The 9 Best Projectors of 2021

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Projectors are for more than showing off family vacation pictures. Today, a projector is a fantastic way to expand your home theater setup. Though some projectors require a particular environment to maximize their full potential, their benefits outweigh those of an HDTV. Seriously, even the best projector can cost a lot less than some of the best HDTVs available.

What’s the point of even buying a projector? A projector reflects light, as opposed to TVs, which emit light. The reflected light is easier on your eyes as it causes less straining. Moreover, projectors generate images larger than a TV could ever produce. As with reflected light, bigger images are easy to view and support less eye strain. You’re also not as confined to a particular screen size, as a projector can operate on almost any surface. Depending on what you’re viewing, you can adjust the screen size if need be. 

Projectors can be used in a variety of settings, including a home, an office, or an educational environment. While shopping for a projector, there are a few things to consider. Fortunately, we’ve done the research and analysis for you. We’ve looked at factors such as resolution, brightness, size, lamp lifespan, and connectivity options. If you have more questions, make sure to check out our guide on what to look for before buying a video projector.

The Rundown
In addition to extraordinary picture quality, the Vava projector’s audio quality is also noteworthy.
The HT3550 has a dynamic iris that automatically adjusts for optimal contrast, creating richer dark areas and brighter whites.
Best Mini Projector:
Anker Nebula Mars II Pro at Amazon
This 3.9-pound projector is incredibly compact, lightweight, and features a convenient carrying handle.
This projector supports an AndroidTV 9.0 operating system, giving you access to over 3,600 apps.
The UHD51ALV uses Optoma's proprietary PureColortech programming for more true-to-life colors and image quality.
The high-definition projector has a high native contrast ratio to provide better image quality.
Best Smart Projector:
Optomoa UHD51A at Amazon
It has an integrated media player so that you can plug in and play files from USB flash drives.
Most Versatile:
Epson EX3260 at Amazon
The EX3260 has HDMI and USB connections for plug-and-play functionality with both Mac and Windows computers.
Best for Small Rooms:
Viewsonic PJD7822HDL at Amazon
Even in your small room, you can revel in an immersive movie experience, thanks to its native 1080p resolution and its 3D capability.

Best Overall: Vava 4K UHD Ultra-Short Throw Laser TV Projector

VAVA 4K UST Laser TV Home Theatre Projector
What We Like
  • Native 4K UHD resolution

  • HDR-10 color correction technology

  • 3,000:1 contrast ratio

  • Lamp longevity

What We Don't Like
  • Not budget-friendly

  • Difficult operating system

  • Reports of bad lenses

The Vava 4K UHD Ultra-Short Throw Laser TV Projector provides the ultimate home theater experience. The projector’s picture quality is impeccable due to its native 4K UHD resolution. Alongside the resolution is HDR-10 color-correction technology, which delivers ultra-crisp images and true-to-life colors.

The Vava’s 3,000:1 contrast ratio further enhances colors by providing deep black and bright white areas. Speaking of brightness, the projector’s lamp has a whopping 6,000 lumens. And with 25,000 hours of life, you don’t have to fear replacing the lamp for many years to come. 

In addition to extraordinary picture quality, the Vava projector’s audio quality is also noteworthy. The project features an integrated 60-watt sound bar with Dolby Audio technology. The sound bar produces deep bass sounds, a clear mid-range, and crisp high tones for a truly cinematic experience.

Even though the Vava has an incredibly short throw distance of 16.7 inches, it generates a maximum screen size of 150 inches. The combination of the throw distance and screen size means you no longer have to worry about ruining everyone's home theatre experience by walking in front of the projector. But you may have to worry about the operating system not being user-friendly and issues with lenses, as customers have reported these difficulties.

Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Brightness: 6,000 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 3,000:1 | Projection Size: 150 inches

"Built-in settings allow you to tweak an eight-point warping function to tilt, stretch, or otherwise line the projection up with your screen." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

VAVA VA-LT002 4K UHD Ultra-Short Throw Projector

 Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Budget 4K: BenQ HT3550 4K Home Theater Projector

BenQ HT3550 4K Home Theater Projector
What We Like
  • CinematicColors technology

  • Dynamic, automatic iris

  • Ten visual preset models

  • Reasonably affordable for a 4K projector

What We Don't Like
  • Slow boot and shutdown times

  • Reports of units overheating

Whether you’re setting up your first dedicated media space or upgrading a current home theater, the BenQ HT3550 projector will likely meet all of your needs without costing as much as other 4K projectors. While the project market is still catching up with 4K technology, BenQ is ahead of the game with the inclusion of 4K UHD viewing.

