The 7 Best Cheap Projectors of 2022

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A cheap projector can be a great way to spice up a living room or bedroom without breaking the bank. An affordable projector can also be a clever way to create a big-screen home cinema experience in a small space that doesn’t have room for a large 4K TV. They can often be a lot cheaper than buying a new TV too.

Picking a projector is tough, as so much depends on the room you're putting it in and how you use it, whether you decide you want to set it up as a home theater for the family or for outdoor camping trips and business presentations. You'll also want to know what you need to look for in terms of projector resolution and brightness for your intended purposes.

We’ve researched and tested models based on compatibility requirements (for wireless connectivity and computer ports) and various uses. Here are the best cheap projectors that you need to check out.

Best Overall: Vankyo Leisure 3

3.5
The Vankyo projector is a very portable projector.
What We Like
  • 1920x1080 image resolution

  • Quiet fans

  • Supports HDMI, VGA, and AV cables, plus SD and USB drives

  • Comes with a carry case for easy transporting

What We Don't Like
  • Needs propping up when aiming at an angle

  • Speaker quality isn't great

  • No wireless connectivity for smart devices

The Vankyo Leisure 3 is a solid choice for an affordable projector with all of the usual features. It comes with its own carry case and HDMI ports, AV, and VGA ports, cables, which means that you won’t need to make any additional connector purchases. It also features SD and USB ports to view media from a card or stick and is very easy to set up, whether connecting a laptop, smart device, or video game console.

Using the built-in operating system to navigate the settings and options with the included remote is pretty intuitive. However, the stand is quite small, which means you may need to prop it up on a table or desk with something to get the angle you want. The 2,000:1 contrast ratio provides solid picture quality, but the brightness level is surprisingly dimmer than what one would expect from a projector boasting 2,400 lumens.

The built-in speaker is unlikely to impress those used to high-quality speaker systems or even a good built-in laptop speaker. Fortunately, the Vankyo Leisure 3 has a 3.5mm cable port which allows for a connection to an external speaker. You can also bypass the built-in speaker by exporting your audio directly from the source device, such as your computer or streaming stick.

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

Tested by Lifewire

While there were certain design features of the Vankyo Leisure 3 we appreciated, we couldn’t help but think that the projector felt and looked like a cheap toy. When adjusting the focus, we noticed that the lens was wobbly and did not fit tightly in the case. At only 4 feet, the power cord is annoyingly short and we had to get an extension cord to use the projector. We did like the carrying case that came with the projector—it fits everything inside including the cables and remote. We found the setup process simple and quick. Surprisingly, the projection was nice and clear with decent color and contrast. The bulb is not very bright, though, and the only way to get a decent projection is in a very dark room. In general, we would say this projector is not suitable for business situations. Don’t expect much when it comes to the two 2W built-in speakers; we found them basically useless. They are thin, tinny, harsh, and they blend in with the fan noise. Luckily the projector has a headphone port that acts as an audio output, but we opted to connect a laptop to a portable Bluetooth speaker and use that as our audio source instead. Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester

Vankyo Leisure 3

Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman 

Best for Presentations: Epson EX3280 XGA Projector

Epson EX3280 XGA Projector

Amazon

What We Like
  • Looks great even in dimly lit rooms

  • Automatically corrects image distortions

  • 768p XGA resolution is ideal for projecting documents

What We Don't Like
  • No SD card slot

  • No wireless functionality

The Epson EX3280 is a bit more expensive than some other budget projectors, but it's a good option if you're looking for a portable projector for business meetings and gatherings.

The 768p XGA resolution and 15,000:1 contrast ratio mean that documents with a lot of text and fine details will clearly display when projected. The support for HDMI, USB, and VGA inputs should suit most modern business needs. While the lack of an SD card slot is inconvenient, you can always transfer the data to a USB stick or a device connected via cable.

Three thousand six hundred lumens, a good number for such a relatively cheap projector, also provide a clear picture and doesn't restrict your presentations to a completely dark room like other projectors in this price range. The built-in sensor that automatically corrects the image to ensure it's not distorted is also impressive.

Resolution: 1024x768 | Brightness: 3,600 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 15000:1 | Projection Size: 300 inches

Best Short Throw: BenQ HT2150ST Projector

4.3
BenQ
Courtesy of Amazon.com
What We Like
  • 2,200 ANSI lumens and 15,000:1 contrast ratio

  • The 1:1.69 foot throw ratio is great for small spaces

  • Low latency is great for gaming

  • Loads of ports

What We Don't Like
  • A bit more expensive than other budget projectors

  • No wireless connectivity

  • No 4K projection option

The BenQ HT2150ST is admittedly on the higher end of the cheap projector category, but It’s still worth considering, especially if you want a good projector for playing video games. This model boasts incredibly low latency with just a 16ms input lag, which means very little delay from when you press a video game controller button to when the action happens on-screen.

