The 9 Best Cheap Projectors of 2021

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

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
"If you’re looking for a reliable and effective projector, the Vankyo Leisure 3 is one of the best overall choices."
"A great, inexpensive projector that's easy to use, with lots of helpful features."
Best for Presentations:
Epson VS355 at Amazon
"Designed for professional use, the VS355 provides 3,300 lumens of light to create crystal-clear images."
"Despite its small size, it still offers clear visuals and up to six hours of battery life."
Best Short Throw:
ViewSonic PS501X at Amazon
"Its short-throw lens is perfect for most living rooms, meeting spaces, and even classrooms."
Best for Phones:
TopVision T21 at Amazon
"This lets you play movies and display photos directly from your smartphone or mobile device."
Best Portable:
Kodak Luma 150 at Amazon
"The Kodak Luma 150 is a compact, pocket-sized projector from one of the most well-known brands."
"The Epson VS250 SVGA projector is a top choice for office use or work presentations."
Best Outdoor Projector:
Anker Nebula Capsule Max at Amazon
"Outdoor movie night and camping trips couldn't be more fun with the Anker Nebula Capsule Max."

Investing in a solid cheap projector is a great way to bring the feel of the big screen into your home. With most movie theatres still shuttered, grabbing a projector and some blank wall space makes for a solid analog, especially as the weather gets warmer. Some of these models definitely stretch the definition of cheap but offer a sizeable collection of features that make them a worthwhile investment like autofocus or built-in speakers.

Perhaps your first consideration when looking at a new projector is the available resolution, if you're watching conventional DVDs or looking at slideshows, 720p or lower is fine. However, if you're watching Blu-ray movies or streaming content, you'll want something closer to 1080p if you can manage it.

Another key consideration when buying a new projector is where you'll be using it. Any projector you plan to use outside should preferably have a brightness of 100 lumens or higher. However, if you're using the projector in a closed environment like your living room, you'll want to pay attention to screen sizes that your projector can display based on the space you have available.

One final thing to bear in mind is what types of connections you'll be using. If you're planning on showing off photos, you'll want an SD Card slot that allows you to show files without the need for a cable. And while the majority of these projectors have both USB and HDMI ports, a couple of our entries include both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, which allows them to stream online content or from nearby devices.

Best Overall: Vankyo Leisure 3

What We Like
  • Super compact and portable

  • Impressive presentation quality, even in large spaces

  • Fan noise suppression

What We Don't Like
  • Built-in speakers aren’t the best quality

  • Limited ability to adjust the angle

If you’re looking for a reliable and effective projector, the Vankyo Leisure 3 is one of the best overall choices. It’s designed for home entertainment and it stands out thanks to 1080P resolution support and rich, dynamic color, powered by Vankyo’s MStar Advanced Color Engine. It also uses LED lamps, which are 60% brighter than traditional lamps and offer about 40,000 hours of use. It’s the perfect choice for watching the latest blockbusters, viewing home movies, or for smartphone use and video games, if you purchase an additional HDMI cable. 

We like that the Leisure 3 is incredibly small and compact, at under eight inches in length and 2.1 pounds. It comes with a carrying case and tripod, making it easy to travel to a friend’s movie night or take on vacation.

Despite its small size, it packs a huge punch, projecting clearly and brightly even on large screens. Speakers are included as well, but you’ll get better results connecting via external speakers, as the quality is slightly lacking. Despite the speakers, you really can’t go wrong with the Leisure 3—it’s our top choice for personal use, thanks to its portability, amazing picture quality, and versatility.

Resolution: 1920x1080 | Brightness: 2400 lumens | Contrast ratio: 2000:1 | Projection size: 170 inches

“The Vankyo Leisure 3 is an all-round winner, thanks to its versatility and noise suppression—no one enjoys being in a meeting and hearing the groans of a projector.”Katie Dundas, Product Tester

Vankyo Leisure 3

Lifewire / Katie Dundas

Best Budget: Philips NeoPix Easy Projector

Philips NeoPix Easy
What We Like
  • Easy HDMI connection

  • Built-in media player

  • Stylish, modern design

What We Don't Like
  •  Works best in dark rooms

It’s hard to look past the Philips NeoPix Easy for both form and function. It packs a sleek, stylish design in black and silver, but it also shines by offering rich, bold colors, powered by a long-lasting LED bulb. This projector has a range of useful tech features as well—there's a built-in media player that you can use to play videos or display images from HDMI, USB, or MicroSD. There’s accurate and vibrant color saturation, including blacks, but is slightly let down by its brightness, so the screen works best in dark rooms. At just over two pounds, it’s also lightweight and compact, making it easy to take to meetings. 

