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The best projectors are a fantastic way to expand your home theatre set up. While they can require a very specific environment to see their full potential, even the best projector can cost a great deal less than some of the best HDTVs available.
Some things to keep in mind are where you intend to use your projector, if you're using it outside, you'll need a projector with sufficient brightness to provide you with a clean image. The resolution of your projector is also something to consider, while plenty of projectors can provide an excellent 1080p image, some projectors that claim to be 4K aren't a true 4K.
If you have more questions, make sure to check out our guide on what to look for before buying a video projector.
Clunky operating system
Reports of bad lenses
The Vava laser projector gives you the ultimate home theater experience. This projector features native 4K UHD resolution with HDR-10 color correction for ultra-crisp images and true-to-life colors. It has a 3,000:1 contrast ratio to provide deep black and bright white areas that make colors pop even more. The lamp provides a whopping 6,000 lumens and is rated for 25,000 hours of life.
This projector has an incredibly short throw distance, just 16.7 inches, while still providing a maximum screen size of 150 inches. This means you no longer have to worry about ruining everyone's home theatre experience by walking in front of the projector. The Vava projector features an integrated 60-watt soundbar that utilizes Dolby Audio technology; this provides deep bass sounds and crisp, clear mid-range and high tones for a truly cinematic experience.
3-year parts warranty
10 visual presets
Reports of units overheating
Reports of firmware issues
The BenQ HT3550 projector is another option for upgrading a current home theatre or setting up your first dedicated media space. This projector is optimized for 4K UHD viewing of your favorite movies and TV shows. It utilizes BenQ's proprietary CinematicColors technology to produce over 8.3million colors for more true to life image quality and to show you films the way directors meant for them to be seen. The HT3550 has a dynamic iris that automatically adjusts for optimal contrast, creating richer dark areas and brighter whites.
The 10 element lens features all-glass construction for durability and clarity, and it is capable of producing a 150-inch screen and has a maximum throw distance of 16 feet. The minimum throw distance is 7.6-feet, making it great for both large and small media spaces. There are 10 different visual preset modes: D. Cinema, Cinema, Bright, VividTV, ISF Night, ISF Day, Silence, 3D, HDR 10, and HLG. BenQ backs this projector with a three year limited parts warranty, and they also provide a factory calibration report for at-home troubleshooting.
12 month warranty
Projector and speaker modes
Not compatible with all tripod mounts
Reports of dead pixels
Reports of failing batteries
If you're looking for a mini projector to take to gatherings with family and friends or on camping trips, the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro is the right choice for you. This projector is incredibly compact and lightweight (less than four pounds) and features a convenient carrying handle; perfect for slipping into a suitcase, duffle bag, or just carrying around. It utilizes an Android 7.1 operating system, letting you download all your favorite streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube right to the device for easy access.
The lens features an autofocus function as well as both vertical and horizontal keystoning for clear and stable images at almost any angle. The Nebula Mars II Pro has both a projector and speaker mode; speaker mode allows you to use the unit as a Bluetooth music speaker. The rechargeable battery gives you three hours of movie watching time and up to 30 hours of music listening. Anker offers a 12 month warranty to cover manufacturing defects.
Short battery life
Operating system is difficult to navigate
If your media room is short on space, the Anker Nebula Capsule II is another good choice when looking for a mini projector. This unit is only slightly larger than an average soda can, making it perfect for when desk or table space is at a premium. The Capsule II features premium transducers to produce cinema-quality sound at home. The lens has a one-second autofocus, so you spend less time fiddling with the projector and more time enjoying your favorite movies and TV shows with friends and family.
Our Testing revealed that this projector runs on the AndroidTV 9.0 operating system; meaning that you have access to over 3,600 apps including YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix. You can also connect this projector to your Google Assistant device for voice-activated controls. This model supports Chromecast, so you can stream videos directly from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The rechargeable battery gives you up to 2.5 hours of viewing time and reaches full charge in a little over two hours.
"It also has a sleek yet utilitarian and rugged design that makes it easy to transport, unlike other projectors we’ve tested." — Hayley Prokos, Product Tester
Long bulb life
Reports of failing lamps
Mirrorcasting can be finnicky
Setting up a quality home theatre shouldn't have to cost a fortune. The Anker Nebula Prizm II is a projector with a price point that fits just about any tech and entertainment budget. This projector features native 1080p resolution, so every frame of your favorite shows and movies is crisp and clear. The dual built-in speaker provides balanced sound without the need to purchase a separate soundbar.
The lens uses both horizontal and vertical keystone correction to give you great picture quality at almost any angle. You can connect almost any device to this projector with an HDMI or USB cable. The lamp provides 200 lumens of brightness, making it perfect for home viewing. The LED bulb has a 30,000 hour lifespan, meaning you can watch a movie every day for up to 27 years! The top of the projector features a tactile fabric coating to help prevent dust build-up inside the unit. Anker offers a 12-month warranty to cover parts and manufacturing defects.