Unique to the HT3550 is BenQ's proprietary CinematicColors technology. The projector produces over 8.3 million colors for a truer-to-life image quality and shows you films the way directors meant for them to be seen. To further optimize picture colors, the HT3550 has a dynamic iris that automatically adjusts for optimal contrast, creating richer dark areas and brighter whites.

BenQ incorporated 10 visual preset modes to fine-tune your viewing experience. The modes allow the projector to adjust to suit any space. If the number of features intimidates you or if you run into any issues, BenQ provides technical support in the form of a three-year limited parts warranty and a factory calibration report for at-home troubleshooting. This warranty may come in handy as users have reported issues with the projector overheating. 

HT3550 features a 10-element lens with an all-glass construction for durability and clarity. The projector has a minimum throw distance of 7.6 feet and a maximum throw distance of 16 feet, making it fantastic for both small and large spaces. Moreover, the HT3550 is capable of producing a 150-inch screen.

Resolution: 4096 x 2160 | Brightness: 2,000 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 30,000:1 | Projection Size: 150 inches

"If you’re used to 1080p content, this projector is a real step up in clarity and sharpness. While blacks aren’t as deep as on an OLED screen, the contrast and color balance was so good that we never felt it was washed out." — Emily Ramirez, Product Tester

BenQ HT3550 Home Theater Projector
Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Best Mini Projector: Anker Nebula Mars II Pro

Anker Nebula Mars II Pro
What We Like
  • Compact and lightweight

  • Android 7.1 operating system

  • Projector and speaker modes

What We Don't Like
  • Reports of dead pixels

  • Issues with failing batteries

If you’re looking to take your projector on the go, the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro is your best bet. This 3.9-pound projector is incredibly compact, lightweight, and features a convenient carrying handle, making it ideal for slipping into a suitcase or duffle bag. The Nebula Mars II Pro employs an Android 7.1 operating system. As such, you’re able to directly download all your favorite streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube to the device for easy access. 

The Nebula Mars II Pro offers a lot of flexibility for such a small projector. The lens features an autofocus function and vertical and horizontal keystoning for clear and stable images at almost any angle. You don’t have to sacrifice picture quality, even in non-traditional settings.

The Nebula Mars II Pro has both a projector and speaker mode. Even if you don’t want to watch a movie or TV show, you can use your projector, in speaker mode, as a Bluetooth music speaker. 

The rechargeable battery isn’t the Nebula Mars II Pro’s best feature. If you’re using the projector, you’ll have only three hours of movie watching time. On the other hand, if you’re listening to music, you’ll have 30 hours of battery life. According to reviews, many customers have not been happy with the battery and have also complained about damaged pixels. Fortunately, Anker offers a 12-month warranty to cover manufacturing defects.

Resolution: 1280 x 720 | Brightness: 500 lumens | Contrast Ratio: Not listed | Projection Size: 150 inches

Best Features: Anker Nebula Capsule II

The Anker Nebula Capsule is our pick for best overall mini projector.
What We Like
  • AndroidTV 9.0 operating system

  • Chromecast

  • Google Assistant

  • Instant autofocus

What We Don't Like
  • Dismal battery life

  • Wi-Fi dependent

Anker is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to mini projectors. The Nebula Capsule II is slightly bigger than a can of soda, making it perfect for when desk or table space is at a premium. In addition to producing an HD picture, this projector features premium transducers to create cinema-quality sound at home. 

This projector supports an AndroidTV 9.0 operating system. With this system, you have access to over 3,600 appsm, including YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix. For access to additional TV shows and movies, you can stream videos directly from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop via Chromecast. As an added bonus, you can connect the Nebula Capsule II to your Google Assistant device for voice-activated controls. Due to the operating system, the projector is Wi-Fi dependent.

The Nebula Capsule II has a 1-second autofocus, so you spend less time fiddling with the projector and more time appreciating your favorite movies and TV shows with friends and family. It’s imperative to mention the battery life is mediocre. Specifically, the rechargeable battery provides only 2.5 hours of viewing time. To have such a short battery life, it’s surprising that it takes more than two hours to reach a full charge.

Resolution:1280 x 720 | Brightness: 200 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 600:1 | Projection Size: 100 inches

"It has a sleek yet utilitarian and rugged design that makes it easy to transport, unlike other projectors we’ve tested." Hayley Prokos, Product Tester

Anker Nebula Capsule II

Lifewire / Hayley Prokos

Best 4K: Optoma UHD51ALV

Optoma UHD51ALV
What We Like
  • PureColortech programming

  • PureMotion technology

  • 3,000 lumens

What We Don't Like
  • No keystone correction

If you want a big picture and the ability to adjust a big picture, a 4K projector will suit your desires. The Optoma UHD51ALV is the best choice considering its premium features. As a 4K TV, the projector is optimized for 16:9 aspect ratio viewing. Viewers get quality, ultra-widescreen images without having to use special settings.

