Best Home Cinema Projectors
Before anything else is said, it is important to address the elephant in the room. Yes, the best home cinema projectors are expensive. They are not something that most of you will be able to buy “on the fly” and will most likely require you to save up money over time. It is just the nature of this type of technology because if you want premium quality (or even good quality for that matter), you are going to pay for it. Now, also understand that there is a ton of technical jargon and specifications that you'll need to wrap your head around to fully ensure you buy a model that suits your needs. It's okay if you end up feeling overwhelmed but with the assistance of this guide, the hope is that you will leave here today feeling much more confident about the buying process as a whole.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 6 hrs of research
Designed with upgraded e-shift5 technology
The picture quality is utterly superb
Features a new Direct Mode with lower latency
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST HOME CINEMA PROJECTORS
1. JVC DLA-X590R
Designed with upgraded e-shift5 technology
The picture quality is utterly superb
Features a new Direct Mode with lower latency
You do not get a mount with your purchase
It is still pretty costly
What is literally amazing is this machine will be beyond many budgets and could still be considered “cheap” when compared to other models. Still, the DLA-X590R is notable for accepting native 4K content.Read more
First off, this delivers stunning picture value and detail thanks to the implemented 4K e-shift5 technology. Also, the black levels really pop out as they enhance the color contrast to another level. Oh, and this does accept native 4K content through its HDCP 2.2 compatible inputs.
The aforementioned e-shift5 technology has been upgraded for peak performance. Additionally, three D-ILA devices help to produce stable images with little to no flicker.
The new Direct Mode that is implemented is quite nice as it limits latency issues. Oh, and as for the fan, even when this is running at its peak the fan is not that noticeable.
In low lamp mode, the integrated lamp has been rated to last 4500 hours by JVC. As for the build quality, you can tell that this looks good right out of the box.
Ease of Use
One thing to note is you do not receive a mount with your purchase here. Oh, and this also takes a bit of time to boot up which can be a bit of an annoyance.
Unless you want to pay your life away, this right here might be your best option. You can find options with superior technology but taking realistic expectations into consideration, this is as good as it gets.
2. EPSON 5050UB
Designed with an advanced digital image processor
The brightness is quite fantastic
Equipped with Lens Memory
This does not support native 4K
While the 5050UB is noteworthy for displaying wonderful images with bright and colorful sprites, it is also built with an advanced lens system that allows for a ton of vertical and horizontal lens shift.Read more
Even though this is not a native 4K unit, it can still produce 4K content with 2600 lumens of bright light. Also, to enhance the visual experience, this is built with an HDR color processing engine.
Two other important technologies deserve mentioning here. The first is the true 3-chip design as this allows the unit to display 100 percent of the RGB color signal for every frame. The second technology is known as Ultrablack and this is essentially a filter that controls the polarization of the light.
In addition to the Lens Memory (which is rare for a model with this price tag), this is also equipped with real-time HDR curve adjustment which allows for 16 steps of fine-tuning.
Let’s just say that this bad boy is built to last (in regard to the housing and the lamp).
Ease of Use
This is where the vertical and horizontal lens shift comes into play as you are offered a great deal of flexibility on where you can mount this projector.
Unless you absolutely require native 4K resolution and will not settle for anything less, you should really enjoy this model. Let’s just say that videos and movies do not need to be native 4K to look good.
3. SONY VPL-HW45ES
The blur effect is kept to a minimum
The fan is whisper quiet in operation
The setup is not too tricky
The addition of keystone correction would have been nice
You do need to clean the filter quite regularly
Of course, Sony would manage to master this technology as they really have a knack for that. Then again, their projector here is not capable of outputting 4K video (though the Full HD quality is still fantastic).Read more
Due to the combination of the Full HD resolution and the 1800 lumens of brightness, the clarity and sharpness of the picture are admirable. Even in well-lit rooms, also, blacks are rich in color.
