Lightweight portable outdoor movie projectors are quickly becoming a must-have item in modern-day life especially if you like to take your videos with you like when you go camping under the stars. For me just trying to get away from the city hustle for a night, can be a very rewarding experience for my whole family. Adding in an outdoor movie night helps make it a fun family event or date night. This makes portable projectors a fun item to have.
Yet, there’s a myriad of options to choose from in the market. Which projectors are the cheapest? Which are the smallest and most durable? More importantly, which ones produce the best images?
Below are four of the best cheap backyard movie projectors on the market today. They’ve been tested out to see which ones are worth your buck. We’re going to look at projectors that can work for both indoor and outdoor use so that you can get the most out of your purchase. You’ll be surprised at how these cheap mini HD projectors can be a great family investment!
We currently use the GooDee 3200 mini projector for all of our travel requirements. This is due to its great bright lamp, quality image, small form factor, and most important value for money.
Without further ado, here is an in-depth review of some of the best projectors for outdoor camping movie nights—and more!
4 Amazing Portable Outdoor Projectors – Reviewed
Backyard Movie Projectors that Exceed Expectations
In my quest to find the perfect small projector for my family I was fortunate enough to get to play with 4 amazing little projectors. These tiny media projectors are so cheap it makes my head spin that an image this large and bright can come out of such an affordable machine.
Being so portable we often take the DBpower T20 out on camping trips. For a cheap backyard projector screen, we just used a white bed sheet hanging on a line tied between two trees. Recently we have upgraded to the brighter GooDee 3200 which has been a great little machine. You can really notice twice the brightness over the DBPower T20.
So the question arises how do we power our electronics while out camping.
For AC power out in the middle of nowhere there are a few options:
- Portable petrol generator – but this can be noisy. Long extension leads can help.
- Deep Cycle battery with a 110v 600-watt pure sine wave inverter – A car battery works well for this, but for extended stays say over a few days you need a way to top up your battery. A separate portable 12v battery and a solar charger works very well, otherwise, you could end up being stranded in a remote area.
- Portable battery pack with an inbuilt inverter like the famous RavPower Portable AC power outlet 27000mAh. But you will be limited to devices up to 100 watts power draw maximum.
Let’s check out some of the great features of these portable mini projectors.
ViewSonic PJD5155 SVGA HDMI Projector Review
The ViewSonic PJD5155 SVGA HDMI projector is a mini HD projector that can be used in a variety of settings. With an item weight of 4.6 pounds and a total length of approximately 12 inches, this can be used as an indoor or outdoor mini projector.
Its strength is in its color accuracy, where images projected are in true-to-life colors in all lighting situations. The best part? Image quality isn’t sacrificed. This is partly due to the lamp brightness, which is a whopping 3300 Lumens, and to ViewSonic’s SuperColor Technology.
The HDMI input has also been updated, which means it can display images directly from 3D Blu-ray players. This makes it compatible with nearly all HDMI-enabled devices (e.g. your PC, laptop, tablet, WDTV and other media players).
Viewsonic PJD5155 Rear cable connections
With connections for basically all of your media output devices, Viewsonic really has you covered. You are able to input any digital or analog video source from HDMI, 3x VGA in/out, mini USB, AV, S-video In, as well as 2x audio in/out.
If you’re traveling light, the ViewSonic has you covered. This projector also incorporates a speaker chamber and an amplifier. This makes this are truly portable all in one unit. It has a sound range of 20 KHz, making it one of the best cheap outdoor LED projectors around.
The biggest downside to the ViewSonic is that it can’t show images in 1080 pixels. Although it can take the image from a 1080p signal (like the ones you get from your Blu-ray files), it can only show images at a maximum of 800 x 600 resolution. This may not be the best if you’re looking for a perfect outdoor cinema experience. But if you’re wanting to project multimedia outdoors for fun cheaply, then this projector is a great alternative.
This backyard movie projector also comes with a 3-year warranty. This warranty includes limited parts and labor, a one-year lamp warranty, and a free Express Exchange service for the first year of use. The Kensington lock is also a nice addition for security.
ELEPHAS Mini LED Projector YG400 review
The Elephas Mini LED Projector YG400 takes the word ‘mini’ seriously. At 1.96 pounds and product dimensions of merely 7.6 x 5.6 x 2.7 inches, this guy can be brought nearly everywhere. Attach it to a wall or ceiling via a screw hole, or set it up on your tent floor—this ELEPHAS projector won’t fail to deliver.
