Movies to Multimedia: 9 Projectors to Brighten Any Room

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Movies to Multimedia: 9 Projectors to Brighten Any Room

From computer monitors to televisions, we can all agree that a bigger display is better. Perks like 4K resolution or "smart" connectivity sweeten the deal, but who wouldn't enjoy the cinematic feel of a 100 inch screen?

Whether you want a TV upgrade, dynamic presentations, or an immersive gaming experience, there's a projector out there for you.

We did the legwork, cross-referencing ideal technical specs and expert reviews, to find the best projectors for a wide range of uses and budgets. All you have to do is dim the lights, pop some popcorn, and discover your new projector.

01

Best Indoor/Outdoor Projector for Most People

Best Indoor/Outdoor Projector for Most People

If you're looking to spend less than $1,000 or need wide range of connection options, this BenQ projector is for you. We recommend the BenQ HT3050 projector due to its great image quality,  ease of use, and connectivity.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

This projector uses an ultra high performance (UHP) lamp, so it needs to cool down after you turn it off before you turn it on again. The lamp should last up to 6,000 hours (in Eco mode), and you can buy a replacement lamp for $249.

What Works

  • The projector displays in full HD (1080p) and is 3D compatible.

  • At about 8 pounds, the HT3050 is light enough to move around your home or to work, but hefty enough that you won't have to worry about knocking it over.

  • The projector is calibrated to match the color reproduction standards for film mastering in Hollywood (Rec. 709). For the novice projector buyer, this takes the guesswork out of programming the image settings.

  • The 10W speakers provide loud and clear audio. This can minimize setup time if you're only using the projector occasionally. Reviewers report that the quality is on par with great TV speakers, but most prefer to use external speakers.

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  • Holy ports, Batman! This projector boasts two HDMI ports (one MHL ready), a USB port, a micro-USB port, component and composite inputs (for Blu-ray/DVD players and old-school game consoles), a VGA port (for PCs), and a 12V trigger port to connect to a motorized screen or certain speakers. Whatever you need to plug in, you can.

  • The wall color correction feature gives you the best possible image for projecting directly onto a wall. If you're not ready to spring for screen, this is a great plug-n-play option.

  • Keystone correction adjusts the display to avoid a trapezoid effect, allowing users to install the projector in corners or other atypical places.

  • Most reviews clock the input lag at about 50 ms, but a 2015 firmware update brings the lag down to about 30 ms. This means faster response times for gamers and better video-audio sync for movies.

What Could Be Better

  • The vertical lens shift is limited. While the keystone correction allows for flexibility in horizontal placement, you will only have a little wiggle room vertically.

  • Some Amazon reviewers report that it emits a fair amount of heat when it's on for a while. Most projectors do this to some degree and other Amazon reviewers didn't find the heat to be bothersome.

  • If you use an external speaker, you'll have to mute the internal speakers.

  • Because this projector uses a single-chip DLP display source, there will be a few rainbow artifacts on the screen. Some people are more sensitive to the rainbow effect.

Warranty and Customer Service

BenQ customers report great and speedy customer service. We found their support to be comprehensive, but easy to understand. The HT3050 is covered under a one-year limited warranty that doesn't apply to the lamp. You can return this projector under the policies at Best Buy (15 days) and Amazon. 

02

Best Projector for a Pro-Level Home Theater

Best Projector for a Pro-Level Home Theater

From Wirecutter to Amazon and Best Buy reviewers, people love the image quality on this projector. We're recommending the Sony VPL-HW45ES projector for home theater installations because the picture it provides is unlike anything else at this price point.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

The Sony VPL-HW45ES uses an ultra high performance (UHP) lamp that contains mercury. This projector will need to cool down after being shut off before it can be turned again. Replacement lamps cost $300, but last for up to 6,000 hours in Eco mode.

What Works

  • Unless you're ready to pay about $1,000 more, the picture quality on this projector is unparalleled. The combination of reference mode's color calibration, the contrast ratio, and 1800 lumens displays superior images to most of our other projector picks.

  • "With input lag reduction, you get lightning fast gaming and reliable audio syncing at 22 ms."

    This projector displays in full HD (1080p) and is 3D ready.

  • This projector doesn't display rainbow artifacts. This is one of the most affordable projectors with an LCoS chip (branded as SXRD) which is a more advanced alternative to LCD projectors.

  • Depending on your installation placement, you can get a 40–300 inch screen.

  • When Sony's input lag reduction is activated, this spec drops to 22 ms. This makes for lightning-fast gaming and reliable audio syncing to videos.

  • This projector offers vertical and horizontal lens shift option, giving users more flexibility in where they can install it.

  • The front facing vents and size of this projector contribute to keeping the machine and room cool.

What Could Be Better

  • Some users report that the fan was a bit noisy, but professional reviewers across the board applaud the quietness of the internal fan. At 22 db, the fan is well under decent ambient noise of 30 db.

