What the Tech: In the market for a movie projector? Here’s what to look for

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 12:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Watching a movie or a ballgame on a big screen in the backyard is as great as it sounds. With the weather perfect for an evening outside, now is the time to think about creating your own backyard movie theater.

This time I’m looking at what to look for in a projector and what to avoid.

The most important thing to consider for a great picture is the number of ANSI or LED Lumens, simply stated: the brightness of the picture.

Cheap projectors at Walmart and Amazon claim to be 6500 to 7500 lumens, but pay attention only to the ANSI or LED lumens number which should be at least 100.

If you’re considering one of those cheap projectors with 7500 Lumens and 4K pictures, wait before hitting the “Buy Now” button until you take a look at these.

The Viewsonic M1+ provides a better brighter picture than most projectors. It has an internal battery so you don’t have to lug an extension cord out to the yard. The battery lasts about 2 and a half hours but you can plug it into electricity for a longer movie or game.

A built-in Harmon Kardon speaker is loud and clear enough on its own but you can plug in another speaker as well. It’s $255 depending on where you are shopping. For home movies indoors or outside for anyone on a budget, the Viewsonic M1+ is a very good option.

The Anker NEBULA was one of the first portable battery-operated projectors and is worth a look too. It’s shaped like a soda with a 360-degree speaker that’s loud enough for everyone. The speaker also has a rich bass sound for the loud car chases and explosions. It’s impressive.

Priced at $469 the Nebula has 720p HD, a 4-hour battery, and projection for up to a 100-inch screen. It also has Google TV built-in so you don’t necessarily need to use a Roku or FireStick streaming player. Log in to your Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu accounts and you can quickly be watching a movie.

Both of these projectors are great for family movie nights with great images after dark and both are controlled with a wireless remote.

What else should you think about? In addition to that ANSI or LED lumens number, consider how to play content through the projector. Look for USB-C and HDMI inputs to connect a DVD player, game system, tablet, or streaming device. These will also mirror content from a smartphone and Airplay. The Viewsonic projectors use an app called Aptoid to connect with Netflix and other services but it is a little bit clunkier than Nebula’s Google TV.

The best projector I’ve tried is the new Viewsonic M2e with 1000 LED Lumens, Full HD, and Harman Kardon speakers. Even on an 18-foot screen, the images are crisp and bright, like watching a TV.

I walked next to the screen and couldn’t see a pixel. Rather than using the audio from the projector, I connected an external speaker for a better sound but the Harman Kardon speakers should be plenty for most people. The M2e is a small portable projector but it does not run on a battery, you’ll need to plug it into electricity. It’s around $550.

If you’re just doing the occasional movie night with the kids, you’ll probably be okay with a sub-$100 projector and a bedsheet instead of a screen, but if you want to create a true backyard movie experience for your friends, you can expect to pay around $150-$200 for a high-quality screen and more than $500 for a full HD projector.

Either way, watching a movie in the backyard is a lot of fun for the family, and for a large group of friends.

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