Outdoor AV Roundup: Cool Gear for a Hot Summer

The weather is warm and outdoors is the place to be. It doesn’t matter if you’re poolside, at the beach, or on the road with the family, you don’t have to leave your music and movies behind. Here are 10 AV gear suggestions for getting an entertainment fix in the great outdoors.


Screen Innovations Solo Projection Screen
Watching a movie outside under the starry sky is a great way to wind down after a backyard barbecue with friends. All you need to make it happen is a portable video projector, a simple sound system, and a screen. There are plenty of outdoor screen options, but none are as full-featured as the Solo from Screen Innovations. A basic Solo consists of the company’s tab-tensioned Slate 1.2 screen material housed in a slim 2.75-inch cassette. The motorized screen is controlled by an RF remote, and it’s powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can operate for up to 2 years on a single charge. Multiple accessories extend your control and mounting options, including suction-cup mounts for quick-and-easy installation on an RV or garage door. The Solo is available in standard 80-, 90-, and 100-inch screen sizes. Prices start at $1,600.


Philips Hue Outdoor Lighting
Philips Hue lighting kits are a go-to solution for DIY’ers seeking to create an indoor lighting system controlled by a smartphone or by Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant voice commands. While the main attraction is programming scenes to dim and transform white light from cool to warm tones, the Philips Hue can also beam light in up to 16 million colors. Until recently, Hue lights were reserved strictly for indoor use, but that now changes with the introduction of the Hue outdoor range. The new offerings consist of the Lily spotlight ($280 for a base unit pack) and Calla bollard ($130 for a base unit pack). Lily spotlights bathe plants, trees, and the architectural features of your home in a changing wash of color, while a set of Calla bollards can be used to illuminate garden paths and walkways.


AAXA M6 Portable Pico Projector
Portable pico projectors make it easy to get a big image wherever you go, but new models with rechargeable batteries allow for even greater flexibility by untethering the projector from the power outlet. The AAXA M6 ($599) is a compact 1080p-resolution DLP projector driven by LED lamps with a 30,000-hour lifespan. Brightness is specified at 1200 lumens (500 lumens when using battery power), and maximum image size is 200 inches. An HDMI jack lets you connect a computer or a Roku or Amazon Fire stick for streaming, and it also has VGA, USB, and SD card inputs. AAXA says the M6’s battery life when fully charged is 90 minutes — enough to watch most movies or a few episodes of HBO’s Silicon Valley.


Que Acoustics Q3E In-Ear Bluetooth Headphones
Jogging, walking, sitting back and soaking in the sunset — each of these activities calls for a soundtrack. With the Q3E in-ear bluetooth headphones from Que Acoustics ($109), your outdoor adventures will be accompa- nied by balanced, full-range sound when listening to music. These sweat-proof, water-resistant headphones are designed to withstand strenuous activity, with a custom Que Lock mechanism that holds the ‘phones in place even during brisk jogs or workouts. The Q3E’s Que Lock feature also provides noise isolation, so you won’t get distracted when using them while traveling on a train or plane. A built-in mic lets you make calls on the go, and the control pack provides a micro-USB port to charge the ‘phones for up to 6 hours of playback.


JBL Link 20 Wireless Multiroom Speaker
The new breed of Wi-Fi-connected multiroom speakers are more versatile and rugged than ever. Take JBL’s Link 20 ($199), for example, which can be toted outdoors and switched over to Bluetooth streaming when Wi-Fi is out of range. Since JBL’s speaker is IPX7 rated, it can even withstand an accidental dip in the pool without getting damaged. The Link 20 uses Chromecast built-in to stream over Wi-Fi and its lithium-ion battery lets it play for 10 hours before needing a recharge. The main thing that differentiates the Link 20 from other multiroom speakers, however, is its Google Assistant feature. Curious about tomorrow’s weather or need to order an Uber? Preface your question or command with “Hey Google,” and the speaker will respond. Google Assistant also works with music services, letting you stream tracks, albums, and playlists directly via voice command from Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, and Spotify.


