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The best rowing machines for getting a full-body workout at home — 05/31/2020

The best rowing machines for getting a full-body workout at home

Whether you’re looking to add a piece of equipment to your home gym or are in search of a single machine that will provide a full-body workout without taking up too much space, a rower is a solid choice. Rowing has long been favored by people looking for a full-body workout that’s cardio-heavy yet low impact. This means that you’re not putting large amounts of stress on your joints, giving you less of a chance of sustaining an injury. This makes rowing a safe and effective workout for people of all ages, sizes, and abilities. 

When it comes to purchasing a rowing machine, there are a lot of factors to consider. Air resistance or magnetic resistance? Water resistance or hydraulic resistance? Hi-tech features or just the basics? Built-in workouts or flying, er, rowing solo? Fear not, dear reader, we are here to answer all of your rowing-related questions and steer you in the right direction. 

So what exactly is a rowing machine?

Simply put, a rowing machine mimics the effects of rowing on the water. This is achieved by using different types of resistance. 

When it comes to rower resistance, there are four types to consider: air, magnetic, water, and hydraulic. While each type of rower exercises the same muscle groups, there are a few major differences to consider before making a purchase. 

Air resistance rowing machines

With an air resistance rower, the machine uses a flywheel to generate air resistance as you pull your body. So the harder and faster you pull, the harder the resistance or “drag” becomes. This creates a workout that mimics the sensation of rowing on the open water. Air rowers are favored by Olympians and professional athletes alike. So if you’re looking to go pro or at least train like one, an air rower is your best bet. 

Magnetic resistance rowing machines

With a magnetic rower, the user sets the desired resistance by moving a magnet closer or further away from the flywheel. Air resistance rowers tend to be louder than magnetic resistance rowers, so if you live with others or find yourself easily distracted, a magnetic resistance rower may be a better fit. 

Water resistance rowing machines

Water rowing machines use water resistance to create what some say is the smoothest stroke. These rowers are typically made of wood and feature a large water tank at the front of the machine. There are no resistance settings on water rowers, meaning that in order to feel more resistance, you have to row faster. The level of water in the tank is controlled by the user and represents the weight of the boat and its captain. If you want a heavier boat, you add more water to the tank. If you want a lighter boat, you add less water to the tank. Across the board, water rowers have the most basic type of monitors. No live workout classes or Olympic champion instructors to keep you motivated here. But perhaps you’re more of a meditative type who prefers the lapping of the water to lull you into a methodical rowing trance. If that’s you, go the water route.

Hydraulic resistance rowing machines

The hydraulic resistance rowing machine is the most basic of rowers. Hydraulic rowers get their name from the very system that makes them run: a hydraulic cylinder. These machines rely on a cylinder filled with oil or air that a piston runs through. Resistance is created when the piston, which has an attachment connecting it to the arms of the rowers, moves in and out of the cylinder as you row. The great thing about hydraulic rowers is that they’re usually on the cheaper end of the spectrum. They also tend to be smaller machines, typically weighing no more than 60 pounds with a length of no more than 5 feet. 

If you’re a bigger person, a hydraulic rower won’t allow you to fully extend. However, hydraulic rowers offer more flexibility when it comes to the arms of the machine. So if giving your arms range of motion is important to you, a hydraulic machine may be your best bet. 

What type of monitor do I need?

The type of monitor you’ll need depends on the type of workout you want. Do you want to be rolling on the virtual river with a community of athletes? Or are you more of a lone rower who prefers a solitary session sans technology? 

The monitors on magnetic rowers typically offer more options than those on air rowers. Similarly to a treadmill or an elliptical, you can choose from a variety of preset workouts. This is a great feature for anyone who doesn’t want to think too hard about their workout. 

Regardless of the type of machine you chose, even the most basic monitor will include preset HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts that will have you engaging not only the muscles in your arms but in your legs, back, and core too. 

Can you get in shape just by rowing?

Rowing uses almost every muscle in your body and can seriously kick up your heart rate, meaning you’ll get a total body workout every time you hop on the rowing machine. Row for 30 minutes a day and you’ll definitely start to see changes in your body with areas looking more toned and firm.

A rowing workout targets your arms, legs, back, and core. It’s an all-in-one type of workout machine that can integrate into any fitness routine. Just consult YouTube first to make sure you’ve got the proper form if you’re a newbie — your workout won’t do much for you if you aren’t doing it correctly.

