Anker Nebula Mars II portable projector review: The night comes alive

Makes your next camping trip or nighttime party worth attending.

Anker is probably a familiar company for most of you, thanks to loads of power banks, USB cables and other accessories they sell on Amazon and in some retail locations. Anker has been inching towards other accessories with its sub-brands, like Zolo headphones and Nebular projectors.

The Nebula projectors are all about portability: the small Capsule projector is the size of a soda can, while the slightly bigger Nebula series is about the size of a lantern. No matter which size you go for, they include a built-in battery to use when you're away from power.

Anker Nebular Mars II projector

Price: $429.99

Bottom line: if you want a projector for movies nights outside, this is the one for you.

The Good

  • Four-hour battery life lets you watch movies anywhere
  • Uses Android as an operating system, letting you plug in a USB drive or download apps directly
  • Includes an HDMI port to use other devices
  • Automatic focus and keystone correction
  • Lightweight and easy to pack
  • Has built-in speakers that are surprisingly good
  • Great images in low light

The Bad

  • Proprietary charger
  • Doesn't include the Play Store
  • Not bright enough to use during the day, or in a conference room

See at Amazon

Anker provided this projector for the review, and I've been using it off and on since it arrived on June 20. This includes using it inside my apartment during the day and at night, inside a workplace during the day, and outdoors at night.

Anker Nebula Mars II What's included

Inside the box, you'll find the projector itself, the remote with batteries, the manual, and a proprietary power adapter.

Anker Nebula Mars II Design

The design of this projector reminds me of a lantern; so much that I wish it came in green for my weekend cosplays. The front has a plastic piece to protect the lens; slide this down and the projector will automatically turn on. Right above this are four LEDs so you can estimate the battery level. While there is a remote included, all of the controls you would need are also on the top of the projector.

Around back, you'll find the charging port, HDMI-in, USB and 3.5mm audio-out, as well as a reset button and infrared sensor. It's a shame this projector doesn't charge with USB-C, since competing projectors have included that. The fan and vents are also located on the back, and the speaker grills wrap around the other sides. Finally, the bottom has a threaded hole to place the projector on a camera tripod.

Anker Nebula Mars II Features

The Nebular Mars uses Android for its operating system, but it's not Android TV or another familiar variant. Instead, it has been customized by Anker to provide a "big screen" experience with tiles instead of app icons, and other features similar to other TV operating systems. There's no Google Play Store, but mainstays like YouTube, Amazon Video and Netflix are available from Anker's app store. It appears most apps in the store are built for Android TV, so it won't be like you're using an application designed for a smartphone on a 100-inch screen.

The USB port on the back can be used to playback movies from a thumb drive (formatted as FAT32), but it can also be used to power a streaming stick that is plugged into the HDMI port. This will shorten the projector's battery life, but you'll still get hours of playback.

Anker Nebula Mars II Experience

The lamp clocks in at 300 lumens, which relegates it to only being used at night. I've tried using this during the day, both for watching movies and presenting materials in meetings. In both cases, it just doesn't get bright enough to see the subject without straining your eyes. Anker isn't really advertising this for business use, but it's worth noting. They do show a photo of someone using it in a living room in the daytime, which would just be an unpleasant experience.

Let the sun go down, and it's much better. This projector can produce a 100-inch image when it's placed 10.1 feet from the wall or screen, making it perfect for a campsite or a backyard. There's also automatic keystone correction and focusing, so all you have to do is just place the projector down and let it do the work of making the image look great.

So how's the picture quality? Great, in relative terms. This is a 720p projector, which won't blow you away, but it'll work well enough with all of your media. The projector can accept sources up to 1080p resolution, so leave your UHD Blu Ray rips at home. One more trick up its sleeve: the projector can pair with your smartphone and act as a Bluetooth speaker. The speakers are great given the size, and should be enough to keep everyone happy during movie time.

Using the projector is a treat. It takes just a few moments to boot up, focus, and then start playing whatever media you have. If you're somewhere you have an Internet connection, you can use your favorite streaming services. Otherwise, just plug in an HDMI device or thumb drive and watch your movies that way.

Anker Nebula Mars II Should you buy it?

Maybe. This won't be a good replacement for a home theater system, but if you do a lot of camping or want an easy way to watch movies in your backyard, it's hard to go wrong. I can't overstate how easy it is to just turn on this projector and go — it will focus itself in an instant. Anker has most streaming services covered in their store, and you can sideload any apps that are missing since this is running Android.

4 out of 5

The Anker Nebula Mars II is a great portable projector with a couple of big caveats. If you stick to projecting in the dark, you'll be very happy with it.

See at Amazon

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