- LED light source with up to 30,000 hours of life
- Colors calibrate very well
- Lots of app options with Android TV 9.0
- Falls short of specified brightness
- High input lag for gaming
- No HDR brightness or gamma control
- No 3D
Anker has spent the past year making improvements to (and dropping the price of) the Nebula Cosmos Max, which makes it more competitive in its price range.
Editor's Note: Our initial review of the Anker Cosmos Max 4K projector was published in January 2021, nearly a year ago. In the interim, Anker updated firmware to address a number of issues, including measured brightness that fell well short of its published ANSI lumens spec and a blue-leaning grayscale in all picture modes that could not be calibrated for reasonable accuracy to production industry color standards. They also reduced the price from $1,899 MSRP/$1,699 street to a MSRP/street price of $1,599. Temporary holiday promotion has made it available on the Nebula website for $1,399 and it has been seen elsewhere for as little as $1,199.
While the revised Cosmos Max is more than 200 ANSI lumens brighter than the original, with 943 measured lumens, it still falls short of the 1,200-lumen threshold allowable for a projector with its published 1,500 lumen spec (we measured 943 lumens). Nonetheless, the image quality has improved noticeably and the projector's value quotient has gone up thanks to lower pricing. The star ratings and Pros/Cons above, as well as the review that follows, have been updated by our original reviewer John Higgins to reflect the latest version of the projector and supersede any earlier comments.—Rob Sabin
Beyond the games, gadgets, films, and headphones that have secured their funding through Kickstarter and Indiegogo, companies have used the crowdfunding platforms as a way to drum up interest for new projectors and allow us all to preorder the products. VAVA's VA-LT002 found its audience through Indiegogo, as did the portable Nebula Capsule II from Anker. Anker again used the crowdfunding model to step into the 4K market with the Nebula Cosmos Max—a LED projector that uses Texas Instrument's pixel-shifting 4K DLP technology. During preorder, the Cosmos Max was available for as low as $1,099 if you got in fast enough. Once the Kickstarter ended, its MSRP was $1,800, though now it's MSRP is $1,599 and it has been promoted as low as $1,199.
Anker uses a 0.47-inch DMD DLP chip in the Nebula Cosmos Max that has a native resolution of 1080p (1920x1080) and uses XPR technology to increase the resolution up to 4K. (For more information about 4K pixel shifting and an idea of how it compares to native 4K chips, check out Michael J. McNamara's two-part Projector Resolution Shootout.) The RGB LED light source has a life of up to 30,000 hours and Anker claims a light output of 1,500 ANSI lumens, although as shown on the Brightness chart below, I measured about two-thirds of that. There are no additional light source modes, such as a full power setting to boost the light output, or a dedicated Eco mode to extend the light source life (30,000 hours is more than enough for the vast majority of us anyway).
The Cosmos Max supports both HDR10 and HLG. There's a toggle in the menu for manually switching it on and off, although there doesn't seem to be a reason to ever have it off. Anker advertises a Dynamic Smoothing feature on the Cosmos that presumably does some form of frame interpolation, but there's no way to turn it on or off. On my sample it didn't seem to be working, or affected the picture minimally at best.
The Cosmos Max is a fixed-lens projector with a throw ratio of 1.2 and can project an image from a 30- to 150-inch diagonal at 2 feet 7 inches up to 13 feet 1 inch. (See ProjectorCentral's Anker Cosmos Max Throw Distance Calculator to check the necessary distance for your screen size.) Included is a digital zoom and keystone correction to get the fit just right (although, as always, you should be judicious about engaging these extra adjustments as they can affect image quality and overall brightness). There is also an excellent 3-second auto focus, which is usually relegated to the portable projector set. And, while there is a tripod mount point for temporary setup locations, the size and lack of carrying accessories makes the Cosmos a better fit for a permanent place on a shelf or ceiling mount.