But which rowing machine is the best?

As with any major equipment purchasing decision, there are several factors to take into consideration. Lucky for you, there are tons of rowing machines out there at a variety of price points and sizes. We’ve done most of the work for you (you can thank us later), so we can get you off the computer and onto your rower in no time. So whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your workout up a notch, we’ve compiled this list of the top rowers on the market based on both user and expert reviews. 

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Image: NordicTrack

The Good

Quiet • Smooth • Includes a one-year iFit membership • 26 resistance levels • Google Maps integration • Bluetooth audio

The Bad

Some users have said that the customer service is unreliable

The Bottom Line

This is a top-performing rower for anyone who loves taking classes and is looking to kick their workout into high gear.

NordicTrack RW600 Rowing Machine

NordicTrack provides a high-quality rower that utilizes air and magnetic resistance and offers tons of added features.

  • Resistance Type:
    Magnetic and air
  • Assembled Dimensions:
    86.5″ L x 22.0″ W x 42.8″ H
  • Assembled Weight:
    90 lbs
  • Maximum User Capacity:
    250 lbs
As a well-known exercise brand, NordicTrack really delivers with the RW600 rowing machine. The monitor is a 10-inch tablet preset with 30 workout apps. With 26 resistance levels, two large speakers, on-demand rowing workouts, and live interactive workouts where your resistance is controlled by your trainer, the NordicTrack RW600 gives you the feel of being in a workout class while in the comfort of your home.

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Image: Hydrow

The Good

Large monitor • 500 pre-programmed workouts • WiFi and Bluetooth compatibility • Once you’ve completed 60 workouts, Hydrow will make a donation in your name to Water.org

The Bad

Upright storage kit sold separately • Expensive • Membership not included

The Bottom Line

While this rower will definitely set you back a stroke or two, the quality of the machine and the inclusive community make it worth the splurge.

Hydrow rower

Serious athletes who love switching up their routine and being part of a community will love the Hydrow.

  • Resistance Type:
    Magnetic
  • Assembled Dimensions:
    86″ L x 25″ W x 47″ H
  • Assembled Weight:
    145 lbs
  • Maximum User Capacity:
    350 lbs
Described as the “Peloton of rowers,” Hydrow is a great choice for the serious rower. It offers a comprehensive list of features including computer-controlled resistance, ergonomically designed seating for a smooth and comfortable workout, as well as a variety of stunning visuals and realistic sound effects to help give you that “on the water” feeling. New live workouts are added daily to help keep your routine fresh and exciting. The 22-inch HD rotating screen and front-facing speakers make for the most comfortable and immersive workout experience. 

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Image: stamina

The Good

Lightweight • Quiet • Stores easily • Affordable

The Bad

No memory capacity • No screen for workout classes

The Bottom Line

A great option for beginners or anyone looking to up their cardio without shelling out an arm and a leg.

Stamina magnetic rowing machine 1110

This magnetic rower is great for small spaces and small budgets alike.

  • Assembled Dimensions:
    60’’ L x 22’’ W x 27’’ H
  • Assembled Weight:
    45 lbs
  • Maximum User Capacity:
    250 lbs
  • Resistance Type:
    Magnetic
As a budget option, the simple yet effective Stamina magnetic rower is hard to beat. It offers eight levels of magnetic resistance (determined by how hard you row), a small workout monitor that tracks total strokes, strokes per minute, total distance, workout time, distance, and calories, and built-in wheels for easy portability and storage. The downside is that the display won’t track your progress, so you’ll have to do that on your own.

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Image: xterra

The Good

Lightweight frame • Smooth stroke • Feels like being on the water • Easy to store

The Bad

When the water tank is full it’s heavy and difficult to move • No Bluetooth compatibility • A bit pricey

The Bottom Line

This machine will have you feeling like you’re actually outside rowing.

XTERRA ERG650W water rowing machine

This is a sleek and durable rower for anyone looking to recreate that “on the water” sensation.

