The Anker Nebula Solar Portable is a 1080p projector with a built-in battery and Android TV. It’s an entire bundle that allows you to get pleasure from films and TV with an enormous picture nearly wherever. You may even use it as a Bluetooth speaker. If this sounds vaguely acquainted, it is as a result of it is just like one other Nebula projector, the Mars II Pro, which we reviewed a couple of months in the past. The Mars II Pro is our favourite transportable projector total and whereas the Solar has its (ahem) vibrant spots, it is simply not nearly as good.

Like

  • Sleek, compact design
  • 1080p decision
  • Built-in battery lasts 3 hours

Don’t Like

  • Fairly dim
  • Mediocre distinction
  • Android TV is wonky

On paper, the Solar Portable addresses two of the problems we had with the Mars II Pro: resolution and its app retailer. The II Pro is simply 720p, and makes use of a “curated” Google expertise known as Aptoide. Unfortunately, fixing these two issues comes with decreased mild output. No projector this dimension is especially vibrant, however the Solar is about 40% dimmer than the Mars II. Android TV beats Aptoide, but it surely nonetheless has some quirks that imply you is likely to be higher off attaching a streaming stick anyway. Yes, that flat design is exclusive, however Anker’s personal Mars II Pro is a more sensible choice.

Basic specs

  • Native decision: 1,920×1,080 pixels
  • HDR-compatible: Yes
  • 4K-compatible: Yes
  • 3D-compatible: No
  • Lumens spec: 400 ANSI
  • Zoom: No
  • Lens shift: No
  • Lamp life (Normal mode): 30,000 hours

The Solar accepts HDR10, however will not be HDR. It accepts 4K, however will not be a 4K projector. Since this projector is incapable of truly displaying these higher-resolution and high-dynamic-range indicators, their inclusion appears extra like one thing to beef up a options listing on an internet site than the rest.

There’s no lens shift or zoom on the Solar, however neither is anticipated on this value vary. There’s autofocus, nevertheless, which works fairly effectively. A pivoting foot on the underside tilts the entrance of the projector upward for a bit extra flexibility in placement.

There’s a claimed three hours of life from the 20,000-mAh battery. This is a bit odd because the brighter Mars II Pro has a smaller battery and but the identical quantity of play time.

Speaking of brightness, Anker claims 400 lumens. I measured about half that. The Mars II Pro had a claimed 500, and I measured over 300. No projector on this dimension and value vary may be very vibrant, however aspect by aspect the Mars II Pro’s image seems considerably brighter, which permits it to look higher on greater screens.

You can use the Solar as a Bluetooth speaker. The two 3-watt audio system sound fairly good, which is all the time a bonus in a conveyable projector. They’re not as loud because the Mars II Pro’s twin 10-watters, nevertheless.

If you need to obtain some content material to look at offline, there’s 8GB storage.

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Connectivity and comfort

  • HDMI inputs: 1
  • PC enter: No
  • USB ports: 2
  • Audio enter and output: No
  • Digital audio output: No
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11a, b, g, n, ac
  • 12-volt set off: No
  • RS-232 distant port: No
  • MHL: No
  • Remote: Not backlit

The Solar’s HDMI enter is able to accepting HDR and 4K, however because the projector is neither, it is a six-line freeway connecting two small cities with no automobiles.

The USB-C connection is for charging, and included with the Solar is a fast-charger you might use in your telephone or pill if you’re not utilizing or charging the projector. The different USB connection can settle for recordsdata or cost a streaming stick. The energy score is not specified, however I used to be in a position to get a streaming stick working on it, so it ought to be sufficient.

I just like the Android TV app retailer however sadly some apps, like Vudu, would solely ship the standard-definition variations of their content material. This is disappointing, to say the least. It makes the decision of the projector much less related. Others, like Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu seemed effective, nevertheless. 

Then there’s Netflix, which requires a number of steps to get put in on the Solar. You want to put in the Nebula Manager app, which then lets you obtain the cell model of the Netflix app. To watch Netflix after you put in it, you could go to the Manager app after which Netflix. Which, even in spite of everything these steps, seems exceptionally mushy. Because it is the cell model, it additionally means it isn’t designed to work with a standard distant, so you could use the Nebula Connect app in your telephone to navigate. 

These points spoil the goodness of built-in Android TV to a sure extent, however as I discussed a straightforward resolution is attaching an exterior streamer. 

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Picture high quality comparisons

The Mars II Pro and the PH30N are each direct rivals to the Solar. To evaluate the three I ended up utilizing a mixture of inside apps, exterior streaming sticks and a Monoprice 1×4 distribution amplifier because of the totally different resolutions of the projectors, and the truth that the Solar accepts 4K (and for some irritating purpose that grew to become the default when related to the Monoprice). I considered every thing on a 102-inch 1.0-gain display.

The most blatant distinction was mild output. The Mars II Pro was simply the brightest, adopted by the Solar and the LG. Brightness will not be the one vital think about a projector’s picture high quality but it surely’s an enormous half. Not solely does it decide how compelling the picture is total, but it surely additionally determines how massive a picture you possibly can create that is nonetheless watchable. This is without doubt one of the causes I preferred the Mars II Pro: It’s very vibrant for its dimension and value. The Solar’s image seems dim compared, and the LG’s is the dimmest of the three. 

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Contrast ratio is poor throughout the board in contrast with one thing just like the BenQ HT2050, however that is par for the course. No cheap projector has distinction ratio. The Solar is technically higher than the Mars II right here, at 407:1 in contrast with 354:1, however that is too near see even aspect by aspect and is barely outdoors the vary of regular measurement error. This low distinction ratio is ok on the Mars II, because it’s comparatively vibrant, however on the Solar it means the picture is flat. Not absolutely washed out, but it surely does not impress both. The LG is decrease nonetheless, however once more, it is all in the identical ballpark.

With the added distraction of its undefeatable cleaning soap opera impact, I put the LG apart and targeting the 2 Ankers.

Fan noise on the Solar is way quieter than the Mars II, which is welcome if you’re sitting shut.

While I welcome the swap to Android TV over the troublesome Aptoide retailer, there is a evident concern: HD. With some apps the content material you get is SD-only. So what then is the purpose of the Solar’s 1080p decision? This might be an Android/Google concern, but it surely does not actually matter the place the issue is, the result’s that the best approach to get content material on the projector means taking successful in image high quality. 

Using an exterior streaming stick the additional element is obvious. After you flip down the sharpness management, that’s, which is about extraordinarily excessive out of the field (as common, large quantities of edge enhancement masks precise element). Now it is the Mars II Pro’s flip to look mushy, missing effective element on issues like hair and beards. However, the Solar’s larger decision, even when configured appropriately, will not be sufficient to win out over the Mars II Pro’s higher brightness.

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Conclusion

The adage goes “Two steps forward, one step back.” In this case, it is extra like two steps ahead, two barely smaller steps again. With their big photographs, projectors actually see a giant profit from larger decision, so the Solar’s 1080p ought to be an apparent enchancment over the Mars II Pro’s 720p. But with SD inside apps, that enchancment is negated. Worse, the decrease brightness means its picture is way much less compelling. The greater battery appears good on paper, however claimed viewing time is roughly the identical. Even the Solar’s audio system are much less highly effective.

All that, mixed with a increased MSRP, and I’m unsure what the Solar has to supply over the Mars II Pro. That projector is a little bit gem, and the Solar is left to play catch-up.

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