Let me say it up front: the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K is a special product. Not necessarily in a bad way, it’s just… different. This projector is trying to find – or maybe create – a specific location, and I’m not entirely sure it can do that. Its handle and compact size make it easy to carry like othersbut at $2,200 list price, it’s really expensive for something you’ll be hauling like .
- Built-in Android TV
I do not like
- No zoom
- Few image adjustments
The Anker Nebula Cosmos 4K Laser does a number of things well. It’s exceptionally bright with decent picture quality, has built-in streaming, and its speakers play loud enough for its size.
But in the end it just costs too much for what you get. Numerous cheaper projectors, such as Anker’s own Nebula Mars 2 Pro, are just as compact, if not as bright or high-resolution. In fact, because the Nebula 4K Laser lacks a battery and needs to be plugged in, it’s less versatile than many other compact projectors. Meanwhile, its lack of zoom, mediocre overall performance and limited image adjustments put it a step behind more traditional setups. However, that is not the whole story.
Cosmos by the numbers
- Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
- Compatible with HDR: Yes
- 4K compatible: Yes
- 3D compatible: No
- Lumens specification: 2400
- Zoom: Nope
- Lens shift: No
- Laser life: 25,000 hours
Cosmos Laser 4K is, you will be surprised, a 4K laser projector. It has a luminosity of 2,400 lumens. I measured it at 1607 which is very good. The brightness and effectively eternal laser light source actually means the Cosmos Laser 4K will be brighter for longer than lamp projectors without having to pay for new lamps every few years.
However, there is no zoom or lens shift, so the positioning of the Cosmos Laser 4K is more subtle than traditional 4K projectors. If you already have a projection screen, there is exactly one place you can put the projector. An inch closer and you won’t fill the screen. An inch too far and the image overflows around the edges. The lack of lens shift isn’t surprising; most projectors in this price range do not have it. There’s only a slight upward offset, though, so if you’re expecting to put it on a coffee table, I hope your screen is low enough.
Autofocus works quickly, which is good. Like most portable projectors, there is also automatic keystone correction, which.
Then there’s the massive handle, the Cosmos Laser 4K’s most visible design element. I suppose this makes the projector more “portable”. However, at the same weight as most other projectors in this price range (10.7 pounds), you’ll need a really big backpack to carry it.
As I mentioned before, there is no battery. Wherever you use it, you’ll need power, just like any other “traditional” projector.
In terms of sound, there is a mark everywhere, tuned by Harman Kardon. I’m at a certain age and profession that those words still mean something. It plays loud enough at maximum volume, but definitely not something that would fill the backyard. If you are at ear level and in line with the speakers, it can be quite piercing. It has more bass than you’d expect, and given that neither projector sounds “good”, overall it’s not a big deal.
Nice collection of connections
- HDMI inputs: 1
- USB port: 1
- Audio output: Bluetooth
- Internet: 2.4GHz/5GHz
- Remote control: No backlight, also app (Android/iOS)
On the one hand, there are very few physical connections: only one HDMI and one USB. Honestly, you don’t need more with projectors. Even if you were using the Cosmos Laser 4K in a traditional home theater role, you’d run just one HDMI cable to the projector, ideally using a receiver or soundbar as an HDMI switch.
I appreciate that real Android TV is integrated. While the interface isn’t as smooth as, say, Roku, it works well enough. You can handle all the main things, like Disney Plus, HBO Max and so on. There are a few quirks, like no 4K with Vudu, but that’s a minor knock.
In everyday use, Android TV acts as a layer placed on top of the projector’s basic user interface. Pretty much anything I needed to do with the projector required multiple, sometimes counterintuitive, steps. Some related settings are in entirely separate menus. If all you want to do is turn on and off Netflix, it’s pretty easy. If you want to change the brightness orso the image looks better, everything requires a lot more steps than other projectors with one button access.
Not that there are many picture settings. There are far fewer adjustments than other projectors, a problem we mentioned.
The remote control is also a bit problematic. During the initial setup, you need to program which buttons control the volume, access the HDMI input, and so on. Worse, if the projector decides to “forget” these selections, which it did for me halfway through the review, you’ll be left with the volume set to whatever it was before the remote was forgotten. At the same time I tried to reconnect the app and it also failed to connect. I ended up getting it working again and several firmware updates have been released to fix this issue, so hopefully Anker will have it fixed by the time you read this.
Image quality comparison
For my comparison I chose, an old-school design like a 4K laser projector can be. It’s $500 more, so about the same price, but has zoom, lens shift, and a lot more image editing than the Anker. I connected both projectors to a Monoprice 1×4 distribution amplifier and viewed them side-by-side on a 102-inch screen with a gain of 1.0.
Looking at the specs, these projectors should look very similar, and they did on my screen, at least at first glance. Light output is pretty much the same, with a slight nod to Anker.
Optoma clearly had the upper handhowever, his image had more depth and looked less washed out than Anker’s. I measured a contrast ratio of 652:1 on the Anker, which is certainly not bad compared to this category of projectors, but the Optoma measured 1,007:1 and was noticeably better.
The most noticeable difference, however, is the color. First, the Anker has a slight greenish tint that was noticeable next to the Optom, but wouldn’t be a big deal in isolation. Other than that though, the Optoma looks much more natural. The greens look a little also green on Anker. For example, Caucasian skin tones look a little more artificial, with a slight pallor compared to Optoma. They are also a bit off between notes. The salmon jacket on Optoma looked like beige through Anker.
I didn’t have the UHZ50’s cheaper brother, the UHD35, on hand for comparison. This projector is essentially the same size as the UHZ50, but costs $1,350. It is only slightly weaker than the Cosmos Laser 4K (1,567 vs. 1,607 lumens), which will not be noticeable. The contrast ratio is practically the same, 649 vs. 652:1. No streaming on the UHD35 but has a bit of zoom. You’ll need to replace the lamp every few years, but listed lamps cost around $100. So even if you watch four hours a night, every night, at the highest lamp setting, it’s more than 22 flight before you cover the price difference. Which means you get a similar image, more flexible permanent placement, or roughly the same portability for a lot less money—minus the big handle, of course.
Overall, Anker doesn’t look bad by any means. But with a price this high, “not bad” is hardly a selling point.
A cosmos of possibilities
The best way to think of the Cosmos Laser 4K is that it’s a portable projector on steroids more than a big-handled home projector. This does not excuse its lack of features and performance, but rather explains some of them. But for $2,200, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect more from either.
In the end, I don’t quite understand who this projector is intended for. For me, an expensive projector requires a home theater environment with speakers and a real screen. If you want something temporary and highly portable, two grand is a lots of of money to be hauled, whether with a large handle or not. Sure, the Cosmos Laser 4K is much brighter than your typical portable projector, but is the Optoma UHZ50 that you could carry in one hand really that much less “portable”?
If portability is what you’re looking for, I recommend going with something smaller, cheaper, and battery powered. If you drop it or get knocked over by raccoons in the party, it’s less of a loss. Anker’s own Mars II Pro is much weaker and has a much lower resolution, but it does a great job in this role. You just can’t have a screen that big for outdoor movie nights, but you don’t need an extension cord.
If you’re in the Cosmos Laser 4K price range, I think the greater adjustability, flexibility and image quality of the Optoma UHZ50 or UHZ35 is a better choice.