Anker launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 to raise over a million dollars for Nebula Capsule. This mini projector, which is the size of a small can, won rave reviews and received many awards.
They did it again a year later, raising the same amount for Capsule II. A lot of people love the idea of a projector that you can carry around in your bag to view shows from anywhere, including your backyard or a campsite in the middle of nowhere.
But I have always wondered how tiny projectors such as this work in practice. Do they weigh enough to be taken on a trip? Are they small enough to be taken on a trip? Are they worth the cost?
Anker recently sent one to me so that I could make my own decision.
Specifications and Features
Although the Nebula Capsule II has a marked improvement over its predecessor, it also features a significant increase in its specifications and a larger and heavier product. It measures 3.2×3.2×5.9” and 24oz (8x8x15cm and 680g), and is marketed as a pint-sized soda can.
The new model has 720p resolution, 200 ANSI lumens of brightness and an 8W speaker. These are major improvements over the previous model and address many of the criticisms that were levelled at it. The Capsule II has a 9700mAh battery that can provide up to three hours of viewing.
Chromecast comes with the ability to stream apps from your smartphone, tablet or laptop to the projector. The connectivity options include HDMI, aux and Bluetooth as well as USB-A. The tripod mount is located at the bottom of your projector for greater flexibility in where it can be placed.
The remote controls are simple and include navigation, power, volume and input selection. The remote also has a dedicated Google Assistant button, microphone, and volume buttons. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can use your voice to search for content.
When I received the Capsule II box, it seemed heavy and bulky. So I was surprised at how small the projector was. The promotional shots of it with its disembodied hand seem optimistic, but this device is still very compact.
Anker is not the only company that has learned from Apple’s excellent product unboxing experience. The thick glossy cardboard box folds out into a full-colour picture of a family enjoying a movie in their backyard.
The only thing in the box was the projector. There was also a small remote control with two AAA batteries, charger, cable, and an envelope containing a quick-start guide as well as postcards from people enjoying their favourite shows.
Unsurprisingly, the charger is also Anker, a single-port USB-C 30W USB-C model that you can use to charge your phone or tablet as well as many other models of laptop.
The can-shaped projector is sleek and simple, and it feels premium. There are two buttons on the back that can be used to turn it on or off. The other is for changing from projector mode to Bluetooth speaker mode.
Near the base are four outlets: aux, HDMI and USB-A. There is also a USB-C socket (for charging). The top has a series of touch-sensitive buttons that allow you to control the unit even if you aren’t using the app or remote. Navigation and selection are the most prominent features, but volume controls and a return button are also available.
It took only a few minutes to set up the Capsule II. After choosing a language, it offered the ability to import Wi Fi and account details from my Android phone. This took care of most aspects of the initial configuration.
The app suggested that you install any of the apps that have Android TV equivalents. That was about it for on-device setup. Netflix was all that was left. The app wasn’t certified for the Capsule II so you will need to do a minor workaround to install it.
It used to take a lot longer to do this, but you can now search for and download the “Nebula Manager”, then choose and install Netflix. This works for Prime Video, Disney+ and a few others. It took only two clicks to launch Netflix after it was installed and signed into. It’s not a huge deal.
You can also use the companion app “NebulaConnect” to control your phone’s screen or as a mouse, or even enter text with your phone’s keyboard. This second part is much faster than the projector’s keyboard and can be useful for entering account information, searching for something to view, or for entering text.
The most frustrating thing about portable projectors is their preparation. It’s important to locate a flat place to store your projector, ensure that it is not too far from any large, smooth, or light-colored surface, adjust keystone and focus settings and hope that it is dark enough to see what you are trying to view.
Fixed home projectors only require you to do this once. Portable versions allow you to complete the process almost whenever you need it.
The Capsule II tries to make it easier. The projector automatically detects movement and adjusts the focus and keystone accordingly. To refocus, you can hold down either the HDMI button on your remote or the centre button of the projector. There is no need to change the settings.
Although the auto-focus trigger could be a little more sensitive, there were times when I moved the projector a few feet and it was still out of focus until the time I hit the remote button.
The projector was tested in several different rooms of my house as well as on an outside wall. As you might expect, the projector’s image became softer and darker the closer I was to the wall. The manual recommends a throw distance of approximately two to ten feet (0.6 to 3.1m). This seems about right.
One of my tests was to set the projector about fifteen feet away from the wall in a darkened room. Although the video was still viewable, it became very dim and difficult to read text on navigation screens and menus. It will all depend on the distance you are viewing it from, but probably not more than ten feet.
Nebula Capsule II Smart Mini Projector
- Dimensions 3.2×3.2×5.9 inches (8x8x15cm)
- Weight: 24oz (680g)
- Battery 9700mAh: Up to 3 hours (video), up to 30 hours (music).
- Brightness and Resolution: 720p (1280 x 720), 200 ANSI Lumens
- Operating system: Android TV 9.0
The Capsule II does not have horizontal keystoning so it must be straight-on to whatever surface it is projecting onto.Although the automatic vertical keystoning was effective when projecting onto flat walls, it did not work well with sloped ceilings.I was able to achieve a straight image by switching to manual settings.
