Did Brad Pitt’s head really wrinkle or is it just the frame of his crown? If he has a projector but doesn’t have a screen, he’s getting sub-par image quality and wasting a big machine. Even if your wall is crisp and flawless white, any imperfections will be obvious.
But do you get a wall or freestanding screen? What size and proportion? Manual or motorized? Don’t worry, we help you. Below are the best projection screens this year, regardless of your budget. And to complete your home theater setup, check out our list of the best Blu-Ray players.
Our Top Pick
Last update on 2022-11-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Top 10 Best Projector Screens To Buy In 2021
Last update on 2022-11-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
10 Best Projector Screens Review
- Screen High-Definition Multimedia Presentations with this 120inch(in Diagonal) Screens Manual Projector Screen. Our high gain screen delivers bright images in any lighting environment, making it perfect not only for home theater use, but also business and educational environments!
- 【Large & Adjustable Screen】 This projection screen features a 1:1 high gain that provides brighter images and its auto-locking system maintains your desired screen height adjustment. This manual projector's 160-degree viewing angle displays clear images for audience members throughout the room.
- 【PRO Ultra HD & Dynamic Image】Approx 120 inch DIAGONAL, View Size: 84" H x 84" W. Overall Size: 90" H x 87". This material is 4K Ultra HD and Active 3D ready, boasts full tension uniformity, and is fully black backed to eliminate light penetration.
- 【Black Borders Enhance Picture Contrast】All of our Projection Screens incorporate a black masking border that not only frames the screen but enhances overall picture contrast. Images on this screen are sharper, clearer, and more dynamic than ever.
- 【Anti-Dust&Acid Material】Constructed of premium matte white screen that anti-dust or acid, durable for every day applications and easy to clean, simply use a cloth and some water to maintain!
- CONVENIENT TO STORAGE AND CARRY - Compact one-piece,lightweight and folding design. You can fold the screen in small size and put it in your backpack or suitcase
- WIDE APPLICATION - Ideal choice for home theater movie,office,education, conference room presentation, public display, outdoor movie and more
- ANTI-CREASE AND HIGH ABSORBANCE MATERIAL - Made with natural Polyester fabric that The projection is sharper and brighter than most other projection screens, The Projection Screen are thicken and smooth, no wrinkle when folded / crushed.
- EASY TO SET UP – The Projection Screen can be fastened easily with hooks, ropes, bracket, nails, double side tape on the wall/mount.
- FORMAT AND SIZE - 16:9 screen format, diagonal 120" offer 104" x 58" viewing area
- EASY to USE & CARRY Our projector screen can can pass hooks, ropes on the wall/stand , brackets, nails and non-marking double-sided tape are easily secured. The projector screen is compact and foldable, you can fold it into a small size and put it in a backpack or suitcase. Enjoy movies anytime & anywhere! No matter at home, outdoor courtyard, or even travelling on business!
- ANTI-WRINKLE & HIGH ABSORBANCE MATERIAL The projector screen uses soft touch and elastic thick polyester material, which provides a clearer and brighter images. And it’s no color cast, and no folds, no wrinkles when crushed . The white screen is suitable for projectors and supports outdoor projection screens.
- 160° WIDER VIEWING ANGLE The projector screen is designed with 16:9 screen format, and 120" diagonal provides 104 x 58" viewing angle. With these advantages, you don't need to sit directly in front of the screen, just choose a comfortable viewing position for a great movie night.
- WIDE APPLICATION This projector screen is designed to be lightweight and has good image quality, not only suitable for indoor use, such as home theater, education, presentation, lecture, office, classroom or gaming, etc., but also for outdoor use. What's more, it can be used as a gift for your family, friends, loved ones.
- PROFESSIONAL AFTER SALES Comes with 1*projector screen, 2*5m long ropes, and 16*hooks (16 non-marking double-sided tapes), if you have any questions about our TV projector screen, please feel free to contact us. This video projector screen foldable is only hand washable, not machine washable.
- Wrinkle Free Material - The 120 inch projector screen used soft touch and stretchy thick polyester fiber material to ensure wrinkle free after folded or compressed, providing clearer images, brighter colors and no color cast. Please be assured that all of our outdoor movie screen will undergo rigorous quality inspection process before sending out, so there will be no any spots on the screen to affect the viewing experience and is thick enough that you can't see what's behind it.