The NeoPix also packs a bevy of handy features, like digital keystone and zoom, to help get the best image possible. It's a great option if you're looking for a solid home projector but don't want to spend hundreds on one of the most advance models available, and the impressive 80" projection is perfect for bedrooms or other smaller rooms where it will really stand out.

Resolution: 800x480 | Brightness: 40 ANSI lumens | Contrast ratio: 3000:1 | Projection size: 80 inches

Best for Presentations: Epson VS355

Epson V355
What We Like
  • Impressive visibility, even in bright rooms

  • Simple set up

  • Up to 120-inch image

What We Don't Like
  • Loud fan

  • Higher price point

If you’re in the market for a projector you can use in the office or for business meetings, the Epson VS355 may be just what you need. Designed for professional use, the VS355 provides 3,300 lumens of light to create crystal-clear images, even in brightly-lit boardrooms. You can easily adjust the formatting and size, with the projector offering a projected image size of 80 to up to 120 inches. HD video and widescreen image support mean that your presentation will look perfect, no matter what meeting room or office you’re in. With the USB Plug 'n Play feature, you can also project presentations directly from your computer, with a USB cable.

Note that the weight, at 5.49 pounds, is a little larger than some of the other devices reviewed here, but it’s designed to remain in an office for use in meetings. Users report that the fan noise can sometimes be an issue, so try to set up the VS355 away from meeting attendees if you find this bothersome. Despite this, this is still a top contender if you’ve been put in charge of purchasing the office’s new projector.

Resolution: 1280x800 | Brightness: 3300 lumens | Contrast ratio: 15000:1 | Projection size: 144 inches

Best Compact: AAXA BP1 DLP Projector

What We Like
  • Small size makes it easy to use anywhere

  • It doubles as a Bluetooth speaker

  • Clear, crisp images

What We Don't Like
  • Low brightness

  • Short warranty

A mini projector and Bluetooth speaker rolled into one, the AAXA - BP1 DLP Projector is a handy little device. And we mean little—it’s literally pocket-sized, with a weight of just 19.68 oz. Despite its small size, it still offers clear visuals and up to six hours of battery life, giving plenty of time for movies or presentations. When it comes to brightness, you’ve got 200 lumens—enough to do the job, but it may make the image look faded in bright rooms.

Connect easily with the HDMI cable port, or directly insert a MicroSD into the projector. The projector provides its own sound as well, thanks to the built-in 12W stereo speakers—it’s loud and clear, providing an impressive sound quality that you wouldn’t expect from such a small device. If you’re looking for a tiny projector that can deliver, don’t look past the AAXA - BP1 DLP.

Resolution: 1920x1080 | Brightness: 100 LED lumens | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | Projection size: 70 inches

Best Short Throw: ViewSonic PS501X

Viewsonic PS501X
What We Like
  • Impressive 3,500 lumens of brightness

  • Whiteboard compatible

  • Large viewing area at short throw distance

What We Don't Like
  • Higher price point

  • Confusing on/off buttons on remote

Sometimes, you just don’t have much space between the wall and where you can set up the projector. Luckily, the ViewSonic PS501X projector is designed with these sorts of spaces in mind. Its short-throw lens gives you up to 120 inches of viewable images at a maximum throw distance of 4.8 feet, making it perfect for most living rooms, meeting spaces, and even classrooms. Rated for up to 15,000 hours of use, the lamp provides 3,500 lumens of brightness so you can get clear images even in bright environments. It impresses with its compatibility as well, since you can directly insert and stream USB and SD cards, smartphones, and video game consoles. 

