The 10 Best Cheap Projectors of 2019

Turn your home into a top-notch movie theater with these projectors

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Optoma HD142X 1080p 3000 Lumens 3D DLP

Optoma HD142X 1080p 3000 Lumens 3D DLP
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.6

The Optoma HD142X handles 3D content swimmingly and it’s a great 2D projector, too. It has 1080p HD resolution, a screen-size range of 66 inches to 107 inches and a brightness of 3000 lumens, so it will work in a wide variety of rooms and settings. As for connections, it has two HDMI ports (one with MHL), one USB port, one 3D sync port, as well as an audio output, so you can connect a decent pair of speakers or a sound system. This model has been raved about its general picture quality, rich color reproduction, minimal fan noise and good 3D projection on movies like ​Avatar, Thor and Godzilla.

Best Mini: APEMAN Mini DLP Projector

4.4

Nothing sets a camping trip or a backyard party apart like a handheld, battery-powered, mini projector, and for right around $200, this option from APEMAN gives you an amazing picture, by mini or full-sized standards. First let’s talk about that DLP tech, which gives you the crisp picture: APEMAN explains that DLP will give you a better digitally rendered picture than LCD technology, resulting in more striking colors and a crisper picture (and reviews seem to support that). And at less than an inch thick and just over one pound, this little device can be slipped into your backpack with ease. It’s powered by a 3,400 mAh battery which the manufacturer clocks at about 120 minutes of projection time (so you’ll have to keep that in mind when considering movies to watch). Plus, they’ve loaded in a low-noise cooling fan, all the necessary inputs from HDMI to USB and even a bottom-oriented tripod mount.

Check out our other reviews of the best mini projectors available on the market today.

Runner-Up, Best Mini: Anker Nebula Mars II

The Nebula Mars II packs plenty of features and projection quality into a compact, lightweight frame. While Anker’s Nebula Capsule projector deservedly draws attention for its even more minuscule size and shape, the Mars II offers extra oomph while still being very portable: see its built-in leather handle, four-hour video battery life, and 7 x 4.8 x 5.4-inch dimensions.

The Mars II’s 1280 x 720 HD resolution and 300 ANSI lumens of brightness look great in dark or low-lit rooms and outdoors at night. The screen size ranges between 30 and 150 inches, and quick one-second autofocus and keystone correction makes sure the image is sharp. It also delivers surprisingly strong sound through two 10-watt speakers—you can even use it for up to 30 hours of Bluetooth audio on its own.

Connectivity is an area where the Mars II shines. With a Wi-Fi connection and its own Android 7.1 operating system, you can easily stream TV and movies through apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. You can also connect to streaming video sticks, gaming systems, and other sources through the USB 3 and HDMI ports in the back. A simple remote is included, but working the Mars II through the free Nebula Connect app over Bluetooth may offer better navigation and control options.

Best Plug-and-Play: Anker Nebula Capsule II

Anker has something surprisingly compact in its Capsule series. What fits pretty easily in your hand — due in part to the cylindrical capsule shape — packs a powerful punch in picture and sound. The Capsule II improves on the first generation in a number of ways that (almost) justify its higher price tag. For starters, it has upped the resolution to now fall in the high-def category, at 1280x720. In the TV market, wherein 4K has become prevalent, this might not seem terribly exciting. But considering the previous gen was Anker Nebula Capsule maxed out at 480p, it’s nice to see a boost in sharpness.

At 200 lumens, it isn’t the brightest projector out there, but what Anker seems to have achieved in such a small package is pretty remarkable. There’s an 8-watt speaker built right in for decently full audio response, plus a battery that allows for about 2.5 hours of playback. However, the real killer app, in our book, is its smart functionality. With Android TV built-in, plus the opportunity to expand to over 3,600 apps by way of the integrated Chromecast function, this really is a top contender should you have a lot of streaming content you hope to enjoy.

Best New Release: Acer C202i Mini Projector

It may be small in price and stature, but the Acer C202i Mini Projector is a mobile powerhouse. Weighing just 12.35 ounces (or 0.77 pounds), and measuring 5.9 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches, its chassis is fit enough to toss inside a bag, perfect for shepherding around to business meetings, family reunions, and other unwanted obligations. Its wireless capabilities mean you don’t have to lug around an HDMI cable if you don’t want to. But if you do, you can. You can also play media, such as movies and shows, over Wi-Fi or a USB storage device — like a flash drive or an external SSD.

