Bottom line: An already-great projector now has a fun paint job and beeps along in a way that you can't help but smile, though if price is what you're worried about this probably isn't for you.
- Autofocus tech is insanely good
- Excellent battery life
- Android TV is pretty great in this form
- Decent speaker
- Netflix experience is Not Great
- Some small firmware quirks
I like a good projector as much as the next nerd, but my living room has multiple sunlights and it's just not practical for that room. In a world of socially distanced hangs and avoiding being indoors with other people, a portable projector and an inflatable screen you can take anywhere opens up a whole new world of opportunities. And if you're looking to go that route, the Anker Nebula series regularly outshines the competition.
Anker's Nebula Capsule 2 has been out for a little while now, but today a limited edition release brings an epic new paint job, a few enhancements, and bragging rights among Star Wars fans the world over. Lots of people own some version of R2-D2, but if you've got the cash you can now own a version of everyone's favorite astromech droid with a projector baked in.
Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Editon: Price and availability
The Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Editon costs $700, which seems like a lot of money for a portable projector, but it's a freaking R2-D2, officially licensed by Disney. The regular Nebular Capsule II Mini costs $580, so you're definitely paying a premium for the privilege — but what a privilege, right?
Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition: What's Awesome
It's an R2-D2 that can actually project things for you to watch. How cool is that?! How many kids have wanted this ever since Luke Skywalker first hear "you're my only hope" from the hologram in front of him? The Nebula design is perfect for this. The cylinder with a slightly curved top isn't obvious when it's in the standard all brack design, but once you see it in the blue and white it comes together very well. And if the design isn't enough to put a smile on your face, hearing the iconic chirps and beeps when the Capsule boots up every time is guaranteed to.
Even without the astromech paint job, the Nebula Capsule 2 is a fantastic portable projector. While the display resolution is only 720p, the laser autofocus on the projector lens ensures the image is perfectly sharp no matter where you have it pointed. I've had it set up on a counter drawing a 20-inch screen in my kitchen and outside on a tripod (thanks to the screw mount on the bottom) pointed at an 80-inch screen and it's been perfect. And if you happen to be pointing this thing at a weird angle, the software will compensate and crop to ensure everything looks like it's being projected head-on.
Once you've got your projector set up and turned on, the interface is straight-up Android TV. You can choose to control this projector either with the included remote, the buttons on the top of the casing, or with your phone through either the Anker app or as a Chromecast target. The range of control options is super impressive, especially if you've brought this projector out of your home. It's the kind of thing you can only really do with Android as a software layer on TVs and projectors, which is nice. And because it's Android TV, there's a huge selection of streaming apps ready to be installed. Disney+, Amazon Prime, and just about everything else I threw at this worked great. When I got curious about something not available through Android TV, it was super easy to use the HDMI port on the back to connect, say, a Roku or even a traditional Blu-ray player.
Included in this projector is an eight-watt, 270-degree speaker with two passive bass radiators that fire from the back of the cylinder. If you're indoors, this is more than enough for decent sound quality to fill a room and be enjoyable no matter what you're watching. In fact, Anker is so happy with this speaker that when you're not using it as a projector you can press a button and use the cylinder as a Bluetooth speaker.
If you're outdoors, you may find this a little on the quiet side if you're more than ten feet away from it. Fortunately, there's a 3.5mm jack on this projector if you want to connect something a little louder. And if you want a big screen and no public audio, you can easily pair a Bluetooth headset and have the best of both worlds.
Anker estimates the average battery life of this projector is about 2.5 hours, and I'm delighted to report that number is surprisingly conservative in my testing. After a few weeks of use, I found my average was much closer to 3.5 hours, and that's if I was using the standard Android TV experience. If I was projecting from the HDMI port, the battery life was frequently longer. It's ultimately pretty impressive, especially given my expectations were closer to the three-hour mark.
Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition: What could be better
As much fun as I've had with this Android-based projector, it's undeniable that a handful of the problems I've encountered are related to the quirky relationship Android TV has with nonstandard hardware.
Netflix is not in the Google Play Store for this projector. Netflix can not be Chromecasted to this projector, either. Netflix does not officially recognize this as a supported device, which means if you want to enjoy that service you need to jump through a few hoops. Anker has a special app on the projector you can use to more or less sideload the mobile version of Netflix, and then you use the Nebula app on your phone to effectively control it because you can't access things like the search option and the hamburger menu. It's more than a little awkward, and even with all of this work you can't use the Chromecast function for Netflix.
While that unfortunate mess is just as much Netflix being obstinate with its software as it is Android being weird, the overall Nebula experience has some basic usability issues which need to be addressed. The remote has a power button, but if you use it the screen will turn off and immediately turn back on. If you want to fully shut off the projector, you need to press and hold the physical power button on the cylinder itself. I've also found occasional moments where leaving an app will cause the screen to flicker until the whole machine has been rebooted, but it's not an issue I can reliably reproduce so it's unlikley to be a specific app misbehaving.
While none of these issues are deal-breaking in any way, it does occasionally highlight a real need for some polish to make the overall experience feel fully baked.
Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition: Competition
As great as this projector is, the $700 price tag will understandably have most folks wondering what other options there are with similar features.
The biggest competition for this projector is, honestly, with itself. Anker's standard Nebula Capsule 2 is $120 cheaper than this limited edition. While the paint job and the R2-D2 sounds at boot-up are really fun, if you're concerned about price you may find yourself aiming for the $569 version of this projector instead of the brag-worthy $700 version.
If money isn't a huge concern and you'd like to see a few more features, there's a 1080p portable projector from Xgimi that offers Harmon Kardon speakers and an 800 Lumen output. The trade-offs here are the battery only lasts for about two hours, the design is larger and far less Star Wars-y, and the price tag jumps up to $799.
Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You're willing to pay extra for Star Wars
- You want a portable projector over a high-res one
- You like the Android TV interface
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want to play Netflix (easily)
- You need a 1080p or 4K experience
If you are looking for portable entertainment, this project is outstanding. The overall quality of the design makes it easy to toss into a bag and go anywhere. I loved this projector so much I bought a big inflatable projector screen so I could start bringing this to parties and family events to watch movies and play games with ease.
4.5 out of 5
If you can overlook the Netflix weirdness, and you're a big fan of Star Wars, this projector belongs in your toolbelt.
Time to fly
Go watch something cool with your friends, you'll be happy you did.
An already great projector now has a fun paint job and beeps along in a way that you can't help but smile, though if price is what you're worried about this probably isn't for you.
Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter
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