A Cinema In Your Pocket (Almost)

This is the Nebula Capsule portable projector, made by Anker under their “Nebula” brand name. Confusing naming aside, this is a fantastic little gadget. It’s almost exactly the size of a soda can, projects a bright image up to 100″ diagonal and unlike many mini projectors, has very good image color quality.

I haven’t found too many competing products at the same price and feature level as this projector. Sony’s MP-CD1 is probably the most direct competitor, and no doubt features Sony’s typically excellent quality at a comparable price, but spec-for-spec (more on that later) the MP-CD1 doesn’t quite match up to the Capsule. Sure, there are plentyIMG_2426 of cheap LCD projectors on eBay, but none of them (that I can find) combine a higher-quality LCD projector with a good, built-in speaker and a full operating system (Android OS, in this case) built into the projector.

This last point is key: this little projector supports Android Apps, meaning you can stream content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, YouTube and a bunch of other media providers directly from the Capsule, over a wifi connection, without any other hardware. I find this feature incredibly useful. Besides streaming from built-in apps, you can also project directly from an HDMI source, such as a DVD/BluRay player, project videos off a USB drive, or project video directly from your iOS or Android device. I’ve tried all of these options, and they all work equally well.

Here are some key specs:

  • Supports all of these video formats: H.264 BP/MP/HP – up to 1080p MPEG-4 SP/ASP – up to 1080p DivX 4x/5x/6x –up to 1080p H.263 P0 – WVGA VP8 – 1080p (HEVC) H.265 MP 8-bit – up to 1080p.
  • Resolution: 854 x 480 pixels. More about this in a bit.
  • Battery life: 4 hours.
  • Fan noise: <30dB. It’s quiet enough for me, especially since the 5W speakers produce plenty of volume. But you can definitely hear the fan with the volume turned down.
  • Automatic keystone correction as you tilt the projector forwards and backwards.
  • IR Remote Control included. Anker makes a free “Capsule Control” app for smartphones and tablets that makes controller the projector (especially entering text) much easier.
  • Brightness: 100 ANSI lumens. In a dark room, the picture is plenty bright and the color quality is excellent. In a brightly lit room, the image will be washed out.
  • Weight :14.8 oz

OK, so about the display resolution. 480 pixels vertical resolution is only “standard” definition and gives the impression that you’ll see a grainy image. In practice, I don’t find the image quality to be an issue at all. At normal viewing distances, the image quality to me is excellent. I only find this lower resolution output to be an issue when I’m using the Capsule as a desktop display, and I’m entering or reading text (e.g. entering login credentials for a streaming app). I would never try to use this as a desktop computer display.

IMG_2419

Finally, a tip: the Capsule comes with a customized version of Google’s Play Store that isn’t very complete. If you contact Anker support (support@seenebula.com) they will send you instructions and an unlock code for a beta firmware update that includes the full Google Play store. I’ve done this and it works great.

UPDATE: Anker has just announced a Kickstarter campaign (this product was introduced via Kickstarter) for a new Capsule II product, that will offer a brighter, 720p High-Definition display. You should be able to pick up the current model at a discount and in fact Anker’s eBay store is selling  refurbished units for $280 before a 10% discount. You might be able to get an even better price by applying other eBay coupons.

UPDATE #2: Here’s a “maker” tie-in for this product: I’ve designed an easy-to-print stand for the Capsule that lets you project onto your ceiling. Great for bedtime or watching while lying down on the sofa, etc. Get it on Thingiverse here.