One of the coolest parts of this mini projector is its ability to support image resolution up to 1080 pixels. This means it can take media from HD sources like Blu-ray. Whether you’re bringing it out on a hike with friends or you’re setting up a home theater, getting sharp images isn’t a problem!
The projector can be connected by a variety of ways, including—but not limited to—the following: HDMI, USB, SD Card, VGA, and AV. You can go even as far as connecting to the projector via Bluetooth! Images are bright and clear thanks to their lamp LED, which has a brightness of 1800 Lumens. The lamp life is also one of the longest in the industry, as it can take up to around 30,000 hours of use before it dies out.
However, one of the pitfalls of the YG400 is that although it can support 1080 pixel media, it can only project image resolutions at 800 x 480 pixels. This is slightly less than the Viewsonic pixel count. It isn’t so bad as this is a budget projector and is more applicable for casual use. The speakers on this portable outdoor projector aren’t that spectacular either, so it’s best to bring another set of speakers when recreating a cinema experience at home or outdoors.
The ELEPHAS Mini LED Projector YG400 comes with a warranty good for three years. Customers also get to return their projector within three months of purchase, hassle-free.
DBPower T20 Review
The DBPower T20 is a light-weight LED projector that promises clear images in nearly all environments. Weighing less than a pound and having product dimensions 12 x 8 x 4.5 inches, it’s not hard to believe their claims.
The T20 has an LED lamp brightness of 1800 Lumens. The lamp life has a shelf life up to 50,000 hours. To put that into perspective, you can watch a two-hour movie every day for 68 years and your projector would still look great. In the event your lamp finally reaches its 50,000-hour limit, it can be easily replaced by if you are handy with a screwdriver. If that’s not enough, the bright LED lamp allows image projections to be clear and bright.
No need to worry about noisy cooling systems with this backyard video projector: DBPower has the T20 equipped with double tube cooling technology, which lessens the work the cooling fan does and in turn cuts fan noise. To even make the cooling fan more lowered, noise suppression technology is added, ensuring that you’re not getting an awkward whizzing sound when you’re enjoying your movie or game.
DBpower T20 Cable interface
This cheap outdoor projector can connect to different sources via multiple inputs: HDMI, VGA, USB, AV, Headphones, and an SD Card.
It should be noted that the DBPower T20 is made for home use and entertainment. Although it can be placed in a variety of set-ups, making it a versatile indoor or outdoor mini projector, it is not advised to be used in commercial or industrial presentations, the lamp brightness is just not enough. This is because the DBPower T20 has a small LED lamp to make it super portable. As it can only project images to a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels its best used in a small darkened room. Although it supports 1080 input so anything can be plugged into it.
Digital media (such as Bluray), are fully supported but it can only project up to 480 pixels wide, which is a bit of a let down if you’re looking for cinema quality. But that’s not its market. They plug the portability market. Or those wanting to gold a projector in the palm of their hand. This is why we take this projector camping it’s just so small and cheap.
However, for a simple no-frills DVD projector for outdoor movies or for a simple mini home projector, the DBPower T20 does a swell job at a very reasonable cheap price.
This mini projector also comes with a limited one-year warranty and can be returned within 30 days of purchase.
GooDee Portable Movie Projector Review
The GooDee Portable Movie Projector is a portable mini HD projector. It weighs 4.8 pounds and has product dimensions of 10.9 x 8.58 x 3.9 inches. This projector comes with the following accessories: HDMI cable, VGA cable, AV 3-in-1 cable, remote control, projector lens cap, and the user manual. From the accessories, we’ve got a hunch that this projector supports HDMI, VGA, and AV connectivity. However, the GooDee Portable Movie Projector also has USB ports and MHL connectivity.
This mini HD projector supports a variety of movie, audio, and picture formats. It can also read e-books in .txt or .lrc formats, making it a handy tool for different environments and uses.
The projector has a dustproof design and has different installation modes. It can be projected on a wall or a ceiling, and due to the aforementioned dustproof design, it can withstand extreme environments like deserts, tundras, and voltage ranges of 90-250 V.
This portable backyard movie projector also can be used as a stand-alone media center with its inbuilt HIFI level stereo audio — perfect for light packers who want to get a source of entertainment in the great outdoors.
