10 essentials for the perfect backyard outdoor movie night

Started by Prem Kumar, Aug 06, 2020, 10:28 PM

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Prem Kumar

10 essentials for the perfect backyard outdoor movie night

Enjoy those warm summer nights at home with some movies and music outside.

Sure, relaxing under the stars is nice, but sometimes a bit more action is desired. Or if not action, comedy. Different kinds of stars, if you will. Transforming your backyard into an outdoor home theater for your family isn't difficult and, during the summer of shelter-in-place, can make a great substitute for visiting an actual indoor theater.

It does require some gear, however. Some of it you might have laying around already, and some you can probably repurpose from other places in your house. Check out the list below for some ideas and product recommendations to get the best picture and sound quality for outdoor movie night.

Bright projector

Epson Home Cinema 2150

For the biggest movies you're going to need a projector. Any projector will work, but the brighter it is, the easier it will be to see. Brightness also determines how large an image a projector can create. As far as our picks for home projectors, I actually like the Epson Home Cinema 2150 for this. It's bright and has a long throw distance for a small projector, meaning you can position it farther from the screen. This might make placement easier for you. Epson Home Cinema 2150 review.

Another Epson, the EF-100, is even smaller, and has a streaming stick built-in.

The Viewsonic M2 isn't as bright as either of those options, but can be run on a USB battery pack, so you don't need to be near an outlet. See our list of best projectors for other options.

Assuming you don't have an outdoor TV already, you could bring your indoor TV outside. Keep in mind, however, that TVs are very delicate. One wrong twist and you can crack the screen. Even small TVs should be carried by two people. Treat it like you're carrying a thin, expensive, sheet of glass. Technically, that's exactly what it is.

Big bluetooth speaker

UE Hyperboom

Projector speakers are not loud. Worse, they're often competing with the projector's own fan noise. So if you're sitting close enough to hear the speakers, you're trying to hear them through the woosh of the fans.

A Bluetooth speaker can connect to certain projectors, or some streaming sticks. The better and larger ones should be plenty audible. More importantly, you can place them closer to where you're sitting.

We like the UE Hyperboom. It's big, heavy and not cheap, but if your screen is 10 feet wide you should have some big sound to go with it. It's loud, but just as important, it has an analog 3.5mm input, so you don't have to worry about lip-sync issues by going via Bluetooth.  Read the UE Hyperboom review.

You can check out other options in our guide for the best Bluetooth speakers.

Powerful soundbar

Vizio SB3621n-E8

If you're using a traditional projector, you're going to have to run electrical power. Since you're running power anyway, why not just connect an actual speaker? A good soundbar will be significantly louder than a Bluetooth speaker, and probably sound a lot better too.

We like this inexpensive Vizio, which is "the best budget soundbar we've ever heard, period." Part of its secret is the subwoofer, which can pack a real punch, even in your backyard. Read our Vizio SB3621N-E8 review.

Don't forget that you'll need a cable to connect it to the projector. Nearly all projectors have an analog audio output, which can connect to the Vizio. Some have HDMI, so you'll need an HDMI cable from the soundbar to the projector.

Outdoor screen

This is a tough one, as outdoor screens are selling out incredibly fast right now for fairly obvious reasons (...gestures at everything...). A few tips while you're looking. Rigid frame screens are more expensive and a little harder to assemble, but are more resilient against wind and typically have smoother screens. Inflatable screens need to be secured to the ground, and any wind is going to set them rocking. However, they tend to be easier to set up. Keep in mind that their fans run constantly, so in a smaller or enclosed yard, this can be annoying.

There are also infinite DIY options, basically anything fairly reflective and lacking color will work. The top of my head comes to mind. It's worth noting that you'll be able to see any texture in the screen's surface, so a garage door isn't ideal because you'll see any design, seam or other imperfections.

Versatile streaming

Roku Streaming Stick Plus

The easiest way to get something to watch on your outdoor projector is via a streaming stick. Most modern projectors have a USB connection so you can connect a streaming stick without running an additional power cord.

We like the Roku Streaming Stick Plus for its ease of use and wide range of content options: "With its simple design and focus on features you'll actually use, Roku's most affordable 4K HDR streamer is one you should get."  Check out the best streaming devices of 2020.

This assumes your home's Wi-Fi is strong enough to reach into your yard. More on ways to fix that below.

Better Wi-Fi

TP-Link RE220 Wi-Fi Extender

Depending where and how strong your Wi-Fi router is, you may not have enough signal to stream anything in your yard. You might be able to fix that, check out the Wi-Fi tips in How to improve internet speeds for Netflix, Hulu and more.

If none of those options work, consider a Wi-Fi extender. These connect to your main Wi-Fi, then broadcast essentially "more" Wi-Fi from a different point in your house. We like the TP-Link RE220 (aka the AC750). As Ry Crist said in his review, "Nothing else I tested was able to match [the RE220's] level of performance, which makes the RE220 a steal at $30."  Read more about improving your home's Wi-Fi.
 Sources by: CNET

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