- 160° Wider Viewing Angle - The outside projector screen with a wide viewing angle up to 160° and 120 inch big size, that means you don’t need to sit directly in front of the screen, just only need to select the most comfortable viewing posture to enjoy wonderful movie night. Even if you want to invite your neighbors or friends to watch the movie together, it will not look crowded, because our portable projector screen supports double-sided projection, no need to worry about crowds anymore.
- Portable and Easy Installation - This video projection screens can be folded in small size and put it in your backpack or suitcase without any damage, and then take it to wherever you want with storage bag. Most important, this movie screen for outdoor use coming with all the necessary tools(hooks,ropes and stickers), just need 5 minutes to set up, and the whole process was not complicated, can be done by yourself.
- Wide Application - The indoor projector screen with good pictures quality and lightweight design is not only suitable for indoor, such as home theater, education, presentation, lectures, offices, classroom or gaming etc, but also for outdoor use. What’s more, our home projector screen also can be used as a gift to your family, friends, lovers, as enhance relationship by sharing viewing experiences or talking about the plot in the movie night or some important occasion(Thanksgiving, Christmas).
- Professional After-sales Service - Comes with 1 rear projector screen , 2 * 5 meters ropes and 16 pcs hooks. Note: please feel free to contact us if you have any problems about our tv projector screen, then we will make every effort to resolve it for you. . And this video projector screen foldable only can be wash by hand, not by machine.
- ➤ Movie Screen Fabric 100%: Used white soft touch, projector screen are thickened and smooth, no crease projector screen nontransparent, providing brighter colors, Strictly controlling the quality, White screen for projector Support outdoor projector screen.
- ➤Movie Screen Design: The Unique projector screen is 150 inches in 16:9 Screen format, 160° but over viewing angle, Provides a 132" 73"Viewing area. Suitable for manual projector screens
- ➤Projector Screen Mounted: The screen can be fastened easily with hooks, brackets, nails, double side tape from left to right, and the wall/mount pull down the white projector screen ties.
- ➤Portable/Functional: Portable projector screens are a compact all-in-one, lightweight and foldable design for easy portability, you can fold the Projection Screen to put it in a backpack or suitcase.
- ➤Wide Application: The outside for home theater, education, offices, media, theatre, beach, travel, patio, room classroom, or gaming outside, for projector screen outdoor.
- ANTI-CREASE AND HIGH ABSORBANCE MATERIAL - This inflatable movie screen is made of high quality natural polyester fabric,which can be folded or washed without wrinkles or creases,its smooth surface enhance image results and bring you the best watching experience.
- SUPPORT FRONT AND REAR PROJECTION-Our outside movie screen allow front and rear projection both way Works great.Include the quiet fan,it doesn’t interfere with movie or game. You can enjoy a great family time well or friend gather.
- SUPER EASY TO SET UP - OUTTOY inflatable movie screens is super easy to set up, Just plug it in and it is inflated right away. After your event, this blow up movie screen collapses for fast clean-up and convenient storage.
- TRAVEL-FRIENDLY - Compact one-piece,lightweight and folding design,comes with a storage bag.This mega inflatable cinema screen is easy to take from location to location. Great for summer movie night,camping adventures,picnics,and outdoor birthday and wedding parties.
- BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE - We offer you best customer service to let you buy with confidence. Awesome outdoor movie theater bring your family and friends together for a night of endless fun in your backyard.We are quite sure that you will be super-impressed with HIGH QUALITY of our inflatable movie screen.Just try it!
- 【Wrinkle Free Projector Screen】With 120-inch Diagonal, 160° Wide Viewing Angle, Gain 1.1 and 16:9 aspect ratio, 120inch outdoor projector screen has made of high-quality polyester & spandex material , thicker than other average screens. Foldable movie screen greatly offers sharper and brighter image quality. Screen has soft and smooth touch feeling,which make you more pleasure，not easy to be yellow, Meanwhile, supporting front and rear projection.
- 【Unique Screen Edge Design】3-side black border adopt hollow design convenient for posts insertion. Projector screen will be greatly maintained itself flatness, less waves and wrinkles. When some breeze blows over and screen can’t easily be deflected. This design will increase its the whole screen's stability and benefit for fast installation. No any complicated process of fixing outdoor movie screen.
