TVs are great and all, but if you want a real cinema-like experience in your home, a projector is the way to go. The size of your viewing experience is only limited to the size of your wall. All you need is a dark room and a screen and you’re able to watch crystal clear movies just like you’re at the theater. We've got a bunch of great picks here, all of which consider brightness, contrast ratio, input and output support, and optional extras. We've also included a complete primer on home projection at the end of this roundup, so jump on down there if you have no idea what the hell we're talking about.
Projectors are expensive, and we want to help you pick the best ones. So we look at how easy they are to use, their value-for-money, and their feature set. We take a close look at their stats, and how they perform under varying circumstances and in different home theater setups.
They can also be daunting, especially if you've never messed around with them outside of that clunky model in your office conference room, so we've tried to keep jargon to a minimum… and when we have to use it, we make sure to explain it, with more in-depth explanations at the bottom of this piece. Above all, we look at value for money: how much bang you're going to get for your buck. There are plenty of expensive projectors on this list, but we also take care to include those which cost slightly less, but offer more than enough for most people.
Range: 8'/82”, 12'/122”
Contrast Ratio: 1,000,000:1
What We Like: Great darks, daytime viewing not a problem.
What We Don’t: Expensive.
Another Epson – this time, a moderately affordable Home Cinema line model, with some decent picture quality and nice. We’ll get one big gripe out of the way first. See that 1,000,000:1 to 1 contrast ratio? It’s actually “up to” 1,000,000:1, and the product page stubbornly refuses to reveal what you’d get under normal circumstances. Which is very annoying.
That being said: we still dig this projector. Not only is the picture splendid, with clear definition and good colors, but you also get some very helpful features on the projector. Chief among these are motorized lenses, which easily allow you to switch back and forth between different aspect ratios. It can also handle 4K content, which is a big plus, even if there aren’t too many 4K movies currently available. We’d definitely call this a superior projector to the Epson EH-TW6700W, although you will of course pay for the privilege.
See the Epson Home Cinema 5040UBe
Range: 8'/82”, 12'/122”
Contrast Ratio: 120,000:1
What We Like: Quiet operation.
What We Don’t: Value-for-money.
There's a lot to like about the LCD VPL-HW55ES from Sony. It doesn't have 4K capabilities, so it's cheaper than some of its top-of-the-line rivals, but it does produce an excellent full HD 1080p projection with whatever type of content you're working with. It's also very quiet - something that's important when you're trying to catch key bits of dialog in the latest Hollywood blockbuster, and don’t want a whirring fan slicing over the top of everything. That would be double plus uncool.
The VPL-HW55ES is large but stylish, and you get two HDMI ports as well as component video and D-Sub inputs. The quoted contrast ratio of 120,000:1 is achieved with some proprietary Sony software rather than being a native figure, but you can't quibble with the results, and 3D playback capabilities are included as well. The unit offers excellent black and light levels - although it isn’t quite as bright as the Epson 5040UB, with 1,700 lumens to the Epson’s 2,500 - and if you don't want to make the jump to 4K at the moment, then this is the next best thing - even if we think it’s too expensive for what you get. At the time of our last update, new models weren't available on Amazon, although it should be back in stock soon. And we should point out: while this isn’t the newest Sony model available, it’s still by far one of the best.
See the Sony VPLHW55ES
Contrast Ratio: 150,000:1
What We Like: You’ll never need to replace the lamp.
What We Don’t: We would have liked a brighter picture for the price.
The good news: you’ll never need to buy another lamp for the LG Minibeam PF1000, as the one that comes with it is slated to last around 30,000 hours. That’s an awful lot of movie nights. Compare that to the BenQ W2000 – yes, it may be slightly cheaper, but its lamp only lasts for 3,000 hours of normal use!
Outside of that, this is a fairly unremarkable projector. It would have been nice to have slightly more lumens for this price, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker. One thing we really do like: this is a short throw projector, meaning it can be placed right up against the projection screen surface. That’s immensely useful if you don’t have the space to suspend a projector from your ceiling. You can place it anywhere from 5” to 100” from the surface, and it delivers a 100” picture quite comfortably. For that reason, we are going to put this in the top three. The stunning value for money, ease-of-use, and the fact that you will almost certainly never have to buy an additional lamp easily loft it up there.
See the LG Minibeam PF1000
Contrast Ratio: Unknown
What We Like: Incredible picture with over a billion colors.