Sony utilizes its super-resolution processing technology and also advanced SXRD panel technology to refine the subtle details, colors, and textures that you see. Oh, and the Motionflow technology manages to minimize issues with blurring.
To eliminate the need for an external transmitter, this is equipped with a built-in RF transmitter. Also, the integrated fan runs at a whisper-quiet 22 decibels. Of course, the addition of keystone correction would have been nice.
What is nice is the lamp is rated to last up to 6000 hours. However, the filter requires cleaning after several hours of use (which becomes a bit monotonous).
Ease of Use
Both the 1.6x zoom ratio and the wide lens allow for greater installation flexibility. Also, calibration can be done fairly easily thanks to the nine built-in viewing modes.
Come on, did you really question Sony? In spite of the fact that the maximum resolution achieved with their projector is 1080p, the overall presentation is gorgeous.
4. OPTOMA UHD51A
It can be used with Alexa
Music playback is supported
You have a good amount of flexibility when it comes to the installation
It is lacking keystone correction
Here is the thing about the UHD51A; it truly produces fantastic video quality but you need to perform some calibration to get it there. Oh, and it is also Blu-ray 3D compatible.Read more
Indeed, some calibration beforehand will need to be performed here but the video quality is brilliant. With HDR10 support, you see brighter whites, deeper blacks, and also more vivid colors. Oh, and this sports 2400 lumens of light and also 4K resolution.
Past the HDR10 support that was just alluded to, the UHD51A is also equipped with Blu-ray 3D compatibility. However, this will require 3D glasses and a Blu-ray 3D player).
Oh yeah, this device is loaded with great features. Not the least of which is its compatibility with Alexa as this allows for intuitive voice control. Of course, the fan is also whisper-quiet and a media player capable of 4K video playback is integrated. But, there is no keystone correction.
Though this is built to last, the motor will run very hot so you may want to limit the amount of time you allow it to run continuously.
Ease of Use
Both the vertical lens shift and the 1.3x zoom allow for enhanced installation flexibility so that is nice.
There are so many awesome features of this home cinema projector that it is easy to become overwhelmed with it. Then again, at its core, it can produce stunning video playback.
5. BENQ TK800
Emits 3000 lumens of brightness
Features a vertical keystone function
It sports a sleek and compact profile
It will not manually switch between 4K and 3D
The fan can be a bit loud
BenQ is a manufacturer that has consistently developed and designed fantastic home cinema projector systems and their TK800 is one of their crown jewels for sure.Read more
The 4K resolution of the TK800 features 8.3 million pixels to deliver fantastic image quality with crisp details. Also, with an emitted 3000 lumens of brightness, it is very, very bright.
Thanks to the use of single-DMD-chip DLP technology, the TK800 is able to produce enhanced color and tone rendering.
There is some good and bad here, admittedly. The good is that there are dedicated football and sports modes for sports enthusiasts and also vertical keystone correction. However, this system will not auto-detect 3D so you will need to manually switch to the mode and the fan is a bit loud.
While the lamp is designed to last a long time anyway, there is a dedicated eco mode that will further extend the lifespan of it.
Ease of Use
Due to the sleek and compact profile of the TK800, it is pretty easy to install. The lens is also capable of 1.2x zoom, for the record.
Some minor gripes aside, the TK800 kicks it out of the park with superb brightness and image quality. It will be great for just about everyone out there.
6. LG PH450UG
2.5 internal battery
Impressive display for such a small machine
30,000-hour lamp life
Some have noticed a bend at the top of the display
Only 720p resolution
The PH450UG is a bit different than our other options. It is a short-throw machine. That means that it sits very close (3-13 inches) to the wall and projects a fairly large screen (40-80 inches). It is lightweight, portable, and features an internal battery that lasts up to 2.5 hours.Read more
You get what you pay for. It is not that this option has poor video quality, but it won’t provide the same clarity as the theater. However, with a resolution of 720p and 450 lumens, this small machine does create a colorful and impressive picture! With this short-throw machine, if you set it three inches away from the wall you are projecting onto, you will get 40” of display screen. If you position it thirteen inches away, you’ll get an 80” display. Multiple reviewers have noticed that there is a slight bend at the top of the screen. For some, this is incredibly bothersome and a deal-breaker. For others, it makes no difference. This LG is also 3D compatible, however, no 3D glasses are included.
