Choosing A Projector for Outdoor Movies

The best part about a projector is that it gives you the privilege of enjoying entertainment both inside and outside of your home. You can move the equipment around whenever you like without any of the problems you would face if you were moving a regular television.  However, when you are planning to buy a projector for outdoor movies, there are a number of things that need to take into consideration such as the type of projector you have and the screen or surface it will be cast on. Just because you have a projector that works well inside does not mean that it will work well outside. Some projectors are designed or outdoor entertainment while others are meant only for using indoors.


Things To Consider When Choosing An Outdoor Projector


Lumens is a measurement of how much light is emitted by the projector.  Essentially, this is how bright the projector is.  When you are looking to use your projector outside, you need to make sure that you take your environment into consideration.  

If you’re going to be watching at night, you can get away with a lower lumen level.  If you’re planning to watch with ambient light such as a porch light or even while the sun is setting, your lumen level needs to be higher so that you can see the screen.

It is recommended that you get at least 2,000 lumens for outdoor projectors.   The brighter the better, but consider 2,000 to be the bare minimum.  The more light that you’re going to have around you, the higher lumen rating you need.


Resolution refers to the amount of pixels or tiny dots used display images on the screen. When choosing an outdoor projector, you also need to be aware of the fact that some projectors have low resolution while others are designed with a high resolution.  

High resolution is recommended for outdoor projectors because it is important for projecting the highest quality images onto your screen.  If you’re going to be projecting any sort of video such as a high definition movie, or playing a video game on your projector, then the higher the resolution the better.  Ideally, you’re going to want to try to get a 1080p projector.  The resolution for 1080p is 1920 × 1080.  

Since you’re going to be outdoors while using your projector, you will inherently have a little bit of interference from dust in the air or wind blowing leaves, so it’s best not to make your picture worse by getting a low-resolution projector.  Plus, you’re generally going to be sitting a little further back for outside viewing, so the higher resolution will help you still see very clearly even though you’re farther away. 

This is not to say that standard definition, or non-HD, projectors are a bad idea.  Some people do not mind having a projection that is not crystal clear.  If you are more concerned with your budget rather than picture quality, then a lower resolution might be an option for you.  Especially if you’re going to watch older movies that can’t really benefit from high-definition, or if you’re going to be sitting pretty close to the screen.  720p is the lowest resolution that we would recommend to anyone based on our own preferences. 

Contrast Ratio

As we mentioned in the best projector under $500 article, the contrast ratio is something you should largely ignore when picking out a projector.  It basically means how much brighter the lightest white color is versus the darkest black.  This is a number that manufacturers can sort of “wing it” since there is no real industry standard way to measure it.  So we won’t bother going into contrast ratio, other than just telling you to ignore it.

Input Connections

Connections are something that is very easy to overlook because most people would assume that all projectors come with the same connections.  That is not the case!  Make sure that the projector you choose has the connections you need.  

For example, if you are using a laptop that doesn’t have HDMI output but it does have DVI output, then you must be certain the projector has DVI input to support the connection your laptop has. 

Most current model laptops are going to have HDMI output connections, but it is better safe than sorry.  It is frustrating to try to figure out how to convert input and output connections using some third party accessories, so just avoid this completely by double checking what your devices have.

Also, be sure to check out if the projector you choose has USB connections.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, this opens up the potential that you could stream videos or movies from your smartphone.  Second, if you have any videos downloaded to your computer, you could put them on a USB flash drive rather than having to deal with bringing a full computer outside with the projector.

Throw Distance

Throw distance is a very important factor to consider, especially for outdoor projector usage.  Being outdoors gives you more space to utilize, and most likely a much bigger screen.

Throw distance literally means how far the projector can “throw” the image to the screen.  The type of surface or screen you’re casting on is one aspect.  The height and width of the screen determine how far away your projector can be, and obviously how far away you need to sit from the screen in order to see the media clearly.  

A general rule of thumb for determining the throw distance is that you need one square foot of screen for every two feet between the projector and the screen.  So if your screen that you are projecting on is 8 feet wide, then you would place the projector approximately 16 feet away.  Again, this is just a rough estimate, it will take a little bit of playing around with the distance but that will give you a great starting point.

Some projectors have what’s called a short throw lens.  The benefit of this is that it will allow you to place the projector closer to the screen while providing a large screen size range.


What is the Best Projector for Outdoor Movies?

BenQ HT2050 1080p 3D


Projector for outdoor movies

BenQ is a brand that has been around a long time in the home projector world and has quite the following of loyal customers. The HT2050 continues that high-quality standard.