What We Don’t: Expensive, overkill for most people.
So yeah: we know projectors can be expensive. You only need to take a look at the model the very bottom of this list, in its own special section, to figure that one out. So while we think the Epson Powerlite Pro Cinema LS10000 is an excellent projector, we think that you get far better value for money out of the 5040UBe and the Sony VPLHW55ES.
Not to say this is brilliant. After all, it’s a 3LCD projector that offers over a billion colours, should you ever need that many, as well as reflective laser projection, and 1500 lumens that mean your picture will never go unnoticed - although its fewer lumens than others on our list, which is worth noting. This is the kind of projector you get for very large home cinemas or media rooms, when you really want to make a statement. For most people, it’s way, way off the edge of the map, but if you have the funds, then you will be rewarded with an absolutely astounding projector. If it undergoes a price adjustment, expect it to climb this list sharpish.
See the Epson Powerlite Pro Cinema LS10000
Contrast Ratio: 40,000:1
What We Like: 4K is fantastic.
What We Don’t: Specs are confusing.
Although we find it frustrating that the JVC model is light on specs, including letting you know the range, that still doesn't make this unworthy of an almost-top spot. For one thing, it delivers some of the best 4K footage we've ever seen, with colors and blacks that are vivid and distinctive. This is an unusual type in that it relies on Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS), that uses chips of liquid-crystal with mirrored surfaces. It's as amazing as it sounds - easily comparable with Epson’s 3LCD, as displayed in the Powerlite Pro Cinema LS10000.
There are other goodies too, like fully motorised lens controls that are very handy to have around. Despite a couple of tiny glitches in the picture, this is a system with very few downsides. We don’t think it does quite enough to distinguish it from other models higher than it in this list, hence its low position, it’s still a top five pick, and one you should absolutely look at if you’re buying. Don't, by the way, be confused with the D-ILA. That's just a JVC brand name for this type of projection.
See the JVC DLA-X550R D-ILA
Contrast Ratio: 150,000:1
What We Like: Relatively affordable projector with great picture.
What We Don’t: Looks like a copy machine, audio quality isn’t great.
This is never going to be a top five projector, but that doesn’t mean the Screeneo 2.0 doesn’t do a good job. While you will have to deal with looks that could charitably be described as Xerox chic, and the included Dolby 2.1 speaker/subwoofer setup is middling at best, this does offer some great features and specs for a good price. It can do its job at a short range, too, up to 3.9”
The DLP projector has a solid range, a good contrast ratio and lumen count, and allows you to connect not only through things like HDMI, but also through Bluetooth from your mobile device. The picture quality is excellent, with sharp definition and vibrant colors. It’s never going to be quite as good as models like the Sony VPLHW55ES, which is among the best in its class, but you will definitely pay extra for those, and if you don’t have the budget, this is a more than workable alternative.
See the Philips HDP2510 Screeneo 2.0
Contrast Ratio: 70,000:1
What We Like: Good brightness, 3LCD tech at a bargain price.
What We Don’t: Arguably, the Philips model is better.
3LCD is a type of projection technology specific to Epson – patented by them in fact – and it’s relatively uncommon to see it in this price range. Unsurprisingly, the only other projectors with it on our list are the Epson Cinema LS10000 and 5040UB, but since that one is quadruple the price of the 6700, you can consider it a bargain to get that technology here.
This is very much on par with the Philips HDP2510 Screeneo 2.0, in terms of technology and price. While you get 1,000 more lumens, making this the brighter option – something you will definitely appreciate, thanks to the 3LCD – you get a much worse contrast ratio of 70,000:1 compared to 150,000:1 for the Philips. However, they both compete well with one another, and if brightness is slightly less important to you – if, for example, you have a dark room – then you should absolutely consider this one. The projection technology alone makes it worthwhile.
See the Epson EH-TW6700W
Contrast Ratio: 15,000:1
What We Like: Dead simple to setup, terrific picture.
What We Don’t: Blacks were a bit lame.
BenQ has several models on this list, and for very good reason. We dithered about whether it was to many, before deciding that their products were too good to exclude. And this, the W2000, is the best of the lot – easily beating out other BenQ models like the HT3050, especially on things like value.