This budget projector also boasts a 1:1.69 foot throw ratio that gives you an extra 2 feet of image for every foot away from the wall or screen that the projector sits. This ratio is good as it will allow you to make a sizable projection when used in a small place such as a child’s bedroom or tent.

The 2,200 ANSI lumens allow the BenQ HT2150ST to put on a generally solid show in dimly-lit rooms while the support for 1080p resolution and 15,000:1 contrast ratio produces a projection with solid colors and fine details.

Where this projector really impresses is with its range of ports. With two HDMI ports, a USB-A port, a USB Mini-B port, 3.5mm input and output audio jacks, an RS-232 control port, and a PC VGA port, very few devices won’t be able to connect to the BenQ HT2150ST.

Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 2,200 ANSI Lumens | Contrast ratio: 15,000:1 | Projection size:up to 300 inches

Tested by Lifewire

One of the best parts of the BenQ HT2150ST is its short throw lens, giving buyers a fantastic projection experience that will work in just about any room configuration. A 1.2x zoom gives you a decent amount of play with your picture size, allowing for more flexibility in projector placement. This might not seem like a huge deal at first, but once we started setting up the projector and dealing with the practicalities of finding the best placement and projection surface, we quickly felt the benefits of this feature. An equally important design feature for some, even though it is not highlighted quite as often, is noise. The BenQ performs very well in this category, delivering whisper-quiet fan performance and doing a great job of creating as few distractions as possible. Image quality is definitely the main attraction for the HT2150ST. The picture is bright and sharp from corner to corner, with excellent color and contrast performance. The only place the HT2150ST loses marks is with brightness uniformity. It might not be plainly visible during normal use, but during testing, the difference in luminance from edge to edge is definitely noticeable. The audio is noticeably better than most other projectors we’ve tested, but that's a fairly low bar. Jonno Hill, Product Tester

BenQ HT2150ST

 Lifewire / Jonno Hill

Best for Phones: TopVision T21

The Topvision 4000LUX projector is a great portable projector.
What We Like
  • HDMI, USB, VGA, and AV ports

  • Built-in surround sound speakers

  • 2000:1 contrast ratio


What We Don't Like
  • No wireless casting option

  • Physical design is a bit clunky

The Topvision T21 is an affordable projector designed for working with smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It can connect to devices via HDMI, USB, VGA, and AV and mirror their displays on a wall or screen in 1080p resolution.

The 3,600 lumens and 2000:1 contrast ratio create a rather good quality projection that’s sharp and bright. The built-in speakers offer basic surround sound that won’t compete with a proper speaker system but are more than enough for casual movie viewings. That's not bad for such a budget-friendly projector.

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

Top Vision T21 Projector

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Portable: Kodak Luma 150 Pocket Projector

The Kodak Luma 150 projector is a highly-portable projector.

Amazon

What We Like
  • Extremely portable and easy to carry

  • Touch controls feel modern and premium

  • Support for wireless casting from smart devices

What We Don't Like
  • 480p resolution is really low

  • Low 1,000:1 contrast ratio

  • 60 ANSI lumens isn't very bright

The disappointing 480p resolution on Kodak’s Luma 150 projector rules it out as a primary home cinema projector, but its small size and stylish build make it an ideal solution as a projector for traveling, attending gatherings, or the occasional presentation with a client on-location.

In addition to the usual HDMI and USB connections, the Luma 150 also supports wireless casting from Apple, Android, and Windows devices. The 60 ANSI lumen hardware and low 1,000:1 contrast ratio do limit projections to smaller and darker spaces, but its convenient size and support for tripods also add extra functionality that many may find are worth the trade-off. If you’re after an inexpensive portable projector, the Luma 150 is worth a look.

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, Tech Writer

Best Outdoor Projector: Anker Nebula Capsule Max

The Anker Nebula Max is an awesome portable projector.

Amazon

What We Like
  • Can natively run Android apps

  • 720p projection resolution

What We Don't Like
  • Will need a dark space with just 200 ANSI lumens

  • Low contrast ratio at 400:1

  • Only four hours of battery life

The Anker Nebula Capsule Max projector features the usual HDMI and USB ports for connecting media, but its real claim to fame is its built-in support for the Android operating system, which allows it to run Android apps natively. You don’t need to connect another device to the Nebula Capsule Max for streaming content nor worry about copyright-protected content when casting Netflix or Disney Plus. You can run your favorite apps directly from the projector itself as if it’s a tablet or smart TV. You will need to use the Nebula Capsule Max smartphone app to control the apps you run on the projector, though.

