Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose the Right Backyard Theater Projector

There are no specific projectors being marketed or advertised for backyard usage. There are no projectors made exclusively for use in the outdoors. Therefore, when it comes to getting the best projectors for outdoor movie theaters, it’s more of a hunt for a good portable business projector with decent HD properties and could work with daylight or loads of ambient light. Luckily, there are also home theater projectors with business model features such as more resistance to ambient light as well through extra brightness.

This is why we believe that the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector is the perfect outdoor projector for your needs. Movie night is made extra special by this 1080p 3600L mini projector that’s lightweight, easy to put unto tables, and supports 170-inch inflatable screens. It’s fully portable for your convenience and then some.

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What to Look for in Backyard Outdoor Theater Projectors

When it comes to searching for an all-in-one outdoor movie theater solution, the emphasis here is on having enough brightness to overcome ambient light problems and resolution large enough to fill in a huge inflatable screen that can accommodate a larger audience and venue than your normal home cinema. In other words, take into consideration the following.


  • Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio for outdoor movies should be 16:9. You can have business projectors double as outdoor movie projectors too as long as they have a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is close enough to 16:9. This aspect ratio is rectangular and widescreen. It’s the preferable aspect ratio for outdoor movie viewing in light of a bigger audience. You want them to see what’s going on in a stage-like screen setup so that everyone from front to back can fully appreciate what they’re watching. Also, modern movies are filmed at this aspect ratio anyway.


  • Size and Portability: The VANKYO Leisure 3 is supremely portable. It’s a mini projector, after all. It’s not quite as small as a pico or pocket projector but it’s certainly smaller than many laptops or tablets yet packs quite the punch in terms of maximum screen size and 1080p resolution at 1920 x 1080 pixels. It can accommodate 170 inches of screen size while still being small enough to lug around like a lunchbox or a treasure chest. It certainly is worth its weight in gold regardless.


  • Lumens (Brightness): Lumens is a measurement of brightness. The intensity of light is measured by how many lumens your projector produces. A projector should produce at least 3,000 lumens while some can go up to as high as 6,000 lumens. VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector is 3,600 lumens. It’s bright enough to combat against ambient lighting although it works best for movie nights instead of movie days. Ambient lighting in conference rooms and open classrooms tends to make the image of a projector fainter than before the same way a flashlight looks weaker in the day compared to when used in pitch-blackness.


  • Brand and Manufacturer: Should you get a projector from a famous projector manufacturer like BenQ or Epson? Not necessarily. They might not be the most cost-effective choice and trying out lesser-known brands more for their outdoor movie projection quality than the legacy of their name might be the more cost-effective choice when push comes to shove. On the other hand, going for a reputable brand assures you of quality the same way a warranty would.


  • Resolution Type: The number of pixels used by the projector to create the image or picture is known as resolution. The VANKYO Leisure 3 can 1080p full HD images but it can’t reach 4K UltraHD. It can also handle anything below 1080p, such as 720p and 480p. It can even shift aspect ratio from 16:9 to 4:3 when playing old TV shows. The small dots that make up the image of a projection are known as pixels. Choosing full HD ensures you that you have more pixels to spare, resulting in a more detailed movie on-screen when push comes to shove. It’s the same way a college looks more detailed when you use smaller images or millions of images.


  • Bulb or Lamp Life: Another important aspect of your outdoor projector is bulb or lamp life. The lamp life of the VANKYO Leisure 3 is 40,000 hours (4.5 years’ worth of lamplight). Brands can have as little as 30,000 hours of lamp life (3.4 years) or upwards of 70,000 hours of lamp life (7.9 years) depending on the type of bulb they’re using. Nowadays, most projectors use LED lights versus old-timey LCD projectors with metal halide bulbs that last only a brief 3,000 hours. If you want longevity out of your projector, then go for something like VANKYO and its LED lamp.


  • Wireless Connectivity (Wi-Fi): Only in the latter years of the 2010s have there been great new additions to the projector market that offer Wi-Fi connectivity. The VANKYO Mini Projector has upgraded tech for 2019 that includes Wi-Fi connectivity, by the way. It’s convenient to be able to connect to your Netflix or Hulu account with your projector so that you can play your movies at the comfort of your own backyard using your wireless router and Internet connection. Alternatively, you can instead use wireless dongles and transceivers to broadcast video signals from your DVD and BD players as well as your satellite or cable boxes.