For one thing, it’s incredibly easy to get going, with the simplified setup that even a projection meal fight will be able to figure out. And if you can forgive a very slight lack of detail in the picture, and blacks that aren’t quite as deep as they should be, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent image for the price. Compared to other models in this range, it performs extremely well. You could argue that it isn’t quite as exciting as something like the Philips HDP2510 Screeneo 2.0, even if it’s better looking, but as a moderately budget option, it does very well indeed.
See the BenQ W2000
Range: 60”-180” (Distance not given)
Contrast Ratio: 15,000:1
What We Like: Bright, clear picture at a good price.
What We Don’t: Reported issues with 3D mode.
Projectors can be hugely expensive, but the good news is that even if you spend less than $1,000, you can still get an excellent model that will provide you a good picture a reasonable price – for home projection, anyway. With the HT3050, BenQ have improved on the 1075 – which, after much discussion, we included below as well, as they are both good options. We don’t think they quite make it into the top five, which is still the territory of Epson and others, but they are excellent alternatives.
Despite it being hard to track down distances for the given range of 60”-180”, this DLP projector still impresses. It offers a solid picture that is bright enough to satisfy, with 2,000 lumens and a good if unspectacular contrast ratio, as well as keystoning. Although some users have reported issues getting this projector to work with 3D images, they are very much in the minority – this is a hugely popular projector that has satisfied almost everyone who has bought it. If you’re in this particular price range, it will no doubt satisfy you, too.
See the BenQ HT3050
Range: 8'/96”, 12'/144”
Contrast Ratio: 15,000:1
What We Like: Great brightness.
What We Don’t: Speakers aren't all that good.
In many ways, you get what you pay for when it comes to home projection. However, there are some in the middle of the market that offer a lot, including the PJD-7820HD from Viewsonic. With 3,000 lumens of brightness, a 15,000:1 contrast ratio, and 3D capabilities, this model is no slouch (and it costs considerably less than many of its rivals).
Featuring DLP technology, the PJD-7720HD is light, compact and capable of Full HD 1080p. You also get HDMI, D-Sub, PC and component inputs, and brightness levels are first-class thanks to that lumens rating. It also looks great, with an all-black finish that has a bit more style than most comparable projectors, and it has good usability and a friendly setup that make it clear that beginners and experts alike are welcome. There’s even a cable-management hood. On the downside, the speakers are not much to write home about - much like the Philips Screeneo 2.0, which is much more expensive and has a similar problem - but you can't have everything at this price point.
See the ViewSonic PJD7820HD
Range: 3.85'/40”, 22.5'/235”
Contrast Ratio: 10,000:1
What We Like: Good price, color calibration.
What We Don’t: Bad speakers, lamp leakage.
With the BenQ HT1075 coming in at well under $1000, it's one of the best mid-range models on the market. You get vivid colors and a solid viewing experience, in all kinds of lighting. This DLP option features a sensor for automatic color calibration to suit any room you may place it in from bright living rooms to the basement. With vertical and horizontal keystones, you can put the unit just about anywhere. At eight feet, the HT1075 can throw up a 100-inch image.
If you have a smaller room, check out BenQ's HT1075ST, a more-expensive model for tighter spaces. The HT1075 does come with a remote and built-in audio, but you’ll need to buy the 3D glasses separately and the 10W speakers disappoint (then again, if you buy a projector for its audio, you must be out of your mind). Just like its predecessor, the forward-facing exhaust grill allows for slight lamp leakage, but that’s a small issue for such a great little device. And if you want something more hefty, the 3050 is just above. It’ll cost you more, but it’s better in almost every way.
See the BenQ HT1075
Range: 8'/71”, 12'/107”
Contrast Ratio: 30,000:1
What We Like: High contrast for the price.
What We Don’t: 3D not as good as others.
Optoma know what they're about when it comes to this particular product category, and their HD 28DSE is a real stunner. For the price, you get an incredibly high contrast ratio of 30,000:1, resulting in a truly amazing picture for a sub-$1000 unit. Although we think the 3D projection isn't as good as other models, this shouldn't bother to many people, as 3D entertainment at home is limited. We do, however, dislike the bulging looks, which sometimes remind us of an industrial blender in other times of an alien warship that has come to destroy us all. Still, if you can hide it away somewhere, this won’t bother you.
By the way, we know we are in the minority by ranking this particular projector this low on the list. It’s got a lot of fans, and has won several awards. But we think other projectors provide more value for money, and a better picture, although you are welcome to fight with us in the comments! Think of this as a good, relatively-budget-friendly model with at least one killer feature. And heads up: we've seen the price for new models fluctuate, so watch out and snatch it up if you see it for the price we've listed above.