- 【High-Quality Accessory】Projector screen and stand 120 inch comes with several Lightweight aluminum poles.It don’t easily be rust or distorted. Deeper plastic joints can be perfectly insert into aluminum poles with a tight fit to avoid loose. Two oblong base with 4 fixed posts greatly make the stand very sturdy. Its base will take less rooms on its behind but meanwhile no lessen its stability.
- 【Lightweight And Easy To Carry】Projector screen and stand. You can hold it on one hand or put travel bags on your shoulders, easy to carry in anywhere you want and pack away. It is very portable and takes less space.You can put it in the car trunks for travel. Better enjoy an exciting movie with 4k ultra HD home projector when at outdoor. Compatible indoor with outdoor use. Great gift ideas on Birthday, Fathers day, Valentine's Day, Christmas and so on.
- 【Easy To Install Within 5 Mins】No screws, no strings,only several kinds of accessory, enough to fastly and firmly set it up. You don’t need to do research or buy for extra accessory. Two people work together can finish assembling within 5 mins. Great for rapidly transfer place with less time. If the projector screen get dirty, you can wash it and then hang it up.
- 【🔥 Upgraded 7500 Lumen HD Video Projector 🔥】To better meet your needs, we have upgraded the V08 home projector with our latest 7500 Lumen LED light source. The V08 smart projector features a native 720P resolution (1280x720) with 1080P Full HD support. The latest 3LCD color calibrating and adjusting technology works to reproduce more intricate color details than other mini projectors, which presents our customers a dynamic and color vibrant 1080P HD projected image quality.
- 【🔥 Portable Mobile Home Cinema 🔥】The V08 movie projector provides a minimal display area of 32” to a maximum 220” image with projection distances between 1.5-6m. Aspect Ratio: 4:3/16:9, Contrast Ratio: 5000:1, Lamp lifetime: 60,000 hours. It enables excellent playback of movies, TV shows, video games, and photos and can be set up conveniently. Our newly improved 2021 uniform illumination method provides the optimal visual experience, ensuring no dark areas are present along the edges of the displayed image.
- 【🔥 Portable Projector Screen Included 🔥】Our V08 mini projector includes a 100" projection screen that is tailored to meet our customer's needs. As opposed to other projectors, our included projector screen allows you to set up your own home theater anywhere to watch movies, TV shows, photos, slide shows, and play video games. This portable, foldable, anti-wrinkle and easy to wash 100" projection screen is larger than others, which ensures wider viewing angles and enhanced picture detail.
- 【🔥 Extensive Connection Availability 🔥】With the built-in HDMI, VGA, AV, USB, 3.5mm headphone port & TF card slot, plus included AV & HDMI cables, this portable projector is the perfect solution for a wide variety of input sources including but not limited to TV Stick/Box, Game Consoles, PCs, Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops, DVD players, TF cards and USB flash drives. Our V08 phone projector with 100" screen is easy to use and provides a great value.
- 【🔥 Customized and Quality Projector 🔥】We know other projectors can become insufferably noisy, so we used premium quality raw materials to build an efficient cooling system for the V08 projector, thus empowering a stunning watching and listening experience by drastically decreasing fan noise. A unique, built-in dual speaker system offers excellent high-volume sound quality without connecting to an external speaker. This is in addition to the easily adjustable manual focus and keystone correction controls.
- Upgraded Sturdy Tripod: Projector screen stand is very durable, with a thickness of 30mm, making it not easy to rust, bend, deform, and break. The height of the projector screen tripod is adjustable, with an adjustment range of 79-102 inches, whether indoors or outdoors, to meet your different viewing height needs. The Stability-Ensure Item includes a sandbag to increase the stability of the projector screen outdoor.
- Wrinkle-Free Movie Screen: 120 inch projector screen, 16:9 format,160° Wide Viewing Angle. TOWOND screen for projector is made of polyester milk silk, thicker than other ordinary screens. The movie projector screen is foldable, washable and soft, so it is very portable and easy to clean from stains.
- Easy to Assemble and Disassemble:TOWOND outdoor projector screen comes with an instruction manual to quickly set up and get started in just a few steps. Very quick and easy. Detachable crossbar can be assembled easily with no tools required, and the tripod can be opened quickly. Great for rapidly transferring places with less time.