Monitor Audio Vecta V240 All-Weather Speaker
There are many “all-weather” speakers on the market that can be installed on a patio or deck to deliver year-round music, but Monitor Audio’s Vecta V240 ($475/ each) stands out among them as a particularly stylish example. The Vecta 240 is available in black or white and features a curved cabinet that’s designed to blend in with corners and fit under eaves. A single-point pivoting bracket system ($50/ each) allows for simple mounting and horizontal or vertical installation. Since this is a speaker from Monitor Audio, sound quality is a primary concern, and the Vecta V240 addresses that through dual 4-inch C-Cam metal cone woofers and a 1-inch gold C-Cam dome tweeter — both mounted on a curved baffle to reduce ceiling and wall reflections.


Ecoxgear EcoSlate Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Some portable Bluetooth speakers claim to be waterproof, but few models can endure the rigors of a camping or kayaking trip. Ecoxgear’s rugged EcoSlate ($149), in contrast, is a Bluetooth speaker that’s designed to live outdoors. Along with being waterproof, the EcoSlate can float, and it features heavy-duty rubber corners to prevent damage when dropped. A built-in lithium-ion battery lets you play music for up to 12 hours, and it will charge any devices connected to the speaker via USB. A 2 x 10-watt amp powers the EcoSlate’s full-range drivers, and you can wirelessly pair up two speakers for stereo playback. When the campfire dies down at night, the EcoSlate’s 200-lumen wide-beam lantern will also light your way back to the tent, where you can play tunes in the dark using its back-lit control buttons.


ZoomGo PlayOn Streaming Media Stick
The free PlayOn app provides a way to aggregate Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and HBO Now, as well as broadcast TV network sites, in a convenient interface for browsing and playback on a desktop PC or laptop. A $30 upgrade to the premium version turns PlayOn into a DVR by letting you record and download shows and stream them to multiple devices. Now, with the new ZoomGo PlayOn streaming media stick ($26), you can bring the PlayOn experience on the road. The ZoomGo plugs into your car’s power socket and creates a Wi-Fi hotspot so the entire family can use their iOS/Android devices to enjoy movies and TV shows downloaded from PlayOn to microSD cards (8Gb microSD card included). And since no 4G connection is required, you can keep the kids entertained for an entire road trip without burning through your cellular data plan.


Séura Storm Ultra Bright Outdoor LCD Ultra HDTV
Just because you’re relaxing poolside or on a backyard deck doesn’t mean you have to leave TV behind. With Séura’s Storm Ultra Bright outdoor displays, you can catch a game or binge-watch Netflix from the comfort of your lounge chair or flotation device. The new Ultra HD-resolution displays deliver a brightness level of 1,000 nits -- enough to compete with sunlight beaming into your backyard oasis. Chrome accents surrounding the panel create an “infinity edge illusion” that lets the set blend in easily with any environment where it’s installed, while an Adaptive Picture Control feature automatically adjusts picture settings to compensate for outdoor lighting changes (cloudy conditions, etc.). Connectivity options include HDMI 2.0a along with HDBaseT for extra-long cable runs. Storm Ultra Bright outdoor displays are available in 49-, 55-, 65-, 86-inch screen sizes ($4,499-$19,999).


MartinLogan ML75R Landscape Speaker
Some folks would be satisfied to line the paths of their outdoor oasis with generic rock speakers. But for a serious rock-and-roll garden, nothing short of MartinLogan’s ML75R ($449.95/each) will do. The company’s landscape speaker is part of its Installer line, which also includes more conventional designs for outdoor A/V applications. The ML75R uses two 1-inch titanium dome tweeters and a 7.5-inch polypropylene cone woofer to bring the music to the outdoors. Its sealed, mineral-filled enclosure adds sturdiness and exhibits a genuinely rock-like look, while a water-resistant stainless-steel grille protects the speaker’s drivers. For those seeking a smaller speaker option to rock out to, MartinLogan also sells the ML65R ($349.95/each), which uses a 6.5-inch woofer instead.