With certain devices, mainly Android and Windows) you can wirelessly screen share from your device to this machine. If you have movies downloaded onto a USB, you can also plug that in and enjoy the cinema even if the wifi goes out. There is only one USB port on this machine. Many reviewers would prefer to have two.
While there are two 1-watt speakers built-in, the sound that they produce is nothing to brag about. Luckily, this device is also equipped with Bluetooth to connect to an external speaker. If you prefer audio privacy, you can also plug in a set of headphones to the machine and watch your film without disturbing those around you. This 2.4-pound machine is lightweight and portable. It should not be mounted and should always be placed on a flat, sturdy surface. The internal fan makes little to no noise.
One of our favorite features deals with the life of this LG. There is an internal battery that provides you with 2.5 hours of power. This means that you can set up this machine outside or in an office without any cords attached. As for the lamp, the lamp has a 30,000-hour life.
Ease of Use
The set up of this device seems to be fairly simple. You can adjust the image by using a joystick type dial on the machine. There is a remote included as well. Some reviewers found humor in the fact that the remote is almost the same size as the machine.
For an impressive machine on a low budget, this is a great option. It has been said that the picture suffers when light leaks into the room and that the 720p resolution sometimes can’t keep up with action movies, but for the most part, this is a great product.
7. OPTOMA UHD60
Designed with UltraDetail technology
The 1.6x zoom offers flexible installation
It can project up to 300 feet away
The lack of keystone correction hurts
The casing is pretty flimsy and cheap
At the end of the day, there could have been some improvements made to the UHD60 Projector but most consumers will agree that it is a high-quality unit that can amplify your movie viewing experience.Read more
Both the HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 ports deliver a really good 4K video. And, this emits 3000 lumens of brightness. At the same time, though, the UHD60 does not have the best upscaling (from Full HD to 4K).
One of the best features of this system is that it integrates a single DLP chip system. With this in play, alignment issues will be limited. Also, the UHD60 has UltraDetail technology for improved image sharpness and clarity.
The lack of keystone correction is noticed here but the lack of alignment issues helps alleviate this. Also, there are dual four-watt speakers equipped that generate solid audio.
Longevity issues have actually been a bit of a problem here and the casing is pretty cheap. With that said, the lamp itself is rated to last up to 15,000 hours.
Ease of Use
Okay, so the vertical lens shift and 1.6x zoom allow for flexible installation. Also, the wide throw ratio allows this to be used for screen sizes as large as 140 inches.
It is understandable that for the price, some of the issues can get to you. Through and through, however, the UHD60 is going to deliver hours of entertainment.
8. ANKER NEBULA MARS II
Designed with horizontal and vertical keystone correction
It is optimized for transport
Comes with a bulb that is rated to last 30,000 hours
Only has a native resolution of 720p
Details in dark images do not show the best
Yes, Nebula Mars II is a suitable option for your home. But, what separates it is the ability for you to easily and conveniently transport it to a friend’s house for movie night.Read more
With a native resolution of 720p and only 300 lumens of brightness, this can’t compete with top-end systems when it comes to sheer image quality. It still produces high-quality imagery, though.
Sometimes, this can have latency issues but one user noted it can be alleviated by using an Amazon Fire TV stick. In another direction, this is equipped with advanced DLP technology for enhanced video quality.
With the Nebula Connect app, you can actually transform your smartphone into the remote control, which is really cool. Also, this is equipped with dual 10-watt audio drivers and horizontal and vertical keystone correction.
