- Very easily portable at around 10 pounds with built-in handle
- Quick, automated setup within a few seconds of turn-on
- 3D support
- All picture modes skew blue
- Included remote lacks functionality
The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K is Anker’s first portable laser projector and it includes great easy setup features found in their other portable models and good light output. But at $2,199 MSRP, its accuracy and remote functionality flaws stand out.
Editor's Note: In late February 2023, Epson and Anker Nebula announced settlement of a lawsuit in which Anker agreed to re-specify the lumen rating for the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K reviewed here and two other projectors. This and the 1080p-resolution sister product the Nebula Cosmos Laser were reduced from an original spec of 2,400 ISO lumens to 1,840 ANSI lumens, while the Nebula Cosmos went from a claimed 900 lumens to 810 ANSI lumens. Additional details can be found here. This review, which originally cited the projector for a significant miss on its brightness spec, has been updated accordingly.—Rob Sabin
LED light sources have long been the go-to technology for portable projectors, but we're now seeing more laser light sources enter the market. After years of LED projectors such as the Nebula Capsule II and Nebula Mars II Pro, the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K is Anker's first foray into the portable laser projector world (there's also the 1080p version Cosmos Laser being released at the same time). But out of all of Anker's previous portable LED models, the highest rated brightness was 500 lumens (they had two non-portable models—the Cosmos 1080p and Cosmos Max at 810 and 1,500 rated lumens, respectively).
The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K, however, has a rated light output of 1,840 ANSI lumens and the price to go with it. Orders for the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K began on Kickstarter with an early bird special of $1,499, but the MSRP for the model is $2,199. It's designed with portability in mind and includes auto setup features for keystone correction, focus, and screen fit (which adjusts the image size to your screen). There's also built-in speakers that sound pretty good and a light sensor to protect the eyes of anyone who accidentally moves in front of the lens.
As I said above, portable projectors have primarily relied on LED technology as a light source, apart from a few from Epson and LG—such as the Epson EqipVision Mini EF11 and EF12, and LG HF80LA. But those are all 1080p with less claimed light output than the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K. Anker rates the brightness at 1,840 ANSI lumens, though I measured a bit less than that at 1,702 lumens. The laser has a life of 25,000 hours, and uses a DLP chip with fast pixel-shifting technology to achieve a 3840x2160 resolution. The fixed lens has a throw ratio of 1.27:1 that can project image sizes between a 60-inch diagonal (at 5.51 feet from the screen) and a 150-inch diagonal (at 13.85 feet away). For full positioning distances, check the ProjectorCentral Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K projector throw calculator.
The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K takes the portable idea to heart by including a built-in handle on the top of the projector. The underside of the handle has a rubberized surface that feels comfortable when you pick it up and at 10.7 pounds, it's a comfortable weight to transport. It has a rectangular shape with curved edges and measures 10.4 x 6.5 x 10.4 inches (HWD) including the handle height.
There are multiple set-up features on the Laser 4K to get it up and running in moments, including auto keystone, auto focus, and auto screen fit. They can be enabled on startup so you don't even need to manually activate them once the projector is turned on. There's also the option to have them automatically adjust if the projector is moved while it's running. All of these options could be adjusted manually, but they do a great job in their automated mode, so I never felt the need to do so. As always though, keystone adjustment can affect overall brightness and resolution quality, especially in extreme positions. Use with caution.
On the front is the lens with a red accent ring protected by a permanent clear plastic piece, the proximity sensor, and the Nebula badge in red (matching the accent ring). Each plastic side panel is a perforated plastic grill with a two speakers behind each (one at 10 watts, one at 5 watts), as well as fans to keep air moving through the projector (the exhaust is on the right side when looking at the front). The underside has two rubber strips to protect whatever surface it sits on, and there's a tripod mount hole. There are options in the menu for ceiling mounting (both front- and rear-style projection), so the projector could be ceiling mounted with an optional ceiling mount kit, but that takes away the portability aspect of the Cosmos. On the top of the projector, positioned behind the handle is the power button (which is a tactile switch) and touch-sensitive menu navigation buttons that illuminate once you touch near them.
There are five different audio modes to select—Standard, Music, Movie, News, and Audio Custom; the latter has three sliders for treble, midrange, and bass. Music is tuned towards higher frequencies, News accentuates the vocal range more, while Movie gives a more robust sound with extra bass and a bit of midrange. Smaller enclosures—such as what is physically available in a projector this size—sometimes leads to more anemic performance, but in the case of the Laser 4K I found the sound to be pretty good option for the size. Of the different modes, I preferred the Movie mode for its broader sound.
