp because the lens is made of pure glass. This is a huge selling point for consumers.

Most lower priced models will feature a plastic-glass composite lens that will warp eventually and need to be replaced.

Cons

Some consumers reported that the lamp has a shorter life span than other models, although the user can adjust the settings, making the image dimmer in order to extend the lamp’s lifespan before it needs to be replaced.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

While a little on the pricey side, its energy efficiency, longer lasting lamp, and pure glass lens make this model worth every penny. The projector received plenty of positive feedback in terms of overall quality and outdoor movie viewing.

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5. Philips PPX4010 Portable LED Pocket Projector Review-Most Compact Projector

Philips PPX4010 Portable LED Pocket ProjectorThe Phillips PPX4010 portable projector is the smallest model we reviewed. It features just a hundred lumens and no internal batteries. This model must be connected to an AC adapter, PC, or another type of power source in order to operate.

The projector is built around a WVGA DLP chip that’s paired with a LED light source for brighter images. The LED light is designed to last the life of the projector and has an average lifespan of thirty thousand hours.

The only controls you’ll find on this model is a focused thumbwheel located on the top right, snugly placed behind the lens located on the front of the projector. You’ll also notice a mechanical three position switch on the left that’s used to adjust the brightness level.

There’s no built-in menu or remote, so you’ll be unable to tweak other settings. Surprisingly, the projector doesn’t even come with an on/off power switch. In order to turn the projector on, you’ll need to hook it up to a power source, disconnecting it to shut it down.

The setup is pretty straight forward. Connect the projector to a power cable, connecting a cable to the image source and point the projector at a screen. Focusing the image can be tricky at times when using the thumbwheel.

While this model can connect to most mobile devices and any type of device with an HDMI port, it’s mainly meant to work with a laptop, which is also the easiest, fastest setup option. The projector features only a couple of connectors: a micro USB port and a mini HDMI port.

Pros

  • The projector’s hundred lumen rating is bright enough for a thirty-nine to fifty-two-inch image in dark theater lighting.
  • In moderate lighting, the projector is bright enough for a twenty-five to twenty-nine-inch image.
  • This model features an aspect ratio of sixteen to nine.
  • The quality of data images is a lot better than most smaller projectors can manage.
  • The brightness is impressively uniform across the screen, so you won’t find any areas that are visibly dimmer than others.
  • The color balance is also excellent with vibrant colors and neutral grays at all levels.
  • The projector is also able to handle details well, with both black texts on white and white text on black readable even at nine points.

Cons

Some consumers noted that full-motion video has a greenish cast, however, they felt it was still watchable. You’ll notice rainbow effects infrequently enough for both video and data images that you won’t be bothered by them. Given the size, it comes as no surprise that the projector does not come equipped with a built-in speaker.

Final Thoughts & Recommendation

Philips PPX4010 Portable Pocket ProjectorWhile it doesn’t come equipped with an internal battery, which takes away from convenience, it’s also one of the brightest small projects on the market. The fact that it works so well with a PC setup makes it a strong contender if you’re searching for a pocket projector that’s brighter and highly portable.

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Outdoor Projector Buying Guide

Philips PPX4010 Portable Pocket ProjectorCurrently, there are no outdoor specific models of projectors, but there are models that are better suited for outdoor use. Additionally, there are projectors that would perform better in a home theater viewing environment. Each of the projectors we have reviewed has something to offer, especially when it comes to versatility, value, and features.

Really, a home theater projector can be the ultimate device to bring family, friends, and neighbors together.

Watching a movie outdoors, in your own backyard, out under the stars during the hotter months of the year is probably one of the best ways to enjoy family time together.

You can even watch a sporting event and create a fun, safe, entertaining night at home. The best outdoor projector will feature a brightness range of three thousand to five thousand lumens, which is perfect for an inflatable movie screen measuring up to thirty feet wide.

Unlike a super sensitive flat screen TV, projectors can be easily moved outside for a fun family night outdoors. You can impress your friends and neighbors with a larger than life movie, and all from the comfort of your own yard. You can also take your projector on tailgating trips or camping trips and take your movie night experience to the next level.