- Lightweight and Portable: Portable projector screen can be packed in the included carry bag, easily transported anywhere, and is well protected for easy storage in the trunk of your car, including sedans!Its portability allows it to be widely used for various activities outdoors or indoors, perfect for home, camping, school, office, wedding, church, etc.Indoor and outdoor use freely switch, the projector screen can be detached from the stand and hung on wall using the plastic hook.
- Professional After-sales Service: The projector screen and stand come with all necessary tools (projection screen, tripod, carry bag, and other accessories) . We focus on your shopping experience. If you have any problem with our projector screen with tripod, please feel free to contact us and we will make every effort to solve it for you quickly.
- PROJECTOR SCREEN 80 INCH: The size of this premium screen with 16:9 format can meet most of your applications, the tension of four tubes makes a flat surface, with high gain factors on fabric, it will gives you a perfect picture.
- PROJECTOR SCREEN WITH STAND: The sturdy tripod stand can be stretched, folded and adjusted, along with the four aluminium tubes has spring tension on its end, which is to sustain a stable structure of whole screen, especially when you use it outdoor.
- PORTABLE PROJECTOR SCREENS: With a net weight of 8.5 Ibs, this tripod projection screen could be mostly lightweight among similar classifications, it is easy for you to carry it to wherever you want.
- SET-UP WITHIN 2 MINUTES: A carrying bag keeps all the projector screen parts in it, don't need waste more of your time, you can easily to assemble or disassemble this tripod projector screen with just few steps.
- MULTIPLE APPLICATIONS: You can put this projector screen with stand in any indoor or outdoor venue, such as living room, garden, backyard, classroom, the projection screen has 160 degree viewing angle, you can enjoy the big pictures with your family or friends all together and make a fine entertainment.
Last update on 2022-11-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best Projector Screen: Buying Guide
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to buying a projector screen. We cover everything here for you.
Screen Size and Viewing Distance – How to Choose a Projector Screen Size
It’s not always true that bigger is better. You don’t want to just choose the biggest screen that you can get to fit your wall because it will affect your seating/viewing distance, brightness, clarity, and overall picture quality.
A large, overwhelming picture can also possibly give you headaches, fatigue, and more since your eyes are trying to take it all in.
Nowadays, screens around 100” – 120” are the most popular. Regardless, you’re going to want to measure the length, width, and height of your room to see not only if a screen can fit on the wall but also how far you’ll be able to see it from.
If you plan to have a dedicated theater room with rows of chairs, you’re going to want to make sure everyone can see the bottom of the screen. If you can’t see the bottom of the screen past the first row and each subsequent row, you’ll probably want a smaller screen.
You need to make sure that even your farthest viewer can see the screen clearly. Even if you don’t have rows of chairs, you want to make sure that everyone can see the screen from your furniture in the room.
A big thing that will limit your screen choices is your projector’s throw ratio: the ratio of the distance from the lens to the screen, otherwise known as throw.
A projector’s throw will determine the size of the picture at a certain length from the screen, and this is something needed to be considered that will determine how far you hang a projector from the screen as well as how large your screen should be.
Viewing distance is just as important to prevent you from getting headaches and to allow you to see everything. The size of your screen will determine how far away you sit from it.
This short video covers several things to know when it comes to buying a projector screen:
One of these is the general rule of thumb for 1080p and 4K projectors. This is rule says that you should sit 1-½ times the screen diagonal away from the screen if you have a 1080p projector and 1 times the screen diagonal if you have a 4K projector.
Let’s say you have a 96” diagonal. With a 1080p projector, you should sit 12 feet from the screen, and with a 4K projector, you should sit 8 feet from the screen.
Viewing distance is, of course, subjective since some people like to sit closer and others farther, so do what suits you in the end.
The next part to your screen size is its aspect ratio: the ratio of your screen’s width to its height. There are many aspect ratios out there but we’ll just be discussing five: 4:3, 16:9, 16:10, 2.35:1, and 1:1.
The most common aspect ratios are 16:9 and 4:3 and most projectors come in 16:9. You’re most likely going to want a screen that matches your projector’s native aspect ratio.
4:3 is the traditional TV and computer screen ratio. This is a video format aspect ratio good if you’re switching between full and widescreen. It usually comes with XGA, SXGA+, UXGA, and QXGA resolution projectors.