As a general rule, projectors are white or black boxes that don't lend themselves to effusive, lyrical praise on their aesthetics, but Anker has really outdone themselves with the visual design of the Cosmos. The dark metallic oval shaped chassis isn't one you immediately want to hide away in its own room. And the top panel has two LED light options that can be toggled on and off—the red Nebula logo and, fittingly, a field of stars that fade in and out. The projector measures 13.8 x 9.8 x 3.9 inches and weighs 7.4 pounds. On the back are two HDMI 2.0 (one with ARC), two USB ports each capable of data and power, and an optical port. The ES File Explorer needs to be downloaded from the Google Play store to play files from a USB drive. Both Bluetooth and Chromecast are supported for streaming audio or video to the Cosmos from a mobile device or computer.
Four speakers, in combination with Dolby Digital Plus processing, are designed to spread the sound for a more immersive experience and they can get suitably loud for a mid-sized room. There aren't multiple sound modes to adjust frequency curves or fine tune for specific content, so what you hear is what you get. Midrange frequencies are heavily pushed, likely for vocal clarity, but the dialogue can still be overpowered occasionally by sound effects within the same range.
Something that plagues a lot of 4K projectors in this price range is the use of the Aptoide web-streaming interface. Thankfully, the Cosmos Max is free of Aptoide and instead runs on the Android TV 9.0 platform. Thousands of apps are available for download through the Google Play store and it runs smoothly. While most of the apps run perfectly fine, Netflix is the most glaring exception. The version available for download is similar in at least one respect to the Aptoide version, in that the interface requires a cursor to easily sign in. Anker's workaround for the problem is by using the Nebula Connect app on your mobile device that allows you to navigate the Cosmos by scrolling or using your fingers as a mouse on the device's screen. It's a bit clunky, but gets the job done.
The included remote is delightfully simple and intuitive to use. Buttons are where I expect them to be without looking down at it, and the design keeps it to the necessary minimum for easy use. A built-in microphone is there for Google Assistant at the press of a button. There's no backlight to the remote, but due to the simple layout, I never found myself wanting for one.
Key Features List
- 0.47-inch DMD DLP chip with XPR technology
- 3840x2160 (4K) resolution
- HDR10 and HLG support
- RGB LED light source with up to 30,000 hours life
- 1,500 ANSI lumens rating (measured at 943 ANSI lumens)
- 1.2:1 Throw Ratio
- Auto focus, digital zoom, and keystone correction
- Four 10-watt speakers with Dolby Digital Plus
Picture Modes. There are only three picture modes on the Nebula Cosmos Max—Standard, Movie, and Office. A color temperature of Normal, Cool, and Warm can be selected within each picture mode. By eye, and later verified with measurement gear, standard mode is noticeably blue, but both Movie and Office are acceptably close to 6500K—the neutral gray used in most television and movie productions. Additional picture settings are brightness, contrast, gamma—with settings labeled Enhanced, Enphoto, Maxbright, Photo, and Linear—saturation, hue, and gain for the six color points, and RGB gain adjustments to fine tune the 100% white color temprature. These last controls are useful to calibrators with instruments and allowed me to accurately calibrate the color and 100% white points.
To assess the grayscale and color accuracy of the Cosmos Max, I used Calman software from Portrait Displays, a Murideo Six-G 4K/HDR signal generator, and an X-rite i1 Pro 3 spectrophotometer. Movie mode with a Warm color temperature was closest to the target 6,500K (in both Enhanced and Maxbright gamma) with a color temperature reading of 6,802K, a completely reasonable out-of-the-box measurement.. The grayscale luminance curve was a little high, meaning grays were all brighter than they should be. It caused shadows in particular to lose depth and looked a bit washed out. Pre-calibrated color was oversaturated, particularly with red, blue, and magenta Cyan and (especially) magenta were too blue. I was able to correct the color discrepancies with the CMS controls and fine-tune the color temperature with the RGB gain adjustments to get them all under a DeltaE of 2.0 (a value under 3.0 is considered excellent). The RGB adjustment didn't improve any of the grayscale below 100% white, though, so midtones were still a little washed out. Settings are shared across all picture modes, both SDR and HDR, so you can't do dedicated settings for HDR.
