After researching more than 35 home theater projectors online, we’re proud to report that the Optoma HD29Darbee Projector is the best home theater projector of the bunch. Its superb picture quality, low response times and excellent price make it a no-brainer for home theater enthusiasts and casual movie lovers alike.
To determine the top projectors available today, we purchased the top 19. We then went through a rigorous cycle of testing all of these projectors by watching our favorite movies and playing our top video games on each different model. During our tests, we specifically measured metrics like overall picture quality, total display size/range, and throw distance. We also measured more subtle features like color accuracy, mounting position and fan noise to ensure we recommended only projectors that are top of the line.
Award: Top Pick/Best Projector
WHY WE LIKE IT: The HD29Darbee offers the best picture quality for the price. Moreover, despite its brightness capabilities, it operates at an almost whisper quiet level. And despite that it’s a formidable projector for those that enjoy a video game or two.
Pound for pound, the Optoma HD28DSE simply outclasses all comers with its superior picture quality, respectable response time, and bevy of extra features which make it a must have for veteran projector owners and newbies alike. No need to spend thousands on a projector, you can find our best projector under 1000.
Optoma is already known as one of – if not the – premier projector manufacturers working in the business today, and with entries like the HD29Darbee into the market it’s not hard to see why.
Thanks in part to the inclusion of a DARBEEVision color spec option, images, during my testing, almost quite literally pop off the screen with levels of detail and vibrancy that most other projectors could only hope to achieve on their best day out.
Certain videophiles may be turned off by the almost rainbow-like quality this features gives everything though, so even though we personally think it looks great when watching intentionally color-heavy material (think the BBC’s Utopia or later seasons of Breaking Bad), others may only want to keep it activated during gaming sessions to give themselves that extra edge.
But that’s not all. When you mount a projector in any space, one of the most precarious parts of the project can be actually lifting the unit into its eventual destination. Luckily, the Optoma HD29Darbee weighs just 5.7lbs, making it one of the lightest projectors on this list and in turn a perfect pick for anyone who wants to mount their projector to the ceiling, a shelf, or on a bookcase.
Add to that a top-tier lumen rating of 3,000, full-HD capability, and a contrast ratio of 30,000:1 and you’ve got a winning combination that’s flexible enough for any home theater setup you can imagine. You can also check out the best cheap projector.
Award: Honorable Mention/Best Projector for Movies
WHY WE LIKE IT: The BenQ TK800’s color representation and picture quality goes above the call of duty, all thanks to the Rec. 709 Cinematic spec which gives the BenQ TK800 unmatched color vibrancy on screen.
While some projectors are exceptionally bright and others are great for gaming with lightning quick response times – there are some that just look so good that they become impossible to ignore.
The BenQ TK800 is one of those projectors, and so much more. Thanks to the inclusion of the Rec. 709 Cinematic Color palette, the TK800 reproduces movies and TV shows exactly how directors intended them to look, with no guesswork thrown in to try and correct for washed out skin tones or greyed black levels.
Because of its 4K capabilities, the BenQ TK800 is one of the pricier home theater projectors on our list; but all that cost is backed up with an equally impressive picture quality that really has to be seen to be believed.
If there’s one area we had to unfortunately fault the BenQ, it would be the inclusion of the non-essential speaker onboard. Sometimes we had trouble with our inputs defaulting to the onboard audio rather than our stereo system, resulting in a blast of treble to our eardrums that was jarring, to say the least.
That aside, the inclusion of Rec. 709 is really what sells this projector beyond anything else. Films look exactly how they would in your local theater, and whether it’s The Godfather or the latest Michael Bay “boom-a-thon”, every movie and TV show is given the exact color treatment it deserves to shine at its absolute best.
Throw in Keystone correction, HDR10 and whisper-quiet fan operation, and you’ve got an easy contender for one of the best projectors for 2020.
Award: Best Budget Projector
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Optoma HD143X displays outstanding performance for a projector under $600. If you’re looking for an excellent projector for a budget price, look no further. The Optoma HD143X is a worthy successor to the HD line of projectors from the company, and while it doesn’t do anything revolutionary, its minor improvements and longer lamp life should be enough to justify its budget-level cost of entry.
Read Full Review: Optoma HD143X Review
If you don’t have a fortune to spend upfront, it can be hard to find a projector that combines all the features you need into a package that doesn’t break the bank. Enter the budget option: the Optoma HD143X, another in a long line the company’s cost-conscious projectors that deliver serious performance for a price that the average consumer can justify.
With 3,000 ANSI lumens of brightness to work with, the HD143X is perfect for anyone who wants to set up their home theater in a less-than-ideal space, like a living room with lots of open windows or near a screen-glass door. At those lumen levels, the HD143X is still able to show off a crisp, clear picture that won’t be muddled out by ambient light during the day, and looks even better when you’re watching it during the dead of night.
