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Nebula Solar Portable Review 1080p Projector With Chromecast built-in

Friday, December 25, 2020

With the rise of 8K TV, we are starting to see insane screen TV sizes, ranging from 82 inches, 98 inches and 292-inches, which is the largest TV currently on the market! Anything over 80 inches is truly mighty but so its the price tag, costing you anything from a couple of thousand quid to ten thousand quid, which is a lot, although not as ridiculous as dropping one hundred thousand pounds on an 8K TV!
Time will tell whether 8K truly trumps the current 4K experience, which can be attained at a reasonable price with a projector such as the Nebula Solar Portable, which is capable of delivering an image of 120 inches (at 3 meters) and, costing just a fraction of the price of a 98 inch 4K TV!
Weighing 1.4 kg, the Nebula Solar Portable projector is 400 grams lighter than any 4K TV and very compact with a low profile outer shell that has the intake and exhaust vents directly located underneath it. The Solar Portable has a squarish plastic construction with an elevated, beveled base that allows air to easily enter in and out the vents, even when the unit is not mounted on a tripod. There are two large concave rubber feet and a large, rubberized rectangular kickstand that provides superb stability on a flat surface. The kickstand has metal, damping style hinges with strong resistance to safely position the kickstand at various angles up to 90 degrees.
The Solar Portable projector measures 192cm long, 192cm wide and 5.9cm high and, it has a 20,000 mAh battery built-in; hence you can use it as an outdoor movie projector like the Mars 2 Pro projector. The Solar Portable is the only 3D ready projector in the Nebula projector line up, supporting the 3D formats Side-by-Side and Over-Under. Both formats work well but they do degrade the image resolution of the video because they split and upscale the image, unlike the Frame Packing 3D format, which is not supported.
The default, Auto Mode, delivers rich colors and good brightness level even in a lit up room and can power the Solar Portable projector for 3 hours, thanks to the intelligent software that automatically regulates the brightness. There is two other playing modes, namely Standard Mode and Battery Mode, which has the same runtime as Auto Mode but with reduced brightness (300 ansi). If you want to utilize the full 400 ansi lumens, you have to select Standard Mode, which has a runtime of 1.5 hours. Even though, the Mars 2 Pro projector has a higher ansi rating (500 ansi), it provides a comparable image to the Solar Portable.
Despite being smaller and lighter than the Mars 2 Pro projector, the Solar Portable actually has the larger battery (20,000mAh) compared to the Mars 2 Pro 12,500 mAh battery. That said, even with the larger battery and lower ansi rating, the Solar Portable has a shorter runtime than the Mars 2 Pro, which is likely due to the hardware. The Solar Portable uses a Quad Core A55 CPU processor, which is not as efficient as the Quad Core A7 chipset in the Mars 2 Pro.
The Solar Portable does have a newer and better-performing GPU graphics processor (Mali G31) than the Mars 2 Pro's Adreno 304, making the Solar Portable technically better for gaming than the Mars 2 Pro. That said, GPU is not the only factor for snappier gaming performance since some games perform better with a faster CPU. Both the Solar Portable and the Mars 2 Pro have quad core CPUs, which are ideal for first-person shooters (FPS), online multiplayer games and open sandbox games. Overall, the Solar Portable is better for gaming than the Mars 2 Pro because the Solar Portable supports native 1080p gaming; hence you can run games at higher settings. 
The larger battery capacity on the Solar Portable does come useful in bluetooth speaker mode, giving you over 40 hours of playtime (30 hours with the Mars 2 Pro) via standard Bluetooth 4.2 connection. There is no aptX, SBC or AAC support either. The Solar Portable charging time is the same at 3 hours, using a 20V-3.25A Power Delivery charger (included). You can use the Nebula Solar Portable while charging at the same time.
