Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K – finally, a mini-projector that sees the light (AV review)

The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K is the first mini-projector that is bright enough to work in a home environment – but it is even better at night or in a darkened media room.

The Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K was initially a successful Kickstarter crowd-funded project to produce the ultimate, smallest, 4K projector. As such, specifications tended to meet crowd expectations.

So, let’s start with a few definitions. This is part of the new breed of Texas Instruments DLP projectors that range from 480p to 4K and from a few hundred lumens to, in this case, 2400 ANSI lumens.

Typically, these projectors have a LED light source with a half-life (50% brightness) of 20,000 hours at 100% brightness and 30,000 hours at 70% brightness. Then you throw them away. But this is different.

It has an ALPD 3.0 (Advanced Laser Phosphor Display) – laser-excited fluorescent materials using a red and blue two-colour laser and Phosphor technology developed for cinemas. Lamp life is 25,000 hours, and it is not user replaceable. It reaches 50% of the Rec.2020 and 80% DCI-P3 colour gamut. You find similar laser sources in high-end Sony and Barco projectors.

It is different from 4K LCD lasers because it uses Texas Instruments DLP technology comprising a micro-optical-electro-mechanical system (MOEMS) that modulates light using a digital micro-mirror device (DMD).

Its Faux-K (4K) in that each of the 1920 x 1080 micro-mirrors hosts 4 pixels using XPR fast-switch pixel shifting and is independently modulated (moved). It means that it can equally handle 1080p and lower content well. Nebula uses the best, currently available DLP471P, a .47” DMD.

Four things set the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K apart from the crowd.

First, Nebula Cosmos has integrated Google/Android TV 10 and HDMI, USB-A, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth input. That means the entire device is Google Certified and, by inference, Netflix certified. You could add a Google TV 4K dongle to any HDMI-enabled projector, but the integration is nice.

Second, is the ALPD3.0 Laser light source – it is not a low-cost LED.

Third, it is the first 4K DLP projector that meets or exceeds every CyberShack test. I guess at $4295, it should, although at that price, it is not too much of a stretch to step up to short throw 3LCD/lasers.

Finally, Nebula is part of the Anker Innovations group, and its brands include Anker, Eufy, Soundcore and more. That means local support and an Australian consumer law-compliant warranty – something you will not get from the Chinese cheapies on Alibaba.

Australian Review: Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K projector Model D0408

WebsiteNebula Australia and Anker Product page  
Price$4295 but currently at JB for $3995
FromJB Hi-Fi is the authorised retailer – other sources are grey market and not covered by warranty.
Warranty1-Year ACL and 30-day money-back guarantee
NebulaNebula is a small team of innovators and visual engineers at Anker who are dedicated to bringing the best entertainment experience to the home and outdoors.
MoreCyberShack projector news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass(able) rating that is not as good as it should be and a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.

You can click on most images for an enlargement.

First impression – Exceed

I initially rejected the offer to review this device because I felt that at $4295, it was a little rich for Joe and Jane Average, and frankly, I was not all that impressed with micro LED/DLP projectors. However, Anker’s marketing manager Harold Xu reached out to me and convinced me to take a second look.

That was in the form of attending the pop-up Nebula Streaming Cinema at Darlinghurst – a 4-seat cinema with a 150” screen and what looked and sounded like a pretty awesome Sonos Arc Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 soundbar—damned good marketing!

The experience was enjoyable. Here was a relatively inexpensive 4K projector filling a 150” screen with pretty good colour and details. I was quietly impressed at its flexibility.

It is pretty stocky at 212 (H plus handle), 170 (W), and 220 (D) mm x nearly 5kg. The handle makes it easy to move, but it is more luggable than portable.

The lens and Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors are on the front to enable auto focus and keystone correction.

On the rear is the power, HDMI, USB, and AUX ports, as well as a cover over the removable Google Android TV dongle. On top are the usual touch controls.

Underneath is a ¼” tripod socket, and I strongly recommend that you get a solid tripod that will stably hold 5kg to mount it on.

On the sides are 2 x 10W speakers and 2 x 5W tweeters – one left and one right stereo channel.