Its 9,000mAh battery provides up to five hours of battery life and can also charge your phone or tablet. Longevity is a running theme in the C202i: the LED light, wielding a brightness of 300 lumens, can last up to 30,000 hours. Meanwhile, its resolution is 854 x 480 pixels but can be increased up to 1600 x 1200 pixels, and the contrast ratio is 5000:1. While the visuals it presents are stunning, its one small speaker shouldn’t be relied upon for audio-heavy presentations. 

Best Budget: Vankyo Leisure 3 Portable Projector

The Vankyo Leisure 3 Projector is the ideal option for those seeking entertainment and affordability. It’s suited for home movie nights, able to adjust image size to between 32 and 176 inches, and can function as far away as 16 feet or as close as 4.9 feet depending on the space requirements. Powered by an MStar Advanced Color Engine, the projector has a contrast ratio of 2000:1 and the ability to support up to 1920 x 1080 resolution so the picture looks crisp and dynamic against a blank wall. Fan noise can be a concern with budget projectors, but the Leisure 3 features a cooling system that helps moderate this.

Easy to transport, the device can also be connected to smartphones and gaming consoles like the PS3, PS4, X-Box One, or Wii for more immersive gaming experiences. The device comes with a carrying case, a remote control, HDMI cable, VGA cable, and an AV cable. 

Runner-Up, Best Budget: iDGLAX IDG787W

When you’re looking at budget projectors, it's expected that you’ll have to make some concessions. In most cases, you’ll sacrifice resolution (which is the case here) but, unlike many other inexpensive projectors, the iDGLAX doesn't sacrifice lumens.

This projector only has a resolution of 800 x 480, so even though it is compatible with 1080p files, you aren’t going to get the full pixel count. But they’ve somehow managed to work in 2,000 lumens of brightness — which is almost unheard of for such cheap models — allowing you to project movies and media even during the day (though you’ll obviously get the best results in a dark room). The aspect ratio gives you the option between 16:9 or 4:3, and there are 15 degrees of keystone correction for a bit of added flexibility on mount locations.

Best 4K: Viewsonic PX747 4K Projector

With true Ultra HD quality and 3840 x 2160 resolution, the Viewsonic delivers a near cinema-like experience. More than 8.3 million pixels at 4K quality means colors are bright and vibrant with rich contrast. To maximize 4K content even more, Viewsonic made sure that video could be watched both indoors and out. With 3,500 Lumens, the projector has a significantly increased contrast ratio for brighter images.

Speaking of outdoor viewing, the included remote control offers a backlight for watching in the evening or in the dark. No matter your viewing environment, audio will fill the room courtesy of a built-in 10W speaker. Adding content to the Viewsonic is handled through dual HDMI inputs. Each input can connect to a variety of devices including Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, computers, digital cameras and more. The projector can last for up to 15,000 hours of playback giving the user even more value. 

See more reviews of our favorite 4K and 1080P projectors available for purchase.

Best for Presentations: LG PH150G LED Projector

LG PH150G LED Projector with Built-in Battery 130 lumens
Courtesy of Walmart.com

This little projector from LG gives you a nice middle ground between a massive home movie setup and a portable presentation device. The 130-lumen brightness isn’t going offer you the brilliance needed for daytime movies, but it makes up for it with a few other choice features. The LED projection gives you full HD resolution of 1280 x 720 and an aspect ratio of 100,000:1, which is pretty crisp, provided you have a dark enough room and a big enough screen/wall.

LG touts the LED illumination system as giving you the further benefit of having to replace the lamp far less frequently. They promise 30,000 hours of life, which compared to traditional projector bulbs that need be replaced every 3,000 hours, is pretty impressive. That factor is extra important here ​because projector lamps are very expensive aspects of a projector system.

But, the other feature that really puts this unit over the top in terms of versatility is its portability. LG gives you the option to operate the unit plugged in or pulling power from the internal battery, which will give you 2.5 hours of projector use. That’s a great feature if you want to throw this projector into your backpack and bring it to a business presentation.

The wireless functionality is extended further via the proprietary LG screen sharing capability and the ability to connect to an external Bluetooth speaker. With those two features, you could even bring this projector somewhere remote for a movie night, such as a camping trip.

Best for Streaming Content: Nebula Capsule Smart Mini

The Nebula Capsule Smart Mini Projector is perfectly suited for any home — we mean any — with Wi-Fi connectivity. Roughly the size of a Coke can, its diminutive size belies the power of Nebula's hardware. Running off Android software, the projector enables the streaming or mirroring of content from any compatible smartphone.