Projector Resolution and Connection

In order to get those vivid, large images a projector is known for, we recommend using an HD model. Most home theater projectors are 720P to 1080P.

A non-HD projector will also work pretty well outside, but the image quality won’t be quite as impressive as a higher res model.

For your video source, there are a number of options available. If you’re close to a wireless router, an Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, or a Roku stick are perfect streaming sources. But if that isn’t an option you can also use your laptop or a portable DVD player.

If you can’t afford a projector screen, you can do what many families do and use a sheet, a painter’s tarp, your garage door, or the side of your house. Some of the best outdoor setups are the ones that work for your family and your budget.

That being said, you may want a more polished look for your outdoor setup. Many manufacturers have come out with a wide range of affordable projector screens designed for outdoor use.

From cinema quality screens that can be attached to your home or garage, or freestanding models that can be set up in just a couple of minutes, there’s sure to be an affordable option that will fit your budget and needs.

Why Brightness Matters

The brightness of a projector is measured in lumens. These projectors usually start out at a thousand lumens and range upwards of three thousand. Your viewing environment will be the deciding factor when it comes to how many lumens to shoot for.

A dedicated home theater offers controlled lighting and won’t require as much brightness as a space with ambient lighting only.

Pro Tip: In most cases, a manufacturer will rate projector lumens based on data output instead of video. The lumen output for video isn’t usually as high as the data.

There are a few important factors that will affect the image quality: the projector’s contrast ratio, source material, and native resolution.

What you’re watching can also make a huge difference in image quality. A low-quality signal that’s fed to the projector will usually look like a lower quality image when it’s projected. On a larger screen, this will be even more noticeable.

For the best results, we recommend matching the native resolution of the source material with the projector.

Signal and Contrast Ratio

A gaming system will usually put out a signal of 1080p. An HDTV signal isn’t totally standardized, however, 720P and 1080i are the most common.

So, what does this mean when you’re searching for a new home projector? A projector is designed to deliver all the vivid details that are carried in a 1080P signal. A wide XGA model will deliver impressive results when it’s fed a 1080P signal, but it won’t be as great as an HD model.

That being said, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between these two types, unless you’re projecting a huge image that’s at eight feet diagonal or more.

Typically, a film is shot at twenty-four frames per second, which is relatively slow when you compare it to the average TV show which is shot at thirty frames per second.  1080i offers an impressive sixty frames per second. However, there are some instances when this type of speed simply isn’t fast enough, especially when it comes bigger viewing areas provided by the projector.  In order to accommodate this, new models use frame creation, which is also referred to as frame interpolation technology.

There are a number of projectors to choose from. Often, the pricing will reflect the image quality, color, and clarity. There are many affordable models available in the two to three hundred dollar range, but we don’t recommend those models for outdoor viewing. As we have mentioned, when watching a movie on a projector outside, a clearer, stronger, more vibrant picture is a must.

Another major factor to consider is the contrast ratio. A contrast ratio refers to the difference found in the whitest white and blackest black of an image. The projector with a ratio of ten thousand to one is exactly five times better than a model with a two thousand to one ratio.

Contrast ratios account for how the model will display all of the shades of gray found between the whitest white and blackest black. If a projector isn’t able to display those gray shades, portions of the image will have a blown out appearance and will look very pixilated when they’re displayed on a large screen. Check out models that offer more control settings. A multi-color processing model will allow the user to really get in there and tweak the display until it’s just right.

Native Aspect Ratio

Projector Max resolutionThe projector is a fixed res display device and because of that, they have what’s called a native aspect ratio. Four to three, sixteen to ten, and sixteen to nine are considered the average aspect ratios for projectors. The projector’s chip which is located inside of the projector is shaped in specific proportions. You should think of the chip as a small version of the image you’ll see on the screen.

Models that feature a sixteen to nine native aspect ratio are mainly designed for home theater use because HDTV signals, Blu-ray, and widescreen DVD signals are encoded or broadcast in the sixteen to nine format.