The UHD51ALV’s HDR-10 is compatible with deep blacks, bright whites, and richer color saturation for vibrant images. This projector has unique technology that other 4K projectors don’t offer. Specifically, the UHD51ALV uses Optoma's proprietary PureColortech programming for more true-to-life colors and image quality. 

In addition to PureColortech programming, the UHD51ALV has PureMotion technology to eliminate motion blur and image stuttering even during fast-paced action scenes. The projector is 3D ready, meaning you can connect a 3D-compatible DVD player for an enhanced viewing experience. You also can connect this projector to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to use voice commands.

Despite all of the impressive technology, the UHD51ALV lacks keystone correction. But even with potential distortion, brightness won’t be an issue. The projector’s lamp provides 3,000 lumens of brightness, meaning you can watch your favorite shows and movies without having to turn off every light in the room.

Resolution: 3480 x 2160 | Brightness: 3,000 lumens | Contrast Ratio: Up to 500,000:1 | Projection Size: 300 inches

What We Like
  • CinematicColor technology

  • Rec.709 color calibration

What We Don't Like
  • Limited to indoor use

If picture quality is at the top of your list when shopping for a projector, you should check out the BenQ HT2050A. The high-definition projector has a high native contrast ratio to provide better image quality. The contrast ratio also enhances deep blacks and bright whites when watching movies and TV shows.

Unlike competing projectors, the HT2050A includes BenQ's proprietary CinematicColor technology. As a result, viewers will notice more true-to-life color saturation. HT2050A also employs Rec.709 color calibration to eliminate colors from shifting into the "fluorescent" scale. 

The projector’s shortest throw distance is 8.2 feet, which translates into a screen size of around 100 inches. On the other end of the spectrum, the maximum screen size is 300 inches. Regardless of how far away the HT2050A is against a screen or wall, the lens offers 2,200 lumens, so you can have movie nights with family and friends without having to sit in complete darkness.

Sound will also never be an issue, as the HT2050A has an ultra-low latency input of 16ms, so you're less likely to experience audio syncing issues. 

Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 2,200 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 15,000:1 | Projection Size: 300 inches

"It offers 1080P resolution and 2,200 lumens and produces a crisp and vibrant picture." — Hayley Prokos, Product Tester

BenQ HT2050A

Lifewire / Hayley Prokos

Best Smart Projector: Optomoa UHD51A

Optoma UHD51A
What We Like
  • 3D-compatible

  • 2400 lumens

  • Contrast ratio of 500,000:1

What We Don't Like
  • Decent bulb life

  • Reports of connectivity issues with Amazon Alexa

Optoma is respected for designing top-of-the-line projectors, as evident by our review of the 4K-equipped Optoma UHD51ALV. As its little sibling, the UHD51A smart projector also packs in a ton of features. The UHD51A projector features native 4K UHD picture quality, which is optimized for 16:9 aspect ratios to provide ultra-widescreen viewing.

To further enhance picture quality, Optoma incorporated a contrast ratio of 500,000:1 to provide deep black and bright white colors. If you're looking for an even more immersive movie-watching experience, this projector is 3D-ready to make scenes come to life. There are 2,400 lumens of brightness within the lamp, so a few lights on in the room won’t interfere with your favorite shows and movies.

The UHD51A has a few smart features that are rarely found in a single projector. It has an integrated media player so that you can plug in and play files from USB flash drives and other external storage devices.

In navigating your personal library or streaming services, you can rely on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hassle-free voice controls over volume, input, and media playback. Don’t get too excited about being able to employ Alexa, though, as some users have reported connectivity issues.

Resolution: 4096 x 2160 | Brightness: 2,400 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 500,000:1 | Projection Size: 300 inches

Most Versatile: Epson EX3260

Epson EX3260 Projector
What We Like
  • 3300 lumens

  • Portable

  • Budget-friendly

What We Don't Like
  • Reports of bad HDMI connections

Epson designed the EX3260 projector for work and play. This projector is amazing for both a home theater and an office setting whether or not you’re limited on space. Even with the EX3260’s impressive versatility, the price point will fit just about any budget.

Presenting in the office will be a breeze with the projector’s 800 x 600 SVGA resolution. The EX3260’s lamp with 3,300 lumens of brightness, rated for 10,000 hours of life, is perfect for home movie nights as well. And transitioning from your office to home is a breeze, since Epson created a quick and easy setup process. 