  • Resistance Type:
    Water
  • Assembled Dimensions:
    79.5″ L x 20.7” W x 33.9″ H
  • Assembled Weight:
    76 lbs
  • Maximum User Capacity:
    350 lbs
The XTERRA ERG650W water rower comes with an easy to fill water tank for a realistic rowing experience. This machine offers six levels of resistance and a modest-sized LCD screen that displays total time, total strokes, strokes per minute, distance, calories, pulse, drag force, and watts. Some of the preset workouts include quick start and a variety of race options like 2000M, 5000M, 10000M, 30:00, and 500M/1:00 rest. To make up for the basic monitor, the ERG650W comes with a tablet holder so you can stream while you row.

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Image: sunny health & fitness

The Good

Eight levels of resistance • Extra-long adjustable slide rail • Foldable

The Bad

Reviewers reported the calorie counter being off • The handlebar isn’t as wide as some users would like

The Bottom Line

Overall, this rower gets the job done and is durable without putting too much of a dent in your wallet.

Sunny Health & Fitness magnetic rowing machine

This mid-range rower combines great features with a good price.

  • Resistance Type:
    Magnetic
  • Assembled Dimensions:
    78″ L x 19.1″ W x 23.2″ H
  • Assembled Weight:
    60.9 lbs
  • Maximum User Capacity:
    250 lbs
For a relatively low price, the Sunny Health & Fitness magnetic rowing machine has plenty of features including eight levels of adjustable magnetic resistance. Its LCD panel displays time, count, calories, total count, and scan. The rower has an extra-long 48-inch slide rail to accommodate rowers of nearly any height.  

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Image: circuit fitness

The Good

Quiet • Foldable • Adjustable length suitable for short and tall people • Moves smoothly

The Bad

No off button for display • Seat is hard and can get uncomfortable

The Bottom Line

The Circuit Fitness rower is a powerful machine that can accommodate a wide range of users.

Circuit Fitness foldable magnetic rowing machine

This extra-long rowing machine has plenty of room to stretch your legs.

  • Resistance Type:
    Magnetic
  • Assembled Dimensions:
    91″ L x 20.5″ W x 31.5″ H
  • Assembled Weight:
    90 lbs
  • Maximum User Capacity:
    300 lbs
The Circuit Fitness rower is pretty long, but its foldable design cuts that length almost in half for easier storage. The rowing machine’s LCD tracks speed, distance, time, calories burned, strokes per minute, date, and ambient temperature. An 11-pound flywheel offers eight levels of resistance.

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Image: sunny health & fitness

The Good

Good for short people • More shoulder mobility • Compact

The Bad

Resistance wasn’t enough for some reviewers • Foot straps are a bit loose for some people

The Bottom Line

Get an extra shoulder workout you won’t find with most other rowing machines.

Sunny Health & Fitness full motion rowing machine

With a straightforward and compact design, this rower takes up minimal space.

  • Resistance Type:
    Hydraulic
  • Assembled Dimensions:
    52.2″ L x 28.7″ W x 11.8″ H
  • Assembled Weight:
    35.8 lbs
  • Maximum User Capacity:
    350 lbs
Sunny Health & Fitness skipped all the bells and whistles with this full motion rower. Rather than a single handlebar that you pull back toward you, this features two handles on either side that you pull in a motion more similar to rowing a pair of oars. This provides more range of motion for your shoulders. The rower has 12 levels of resistance and the LCD monitor displays scan, time, count, calorie, and total count.
If your kid isn’t ready for a phone, a smartwatch might be a better fit — 05/30/2020

If your kid isn’t ready for a phone, a smartwatch might be a better fit

The percentage of kids who have a smartphone grows by the year: As of Oct. 2019, over half of kids have their own phones by age 11 (compared to ages 13 and 14 over the past few years). Kids seem to start begging for their own phone as soon as they can talk (or at least it probably feels that way to parents who are always handing their phone over to keep a kid busy). In some ways, your child having a phone on them at all times can alleviate some serious worries about location and communication, and educational TV shows on a tablet are a handy distraction when parents need some peace and quiet.

But though parental control software exists for this exact purpose, a parent’s worries about internet safety, cyberbullying, and screen time might outnumber the reasons for a young child to have a cell phone.

Enter: smartwatches for kids. These connected wearables let parents stay in touch with kids while they’re away from home, and most are equipped with GPS to keep tabs on a kid’s whereabouts without having to send a “Where are you?” message. Unlike smartwatches for adults, kids’ smartwatches don’t promote social media sharing and usually don’t have the option to get on the internet at all.