A home theater enthusiast will often prefer the sixteen to nine aspect ratio because it’s closer to the thirty-five-millimeter original format. A four to three projector is able to display widescreen images, but you’ll notice letterboxing on the bottom and top of the image.

Pro Tip: The sixteen to nine projector mode should be used only with anamorphic DVDs. You can set the DVD player output to sixteen to nine and the projector to sixteen to nine in order to achieve the best results.

Are You Ready for 3D Projector Viewing?

In recent years, the 3D projectors have come a long way. These days, most manufacturers will have a few 3D models to choose from. The content is becoming more readily available and the prices are finally dropping. Most cable providers even offer 3D programs and channels.

Projector Lamp Life

DLP and LCD projectors often have a lamp life that ranges from two to four thousand hours. This spec actually refers to the lamp’s half-life, which is the point where the lamp is about half as bright as it was when it was new. A lamp still works well at its half-life, but it’ll continue to lose its brightness gradually. A longer lamp life can make maintaining your projector more affordable.

If your goal is for more than just using your projector outdoors for a family movie night, and you want a solid model to replace your current TV, you should definitely factor in the cost of lamp replacement into your purchase.

A replacement lamp can have a cost that ranges from $100 to $400, easily. If the projector you’re searching for will primarily be used for special events and movie nights, then the lamp life won’t be nearly as important.

Pro Tip: If you end up purchasing a spare lamp, make sure you run it in your projector for a few hours first, then store it away somewhere dark and cool. Projector lamp warranties will kick into effect from the day of purchase, not from the first day of use. If the lamp you buy ends up being faulty, this will typically occur during the first four to eight hours of use.

Projector Installation Tips

Before you purchase a projector, you should consider whether you want to put it on a tabletop for outdoor use or use a ceiling mount for indoor use only.  Both of these options have an advantage.

Choosing to ceiling mount your projector will keep it out of the way and can create a more polished look for your viewing room.  Mounting the projector can also save you time that would otherwise be spent on setting it up.

If you want to ceiling mount the projector, you’ll need to know the fixed distance between the screen and the projector.  This is due to the fact that each projector has a different throw ratio.

The throw ratio involves the relationship between the width of the image and the projector’s distance from the screen. As an example, if the projector is mounted to the ceiling twelve feet away from the screen, the image will be larger than if it was placed only five feet away.

Most models of projectors weigh less than twenty pounds and are easy to move from location to location.  This means you can take your projector with you to the homes of family and friends, or you can even host an outdoor movie night and project it on the garage door and all without any heavy lifting. However, you’ll need to set the projector up each time you use it.

If you decide to buy a tabletop model, consider a projector that features low fan noise.  Shoot for a fan at around thirty DB or less for a fan that’s whisper quiet.  You’ll also want to consider the projector’s exterior design since it will be highly visible.

Pro Tip: Experts recommend that you buy the projector before buying a screen. Set up the projector first, turn it on and determine which screen will best meet your needs. This can also give you a chance to ensure that the projector also meets your expectations.

Most people will use their projector mainly for event viewings, such as the occasional sports broadcast or movie night. If that’s your plan, then the best option is to set up the projector on a flat surface.

You can easily keep the projector stowed away when not in use, due to their sleek, compact size. Keep in mind that most models of projectors don’t have sound capability. So, in order to watch a DVD, you’ll need to connect the DVD player’s video output to the projector, then run audio to the A/V receiver.

Speaking of sound, if the projector will be placed near you, a quieter cooling fan is essential.

Deeper Color Capabilities

In the past, HDMI cables were only able to support eight-bit color, which meant only sixteen million colors. Deep color supplies ten, twelve, and sixteen-bit abilities and up to two trillion colors. This helps to drastically increase the number of shades for every color, working to eliminate banding. Look for models that support deep color or say they’re HDMI 1.3 compliant.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of projectors to choose from. Often, the pricing will reflect the image quality, color, and clarity. There are many affordable models available in the two to three hundred dollar range, but we don’t recommend those models for outdoor viewing.

As we have mentioned, when watching a movie on a projector outside, a clearer, stronger, more vibrant picture is a must.