In addition to full 3D support, the PS501X benefits from ViewSonic's proprietary SuperColor technology, which uses a six-segment color wheel and dynamic lamp controls so you can adjust the color saturation and contrast to your preferences. You can also pair this projector with ViewSonic's Interactive Whiteboard module for hands-on classroom learning and more engaging presentations, a great feature for teachers. Setup couldn’t be easier and we love the versatility and brightness that the PS501X provides.

Resolution: 1024x768 | Brightness: 3400 lumens | Contrast ratio: 22000:1 | Projection size: 120 inches

Best for Phones: TopVision T21

Top Vision T21 Projector
What We Like
  • iOS and Android support

  • Good warranty

  • Doesn’t overheat

What We Don't Like
  • Setting up can take some concentration

  • Will not stream Netflix/Hulu/Amazon video while screen mirroring

Using a projector to watch videos on your phone or play games gives you a much bigger field of view than your small phone screen, which is easier on your eyes. If you’re looking for a projector to pair with your phone, the TopVision T21 lets you play movies and display photos directly from your smartphone or mobile device. The T21 is compatible with both iOS and Android devices and connects to your smartphone with a USB cord so you can stream your favorite movies and shows without the need for an internet connection. 

The LED lamp is rated for 50,000 hours of use and gives you a viewing area up to 176 inches. The built-in Hi-Fi speakers and fan noise suppression system give you clear sound so you can stream media without distractions. Plus, it’s designed in a small, compact size, making it easy to use anywhere. If you’re looking to play games on your phone and don’t want to carry around your laptop, this projector could be the solution.

Resolution: 1920x1080 | Brightness: 3600 lumens | Contrast ratio: 2000:1 | Projection size: 176 inches

Best Portable: Kodak Luma 150 Pocket Projector

What We Like
  • Chic, modern design will appeal to teens

  • Ultra short-throw

  • Supports numerous connectivity options

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

The Kodak Luma 150 is a compact, pocket-sized projector from one of the most well-known brands in the camera and projector space. The first thing you’ll notice is its chic white and gold design, along with its tiny size—you could easily fit the device in your pocket or handbag. The Luma 150 boasts a 60-lumen brightness LED lamp and it has an 854x480 resolution. It's a short-throw projector, so it doesn't need much space in order to project an image, and you can use it for just about everything from office presentations to a living room setup. It also features a built-in speaker and simple controls.

When it comes to connectivity, you can connect wirelessly with Airplay or Miracast, via Bluetooth, or the device has inputs for both HDMI and micro USB. It’s a fun little device that makes it easy to play games or watch videos from anywhere, but keep an eye on its battery life, which only lasts up to 2.5 hours.

Resolution: 854x480 | Brightness: 60 ANSI lumens | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | Projection size: 150 inches

“This is a fun and stylish projector that would make a great gift for my nieces, and I like that it works both wirelessly and with Bluetooth.”Katie Dundas, Product Tester

Best for Work: Epson VS250 SVGA Projector

Epson VS250 SVGA
What We Like
  • Very quiet fan won’t interrupt meetings

  • High brightness

  • Impressive and accurate visuals

What We Don't Like
  • No carrying case included

  • Doesn’t include a jack for external speakers

The Epson VS250 SVGA projector is a top choice for office use or work presentations. It's capable of SVGA resolution (800x600), which is enough to handle displaying graphics, images, videos, and other content. It supports 3,200 lumens of color and white brightness, allowing for clarity and brightness even in well-lit rooms. However, note that it’s not a short-throw, so it requires a projection distance of 30 inches to project an image on a 350-inch screen. That may not suit homes or compact spaces, but it's perfect for a large conference room or boardroom. 

The VS250 also supports all manner of devices and connectivity options. It works with laptops, media players, PC, and Macs with standard HDMI connectivity for both digital video and audio. It’s easy to set up and use, and we like that the fan is super quiet, meaning it won’t be a nuisance during important meetings.

