For a long time, only two types of people would have cared about what makes the best home theater projector: A/V geeks (waves) with home theater setups making up an unhealthy percentage of their income and college guys wanting something for $500 that will turn an entire wall into a FIFA game (waves again from the past). For most people, that’s hard to beat how good television has got it in the last few years; there are $1,000 televisions that are 65″ inches and look pretty good. How much bigger screen do you really need?
The answer: there is no limit. (Okay, the limit is the size of your wall.) Projectors have always had one defining advantage – size – and now, thanks to some great technological developments and 4K streaming, that size is now being put to even better use. If you can’t always tell the difference between 1080p and 4K on a 50″ television, you certainly will on a 100″ screen. For those having trouble imagining that, it’s about as wide as Shaquille O’Neal is tall. It’s huge. And it is glorious. Another big advantage: if you buy a pulldown screen, you don’t always have to have a giant black box in your living room. Now you get the best of both worlds: a massive screen when you want to watch a movie, and one of those cool living rooms that inexplicably has no television when you don’t. (Side note: don’t trust anyone with a living room that doesn’t have a screen in it.)
Below are our favorite projectors to ramp up your measly “movie night” up a notch, whether you have a dedicated screening room or an undecorated white wall.
Best overall home theater projector: BenQ HT2050A
For under $1,000, you’d be hard-pressed to find a home theater projector as impressive as the BenQ HT2050A. Picture resolution only goes as far as 1080p, and while it’s not the sharpest, it’s still on par with some pretty solid TV choices. With this dual HDMI input projector, you get excellent contrast and sharp images in an easy-to-set-up package. The HT2050A has vertical lens shift assist, which basically means you can adjust the lens up and down without compromising image quality – this helps with setup because you’re not forced to project your image on top of anything that isn’t a wall. For longevity, the micromirrors from the DLP chip combined with the almost fully sealed DLP engine ensure that the projector performs at its peak year after year without loss of image quality. Its built-in speakers can be dialed up to the media you’re using, whether you want to feel like you’re in the middle of a sports arena or in the middle of the action of a blockbuster movie.
Best Home Theater Projector Upgrade: Optoma CinemaX P2
At a quick glance, the Optoma CinemaX P2 doesn’t look like your typical projector. First, there is no bulging lens, making this one of the slimmest home projectors on the market. Looking aside, the picture projected by the CinemaX P2 is one of the best around. Vivid 4K UHD images are just that: vivid. For those who are tight on space but still need maximum viewing pleasure, this is also an ultra-short projector, meaning you don’t need to be far from the screen to get the full picture. Its contrast ratio – 2,000,000 to one – is impressive for its ability to make colors feel more dynamic: darks are darker and lights appear brighter. CinemaX P2 has two inputs for HDMI 2.0, and there is also the option of Bluetooth connection. HDR, or high dynamic range, is important to picture quality, so the CinemaX P2’s HDR10 compatibility means the color gamut looks as good as possible. Ambient light is not suitable for the projector because it has an ambient light rejection screen that blocks reflections. Picture quality aside, the CinemaX P2 boasts a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundbar, which is a far cry from Dolby Atmos, but still some of the best sound quality packed into a home theater projector.
Best Portable Home Theater Projector: Anker Nebula Capsule
The Nebula Capsule won’t blow your mind with brightness, blacks, or picture quality that’s less than 720p. But it will blow your mind with how fun and portable it is. This portable projector has a battery life of four hours to keep you going all the time The return of the king extended edition, a built-in speaker, and it’s the size of a Coke can. What it lacks in detail and color reproduction, it makes up for in how easy it is to set up wherever you are (although we’d suggest using an aux cord and connecting it to a portable speaker). You also control Nebula through an app, so there’s no need to fumble with a remote – we know you always have your phone with you anyway. Let’s face it: projectors are a lot of fun because they turn everything into a clock experience. You could host a movie night outside on one linens and excite a crowd. You can project it against the wall in front of your bed and instantly upgrade your laptop to streaming Friends (or whatever your favorite TV show is). You could be stoned watching Moana on it, which is what another editor did when I gave it to them to check out. The capsule makes all these things happen without costing a fortune and without a single wire.
Best 4K Home Theater Projector: Epson Home Cinema 5050UB
If you’re looking to drop some serious dough on a home theater projector, this is the one to get. It’s like taking a cinema quality projector and setting it up at home so that the big screen becomes the home screen. For its price range, the 5050UB’s 2,600 lumens is top notch, providing impressive brightness you’ll find in even more expensive options. Its 4K resolution far surpasses the crisp quality of a projector cranking out 1080p, and it’s something any cinephile or aspiring cinephile will drool over. To combat the dreaded rainbow, where flashes of color appear around an image, the 5050UB uses 3LCD technology for a better picture. The 5050UB’s motorized lens will automatically adjust the projection to fit your screen size, making setup a breeze even for someone new to the home theater projection game.
Best home theater projector for gaming: Optoma UHD38
When it comes to a good home theater projector for gaming, two things are important: image quality and speed. Then again, they’re pretty important too anyone good home theater projector. This gaming projector from Optoma has a brightness of 4,000 lumens that makes your video game jump off the screen. Crystal clear images provide the best scenario for getting a new high score or seeing enemies far in the distance. Games run almost blur-free thanks to this projector’s ultra-low input lag of 4.2 milliseconds. If you’re hoping to play like a professional esports gamer, kick the 4K projector down to a lower resolution for a 240Hz refresh rate. And as much as we want to hype this projector for being exceptionally good at gaming, it’s also excellent for streaming your favorite movies.
Best Home Theater Projector on Amazon: Auking Mini Projector
With nearly 13,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this budget home theater projector is far from the worst thing you can buy on the e-tailer. Auking’s mini projector has a contrast ratio of 2,000 to 1 and supports 1080p resolution, whether you’re screen sharing from your phone or using it to play a game. Its LED lamp has a lifespan of 55,000 hours and it can project an image size between 32 inches and 170 inches. Your favorite auteur might not think this is the best way to watch their movies, but it’s a great little gadget to have for the occasional family movie night.
Best Affordable Home Theater Projector: YABER Y30 Native Projector
This shockingly affordable home projector supports 4K image quality. Yes, you can get 4K picture quality for just over $200. The Y30 is impressively bright, and many reviewers note that the image quality, which is solid, can still be seen on a sunny day. It has horizontal and vertical keystone correction and it’s easy to get this thing set up in any home or outdoors. The budget projector has some impressive specs like 9,500 lumens of brightness and a 10,000-to-one contrast ratio. Home entertainment has never been more accessible (or affordable).