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How Many Lumens Do Outdoor Portable Projectors Need?

BenQ
2020/05/01

You want to enjoy big screen entertainment while camping or having a picnic with friends and family outdoors. A mini portable projector offers the most obvious choice. Compact, light, and loaded with smart features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a good portable projector delivers at least 500 lumens. With that kind of illumination, portable projectors ensure you get good display quality in most lighting conditions. Nighttime or even during the day, powerful portables work great on a dedicated foldable screen or on the side of your RV. When portable projectors like the LED-powered BenQ GS2 join your outdoors setup, you rest assured big entertainment always stays part of the picture. 

Figuring out Brightness
It’s natural to wonder about a portable projector’s ability to cope with various environments. After all, unlike TVs with their internal lighting, projectors throw light onto a screen. That means performance varies by surrounding lighting parameters. However, with sufficient illumination power and the right projection internals, a good portable projector delivers consistently clear and vibrant display, night or day.
For daytime operation, clearly the projection needs to compete with natural sunshine. If the portable projector lacks lumen capacity (for example maxing out at 300 lumens), its output easily gets drowned out by ambient light and you wind up with a barely visible image. However, that same projector may work fine at night, since then natural surroundings offer very little illumination. Even so, if your campsite or other outdoor setting has bright artificial lighting, the same poor image quality may recur.
That’s why it’s vital you go with at least 500 lumens when choosing a portable projector for external, outdoors use. Save for extremely bright, cloudless days, such a portable projector will work superbly at night and quite well during daytime.

Sure, it would be nice to have 3000 lumens, but such delivery power currently only exists with full size projectors. Even the most advanced LED-based mini portable models have to scale back illumination.

While on the subject of LED, this projection technology has special utility in portable usage. LEDs consume less power than the bigger halogen lamps used in many full size projectors. That helps extend battery life, a must for a portable device that works unplugged from the wall or other external power source. Also, LED portable projectors with precision-crafted multi-lens arrays always beat the cheap, single-lens LCD models you may see for sale online at strangely tempting price tags.  The cheap ones can’t upscale at all, so you’re stuck with 480p or less, and overall image quality suffers in any case with just one lens. Good portable projectors manage 720p or more, which even at campsite viewing distances makes a tangible difference to your experience. 

Get a Move on

Portable projectors, like everything else in life, arrive in many flavors. You may go with a cheapo, but remember you invariably end up with what you pay for. Low light power, short battery life, no HDMI, no elemental protection…the list goes on. Since a portable projector fits so well into activities like camping (or so-called “glamping” as you’re adding glamor to outdoorsy life), you really ought to pick one that’s fully loaded. Even if it costs a little more, you’re thinking about a long term investment.

So what should you look for? Well, we already mentioned lumens, and 500 is a nice threshold to remember. Water, dust, and shock proofing are excellent to have, since your portable projector may get jostled, dropped, or used near bodies of water – or maybe even in the rain.

Connectivity is absolutely vital. HDMI, USB Type A and Type C, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With those you can connect your portable projector to pretty much every device imaginable: gaming console, streaming box, router, smartphone, RV radio…and many more. Plus, connectivity turns that portable projector into a smart device, since good models arrive pre-loaded with Android TV, so you can enjoy Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, and other apps wherever you may camp.

And with Bluetooth included, that portable projector doubles as a standalone Bluetooth speaker. Pair it with your smartphone or tablet, load up Spotify, and you have an endless playlist for your campsite. 

Veritable Versatility

As you can see, portable projectors, especially of the mini variety, have so many uses we couldn’t possibly cover them all in one article. If you choose to buy one or already have a portable projector, go ahead and be creative – it’ll be fun! 

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