See the Optoma HD 28DSE
Range: 8'/66”, 12'/107”
Contrast Ratio: 23,000:1
What We Like: Still a great projector.
What We Don’t: Doesn’t do enough to improve on the 141X.
Another Optoma, and the HD142X is one heck a home projector, with great value for money. It’s an improvement on the original 141X, and on reflection, we decided to swap out the two on this list. Although it’s good, we don’t think it’s topping the other models just yet. It doesn’t do quite enough to enhance on its predecessor, and while it’s still very good, we would have liked to have seen a little more innovation.
For under $550 - less if you wait for a sale - you get full HD 1080p resolution (the Viewsonic, below, does not have 1080p) and a solid contrast ratio of 23,000 to 1. It's MHL-compatible for controlling what’s playing on the screen via your smartphone. The HD142X certainly isn’t huge but it is a bit bigger and clunkier than some of the high-end LED and LCD versions on this list. It’s also a little weak in the audio department, but this is to be expected, and especially those at the cheaper end of the market. Considering the lower price point, there's a strong argument for picking it over either the Viewsonic PJD-7820HD or BenQ W1070.
See the Optoma HD142X
14. RIF6 Cube ($230)
Contrast Ratio: 1,000:1
What We Like: Great solution for beginners.
What We Don’t: Not very bright, no keystoning.
Just in case you though home theater projectors needed to be big bruisers. The RIF6 Cube measures a puny 2” x 2” x 2”, and is the ideal solution if you have a small living space, and want to experience what projection looks like. Although its basic function as a projector isn’t all that different from the other models on this list, it’s designed specifically for use with mobile devices, meaning it’s ideal for casting video – although you may struggle to integrate it into an existing home theater setup.
The big downside? The brightness. At 50 lumens, it’s definitely not going to compete with other more traditional models in this price range. For a little bit more, you can have the slightly clunky but much brighter AAXA P300 Pico projector, which has 400 lumens. If, however, you can get past the brightness issue, you’ll find a very capable little projector that really pushes this product type forward, in addition to looking extremely cool.
See the RIF6 Cube
Contrast Ratio: 2,000:1
What We Like: Compact and easy-to-use.
What We Don’t: Clunky looks, a little old.
AAXA have several projectors on offer, including a couple of micro LED versions that compete with things like the RIF6 Cube. But even though this model is slightly old now – released in 2015, we believe – it still remains among the best value budget projectors out there, and is a landmark product.
This award-winning projector is quite literally the size of your hand, and although we do wish that AAXA had pushed the design a little bit more – it looks like something out of the 1970s – it remains a stunning device, with reasonable brightness – although nothing compared to four-figure models like the JVC DLA of course – and a variety of cool features. This includes a battery for handheld use, although you will suffer a degradation in brightness, as well as a quick on-off function, meaning you no longer have to wait whole minutes for the bulb to heat up, as you do with many other models. As budget projectors go, this is an excellent alternative to the RIF6, and more than justifies the extra cost.
See the AAXA P300 Pico
16. EUG 88 ($342)
Contrast Ratio: 3200:1
What We Like: Good value-for-money.
What We Don’t: Difficult to set up.
If all you need is to play the latest ad to the boardroom, or show some YouTube videos to your class, the EUG 88 can’t really be beat. While it doesn’t have standard HD resolution, it’s 1200x800 display (which sits between 720p and 1080p) is great for displaying computer screens. With two built-in 5W speakers, you don’t need to have everyone huddle around your laptop to hear narration.
Some reviewers had trouble setting this up and there’s no support offered with this machine, so if you think you’ll need technical help, you might want to spring for a name-brand like Epson or Sony. If you’re looking to save some money and don’t mind fiddling with controls, the EUG 88 can handle most needs for an office. If you don't mind the drop in quality, it'll do nicely at home, too. No projector is truly cheap – something we’d like to see change in the future – but this is about as good as it gets on that front. It’s not going to trouble the big dogs, but we think it’s worth including. And please note: its availability fluctuates, although it’s available on Amazon at the time of writing.
See the EUG 88
And When You Sell The Rights To Your Life Story:
Range: 8'/88”, 12'/130”
Contrast Ratio: 1,000,000:1
What We Like: Incredible picture.
