Anker Nebula Capsule Pico Projector Review: Glow In The Dark Pocket Pal

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Let’s say you and the family go camping. Maybe it’s a national park, maybe it’s your backyard. Watching a movie under the stars is the perfect end to a summer day, and the Anker Nebula Capsule is a miniature ticket to outdoor theater bliss. Smaller than any of the portable projectors we reviewed recently, it’s the size of a soda can but can project an image just about anywhere.

To like

  • Projector for your pocket
  • Integrated broadcast
  • Looks better than you expected

Do not like

  • Dim and low resolution
  • No soda inside

This adorable size comes at a cost. Please note that this is not a literal cost – the price of the capsule is as small as its size. The cost I’m talking about is image quality. The image it projects is standard definition, so there are big chunky pixels. It’s also pretty dim, rated at just 100 lumens, and in my testing produced even less.

As long as you don’t expect to see a 100-inch image with the sun still up, the Capsule is good at what it does for the price. After all, there aren’t many projectors out there that let you stream and project Netflix from something that fits in your pocket.

Small size, small specs

  • Native resolution: 854×480 pixels (480p)
  • HDR compatible: No
  • 4K compatible: No
  • 3D compatible: No
  • Lumens Specification: 100
  • Zoom: None
  • Lens Shift: None
  • Lamp life (normal mode): 30,000 hours

The capsule has standard definition resolution and is the darkest projector we’ve measured in years. Anker claims 100 lumens and me measure 85. By way of comparison, the AAXA-P6X is only slightly more expensive, has a resolution of 1280 x 800 and measures 487 lumens, which is about 5 times brighter. But brightness isn’t everything, as I explain in the comparison below.

The capsule’s battery has a storage capacity of 5,200 mAh, well below the AAXA’s 15,000 mAh, but with a weaker light source it doesn’t need a massive battery. Anker claims 4 hours of playback with video and 30 with audio only, which is pretty close to AAXA. And since it charges via USB, you can connect a power bank and extend the playing time even longer.

Focusing is achieved via a small wheel, which I prefer to the “automatic” method found on many other portable projectors, as it allows me to get a sharp image faster. There is a tripod mount at the bottom which is a nice addition.

Connections (well… connection)

A full-size HDMI input is both unexpected and welcome.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

  • HDMI inputs: 1
  • USB port: 1 (micro, for power)
  • Audio input and output: Bluetooth
  • Digital audio output: None
  • Internet: 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Remote control: not backlit, also app (iOS/android)

The full-size HDMI input is unexpected in a projector of this size. Even the biggest Samsung Freestyle makes it through a mini HDMI connector. You can use the Capsule as a Bluetooth speaker. It’s a small speaker in a small cabinet, but it sounds great. At max volume it’s a little loud, but again for the size and price it’s acceptable.

The remote control is higher than the projector itself. Black-on-black buttons aren’t ideal for navigating in the dark, but for the price, a backlit remote is probably too much. You probably won’t use it much anyway. The free Nebula Connect app is easier to use, with a large “trackpad” area for menu navigation, and it has a keyboard that lets you type easily streaming service connections.

Unlike many portable projectors, the Capsule has Netflix right on the homepage, which is great, but I was annoyed that I couldn’t use the physical remote – just the mobile app – to navigate. Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, and a variety of other apps are also available on the Capsule, but there’s no HBO Max. You can’t stream copyrighted video content from your phone, but you can select the Capsule as your speaker with Spotify

Image quality comparisons

The Nebula capsule tries to blend in among cans of Coca-Cola, the Scottish delicacy Irn-Bru and a UCC coffee.  Why?  It was what was available in the photographer's refrigerator.

The photographer clearly has an eclectic taste when it comes to drinks.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

The AAXA P6X is the closest price to the capsule of the projectors we’ve reviewed and liked. the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro is much more expensive, but it’s our favorite portable projector overall. It’s brighter than the Capsule but much bigger, although “bigger” is definitely relative here. I viewed them side-by-side on a 102-inch screen at 1.0 gain.

Since the Capsule and the AAXA are the closest in price, I compared them first. Unsurprisingly, the AAXA is blindingly brilliant compared to the Capsule, but the overall picture is terrible. AAXA is brightness above all else. And that’s fine, but that’s only one aspect of the projector’s performance.

Although much darker, the Capsule absolutely has a better picture. Much more natural looking, more like a full size projector, just reduced in brightness and resolution. That’s not to say it looks amazing, but it looks more realistic and natural than AAXA for sure. It would be even better if there were image settings beyond the color temperature. A few tweaks to brightness, contrast, and color would probably improve it a bit more.

The slim black-on-black remote control for the Nebula capsule.

The remote is fine, but you better leave it at home and use the app instead.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

In fact, it’s a matter of image size. The AAXA can create a somewhat dim 100 inch image. The Capsule really can’t at all, but it can produce a better-looking 50-inch image (although still quite dim). So while you don’t expect it to fill the entire side of your garage, the capsule’s size, image quality and built-in streaming make it a much closer comparison than the brightness specs do. would involve him.

The Capsule’s niche is its incredible portability, allowing you to project a medium-sized, or ideally smaller, TV image on the go. Due to its small size, many aspects of performance are less problematic than they would be if it were much larger.

What does spending almost twice as much get you? The Mars II is significantly better, with better detail, brighter, less faded, etc. He also plays louder. However, it is a lunch box for Capsule’s soda can. Again, if extreme portability is what’s most important to you, the Capsule is a superior choice. If a little more bulk is acceptable, go for the Mars II Pro if you can afford it.

Compact capsule

The Nebula cylindrical capsule stands majestically on a glass table against an elegantly blurred background.

In person, the capsule looks even smaller than in the photos.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

One of the most important things to keep in mind with small portable projectors is to manage your expectations. Every company’s marketing shows groups of people, often outdoors, enjoying huge bright images, but that’s not the reality. Compared to a decent sized televisions or home theater projectorCapsule image is dark, soft and small.

There is an old quote, wrongly attributed to Einstein, about judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree. The capsule’s appeal should be judged by its small size, not its image. The folks at Anker have done a good job with the other aspects, but you can get better performance elsewhere, like the ultra-gloss AAXA or Anker’s own Mars II Pro. Both are also larger and more expensive than the Capsule.

The best things about the Capsule are how it slips discreetly into a backpack and lets you stream a movie off the side of a tent under the stars. Maybe you walked to get to that tent, or maybe you’re on your porch. Both can be good times.

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