Anker Nebula Capsule Review
Pros: Very compact, can run some streaming video apps, automatic keystoning,
Cons: Focus can be tricky, fairly dim
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Anker Nebula Capsule brings streaming ability to an incredibly small projector, but we would prefer trading a bit of extra heft for better image quality.
The Anker Nebula Capsule would be a perfect pico projector if it had slightly better image quality and an easier focus adjustment, but these drawbacks largely cancel out out the convenience gained by its native streaming ability.
While we think the Nebula's image quality is good enough for the sorts of applications its super portable from implies (impromptu movies in the backyard or projected on the bedroom ceiling), it lags just a bit behind the other pico models we tested.
When it comes to color and resolution, the Capsule is fairly on par with much of the competition. Like all pico models its lack of brightness robs most images of some vividness, but it manages to keep colors relatively accurate and to not make bright areas look too dull or washed out. It even does a better job at rendering accurate skin tones than most competitors, which is a significant challenge for these small models.
The biggest downside comes in its incredibly narrow field of focus. Because of this, unless you get the projector perfectly square to the screen, at least one quadrant of the image comes out looking blurry. Since getting things perfectly square is a near impossibility, this functionally means that at least a part of the image you project is always going to be somewhat blurry. This flaw isn't so noticeable that it will ruin your movie watching experience, but it is a clear inferiority when compared to other pico models.
The Nebula is actually one of the better pico projectors when it comes to text quality. It is able to produce legible text down to size 12 font when projecting an 80" screen. However, that text still doesn't look perfect, and we generally would not recommend the Nebula as a presentation projector for any situation where you're trying to make the best impression.
Ease of Use
We found the Anker Nebula Capsule's user experience to be equal parts convenient and frustrating, resulting in an average ease of use score.
On the plus side, the Nebula offers automatic vertical and horizontal keystone correction, which makes it very easy to get a square image even in odd situations like projecting onto a ceiling. Most competitors, like the ViewSonic M1, only offer vertical keystone correction. The Nebula is also one of the only models that can connect to various streaming services directly (but more on that in a minute).
On the negative side, we found getting the Nebula to focus correctly to be oddly tricky. The focal range is quite tight, so even though the keystone correction will quickly square off an image if the projector is slightly askew, it often means you'll only be able to get part of the image in focus. If you're not too fussy it is surprisingly easy to forget that one quadrant of the image is slightly blurrier than the other 3, but this is a problem we didn't have with any of the other pico models. Also, the Nebula's battery is a paltry 1.5 hours in standard brightness mode, whereas most models will last at least 4. This figure jumps up to 3.5 hours in battery mode, but the image gets so dim in this mode you pretty much need a blacked-out room in order to get a decent picture.
Another slight annoyance of the Nebula is its soda can shape. While this makes it easily packable, there is no way to easily tilt the unit without precariously balancing it on something. You also can't easily point it at the ceiling (one of the niftiest things you can do with a pico projector) as it has a propensity to roll away. Essentially, unless you happen to have a flat surface at the ideal height for your desired projection situation, you're going to have to pair the Nebula with a tripod. Luckily a gorilla pod works quite well for this projector and doesn't hurt its portability factor too much. If you want a pico model that more easily adjusts without the use of a tripod, check out the ViewSonic M1.
From our point of view, this is the Nebula's main selling point. Unlike the vast majority of pico projectors on the market, it can natively run streaming apps like Hulu and Netflix (using an Android OS) and can share screens with mobile devices through the use of AirPlay and Screen Cast.
We found screen sharing to be seamless. Downloading apps on the Nebula itself is a clunkier process, but it becomes exceedingly easier if you download the Capsule Control app, which essentially turns your phone into a touchscreen remote. The big caveat of these features is that they all require a WiFi connection, so you can't use them in more remote locations and, depending on the strength of your WiFi network, you may not even be able to use them in your backyard. If you want to enjoy movies away from the internet, the Neubla does have HDMI and USB inputs, as well as 8GB of internal storage where you can load media.
We measured the Nebula's brightness right in the same neighborhood as all of the other pico projectors we tested. Claiming 100 lumens, we measured 98 lumens in our test. For comparison, the Optoma LV130 and the ViewSonic M1 Portable measured in at 120 and 124 lumens, respectively.
Basically, this level of brightness is plenty for a dark room, or for projecting outside at night. However, we wouldn't recommend using the Nebula for traveling business presentations, as even a single window in a conference room without a dark shade can make it look fairly dim.
This is another area where all of our pico projectors performed in a very similar manner. Like its portable siblings, we found the slightly higher pitched whine of the Nebula's fan to be noticeable, but not annoying. We were generally found the noise to blend into the background within a few minutes of watching a movie, but if something brought us out of that cinematic stupor we would notice the fan whirring away again.
The Anker Nebula Capsule is at the upper end of the very narrow price spectrum for truly portable projectors. If you're one that hates to deal with wires or flash drives, and would thus greatly value the Nebula's wireless capabilities, we think it's a worthwhile purchase. If you don't mind having to plug-in or use something like a Fire Stick or Roku, we think the slightly better picture of the ViewSonic M1 offers a better value.
The Anker Nebula Capsule is an impressively portable projector with convenient WiFi capabilities built-in, but some issues in picture quality and a short battery life limit its usefullness in many situations.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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