Resolution: 800x600 | Brightness: 3200 lumens | Contrast ratio: 15000:1 | Projection size: 350 inches

"One of our favorite features is that the projector automatically adjusts its vertical keystone when you extend the kickstand. The stand is a little wobbly and made from plastic, but it can do the job." — Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester

Epson VS250 SVGA Projector

Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman

Best Outdoor Projector: Anker Nebula Capsule Max

ANker Nebula Max Capsule Projector
What We Like
  • Download streaming apps directly to the projector

  • Tiny—this cylinder-sized projector is the size of a soda can

  • Wired and wireless play

What We Don't Like
  • Lag when screen mirroring

  • Can be tricky to focus sometimes

Outdoor movie night and camping trips couldn't be more fun with the Anker Nebula Capsule Max. This mini projector, in a neat cylindrical shape, is no bigger than a soda can, making it the perfect accompaniment for your next camping adventure. Use it to enjoy movies under the stars, thanks to plenty of battery life—users can enjoy up to four hours of watch time and a full charge in as little as 2.5 hours. The Capsule Max runs on the Android 8.1 operating system, making it easy to watch your favorite streaming apps directly to the projector. You can also connect your computer, game console, or mobile device via HDMI or USB ports or wirelessly via AirPlay, Miracast, and Bluetooth connections. You’ve got a 360° speaker included in the device, or you can also pair with an external sound system. 

There can sometimes be short delays when screen mirroring or when focusing, but once you figure out the settings that work best for you, you couldn’t ask for a better movie night companion. Plus, we love its innovation when it comes to design and portability.

Resolution: 1280x720 | Brightness: 200 ANSI lumens | Contrast ratio: 400:1 | Projection size: 100 inches

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for the best overall projector on a budget, we recommend the Vankyo Leisure 3 (view at Amazon). It casts accurate and bright projections, no matter what size of room, and is both compact and lightweight. We also love the stylish Philips - NeoPix Easy+ (view at Amazon), thanks to its Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities and direct smartphone streaming.

About Our Trusted Experts

Katie Dundas is a freelance journalist and contributing writer to Lifewire. She has been covering tech for over two years and loves the look of the Anker Nebula Capsule Max for traveling and camping.

Benjamin Zeman has a background in film, photography, and graphic design. His work has been published on,, and others.


How much does a projector cost? 
Projectors can cost anywhere from about $50 to well over $5,000. Based on this wide range, anything around $500 and under is typically considered a cheap projector—and if you’re in the market for a 4K projector, that price goes up even more.

How many lumens do you need in a projector?
A lumen is a general term that describes light output, but in the case of projectors, it’s the unit of measurement used to describe the brightness. The more lumens, the brighter the projector will be and the more likely you’ll be able to use it in settings that aren’t completely dark. If you’re looking to project in a completely dark room, as few as 1,000 lumens might be fine, but for spaces with more ambient light, you’ll want to look for something closer to 2,000 lumens.

What is the throw ratio on a projector? 
The throw distance is how much space you need between the projector and the screen (or wall) to display a certain size image. Standard or long-throw projectors require a minimum of 6 feet between the projector and screen to project images of 80 inches or more. Short-throw projectors, on the other hand, can project a 100-inch image at a distance of only 4 or 5 feet. Check your specific projector’s manual for a chart that lists the distance required to display (or throw) an image onto a specific sized screen. This will help with the entire projector setup process.

What to Look For in a Projector

The humble TV is getting better every year, but there are still plenty of advantages to choosing a projector over a TV for your home theater needs. For starters, you might want a larger screen for those truly immersive experiences, or you might want something that you can easily move or take outside.

Simply deciding to buy a projector over a TV, however, is only step one. There are a ton of projectors to choose from, and they all offer slightly different features. For starters, you’ll want to think about the general type of projector you’re interested in. There are a few types (DLP, LCoS, LCD, and more), and the type can have a significant effect on the quality and price.

Then, you’ll want to consider the scope of various features available on projectors. For example, you’ll need to make sure the projector has the inputs you need or wireless support if you're looking to cut the cord. Things such as maximum screen size and pixel density are also important considerations, and they’ll directly affect your viewing experience, too.

Because of all these factors, projectors range in price from less than $100 to thousands of dollars. If the price is a major concern, don't worry. When it comes to cheap projectors, there are plenty of options that will provide a quality viewing experience—which is why we put together this guide. So keep reading to get the full scoop on what to look for when shopping for a projector.