To start, it is rated at 2,200 lumens.  It isn’t as bright as the Epson projectors on this list, but if you aren’t concerned with excess ambient light where you’re going to be watching outside then that isn’t an issue at all.  Frankly, you aren’t going to see a difference between 2,200 and 2,500 anyway. It supports full HD 1080p resolution which is the same as the Epson 1040 so you’ll have the clearest image available.

One thing BenQ touts about the HT2050 is that you can get a 100-inch picture in 8.2 feet.  This short throw distance is great for those with limited space and gives you more options on how close or far away to place the projector.  

It also has a shiftable lens which means you can set the projector at a slight angle and still point it at the same screen.  The good news about this is that if you’re using the projector but you don’t have a clear path of somewhere to put it directly in the center of the screen, you can set it off to the side by up to 30 degrees and still maintain your picture on the screen.  

It has wireless capabilities built into it so that you can stream from inside your house to the projector outside.  Internally, it has four antennas which help it get through thick walls and keep a strong signal flowing to it at all times. The many antennas inside also help keep latency down to the bare minimum, allowing you to play video games wirelessly without any delays.


Epson PowerLite V11H335120 Presenter Widescreen Projector/DVD Player Combo

Projector for outdoor movies
The Epson PowerLite projector has it all:  A Blu-Ray/DVD player, HDMI, VGA, Component, TypeA USB (which is the regular USB that is on most devices), TypeB USB (which is a connector for a lot of cameras) and even a microphone port.  It also has speakers built into it, which is another hassle eliminated to make this an ultra-portable solution.

All of these connections and options above give you a wide range of media options.  The best part of this projector is the Blu-Ray/DVD player embedded inside it.  With this, you don’t have to have a laptop or external player to watch DVDs.

This WXGA (Widescreen Extended Graphics Array) projector has a resolution of 1280×800, which is high definition and just above 720p. Since it is HD, you won’t have any problem seeing crystal clear images no matter what the media is you’re playing.  It delivers light at 2500 lumens, so it will be bright enough to display your videos with some ambient light.

The Epson PowerLite has some great “quality of life” functions built into it.  When you plug the projector into a PC using the USB connection, it automatically starts with advanced plug ‘’n play technology.  This takes away the stress of messing around with display settings on the computer to get the image to look right.

One other quality of life function to mention is the instant on/off.  If you’ve had any experience with other projectors, they can take a little bit to warm up.  Now this bootup time is not a deal breaker with any projector, but it can be a little frustrating when you are trying to get set up as soon as possible.  Especially during business meetings, when everyone is awkwardly staring at you waiting for the projector to start.

Epson Home Cinema 1040 1080p

Projector for outdoor movies

Another Epson projector on this list for your consideration, the Epson 1040.  This projector has full 1080p resolution capabilities, to give you the sharpest HD quality you can receive from a projector.  

This projector also boasts a 3,000 lumens rating, so it’s going to throw a brighter picture than the PowerLite.  If you’re going to have a lot of light to battle when you’re watching your movies, such as from neighbor lights, porch lights, street lamps, etc. then you might want to consider this model for the higher lumen rating.

Like the PowerLite above, the Epson 1040 Projector has all of the connections needed to fit all of your devices.  Gaming systems, smartphones, tablets (extra adapters may be required), laptops/computers, Blu-Ray players, cable or satellite boxes, Chromecasts, Apple TV, Amazon Fire sticks… The list goes on, but you get the idea.  It’s going to support your favorite devices.  

One small item of note for the Epson 1040 that may or may not affect you is the throw distance. It throws 80-inches from 8 feet or 119-inches from 12 feet.  Depending on where you are and how much room you have, this can mean your projector is sitting further back from the screen than you would like.  If you’ve got the room to spare then it wouldn’t be an issue for you.

Which One is the Best Outdoor Projector?

At the end of the day, any of these outdoor projectors will perform admirably for you, and give you so much entertainment value.  If we were to pick the best outdoor projector of the above, the winner is the BenQ HT2050.

The BenQ has the brand recognition that is synonymous with high quality and crystal clear projectors.  It has all of the most common connection types and also includes wireless connectivity f you don’t want to bring more equipment outside with you.

If the ability to play Blu-Ray or DVD movies is a big benefit for you, then opt for the Epson PowerLite V11H335120.  This is the only projector we recommend that has the Blu-Ray and DVD player built into the device, again cutting out more stuff to bring outside with you.  However, if you don’t care about the Blu-Rays, then the BenQ HT2050 is going to give you higher resolution and a better-looking picture than the Epson PowerLite.

Hopefully, this guide for outdoor projectors has helped you make a decision on which projector is right for you.  Hit us up in the comments if you have any questions, comments, or just want to give your two cents on which one you believe is the best projector.

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