Connections on the back are limited to one HDMI 2.0, a USB that can be used to display pictures from a USB storage stick, a 3.5mm aux audio output for connecting headphones or an external speaker, and the power plug. The Laser 4K also supports Bluetooth 5.0 (at a range of 25 feet) to act as a Bluetooth speaker for connected devices. When Bluetooth speaker mode is turned on, the projector stops displaying images. A back panel can be removed to reveal a hidden compartment for the Nebula 4K streaming dongle. As opposed to a traditional streaming stick shape, the dongle is 2.13-inches square. There are two micro connectors inside—one for power, one HDMI—that connect to the top and bottom of the dongle, which then fits snuggly into the compartment. During setup, the Android TV dongle can connect via Wi-Fi to a local network.
As is the norm for projectors with the Android TV OS, there are separate menus for the Android TV settings and projector settings, which usually makes navigation bit frustrating. But there's an extra annoyance with the Cosmos Laser 4K functionality. When in the Android TV interface, there is absolutely no way to access the projector settings with the remote. Not only that, the input select button on the remote doesn't work, so you also can't switch to the HDMI input, even using a voice command via the built-in Google Assistant. There's a submenu in the Android TV system settings for "TV Settings," but it only includes minimal selections such as screen resolution and position that would seem to apply to the dongle. No picture modes, image correction (like the auto keystone features, focus, digital zoom), or audio modes.
For those, you will need to press the gear icon on the projector itself to bring up the input select, picture settings, audio modes, and image correction—basically everything that the manual refers to as Device Settings. At this point, you can use the remote to navigate the projector menu once it is called up manually. A saving grace is that you can also navigate the projector menu using Anker's app, which I'll describe below. But it is inconvenient that you cannot use the remote to access all the functions of both the OS and the projector without having to get up and physically touch the projector.
When it comes to the Android OS, at least, the remote works well. It's light and the layout has enough button differentiation of size and shape to allow the buttons to stand out. Some of the buttons could be a little close for some larger fingers, but I think it would only be an issue for the small, circular mute button that sits between the volume up/down and channel up/down button.
As mentioned, there is one other workaround for accessing the key projector settings, and it involves downloading the Nebula Connect mobile app. Once you connect to the Laser 4K via your device's Bluetooth menu, you can open up the Nebula Connect app and select the projector from the listed supported projectors. The gear button on the app then opens the projector device settings menu that allows you to select picture modes, et al. All of the buttons fit on a single screen (no need to scroll between screens for extra features) and they work as expected. Response times were fast with no apparent lag between selection on the app and a response on the projector. The app also utilized the haptic response of my iPhone to confirm button pushes—a nice touch. I wish the included remote worked as well, but at least this kept me from having to constantly access the buttons on the top of the projector when I wanted to change the device settings or input select. If your iPhone goes into auto-lock and you wait more than a few moments before unlocking, you will have to reselect the app from your home screen and wait a few seconds for it to reconnect.
When navigating in the Android TV 10 interface, everything responds quickly. There are four direct-access buttons on the remote (but not the app) for YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, and perhaps most interestingly, Netflix. For many manufacturers that use the Android OS on their projectors, Netflix is not available. Instead, you need to use a workaround to get it projected, either by casting to a device (which has inconsistent results) or by downloading it through the dreadful Aptoide store (which limits it to a lower resolution). On the Laser 4K, Netflix is preinstalled and shows that support it can be watched in 4K HDR.
Picture Modes. The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K has six picture modes that are shared across SDR and HDR—Standard, Vivid, Soft, Movie, Game, and Picture Custom. Picture Custom has adjustments for contrast, overall color saturation, sharpness, color temperature, and gamma. There are no grayscale or CMS adjustments on the projector.
Out of the box, everything looked blue. Movie mode and Picture Custom (with the color temperature changed to Warm) looked the best in comparison to the other modes, but there was still a distinct blue shift to both modes. This was validated with Portrait Displays' Calman color calibration software, my Murideo Six-G pattern generator, and my X-Rite i1Display Pro profiled against my X-Rite i1Pro 3 meter. Color accuracy in Calman measurements is described as Delta E (dE) where a value closer to 0 is better, with values of 3.0 or less considered to be very good. The grayscale tracking on the Laser 4K in Picture Custom with Warm color temperature (that was slightly better than Movie) had an average dE of 5.5 with a max value of 8 at 95% brightness. Average color point accuracy had an average dE of 7.7 with blue and red being the worst offenders with dE's of 10.7 and 9.4, respectively. As mentioned, there was no available controls to correct these errors (the Saturation setting wasn't targeted enough for proper adjustment). Measured color temperature came in a little over 7,700K, hence the blue tint to whites. Most won't find this too bad, and it's not unusual for some projector modes to target 7,500K for viewing in modest ambient light. But for the MSRP of the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K, I'd hope for better or the ability to dial in the industry standard 6,500K color temperature.
Gamma settings all measured around 0.2 higher than their stated value—2.16 for the 2.0 setting, 2.44 for the 2.2 setting, and 2.7 for the 2.4 setting. SRGB was almost identical to the 2.2 setting. I kept it at the default 2.2, even with some light in the room. I found the 2.0 setting took away too much shadow depth.
