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Nebula Mars Portable Cinema review: Portable projector shoots for the moon, almost gets there

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MSRP: $599.99

The Good The Nebula Mars is a compact portable projector that delivers decent video quality for its size, and has built-in sound via dual 10W speakers and a rechargeable battery that delivers up to 3 hours of battery life. It's Android-powered and has apps such as Netflix and YouTube for streaming video via the projector's integrated Wi-Fi. You can also easily connect a streaming stick to it or play files from a USB thumbdrive.

The Bad Video is slightly soft and the price is a little high; software has some bugs and needs more polish.

The Bottom Line Despite some small issues with its software, the Nebula Mars is a compact portable cinema that largely delivers on its promises.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Value 7

Review Sections

Anker is known for bargain-priced battery packs for phones, but it's been branching out lately with a host of other gear, including this $600 Nebula Mars DLP portable projector.

Not quite as small as a "pico projector," I like to refer to it as a home-theater-in-a-lunch-box. On top of being able to project an image up to around 150 inches, the Nebula has dual JBL speakers built into its chassis as well as a rechargeable battery that delivers up 3 hours of projection time.

Those 10-watt speakers sound much better -- and play much louder -- than the tiny speaker built into your typical pico projector. It's a nice step forward for integrated audio in a projector, and that 3-hour battery life is about an hour better than most pico projectors offer.  

The Nebula Mars is the size of a small lunch box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While you can project a 150-inch image you're going to get a much better picture projecting in the 55- to 75-inch range. Rated at 3,000 lumens, the projector is fairly bright, particularly for a projector of its size, but as usual you'll want to use it in as dark a situation as possible to minimize image washout. 

The 4-pound (1.82 kg) projector has a native resolution of 1,280x800 pixels or 800p and the images I projected were fairly sharp, but not as good as real HD. There was little bit of softness that made you feel like you were watching something in between a DVD and a Blu-ray, especially at larger sizes.

What's cool about the projector is that there are a number of ways to get video to run through it. It's powered by an Android-based operating system and has built-in Wi-Fi, so you can stream content right from the projector via apps like Netflix and YouTube (more adventurous users can sideload additional Android apps that aren't in the Nebula's download library).

Another option is to plug a video source, such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick ($40 at Amazon), Roku, Google Chromecast or Apple TV, into the HDMI port and stream content that way. You can also play a video file from a USB thumbdrive.

Connectivity options include HDMI, USB 3.0, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Overall, the hardware seems more polished than the software. The interface is fine -- and the included remote works pretty well, even if you have to be behind the projector to use it due to the IR's placement -- but the software seems like it could still use some work. By that I mean it's definitely in a beta state.

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