16:9 is the most common ratio. This is the widescreen ratio that is used with HDTV. If you plan to use a 4K or HD projector, you’ll probably want this aspect ratio.
16:10 is a PC widescreen aspect ratio for multimedia HD-like projectors that use WXGA and WUXGA resolutions. These are good for presentations but have been on the rise for home theater use.
2.35:1 is referred to as Cinemascope and is the widescreen cinema standard, though 2.40:1 is also a popular choice. If you want to truly create a cinematic environment for your home theater, then this ratio will give you the biggest image possible and the most immersive.
1:1 is a square aspect ratio. These are generally used for overhead projectors and presentations. A plus for them is that multiple aspect ratios can be used on this depending on the screen height.
Screen Types: Fixed vs. Retractable
Your next big choice is whether you plan for your screen to be fixed or retractable.
A fixed-frame allows you to get more tension, flatness, and smoothness out of your screen because the material is stretched over a tension bar and isn’t being rolled up or down. These screens are fixed in place off of an anchor or bracket on the wall and are more popular.
They are easier to install than retractable screens and can be mounted permanently on the wall. They’re usually flat and smooth but can also come curved to create a more panoramic like experience to immerse you in.
Retractable screens, on the other hand, can be manual or motorized. These screens can be wall or ceiling mounted, ceiling-recessed, and more. They’re retractable, being able to be pulled up or down.
This is good if you don’t always want to have to see a screen there and have it blocking space. That and motorized screens are pretty cool. These screens are generally more expensive, not as flat, and harder to install.
Motorized screens are the most expensive screens. They’re larger and are really good for ease of use since they can easily retract your screen with the flick of a switch or the press of a button.
These screens are electric, making them harder to install, and descend when demanded. You can even program them to descend when you turn on your projector.
They are often categorized as “non-tension,” the screen standard, since the screen hangs loosely and isn’t flush against a mount or wall.
Manual screens are smaller and less expensive than their motorized brothers. These are the screens you saw at school that are pulled down by a cord. There are other types of manual screens other than just pull-down, and these types are all portable: tripod, folding, floor, and tabletop.
Tripod uses a pull-down screen on a tripod (go figure) and have a slightly longer case than the screen it uses.
Folding screens are the most portable. They are the largest and are generally used outside, in auditoriums, and in other larger environments. They are attached to a frame or truss when put up and you can easily swap screen material with them.
Floor or floor-rising screens are like tripod screens except without the tripod and can be manual or motorized. They’re lightweight and don’t require much, if any, assembly. The screen is risen off the floor by a layer of black at its bottom.
Tabletop screens are small, very portable screens that are usually used with pico projectors. Some rise like floor-rising screens and some are extended and pulled apart like accordions.
Tension vs. Non-Tension
There are three types of tension when it comes to projector screens: tension, non-tension, and tab-tension.
Tensioned surfaces keep your screen tight, flat, and steady and reduce your screen’s chances of having imperfections like ripples and creases. These surfaces are smoother, reflect light better, and keep your image more in focus. These are found in Fixed screens.
Retractable screens are quite different. They’re mostly non-tensioned. Non-tensioned screens hang loosely and freely and have the possibility of more minor imperfections happening, such as curled edges, waves, creases, etc. This doesn’t mean that they will happen.
Tab-tensioned screens were created to fix that possibility. Tab-tensioning uses a cable-and-tab system to keep retractable screens as taut as possible. This helps retractable screens better their quality and come as close to a fixed screen’s image quality as possible.
Overall, tensioned surfaces are the better option because they keep your image flat, make imperfections less possible, and are better for resolution, light reflection, and picture and screen quality.
Screen Material: Texture, Gain vs. Viewing Angle, and Color
When it comes to choosing your screen material you have three things to choose between: Texture, Gain, and Color.
There aretwo types of texture when it comes to projector screens: smooth and gritty.
If you’re using resolution up to 1080p, get a smooth screen. These screens show great detail with HD.
If you’re using 4K, get a gritty screen. These screens have more texture, also referred to as “grit,” and are better able to bring out 4K images.
Every screen has gain: the amount of light that a screen material’s fabric reflects back at the viewer. This measurement is taken from where light is reflected perpendicular from the surface. For most projectors you’re going to want a gain around 1.0 to 1.3.