It’s never going to match up to the pristine image quality of the BenQ HT3050 or the overall utility of its bigger brother, the HD28DSE, but that’s not what (or who) it’s made for. The HD143X is the upstart home theater projector, for the consumer who may not be ready to go all in on their first setup but still wants the kind of quality and consistency that can be expected from such well-respected brands like Optoma. Compare it to the best projector under $1000.
Award: Best Projector for Gaming
WHY WE LIKE IT: he BenQ HT2150ST is a gaming workhorse, offering an excellent contrast rate and plenty of brightness for home gaming setups. To top it off, the projector offers super low input lag, offering gaming performance even the most hardcore players will be satisfied with.
As anyone who’s owned a projector can tell you; trying to play video games on any kind of home theater projector can be a practice in monk-like patience. Whether the input lag is too high or the display is too dark with not enough contrast, there always seems to be some kind of limiting feature.
Fortunately for gamers who want to up their display size without buying a huge TV, the BenQ HT2150ST is to the rescue. With a surprisingly low input lag and excellent contrast rate of 15,000:1, this projector is perfect for movies and games alike.
Add to this to the projector’s ability to create a 100-inch display at a super short throw distance of only 5 feet, and you’ve got a project that’s fit for duty no matter what game you’re playing today.
The BenQ HT2150ST also features some of the sharpest, crispiest images I’ve seen on a projector to date. Its brightness and color vibrancy are enough to make this model the obvious pick for anyone who’s installing their home theater with the idea of playing games as well as watching movies. Whether I was getting in a few rounds of Destiny or just trying to watch a day game, the BenQ was the best choice. Also, read about the best projector screen.
Award: Best Portable Projector
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Anker Nebule Capsule is a unique choice on our lineup. It isn’t as bright as other projectors here, but its ultra portability and built in speaker makes up for it. If you want to take a projector with you on the go, this soda can-sized projector is a game changer.
Read Full Review: Anker Nebula Capsule Review
If you’re looking for a home theater projector capable of travelling with you, whether out to the backyard or to your hotel, then the Anker Nebula Capsule is the projector for you. At its maximum setting, you can get a 100-inch screen size, which is perfect for larger audiences. Unfortunately, it’s not as bright as other projectors on this list, but still performs well in dim light.
If you’re looking for a projector that will work anywhere, you can’t go wrong with the Nebula Capsule. With a built-in battery and 360-degree speaker, all you need to get up and running is a phone with your movies on it. Speaking of movies, this all in one DVD projector is awesome.
If you’re setting up your dream home theater but don’t know where to start shopping for a projector, we can help. A projector is a device that uses lamps, LEDs, or lasers to project light onto a flat surface like a projection screen. The modern video projector can produce high resolutions like 4K and display HDR content like a television. Many modern units have inputs for various devices like surround sound, Blu-ray players, streaming devices, and computers. In addition, some projectors, especially portable units, have built-in speakers for when you need sound on the go.
A projector, otherwise known as an image projector, is an optical device that transmits an image to a large surface, typically a projector screen or bare wall. Movie theaters use movie projectors and home movie enthusiasts often purchase and use video projectors. Modern home projectors also include an audio component for a robust A/V experience and many newer models allow for streaming from popular services like Netflix and Hulu.
Infobox – The History Of The Projector: The earliest example of a projector is Christian Huygens’ “magic lantern” from 1659, which used a lamp and a glass slide to project an image. While the magic lantern gained popularity, as did other iterations on still image projectors, many years passed before moving images appeared in projections. Henry Morton invented the first example of what we’d recognize as the theater projector in 1872. Today, most commercial projectors are digital instead of film-based.
If you’ve ever wondered how it is that projectors work, we’ve got the answer! Most projectors create an image by shining a light through a transparent lens, so understanding lens shifting is handy for most consumers. The amount of light that gets shined through the lens impacts the overall brightness and clarity of the image, which is why knowing the what lumens on a projector means comes in handy. A projector’s throw ratio refers to the maximum image size available at a certain range and is an important metric to understand before purchasing a device. Some newer projector designs use lasers or LED lights to project images, allowing for ultra-compact and portable form factors.
Infobox – How Long Does A Projector Last? Thankfully, a projector should last for many years. That said, the length of time your projector lasts is dependent on how long your lamp, LEDs, or laser lasts. These types of lights project the image onto your home theater screen. You can replace them, and every kind of light will last a different amount of time. An entry-level projector lamp has the shortest expected lifespan at about 2,000 to 4,000 hours. LED projectors have a lifespan of about 20,000 hours, about the equivalent of laser projectors. These projection technologies cost quite a bit to repair, but the rest of your projector should last through multiple bulbs or LEDs.