For kids, the freedom that comes with having their very own connected device — and potentially more leniency when it comes to doing things unsupervised — is pretty priceless. The fact that they can flex their Apple Watch-like bling around their friends is an obvious bonus.

Some kid watches are also great tools for establishing a daily chore, homework, or bedtime routine. Parents can use the app to set daily reminders like “brush teeth for two minutes” or “read for 15 minutes before bedtime,” then sprinkle in some leverage by typing in a reward. Kids can cross stuff off the list with the help of a built-in stopwatch or by setting their own alarms. Activities that are typically mundane are suddenly a lot more fun when an animated celebration, badges, or sibling leaderboard competition are involved (and when a parent isn’t doing the nagging). When healthy habits are established early, they can carry over into adulthood (when deep-rooted bad habits are typically harder to kick).

What to look for in a smartwatch for a kid

GPS will be the biggest deciding factor for parents looking into smartwatches specifically to keep track of kids with busy schedules. True smartwatches (like the Verizon Gizmo) act more like a cell phone in the sense that parents have a live tab of a kid’s location and the ability to text and call. Wearables focused more on fitness tracking (like the Fitbit Ace 2) may skip location services altogether, as well as the option for any two-way communication. Don’t feel like messing with an app at all? There are standalone smartwatches that are ready to go without any invested setup.

Letting kids know that you can see their location can foster mutual respect and help with parental boundaries.

Watches focused on physical activity do have their advantages, though. Parents worried about screen time will appreciate the way that smart fitness trackers are not only a less web-based device than a smartphone, but that they actually encourage kids to get up and moving. Kids can check their step count for the day or get a reminder to stand up for a few minutes, but the most fun part is easily the on-screen celebration when a daily activity or sleep goal is met. Settings can be tweaked in the parent app, but having a kid set their own alarms or follow their own activity rules could be a great way to assume some responsibility.

A smartwatch might be replacing the need for a whole phone or tablet, but that doesn’t mean entertainment is completely off the table. Some watches geared toward younger children have games from math and numbers challenges to augmented reality mysteries, and a camera with funny face filters might pop up, too. For such a small screen, the resolution is surprisingly clear and more than enough to keep kids busy in line at the store, in the waiting room, or in the car.

Things will go a lot smoother when your kid is in on the plan. If you do end up opting for a watch with location tracking or GPS boundaries, letting them know that you can see their location can foster mutual respect — even if that respect is unspoken and initially met with opposition.

Here are the best smartwatches for kids in 2020:

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Image: mashable photo composite

The Good

Real time GPS tracking and option to set location boundaries • Trusted contacts get a low battery notification • Parents’ GizmoHub app is clean and organized

The Bad

Two-year Verizon contract required • LTE costs extra

The Bottom Line

The most all-encompassing option on the list doesn’t have much kid content, but offers freedom with texting.

Verizon GizmoWatch 2

Verizon’s Apple Watch-like design offers the full smartwatch experience with GPS, fitness tracking, and task scheduling.

  • GPS tracking:
    Yes
  • Battery life:
    Up to 4 days
  • Sleep tracking:
    No
  • Water resistance:
    Waterproof up to 3.2 feet
  • Communication features:
    Calling and texting for designated contacts
Kids want their smartwatch to feel grown-up. Parents want to be able to control those grown-up features without smothering the kid. The Verizon GizmoWatch 2 nails that tricky balance.
The second-generation GizmoWatch sees a nearly $100 price drop compared to the original, as well as some solid improvements. Sweet price point aside, it’s still hard to compete with the GizmoWatch’s calling and texting capabilities. It’s more lively communication than the walkie talkie-style of some other watches and eases kids into some future smartphone habits — and kids will dig the freedom of texting on their own device.
Up to 10 people can be added to the parent-controlled contact list, so no, your kid won’t be able to add the number of any stranger they meet. Designated contacts can also check in on the child’s location in real time and receive alerts when the watch leaves set GPS boundaries. Other features in the GizmoHub app include step count and to-do tasks like “read a book” with a reward like “ice cream.” Everything looks stellar on the large, square touchscreen, which has a serious Apple Watch vibe. However, there aren’t many games to really take advantage of.
Despite underwhelming reviews on Verizon’s site itself, the GizmoWatch 2 has received praise from tech publishers like PCMag and Android Central. One tip: Buy the insurance in case of a cracked screen or broken strap.

