how to choose an outdoor projector

One of the best parts of patio season is having an outdoor projector to watch movies under the stars. If this is the year you’re planning on setting up an outdoor theatre, here’s what to look for in an outdoor projector.

What is an outdoor projector?

An outdoor projector is a portable projector that’s designed to project video or images onto an outdoor projector screen. This type of projector may be weather resistant, with a durable outer casing or other weather-resistant features to protect it from the occasional splash of water or temperature changes. They have a higher peak brightness so you can easily see video and images when surrounded by ambient light, and they are lightweight and easy to transport so you can take your projector with you on camping trips, parks, or anywhere you roam.

What type of outdoor projector do you need?

type of outdoor projector

There are two main types of outdoor projector: short throw and long throw. The type you choose depends on the space you have available and how you’ll be using your projector.

Short-throw projectors

Short throw projectors can project a very large image from a short distance. If you have a small outdoor space, you’ll love having a short throw projector because it can be placed quite close to your projector screen. Because they are so close to the screen you won’t have to deal with a lot of shadows, and they are less likely to be affected by any surrounding street lights or patio lights.

Long throw projectors

A long throw projector needs a bit more space than a short throw projector. While a short throw projector can be placed very close to the screen and only needs about 3 feet to produce a 100-inch image, a long throw projector needs around 10 feet of space to produce the same image. Because of the distance, this type of projector may show shadows and may also be slightly dimmer when you’re surrounded by a lot of ambient light.

Features to look for in an outdoor projector

features in projectors

You’re ready to set up an outdoor movie theatre, now all you need to do is find the right projector. Here are a few features to look for when shopping for one.


Projector brightness is measured in lumens. Lumens indicate the light output of the projector. Unless you are watching a movie somewhere very isolated, you’ll probably be surrounded by ambient light from your yard or street. That’s why choosing an outdoor projector with higher brightness is important. You’ll want to look for an outdoor projector with a minimum of 500 lumens so you can enjoy bright colours and a crisp, detailed picture no matter what you’re watching.


Having a compact projector means it will be easy to pack up and take with you. You’ll want to look for a projector that’s lightweight and easy to carry, and you can also choose types that come with their own carrying case so you can keep your cords and cables with your projector.

Weather resistance of outdoor projectors

Outdoor projectors will have some type of weather resistance built into the design. Some types have a weather-resistant case to keep your projector safe in case of a sprinkle of rain or a fluctuation in outside temperature. A weather-resistant projector should still be brought inside in case of torrential rain storms. There are also types of water-resistant outdoor projectors. This type can withstand rain, snow, hail, and other weather conditions.

To choose the best projector for you, you’ll want to take a look at the IP rating. A rating of IP65 or IP66 will be able to withstand moderate to heavy amounts of rain and dust.

Resolution and contrast ratio

For the best possible image quality, you’ll want to choose a higher-resolution projector. For the sharpest, clearest picture, look for a minimum of Full HD (1920×1080 pixels). You may also want to choose 4K resolution (3840×2160 pixels).

Contrast ratio is the difference between the bright whites and deep, rich blacks you’ll see projected on your screen. When viewing outdoors you’ll want to make sure you choose a projector with a higher contrast ratio so black and whites look crisp, colours pop, and your images don’t have a grey cast. A projector with a contrast ratio of 2000:1 is a good choice.

Streaming options and inputs

If you’re setting up an outdoor movie space, you’ll want to make sure your projector has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other streaming platforms like AirPlay. You’ll also want to have an HDMI input if you need to connect your projector to another device and a USB input if you’d like to play saved movies via a storage device.

Pair your projector with an outdoor projector screen

outdoor projector screenYou can project your videos and images on any flat surface, but to make the most of your outdoor movie nights you’ll want to pair your projector with an outdoor projector screen. These screens are smooth and wrinkle-free for the best video presentation possible, and they are designed to stand up to all types of weather so you won’t have to worry that hours in the hot sun or a rain storm will damage your screen.

To improve contrast you’ll want to look for a projector screen with black backing or a black border to minimize light penetration. You’ll also want to find a projector screen that’s easy to set up and store when you’re not watching.

Are you ready to watch movies outside?

I love patio season. Whether it’s spring, summer, or fall, we can relax on patio furniture that’s as comfortable as our couches and cozy up under a blanket to enjoy movies outside under the stars. Setting up an outdoor movie theatre is as simple as finding an outdoor projector, adding an outdoor projector screen, and popping some popcorn over the fire. It’s the perfect way to end another great day outside.

You can find your own outdoor projector and projector screens at Best Buy right now.

Shelly Wutke
Editor TV & Home Theatre
I'm a Vancouver freelancer and tech enthusiast. When I'm not writing you'll find me on my farm with my alpacas, chickens, and honeybees. Visit my website Survivemag


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