3000 lumens lamp
No keystone correction
If you're ready to take the leap into the realm of 4K, the Optoma UHD51ALV is the best choice. This projector is optimized for 16:9 aspect ratio viewing, meaning you can get quality, ultra-widescreen images without having to use special settings. It's HDR-10 compatible for deep blacks, bright whites, and richer color saturation. It uses Optoma's proprietary PureColortech programming for more true-to-life colors and image quality as well as PureMotion technology to eliminate motion blur and image stuttering even during fast-paced action scenes.
You can connect this projector to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to utilize voice commands. The lamp provides 3,000 lumens of brightness, meaning you can watch your favorite shows and movies without having to shut off every light in the room. The projector is 3D ready, so you can connect a 3D-compatible DVD player for a truly immersive viewing experience.
300 inch max screen size
Low latency input
2200 lumens lamp
Reports of bad HDMI connections
If you're looking for a quality high-definition projector for your home theatre, check out the BenQ HT2050A. This projector has a high native contrast ratio to provide better image quality as well as deep blacks and bright whites when watching movies and TV shows. It uses BenQ's proprietary CinematicColor technology to give you more true-to-life color saturation. It also uses Rec.709 color calibration to eliminate colors from shifting into the "fluorescent" scale.
Our tests showed that the shortest throw distance recommended for this projector is 8.2 feet, which will give you a screen size of around 100 inches; the maximum screen size is 300 inches. The projector has an ultra low latency input of 16ms, meaning that you're less likely to experience audio syncing issues. The lens gives you 2200 lumens, so you can have movie nights and binge watching parties with family and friends without having to sit in complete darkness.
"It offers 1080P resolution and 2,200 lumens and produces a crisp and vibrant picture." — Hayley Prokos, Product Tester
Integrated media player
Reports of DOA units
Reports of connectivity issues with Amazon Alexa
This projector is the little sibling to the Optoma UHD51ALV, but it still packs in a ton of features. This projector features native 4K UHD picture quality that is optimized for 16:9 aspect ratios for ultra-widescreen viewing. It also has a contrast ratio of 500,000:1 for deep black and bright white colors to enhance picture quality. The lamp gives 2400 lumens of brightness so you can watch your favorite shows and movies even with a few room lights on, and the lamp bulb is rated for 15,000 hours of use.
This projector has an integrated media player so you can plug in and play files from USB flash drives and other external storage devices. It is also compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hassle-free voice controls over volume, input, and media playback. If you're looking for an even more immersive movie watching experience, this projector is 3D ready to make scenes really come to life.
Mac and PC compatible
No on-board speakers
If you're looking for a projector that is great for both a home theatre and an office setting, check out the Epson EX3260. This projector is designed for both work and play, with a price point that will fit just about any budget. The lamp provides 3300 lumens of brightness and is rated for 10,000 hours of life; this makes it perfect for meetings and office presentations as well as family movie night.
The projector features a quick and easy set up process, and it utilizes HDMI and USB connections for plug-and-play functionality with both Mac and Windows based computers. The small footprint of this projector is great for placing on a table or desk without having to worry about being too clunky. It includes a carrying case with enough room for all the cables and remotes you'll need to take the projector from your home theatre to the office when needed.
Short lamp life
Poor color contrast and saturation in Bright Mode
If your home theatre or office conference room is on the small side, check out the Viewsonic PJD7822HDL. This projector has a small footprint and slim profile that is perfect for tucking out of the way when not in use and placing in tight spaces for presentations and movie watching. The minimum screen size is 30 inches, making this projector perfect for small screens or limited wall space.
The lamp provides 3,200 lumens of brightness so presentations in bright conference rooms are still crystal clear. The lamp housing can be removed from the projector for easy repairs and bulb replacement as well as cleaning. This projector has a built-in speaker for a more cinematic viewing experience without having to buy extra equipment. This unit features a native 1080p resolution and is 3D ready for a more immersive movie experience.
For terrific resolution and brightness, indoors or out, the Vava 4K UHD Laser Projector is an awesome high-end 4K projector with excellent resolution.
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, from 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.
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.
Brightness - This makes a big difference depending on if you're setting up your projector indoors or outside. Typically anything over 1,000 lumens is enough for inside, but if you're planning to use your projector outside during the day, you'll need something far brighter.
Resolution - Just like with TVs, resolution dictates the overall fidelity of your image. If you're using a Blu-ray Disc player you'll want a projector with a native 1080p format. While 4K projectors do exist, not all of them project a true 4K resolution.
Projection type - Projectors can use a variety of light sources that range from conventional lamps to LEDs or even lasers. Which source your projector uses will typically dictate its lifespan, with conventional lamps needing replacement around 3,000 hours. Compare that to LED or laser projectors which cost considerably more, but can often run for upwards of 20,000 hours before needing to be serviced.