Modern projectors come in all shapes and sizes to suit a wide range of consumers. Choosing an individual projector depends largely on what you are using it for, the size of your viewing space, any additional features you require, and other metrics related to portability, durability, color gamut and more. The installation position and location of any lenses and lights are also important to know, as both impacts where the projector is most useful within your living or workspace. Just like modern TVs, new projectors are available in ultra-high-definition formats (4K) and with plenty of additional smart features.
Before you choose a new projector, decide what you’ll be using it for, what features you can live without, and which are absolutely mandatory. High-resolution projectors with fast refresh rates and quick response times are the go-to choice for serious gamers, while those who stream movies and TV shows at standard HD can get by with medium-grade specs. Some projectors are built to integrate with desktop computers and laptops, making them ideal for a work environment, while others are primarily designed for home use and include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and other connectivity options. There are also various projector types that do better in larger spaces and those that work best with certain throw ratios. Also, some designs do best in dark rooms and struggle with brightly lit areas. All told, there are five kinds of projectors you can get for your home: the DLP (digital light processing) projector, LCD projector, LED projector, LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) projector, and laser projector.
Stat – The type of projector you use has an impact on how long the lamp and bulb will last. Traditional bulbs will last between 1,000 and 5,000 hours, generally. LED lamps can last up to 60,000 hours, and laser lamps can hit 25,000. They each have their ups and downs though, so don’t use lamp life as the only reason behind a purchase.
When it comes to image resolution, which do I need for my projector? Just like with televisions and computer monitors, it really depends. When comparing 4K and 1080 projectors, you must also consider other useful metrics like the overall brightness lumens, the throw ratio, and any additional features available. When comparing DLP and LED projectors, you must also take a look at the overall brightness of your space, any consistent vibrations in your space, and, of course, your overall budget. If you are simply comparing standard projectors against TVs, take a look at the overall weight and form factor of the television and any additional features it offers over the projector. In any case, modern projectors offer as much as resolution variety of other types of screens.
Tip – If a projector is cheaper than the competition by a good chunk and also advertising itself as brighter, there’s a good chance they’re lying. Always remember: if it sounds too good to be true…
Modern tech ships with modern features and projectors are no different. Newly released consumer-grade projectors often feature connectivity options for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in addition to built-in smart features that automatically access streaming services and digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. Some feature USB ports and a wide range of mounting options to suit different viewing areas. An outdoor projector, is specially designed for use outdoors by having a sufficiently high lumens output, making it capable of projecting in brightly lit areas, as well as being able to handle being exposed to the elements.
The type of surface you choose to project on also impacts the overall efficacy of your projector, depending on its design. Some projectors excel with blank white walls, while others should be projected upon actual projector screens or an actual painted surface using projector paints. Generally speaking, a mediocre screen results in a mediocre image.
Choosing the right projector screen for your home starts by making some simple measurements of the viewing area and comparing them to available screens. Next, choose a screen based on durability, material type, and ease of transport and storage. Some prefer screens that stay affixed in one place while others like roll-up models.
You can get by without a dedicated projector screen if you decide to simply view your images on a bare wall. However, some wall colors and paint types work better than others in this regard. Go for special screen paint with low reflection rates in white.
Besides the projector itself and any viable screen material, you may be wondering what kinds of cables you need for your projector, as well as other tools and accessories to get started. You’ll need to choose from the best projector stands if you lack a viable surface or pick out a space to mount your projector on your ceiling. You’ll also need a device for streaming content, such as a computer or even a phone, and any audio-related equipment like speakers, soundbars, and amplification devices.
Projectors range in price according to the feature set, durability, size, and related factors. Budget-friendly projectors start at $50 or $60, but these are typically bare-bones offerings. Medium-grade projectors, great for most consumers, cost around $300 to $400 while ultra-premium models go up to $40,000 or more. Yeah, you read that right. Of course, while creating your maximum budget, allow for cables, mounting equipment, audio accessories, and anything else you need.
Infobox – Keep in mind that DIY projectors are mostly used by artists to trace images onto a larger working surface. You can watch stuff on one, but you’re making some serious compromises in the process.
Get ready for a world of fun once you purchase a projector, though owning one comes with a unique set of challenges. Modern projectors may need frequent adjustments as you view content and you may need to spend a bit of time hooking up your A/V receiver, including speakers and the like. However, the setup is relatively simple and along the lines of setting up a modern HD TV.
Tip – Pay close attention to what your projector’s box and the documentation says about the lamp inside the housing. Some projector lamps contain mercury, which usually means you can’t just toss the lamp into the trash.