Another benefit of the Nebula Capsule Max project is its size. The size of a soda can, this cheap projector is very easy to pack for a trip and store at home when not in use. The Anker isn’t perfect, though. Offering just four hours of battery life, it’ll need to be plugged into a power source very regularly. Its low lumen count can also affect its visibility in bright environments.

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

Nebula Capsule Max

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Budget: Philips NeoPix Easy Projector

Philips NeoPix Easy

Courtesy of HSN

What We Like
  • Support for HDMI, VGA, microSD, and USB inputs

  • 3.5mm audio output for headphones and speakers

  • Solid contrast ratio of 3,000:1

What We Don't Like
  • The 480p resolution is really disappointing

  • No support for VGA connections

  • No wireless functionality

The Philips NeoPix Easy is a budget projector worth looking at though it definitely isn’t for everyone. While it does support HDMI, VG, USB, and MicroUSB sources, the output resolution is only 480p. It’s a long cry from a proper 1080p HD resolution and an even further cry from what’s available with a high-end 4K projector. This low resolution will likely be a deal-breaker if you want to watch movies and TV shows in high quality but this also shouldn’t bother children or casual viewers who don’t have an experienced eye for image quality.

There is no AV port on the Philips NeoPix Easy but the projector does come with an AV adaptor so you will still be able to use an AV source if that’s what you prefer.

The 40 ANSI lumens may also be an issue for media enthusiasts as this rather low ANSI lumen count does decrease the projection brightness in rooms that aren’t completely dark. The 3,000:1 contrast ratio is solid, however, and the 3.5mm audio output does let you use your own speakers for audio.

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

Final Verdict

When looking for the best cheap projector, it’s hard to beat the Vankyo Leisure 3 Mini (view at Walmart), which checks almost every single box. This projector supports all of the major ports needed for connecting smart devices and computers via cable and also features both a USB port and SD card slot for viewing content saved on memory sticks and cards. For a cheap projector, you can’t do much better.

What to Look For in Cheap Projectors

Brightness

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, brightness may not matter as much, but the brightness will be important for those who want an even moderately versatile projector.

Projectors measure brightness in lumens. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the projector is. So what does that mean? Well, for a home projector 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 for 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 in rooms with a lot of light, which often mutes contrast.

"The contrast ratio is a key differentiator between home theater projectors and business solutions. Movies and TV shows with dark scenes require a higher contrast ratio for clear distinction when watching these scenes. Thus, most home theater projectors are designed with higher contrast ratios than those used in a business setting." — Carlos Regonesi, Senior Product Manager, Epson America Inc.

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.

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.

Resolution

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 1920x1080 pixels, although you’ll see many with a lower resolution and a bunch with 4K (4096x2160 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.

FAQ
  • How much should a projector cost?

    Projectors can vary greatly in price from under $100 to well over $2,000. This massive price range is why projectors that cost around $500 or so are still considered to be cheap, or at least more affordable, than others.

    The manufacturer or brand associated with a projector can impact the price but the cost is mostly affected by the quality of the projection and the resolution it offers. For example, a projector that needs to be used in the dark and only displays a 480p resolution image might cost $80 or so while a 4K projector that produces an image that’s completely clear during the daytime from all angles could cost around $1,500.

  • How many lumens do you need in a projector?

    Lumen is a term used to describe the level of light output from projectors and other similar devices. The minimum requirement to create a quality projection in a home theater setting is 1,000 lumens. Generally speaking, the higher the lumens, the better the image quality. It’s important to note, though, that cheaper projectors with lower lumen counts can often be completely fine if you’re prioritizing portability and price over quality. After all, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a 4K home cinema experience from a portable projector designed to keep kids entertained while camping in a tent.

  • What is the throw ratio on a projector?

    The throw ratio is the distance between a projector and a screen required to produce a clear or high-quality image. The throw ratio, sometimes called the throw distance, is a stat that’s completely independent of a projector’s lumen count and resolution. For example, two 4K projectors with the same lumen count could have very different throw ratios. Standard, or long-throw, projectors usually require a minimum of 6 feet between the projector and the screen to project an image of 80 inches or more, while short-throw projectors can create a 100-inch image at a distance of only 4 or 5 feet. Throw ratios can usually be found on a projector’s product description page and within its manual.

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. He is an expert in film and video technology, and has reviewed several of the projectors on this list.

Jonno Hill is a writer who covers tech such as computers, gaming equipment, and cameras for Lifewire and publications including PCMag.com.

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