The gain of 1.0 gives the same uniform brightness all-around and reflects the same amount of light. Gain higher than that means that the screen material increases the brightness of the center a projected image, which helps when you have a not bright projector.
Gain lower than 1.0 means that the projected image isn’t as bright, while higher than 2.0 means it’s very bright and should only be used for projectors that aren’t bright – like pico projectors.
The higher gain you have, the more light is reflected off of the surface’s center, creating a hot-spot on your screen where your picture is brighter in its center while its sides are dim. This is called “hot-spotting.”
Gain also impacts your viewing angle – the maximum angle from the screen’s center that you can see a good image. The higher the gain, the lower the viewing angle.
You have three options when it comes to your screen’s color: white, gray, and black.
White screens are the most commonly used and are the industry standard. They are the brightest screens but aren’t great with contrast. If you have control over your ambient light or a very or perfectly dark room, then get a white screen. They work in the darkest environments. If you can use a white screen, use it.
Gray screens are referred to as “high-contrast” screens. They are great for contrast and good to use in rooms with ambient light. These screens bring darker blacks and darker tones overall.
While the whites remain white, these screens require better projectors to bring better whites, lighter colors, and higher brightness.
Black screens aren’t as common or known of. They have great, deep blacks and perform great in fully lit rooms.
Acoustically Transparent Screens
There are other screens to consider depending on what you want to do. If you’ve ever wondered where movie theaters put their speakers, then it’s time you’ve learned the answer. They’re behind the speaker. Acoustically transparent screens, also called perforated or “perfs,” have tiny holes in the screen which allow you to “hide” your speakers behind your screen. If you sit up close, you may notice the holes, but from far enough away you should be fine.
Rear and Dual Projection
Rear projection gives you exactly what you think it does – allows you to project onto the screen from behind. Generally, you can do this with any screen, but some screens are better and more suited than others.
There are also dual screens which allow you to project from both the front and back if that interests you as well.
Full HD, 3D, 4K, and 8K
In general, you do not need a specific screen for any of these. Most screens nowadays are for HD, but there are HD fabrics out there which help to do certain things like handle ambient light, better color and image quality, and more.
For 4K and 8K, get a screen known for doing well with these. There’s been nothing to distinguish that a certain screen material is better for a certain resolution yet, though. So, just get a gritty texture and you should be fine.
Bigger screens are also better for 4K to see its details more efficiently. You’ll also want a screen that is great for image quality.
If you want the best 4K images, then you’re going to need both a great 4K projector and a great screen.
The only time you’ll need special material is for 3D if you’re using two projectors – one for the right eye and one for the left – which some projectors do nowadays.
If you’re looking for 3D projector screens, then also look for 5D screens. 5D screens come from their ability to do 2D and 3D, 2+3+5… yeah, look for them.
Screen accessories aren’t always needed, but many people like to have them or at least know their choices.
Some accessories make your screen look more pleasing, some absorb more light, protect the screen’s surface, and much more. Honestly, this is all up to your discretion.
Some accessories come with the screen such as mounting brackets, screws, remotes, cables, motors, and more.
Any other mechanical-like screen accessories are up to you. Other accessories are drapery, woven-ware, carrying cases, and more.
Where can you use it: Outdoors, Conference Room, Home Theater, etc.
What screen you get depends on where you can use it. There are certain screens that are better for certain places, such as a portable screen or retractable screen for a meeting or classroom.
Some screens are better for your home theater than others.
It’s important that you know what you want to use your screen for/if you’re planning to move it around often before settling on one that may not be able to give you what you want.
Many people really want to lounge outside and watch movies. We actually have the best outdoor screens here.
What Projectors Should You be Looking For?
This is the most important piece of the puzzle. Your projector choice is determinant on every choice that you took for your screen and vice versa. Is it white or gray? How high is the gain? What is its aspect ratio? Texture? Size?
There are a lot of things to consider so that you can match projector to screen and make them both great for each other. You don’t want a dim projector on a gray screen or a 2.35:1 projector on a 16:9 screen. You want things to match up.
A Permanent Setup, or Not?
Every projector choice you make stems from a single decision: Do you aim for a permanent installation, or an ad hoc setup? At one extreme, you can install all your projection equipment outdoors, fixed in place and weatherproofed: projector, video source, ancillary sound system, screen, the power gear. At the other, you can lug everything out to set up only when needed. In between, you might install, say, an outdoor screen and speakers, and carry the rest of the gear out and back as needed.