The projector needs to be correctly placed to maximize viewing enjoyment. Each projector and space is different, but you’ll want to place it at the ideal distance and angle from the screen. This means you may need to mount the projector to the ceiling or to the wall, or you may need to purchase and install a dedicated tripod or stand. Projectors with a lens-shift feature allow for minute adjustments, so placement won’t have to be absolutely perfect.
Most modern projectors can be hooked up using a variety of connection options allow for plenty of connection options. For instance, you should be able to connect your laptop to the projector via HDMI, making for easy video and photo streaming. You can also easily connect a projector to a Mac, if you are not a PC person, in addition to tablets and other mobile devices. You can even connect modern projectors to a smartphone if that is your preference. The choices here are endless.
The method of connecting speakers and other audio gear to a projector varies according to the design of both the projector itself and the speakers or related audio accessory. Connecting a projector to a Bluetooth speaker is rather simple, for instance, providing your model features a Bluetooth receiver. Connecting a soundbar to a projector, however, is likely to be more complicated, requiring a dedicated A/V receiver, though some modern projectors include the appropriate ports for speakers and the like.
Before you actually start installing your projector screen, you need to figure out where you’re going to put it. Everyone will have different dimensions for the room a screen gets placed in, so be sure your screen actually fits where you want it before you break out the tools. After you’ve measured, decide if the projector is going to be mounted on a projector mount stand, mounted on a wall, or hung from the ceiling. Post-installation you’ll want to make minor adjustments to both the screen and your projector to ensure the best possible image quality when you start using your projector.
Using a projector with a projector screen comes with some obstacles, such as learning to use a projector in daylight (accounting for brightness) and finding the right location for a screen. As for using a projector screen, you may find that some work best during certain times of the day and in completely dark rooms. Also, learn how to maintain your screen, so try to keep it clean, free from tears, and free from wrinkles for best results. With proper upkeep, your screen should last several years before needing to be replaced.
Depending on your make and model, maintaining your projector ranges from simple to complex, though most owners should learn about cleaning projector screens. Other popular maintenance tasks include cleaning projector lenses, keeping the exterior free from dust and grime, and performing basic operation tests at regular intervals. If your projector is LED-based, you should also learn how to replace a projector bulb to keep things running smoothly and learn to recognize early signs that the bulb may be going out. If you keep up with it, maintaining a projector is budget-friendly, as replacement bulbs are $20 to $40. Replacement lamps, however, cost $300 or more. All serious repairs are on the expensive side, as these jobs require serious expertise.
Tip – You can buy bare bulbs for projectors instead of a complete lamp assembly. That said, we don’t recommend it. The mercury that some lamp assemblies contain means if you break anything you could expose yourself to toxic material. If you’re set on replacing bulbs and not entire lamps, be careful, and put the money you save towards a quality projector bulb.
Repairing a projector screen depends on the material and makeup of the screen itself. Apply vinyl screen tape to the back of the screen to fix tears and use projector screen paint to patch up any obvious stains. For extreme stains and discoloration, use a plastic primer or another coat of screen tape. For larger-than-average tears, including complete rips, consider replacing the screen entirely. Check your warranty to see if it is covered, especially if it ripped through no fault of your own.
If you are having some issues with your projector and you don’t know what is going on, you’ll have to perform some basic troubleshooting steps to know when to, say, fix the color on your projector. Many modern projector models include a dedicated troubleshooting menu that allows for ful factory resets and for performing simple diagnostics. Peruse the instruction manual for specific steps here. Some problems require common sense steps. If you are wondering what to do when your projector overheats, for instance, unplug it immediately and let it cool down before attempting to power it back on and check on the ventilation.
Most projectors have a proprietary lamp assembly, so upgrading isn’t usually a straightforward task. However, if you want a brighter image, consider adjusting the settings of your projector. That said, if you still aren’t satisfied, it is possible to convert a lamp projector into using LED for a brighter image.
While upgrading a projector lamp isn’t a great choice, replacing a broken lamp with a new one is standard practice. Suppose you want to perform a projector lamp replacement. In that case, you should reach out to your projector’s manufacturer for parts to ensure you get the right ones.
Projectors do not project black. A projector projects light onto the entire screen, and any black images you see are dark grey. Our brains fill in the rest and darken the image through an optical illusion that makes dark colors even darker when side-by-side with a brighter color.
You can use a plain whiteboard as a projector screen. That said, you may struggle with glare on an older dry-erase whiteboard. Some manufacturers treat newer whiteboards and models for office presentations with anti-glare or matte finishes. Experts recommend going with an actual projection screen if you want excellent image quality for movies or games.
If you need a projector for a PowerPoint presentation, you should go with a simple model. While you still want an HD resolution for clear images and written words, you do not need a model with features like 4K HDR or a variable refresh rate. Instead, look for a model built for ease of use and portability.
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