Unfortunately, if you do choose to calibrate the Cosmos Max, make sure not to change the picture mode. When I went to compare my calibrated Movie mode to Standard and Office, my Movie mode picture settings were reset upon return. Luckily I had written them down and was able to re-enter the information, but if I had just paid for a calibration and lost all that information I would not be happy. Side note: always copy down your calibration settings in case something happens.
As mentioned, there are no settings to adjust light source power output such as an Eco mode. The brightest collection of settings was Standard picture mode with Normal color temperature, Brightness set to 100, and gamma set to Maxbright. Measuring those settings with a light meter, the Nebula Cosmos Max generated 943 ANSI lumens, or 62.8% of the advertised 1,500 ANSI lumens. This is well short of the 80% minimum that is considered within tolerance for ANSI/ISO21118 measurements. At those settings the image is also pretty blue (color temperature measures 9,218K). In Movie picture mode, the brightness drops by 11% to 838 ANSI lumens and by 27% to 684 lumens in Office mode. Even though we perceive higher brightness from LED light sources compared to lamps, I'd still recommend using as much light control as you can. The Cosmos Max can hold up to some ambient light, but looks much better in a darkened room.
SDR Viewing. At the beginning of the pandemic I finally took the time to sit down and watch the entirety of the 12 Monkeys series on Hulu. The original movie was always one of my favorites and I had been intrigued by the TV adaptation but never found the time. To say I loved it would be an understatement and have since acquired the Blu-ray boxed set. And it looks good on the Cosmos Max. The color red plays a prominent role in the series, and whenever imagery of a red forest comes up it looks vibrant and rich. Greens of trees (in normally colored forests) look realistic as do flesh tones on the characters. Daytime outdoor overcast shots can look a bit washed out due to the high brightness of the midtone grays and be mildly distracting since I'm familiar with the material. The post-viral landscape would likely just look extra bleak to a new viewer.
It's been 35 years since Clue flopped in the theaters before turning into a cult phenomenon. The genius slapstick performances, running gags, and impeccable comedic delivery never fail to make me laugh. Wood tones of the mansion's interior look warm and soothing. Skin tones have a slightly reddish hue, but not distractingly so. There is some lost shadow detail in the foreboding storm outdoors due to an elevated black level, but overall it was a pleasant viewing experience after calibration.
The auto focus did an excellent job dialing in the detail. Towards the outer parts of the image the focus began to soften a little, but that was only evident from close up. At a normal sitting distance the picture looked nicely detailed, with both 1080p and 4K signals. I'm not very susceptible to the DLP rainbow effect and I didn't experience any. Our normal disclaimer for any DLP projector applies, though: If you are susceptible to seeing them, make sure you purchase the projector from a vendor that will allow for returns just in case.
HDR Viewing. There's an HDR toggle in the menu that, when left in its On position, will allow the projector to respond automatically to the presence of an HDR signal and apply its appropriate processing. If you don't turn on the HDR toggle the color looks unsurprisingly bland. When the HDR toggle is turned on and activated by an HDR program, the HDR performance can be a bit of a mixed bag (not all that uncommon for projectors in this price range). In particular, oranges and reds have a bit of an unnatural look to them—which is mostly apparent in explosions like the quadjumper that Rey, Finn, and BB-8 plan to escape in during the First Order attack on Niima Outpost in Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Disney+. But the colors can also look beautiful with the right content. The purples, greens, and blues of the multiverse that swirl around Doctor Strange in that character's first Marvel movie look stunning. Overall I found myself enjoying the colors far more than being distracted by them.