For permanent setups, only the projector, the video source, and any additional audio components need to be protected from the weather, and that can be easy if you have, say, an enclosed Florida room with a sliding door to the outside. With everything set up, you can just open the door to let the projector light up the screen. But note that you might want to store even outdoor screens inside for winter or before a storm.
If you’re looking at a true, permanent outdoor installation of all the bits, we’d leave that approach to a local pro A/V installer, who can consult on your property’s specific needs for optimization, and be sure all the proper power wiring and the like is implemented safely. We’ll concentrate here on the DIY approach, in which you set up and break down all or most of your setup as needed.
Evaluating Screen Size and Brightness
Brightness requirements for a given projector, in a sense, are no different outdoors than indoors. It’s all about ambient light and the target image size (which we’ll get to shortly).
The ambient light level outdoors, after dark, will likely be in the range between a dark room—if you’re way out in the country far from light pollution, and it’s a moonless night—and a family room at night with dim lighting. But don’t just assume that. Check your backyard at night, including on nights with a full moon, as well as when your closest neighbors have their backyard lights blazing. Then pick a projector that’s bright enough to stand up to brightest light level you’ll use it under at the image size you want—an issue we discuss in our reviews.
You can watch a movie outdoors at night even on a pocket projector that puts out 100 lumens or less, but you’ll have to huddle around a small image to watch it. If you want a true movie-watching experience, you’ll want a minimum 80-inch screen size, and preferably larger.
For a comfortably watchable image at that size in dim lighting, you need a projector that puts out about 800 lumens—a level of brightness that rules out most small projectors, from pocket-size models to lightweight portable projectors with handles.
Keep in mind, also, that the highest brightness mode that most projectors can put out comes at the cost of much lower picture quality. Whatever brightness you need has to be for the mode you want to use—which is often just 40 or 50 percent of the brightest mode.
Not Just the Garage Door: The Screen Matters
You can use literally any flat surface for a screen, including a hanging bedsheet, the garage door, or a wall of your house. But for the best image, you absolutely want a dedicated projector screen.
It’s easy to find outdoor frames for permanent, seasonal, and temporary setups, but the screen material is the more important part. The key choices are the same as for an indoor screen, starting with a spec called “gain,” which can increase image brightness.
A 1.0-gain screen reflects light equally in all directions over a 180-degree viewing angle. A higher gain reflects the light over a smaller angle, making the image brighter within that angle and dimmer outside of it. So, a 1.2-gain screen would give you a 20 percent brighter image. The key thing is the angle, though: You’ll want to make sure nobody will be sitting so far to the side of the screen and projected image that they’ll be outside the optimal viewing angle. It’s a bit like older LCD screens that have a sweet spot for viewing dead-on in front of them, but show degraded image quality outside the “cone.”
If you are screen-shopping, look for the resolution the screen is designed for. Many are not meant for showing even 4K imagery, while some are designed for future-looking 8K output. Even if you’re using a simple 720p-capable projector now, you might want a 4K-rated screen to accommodate your next projector, given that a projection screen is a longer-term investment than many core electronics are these days.
Finally, be sure the screen offers the right aspect ratio—typically, 16:9 for watching movies or TV shows. Some are squarer.
How to Figure the Throw Distance
“Throw distance” is the measure of space between the projector lens and your screen. You’ll find four categories of throw distance for projector lenses.
As the name implies, a standard throw is the most common, needing roughly 10 feet to the screen for a 90-inch image (measured on the diagonal), give or take a couple of feet depending on the lens. A long throw lets you put the projector much farther away for the same screen and projected-image size.
A short throw lets you position the projector closer than standard, which is absolutely necessary in a tight space and actually helpful for any backyard-movie night. That may seem counterintuitive, but think about it: If everyone is sitting behind the projector, rather than between the projector and screen, no one can cast shadows when they stand up mid-movie to get another skewer of shrimp from the barbie.
Last, ultra short throws, or USTs, let you put the projector just inches away for the same image size. However, these are best avoided for outdoors, because they are finicky about being positioned “just so” relative to the screen, which adds to setup time.