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Image: mashable photo composite

The Good

Easy to add multiple kids (and parents) to the app • Can last a year without charging • Customizable coin reward system • Disney-themed bands and stories baked into experience • Less bulky than watches with distinct faces

The Bad

Specific colors HAVE to be paired with a character • No GPS tracking • No way to communicate with kid

The Bottom Line

Garmin’s take on kid tech is simple enough for pre-schoolers and uses interactive adventures as incentives.

Garmin Vívofit Jr. 2

Kids will *want* to assume some responsibility with this coin-based, Disney-themed reward system.

  • GPS:
    No
  • Battery life:
    Non-rechargeable, but up to one year
  • Sleep tracking:
    Yes
  • Water resistance:
    Waterproof up to 164 feet
  • Communication features:
    None
Most kid smartwatches have some kind of celebration for reaching goals, and it’s always more fun for a device to nag about a chore than your parents. That’s a given. But Garmin partnered with Disney to add some extra motivation magic to its reward system: Frozen II, Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Mickey and Minnie are available not only as band decor, but as the theme for an interactive Disney adventure. 
Parents can assign tasks for each child like chores or homework, then allot a certain number of coins to each task. The Vívofit sends reminders throughout the day — though kids will probably be too psyched on the rewards to require a heads up. Once a task (or daily 60-minute activity goal) is completed, kids unlock a prize specified by the parents as well as an animated chapter of their Disney story on the app.
Customizable watch faces, timers, and more are all easily accessible with a few presses of the button. Large letters and simple animations make it intuitive enough for kids as young as four to grasp. Parents can even add themselves to the kid account to rev up the competition in the step count leaderboard.

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Image: mashable photo compostite

The Good

Front and back camera, plus lots of storage to save memories • Great kids content including augmented reality game • 55 watch faces for learning to tell time

The Bad

No GPS tracking • No chore/daily task settings • Learning Lodge service for extra apps got shut down

The Bottom Line

Younger kids will have loads of fun with multiple games and two cameras, plus a battery that rarely requires charging.

VTech Kidizoom DX2

The kid-proof watch to choose if your goal is fun and learning rather than daily routines and keeping in touch.

  • GPS:
    No
  • Battery life:
    Up to two weeks
  • Sleep tracking:
    No
  • Water resistance:
    Splash-proof, but shouldn’t be submerged
  • Communication features:
    None
The fact that Fitbit and Garmin have carved out a space in the kid wearable market was expected. But what may surprise you is how VTech managed to give both big names a run for their money by honing in on the stuff kids really want: games and videos.
If the smartwatch for your child is meant to be a true source of entertainment — as in something that’ll keep them busy enough to stop asking for an iPad — the VTech Kidizoom DX2 will be your kid’s new favorite toy. He or she can use the touchscreen to swipe through over 50 analog and digital watch faces and silly selfie filters, take videos, or play one of the five games (including an augmented reality monster hunt that encourages problem solving and getting up and moving). The 256MB storage can hold 1,600 photos or 11 one-minute videos.
Both the screen resolution and dual camera resolutions have been majorly improved since the original Kidizoom watch. The actual watch unit has also been de-clunkified compared to the last version and makes for more aerobic movement of little arms.
Physical activity and daily responsibilities aren’t the focus here, but the Kidizoom does have a motion-sensing pedometer.

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Image: mashable photo composite

The Good

Parental controls • Swim proof • Long battery life • Wristbands are durable and easily replaceable

The Bad

No GPS tracking • No two-way communication • Switching between Parent View and Kid View is a pain

The Bottom Line

Motivating challenges mixed with smartphone notifications make this a top choice smartwatch for kids.

Fitbit Ace 3

More independent than most kid watches but more fun than an adult Fitbit, the Ace 3 is a cool companion for kids who have a smartphone.

  • GPS:
    No
  • Battery life:
    Up to eight days
  • Sleep tracking:
    Yes
  • Water resistance:
    Waterproof up to 164 feet
  • Communication features:
    Call and text notifications
If your kid doesn’t have a smartphone, the Fitbit Ace 3 is definitely more of a fitness or activity tracker. But once you add a phone to the mix, it becomes a handy smartwatch. The Fitbit Ace 3 (a step up from its predecessor the Ace 2) has call alerts, parental controls, and Kid View within the Fitbit app. The tracker features challenges, activity tracking, and animated clock faces to get kids motivated to move.