  • Adapters & Ports: Certain media players will require certain adapters and ports to work. Modern devices will all work on your projector as long as it has ports for HDMI as well as USB-A, B, and C. Other older media players like A/V connections for VCRs or cameras will require adapters in order to use them. Many diverse products are available for you to use in playing different movies or games on your projector, like game consoles, DVD players, Blu-Ray Disc players, smartphones, laptops, tablets, external hard drives, flash drives, fire sticks, and USB sticks.


  • LCD, LED, LCoS, or DLP Projection: Very quickly, here are the different types of projectors. The Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projector has been around since the 1980s and uses a 3-way mirror to cast images into the screen. The Leisure 3 is an LCD projector, by the way. The Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector is a more expensive projector that produces highly detailed or crisp images with microscopic suspension technology. The best of both worlds in terms of combining LCD’s mirror tech with DLP’s microscopic suspension tech is the Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) projector. Finally, LED projectors are those that use LED lamps, which is also the case for the VANKYO Leisure 3.


  • Sound & Built-in Speakers: Built-in speakers with your projector will save you money because you already have speakers to use and in an outdoor setting, it’s a hassle to have an extra umbrella or stand available for your sound system. By the way, the VANKYO Leisure 3 has a built-in speaker. However, like PC or laptop internal speakers, a sound system will always blow them away 10 times out of 10. It’s nice to have the option to have speakers available but they usually lack the coverage of outdoor speakers when it comes to watching something during movie night. Get Bluetooth speakers for a wireless experience.

VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector Review

What VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector Specifically Brings to the Table

Essentially, the versatile VANKYO Leisure 3 is a great projector for outdoors movie viewing action because its LED lamp life can go up to 40,000 hours, it’s compatible with the TV stick, USB, AV, TF, VGA, HDMI, and the PlayStation 4, and its brightness and contrast are perfect for movie viewing whether indoors or outdoors. To wit:


  • Superior Watching Experience: The VANKYO Leisure 3 provides a superior watching epxerience because it’s powered by its own unique MStar Advanced Color Engine. What this means is that you’re able to see movies with amazing color fidelity since it’s one of the latest color engine techs in 2019. Furthermore, the device features 60 percent more brightness compared to the average home cinema and outdoor movie projector. It also supports 1920 x 1080 resolution for your 1080p full HD home entertainment needs. Don’t use it for business projector purposes like office presentations on PowerPoint though.


  • A Portable Multimedia Projector: The thing that makes the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector excellent is that it’s versatile. We recommend it as the best possible outdoors movie theater projector but it’s also originally available as a multimedia portable projector too that’s fit for playing movies on DVD or Blu-Ray as well as viewing photos from your smartphone, TV series, videos, slideshows, and perhaps presentations even though it’s better mostly for cinematic applications. It’s main issue with connecting to laptops is that it has HDMI connectivity. You can have a USB to HDMI converter available to transform it into a business projector, but it’s more of a multimedia display than anything else.


  • Videogame Projector: On top of playing movies and viewing presentations with an HDMI adapter in place, you can also use the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector to play videogames from consoles of the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 generation. It’s also available for 1080p full HD gaming (not for 4K UltraHD though), with it connecting smoothly and dependably on the Wii-U, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One. It can be carried and stored easily with a customized bag to boot. You can even play videogames in between movie viewings outdoors with enough wireless connections or extensions.


  • Big Screen Size Experience: Another reason why the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector is highly recommended as an outdoor projector is because of its big screen size image. It projects such a huge screen size it might as well be a commercial digital video projector all its own. It can project images ranging from 32 inches to 170 inches of screen size with a projection or throw distance of 4.9 feet to 16.4 feet. The recommended viewing distance for it is 6.5 feet but you can adjust the image accordingly in case you want to go nearer or farther by lens shift, keystone correction, and optical zoom.


  • Fan Noise Suppression System: This feature is more of a concern in home cinemas than outdoor cinemas, admittedly. However, it works as a bonus to have a fan noise suppression system in the VANKYO Leisure 3. Why? Simply put, it’s worthwhile to have an innovative cooling system that remains noiseless whether you’re playing a movie indoors in your home cinema or man cave or outdoors in your backyard or front yard. It uses heat dispersion in order to keep it from overheating and noise suppression technology to keep the hum of the fan from being irritating to your ears. Its power input is also 100 to 240 volts at 50 to 60 hertz.


