Nebula Mars 2: Best Mini Projector for Netflix & Hulu
The Nebula Mars II projector has great apps for Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.
But the one-two punch Anker brings to its latest portable mini projector should be hard to ignore for anyone who wants something easy to use and set up.
With one-second autofocus and an internal battery that lasts about four hours, the Nebula Mars II is perfect for an outdoor movie night.
Point the Mars II at a wall or projection screen, and you’re pretty much ready to go. The projector does all the work.
No focusing ring or keystone correction needed.
With Android OS, and a sleek remote, diving into movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video is as easy as turning on your living room TV. There were a couple of other real sweet spots in its streaming capabilities that I discovered, too.
Connecting a Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon Fire TV to the HDMI port really opened up my choices with what I could stream. It gave me some additional live TV capabilities through YouTube TV and Philo. Adding a streaming device also allowed me to tap into more niche-streaming services like FilmStruck, which can really upgrade your movie night game. The Mars II may be the best mini projector made for cord cutters.
The picture at 720p HD in a dark room or backyard delivered a movie theater experience that feels like a real treat compared to watching on a living room TV. That’s because the picture dimension is 16:9, closer to what you experience in a theater, and the sound piping out of the two 10W internal speakers is surprisingly rich.
During about four weeks of testing, the Mars II quickly became the most fun piece of hardware that I’ve tested so far this year. In this review, I’ll cover how you can watch live over-the-air TV using an antenna with the Mars II, and even take in a live baseball game.
5 facts about Nebula Mars II
- Up to 150 inch screen
- Includes Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Plex apps
- Internal battery lasts four hours
- Works great with Roku Streaming Stick, Fire TV
- Has Remote control and Smartphone app
How I tested Nebula Mars II
I used the Nebula Mars II in a number of scenarios indoors and outdoors during my four weeks of testing. That included using it plugged in and relying on its internal battery, which is powerful enough to last through a whole two hour movie and then some more hours of streaming without any problem.
I connected the Nebula Mars II to Wifi using a Netgear router, and a Nova Mesh Wifi system that I use as a connected bridge network. I mostly stayed connected to 5G Wifi connection. More on that later.
Anker loaned me the Nebula Mars II for testing purposes, and I bought an OWLENZ 120-inch projection screen for $30 on Amazon. I purchased the screen so I could set up some outdoor movie nights and compare it to projecting onto a wall in my condo. I recommend buying the OWLENZ screen if you plan on getting the Nebula Mars II.
Streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube on Nebula Mars II
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are included in the main menu of the Mars II’s software. It’s a simple interface and these three in particular apps worked great.
Having them in the main menu really adds to the ease of use. And they are good choices to include given that these three streaming giants are the most commonly used ones.
Netflix has about 56.71 million subscribers in the U.S., and Amazon Prime has more than 100 million subscribers. YouTube has many more.
You could easily get by on these three apps alone. But expanding the number of streaming services is very easy.
The HD picture quality looked crisp on my office wall, but it really popped when using the white projection screen.
Telling the difference between 720p and 1080p in HD was negligible, and I think that’s true for most people using a portable mini projector like this. I focused on using the apps already on the Mars II before testing out streaming devices.
One of the first movies I watched on Netflix using the projector’s software was “We Own The Night” starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix.
I watched this indoors using the projection screen. And the sweeping shots of the New York city skyline immediately brought me back to when I saw this movie at the theater about 11 years earlier.
I spent another night on my back deck tooling around with YouTube after setting up the projector screen across the sliding glass doors. The screen that I bought comes with a set of plastic hooks and double sided adhesive, so it’s pretty easy to set up in a few minutes. If you’re using this outdoors in the summertime, I recommend adding the Roku Streaming Stick to the mix because being able to watch a baseball game is a real pleasure.
While using the Mars II outside, I needed to put a few books under the short drink table I used so I could properly align the projector with the screen.
Otherwise, I was up and running in a few minutes. I watched the latest movie trailer for “Venom” and a few other short videos that came up as recommended. A narrow bedroom end table made an ideal perch for indoor viewing (sans books).
The bottom of the projector has a tripod port with a universal fitting. So you can be remarkably precise with the alignment of your screen, even when you’re on the go and don’t want to use a table.
Nebula Mars II Specs
Before using the Mars II for the first time, the only thing you have to do is plug it in for a while to charge up the battery. A line of four pinhole-sized lights will glow to a solid off-white color to let you know when you’re charged.
At that point, just grab the projector by the leather handle on the top of the projector and head off to where you want to set it up. The controls at the top of the projector all work fine. I preferred using the remote control or the free Android app for Nebula projectors on my Android Galaxy smartphone.
Pull down the lens cap to turn on the power. Put it back up to turn off the Mars II.
At the rear of the Nebula Mars II, you’ll find one HDMI port, and one USB port. There are single ports for audio out and DC power input, too. The earlier generation Nebula Mars has been described as being the size of a lunchbox or lantern, but it’s actually a bit smaller than that. It measures only five inches high and about four inches across. From end to end, the Mars II is about 6.75 inches in length.
