When movie theaters closed due to the pandemic this past spring, many families began creating their own movie theater in their backyards. Digital projectors have come a long way in recent years and now it is possible to create a drive-in type atmosphere in the yard with a wireless projector and inexpensive movie screen.
While there are many versions of digital projectors for sale at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and eBay, I've found two of the best are from Anker and Viewsonic.
The ViewSonic M1+ has two Harman-Kardon speakers that seem plenty loud for outdoor movie nights. The battery lasts around 2.5 hours on a full charge which is plenty for most movies. It also has a smart stand that doubles as a lens cover and comes with a fabric pouch to keep it from getting dinged up as you move it from place to place. Connecting a streaming player to the ViewSonic M1+ is fairly easy using an HDMI cable to go from a DVD player or streaming devices such as a FireStick or Roku. It also has a USB-C input, a USB port, a micro-SD card slot, and has 16GB of internal memory which is enough for 6 hours of movies.
You can also download apps directly to the M1+ from a ViewSonic app store called "Apptoid". I didn't find many familiar apps and neither the M1+ nor the Anker Nebula II can access Netflix through an app.
You can stream videos through the M1+ by using Airplay to mirror the content from your smartphone or tablet screen.
The Anker Nebula II connects to streaming players the same as the ViewSonic M1+ with a couple of exceptions. There is no micro-SD slot and no internal memory.
The Nebula II is also a 720 projector (The M1+ has 1080 HD capability). I'll say this about the Anker: the 360-degree speaker has better bass than the Harmon-Kardan speakers in the ViewSonic.
The Nebula has a unique design as well, shaped like a slightly large soda-can. The biggest benefit to the Anker Nebula II is that it is equipped with both Chromecast and Android TV. All you need to do is log on to your Google account to download and use apps to help you stream wirelessly. There are apps for Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and YouTube TV to name a few. You can also rent and play movies from the Google Play Store.
Both of these projectors are capable of turning your backyard into a home cinema.
I've played movies through both projectors using a DVD player, Roku, FireStick, Airplay and a USB-C cable connected to an iPad and the easiest and most dependable way to keep a movie playing without interruption is using the USB-C cable, though the Android TV in the Nebula II is a close second.
Using a Firestick, Roku, or DVD player will require you to connect them to an AC outlet.
There's a big price difference. The Anker Nebula II is priced at $580, though I've seen it as low as $400 on Amazon a couple of times each year. The ViewSonic M1+ is $270, though it's gone on sale for as low as $250 on Black Friday and Cyber Monday