Vankyo Leisure 3
Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman 

Product Types

The first thing to consider is the type of projector that’s best for you. There are three main types, and they all display an image slightly differently. For many, this won’t matter—things like price and inputs might be more important. But it's good to know your options before you start your search.

DLP Projectors

DLP, or Digital Light Processing projectors, basically project an image through a series of tiny mirrors that tilt either towards or away from the light source to create light or dark pixels on the screen. There are two main types of DLP projectors: single-chip DLP or three-chip DLP, though most people will probably go for single-chip DLP projectors considering their price.

Single-chip DLP projectors are the most common type of projector and offer the sharpest image you can find on consumer projectors. Single-chip DLP projectors use a color wheel that quickly rotates between primary colors to produce an image. The trade-off of this is that you’ll sometimes see a rainbow effect where an image is broken up into red, green, and blue images, which can be annoying while you’re watching a movie.

Three-chip DLP projectors don’t have this color-wheel issue because they have a dedicated DLP chip for each color. The downside of that is that it’s much harder to properly align each panel, resulting in more complex designs and ultimately much more expensive projectors. For that reason, three-chip DLP projectors are usually only found in high-end situations such as movie theaters, though if you can shell out the cash for a three-chip DLP projector, you might find that it’s worth the money.

In general, DLP projectors offer sharp images with little lag. They’re not, however, the best at projecting deep blacks—you’ll sometimes see somewhat muddy blacks from DLP projectors, something that’s fixed in other types of projectors.

Vankyo V600
Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman

LCoS Projectors

Liquid Crystal on Silicon projectors offer a completely different take on projection. These projectors essentially shine light through a panel to create an image. Light in an LCoS projector is reflected off of three individual panels, and the light from those panels is then combined to produce the image.

Because of the way LCoS projectors reflect light, they produce the deepest blacks with the highest contrast ratio. The trade-off, however, is that the image isn’t as bright as other projectors, making them best in dark environments and with screens up to 130 inches. Any larger and the projector will struggle to produce enough light to create an immersive image. LCoS projectors also tend to have more issues with motion blur than other projectors, though that’s generally only noticeable in fast-motion scenes.

LCD Projectors

LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display projectors, are kind of a middle-ground between DLP and LCoS projectors in terms of advantages and disadvantages. They’re not quite as bright as DLP projectors, but they’re brighter than LCoS projectors. They’re better at producing fast motion than LCoS projectors but not as good as DLP projectors. And, they produce deeper blacks than DLP projectors, but the contrast ratio isn’t as high as LCoS projectors. LCD projectors are also more affordable than LCoS projectors.

Light Sources

While brightness refers to the amount of light being produced, that light can be produced by a number of different sources. A bulb, called a lamp, is the most common light source in consumer projectors, but there are a few other options out there, and they’re likely to become increasingly common as time goes on.

Vankyo V600
 Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman

Lamp Projectors

As mentioned, the lamp is the most common light source for projectors, and there are a few reasons for that. For starters, the lamp is the most affordable option on the list. Projector lamps have been manufactured for some time now and are replaceable, so if and when the lamp eventually fails, it can be replaced. Generally, projector bulbs last between 3,000 and 4,000 hours, although the rated time should be listed on a projector's spec-sheet. Lamps are relatively bright, but not the brightest option. So if brightness is a concern you may want to look into laser projectors instead.

Laser Projectors

Laser projectors are far brighter than lamp projectors. Plus, they don’t require bulb replacements, so despite their higher initial cost, if you plan on using your projector a lot they could ultimately save you money. Laser projectors also offer generally better contrast than lamp projectors, meaning that blacks are a little deeper and darker, and whites are a little brighter—ultimately making for a more realistic image. Finally, laser projectors are more energy-efficient than lamp projectors. The trade-off? Cost. Laser projectors are much more expensive than lamp ones, so the advantages may not be worth it unless you really have the cash to spare.

LED Projectors

Last but not least is the LED projector, which offers a few advantages over lamp projectors. For starters, the bulbs used in LED projectors have a much longer lifespan, often coming in at up to 20,000 hours of use.

