There are numerous desirable features on the Anker Nebula Solar Portable 1080p, including support for 4K and HDR, a built-in Android TV, and good brightness given its small and lightweight size and weight. Even if color fidelity isn’t perfect, it’s good enough for the majority of people to accept it without batting an eye.
ANKER NEBULA SOLAR PORTABLE SPECS
|Rated Brightness||400 ANSI lumens|
|Native Resolution||1920 by 1080|
|Maximum Resolution||3840 by 2160 60Hz|
|Inputs and Interfaces||USB-C (power only), Bluetooth (audio in), Direct Wireless (Chromecast), HDMI, USB, Wi-Fi|
|Dimensions (HWD)||2.3 by 7.6 by 8.6|
- It has a native resolution of 080p (1,920-by-1,080) and can receive 4K (3,840-by-2,160) input
- Supports 4K UHD discs’ HDR and copy protection requirements
- Android TV 9 with built-in Wi-Fi
- In Battery mode, the battery lasts 3 hours, while in Standard mode, it lasts 1.5 hours
- Autofocus is capable
- The color accuracy is barely off enough to be noticeable
- With HDR content, the image quality does not improve
The Anker Nebula Solar Portable ($599.99) packs a lot of functionality into a small package. It includes built-in Android TV 9 for streaming via a Wi-Fi connection, screen mirroring, and an HDMI connector for connecting to other video sources, and it is fully portable owing to a built-in rechargeable battery that can outlast most full-length movies. It can also receive 4K input and downconvert it without any issues, unlike much of its competition. Because of this, it has replaced Anker’s own Nebula Mars II Pro as our Editors’ Choice among portable projectors for home entertainment.
It’s not a 4K projector, but it can be used as a television.
The Solar Portable is powered by a TI DLP chip with a resolution of 1080p (1,920 by 1,080 pixels). According to the business, it employs TI’s Manhattan format (a rectangular array), which reduces battery life compared to the diamond chip array that’s more common in portable projectors while also avoiding scaling problems. The image chip is combined with a full-power LED light source that Anker claims will last 30,000 hours.
Despite its native resolution of 1080p, the projector connects at 4K (3,840 by 2,160) by default, and it also supports HDR10 and HDCP 2.1, the HDR and copy protection formats used by 4K UHD discs. In a nutshell, it’s a 4K projector with a soft focus. The AAXA M7, the Philips PicoPix Max One, and the BenQ GV30 are among the few portables that do not support 4K.
There are two power levels available in the menus. Standard is the brightest option, which will drain the battery in 1.5 hours. Battery is a power-saving option that extends battery life to 3 hours. Even if the projector is plugged in, you can use it, but the lesser brightness means you won’t want to. Depending on whether you’re connected to AC power or not, Auto mode automatically transitions between the two power modes. In Standard mode, the projector is rated at 400 ANSI lumens by Anker. Do not use the number to compare to the LED lumen ratings used by many manufacturers. ANSI lumens are the industry standard. LED lumens aren’t, and they’re frequently exaggerated. (I’ll go into more detail on brightness later.)
The Solar Portable weighs 3.1 pounds without the external AC adaptor, which is average for a compact projector, and it’s small enough to fit in a briefcase or backpack, measuring 2.3 by 7.6 by 8.6 inches (HWD). If you intend to carry it with you, you might consider purchasing a protective case, as Anker does not provide one. You won’t need one if you want to move the projector from room to room or if you want to use it as a smart TV all the time, with the exception of a backyard movie night.
Before you may utilize another video source attached to the HDMI connection, you must first connect to a WI-Fi network and sign in to Google, as is common for projectors with Android TV. The physical setup is simple. Connect an image source to the HDMI connector if desired, turn the projector on, move the projector back and forth to adjust the image size, and select a video source. In my experiments, the automatic focus worked well. Digital zoom and horizontal and vertical keystone correction are also available, but I recommend avoiding these because they can produce artifacts.
