Published: Tuesday, 10 August 2021 21:24
From portable projectors to affordable 1080p models to light cannons built for gaming or 4K HDR, these are the best projectors for the money. Geoffrey Morrison, Ty Pendlebury Aug. 9, 2021 6:00 a.m. PT
- Best projector overall Epson Home Cinema 5050UB Jump to details $3,000 at Dell
- Best projector for the money BenQ HT2050A Jump to details $749 at BenQ
- Best projector, money no object Sony VPL-VE325ES Jump to details $5,498 at Crutchfield
- Best 4K projector for the money Optoma UHD35 Jump to details $1,299 at Amazon
- Best portable projector Anker Nebula Mars II Pro Jump to details $550 at Amazon
- Best LCD for the money Epson Home Cinema 2250 Jump to details $1,000 at Dell
- Best 4K color and brightness LG HU810PW Jump to details $2,996 at Amazon
- Best for bright-room gaming BenQ TH685 Jump to details $749 at BenQ
- Best 1080p portable projector ViewSonic M2 Jump to details $733 at Viewsonic
- Best compact laser projector Epson EF-12 Jump to details $1,000 at Dell
Even if you have a good TV or two, you can take your entertainment room to the next level with a home theater projector. With a home theater projector, you can get a huge screen size for a fraction of the price of a big TV, which may be the best part. These days, you can find a model with good picture quality, high brightness, excellent color and a top-notch contrast ratio for $1,000 or less. And when you want to take movie night outside, there are portable and outdoor projector options to consider.
Whether you're looking to go the whole hog with a 4K projector, want something that'll make HD sources look great, or need something you can use on the go too, you're going to find the best home theater projector for you on this list. And if you're interested in a home projector but don't know lumens from lens shift, check out our projector buying guide and eight tips for setup, placement and picture settings on home theater projectors.
Read more: What size TV do I need?
Best projector overall
Epson Home Cinema 5050UBGeoffrey Morrison/CNET
The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is the best all-around projector we've reviewed. Take an excellent contrast ratio, paired with impressive brightness and accurate color, all with better detail than what's possible with a 1080p projector, and you've got all the pieces for a fantastic image. It's not cheap, but it offers a significant step up in image quality over other projectors on this list (aside from the Sony, which is nearly double the price). Extensive lens shift and a motorized zoom are the icing on the cake.
Read our Epson Home Cinema 5050UB review.
$3,000 at Dell $3,000 at Crutchfield $3,000 at Best Buy
Best projector for the money
BenQ HT2050AGeoffrey Morrison/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E Nov 2020
We wouldn't put this in the "cheap projector" bucket, but the BenQ HT2050A is definitely the best video projector you can get for the money. It produces a bright picture with great contrast and lifelike colors. It's also one of the only comparable models with vertical lens shift, which makes setup a little easier.
Read our BenQ CineHome HT2050A review.
$749 at BenQ
Best projector, money no object
Sony VPL-VE325ESGeoffrey Morrison/CNET
The Sony VPL-VW325ES is a thoroughbred among ponies, a Porsche among Volkswagens, an absolute stunner with a price tag to match. The contrast ratio, easily the most important aspect of overall picture quality, is better than the Epson 5050 and significantly better than any projector that doesn't cost significantly more. And that's saying something, since the Sony itself costs significantly more than any other projector on this list. If price is no object, the picture quality is incredible.
Read our Sony VPL-VW325ES review.
$5,498 at Crutchfield $5,498 at Amazon
Best 4K projector for the money
Optoma UHD35Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The UHD35 packs a lot into its tiny case and low price. It can throw a ton of light, produces accurate colors and has great detail. The contrast ratio isn't great, but it's pretty average among 4K resolution projectors in this price range. And that price really is the UHD35's biggest selling point. This 4K UHD projector offers great picture quality for only a few hundred dollars over the best 1080p projectors. It doesn't offer lens shift or much in the way of a zoom, but if it fits in your room it's a great way to get a 4K projector on a budget.
Read our Optoma UHD35 review.
$1,299 at Amazon $1,299 at Best Buy $1,299 at Walmart
Best portable projector
Anker Nebula Mars II ProGeoffrey Morrison/CNET
It's smaller than a six-pack of Coke and equipped with Wi-Fi streaming, a surprisingly loud Bluetooth speaker and even a handle. This portable mini projector powerhouse also has one thing many compact projectors lack: a built-in battery. It's an all-in-one entertainment machine that's darn cute too.
Read our Anker Nebula Mars II Pro review.
$550 at Amazon $550 at Walmart
Best LCD for the money
Epson Home Cinema 2250Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
If you're susceptible to the "rainbow effect" of moving edges on a DLP projector, then an LCD projector is for you. The Epson Home Cinema 2250 is perhaps the most flexible home theater projector on this list, touting enhanced setup capabilities like a wider zoom and lens shift. It's also brighter than any other projector here and offers built-in Android TV streaming.
Read our Epson Home Cinema 2250 review.
$1,000 at Dell $1,000 at Crutchfield $1,000 at Best Buy
Best 4K color and brightness
LG HU810PWGeoffrey Morrison/CNET
The LG HU810PW uses two lasers and a green phosphor to create some incredibly bright, ultracolorful images. This LG projector is one of the brightest projectors we've ever reviewed, while at the same time offering some of the most impressively deep colors we've seen in a projector. The contrast ratio is quite poor, unfortunately, but the overall image is still good. That it's relatively quiet and comes in a stylish case with ample lens shift is the icing on top.
Check out our full review of the HU810PW.
$2,996 at Amazon $2,997 at Walmart
Best for bright-room gaming
BenQ TH685Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The BenQ HT2050A above is a superior-all around performer, but if you're a gamer looking for a specialized tool for the job, the TH685 is worth a look. If you don't mind sacrificing color accuracy, it can get a lot brighter than the HT2050A, ideal for brighter rooms, and gaming input lag is comparable.
Read our BenQ TH685 review.
$749 at BenQ
Best 1080p portable projector
ViewSonic M2Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The M2 is about the size of a cake, and like the Anker above, it includes onboard streaming and a (less-powerful) speaker. Unlike the Anker, you'll have to supply your own external battery, like a portable charger or power bank. We didn't like its picture as much as the Anker's either, but it does have one advantage: 1080p resolution, which is important if you want a big image with no visible pixels on your projector screen.
Read our Viewsonic M2 review.
$733 at Viewsonic
Best compact laser projector
Epson EF-12Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The EF-12 is a small, highly portable projector in the same vein as the ViewSonic M2. It fits a slightly different niche, however. It requires AC power and has better sound -- it even doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. The coolest part is that the EF-12's light is created by Epson's "MicroLaser Array Projection Technology." Yep, laser beams. That means no lamps to replace.
Read our Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 review.
$1,000 at Dell $1,000 at Crutchfield $900 at Best Buy CNET TVs, Streaming and Audio
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More home theater recommendations
- Don't buy a jumbo LCD TV, buy a projector
- Why you shouldn't expect great HDR from a projector
- The big picture: Projection screen basics
- TV vs. projector: Which big screen makes the most sense for you?
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