The EX3260 has HDMI and USB connections for plug-and-play functionality with both Mac and Windows computers. Do keep in mind, however, reports of bad HDMI connections. Even so, in using the HDMI connection, you’ll have digital video and audio through one cable instead of multiple cables, which cuts down occupied space.

The projector's small footprint is great for placing on a table or desk without having to worry about taking up too much real estate. The EX3260 also comes with a carrying case, so you can easily transport the projector, cables, and remotes you'll need traveling between your office and home.

Resolution: 800 x 600 | Brightness: 3,300 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 15000:1 | Projection Size: 300 inches

Best for Small Rooms: Viewsonic PJD7822HDL

Viewsonic PJD7822HDL
What We Like
  • Sleek design

  • Native 1080p resolution

  • Built-in speaker

What We Don't Like
  • Poor color contrast and saturation in Bright Mode

If you want a projector but don’t have a lot of space, the Viewsonic PJD7822HDL can be easily squeezed into smaller rooms while still meeting your projector needs. This projector has a small footprint and slim profile, making it perfect for placing in tight spaces for presentations and movies or for storage when not in use.

Even in your small room, you can revel in an immersive movie experience, thanks to the projector’s native 1080p resolution and its 3D capability. To complement the picture quality, the PJD7822HDL has a built-in speaker for a more cinematic viewing environment without having to buy extra equipment. 

If you decide to use the projector in a bright conference room or someplace with a lot of natural light, presentations or movies will still be clear as the lamp provides 3,200 lumens of brightness. Be careful when using the projector’s Bright Mode feature as it can cause poor color contrast and saturation. Repairing, replacing, or cleaning the PJD7822HDL’s bulb is foolproof since you can remove the lamp housing from the projector.

Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 3,200 lumens | Contrast Ratio: 15,000:1 | Projection Size: 144 inches

Final Verdict

For the best resolution and brightness, indoors or out, the Vava 4K UHD Ultra-Short Throw Laser TV Projector (view at Amazon) is an awesome high-end 4K projector. The Vava projector is equipped with HDR-10 color correction technology, a 3,000:1 contrast ratio, a lamp with 6,000 lumens, and a 60-watt soundbar with Dolby Audio technology.

For similar specs, but roughly half the price, the BenQ HT3550 4K Home Theater Projector (view at Amazon) is an ideal alternative. The HT3550 encompasses CinematicColors technology, an automatically adjusting iris, and ten visual preset modes. Unlike the Vava, the HT3550 has a more attractive warranty as it’s three years compared to Vava’s 12-month warranty.  

How We Tested

Testing the best projectors takes our team of trusted experts through a variety of testing scenarios. They try all of our top picks on a variety of surfaces, such as bedsheets, bare walls, and actual projector screens, to test for brightness. They also assess the resolution and sharpness in both indoor and outdoor environments to ensure that you get the best picture possible for your viewing environment. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Nicky Lamarco has been writing and editing for more than 15 years for consumer, trade, and technology publications about many topics including: antivirus, web hosting, backup software, and other technologies.

Jeremy Laukkonen is tech writer and the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. He also ghostwrites articles for numerous major trade publications.

Hayley Prokos began writing for Lifewire in April 2019 and her areas of interest are health-related and travel-friendly consumer technologies. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in English and French from the University of California, Davis.

What to Look For in a Projector

Brightness

Where do you plan on setting up your projector? Whether your projector will be inside or outside makes a huge difference in terms of picture brightness. Even if you decide to place your projector inside, also consider the amount of lighting available in that particular room. Typically, anything over 1,000 lumens will provide enough brightness for the indoors. However, if you plan to use your projector outside during the day, you'll need something far brighter, with more lumens. Ideally, you’ll need at least 3,000 to 4,000 lumens for adequate brightness. 

BenQ HT3550 Home Theater Projector

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Resolution

Just like with TVs, your projector's resolution dictates the overall fidelity of your image. Today, you’ll find several resolutions such as XGA (1024 x 768), WXGA (1280 x 800), HD (1920 x 1080) and, 4K (4096 x 2160). Although 4K is all the craze, HD is the most common resolution for a projector. Keep in mind what types of devices you plan to use with your projector. For instance, if you're using a Blu-ray disc player, you'll want a projector with a native 1080p format. Also, beware that not all 4K projectors depict a true 4K resolution.


Projection Type

Projectors can use various light sources that range from conventional lamps to LEDs or lasers. The source your projector uses will usually dictate its lifespan. Lifespans can range from a few thousand hours to decades of constant use. In the case of conventional lamps, replacement is required for around 3,000 hours. Compare the lifespan of a conventional lamp to LED or laser projectors, which often last upwards of 20,000 hours before needing to be serviced. The longer the lifespan, the pricier the projector.

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