A downloadable app enables control of video playback with options for stop, start, and pause as well as volume controls. The latter will come in handy as the bottom two-thirds of the hardware are made up of a 360-degree speaker. This omnidirectional speaker pumps out sound in every direction and is loud enough to fill medium- to large-sized rooms with ease.

The heart-pumping sound will come in especially handy as the Nebula can display an image up to 100 inches in size. Displaying content with 854 x 480 resolution, the projector doesn’t push out Full HD but there’s no question the image is good. With four hours of battery life, there’s more than enough power to get through an entire movie.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 43 hours testing three of the most popular budget projectors on the market. They played games, watched TV, and streamed their favorite movies. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these cheap projectors and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Cheap Projector

Lumens - The brighter the room you’re projecting in, the brighter the projector you’ll need to make the picture viewable. Even in a dark home theater, a low light output will result in a fuzzy image. To ensure the projector is bright enough for your needs, check the lumens rating, which tells you how much light the device is capable of outputting. Generally, a projector with 1,000 lumens or more is suitable for home theater use, though room size, screen size, and ambient light will also play a factor.

Pixel density - The type of content you’re viewing will dictate what type of pixel density you need. For HDTV viewing, go for the highest native pixel count you can, preferably 1920x1080. For DVDs, 1024x768 should be ample. 4K is tough to find in a budget projector, but there are a few options out there.

Throw distance - Throw distance is the distance between the projector and the image on the screen. Some projectors have a short throw, intended for placement close to the screen, while others have a throw of 8+ feet, intended to be placed on the ceiling of a large room. Which one you need will depend on the layout of your room.

Want some more insights and recommendations when it comes to projectors? Check out our dedicated projector buying guide.

Test Results: Optoma HD142X 1080p 3000 Lumens 3D DLP (Best Overall)

4.6

What We Like

  • Great projection quality

  • Screen size ranges from 66 to 107 inches

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like

  • Requires external audio to replicate theater experience

It may seem surprising that something that costs over $500 can be labeled “cheap,” but truly high-end projectors will often cost you thousands of dollars. The Optoma HD142X strikes the right balance between affordability and quality. Our Lifewire reviewers really put this model to the test by maxing out the throw distance, testing out the responsiveness, and poring over the image quality. One of our testers projected from the end of his driveway onto his garage and actually achieved a 130-inch projection that he described as “a very crisp display.” He added, “While testing, we were watching a Marvel movie, which was fast-paced and visually complex. The projector performed above average. It was a very enjoyable visual experience.”

Thought the picture quality is great, our reviewers suggest hooking up an external audio system to get the best sound. “The onboard speaker just doesn't have the range or the depth needed for an immersive movie experience,” one person said. And the setup experience was “a piece of cake,” according to one tester. “It’s easy to get your picture up on a screen in no time at all,” he noted.

Test Results: APEMAN Mini DLP Projector (Best Mini)

4.4

What We Like

  • Great sound quality

  • Easy to focus picture

  • Compact

  • Included mini tripod

What We Don't Like

  • Setup can be tricky

Apeman
Apeman projector
Apeman
Apeman
Apeman

Before you buy the Apeman, first find out how would attach an HDMI cable to your device. Do you need an additional adapter or is it a simple plug-and-play situation? One of our testers discovered that she would need to purchase a Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter to play anything from her MacBook Air. It’s not a huge hassle, but it’s better to find out now before you sit down to enjoy your favorite movie. This projector does come with an HDMI cable, but it’s short, so our reviewers suggest getting a longer one if you need a little space between where your projector and device will sit.

Our testers got the Apeman set up and positioned, they loved it. It’s compact, displays a sharp picture, and has impressive audio abilities for such a small product. “It was like being in a movie theater in my own bed,” one person said. Our reviewers mentioned that there’s also a focus button on the side of the projector to help you adjust the image.

Test Results: Epson VS250 SVGA 3,200 Lumens (Best New Release)

4.3

What We Like

  • Vibrant color

  • Lightweight

  • Not many cables

What We Don't Like

  • Sound is a bit low

Epson VS250 SVGA 3,200 Lumens
Epson VS250 SVGA 3,200 Lumens
Epson VS250 SVGA 3,200 Lumens
Epson VS250 SVGA 3,200 Lumens

Overall, this projector came highly recommended by our testers, who thought it was especially perfect for families looking to watch movies or TV shows. “It’s affordable, great quality, and easy to set up,” reported one reviewer. In terms of negatives, our testers thought the sound volume was a little low: “I wish the machine gave me the option to transfer the audio-in to a Bluetooth speaker,” one tester noted.