You can take your entertainment room to the next level with a home theater projector, even if you already have a good TV. These days, you can find a model with good picture quality, high brightness in ambient light, excellent color and a top-notch contrast ratio for $1,000 or less. With a home theater projector, you can get a huge screen for a fraction of the price of a big TV
, which may be the best part. And when you want to take movie night outside, there are portable and outdoor projector options to consider.
Whether you’re looking to buy a 4K projector, want something that’ll make HD sources look great or need something you can use on the go, you’re going to find the best home theater projector on this list.
Best projector overall
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB
The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is the best all-around home projector we’ve reviewed. Take an excellent contrast ratio, paired with impressive brightness and accurate color, all with better detail than what’s possible with a 1080p native resolution projector, and you’ve got all the pieces for a fantastic image. It’s not cheap, but it offers a significant step up in image quality over other projectors on this list (aside from the Sony, which is nearly double the price). It comes with HDMI 2.0 which allows you to do 4k60p. Extensive lens shift and a motorized zoom are the icing on the cake.
Read our Epson Home Cinema 5050UB review.
$3,000 at Crutchfield
$3,000 at Walmart
$3,295 at Amazon
Best projector for the money
We wouldn’t put this in the “cheap projector” bucket, but the BenQ HT2050A is definitely the best video projector you can get for the money. This modern projector produces a bright picture with great contrast and lifelike color accuracy. It’s also one of the only comparable models with vertical lens shift, which makes setup a little easier. It supports most media players, gaming consoles, PCs, Macs, and mobile devices with input options such as HDMI, USB, and more. Plus, the projector offers low input lag of 16ms for immersive gaming.
Read our BenQ CineHome HT2050A review.
$699 at Amazon
$699 at Best Buy
$579 at Adorama
Best projector, money no object
Sony VPL-VE325ES (Update: Low stock)
The Sony VPL-VW325ES is a thoroughbred among ponies, a Porsche among Volkswagens, an absolute stunner with a price tag to match. The contrast ratio, easily the most important aspect of overall picture quality, is better than the Epson 5050 and significantly better than any projector that doesn’t cost significantly more. And that’s saying something, since the Sony itself costs significantly more than any other projector on this list. It checks the box for gaming with the input lag reduction feature. And with brightness that can go up to 1,500 Lumens, it works well in a bright room as well. If price is no object, the picture quality is incredible.
Read our Sony VPL-VW325ES review.
$5,498 at Crutchfield
$5,498 at Amazon
$5,500 at Target
Best 4K projector for the money
The Optoma UHD35 is a modern projector that packs a lot into its tiny case and low price. This budget projector can throw a ton of light, its color wheel produces accurate colors and has great detail. The contrast ratio isn’t great, but it’s pretty average among 4K resolution projectors in this price range. And that price really is the UHD35’s biggest selling point. This 4K UHD projector offers great picture quality for only a few hundred dollars over the best 1080p projectors. It doesn’t offer lens shift or much in the way of a zoom, but if it fits in your room it’s a great way to get a 4K projector on a budget.
Read our Optoma UHD35 review.
$1,299 at Amazon
$1,299 at Walmart
$1,299 at Best Buy
Best portable projector
Anker Nebula Mars II Pro
It’s smaller than a six-pack of Coke and equipped with Wi-Fi streaming, a surprisingly loud Bluetooth speaker and even a handle. It offers auto vertical and manual horizontal keystone correction. This portable mini projector powerhouse also has one thing many compact projectors lack: a built-in battery. This budget projector is an all-in-one entertainment machine that’s darn cute, too.
Read our Anker Nebula Mars II Pro review.
$550 at Amazon
$515 at Walmart
Best LCD projector for the money
Epson Home Cinema 2250
If you’re susceptible to the “rainbow effect” of moving edges on a DLP projector, then an LCD projector is for you. The Epson Home Cinema 2250 modern projector is perhaps the most flexible home theater projector on this list, touting enhanced setup capabilities like a wider zoom and lens shift. It’s also brighter than any other projector here and offers built-in Android TV streaming.
Read our Epson Home Cinema 2250 review.
$650 at Amazon
Best 4K color and brightness
The LG HU810PW uses two lasers and a green phosphor to create some incredibly bright, ultracolorful images. This LG projector is one of the brightest projectors we’ve ever reviewed, producing 2,700 ANSI lumens, while at the same time offering some of the most impressively deep colors we’ve seen in a projector. The contrast ratio is quite poor, unfortunately, but the overall image is still good. That it’s relatively quiet and comes in a stylish case with ample lens shift is the icing on top.
Read our LG HU810PW review.
$2,597 at Amazon
Best for bright-room gaming
The BenQ HT2050A above is a superior-all around performer, but if you’re a gamer looking for a specialized tool for the job, the TH685 gaming projector is worth a look. If you don’t mind sacrificing color accuracy, it can get a lot brighter than the HT2050A, the ideal ambient light of brighter rooms, and gaming input lag is comparable.
Read our BenQ TH685 review.
$968 at Amazon
Best 1080p portable projector
ViewSonic M2 (Update: In stock soon)
The M2 is about the size of a cake, and like the Anker above, it includes onboard streaming and a (less-powerful) speaker. Unlike the Anker, you’ll have to supply your own external battery, like a portable charger or power bank. We didn’t like its picture as much as the Anker’s either, but it does have one advantage: 1080p native resolution, which is important if you want a big image with no visible pixels on your projector screen.
Read our Viewsonic M2 review.
See at Amazon
Best compact laser projector
Epson EF-12 (Update: Low stock)
The EF-12 is a small, highly portable projector in the same vein as the ViewSonic M2. It fits a slightly different niche, however. It requires AC power and has better sound — it even doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. The coolest part is that the EF-12’s light is created by Epson’s “MicroLaser Array Projection Technology.” Yep, laser beams. That means no lamps to replace or worry about lamp life.
Read our Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 review.
$955 at Amazon
What kind of projector should you get?
LCD and Digital Light Processing projectors have a lamp-based design. The bulb degrades over time, so your LCD projector will never throw an image as bright as the first time you switched it on. While not everyone will like that, these projectors are much more affordable than laser projectors.
DLP projectors are often smaller and more portable. They also offer better contrast and deeper blacks than their LCD counterparts. On the other hand, an LCD projector will offer you a sharper and brighter image. In fact, these appear brighter than DLPs even when their lower lumen count is lower.
Notably, lamp-based projectors require more maintenance than laser projectors — because you have to change the bulb. The former produces an image when a bulb emits light through a color wheel. By contrast, a laser projector generates the exact colors needed for an image. Typically, a laser projector would last you five times longer than a bulb-based projector. All of this is mixed in a package that starts at around $2,000, which is much more than LCD or DLP projectors.
Then comes the distance part. If you don’t have space to set up the traditional projector, which would ideally sit 10 to 20 feet away from the surface it projects, you can look at the short-throw projectors. These can project a large image with only a few feet between them and a wall.
Do you need a screen for a better projector experience?
You can use a white wall to project your picture. However, don’t expect it to be the best surface for a projector. If your wall has tiny bumps, they would refract light — creating small shadows. As a result, the image loses quality and brightness.
The latest home theater projectors can deliver wonderful home cinema experiences in various lighting conditions. However, if you want the best from your projector you’re better off getting a projector screen, especially if you’ll be watching a lot of content in a bright environment. This is because projector screens tend to brighten the image noticeably.
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