The remote control is standard Google Android TV with dedicated Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and Disney+ buttons. It has a mic and button press to access Google Assistant.

Setup – Easy enough – Pass+

Presuming you know Google TV, it is a simple matter of adding your Gmail account and Wi-Fi 2.4 or 5Ghz password (you should use the 5Ghz for streaming).

The projector will auto-focus and keystone. The Time-of-Flight sensors do a reasonable job if it is on a horizontal surface.

Make sure you update the Google Android TV and the Projector firmware (from the settings button), and you are away.

Next, download and install digital TV streaming apps and anything else you like from the Google TV Play store.

Nebula Connect App – Pass

The App does not require a sign-in or account (excellent). It is pretty limited to

  • Volume up/down
  • Power on/off
  • Source Selection
  • Google TV setup and projector setup
  • Force auto-focus and keystone
  • Trackpad for home screen navigation

Mounting and screen – Pass+

First, set the device on a relatively horizontal flat surface just below the viewing height (the bottom of the image corresponds to the bottom of the lens). It has a 1.27:1 throw meaning (screen size/distance from the screen).

  • 60 inches 1.68 m
  • 70 inches 1.97 m
  • 80 inches 2.25 m
  • 90 inches 2.53 m
  • 100 inches 2.81 m
  • 110 inches 3.10 m
  • 120 inches 3.37 m
  • 130 inches 3.65 m
  • 140 inches 3.93 m
  • 150 inches 4.22 m

Remember that for every 2x increase in the diagonal image size, projector brightness (ANSI lumens) needs to increase by 4x to maintain constant image brightness (nits). Ergo the bigger the screen, the lower the nit brightness. We feel that it is better up to 100” when it is harder to defeat ambient light after that.

The screen type also impacts image brightness – different surfaces have different reflective characteristics. Most wall surfaces (painted walls and cotton sheets) have negative gain (one lumen in results in <1 lumen out and sucks the life out of the image), so you need a neutral (1:1) or positive gain surface.

Some projectors have settings for different wall colours – this does not. You need to buy at least a neutral gain screen if you want the best image. A tripod-mounted 100” 1:1 portable screen is $198 from Officeworks.

It can operate upright or ceiling mounted from the front or rear of a screen. Please put a lot of thought into placement. You will get the best image and sound in front of you at seated eye height. Placing it above or behind your seating position will not give you the best.

Auto-focus and keystone – Pass+

Every time you turn on or move the projector, it will project an auto-focus/keystone screen. It is excellent on a horizontal surface and can accommodate a tilt of about 30°. You can also force a re-focus in the settings, manually correct the keystone, and digitally decrease the screen size below the default.

It is one of the best auto-focus and keystone corrections due to its ToF sensors.

Projector settings – not that you need to access them

Quite separate from Google Android TV settings is a settings button on the projector.

  • Picture: Standard, vivid, soft, movie, game, custom – Vivid is most saturated (that we all like), but standard is more colour accurate.
  • Aspect: 16:9, 16:10, 4:3 and auto – excellent
  • HDR – on or off – must leave it on
  • Audio – Standard, movie, music, audio and custom. We will analyse this later.
  • DRC Mode – Dynamic Range Compression balances the range between the loudest and quietest sounds. Use this function for Dolby Digital sound when watching movies at low volume at night.
  • Image correction: Basically, auto or manual focus and keystone
  • HDMI 2.0 – on/off or auto
  • Bluetooth speaker mode: switched projector light off to use it as a speaker
  • Advanced – reset etc.

These are all detailed in the manual.