Consider the Audio Source
Some projectors have a built-in speaker or speakers, but in most cases, you’ll want an external audio system, or at least external speakers. Only a few projectors offer onboard audio that is in remotely the same league as a typical big screen TV for quality and volume. The reason: It’s difficult to deliver good stereo with so little room to separate the speakers, given the size of the chassis of the typical consumer projector.
Consider getting outdoor speakers, and look for analog or digital audio-out ports or Bluetooth speaker support from the projector you use. (Bluetooth can be especially handy if you already own a robust Bluetooth speaker set, but with a caveat we’ll get to in a moment.) Many home theater projectors don’t offer even a pass-through audio port, however. They’re designed with the assumption that you’ll use a separate audio system connected to your video source.
As for Bluetooth speakers: Because of the vagaries of both video processing and audio processing on different devices, it is possile to lose sync between the two. To avoid that, look for audio-delay adjustments in Bluetooth speaker support in projectors and in external audio systems.
One last thing: A booming audio system might be great within the confines of your own backyard, but consider your neighbors’ comfort when you set the volume. (Or make sure to skewer extra shrimp, pop extra popcorn, and invite them over.)
Don’t Neglect the Power Issue
You should plan on using AC power for all your equipment. Some small projectors can run off of battery power, and some even claim to run for long enough to watch a movie. But they typically drop brightness significantly when running off batteries, and most aren’t bright enough in the first place for a backyard movie night at a suitably large size, even using AC power.
For safety’s sake, add a professionally installed outdoor outlet near the equipment location, so you don’t have to use a trip-me-up extension cord or a chain of cords and power strips. And make sure any outlet you plug into includes ground fault protection to guard against electrical hazards.
Factoring in the Video Source
Of course, unless you’re playing movies stored on a flash card or USB drive connected to a so-equipped projector, you’ll need to pipe in your video from somewhere—most likely, a separately powered device.
One option, of course, is a streaming stick such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick or a Roku Streaming Stick+. (See our guide to selecting the best media streamer.) These can be a handy method of projecting media from a streaming service such as Netflix, or accessing stored files on your home network wirelessly via an app like Plex. Most current home projectors offer a USB port to provide power for an HDMI dongle, typically near an HDMI port and often with no other function. You might want to check for one when choosing a projector. If you happen to wind up with a projector without one, a robust power bank connected to a USB power cable may do if a power cord can’t reach.
When you’re outdoors, connecting a larger discrete video source to the projector can be a challenge. Active optical HDMI cables and HDMI extenders can let you connect over hundreds of feet, but typical HDMI cables are limited to a maximum of 25 feet, at best, and even much shorter cables often have problems providing a reliable connection for 4K HDR content output. You otherwise may need to haul a DVD or Blu-ray player, or a laptop, outside and plug it into the projector.
If the projector supports Wi-Fi, and the video source can connect to your network, by either Wi-Fi or Ethernet, you can connect wirelessly, of course. But you may need to add a Wi-Fi extender to your network to get a strong enough signal out to your backyard, depending on the configuration of your home and the output strength and location of your router. Another alternative: Convert your home network to a mesh system to ensure more even, complete coverage. (See our primer Wi-Fi Range Extender vs. Mesh Network: What’s the Difference?) This Wi-Fi booster shot may be necessary, too, to get video flowing from a streaming stick smoothly.
Another possibility—which will work with any projector and video source with HDMI ports—is a wireless HDMI kit. These kits include a transmitter that plugs into the video source’s HDMI output and a receiver that plugs into the projector’s HDMI-in port, working in essence just like an HDMI cable. We’ve chosen a good, representative one in our picks below.
Finally, as mentioned above, if you want to play content downloaded (legally, mind you) to a USB drive or flash-memory card, make sure to pick a projector with an appropriate card slot or USB port. One wrinkle to that: Verify that it not only supports playing movies, but supports playing them at the target resolution you want to use. That is not always a given.
Though the Inlight Map Type Projector Screen does not come with any warranty, their reviews are raving and supportive of its quality. This 6Wx4H large map type projector screen has a high-quality fabric, 1.2 high gain. Anti UV coating and supports 4:3 high aspect ratio making it by default the best projector screen on our list.
While those were our picks, we are eager to listen to your picks. Did we miss out on anything? Do you have something you’d like to add or have any questions regarding projector screens? Feel free to write to us in the comments section below and our product expert team will get back to you as soon as possible.