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Image: mashable photo composite

The Good

SO many cute band patterns • Camera swivels for back and front-facing photos • Super attentive customer support

The Bad

No GPS • Crappy battery life • Disappointing screen resolution

The Bottom Line

Ease kids into device life with this no-nonsense smartwatch that has a lot of personality for the price.

iTouch PlayZoom

This cute watch hits a lot of marks that you wouldn’t expect from a $30 device, but the best part is the band selection.

  • GPS:
    No
  • Battery life:
    Less than one day
  • Sleep tracking:
    No
  • Water resistance:
    Splash-proof, but shouldn’t be submerged
  • Communication features:
    None
Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable with the whole “my preschooler has a smartwatch” thing if a cracked screen wouldn’t out you $100. The iTouch PlayZoom is a no-nonsense smartwatch that can act as a trial run or introduction to personal gadgets for your kids.
It might be on the basic side in the grand scheme of connected wearables, but there’s a lot of content packed into this device. A few touchscreen games and a camera that swivels to the front and back are sure to keep kids busy. The stopwatch makes for fun challenges or properly-timed teeth brushing, too.
The seemingly-infinite selection of bands will have kids just as pumped. Creative kiddos can express their personality with DC superheroes, unicorns, cats, space print, and more. Clock faces are customizable as well.
The official age rating is four and over, but reviewers say that kids as young as three had no problem navigating the cartoon icons. The side buttons mimic the intuitive design of the Apple Watch and no Bluetooth or app syncing is required. Aside from needing to be charged way too often, this little watch requires minimal upkeep. (Heads up: Reviews for other iTouch watches are mixed in with reviews for the PlayZoom. The kid version does not count steps or calories, track sleep, or connect to a smartphone.)
For a movie night under the stars, an outdoor projector is your best bet — 05/21/2020

For a movie night under the stars, an outdoor projector is your best bet

Gathering the family to watch a film everyone agrees on (Cats?) under the stars: Now that’s a summer night. To turn your yard into a home theater, though, you’ll need a projector — one that works just as well outside as it does in.

While the vast majority of projectors aren’t marketed exclusively for outdoor use, there are plenty of options that will suit backyards, rooftops, and porches with no issues. You’ll even be able to take super portable projectors on camping trips.

You’ll just need to keep a few attributes in mind, including brightness, portability, throw distance, and sound. Whatever the particular needs of your outdoor space, there’s likely a projector on this list for you.

What features to look for

It’s pretty easy to control the light level indoors: If you want it to be darker, turn the lights off and close the blinds. Outdoors, brightness is largely out of your hands — all you can do is wait for the sun to set and hope there isn’t too much ambient light for your picture to handle. 

Keep your yard’s brightness level in mind while choosing a projector. If you aren’t worried about ambient light — like you live in a rural area with very little light pollution, for example, or your backyard is far away from your neighbors — brightness may not be your biggest concern. If you anticipate environmental light getting in the way, though, go for one of the brighter options on the list. (Here, brightness is recorded in lumens.)

Then, there’s throw distance, which refers to the distance between the projector’s lens and the screen. A projector with a long throw distance is able to project a high-quality image while sitting farther from the screen; a projector with a shorter throw distance should sit closer to the screen. If you’re in a big backyard, you may want a longer throw distance. For a rooftop or tiny porch, a shorter throw distance will be ideal. 

Choosing the right projector for your space’s size can be tricky, so we’ve tried our best to specify the locations in which our picks will work best. If you’d like to read further, there are several informative guides out there. Our favorite is on the Epson blog and includes a useful throw distance calculator.

You can’t store a projector outside, of course, so we’ve made sure to feature relatively lightweight options that are easy to lug out to the backyard. Each of our picks weighs under 10 pounds; still, If you want to travel with your projector, you’ll probably want the lightest option possible.

What other supplies will I need?

The projector will do lots of the work for you, as well it should. But if you’re building an outdoor theater from scratch, there are a few other supplies you’ll need as well, including:

  • A screen on which to project. This could be anything from an actual screen intended for outdoor use to a white sheet to a wall to the side of your garage. Just be sure you’re projecting onto your own property!

  • A separate sound system, potentially. A lot of projectors — including and especially lightweight ones — don’t have great built-in speakers. We suggest purchasing a separate set of external speakers in many cases, especially if the projector’s built-in speakers provide less than 5 watts of sound.