A USB Type-A port is available in addition to the HDMI port for reading files from USB memory, although it requires the installation of ES File Explorer from Google Play. A USB Type-C connector is also available, however it simply functions as a power source.
The audio did well in terms of volume, but not so well in terms of quality. The dual 3-watt speakers produced enough of volume for a large family room, but the music was distorted at maximum level. Despite a touch of a bottom-of-the-barrel echo effect, quality was passable at levels suitable for a midsize room. There’s also a Bluetooth speaker option, which enables you use the projector as a speaker for other devices, as is becoming more common with portable projectors.
Color accuracy and shadow detail are sufficient.
Game, Movie, Standard, and Vivid are the four default visual settings on the Solar Portable’s menu. You can modify brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness in any mode other than Game as a starting point. Without altering the original predefined settings, the updated version will become the new User mode. Game mode does not allow for any customization, but it does have the least latency time, making it the best option for gaming.
In my tests, color fidelity was similar in Standard, Movie, and Vivid settings, however Standard was a tad cooler. Vivid had the most true color, while Movie was a close second and also had the most brightness and shadow depth, thus it was my overall favorite for movies. Standard, on the other hand, was the best at handling tiny gradations in video input. For each image source you utilize, you might wish to check each of the modes.
Despite color accuracy being off by just enough to notice, I found movies and video to be quite enjoyable, especially for segments I wasn’t familiar with. The majority of people will accept it as decent enough, and even the most discerning video fans should find it bearable. The projector also displayed more shadow detail than many of its competitors, allowing us to see what was going on even in the darkest scenarios in our test suite.
The Solar Portable connects at 4K by default, as previously stated. When I moved from 1080p to 4K HDR discs and back, it handled the transition nicely in my tests. Dark sequences, on the other hand, lost shadow detail when compared to the same portions in the SDR version of the same films. I was able to improve the image by tweaking contrast, but the best I could do was match the 1080p SDR version, missing out on the HDR benefits.
The projector works with DLP-Link glasses for 3D. In my experiments, I didn’t notice any crosstalk, and 3D-related motion artifacts were on par with current-generation projectors. The Solar Portable, on the other hand, required manual toggling between 3D and 2D modes.
Input lag is very low, making it ideal for casual gaming. For both 1080p, 60Hz and 4K, 60Hz, I measured it at slightly over 27ms using a Bodnar meter. Unfortunately for gamers, Game mode lacks the same level of shadow detail as Movie mode, so you must choose between a low lag time for quick responsiveness and higher shadow detail to see what’s going on in gloomy scenes.
As previously stated, Anker rates the projector at 400 ANSI lumens, which is bright enough for a 90-inch 16:9 image in a dark room utilizing a 1.0 gain screen, according to Society for Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) standards. In my tests, the image was bright enough to fill my 90-inch screen in the dark when I used Movie mode. It was bright enough to see on an 80-inch screen in a family room with modest ambient light, albeit slightly washed out.
A Glorious Star
The Anker Nebula Solar Portable projector is a little more expensive than the majority of the other projectors on this list, but it gives considerably more. If you want better audio quality, go with the BenQ GV30, which also comes with Android TV; if you want a little more brightness, go with the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro. However, both of those devices have a 720p resolution, which means less visual detail and a soft-focus appearance when compared to 1080p.
If you desire native 1080p resolution, the Phillips PicoPix Max One, with its lower weight and 2.5-hour battery life in Standard mode, or the AAXA M7, with its 2.1-hour battery life in Standard mode and USB Type-C connection for mirroring mobile devices, might appeal. However, neither of those models supports 3D or HDR, nor do they come with built-in streaming or a streaming dongle.
The Anker Nebula Solar, which costs a bit less than the Solar Portable, is another option to consider if you plan to install the projector permanently. According to Anker, it’s the same projector minus the battery (and no option to add one). Both models offer native 1080p resolution and can take 4K HDR input at up to 60 frames per second. The Solar Portable, on the other hand, has a long-lasting battery, which allows it to replace the Mars Pro II as our Editors’ Choice for portable home entertainment projector.
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