The new Nebula Capsule II projector is a portable can-shaped mini projector. It can create an HD, 720p image that’s up to 100 inches diagonally. But like all mini projectors, it doesn’t get bright enough to work anywhere but in dark spaces. It has a speaker built in so you don’t have to fuss with Bluetooth. It also has Android TV built in so you don’t have to fuss with HDMI or casting from your phone (though you can do those things, too).
I could see it fitting into people’s bags as a portable projector that ticks a lot of boxes. I also could see most people balking at its cost: $579. Anker’s predecessor to the Nebula Capsule II was our pick for the best mini projector last summer. This new one is so much better than it’s a shame that it costs so much. It’s a great little gadget.
I love mini projectors. (You can also refer to them as micro or pico projectors, so I’m playing fast and loose with the terminology for this category.) The basic idea is that you have something radically smaller than a traditional bulb-based projector that you might mount to your ceiling. You could take a mini projector camping or use it in your backyard.
The Capsule II is portable enough to put anywhere, but it’s quite a bit bigger than the old one was. (Imagine one of those giant Foster’s beer cans, then make it just a little taller.) You can hold it in one hand, and you can throw it in most bags, but you’ll feel the one and a half pounds it weighs.
Even if you don’t know exactly what you’d want it for, it’s fun to imagine where you might create a gigantic screen on a whim — even if it’s just projecting a horse on your friend. But use any mini projector for even a little bit, and you’ll find they are still stuck in a particular phase of technological development: the fiddle zone.
There’s just so much to fiddle with on a mini projector! You have to find a spot to use it that’s dark enough (not to mention a surface that’s large and flat enough to project on). You have to ensure it’s aligned and straight and focused. You have to figure out how to get the video you actually want to watch on it. You have to figure out how to get enough sound out of it so everybody can hear it.
With a regular projector, you do all of that fiddling ahead of time. You create a permanent setup somewhere in your home over a weekend (or three) so that using your projector is as simple as turning on a traditional TV. With a portable mini projector, you face those challenges pretty much every time you want to use it.
The whole premise of the Capsule II is that it reduces the number of things you have to fiddle with. It is almost entirely successful in that — with a few unforced errors that are annoying but don’t ruin the experience.
On a practical level, the Capsule II solves two problems that few other portable projectors manage. First, it has a decently loud, decently good 8W speaker built in, which means you have one less thing to worry about when you set up to watch a movie. You can even use it in a Bluetooth Speaker mode, which has the added benefit of lasting way longer than the standard three-ish hours it can run in projector mode.
The second problem the Capsule II solves is just getting content into the projector so that it can project it. It has an HDMI-in port, but most of the time, you don’t need it because it runs a clean, native version of Android TV. That means you can use standard smart TV apps downloaded directly from the Google Play Store. As long as you can get a Wi-Fi connection, you can stream video from any app that’s installed on the device.
It will support Chromecast from several apps if you have the video saved locally on your phone. The device itself has very little local storage, and Android TV apps aren’t designed for downloaded content anyway. You can also play video via other means, including sideloaded apps that aren’t available in the Google Play Store for Android TV or directly from video files saved on a USB thumb drive. (If you know what I mean, and I think you do.)
There’s an included remote control, so you can use this projector like you would any smart TV. In fact, it comes with the Google Assistant built in, so you can speak into the remote for searches. If you take nothing else away from this review, remember this: it’s a portable projector that’s nearly as easy to use as your smart TV, and that’s wonderful.