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Outdoor TVs vs. Outdoor Projectors: Which is Better and Why?

So you want to get some screen time outside. Well, you have a few choices for setups. You can go with an outdoor TV or a projector. Both have their own upsides and downsides. But is one better than the other? While personal choice has a fair impact on which option to go with, other factors like price and environment should also play a role in your decision.

Outdoor TVs are a better option for consumers who need more of a permanent solution. However, if you have to entertain a larger crowd, a projector will be a better choice because the screen can be expanded to be much bigger.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear choice between the two. Elements like where the electronics will be set up and the price will all factor into which decision is the best for you and your backyard. Always consider installation time and weatherproofing. Also, think about how often you will use your new backyard home theatre. All these together can help you reach a final decision. Want to learn more about outdoor TVs and projectors? Read on!

The Best Option for Outdoor Viewing: TV or Projector?

When it comes to which is the better option, there are a few factors to consider. While you might hope that a fits-all answer will be available, you should think a few things through before making any decisions. Asking these questions can be a great starting off point. Since there is no straightforward answer, these factors can help guide your decision.

In reality, there isn’t a best option. The right choice is going to depend highly on the viewing environment and your own personal needs and wants. Here are a few things to ponder when deciding to go with either an outdoor TV or a projector:

  • Environment — Consider where you are planning on watching your movies. Are there a lot of obstructions? Is there water, like a pool, nearby that could affect electronics?
  • Light — Will there be a lot of light filtering in from ambient sources? This can play a significant role in how well a device performs.
  • Permanent or temporary — Will this be a permanent addition to your outdoor space or just for special occasions?
  • Pricing — How much are you willing to pay? Do you want the best quality or the best bang for your buck?
  • Extra devices — How willing are you to purchase accessories like cables, screens, and speakers?
  • How many people are you entertaining — The more people you have, the bigger the screen will need to be.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Outdoor TVs

When it comes to outdoor TVs, there are a few things to consider. Below you’ll find what we think are the most important advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind before you make any purchases.

Advantages of an Outdoor TV

Outdoor TVs aren’t as common as you might think. While a few manufacturers make solid products that can stand up to a lot, often, you’ll be facing a fairly limited selection. This fact aside, there are some distinct advantages of opting for an outdoor TV in lieu of a projector. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Lighting — One issue projectors have is dealing with ambient light. Since projectors use the screen to reflect light to the viewer’s eyes, ambient lighting can be a huge problem for outdoor projectors. TVs don’t have this issue and provide the background lighting they need and are less prone to glare.
  • You’ve got options — You can find several manufacturers that deliver a quality outdoor TV that you can rely on.
  • Weatherproof — Outdoor TV can handle quite a lot. Manufacturers build them to hold up against rain, heat, and cold weather.
  • Easy setup — Outdoor TVs have the advantage of not needing extra accessories to operate. All you need is the TV and the source.
  • Easier viewing — TVs tend to have better viewing angles.

These are just a few advantages if you choose to go with an outdoor TV. Keep in mind that not all TVs are created equal. Go with major brands, like this Samsung Terrace Outdoor TV (on Amazon). Cheaper rivals may offer a lighter strain on your wallet but fall short when it comes time to really prove how “weatherproof” they are.

Disadvantages of an Outdoor TV

Nothing is perfect, and neither are outdoor TVs. While you can certainly find stellar products that manufacturers make to last, they are without their downsides. Another option you might consider is to use a regular TV and just bring it inside when not in use. This can be a great way to cut the costs of an outdoor TV but still enjoy outside viewing. Disadvantages of outdoor TVs:

  • Small screen — While outdoor TVs can get big, they are no match for the screen real estate you get from a projector.
  • Poor audio — If you opt to rely on the built-in speaker, you’ll probably have less than stellar sound quality.
  • Not great for large groups — The more people you have at your backyard movie showing, the less of a chance they’ll have to get a good spot to view the screen.
    • Price — Outdoor TVs are very expensive, even when compared to projector setups.

What Should You Look For in an Outdoor TV?

When searching for the best option for an outdoor TV, make sure you are going with a trusted brand. This SunBrite Outdoor TV (on Amazon) is a great choice with sound reviews. One thing to note is the lack of universality when it comes to industry terms. While things like waterproof sound nice, they often don’t mean much when it comes to electronics.

Unless they have an IP rating, which is industry-regulated. Make sure you opt for quality brands that advertise their products as weatherproof. This usually means they can stand up to more than just water; they also have what it takes to last in the heat and cold. This is a reality the product will have to face if you decide to leave your TV outside all the time.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Outdoor Projectors

Outdoor projector during the day with people behind it.