  • Smartphone Connection Available: What does VANKYO Leisure 3 having smartphone connectivity bring to the table exactly? Lots of things. Not only can you mirror the display of your phone on the VANKYO without installing any app. You can also use your iPhone or Android smartphone in order to control the projector, play any movies it has on hand, or use it as an intermediary to connect to the Internet for the sake of streaming videos from Netflix and Hulu. An Android phone requires an HDMI adapter for USB-C and an iOS device requires an HDMI adapter for Lightning ports. These adapters are sold separately, like the USB-A or USB-B adapters for laptops and tablets.

How the VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector Fares in The Buying Guide Checklist 

Here’s the part of the guide wherein we compare what the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector has to offer to the checklist of must-have features and benefits that any worthwhile outdoor projector has.  At any rate, here are the things you should look for when it comes to shopping for outdoor movie projectors and how the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector fares to these standards or criteria of excellence.


  • High Definition Is The Way To Go: The VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector is an HD projector that supports 1920 x 1080 resolution. High definition typically means better, clearer digital images and videos. The colors are more vibrant and the motion is smoother with no blurring when you go HD. It’s your best bet when it comes to getting vivid, gigantic images projectors are known for in cinematic quality since you’re basically using it for an outdoor theater reminiscent of drive-in theaters of ore.

HD is the way to go to get that commercial film projector quality of detailed vividness in digital form. You can go 720p but it’s better to avail of VANKYO’s full 1080p goodness. Alternately, you can avail of 1280 x 800 business models since those can play digital videos as well as long as you have the right connector. The main difference between business and home cinema projectors is that the former has 16:10 aspect ratio to accommodate the user interface of laptops and desktops, which is perfect in case your movies are coming from a notebook PC instead of a Blu-Ray or DVD player.


  • Non-HD Projectors and Video Sources: You can use non-HD video projectors outdoors too, but HD projectors like the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector will remain superior to them because more pixels mean more details. Having more pixels is actually a good thing when it comes to the big screen, because there’s less artifacting, blurring, detail loss, and pixilation happening when your millions of pixels are big enough to fill in 170 inches of screen. At lower resolutions, the picture will still be watchable but not as spectacular as in full 1080p HD. Low-resolution projectors is good enough for vintage movies in 4:3 aspect ratio and 480p and lower resolution.

With that in mind, even the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector doesn’t have the highest possible resolution for a projector. That honor goes to 4K projectors. While VANKYO offers 1920 x 1080 resolution, other projectors out there can go up to 3840 x 2160 or even 4096 x 2160 pixels. The 3840p one is close enough to 4K while the 4096p one is absolutely 4K or full ultraHD. 8K resolution movies that can fill up a screen with 7680 × 4320 pixels are now available and streamable via ultra high-speed HDMI cables, but those are only available for HDTVs. There’s no true 8K projector yet as of this writing.

  • Video and Audio Quality: Another reason why we highly recommend the VANKYO Mini Projector as our outdoor projector of choice is that it has excellent image quality. Its projection remains sharp, clear, and worthy of being a digital billboard on the highway even when projected on a maxed-out 170-inch inflatable screen, with the option to go even bigger through an optical lens zoom. More importantly, its HD image and resolution is excellent for a projector of its price grade. Even when projecting on a beige wall it works excellently but of course having a screen to project on offers the best results.

Alas, even though the projector does come with its own built-in speakers, it suffers from the same quality issues as any other mobile device with external speakers. It’s not exactly as high-quality as an iPhone or Android phone. The audio quality is on the tinny side, like you’re hearing something out of a tin can. Perhaps a more expensive mini projector would’ve included a better internal speaker. However this point is moot because when it comes to outdoor movie nights, strategically placed Bluetooth speakers are the way to go when it comes to audio!


  • Video Sources: Another thing that makes the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector a good outdoor movie projector candidate is the fact that it’s compatible with many options and sources for videos, movies, and TV shows. If you’re close enough to your wireless router, the VANKYO should be able to pick up the signal and stream things like free videos from YouTube, paid subscriptions from Netflix and Hulu, or live streaming from in case you’re a gamer or something. You can also use an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV stick, or Roku stick for your streaming needs.