A tripod can be useful depending on the location and use of your projector. Anker sells one. However, most tripods that have a 1/4″ screw mount are sturdy enough to do the job. These tripods allow you to adjust the angle and height as you need, even if you have very limited space.
Anker claims that the Capsule II projector can project up to 40″ images in bright conditions and a 100″ image in dark. Based on my testing, I would suggest that you only use the projector at night and with curtains drawn. On a sunny day, the image was difficult to see from more than two feet away.
The viewing experience was excellent as long as the room was sufficiently dark. Although the image was darker and the colours were less saturated than my TV, that didn’t affect the viewing experience. As long as the projector was near enough to the wall, the projector worked well.
At least in a quiet space, the speaker was loud enough that I could hear music and voices clearly. The Capsule II makes a noticeable fan noise, but it was not audible while I was watching a program.
Nearly 4000 apps are available for download and installation because it uses Android TV. I chose the most useful apps, including YouTube, Plex, VLC, Netflix, and set up a party.
All of them were easy to install and work exactly as you would expect. You’ll be able to use the apps on your smart TV easily. Navigation is as simple as ever on Android TV, thanks to the ability to use the remote, smartphone apps, and buttons on the top of the projector.
Capsule II Offline
The Capsule II is great when connected to the internet. But what about when it’s not? There are many places you can use this projector, including campsites and cabins.
There are many options. Netflix, for instance, allows you to download shows for offline viewing. While not all shows support this feature, many do.
Although the Capsule II has only 8GB of storage available, some of it is used to run apps and install the operating system. You can download a few movies, or even a whole season of TV shows. But don’t expect endless entertainment.
Alternatively, if you have a collection of video or music files you’ve legally obtained from someone, you can copy them onto a USB stick and insert it into your projector to play them with the VLC app. In my testing, it worked flawlessly.
Spotify TV for Android TV does not allow you to download music to listen offline. This is even if your premium account allows it. You can’t stop Capsule II projecting while you use that app. Instead, download songs to Spotify to your phone or tablet, and stream them over Bluetooth.
You have two choices if you want to play Capsule II games: either project the screen from another device (e.g., a console, laptop or mobile device) or you can use one of the hundreds available on the AndroidTV store.
An HDMI port on your device means that you can connect a cable between it and the projector. You’ll need to cast to Chromecast if your device doesn’t have an HDMI port. It doesn’t matter what approach you choose, the Chromecast is better for leisure than fast-action games due to its small but inevitable display lag.
You can also play games on the Capsule II with a compatible controller. Although you might be able to use the remote to play basic games, it is not very enjoyable and I doubt that I would ever want to.
You can browse the games store by using a separate menu button. Searching and installing takes only a few minutes. You can search for compatible games you have installed on your Android tablet or phone in the past and choose to install them immediately.
Battery life was one of the few things that saw a decrease between the original and second Capsule versions. The original Capsule was rated for approximately four hours viewing time. However, the Capsule II’s extra brightness and resolution means that it can be viewed for 2.5-3 hours depending upon which spec sheet is being read.
After charging the battery fully, I streamed HD YouTube videos for over two hours and 51 mins before the projector displayed a low-battery message and shut down. About half an hour before the warning, the power light began flashing red.
It can play music for up to 30 hours over Bluetooth. This makes it a high-end speaker but it is also very durable. Although I wasn’t able to test this claim fully, I was able to stream a Spotify playlist for several hours under the sun on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
It doesn’t matter what charger you use for charging. How long it takes will depend on the charger. Anker estimates that the 30-W charger will charge in 2.5 hours. Other wall chargers can take up to 5 hours. It took me just over two hours to go from empty to full using the factory charger.
You’ll need to plan how you will power the Capsule II if you are going off-grid. You can use a portable battery, but you need to have enough capacity. Even a high-end model like this will only provide six to seven additional hours of viewing.
You can charge your Capsule II while you are car-camping by using a USB-C car charger. You can speed up the process by choosing a model that has at least 30W power delivery (PD), regardless of whether you are using a car charger, or a portable battery.
Anker has managed to pack a powerful and useful projector in a small device that you can easily hold in your hand. It achieves its main goal of providing a portable, easy way to watch movies and other shows far beyond your living room. You can also enjoy music and games.
However, expectations are important. Even the most powerful mini-projectors, of which this is almost certain one, won’t be as bright as a ceiling-mounted model. And no projector will have the same brightness or saturation as a TV.
You won’t be taking your flatscreen 80″ out to the backyard with you to watch the game, but you can take it along on vacation to project your favourite shows onto your RV or tent. Although the Capsule II can’t replace your TV or home projectors, it can do a lot more and go places that others can’t.
The cost is obviously the biggest issue. This is not an impulse purchase for most people, with a suggested retail price of $5000. It’s not something you’ll use more than once a year so it’s hard to recommend it unless it’s on sale.
It’s easier to justify the cost if you know that you will be using it regularly. The Capsule II is a great option if you spend most of your summer nights outside, or at campsites or cabins.
If you are in the second group, it will be difficult to find a device better than the Capsule II. Add it to your shopping cart if you have the funds. If you don’t have the money, start creating your birthday wishlist.