How to Buy an Outdoor Projector

Grab the popcorn and set up your own backyard theater with one of these machines. Just make sure to consider price and portability before you buy.
outdoor screening

This summer is a great time to upgrade your backyard space, whether you want to entertain guests or just your immediate household. Sure, you can invest in new patio furniture, but why stop there? Turn your backyard into a home theater with an outdoor projector!

There are a number of important things to consider when preparing to buy an outdoor projector, of course. In addition to portability and reliability, you'll also need to think about tech specs and extras you may need. Read on to learn more about projector prices, screens, and when and where to buy.

What to Consider When Shopping for Outdoor Projectors

Aside from price, portability is probably the biggest thing to think about when buying an outdoor movie projector. You won't be able to leave these machines outside permanently — they're not designed for that — so you'll want to make sure your projector is relatively easy to move.

Take a good look at your backyard layout, too. You'll need a place to set up some kind of screen, whether you're using a dedicated portable projector screen or a cheap white sheet. Once you know how you'll set up your viewing surface, ensure that you can place your projector at an optimal distance for viewing. For instance, Wirecutter notes that its top pick needs 8.4' of space between the projector and the screen in order to achieve a 100" image.

Where Can You Buy an Outdoor Projector?

Essentially, any major store that sells TVs or TV accessories also sells projectors. Retailers like Best Buy and Amazon offer them, but so do home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's.

Though a huge range of prices are available, you can easily find solid projector picks under $1,000. However, Wirecutter notes that such models won't look as good as a TV screen during daytime viewing. If you're planning to get an outdoor projector, your best bet is going to be to use it for movie nights rather than lazy afternoons in the sun.

How Much Does an Outdoor Projector Cost?

We've seen projector deals going for as little as $50, and some were made even better by being bundled with store credits, like $15 Kohl's Cash. As with other products, though, you get what you pay for, so selecting a cheap portable projector might not be the best move for your backyard theater.

We've seen some projector deals for as little as $50, but as with other products, you'll get what you pay for.

Wondering what's considered the best outdoor projector (that doesn't cost an arm and a leg)? Wirecutter recommends a couple of models from the brand BenQ, and we've seen items from the same brand cost as little as $279. However, we've also seen projector deals on big-name brands like LG that were around $550.

When Is the Best Time to Buy an Outdoor Projector?

It should come as no surprise that Black Friday brings a decent number of outdoor projector deals; December is also a great month to buy. Last year, we posted more projector deals in both November and December than during any other month in 2019. Among these offers were a fair number of Staff Picks — the deals we consider the best of the best. Last November, 44% of projector deals received this designation, while 50% of the deals in December qualified for it.

If you can't shop during Black Friday and the holiday season — but still want the highest odds of getting a deal — hold off until February before you buy. That month came in third last year for number of projector deals, with 50% of them earning our Staff Pick badge.

How to Choose an Outdoor Projector Screen

Although dedicated projector screens exist, you don't necessarily have to opt for those when setting up your backyard theater. The biggest thing you'll want to do is make sure that the surface you're projecting onto is smooth — so no siding, brick, or stucco surfaces unless you want your movies to look strange. We've seen foldable projector screens for as low as $16 in the last year. However, you can also use a sheet as a makeshift projector screen, and we've found those in sets for as little as $6.

SEE ALSO: The Best Patio Furniture: How to Buy Outdoor Pieces That Last

Whatever kind of screen you go with, make sure you choose the right size for brightness and throw based on your projector's capabilities. The below chart from Projector Screen Store should help make your screen-size decision a little easier.

Screen Size Minimum Lumens Ideal Lumen Count
9x9' 1500 2300
12x7' 2300 3000
16x9' 3000 4500
20x11' 4500 7500
25x14.5' 5000 10000
40x22.5' 5500 12000

Skip the Outdoor TVs

With so much work involved in selecting a projector and screen, you might be tempted to just go the route of an outdoor TV and wash your hands of the whole thing. However, doing so comes with its own set of challenges. According to Wirecutter, outdoor TVs are made to withstand the elements, and you'll pay a hefty premium for choosing one. Not only are they expensive, but they also have to be professionally installed in some cases. That's just another extra cost added on to the whole project. Why spend that when you can put the money toward something better, like a vintage popcorn machine?

Readers, do you have an outdoor projector? How has it worked out for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Julie Ramhold
Senior Staff Writer/Consumer Analyst

Julie's work has been featured on CNBC, GoBankingRates, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, Money, The New York Times, Real Simple, US News, WaPo, WSJ, Yahoo!, and more. She's extolled the virtues of DealNews in interviews with Cheddar TV, GMA, various podcasts, and affiliates across the United States, plus one in Canada.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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