  • A power strip and extension cords, if your projector doesn’t run on battery. Extra batteries if it does!

  • Seating for guests, preferably unobtrusive options like pillows and low-to-the-ground folding chairs. You’ll also want to keep a stash of blankets nearby in case it gets cold.

  • Snacks, obviously.

Here are our picks for the best outdoor projectors. Better start polling the fam about that movie. Or maybe everyone can just play Mario Kart.

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Image: Epson

The Good

Good brightness • Powerful speakers for its size • 3D compatible

The Bad

Not Bluetooth compatible

The Bottom Line

This projector is a solid one-size-fits-all option for families who want to enjoy an outdoor theater without any fuss.

Epson Home Cinema 2100 1080p Projector

For outdoor viewing at home, this projector delivers the sound, picture, and features you need.

  • Weight:
    7.5 pounds
  • Brightness:
    2500 lumens
  • Resolution:
    1080p
  • Projection size:
    29.9″ – 300″
  • Throw distance:
    3′ – 29′
  • Speakers:
    10W
For outdoor viewing at home, this projector will likely give you the most bang for your buck. (A note: It’s frequently marked down close to $300 below its original list price.) With 2500 lumens of brightness, it’ll fare well against mild ambient light, and its 10-watt speakers will do just fine for casual use. It can also project a screen size of up to 300 inches
This projector isn’t Bluetooth compatible. It does, however, have two HDMI ports, so you’ll be able to hook up two devices at once. 
Bonus: You’ll be able to watch 3D movies with the Epson 2100, provided you already have the other equipment necessary. You know what that means: It’s time to put on those fashionable glasses.

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Image: Optoma

The Good

Very bright • Equipped with Enhanced Gaming Mode • Great specs for the price

The Bad

Doesn’t support 4K • Heavier than other options

The Bottom Line

The Optoma HD146X is a bright, reliable option that’s ideal for console and PC gaming.

Optoma HD146X 1080p DLP Projector

This projector’s “enhanced gaming mode” will help gamers play without pesky delays.

  • Weight:
    6.19 pounds
  • Brightness:
    3600 lumens
  • Resolution:
    1080p
  • Projection size:
    28″ – 301″
  • Throw distance:
    3.2′ – 35′
  • Speakers:
    3W
Want to play video games in your backyard? Consider the Optoma HD146X, which is bright enough to use in outdoor spaces where there’s some ambient light. Yes, this means a sunset Animal Crossing session could be in your future. It’s hard to imagine anything more pleasant than that.
The projector is equipped with a setting called Enhanced Gaming Mode, which cuts back on lags for an input response time of 16 milliseconds. (That means your actions will be reflected onscreen after 16 milliseconds.) There’s also Game Display Mode, which makes shadows and dark scenes easier to see.
The Optoma HD146X is not just for games, though. It’s also a really solid option for streaming movies and TV — especially medium-scale uses like backyard movie nights. You’ll be able to project onto screens up to 300 inches, though keep in mind you’ll need to do this from a distance of about 13-14 feet. So you’ll need some space, but it’ll pay off.

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Image: lg

The Good

Wireless • Ultra-portable

The Bad

Weak speakers • Small projection size

The Bottom Line

Don’t want to worry about plugging in? Here’s a portable option with some pretty impressive specs.

LG PF50 KA Wireless Portable Projector

Reviewers love this projector’s portability, lightness, and ease of use.

  • Weight:
    2.2 pounds
  • Brightness:
    600 lumens
  • Resolution:
    1080p
  • Projection size:
    25″ – 100″
  • Speakers:
    1W
Take this one to the rooftop movie night: You’ll get 2.5 hours of use on a single battery charge. (That’s not quite enough to make it through The Irishman, but maybe you don’t mind.) Plus it’s wireless, which means that as long as you have a good surface on which to project, it works pretty much anywhere. It also runs LG’s smart TV platform, which renders the projector a streaming device all on its own. 
The LG PF50’s screen size maxes out at 100 inches, which is best for small to medium spaces. Its brightness isn’t the best on this list — you’ll certainly struggle to use it if there’s lots of ambient light — but what it lacks in lumens in makes up for in portability. 
This projector does have built-in speakers, but they’re fairly weak. You’ll probably want to find external sound for this one. 