Alright, so you are thinking about a projector for outdoor use. What should you know about before you buy? What makes projectors the right choice, and what are some downsides every projector owner should know about before they start taking their device outside? Below, you’ll find all the answers you need to make an informed decision.

Advantages of Outdoor Projectors

These are just a few reasons why projectors can be a great choice for outdoor viewing. Another factor to consider is image quality (our guide on this). While you can get a great resolution from an outdoor TV, projectors can provide an even higher image at a fraction of the cost. So let’s get right into it, what makes projectors great for outdoor use?

  • Screen size — Projectors have larger screens; that’s part of the appeal. You can even adjust the screen size if you need to, which can be great if using a temporary setup, additionally, we have a guide on how to improve their quality if needed.
  • More people can see the screen — If you are entertaining quite a few guests, it’s imperative that you have the screen size you need for everyone to get a good view.
  • Price — You might think a projector setup is more expensive, but in reality, they are much cheaper than Outdoor TVs.
  • Easier to set up — Once you have worked with your projector a few times, it should be a cinch to set everything up again. 

Disadvantages of Projectors

Before you decide whether a projector is the right fit for you, there are some downsides you should know about including lighting, weather, and whether or not they’re weatherproof. Regarding lighting, since projectors reflect light off the screen, any ambient light will play a role in image quality. The more ambient light you have, the less clear and bright the colors will be.

When it comes to the weather, things like rain and wind are no good for projectors. They can distort and misshapen the image before it even hits the screen. On the topic of weather, you’d be hard-pressed to find a weatherproof projector. They just don’t exist. This means any projector setup is going to be temporary.

How Many Lux/Lumens Does an Outdoor Projector Need?

Before you buy any projector, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right lumen rating. What’s a lumen? Well, it’s a measure of how bright a bulb can get. In this case, the bulb that powers your projector. It’s incredibly important to make sure you’ve got the proper lumen rating before making any purchases. Without the proper power, your projector might not perform as well. Lumen rating will affect the following:

  • How large of a screen you can project on
  • The quality of the image
  • How well the contrast of colors will be
  • What kind of viewing angles you can have

As you can see, lumen rating is important. If you can, choose a projector with a rating for outdoor use. This will usually mean they’ve got the juice they need to project without any issues. This Dr.J Outdoor Projector (on Amazon) features 9500 lumens and is built for outdoor use.

What Should You Look For in an Outdoor Projector?

When searching for the right outdoor projector, there are a few tips that can help you find the right one. Also, you’ll want to find one that will fit your budget and environment. Bigger is not always better. Keep in mind that since most projectors don’t feature weatherproofing, you’ll need to lug the device in and out of your home with each viewing. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Look for “outdoor” specific projectors
  • Check to make sure lumen rating is sufficient
  • Make sure you don’t need too many external accessories
  • Find projectors that can easily link to your existing media players
  • Source quality speakers; if you don’t, you’ll have to rely on the projector speaker

Do You Need a Screen For an Outdoor Projector?

Did you know that screen type can have a huge effect on your overall viewing experience? This has to do with how a projector creates an image. It does so by projecting it first on the screen; the screen then relays it back by reflecting the light that hits it.

Because of this, screen choice can make or break a projector setup. If you can opt for a quality roll-down screen. These will be your best bet to make sure you are matching your new projector with the right screen. You can even opt for a projector screen built for outdoor use, like this inflatable one (on Amazon.)

If you already have a wall you want to project on, hold on. While it might seem like the perfect spot, there are quite a few things to consider. First, what color is the wall? While colors like white might seem like the perfect choice, they often reflect the most light, which can be a downfall in certain environments.

Additionally, even the smallest of cracks and irregularities on the wall can cause image distortions. If you plan on using an outdoor wall, consider prepping it and painting it with a proper projector screen paint. Paints like this Paint on Screen Projector Paint (on Amazon). While they can be pricey, they are your best bet if you want to use an existing wall as your projector screen.

Can you Rent an Outdoor TV or Projector?

Absolutely. Both outdoor TVs and projectors are available for rent from various local event companies. Keep in mind that the price of packages will vary highly on time of year and location. But if you’re willing to shell out the extra dough, there are some distinct advantages of using rented equipment. First, it’s not your equipment.

While you certainly don’t want to damage anything, more often than not, you’ll need to pay extra to make sure everything is insured. This means any mistakes or broken pieces won’t fall on you to fix. Another factor that makes renting a good option is installation. Some companies will offer a full-service package where they come in and make sure everything is working. If you’re not the most technologically inclined, this can be a great choice.