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The Nebula Mars II Pro Is an Incredible Portable Projector Hindered by Rinky-Dink Software

Nebula by Anker Mars II Pro
Nebula by Anker Mars II Pro
Graphic: Tercius Bufete

When I move back to Brooklyn in a few months, the Nebula Mars II Pro will take the place of my once-beloved 4K LG TV.

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Filling the gaps between the super portable Nebula Capsule and the static Nebula Prizm, Nebula by Anker Mars II Pro takes what makes those products work and runs with it. Unfortunately, this incredibly capable projector is hindered by an underwhelming software experience.

First, the baked-in app store is a skinned Google Play Store called “Aptoied TV.” This limits the number of apps you can download. Most of the apps you’d want, like YouTube, Netflix, Prime Video, and Spotify, are there but some aren’t as up-to-date as you’d want. For instance, there’s no “Skip Intro” button for Netflix.

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The YouTube app is barely functional; I can’t seem to log in to my account. The app simply crashes during the process. It works fine without signing in, but it’s really disappointing that I have to search around for my subscriptions (especially with the aforementioned poor remote experience.)

Navigation, too, is a pain. Logging into apps using the remote and on-screen keyboard is cumbersome and awkward. It honestly feels like a problem solved years ago with mobile logins and QR codes.

To avoid the headache, skip the baked-in software and invest in a Roku or Apple TV. Native HDMI in support means you can bypass the wonky smart features altogether and opt for more familiar navigation.

Better still, the projector has a USB port capable of powering a streaming dongle, and miraculously, my Nintendo Switch. When used in tandem with a dock, it becomes a pretty incredible, portable gaming rig. One that I’m pretty stoked to take camping.

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Sadly, the projector is unusable on battery power in a bright room. The built-in 12,500mAh battery promises 3 hours of viewing, and in my tests, it’s a little bit longer. However, the Nebula Mars Pro automatically downgrades the brightness level to extend use, so it wasn’t as bright as when connected to power.

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It’s almost passable plugged in but if you intend on using it in a room with a lot of sunlight, I’d recommend investing in black out shades; the 500 ANS lumens simply is not enough. It’s in darker rooms that the projector really shines. The colors are saturated and the image quality is actually surprisingly good.

For what it’s worth, the biggest question mark for me was the 720p. But after streaming a ton of Brookyn 99 on Hulu, I found that I didn’t miss 1080p as much as I thought. Of course, the fidelity doesn’t match anything from a 4K display but the colors were decent, and while the details were a little soft, I still found watching shows on it enjoyable.

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Where I did see quality drop was during the live-stream of an Overwatch League match-up on YouTube and when I tried to display an image larger than 80 inches.

That said, the audio quality is quite poor. It can get loud, sure, but the sound is muddy and overly bass-heavy. This is quite surprising when you consider Anker makes terrific speakers. Luckily it has a 3.5mm jack to output audio.

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So who is it for?

If you, like me, had a living situation that’d benefit from a dynamic viewing experience—e.g. want to take it with you camping—or to another room, it’s a safe bet. The Nebula by Anker Mars II Pro won’t wow persnickety, home theater aficionados but for the casual gaming or viewing session, it stuns.

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If you decide to build a home theater around it, definitely invest in a streaming device and external speakers, to let it truly shine.


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