Because the Nebula Solar Portable projector supports native 1080p resolution, it doesn't upscale the image like 720p projectors do, including the Apollo projector. The Solar is a DLP projector and uses a 0.23-inch size DMD size chip; hence it doesn't use a liquid crystal display like LCD projectors do. Most Nebular projectors are DLP, with the exception of the Nebula Prizm projector, which is LCD. The Solar Portable uses a zoom focus lens, which is recessed behind a glass display that sits flush against the outer of the projector; hence the lens does not protrude.
Another useful feature you can enable in the Solar Portable projector is "HDMI 2.0" to increase bandwidth up to 18 Gbps. This effectively improves picture quality at higher resolution up to 4K/60Hz. If you want higher refresh rate (i.e. 120Hz) for 4K gaming, you won't be able to achieve it because the Solar Portable projector does not support HDMI 2.1. The highest picture resolution you can obtain with the Solar Portable projector is 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) and HDR video content (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision). For this to work though, you will need a Premium High Speed HDMI cable, which is not included.
If you don't want to use the included IR remote control, you can use the Nebula Connect app or, you can enable HDMI CEC when connecting the projector to a HDMI CEC-compatible device (i.e. blu-ray receiver, smart TV). HDMI CEC is neat because it allows you to control both devices on the same volume and Power On/Power Off status. The included remote (Nebula RC. Model D0413) does work well and can operate the Solar projector from the sides, front or back of the unit.
There is no headphone jack on the Solar Portable but, there is a workaround to this by connecting a USB A to USB C female adapter to a USB C to 3.5mm adapter. If you have a speaker soundbar that supports HDMI ARC, you can also enable ARC switch to output audio from the Solar portable projector. You cannot use the HDMI and USB ports at the same to stream audio and video. The USB port does support FAT32, NTFS and exFAT, which means you can play large movie files (over 4GB) without having to split the movie into parts.
As well as being able to talk to the Google Assistant via the included remote, the Solar Portable also has Chromecast built-in, giving you a neat way to wirelessly stream content from a phone, using the dual Wifi (2.4Ghz/ 5Ghz) function. You are also able to AirPlay content from an iOS device to the Nebula Solar Portable (AirPlay has to be enabled the Nebula Manager app)
In terms of audio output, the Nebula Solar Portable has dual 3 watt speakers; hence a total of 6 watts RMS, which is less volume output than the single 8-watt Capsule Max or the 20-watt Nebula Mars 2 Pro, which is a real portable sound powerhouse. On paper, the Solar Portable may not have the beefiest of sound systems but the sound is very good and far reaching in a large room. The Solar Portable projector speakers are rear firing.
The Android TV (9.0 version) installed in the Nebula Solar Portable allows you to install Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+ natively on the Nebula Solar Portable projector. That said, the current Netflix on the Solar Portable is a mobile version so, it can only be controlled in mouse mode from the Nebula Connect app, which you can download from Google Play Store. A few other pre-installed apps in the Solar Portable include Duo, Google Play Movies, Hue Essentials, Rad TV and YouTube.
Setting up the Solar Portable projector for the first time requires using the included remote and your phone to connect the projector via your Wifi network and/or Internet browser via androidtv.com/setup. The Nebula Solar Portable is configured with 2GB RAM and 8GB ROM, although after installing the apps during set up the internal storage decreases down to 4.3GB. The included remote control is the same one you get with the Nebula Cosmo projector, weighing 48 grams and measuring 16cm high and 4cm wide. The remote has rubbery buttons and a hidden IR receiver.
The PowerPort III 65W charger is also included, which weighs 153 grams (with UK plug) and measures 6.5cm deep, 3cm wide and 6cm high. The PowerPort III 65W charger uses the same Gallium Nitride technology as the new PowerPort Nano 20W charger but comes with interchangeable plugs that slide into two long pins. An unbranded male to male USB-C charging cable is included with the charger. You can buy the Nebula Solar Portable (and the non-portable version) from amazon. Check out the review of the Nebula Astro projector - the smallest in the line up.

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