The bulb that is integrated into this unit is rated to last 30,000 hours (which is pretty darn impressive).
Ease of Use
Here is the deal; due to the nature of this design (it has a built-in handle and battery), it is very versatile when it comes to installation. It can really be taken with you anywhere.
Seriously, you can’t help but be impressed by the Nebula Mars II. But, be prepared, if you are looking for the best image quality imaginable, you will be disappointed.
9. ViewSonic PA503W
Still produces great picture in a well-lit room
More affordable than most
Easy to use and set-up
Unimpressive internal speaker
The included manual is not very detailed
Some machines have not lasted as long as consumers hoped
Impressive picture, low price. This addition from ViewSonic provides you with 1280 x 800 resolution and a great display in bright or dim lighting. We would have been thrilled to see a Bluetooth connection, but that feature seems to be out of this price range.Read more
The video quality of this machine is quite impressive, especially considering the affordability (comparatively) of this product. If you set the machine 15.8-feet away from the wall or screen, it will produce a display of 120-inches with 3,600 lumens. It has the ability to show moves at 1280x800 resolution, but you will need to tweak the settings to prevent it from defaulting to 800x600. This device produces a high-contrast and visible screen in high or low light conditions. It features reduced input latency for a clearer picture in fast action films. Additionally, it is compatible with BluRay and 3D movies, although it does not come with 3D glasses.
Reviewers love the compatibility of this device. It is compatible with most PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. It features ports for both HDMI and VGA cords. It is also possible to insert a USB (or Firestick) into the machine to project your content onto the wall.
This machine weighs just under five pounds. For an additional cost, you can also order a carrying case to keep it safe when not in use. There is a two-watt internal speaker that most reviewers agree is not impressive. Luckily, it is simple to attach your own speaker to the machine. As for the fan, it is hardly noticeable once you are cozied up on the couch with an external speaker attached.
Let’s start off with the included warranty. There is a three-year limited warranty for parts and labor and a one-year lamp warranty. As for the lamp, working at its full potential, it has a lifetime of 15,000 hours. However, you can choose to project your movies in SuperEco mode, which dims the brightness, to extend the life of the lamp for another 10,000 hours.
Ease of Use
This is a simple machine to maneuver. If you have experience with TVs and know how to use the electronics that you currently own, there should be no issue. However, if you decide to mess with the more advanced features, some reviewers have mentioned that the instruction manual is lacking.
Just by reading the specs of this machine, you would expect a much higher price-tag. This is a great option for casual or business use that is easy to use right out of the box. If you are new to the world of projectors, this is a good product to start with.
10. LG PH550
The internal fan is not obnoxiously loud
The lamp is rated to last up to 30,000 hours
You can connect to a Bluetooth sound system
The built-in battery only lasts 2.5 hours
The image quality is not amazing
Look, not everyone can afford this type of equipment so if you are willing to sacrifice a bit on the quality end of things but still want a high-quality model (in general), then feast your eyes on the PH550 from LG.Read more
Much like with the Nebula Mars II, the PH550 sports a native resolution of 720p and a solid yet limited lumen rating (550). From a purist’s point of view, the quality could be much better.
The chip that is integrated into this system is not as advanced as others but the outputted color reproduction is still pretty good.
There are two prominent features to speak of here. The first is the wireless mirroring function as this allows for smartphones and tablets to be connected. The second is the fact that it accepts USB drives.
What is really nice is the LED lamp is rated to last for up to 30,000 hours before needing to be replaced.
Ease of Use
This is a highly portable system that can either be used in your home or outdoors. Either way, the built-in battery (though only rated to last 2.5 hours) allows for versatility.
For some of you, all you will see is a limited piece of technology that is incompetent. That is just simply not fair, however, as you need to take the PH550 as is and accept it.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This all comes down to the image quality, does it not?