Apart from having a longer lifespan, LED projectors also offer better colors and are quieter than lamp projectors because of the fact that they’re much more energy-efficient and thus don’t require a fan for cooling. For these reasons, LED light sources are often found in miniature pico projectors. The main trade-off of LED projectors is that they have a limited brightness.

Other Features and Considerations

In the end, the type of projector you choose may not matter as much as some of the other features on offer. If you're looking for a cheap projector, you may not have much of a choice in the type of projector you choose. You likely will, however, be able to choose a projector based on things like the number of inputs it has or how bright the projector is. Here’s a rundown of those features and what they mean for you.


When it comes to projectors and brightness, the brighter a projector is, the better it will be at projecting in environments with more ambient light or from longer distances. If you plan on projecting close to the screen or wall and in dark environments, then brightness may not matter as much, but for those who want an even moderately versatile projector, brightness will be important.

Brightness in a projector is measured in lumens. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the projector is. So what does that mean? Well, for a home projector that will be used in dark environments, you might be able to get away with as little as 1,000 lumens. Brighter projectors, however, will be much more suited to environments with some ambient light. With a larger room or one with more ambient light, you’ll want something closer to the 2,000-lumen range, while really large or bright rooms might need even more than that. For basic use, we recommend something close to the 1,500-lumen range.

Contrast Ratio

The contrast ratio is essentially a measurement of the brightness between black and white. The higher the contrast ratio, the deeper the darks and the brighter the whites. That’s good when it comes to TVs and projectors; it means that there’s more detail in a picture, creating a more immersive viewing experience.

The contrast ratio is especially important for home projectors. In darkened rooms, the contrast will be more noticeable than it would be in rooms with a lot of light, which often mutes contrast.

It’s important to note that contrast ratio isn’t the be-all and end-all of image quality. A projector with a 5,000:1 contrast ratio isn’t necessarily twice as good as one with a 2,500:1 contrast ratio. After all, the contrast ratio only accounts for extremes—it doesn’t say much about the colors and grays in between the brightest whites and blackest blacks.

There are also different types of contrast ratio to consider. There’s regular old “contrast ratio,” and there’s “ANSI Contrast,” which refers to a special way of measuring contrast in which contrast is determined through a black and white checkerboard pattern. ANSI Contrast is a better indicator of the actual contrast ratio you’ll see while viewing movies, so while projectors with a regular contrast ratio measurement might have a higher value, that doesn’t mean they’re better.

So what’s a good contrast ratio? We recommend a contrast ratio of at least 1,000:1, though many projectors will boast a higher figure. That higher figure normally comes with a higher price.


Just like TVs, smartphones, and computer monitors, projectors also display images in pixels—and more pixels is pretty much always better. These days many projectors have an HD resolution, which equates to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, although you’ll see many with a lower resolution, and a bunch with 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) resolutions. In an era of common 4K content, a projector with a 4K resolution is ideal—but often comes with a hefty price. Because of that, we recommend finding one with the highest resolution possible in your price range.

Lens Zoom

Projectors thankfully aren’t made to sit a set distance from the screen you’re projecting onto. Instead, they can zoom in and out a little to accommodate a range of distances. The lens zoom essentially allows you to adjust the size of the image (within reason), meaning that a great projector can be useful for smaller TV-sized projections, or much larger projections when needed. The bigger the lens zoom, the bigger you can make an image.

Keystone Correction and Lens Shift

Wondering what's the difference between keystone correction and lens shift? For starters, it's rare that you’ll be able to place a projector perpendicular to the projection surface, which is where keystone comes in. Keystone correction basically allows you to manually distort an image so that it appears square on a surface despite being projected on an angle. Images can be shifted up, down, and sideways—so even if you’re projecting on a slight angle, you should still be able to achieve a good image.

Lens shift addresses the same issue, but it does so a little better. It basically adjusts the angle of the lens instead of digitally altering the image, as keystone correction does. The advantage to this is that lens shift retains the full resolution of the image, resulting in a better image than keystone correction. Unfortunately, lens shift is really only found on high-end projectors—so you may just have to deal with keystone correction with your budget projector.

Inputs and Outputs

Regardless of the type of projector you get, you’ll need a way to connect your computer, phone, speakers, and other devices to it—and that’s where inputs and outputs come in. There are a few types of inputs and outputs commonly used on projectors. Here’s a quick rundown of them.