Inputs – Pass+

  • Wi-Fi 5 AC MIMO means it can support Chromecast and Apple AirPlay (Nebula AirScreen app) casting.
  • BT 5.0 means you can attach a keyboard/trackpad and speakers/headphones.
  • HDMI 2.0 supports up to 4K@60Hz content from PC/Mac/Blue-ray/Dongles. It also supports CEC commands, e.g. power and volume from connected device remotes.
  • USB-A (FAT, FAT32, NTFS, ExFAT) supports audio and video (Download File Explorer to access content). It will play video H.264/265, VP9, MPEG 1/2/3/4, ASP, WMC, AVS+, RealVideo 8/9/10 and more. It will play audio MPEG1/2/4, MVC, MP3, AAC/+, WMA/Pro, FLAC, OOG, AC3, and Dolby Digital+. Photo formats are JPEG, BMP and PNG.
  • AUX-out is a 3-pole for stereo for headphones or speakers or with an AUX-in device
  • Google Assistant – you press a button for mic access

It lacks Miracast for PC use (Chromecast only works via the browser). If you need this, buy an HDMI 4K Miracast dongle from Jaycar for $79.95 (or look on eBay).

Brightness/Uniformity – Exceed

Here is where we get down to the technical jargon because there is a vast difference between advertised projector brightness and projected image brightness. And there are three brightness measurements – at the light source, at the lens (ANSI lumens) and at the screen (the only one that counts).

The light source is 5000 lumens. That equals 2000 ANSI lumens (tested 1800). It is advertised as 2400, but the difference is insignificant as it accounts for HDR on a tiny part of the screen. On a 100” screen is about 600 nits (cd/m2).

Uniformity is good, with no obvious hotspots.

According to Texas Instruments, this should be capable of ‘defeating’ indoors, indirect daylight.

The Nebula Cosmos 4K projector produces enough brightness to produce a reasonably colour accurate image under 400-600 lumens office light.

Colour accuracy – Pass+

The colours are bright and mostly accurate. In vivid mode, it amps the colours even more at the expense of colour accuracy, but that is what the human eye craves. Delta E out of the box is 5.4 (<4 is excellent), but that is highly dependent on-screen type.

The ALPD3.0 laser can reproduce around 80% DCI-P3 colour gamut in standard mode. We found a slight blue tint that can make skin tones seem a little off.

Image sharpness – Pass

Projectors typically have softer image sharpness, particularly on text. This is pretty good, showing hair and fabric texture but text is not all that crisp.

3D viewing – not tested

It supports Side-By-Side and Over-Under 3D and synced with DLP-Link glasses.

Contrast – Pass

Contrast is the ratio of white to black – how much brighter white is than black. The ratio drops steeply if you don’t have pure black (more of a grey). Nebula says it is HDR10 (High Dynamic Range capable), but it simply downmixes HDR content to the projector’s SDR capability. Why? Three contrast measurements defeat HDR.

The first two are Dynamic contrast and Full On/Off contrast – both are notoriously misleading. The only accurate measurement is at the screen (depending on the screen’s distance).

Nebula quote 1,500,000:1 Dynamic Contrast. An iris (like the pupil in your eye) regulates the light output. In dark scenes, it reduces the light to make blacks look blacker and vice versa for light scenes. It then measures the difference between the darkest black in any scene and the whitest white in another scene. It is not an apple-for-apple measurement. Still, the rate quoted rate is very high.

The theoretical Full-On/Off (FOFO) contrast is a projection optics measurement, and, in this case, it is about 375,000:1 – still a nonsense measurement.

These are nowhere near the reality of the screen contrast (tested approx. 1200:1), which is what your eyes see. In theory, it will support HDR10; in practice, it does quite a good job on HDR/HDR10 content.

Motion jaggies – Pass(able)

Even though you may be using 4K@50/60Hz (Australia is 50Hz), most HDR content is at 24/30Hz (frames per second). It does not have motion smoothing, but overall, it is acceptable for a large screen.

Upscale – not sure how it does it, but lower-res images look fine

We played a variety of content, including 480, 720, 1080p and 4K. I suspect it does not upscale so much as use the video input, remembering its Faux-K with four pixels per 1920 x 1080 mirror. Tech aside, it was OK for 720 and 1080p – forget old movies.

Gaming – not really

Input lag over HDMI is around 100ms, but it is okay for casual Xbox and PlayStation or console users.

How does it look – Exceed

Our measurement tools are designed for TV screens – not projector screens. So the tests are more subjective than objective. And even using one of the best smartphone cameras, we cannot accurately show you what was on the screen.