This is where the money is at when it comes to home cinema projectors. And, when it comes to assessing the video quality of any given model, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. For starters, analyze the native resolution. Now, what this refers to is the fixed resolution of the device. HD (1920 x 1080) and Wide XGA (1280 x 800) are two of the most common ones that you will see but more advanced options will have a 4K native resolution. Basically, this refers to the pixels on the screen and the more pixels there are, the crisper an image will look. Another factor is the contrast ratio. Now, what this refers to is the difference between the whitest white and the blackest black in an image. Keep in mind that contrast ratios with larger differences are not necessarily better. What you really want is the ability to tweak and control the settings manually.
Moving on, each model also has a lumen rating. This is measured in ANSI lumens and most home projectors will range anywhere from 1000 to 3000. Dictating the lumen output you need largely comes down to the ambient lighting in the room you will be using the device. If there is more lighting, you will need a higher lumen rating to account for it. Oh, and lastly, the source material you are using will also affect the quality.
There are several advanced features and technologies to look out for.
Home cinema projectors are loaded with all sorts of technology and most manufacturers will implement unique technologies to improve the quality of theirs. However, for this section, let’s focus on a few important technologies that will typically always come up. First off, most models on the market will either display images based on LCD or DLP technology. In regard to which one is superior, they both have their own advantages. For LCD technology, it tends to be quieter and more efficient than DLP while also producing vibrant 3D and sharper images and also a minimized effect of ghosting. Meanwhile, DLP sports deeper and truer blacks than LCD and also produces high color contrasts and also a smooth motion for videos.
Also, let’s talk a little bit about HDR (which stands for High Dynamic Range). This type of technology has been touted the “next big thing” in the past and it has a positive effect on any display’s brightness, color depth, and contrast ratio. You will see many models on the market support HDR10 and this is merely a common format of the technology.
Hey, would you look at that? There are more features to look out for.
Alright, so let’s turn the page a little bit here and start to talk about some design features. First and foremost, all models will come with inputs of some kind and determining what you want is key. For example, most systems will come with HDMI inputs (which can account for your video game systems, Blu-ray players and other such devices). But, you may also see those with other inputs such as SD card slots, USB ports, and component video jacks. All of which can be used for appropriate external devices. Of course, some units will also have wireless technologies such as wireless HDMI and Bluetooth.
Now, it is not all about the ports as there are some other features to keep in mind. For example, some systems will feature 3D technology. Bear in mind that these types of projectors will need to be hooked up with 3D-compatible devices for a true 3D experience. Also, let’s talk about keystone correction. This feature has been alluded to quite a few times during this guide and 3D technology basically uses internal processing to adjust the shape of the image. But, this can degrade the quality of the image and is not necessarily needed.
What you really need to pay attention to here is the lamp life.
When it comes to assessing the durability and longevity of a home cinema projector, it really all comes down to the lamp. Sure, the housing needs to be well-built but it is also not as if these systems will be exposed to inclement weather or rough abuse, either. So, it all comes down to the lamp life and for DLP and LCD systems, this usually ranges from 2000 to 6000 hours. Now, with those that utilize an LED bulb, this can explode to 15,000 to 30,000 hours (but mostly you see LED bulbs in more portable units). It is also worth noting that the lamp life is rated and referring to half-life. In other words, this is the point where the lamp is half as bright as it was when it was new.
Something you will also need to take into the fold is your viewing habits. If you want to replace your current television with a projector then you will want to shoot for longer lamp lives (though you will still need to replace them). Then again, if you only plan to use your model for special events, this will not be as big of a deal.
Ease of Use
Look for features that can make the installation easier.
Okay, so let’s talk about the installation given that you are here looking for home projectors. There are two ways you can go about this, you can either mount your system on the ceiling or allow it to be freestanding on a tabletop. For either option, you will need to pay attention to the throw ratio of the model you buy. This is essentially the relationship between the projector’s distance from your screen and also the width of the image. Now, this is also where some vital features come into play.