New GooDee 2018 Cons
Although this is a good mini projector, it does have some cons. As like all the other portable projectors reviewed here, the GooDee LED Movie Projector can support 1080 pixel files but it can only show them in 1200×800 or close to 720-pixel resolution. This is a lot higher than all of the other projectors reviewed here. For most people, 720p is a great image resolution. Images are clear and bright at ambient to dark lighting scenarios.
The speakers are a nice touch, but they’re not necessarily the best in the business. If you’re particular with audio quality, it may be advisable to bring another set of portable speakers with you. We use the DOSS touch portable speaker with an AUX cable. The extra base is worth it.
Does the GooDee Portable Movie Projector have its hiccups? Yes, it does. But for its price, it’s actually very good, and it even exceeds expectations. For a cheap outdoor projector, I’d say this is a steal. This is one of the highest quality 720p LED projectors you can buy for the money.
What I like about the Goodee
- It has a front air filter which can be easily removed for cleaning. Many cheap projectors don’t have this.
- High-quality 720p image
- Multiple connection points – VGA, 2 HDMI, 2 USB, and composite input
- You can plug in USB sticks and it will play video files MP4, Mp3, MPEG, AVI, MKV, AAC content natively.
- Internal speaker – But for best sound use some external speakers.
- Projection Size: 35-180″
- Projector Distance: 1.2m-8.5m
Upon purchasing this project, users can get a factory-directed warranty, where you can return the product for free within 2 months from the date of purchase, or exchange it for free in 2 years from the date of purchase.
Which Mini projector is the best? – Comparisons
Below are the different categories that the projectors were compared to. Each projector was judged based on lamp brightness, lamp life, overall size, product weight, image support, native resolution, cable connections, and digital technology.
Each category has a corresponding ‘winner’ to help each person look for which projector meets their needs.
I compared each projector via lamp brightness to get a good idea of how bright the image could possibly go. This may not necessarily mean that the projector can have images show up in very bright environments, but the lamp brightness is a good indicator of the limits of which environments a projector can go. TLDR: the brighter the LED lamp, the more the image shows up in bright environments.
Among the four projectors, ViewSonic’s 3,300 lumens wins. GooDee is coming close at 3,200 lumens. Makes you think how a few lumens goes such a long way!
But there is trade-offs, larger brighter projector lamps will be housed in a larger case. This is so the LED bulb can be cooled efficiently.
Every projector has maintenance to work on, and it often starts with the lamp. Lamp life helps us determine which projector lamp can take more of a beating and be used the longest without replacement. This makes it a rather practical feature to consider.
DBPower T20’s lamp life of 50,000 hours is a winner here. On the flip side of the coin, it’s no surprise that ViewSonic’s lamp life is a mere 10,000 hours. With these two projectors, you can see that lamp brightness and life have an inverse relationship. Want a brighter lamp? Sacrifice its hours. Want a longer lasting LED lamp? Gotta sacrifice brightness.
The one projector that hits the sweet spot between brightness and decent lamp life is GooDee. With a lamp brightness of 3,200 lumens, it can still reach a lamp life of 30,000 hours. Quite impressive and deserving of an honorable mention.
3000 Hours lamp life is huge, just think about that for a moment. Even if you use this projector for 2h a day, the lamp should last 40 years. I’m sure an upgrade would have happened long ago.
A quick note to improve the lamp life. Remember to regularly clean or blow out the Lamp dust filter trap. Once this clogs up the LED lamp will get hot and fail.
As we’re looking for the best mini projector among the four, overall size is taken into consideration. We’re looking at which among the four projectors occupies the least amount of space.
As all of the projectors take on a nearly rectangular shape, we compared them by getting their corresponding volumes by multiplying their product dimensions. The projector with the smallest volume is the ELEPHAS Mini LED Projector YG400. With product dimensions of 5.63 x 7.6 x 2.68 inches (approximately 115 cubic inches), it can be slipped into a standard backpack or tote.
The second runner-up is the GooDee Portable Movie Projector. With product dimensions of 3.9 x 8.58 x 10.9 inches (approximately 365 cubic inches), this may be your second best bet for a small projector when the ELEPHAS one isn’t available.
While we mentioned that we’d like the product that takes up the least amount of space, its weight is also taken into consideration. Wouldn’t want to lug around a brick when you’re camping, would you?