The brightness is only 300 lumens, but it’s plenty bright so long as you’re using the Nebula Mars II in a dark room or at night outside. When connected to a streaming device, the resolution remained at 1280 x 720 HD at 60 frame rates per second. This isn’t a projector for daytime viewing. It’s designed for a darker, theater-like setting.
You can also use the projector as a standalone Bluetooth speaker.
Android Software on Nebula Mars II
The software on the Nebula Mars II is called Aptoide TV, an Android app store that’s an alternative to Google Play.
The downside of Aptoide TV on the Nebula Mars II is that it’s not Google Play. So you’re not getting all the apps that you’d usually expect with an Android TV device like the NVIDIA Shield.
I found a few apps within Aptoide that worked well on the Mars II like Plex. I have a NVIDIA Shield Pro set up as a Plex Media Server with Plex Pass and HDHomeRun Quatro. So it was neat to project live TV channels from my TV antenna through the Mars II and watch recorded OTA shows.
To get live over-the-air TV to stream well via Plex Live TV, I had to use a 5GHz WiFi connection. The 2.4GHz connection was a little sticky with Plex, but worked great with everything else.
Once I had a solid connection on 5GHz, a message flashed at the bottom of the screen saying there was an error, but it lasted only a second and my recorded episode of “The X-Files” played smooth and crisp. And the audio sounded great.
When you have more than three apps installed on the Mars II, you can select the “All” tab at the bottom of the main menu.
It took a few tries to get the Hulu app on Aptoide TV to fully work. (And the software even warned me that it wouldn’t work while downloading it.) Other TV Everywhere style apps that were offered through Aptoide like AMC and IFC played content, but I couldn’t control volume on the projector.
Casting from an Android smartphone and iPhone is also an option for photos and video. But some streaming apps are restricted and Chromecast is not supported. Using a Roku Streaming Stick with the Mars II made the most sense for apps beyond Netflix, YouTube, Plex and Amazon Prime Video.
Streaming with Roku on Nebula Mars II
To keep things portable, I powered the Roku Streaming Stick with the USB port on the back of the Nebula Mars II instead of plugging it into the wall.
The Roku streamed at 60 frame rates per second, 1080 x 720 HD. If you power the Roku through the Mars II while the projector isn’t plugged in – like during outdoor use — the Roku stick will drain your battery quicker because its powering two devices instead of one.
Being able to watch live TV on a projector – no matter where you are – is pretty sweet.
There were a few Roku apps that I enjoyed most while using the Nebula Mars II. YouTube TV let me watch a number of live TV channels, including NESN. So I could watch a live Red Sox game outside.
CBSN was great for live news. FilmStruck was another standout and really opened up my catalog for the movie nights indoors and out.
For fun, I hooked up a second generation Amazon Fire TV. The Fire TV worked just as well as a streaming device. Fans of the second gen device also know it as a solid option for casual Android gaming.
Nebula Mars II: Settings & Preferences
I couldn’t imagine turning off the autofocus/keystone correction features, but you can under settings. But then it will be left up to your own eyes to manually focus the projector.
There are also settings that can rotate the projector’s image by 180 degrees if you wanted to hang the Mars II from a ceiling. You can set up the Nebula Mars II so that it can project from behind a screen. I didn’t try out these settings, but I thought they were worth mentioning.
Under settings, I turned off the audio for keypad tone – because really who wants to hear a click every time I press a button on my remote. Audio tones for button pushes might be functional for some people, but to me it’s always been distracting at best, annoying at worst.
The automatic sleep interval is nice – I kept mine to 15 minutes. You can set it to 5 or 30 minutes. There are choices for different background settings, clearing all the cached data stored on the projector and checking for software updates.
The setup process was pretty easy and self explanatory. You don’t need to be a tech savvy person to get the Nebula Mars II up and running. And the auto focus feature really makes it a very consumer friendly device.
Areas of improvement for the Nebula Mars II
The Nebula Mars II would be a perfect portable mini projector if the app software was a little better. I would love to see a version of Android TV on the Mars II so that you could have a fuller suite of streaming apps and some casual gaming options. That said, there isn’t another mini projector out there with Android software and built-in streaming options.
Any shortcomings of the software is not a huge deal because the Mars II worked great with the streaming devices that I tried, including Roku and Amazon Fire TV. So you can easily add a huge library of apps. I assume that you could connect other streaming devices like a NVIDIA Shield TV or Apple TV, and they would work just as well.
Is the Nebula Mars II worth it?
Frankly, setting up a portable projector for an outdoor movie night can be a pain. But the one-two punch Anker brings with autofocus, and baked-in streaming apps makes it well worth the money.
There’s at least one piece of hardware each year that’s a standout item for me. Last year, it was the NVIDIA Shield Pro which I reviewed during a working vacation. This year, it’s definitely the Nebula Mars II.
Both have something in common. It’s remarkably portable and can provide you a lot of entertainment. With a 150-inch screen size, having a portable movie theater with you wherever you go is pretty cool.
Have you used the Nebula Mars II? Do you think it’s the best mini projector for streaming? Tell fellow readers or ask a question about the Mars II in the comments below. Want to learn more about cord cutting and streaming? Then head over to the main page of The Cord Cutting Report.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble