Anyone else missing trips to your local movie theater? I know I am, which is why I’ve been researching the best home projectors for backyard movie nights, which seem to be the closest we’re going to get to sitting in a theater anytime soon.
Keep in mind that home projectors can get expensive fast, so I’ve rounded up a few amateur options that deliver a good show without breaking the bank — or forcing you to sell tickets to the folks on your Nextdoor forum.
So grab your folding chairs, pop your popcorn, and get ready for the best cinematic experience a family slathered in bug spray can have.
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If you’re only buying a projector to use during the quarantine (which, fingers crossed won’t last longer than this summer), you probably don’t want to spend a ton. And luckily, you can get this DB Power mini projector for a little over a hundred bucks. It offers numerous ports so you can connect with almost any device, and if you buy a Wifi dongle, you can connect wirelessly with your phone or laptop. Cons: the speaker on this device isn’t particularly loud or clear, so you’ll need to pair with your own speakers if you’re hosting a crowd. And while this model is just as bright as some more expensive models, the image won’t be as crisp or clear. But if you’re just watching Moana for the millionth time, maybe your kids don’t need to see every detail of her grass skirt, anyway. ($119, Amazon)
Most portable: Anker Nebula Mini Projector
If you want a projector that you can take camping or on your next road trip, definitely check out the incredibly portable Anker Nebula projector. It’s roughly the size of your La Croix can, but can play video for four hours on its battery alone. It features better speakers than the DB Power so you won’t need to cart those along, either. The Nebula runs its own operating Android operating system, essentially working like a Smart TV, but you can also cast from your phone or laptop. Plus, it lets you download content to watch later if you’re going to be offline. If you want a little more power–and better sound–with the same portability, check out this projector’s big sister the Nebula by Anker Mars II. ($279, Amazon)
Most versatile: Optoma HD146X High Performance Projector for Movies and Gaming
If you have a kid (or in my case, a husband) who fancies himself the next Fortnite World Cup champion, I bet he’d be thrilled to display his skills on the big screen. This projector delivers a crisp image, high contrast, and almost no lag time, making it a great choice for both outdoor movie screening, amateur video game tournaments, or hosting the Super Bowl. It’s designed to make dark scenes brighter to support gaming, but that also means it’s a good choice if you have a lot of light pollution in your environment. ($549, Amazon)
Best splurge: Epson – Home Cinema 2150 1080p Wireless 3LCD Projector
If you want to host the neighbors but still stay socially distant, check out the Epson Home Cinema. It can project a screen of up to 300″ without compromising image quality, which makes it a great choice for big crowds or just recreating an impressive theater-like experience at home. The Epson lets you use the mobile app or the device’s own remote control, but also offers Miracast, which makes it great for Android users (although not so much for Apple diehards). The Epson even offers 3D, which is a pretty unique feature for a projector that’s under $1000. ($699, Best Buy)
Top image: Alex Litvin via Unsplash