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Image: ANker Nebula

The Good

8-watt sound system • Very light and portable

The Bad

Low brightness

The Bottom Line

The Anker Nebula II is ideal for camping, low-key travel, and casual nighttime use.

Anker Nebula II Capsule Projector

If you’re looking for a light, portable projector with good built-in speakers, the Nebula II is for you.

  • Weight:
    1.6 pounds
  • Brightness:
    200 lumens
  • Resolution:
    720p
  • Projection size:
    20″ – 100″
  • Throw distance:
    2′ – 10′
  • Speakers:
    8W
This is quite a unique projector. Not only does it have a set of built-in 8W speakers that are extremely good for its mini size, but it also runs Android TV, Google’s smart TV platform. This means setup — i.e., actually getting to the stuff you want to watch — should be a breeze. Additionally, it doubles as a smart speaker and voice assistant, so you really don’t have to worry about it taking up space in your house. (It also weighs less than two pounds, so maybe you weren’t worried anyway.)
Where the Nebula II struggles the most is brightness. At 200 lumens, it’s  best for use in dark environments where there’s little ambient light. Still, if you’re looking for something super portable that doesn’t require separate speakers and looks like a cute little soda can … here you go.
According to the company, the Nebula II can project a 100-foot image from about 10.5 feet away. That’s as big as it can get, though, so look elsewhere if you want an enormous projection.

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Image: AAXA

The Good

Ultra-portable • Includes a tripod • Affordable

The Bad

Weaker speakers • Does best in very dark conditions

The Bottom Line

If you want to keep costs low, the AAXA P2-A is a great (and very cute) option for the price.

AAXA P2-A Smart Pico Wireless Projector

This cute pico projector is an affordable, reliable option for beginners.

  • Weight:
    0.55 pounds
  • Brightness:
    130 lumens
  • Resolution:
    854 x 480p
  • Projection size:
    8″ – 100″
  • Throw distance:
    0.8′ – 10′
  • Speakers:
    1.5W
A “pico projector” refers to a tiny handheld projector; this one, fortunately, comes with a tripod included. At just over $200 (though it often goes on sale), it’s the most affordable projector on the list, but that doesn’t mean it can’t deliver at least some of the goods in its (literally) palm-sized package.
This projector is fully portable, claims to be able to hold a charge for about 2.5 hours, and can deliver 130 lumens of brightness. For the price that’s fine, but note that it’s the lowest brightness on this list. It’ll do best in very dark environments.
For casual nighttime use, though, the AAXA P2-A is an inarguably great value: It’s incredibly light, features an easy-to-use touchpad, and is Bluetooth compatible. It’s also a smart projector, and it runs Android 5.1. (Some reviewers have noted that the software can feel clunky to use.)
If you’ve got a small backyard or a porch that you want to watch movies on — but don’t want to shell out $600 — this pico projector is a good bet. 
You might need some extra speakers, but you already knew that.

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Image: VIewSonic

The Good

Great brightness • Solid built-in audio • Good value for a 4K projector

The Bad

Loud fan

The Bottom Line

Despite being the priciest option on this list, this 4K (!) projector is still a great value for its features.

ViewSonic PX747-4K 4K DLP Projector

This 4K projector will replicate a home theater experience effectively — for a price.

  • Weight:
    9.3 pounds
  • Brightness:
    3500 lumens
  • Resolution:
    3840 x 2160p
  • Projection size:
    30″ – 300″
  • Throw distance:
    3.2′ – 38.4′
  • Speakers:
    10W
Alright, so you’ve put the work in on your gorgeous backyard and you’re ready to splurge. The ViewSonic PX747-4K has the features you need to recreate the home theater experience at home — provided you have the space to accommodate it. According to the company, this projector can project a 100-inch screen from just under 10 feet away, so you’ll need a bit of yard to work with.
In terms of features, though, this option is hard to beat for the price. It’s super bright — 3500 lumens — and has an impressive set of 10W speakers, so you can get away with not purchasing a separate set. 4K fanatics will also be pleased to know this is a true 4K projector, and a surprisingly affordable one at that.
According to reviewers, the projector does tend to take a while to turn on and off — up to 15 seconds in some cases. A few folks also noticed some distracting noise from the fan, which may or may not be a concern for you depending on how much ambient noise you anticipate around your setup.
Despite these relatively small issues, though, the ViewSonic PX7474-4K appears to be well worth the price.