For starters, you may want a model with lens shift. This allows for flexible installation as it will allow you to move the projected image in all directions without actually moving the projector itself. So, you do not need to worry about mounting it perfectly center with the screen. The other feature is a digital zoom and with this, you may not need to move your system farther or closer to your screen.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
It all comes down to the image quality, does it not? This is the truth with any type of device that is designed to output imagery, quite frankly. Now, in this regard, there are several different specifications you need to assess and all of them play their own significant roles. Some of the most important are the native resolution, brightness, contrast ratio and the external device that you are using.
The fact of the matter is you can get lost in all the different technologies that some engineers implement. While it is not mandatory for you to understand all of them down to their core, you should still be aware of what they do to enhance the quality of any given model. In this section, though, let’s just focus on the primary technologies that you are sure to see consistently.
Wait; there are more features to keep in mind? Have you asked yourself this question yet? Look, we know this is a lot of information to digest but this section should be a little easier. Really, what you want to look for here are features such as wireless technologies, integrated ports, and even keystone correction (though this is not mandatory). Oh, and you also may want to find a model that has a somewhat quiet internal fan.
Other Factors to Consider
Depending on how much entertaining you do, or how often you take your family out to the movie theater, these machines can prove to be quite a thrifty investment. When initially looking at the prices, you may think otherwise as the prices of these gadgets can be as low as $100 and upwards to $8,000. Obviously, the higher you go on that spectrum, the better video quality, sound quality, and features you can expect. When deciding whether or not this is a worthwhile investment, we should first explore the quality, features, ease of use, and durability of each option. After seeing what each has to offer, we can then compare that data to the price.
Another way to think about it is to think about how often you go to the movies. The prices of tickets differ from state to state but let’s say a ticket is about $11. If you are a real movie buff and you’re going three times a week with a child or partner, you’re already up to $66 per month… and that’s before snacks and drinks! We all know how expensive the extras can be, so let’s go ahead and round that up to a cool $100. $100 a month for two people to go to the movie theater three times a month. Even the mid-range machines on the list would end up paying for themselves within the first year.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why is no light being produced?
If there is no light being produced from your unit but it is powered on, you will need to assess the state of the lamp. To do so, remove it (make sure you follow the directions to do so safely and properly) and inspect it for any cracks, smokiness, or discoloration. It may have simply blown out and if so, it will need to be replaced.
q: How do you set one up?
Really, what you need to know to set one of these up are all the dimensions. To avoid doing this yourself with the possible risk of doing so incorrectly, there are calculators online that will provide you with all the information you need to set it up correctly. Plus, this is also where some previously alluded to features will help.
q: Do you need to replace the lamp if it is not illuminating?
No, not necessarily as it may simply be an external issue. Now, this is not ruling out that the integrated lamp has been burned out. But, try this; disconnect any surge protectors or extension cords and ensure that no power source is connected. From there, try plugging it into a different receptacle in your home. Some systems have built-in safety features to prevent the lamp from emitting if a fluctuation in voltage is detected.
q: Why are color smudges projected on the image?
Chances are, the reason you are seeing color smudges is probably that you need to perform routine maintenance on your system. You see, what you are probably seeing is dust on one of the panels. But, simply cleaning the filter will help to minimize the buildup of this dust.
q: How do you find replacement bulbs?
For the record, the actual light source in the projector is called a lamp. Now, on to the question at hand, your best bet is to look for them online and, to do so, you need to search the lamp that you need for your particular projector brand. It needs to be compatible after all.
q: Why are there black bars when the aspect ratios are both 16:9?
This can be a very annoying issue as you would think that a 16:9 movie would have no bars playing on a home projector unit that uses a 16:9 aspect ratio. However, it all comes down to the camera that was used to film the actual movie. So, black bars can persist and often do with most movies (which is just something you have to deal with).
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