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How to choose the best outdoor projector screen

A great garden projector is nothing without a great screen to pair it with – so here's what you need to know about choosing the right one.

Outdoor projector screens

On warm summer evenings, an outdoor projector is perfect for movie nights, BBQs and sports events – with a vast image that is significantly larger than a regular TV. But to get the most out of the experience, you will need a worthy screen.

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While it may be tempting to use the garage wall or a white sheet, these are unlikely to result in great picture quality. After all, walls are rarely white enough, and that sheet will probably have creases that will quickly become a distraction.

Luckily, there are a wide variety of outdoor screens available to suit every budget – but hold on before buying the first one you see online. It may seem like a simple decision, but there are a few things to consider before making that purchase.

Some screens will come with a stand, while others will have to be mounted to a wall. And there are differences when compared to shopping for an indoor home cinema screen – it needs to be portable, a suitable size, easy to set up and wind-resistant.

So if you have splashed the cash for a new projector, perhaps after reading our best outdoor projector to buy guide and are hunting for the best screen to use, here’s what you need to consider – and some screen recommendations based on those factors.

How to choose the best outdoor projector screen

Screen size 

When browsing online for a new outdoor projector screen, its size will likely be the first major decision to make. The most popular sizes are typically between 100 and 120 inches diagonally – measured from the top left to the bottom right corner. Watch out as some listings may show the dimensions as the horizontal size instead.

It’s important to make sure that your projector can actually output the correct image size and don’t immediately opt for the biggest screen you find. If your screen is massive, but the projector can only output up to 80-inches, you will find that the picture quality becomes extremely poor if you try and fill the entire screen.

It’s not just specs, though, as you should also consider your physical space. Is your back garden massive? Great, 120-inches it is. But if you are more limited in where you can put the screen, you will need to look for a smaller model that will fit comfortably and still leave room for any guests to actually see the projection.

Aspect ratio

The second thing to consider is the aspect ratio – which is the ratio of an image’s width compared to its height. While it may sound complex, in reality, you will likely want to stick with 16:9, as that’s the broad standard for HD content these days.

However, if you are solely buying the projector for hi-resolution movie-watching, you can always consider a widescreen screen ratio of 2.35:1, which is what the majority of blu-rays will be using. Just make sure your projector can output that ratio.

Gain rating

While it’s not always listed for outdoor projector screens – which are often not as tech-savvy as their home theatre counterparts – gain is a measurement used to describe how reflective the screen is. Broadly, a gain rating of 1.0 is standard.

What that means is the screen is able to accurately reflect light from the projector without ruining the brightness of the picture. A gain rating of more than 1.0 suggests the projector provides solid screen brightness, less than 1.0 means the image won’t be as bright. In general, aim for a gain rating of at least 1.0 if possible.

Portability

It goes without saying, if you are using a projector screen outdoors or on camping trips; portability is a major factor in your buying decision. Many of the screens on Amazon will come with a carry case and can easily be disassembled – great for storing the screen away when the weather is rubbish or if it needs to be transported in a car.

Stability

Weather is pretty unpredictable sometimes in the UK – and wind could be an issue if you are using a projector screen outdoors. That’s why it’s best to consider what materials are used to build the stand or how sturdy the wall-mounted hooks are. In this case, having a screen that weighs a little more may actually be a plus.

Material and colour

Projector screens will come in a variety of colours and finishes. For the best results outdoors, regardless of the material, you should stick to a white finish – this will be best at light reflection, colour accuracy and viewing angles. Some screens can be washed with soap and water or smoothed out with a low-temperature iron.

Which outdoor projector screen should you buy?

While it may not be as complicated as deciding which projector to buy, choosing a screen to pair it with isn’t as straightforward as you may initially assume. If you don’t already have a projector, we thought that the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro and the Optoma HD145X were two great starting points for outdoor use.

We have scoured through Amazon and can make some recommendations for a number of screens that will work well outside. The projector screens chosen are a variety of different styles and screen sizes – with options for every budget.

Great for performance: Vamvo projector screen with stand

Price: £129.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Vamvo Outdoor Indoor Projector Screen

This 16:9 projector screen from Vamvo has two variants: 100 inches (£119.00) and 120 inches (129.99). The overall design uses a pipe frame assisted by ropes that can be pinned down at both sides to protect it from gusts of wind. There are two tripod feet at each bottom corner, and the frame is collapsible – making it a great option for garden parties. The screen colour is white, with a 160 degree viewing angle.

Great for sturdiness: Skerell projector screen with stand

Price: £94.99 £89.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Skerell projector screen with stand

Similar in design to the Vamvo model is this screen from Skerell, which may be an even better option if you need maximum stability. The frame is constructed using aluminium tubes, stainless steel ground stakes and can be set up in minutes. It has a 100-inch screen size, a 16:9 aspect ratio and claims to have a 1.5 gain ratio.

Great for large gatherings: Inflatable projector screen (20 ft)

Price: £238.00 £198.90 | Buy now from Amazon

Inflatable projector screen (20 ft)

For something completely different, check out this large inflatable screen. It’s a little more expensive than some of the others on this list, but if size is your main priority, it could be perfect. The screen size is 240-inches, with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and it comes bundled with an inflation fan, ropes and ground stakes. The white screen is fixed using Velcro and can even be cleaned in a washing machine. This is a great option for outdoor weddings, parties or events with a larger number of guests.

Great for beginners: Powerextra 120 inch projector screen

Price: £25.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Powerextra 120 Inch Projector Screen

A more affordable option is this wall-mountable projector screen from Powerextra, which has a 120-inch screen size, a 16:9 aspect ratio and comes bundled with both ropes and sticky hooks. It will likely take a little longer to set up than the screens with built-in stands – less portable as a result – but will be suited for projection beginners or anyone who needs a screen stuck to the side of a fence or garage wall.

Great for anyone on a budget: Ayaoqiang wall-mountable projection screen

Price: From £16.14 | Buy now from Amazon

Ayaoqiang wall mountable projection screen

This wall-mountable projector screen from Ayaoqiang is an even more affordable option that comes in multiple sizes – a 100-inch (£21.99) and a 120-inch (£18.99). Like the Powerextra, it won’t be as portable as models with a stand but does come with hanging holes around the frame, sticky hooks and ropes. The screen itself is made from polyester and can be cleaned either by hand or in a washing machine. It won’t be the most high-quality, but it’s still likely to be much better than a wall.

Great for anyone with limited space: Vamvo outdoor projector screen

Price: £122.04 | Buy now from Amazon

Vamvo outdoor projector screen

Not everyone has the need – or space – for a 100-plus inch screen size. If your back garden is more snug, or you need a projector screen for activities such as camping, this portable model from Vanmo could be for you. The screen size tops out at 74.4 inches while still offering a 16:9 aspect ratio. The pipe frame can be fully set up in minutes and is collapsible into a carry bag. Screen creases can be ironed out.

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