What We Don’t: Incredible price.
No, that price isn’t a typo. There always seems to be one outrageously-priced product that blazes the trail for a new technology (in this case, 4K models), and while its staggering price keeps it off our list, this model is incredible. It boasts stunning 4K resolution and upscaling other content (such as Full HD 1080p) nicely as well. With 2,000 lumens of brightness and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, the sheet of specifications are impressive (they should be at this price!). The only comparable contrast ratio here is the top model on the list, the Epson 5040UB.
3D playback is an option on the VPL-VW1000ES, and thanks to the unit's large throw distance and powerful calibration features, it can cope with screens up to a whopping 200 inches. You'll have to fork out a serious amount of cash for the privilege, but this is just about the closest you can get to a true cinema setup without actually shelling out for a ticket and some popcorn. SXRD, by the way, is Sony technology, a new type of projection relying on Silicon X-tal Reflective Display - hence the acronym.
See the Sony VPLVW1100ES 4K
|Epson 5040UBe||$3,000||LCD||8'/82”, 12'/122”||2,500||1,000,000:1||Yes|
|Sony VPLHW55ES||$3,998||SXRD||8'/82”, 12'/122”||1,700||120,000:1||Yes|
|LG Minibeam PF1000||$1,399||DLP||5”-100”||1,000||150,000:1||Yes|
|Epson Cinema LS10000||$7,999||3LCD||9.3'/100”||1,500||Unknown||Yes|
|JVC DLA-X550R D-ILA||$4,000||LCoS||Unknown||1,700||40:000:1||Yes|
|Philips Screeneo 2.0||$2,000||DLP||3.9’-16.5’||2,000||150,000:1||Yes|
|ViewSonic PJD7720HD||$550||DLP||8'/96”, 12'/144”||3,000||15,000:1||Yes|
|BenQ HT1075||$680||DLP||4'/40”, 22.5'/235”||2,200||10,000:1||Yes|
|Optoma HD 28DSE||$800||DLP||8'/71”, 12'/107”||3,000||30,000:1||Yes|
|Optoma HD142X||$531||DLP||8'/66”, 12'/107”||3,000||21,000:1||Yes|
|AAXA P300 Pico||$359||LED||Unknown||400||2,000:1||Yes|
|Sony VPLVW1100ES 4K||$27,998||SXRD||8'/88”, 12'/130”||2,000||1,000,000:1||Yes|
- What To Look For When Buying A Home Theater Projector
- Why Are Home Theater Projectors So Expensive?
- Home Theater Projector Types: LCD vs. LED vs. DLP
- Range Explained
- Lumens Explained
- Keystoning Explained
- Contrast And Aspect Ratio Explained
- Home Theater Projector Setup Explained
- 4K Picture Explained
The very first thing to be aware of is: have you actually got space for one?
Because let’s be real: getting one of these into the right position can take a bit of DIY, and often requires that you put a bit of distance between it and the projection surface. The most effective way to mount a projector is quite literally to hang it from the ceiling, and not all of us are able to actually do this – especially if you live in rented accommodation. If you’re lucky enough to own your house, and have a room big enough, it may be worth getting a professional to install a proper mount. Nothing will ruin the movie night like a projector falling on your head.
The second thing to be aware of is how powerful you need your projector to be. More than any other product category, projectors skyrocket in price as their specs improve, and you want to make sure that you’re not paying the things you are going to use. If you don’t require a ton of brightness – if, for example, your home theater room doesn’t have windows, or has heavy duty curtains – then you shouldn’t be paying for extra lumens. We’ll go into this spec a little more below.
The third thing to bear in mind is what you’re actually going to be putting through the projector. 4K? 3D? Are you streaming via Bluetooth, connecting via HDMI, jacking in with an optical connection? Make sure you check out the inputs and outputs of your chosen projector. We haven’t listed them here – there are far too many for each one, so things would get clunky – but it’s worth bearing in mind.
And fourthly: what are you actually going to project it onto? Please don’t say a wall. Please, please don’t say a wall. You need to make sure that you have a blank space on the wall large enough to hold a dedicated projection screen – or if its self standing, room to actually place it.
Projection is fun, and immensely worthwhile. But it’s worth keeping these things in the front of your mind when choosing your projector.