Power/Noise – Pass

It requires 240V power. At full load/brightness, it uses around 200W or 5 hours for about 30 cents. Over 8 hours, it varies in power use and averages about 120W/h. Sleep mode is about 30 minutes. If you use this in a darkened room, you will only need 50% brightness, reducing the power use to <90W.

The peak noise at the projector is 47.8dB, and there is a fan hum around 300 Hz which can annoy some people. It varies between 30-35dB at 2 metres – negligible.

Storage – Pass

There is 16GB of eMMC storage (about 3GB in use by the OS) that you can use to store files.

Sound

Sound is powerful rather than accurate. The maximum volume depends on the source. Typically, 85dB, but using BT from a PC, we saw nearly 100dB.

Placement is important. Ideally, the sound should come from in front of your seating position (from the screen), so place the projector there. It is a little weird coming from behind you. Or connect via Wi-Fi or BT to a soundbar.

It decodes Dolby Audio to 5.1 and PCM mono to 5.1. AiFi (Artificial Intelligence Fidelity) creates a more immersive spatial sound. The 2 x 10W full range and 2 x 5W tweeters outwards-firing speakers do a good job and even have a little sense of spatial sound.

Audio delay over Wi-Fi casting is 250ms – verging on the need for lip sync adjustment, but that is not available in the projector.

Our suggestion would be to connect this via Wi-Fi, BT, or 3.5mm to a decent soundbar but remember it only supports up to 5.1 – not Atmos spatial sound.

Sound signature – Pass+

Note: Frequency response is from 20Hz to 20kHz

Deep Bass: 20-40HzNil
Middle Bass: 40-100HzBuilding nicely to 120Hz
High Bass: 100 to 200HzStarting at 120Hz and primarily flat
Low-mid: 200-400HzFlat
Mid: 400-1000HzFlat
High-mid: 1-2kHzSlight dip but otherwise flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHzFlat
Treble:4-6kHzFlat
High Treble: 6-10kHzSlight decline at 8kHz to reduce treble harshness
Dog whistle: 10-20kHzFlat to 20Hz

It has excellent mid-bass, meaning it has all the musically important bass. An average sub-woofer usually handles this. Upper Bass is strong, giving bass that clarity – thump instead of a whump.

This is an excellent neutral sound signature. The only issue is that it faithfully reproduces what it gets – garbage-in-and-garbage-out. It has pre-sets Standard, movie, music, audio and custom that you may need to use. We found custom allowed you to bring up the clear voice 1-4kHz and recess the upper treble – it was excellent for dialogue.

Read How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide).

CyberShack’s view – the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K mini-projector impresses me (and that is not easy)

It is

  • Laser, not LED light source.
  • Bright enough to defeat indirect, indoor daylight.
  • Relatively colour accurate, enough that the Netflix and 7+ red logos look right.
  • Decent, watchable image.
  • HDR is sufficient to see details in shadows and highlights.
  • Google Android TV 10.0 is perfect.
  • Wi-Fi 5 AC is fine for Wi-Fi streaming.
  • Sound is powerful.
  • And certainly, the best 4K mini-DLP projector I have seen.

Would I buy the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K?

Hard question. It covers all bases and is an excellent projector. The $4,295 price bothers me a little, but I am torn as the picture is very good for a projector. I have not had enough experience with 4K projectors to be totally sure, but I think it is class-leading for the price.

With a projector, it is more subjective than objective. Do you like the image? Yes. Does it compare with a LED/LCD TV? Yes. Is the sound good? Yes. Would I use it? Yes.

Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K, Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K, Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K

Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K mini-projector

$4295 but on special for $3995
8.4

Features

8.5/10

Value

8.0/10

Perforance (day/night

8.5/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

8.0/10

Pros

  • Bright – works in indirect daylight
  • Good image and colour quality
  • Google Android TV 10.0
  • Low power consumption
  • Good quality and Australian warranty from Anker

Cons

  • No motion smoothing
  • More expensive than other ALPD3.0 projectors
  • Better on 100” screen unless in a dark room
  • Few colour calibration adjustments