The most common solution for portable media players or storage solutions for movies when it comes to outdoor viewing is a USB stick full of movies you can play on your projector. Watch out for the files you download. Some media files are unrecognizable to your projector. Limit it to AVI or MP4 as much as possible. You can also mirror the monitor of your laptop and play movies through there. Then there’s the option of getting an extension cord and simply plugging in your DVD or Blu-Ray Disc player at a power strip so as to play HD or 4K through the projector (even though 4K movies will be downsized to HD because VANKYO Leisure 3 can only go up to 1080p).


  • What’s Inside The Box: Even though this VANKYO projector lacks adapters and ports for other media types, it has all the complete ports for modern movie viewing. We can use our laptop or USB stick on it. We can also wirelessly connect it to your Blu-Ray Disc player inside the house with the assistance of a dongle. The VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector comes complete with its own power cord, 1-to-3 AV cable, VGA cable, HDMI cable, and USB ports galore. It even includes a remote to help control the projector itself. It’s hardy and tough enough to use outdoors with its plastic body.

The plastic isn’t cheap and feels solid, like the plastic you’d see used on other mobile devices like a notebook PC or an iPhone/Android device. Don’t drop it though. It’s not the kind of device you can toss around willy-nilly. You should still take care of it when using it outdoors since it can get damaged or stop working when dropped. The warranty doesn’t cover CID (Customer Induced Damage) at all since that voids the warranty—you have been warned. Also, because everything is available right off the box, setup is quick and easy. Its off-the-box settings only need the slightest tweaks to work outdoors at night.


  • Affordability: If you’re looking for an outdoor projector you can acquire for less than $100 then you can’t go wrong with the VANKYO Leisure 3. For example, many people lacking floor space in their apartment for a television depend on the VANKYO projector as their new TV set without breaking their budget. However, in the context of outdoor movie projectors, does the VANKYO’s affordability hold up as well? Of course it does! It’s not only a must-have home cinema projector and HDTV alternative. The fact that it’s able to project to screens up to 170 inches in size makes it the most ideal public outdoor video projector at this price point.

Our other projector candidates might overwhelm us with specs and information regarding their viability as affordable outdoor projectors. However, it was only VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector that ticked all our boxes when it came to our outdoor projector needs while also remaining affordable at the same time. This is why it’s our recommended projector in this guide over other projectors that have 4K resolution but are too expensive and have better portability but are more suited for indoor home cinema projection without any ambient lights. VANKYO is not only affordable it’s also the perfect fit as a backyard theater projector. A worthwhile investment, all things considered.


  • Backyard Movie Theater Projector Specs versus VANKYO Specs: A good outdoor projector should have a brightness of 2,000 lumens or better. VANKYO’s LED brightness is at 3,600 lumens. The resolution should be 720p or 1080p for the average modern movie in DVD or Blu-Ray. VANKYO has max 1080p resolution and 1920 x 1080 pixels of resolution at an aspect ratio of 16:9. Connectivity should be HDMI or USB, both of which are also available as ports in the VANKYO Leisure 3. An outdoor or backyard movie projector should be able to accommodate the hugest of inflatable screens, while VANKYO has a projection size ranging from 33 to 170 inches.

VANKYO also comes with HD speakers, as in the case of competitors like the Epson MovieMate 85HD. You can supplement this with additional audio power like Anchor-powered speakers, which have built-in amplifiers. You can also use Bluetooth speakers to allow wireless connection between it and the media player. It’s possible to use both speakers at the same time to maximize the volume outdoors, which can be drowned out by noises like the wind and idle chatter. The contrast ratio of VANKYO is also at 2,000:1, giving you a detailed and non-muddy appearance with the starkest of blacks as well.

In Summary of the VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector

The main selling point of the VANKYO Leisure 3 Mini Projector as a backyard movie projector is that it’s portable and it can be used outside of your home with minimum hassle on your part. It might not be specifically designed for outdoor use but it doesn’t matter because it can be used outdoors. You should also not forget to invest in a power strip or two, an extension cord, wireless dongles, external speakers, and a media storage device or player you can use outdoors. 

Admittedly, the VANKYO Leisure 3 LED Portable Projector is also ideal for home theater use. However, it has aspects to it that allow it for outdoor usage as well. This LED projector is so bright it can take ambient light not only from your home cinema rig. It can even take ambient light outdoors and will definitely shine at night, even when taking light pollution into consideration. The images remain vivid and smashing when push comes to shove.

James Core

I love my projector system and I am here to help you find the right projector for your needs.

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