Even the cheapest one will cost you hundreds of dollars, which might not make a lot of sense when you can get very decent TV for about the same cost. The reason is that they sell far less than TVs, and so their individual unit cost is higher. Sadly, until everyone on the planet is investing in serious home theater, it's likely to stay that way. We still recommend getting one, because they can give fantastic results, but you do have to be prepared for the cost.
You might see some great deals — $300 and less for example — but steer clear of those unless you’re just practicing your monthly all-staff weekly PowerPoint meeting. This is because projectors come in two distinct flavors: data, or home theater. Stick with the home theater kind if you plan on doing any serious movie watching. We should point out that all the projectors on this list – even cheaper ones, like the RIF6 Cube – can be used for this purpose.
Projectors allow for the most accurate recreation of the picture the director intends the audience to see, but they aren't for everyone (you can get a good-sized TV for less than some of the options above).
While they are a larger cost upfront, they also have recurring costs throughout their lifetime. The bulbs last between 2,000 and 5,000 hours and can cost hundreds of dollars to replace. If you plan on using one as your everyday TV, that could mean replacing the bulbs every two or three years, but if you’re only watching it for weekend movies and games, you should get five years or more. If reliability is important to you, then you may want to invest in a project like the LG Minibeam PF1000. The manufacturers claim the bulbs will last for up to 30,000 hours!
There are three main types of home projector that you need to worry about. Let’s break them down.
This type of projection is actually quite uncommon – far less common than DLP, for example. It stands for Liquid Crystal Display, and as a technology you most often find in televisions. As you’d expect, it uses liquid crystals in the form of three panels – one colored red, one green, and one blue – which are combined to form the picture.
LCD offer excellent brightness, contrast and black levels, far more than DLP. Because they have no moving parts, they are also less susceptible to breakage, and are ideal for bigger rooms. The odd speck of dust may make it onto the picture, however, necessitating a cleaning.
This stands for Digital Light Processing, and despite the fact that it’s among the most common projection standards around, it’s actually quite clever. Tiny mirrors shine light either in the direction of the screen, or away from it, combining with a color wheel to create the picture you see. It sounds complicated, but in practice it works incredibly well.
Many of the projectors on this list – especially in the mid range – rely on DLP, and its advantage is that it requires almost no maintenance over time. Handy! And because of their sealed design, you’re unlikely to get dust on the lens, although you may not get as high-quality a picture as you would with LED and LCD projectors.
Light-Emitting Diode projectors a variation of either LCD or DLP projectors, but the differences that they use an alternative lamp system – one that is far more eco-friendly, and works in a much more efficient manner. LED projectors are actually relatively uncommon – the one on our list that we like the best is the AAXA P300 Pico. In fact, it’s worth mentioning another term here: pico-projectors, which is used to refer to pintsize models that are designed for portable use, and which often use LEDs.
The advantages? LED lamps live much longer than lamps in other types of projectors, and are far more efficient, as already stated – not to mention quieter. The one downside? They can be a little bit expensive.
Sony also has its own proprietary tech, Silicon X-tal Reflective Display, or SXRD. It’s a hybrid of DLP and LCD, and it rocks. There's also LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicone) which uses tiny chips of reflective liquid-crystal. Confusingly, this is often branded by JVC as D-ILA and...
Sorry. Even we are drowning in acronyms here. We'll stop now. To be honest, as long as you have the three main types down – LCD, DLP, and LED – you’ll be able to instantly take the measure of the particular projecter you’re going for.
Obviously, you need to know just how big your projection will be from a certain range. Not being able to estimate this in advance can complicate things, and while some manufacturers don’t always give the range, plenty do. Let’s use an example to break things down.
The Epson Home Cinema 5040UB, our top pick, has a stated range of 8’/82”, 12’/122”. Very simply, that means that at eight feet, the screen will be around 82” diagonally across, while at twelve feet, it will measure 122” diagonally across. Pretty simple, no?
But you actually need to take a second to realise what the range specs aren’t telling you. Essentially, while you can use these links to extrapolate screen size at any distance, it’s fundamentally useless to do so outside of the eight-to-twelve feet range. Picture quality will degrade if you go beyond it, which means that you can use the range figures to get a sense of how a projector would fit into your room. A projector that has a range of between 4’ and 6’, for example, is going to be completely useless in a larger room!
Lumens are a measure of how much light intensity a projector can produce.