The same oversaturated red can be seen in the field of roses or the pile of strawberries on the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark Disc, although it isn't as unnatural as it was in The Force Awakens. Other colors look more natural, in particular the blue skies throughout and the shades of brown in the fur of deer. Excellent detail is shown in the air bubbles in dripping honey and the close barbs of a peacock feather.
The black level on the Cosmos Max is relatively high and it crushes blacks a bit, so shadow details get lost. Many of the darker interior shots in Doctor Strange required me to make sure curtains were closed and lights were off to be able to see most of what was going on. The same can be said of Shelob's lair in Return of the King. There's excellent detail in Frodo's Elven cloak and the rock walls that can be seen, but because of the limited shadow detail, some dimensionality is missing from the image.
3D Viewing. When the Kickstarter began, 3D support was one of the listed features for this projector, and on the first Cosmos Max sample I reviewed in late 2020 there was an option for 3D in the menu. But since then 3D support has been removed from the Cosmos Max and all promotional materials.
When I first reviewed the Anker Cosmos Max in 2020 there was a decent framework in place, but the flaws outweighed the positives—brightness was even further below the advertised number, out-of-the-box color performance was lacking, and a calibration had the possibility of resetting if the projector was off for too long. I had written in the conclusion to that earlier review that, even with the flaws, I wouldn't write off the Cosmos Max as it sounded like Anker was dedicated to improving its projector. I'm happy to say that has come to pass. While the brightness still isn't up to the number Anker claims, it's definitely an improvement, and out-of-the-box the Movie picture mode performs well enough to be acceptable for a projector of this type (although I'd still recommend a calibration). The MSRP has also been dropped a few hundred dollars, making this a better value.
There are still a few issues—such as an advertised Dynamic Smoothing feature that can't be found in the menus and a black level that's on the high side (even compared to other DLP projectors in this price range). But, overall, the Anker Cosmos Max now offers a good theatrical experience, especially if you can keep any extra light from coming into your room.
Brightness. In Standard picture mode and Normal color temperature with Brightness set to 100 and Maxbright gamma selected, the Anker Nebula Cosmos Max measured 943 ANSI lumens, which is 62.8% of the published spec. Light output in Movie mode dropped by 11% to 838 ANSI lumens and by 27% to 684 ANSI lumens in Office picture mode. There is no Eco mode to prolong light source life or decrease power consumption. Color brightness measured 98.6% of white.
The picture modes measured as follow:
Anker Nebula Cosmos Max ANSI Lumens
|Picture Mode||ANSI Lumens|
Brightness Uniformity. Brightness uniformity measured at 84%, with the left center and right bottom being the brightest and dimmest sections of the screen, respectively. Across the screen with real-world material there was no evidence of any hot spots.
Fan Noise. Anker says that the Cosmos Max is rated not to exceed 32 dB based on the ISO7779 lab measurement standard. In a more casual measurement in my living room from my viewing position about three feet behind the Cosmos Max, the sound meter registered 34.2 dB. There's a slight high-pitched whine from the fans, but it can only be heard if you're sitting closer than the three feet.
Input Lag. With a Leo Bodnar 1080p lag tester, I measured 1080p/60 input lag on the Nebula Cosmos Max at 96.5 ms. This is far too much for any but the most casual gamer, and would only be acceptable for games that aren't reliant on quick response, like The Sims.
- HDMI 2.0 (x2, one with ARC)
- USB 2.0 (x2)
- Optical out
Calibrated Settings. Calibrated image settings from any third-party do not account for the significant potential for sample-to-sample variation, nor the different screen sizes and materials, lighting, lamp usage, or other environmental factors that can affect image quality. Projectors should always be calibrated in the user's own space and tuned for the expected viewing conditions. However, the settings provided here may be a helpful starting point for some. Always record your current settings before making adjustments so you can return to them as desired. Refer to the Performance section for some context for each calibration.
Picture Mode: Movie
Color Temperature: Warm
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Anker Cosmos Max projector page.