Great Nebula Smart projectors excel at home and on the go (Week 12, 2021)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 12, 2021

Q. How can I pick up more than two channels at my Crosslake, Minnesota home? Right now I have a big antenna outside on a rotor. Is there a better antenna that would help? I have good internet, but am trying to save some money on cable.

-R.S., Crosslake, MN

A. A large, directional outdoor antenna on a rotor is pretty much the ultimate for over-the-air television reception. If it can’t pull in enough channels there is really nowhere else to go in terms of antenna upgrades.

Your situation is a perfect application for the Locast app, which has been featured in the column a lot lately. Locast will stream your local channels over the internet for $5/month. Locast can be used with a Smart TV, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick, and you may be able to use the app on your phone or tablet and cast directly to your television (if compatible.)

Capsule II and Solar Portable projectors from Nebula: The projector I reviewed last week produces a very big, beautiful image, but external components (a signal source and a sound system) are required to complete the experience. Not everyone wants that level of commitment or complexity, and I recently tested two Nebula DLP projectors that do it all from one compact component.

Both projectors have HDMI inputs and incorporate the Android TV 9 operating system, making them “Smart Projectors.” They connect to Wi-Fi so you can install apps like Disney+ and Hulu and watch directly from the projector. They autofocus very quickly and accurately, and there is no zoom lens so you control the image size by varying the distance from projector to screen. Their LED light sources last 30,000 hours and there are no lamps to replace. Both can run on internal battery power, but at full brightness playtime is limited so keep them plugged in unless viewing for an hour or less. Both models can double as projectors for business presentations and they work well with video games, too.

The $579 Nebula Capsule II is the size and shape of a big soda can and is an upgrade of the popular Capsule Max projector. Android TV 9.0 provides a much improved interface while making the image look cleaner and more natural than before. It creates a 100-inch, 720p image and the high-end Scan-Speak speakers sound excellent.

The $599 Nebula Solar Portable has 1080p resolution, and displays HDR10 High Dynamic Range when playing 4K sources. While I love the form factor of the Capsule II, the Solar Portable is the one that really won me over. The home theater projector I reviewed last week can make a bigger, brighter and somewhat smoother-looking image, but the Solar Portable picture was every bit as sharp and I preferred its color rendition, perhaps a virtue of the LED light source. For many consumers looking to have some fun with projection, the Solar Portable will probably be a more satisfying choice than a full-size home theater projector. You give up a bit in brightness, image size and quality, but in return you get a much smaller form factor, good sound, simplicity, Smart Wi-Fi capability, available battery power and you will never need to replace a lamp.

You can project on a white wall but I strongly recommend a screen. My top choice remains the JWST 120-inch 1.1-gain screen with stand, $165 on Amazon. A good starter for indoor use is the $26.99 Owlenz folding 120-inch screen. It does not wrinkle, fits in a small bag and includes wall-hanging hooks.