Among the four projectors, the DBPower T20 is the lightest. At 0.5 lbs, it’s almost the same weight as most bottled sodas.
Coming close is the ELEPHAS Mini LED Projector YG400, which weighs 1.96 lbs. Taking into consideration its small overall size and relative lightness, the ELEPHAS would be another great choice for lightweight and travel-friendly projectors.
If you’re enjoying multimedia files in the outdoors, it may be important to find out if your projector can support your HD files (e.g. Blu-Ray).
All the mentioned projectors can support files with 1080p resolution.
Just because your projector can support 1080p files doesn’t mean it can produce images in the same resolution.
Unfortunately, due to all of the projectors featured being mini HD projectors, none have necessarily qualified to project 1080p images. What comes close is the GooDee Portable Movie Projector. It can project images at 1280 x 800 pixels, which may give some decent image quality and justice to your 1080p file when you’re watching at home or outdoors.
All projectors here can support HDMI, VGA, USB, and AV cable connections. An honorable mention goes to ViewSonic, as this projector has an optional cable management hood, that helps hid unsightly cable clutter and any exposed ports.
It’s nice to see a few projectors here starting to support SD Card inputs. With the low cost of large SD Cards like 64 GB and above you can download a whole heap of movies onto these cards ready for your next camping or backyard movie night.
A high contrast ratio is desired to get the best image output from any projector. This helps enhance the overall cinematic experience or give you a nice display.
Among the four projectors, ViewSonic’s contrast ratio of 20,000: 1 is a no-brainer. This may be in part due to their SuperColor Technology.
This portion of the review may vary depending on personal preference. To start, let’s put out the difference between DLP and LCD.
DLP stands for Digital Light Processing. It employs a chip made of microscopic mirrors and a spinning wheel to create an image. Because of this, DLP projectors have 3D capabilities, better response times, and deliver sharp images. The cons that come with DLP are a shorter lamp life, and color ghosting or banding may appear in certain scenes.
The color ghosting is only applicable to some people. And mainly detected when they look from one side of the screen to the other really fast.
LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. These are inexpensive lamps, and image quality depends highly on the number of LCD chips available. The lamps have long lives, and projectors with this technology are generally quieter than their DLP counterparts. The biggest setback with LCDs is that they require constant filter maintenance and don’t have a very high contrast ratio.
With those taken into consideration, I personally prefer ViewSonic’s DLP technology over the rest. Due to DLP, images have better color output. Their SuperColor technology also helps enhance the experience.
What about a cheap portable projector screen?
Well its no good to have a lightweight portable projector without a portable screen. As mentioned earlier on we use a queen white bed sheet that is draped between 2 trees on a rope.
The side effect is if its windy the sheet will flap around. The 2 options I have come across are the inflatable projector screen and the standard pull up screen which I am not a fan of. So my neighbor showed me his backyard movie screen which is inflatable and I thought perfect.
The blow-up inflatable projector screen uses a quiet fan to inflate the screen to make it stand up straight and tight. We have the EasyGo Products 14′ Inflatable Mega Movie Screen but due to the fan being always on you will need a power source.
It’s very quick to inflate at around 2 minutes so you can be up and running before the microwave popcorn is done. The fan is super quiet we don’t even hear it running.
Conclusion – Overall Portable Projector Winner
The best mini projector out of the four depends on one’s personal preference and needs. For this review, we’re basing it on the one that has the best specifications for each category. With that, the ViewSonic PJD5155 SVGA HDMI Projector is our champion. But you will pay slightly more for the extra features and quality.
A few honorable mentions go to the GooDee 3200 Portable Movie Projector, as it’s a well-rounded portable projector that exceeds expectations for projectors for outdoor movie nights. It’s also cheaper which is great for those of us on a budget. It’s my personal favorite. Good trade off with price, size and image quality.
For those not picky about image quality and looking for a lightweight and easy to bring along portable projector, the ELEPHAS Mini LED Projector YG400 gets my recommendation.
All of these backyard projectors can be made smart with the aid of the Google Chromecast HDMI dongle. This way you can stream shows like Netflix direct to your portable projector. The Chromecast is powered from a spare USB port on your projector. It’s like magic.
I hope this review has been helpful in giving you insight on the best mini projector to get, whether it’s for home or outdoor use. Let us know if you’ve used any of the projectors mentioned and if there are any cheap outdoor projectors that you’d want us to try out!