If you plan to use yours in a dark room like as a basement, any model on our list will provide a bright enough image. If your pick will be battling more ambient light, you should consider one with a higher lumen count.
We actually don’t need to spend too much time on this, as it’s relatively simple to figure out – as clear a product spec as you could ask for. Lumens typically range from between 1,000 to 3,000, and, as we said, brighter is better. The brightest projector in our list is the EUG 88, with a stated brightness of 3,600 lumens. It has plenty of other shortcomings, hence why it is that the bottom of the list, but you definitely do get value for money! To be honest, any lumen rating above about 2,000Is going to be more than sufficient for most environments.
OK. Check this out.
In an ideal world, your projector would be facing directly at the screen. The surface of the lens itself would run parallel to the surface of the screen. The problem is, actually getting that alignment perfect is very, very difficult – the kind of trick that relies on some advanced equipment and a knowledge of angles to actually get right. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can spend hours fiddling with placement, inserting books and posters under your projector in an effort to get it to line up. Ever seen a projection image that is narrower at the top than it is at the bottom, or vice versa? Congratulations – you’ve seen the problem in action
Fortunately, manufacturers are aware of this. That’s why they include a feature in many projectors called keystoning – named for the shape that an uncorrected image takes, which looks like the keystone in an archway. This feature is essentially a software algorithm (usually) that corrects for this effect, adjusting the image accordingly.
The problem? Doing it means reducing the number of pixels on the image, which means that the quality can suffer. Many more expensive models put in systems to compensate for it, like the Sony VPLHW55ES, which uses adjustable supports to help you get the picture alignment perfect.
Where possible, we’d say you should leave this feature turned off, and try and align your projector. However, don’t sweat it if this seems like too much effort. Just turn your keystoning on, and enjoy your new setup.
Contrast ratio is easy to understand. What it refers to is the ratio of light that comes back from a completely white image, versus that that comes back from a completely black image. If your contrast is 5,000:1, that means that for every measure of light that is reflected from the black image, 5,000 measures will be reflected from the white.
In terms of contrast, if you want your blacks to look black and your colors to really pop, you’ll want a high contrast ratio. You should also make sure to balance your contrast and brightness once you get into your room for optimal quality.
More expensive models will have larger contrast ratios. This means a cleaner, clearer picture. Lumen counts tend to vary, however, and aren't always a good indicator of how cheap or expensive the model is going to be. What is certain is that more expensive ones will have options for 3D projection, as well as a longer throw distance.
You may also want to know about aspect ratio: This is the shape of the projected image. Obviously it's a rectangle, but it usually comes in two distinct sizes: 16:9 and 4:3. 16:9 is most common, as it's higher quality and is used for movies. 4:3 is less common, used for TV and presentations.
You’ll obviously need space, and a room long enough to project a big image. If you’re short on distance, look for models with “short throw” lenses. Another restraint is the brightness of your room—it’s certainly not optimal to watch the big game on Sunday in your sunny living room. You want somewhere with minimal light, like a basement, or you’ll need to invest in some blackout curtains. There are different degrees of brightness, rated in lumens, and you’ll want more lumens for brighter rooms. You also should consider installation. If you’re mounting your purchase on the ceiling, make sure you are able to get the wires up there, including AC power and the audio/visual cables.
There are two basic options when placing your projector: you can mount it to the ceiling or you can stow it away and pull it out on movie night. If you’re mounting it, you are best served by getting a professional installer or contractor to place all the wiring and making sure everything is up to code. You also want to place it where the lens is slightly above the top of the picture and directly centered. If that’s not possible, make sure to get one with lens shift—this allows you to move the picture without moving the entire unit. Keystone correction is a software feature that alters the shape of the image to match the wall, but this often degrades the quality of the image.
If you have a library of 3D or 4K media, or if you just want to future-proof yourself, you can find models to suit those needs as well. While many can handle 3D just fine, 4K is going to cost you. For TVs, 4K isn’t much harder than making a small 1080p TV. If you’re looking for a projector that can handle this, we think the $4,000 JVC DLA-X550R D-ILA is the way to go.
Think of it like making a sheet of fabric: if you can get 1080 strands of fabric across in a 20-inch-wide piece of fabric, you can get more than 4,000 in an 80-inch-wide fabric. However, with projectors it’s not so easy. There is no smaller-sized unit that can be combined to make a 4K image. Ultra HD models are still expensive, but Sony and others are working on that.