HDR, which shares the same picture modes, performed similarly to SDR apart from the expected result of being under the EOTF curve as all projectors typically measure. Blue was again oversaturated, green tended towards yellow, and both magenta and (to a lesser extent) cyan tended towards blue.
I measured the color volume of the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K projector at 108.57% of BT.709, 73.85% of DCI-P3, and 49.95% of BT.2020.
SDR Viewing. Douglas Adams appeals to a very particular type of humor, one that appeals to me. And while 2005's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy didn't fully capture the genius of the book, I still find much of it to be thoroughly enjoyable, particularly with the casting. The opening credits include many instances of dolphins performing jumping tricks out of the water, and immediately I could see the effect of the blue tint in Movie mode. This continued into the blue skies outside as Arthur confronts the workers there to level his home. It wasn't egregious, but noticeably present. There's a little bit of noise present in the 1080p version of the disc accentuated by the Laser 4K, you can spot it dancing around in the interior white surfaces of the Heart of Gold ship, but it doesn't persist much through other parts of the film.
HDR Viewing. Animation in general is usually full of color, but the setting of Encanto even more than the average. On the Laser 4K, some were too accentuated for my taste. The lush greenery surrounding the town was a bit too yellowy, while the blue skies were a bit too oversaturated. Even in Movie mode, the blue tint was visible in the skin tones of everyone and in any white clothing being worn. The coloration wasn't egregious for a portable projector, and it's good enough performance for a quick setup situation, but at this price there really should be either a more accurate picture mode out of the box or some CMS controls to bring them more into line.
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When the fellowship is traversing the pass over Caradhras to avoid Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring, the blue tint was again apparent in the broad stretches of snow, which gave it an unnatural look. Skin tones were again a bit off as well. While the light output can hold up to some ambient light, there was depth missing in the shadows once they entered the Mines of Moria because of the black level. The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K definitely has better blacks than 4K LED projectors at the same price, but not quite as good as I wished for. However, the projector did display great 4K detail in all of the characters' clothing—the fibers of cloaks, strands of unkempt hair, and detail of weapons.
3D Viewing. The Laser 4K supports Side-By-Side and Over-Under 3D and synced with my DLP-Link glasses quickly. There was good depth to the 3D image as First Order TIE Fighters chase the Millennium Falcon through the desert of Jakku in The Force Awakens, although I saw a small bit of crosstalk with the fast-moving TIEs. There's a bit of a green shift (to the already slightly blue tint) and the detail is a bit softer than you get with a standard 2D image, but it's still plenty bright for an overall good 3D experience.
The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K is a good projector for a company's first laser light source offering, and Anker leverages its previous knowledge with portable projectors to include excellent setup features that make this projector a place-and-play experience. There are some bumps in the road, though, for a projector with an MSRP of $2,199. The rated light output that Anker provides is pretty far off of the brightest picture mode (although it has good brightness to combat ambient light or for a backyard movie night), the included remote doesn't have the full functionality it should, and the picture modes all have varying degrees of a blue tint to them. If you're able to find it for the Kickstarter price or on maybe even sale for a bit under MSRP, it becomes a more attractive deal.
Brightness. The brightest picture mode on the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K is Standard, which has a heavy blue tint. It measured at 1,702 ANSI lumens, or 92.5% of Anker's rated 1,840 ANSI lumen spec. A brightness slider for laser power adjustment ranges from 0-100 in increments of 2, although there's no indication it has any effect on the 25,000 hour light source life. I included measurements at 100, 76, 50, 26, and 0 below. Color brightness measured at 93.5% of white.
Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K ANSI Lumens
|Picture Custom Standard||1,699||1,136||747||586||463|
|Picture Custom Warm||1,465||979||644||506||399|
|Picture Custom Cool||1,505||1,006||662||519||410|
Brightness Uniformity. Brightness uniformity measured an excellent 93%, with the center of the screen being the brightest and the top and bottom of the right side being dimmest. There were no visible hot spots with test or real-world material.
Input Lag. Using a Leo Bodnar 4K lag tester I measured the 1080p/60 input lag in Game Mode Standard at 68.1 ms and in Game Mode Extreme at 65.1 ms. With the image correction left on, Game Mode Standard measured at 75.8 ms and Game Mode Extreme measured 77.8 ms. Outside of the game modes the input lag measured 125.9 ms with image correction on and 119.4 ms with it off. The projector would not display a 4K/60 signal from the lag tester, so I was unable to test lag at that resolution and refresh rate. Even in game mode, the input lag is too high for anything but casual gaming.
Fan Noise. Taken from three feet behind the projector in a room with a noise floor of 31.2 dBA, the projector measured at 33.5 dBA. The Nebula Cosmos is rated at 28 dB using the multi-point standard in a noise-controlled room.
- HDMI 2.0
- USB 2.0
- Aux out
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K projector page.