HDMI ports are the most common input for projectors and TVs these days, which are a super high-quality standard that combines both video and multi-channel audio into one. HDMI ports can also be found on computers, and there are plenty of adapters for connecting a phone to an HDMI port, making it easy to connect your devices for playback.

DVI is another popular, though slightly less common, port that exists in a few different versions. There’s the digital DVI-D port, the analog DVI-A, and the hybrid DVI-I port that transfers both digital and analog signals. DVI is used on many computers, though not often on laptops.

Composite is a little less common these days, but can still be found on many projectors. Composite splits up a signal into one video connector, which is yellow, and two audio connectors for left and right channels.

VGA is another common analog connector that has become slightly less popular in recent years. VGA connectors are a little large and unwieldy, but if you’re using a computer that has a VGA connection, another VGA connection on the projector can come in handy.

3.5mm is a connector that’s only used for audio—so if you have a set of speakers or a sound system that you want to use with your projector, a 3.5mm connector could come in handy.

Wi-Fi is very popular when it comes to streaming content to projectors rather than having to use physical cables. Wi-Fi connections are usually used in conjunction with an app, or sometimes smart projectors simply stream content from the internet.

Smart Projectors

Smart projectors do exactly what you think they would do: connect to the internet and stream content directly. Many of them run Android, essentially allowing you to download apps for services such as Netflix and Hulu, and apps to connect to other devices.

There are a few advantages to this. First of all, it means you don’t have to deal with cables, which can be annoying and expensive. Second, it means you don’t have to carry around a computer or other device to use with your projector—simply connect it to a wireless network, and you’re good to go. The main disadvantage is that a smart projector might be more expensive, or it might put wireless connectivity over image quality. Make sure you check on image quality before you buy.

Of course, even if you opt for a smart projector, we still recommend making sure the projector has at least one HDMI port, just for those situations in which the Wi-Fi is down or too slow to work properly.


Projectors come in a range of sizes. Smaller projectors are easy to carry and fit nicely inside a small bag, but the trade-off is that they often sacrifice quality and brightness for their size. That may be a trade-off that you’re willing to make, but even if you are, it’s still worth being aware of the fact that you might be limited in the situations that you can use your projector.

On the other end of the spectrum are super large projectors, which might have all the latest and greatest projecting tech, but probably need to be permanently mounted considering their size. These projectors sacrifice portability—so if you're looking to take one to meetings or on outdoor adventures, you'll probably want to check weight and dimensions.

Thankfully, you don’t have to choose between tiny or gigantic projectors. There are plenty that fall in the middle of the spectrum and offer decent quality and some portability.


These days, just like you can enjoy 3D content in the movies, you can also get it in your home theater. There are a number of projectors that support 3D content, though as you might expect they’re quite a bit more expensive than their non-3D counterparts. Some projectors can even convert 2D content to 3D, so if you’re truly into watching 3D content, it might be worth buying one of those. Otherwise, you’ll be limited to specific 3D content.

Like watching 3D content at the cinema, 3D content on a projector does require you to use special glasses—so that’s something you’ll have to keep in mind if you’re interested in buying a projector with support for 3D content.


As you can see, there's a huge selection and many factors to consider when buying a projector. While you may not care all that much about the technology under the hood, you’ll still want to make sure that the projector you buy is bright enough and has the right ports for your usage. Resolution and contrast ratio can also be important, as they specifically relate to image quality.

For most users, we recommend a DLP projector with at least one HDMI input and a brightness of at least 1,500 lumens. That should make for a projector that’s relatively versatile and can be used in a range of different situations. Of course, you’ll want something that’s brighter and a little more high-tech if you’re truly building a pricey home theater. But for the average person who simply wants to watch movies every now and then, these specs should be more than fine.

As with anything, a cheap projector might not always meet your needs. If you can afford to spend a little extra cash, it’s always worth buying a projector that’s slightly better than what you think you’ll need. After all, there’s nothing worse than squinting your way through a movie because your projector isn’t bright enough to beat out that annoying ambient light.

Was this page helpful?