  • Replacement lamp costs $300, adding to projector's cost over time.

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  • Where our main pick overwhelms users with connectivity options, this Sony projector is decidedly minimalistic. With a handful of digital ports, the VPL-HW45ES has no analog ports for devices like a set top box or retro video games.

  • You only get the most out of this projector if you're creating a full home theater setup. From the screen to the color of the walls, the darker the environment, the better this projector will perform.

Warranty and Customer Service

Sony's customer service team is reasonably fast and thorough. Projector repairs and parts are under a three-year warranty while the projector lamp is under a 90-day warranty. You can return this projector under Best Buy's 15-day return policy and Amazon's return policy. 

03

Best Projector for Serious Gamers and Best Ultra Short Throw Projector

Best Projector for Serious Gamers and Best Ultra Short Throw Projector

This projector is great for two different types of potential buyers: gamers and people who want to replace a TV, but don't want to or can't install a traditional projector. The specs that one group values don't necessarily resonate with the other. And yet, here stands the Optoma GT5500+, giving both groups everything they could ask for.

We recommend this projector for gamers for its low input lag, screen brightness, and connection options. We think the connectivity and lumens are valuable to other buyers, but the ultra-short throw range of this projector is the show-stopping feature. You can place this projector 6 inches away from the wall and get a 71 inch image.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

This projector uses an ultra high performance (UHP) lamp that lasts for up to 6,500 hours. UHP lamps require a brief cool down period after you turn them off before you can turn them back on again. You can buy a replacement lamp for $179.

What Works

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  • You can place this projector about a foot away from a wall or screen and get a 100 inch image.

  • It has a low input lag at 33 ms. This gets much lower in Game mode, roughly 17 ms, and you won't have to worry about losing brightness since the projector emits 3500 lumens in Normal mode.

  • The projector displays in full HD (1080p) and is 3D ready.

  • You can plug consoles and devices into the projector via two HDMI ports, a micro and regular USB port, VGA ports, and composite ports. Some users might also enjoy using the ethernet and 12V trigger ports for networking and automation purposes.

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What Could Be Better

  • The setup software is a little complex. It might take a moment to get everything up and running, limiting its portability.

  • Based on user reviews, we don't recommend installing this projector on the ceiling.

  • If you go beyond the recommended 100 inch maximum screen, you may start to notice some distortion at the top of the image, especially if you use a wall instead of a fixed screen.

  • This projector is fairly new to the market, so its durability is unproven. Professional and user reviews agree that this projector improves on the failings of the GT5500.

Warranty and Customer Service

We found Optoma's customer service team to be responsive and helpful. This projector is covered under a one-year limited warranty for parts and labour and the lamp is under a 90-day warranty. You can get a refund under Amazon's return policy.

04

Best Budget Projector

Best Budget Projector

Update: Optoma recently discontinued the HD142X, our original recommendation, in favor of the new HD143X. The units are almost identical, so we've updated this review to reflect the increased lamp life, throw distance improvement (still a con), new replacement bulb, and the slightly lower input lag in gaming mode.

When you start looking for a projector and realize how expensive and complicated they are, you might head for the hills. Most inexpensive projectors are made by fairly new companies and lack durability. Meanwhile, well-known projector brands push specs you've never heard of before.

Optoma makes good projectors for a variety of uses and managed to create a high quality model for less than $600. We recommend the HD143X projector because it's simple to set up and produces some of the best images at this price point.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

The Optoma HD143X uses an ultra high performance lamp (UHP) that lasts for up to 15,000 hours. UHP lamps require a brief cool down period after you turn them off before you can turn them back on again. You can buy a replacement lamp for $89.

"The combination of a simple menu and a few ports makes this a great introduction for people who aren't too familiar with the capabilities of a projector."

What Works

  • This projector displays full HD (1080p) content and is 3D ready. Many competitors at this price point or lower tend to only reach 720p.

  • The combination of 3000 lumens, a high contrast ratio, and a Rec. 709 HD calibration yields distinct, bright images.

  • Many users found this projector easy to set up. The combination of a simple menu and a few ports makes this a great introduction for people who aren't too familiar with the capabilities of a projector.

  • The projector comes with a backlit remote. The cheaper projectors get, the less this key feature shows up. Since you'll be in a very dark environment, it's nice to get a little light where you need it most.

  • It has an input lag of 33ms that drops to 15.8ms in Game mode. Audio and video should sync seamlessly, and gamers will enjoy a highly responsive display.

What Could Be Better

  • In order to get a 100 inch screen, the projector needs to be at least 11 feet away from the screen. If you have a smaller room, you'll have to settle for a smaller screen size.

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  • The projector only has two HDMI ports (one is MHL-ready which is great for streaming sticks and phones), one USB port, an analog audio jack, and a 12V jack for screen connection. Anyone looking to connect a set top box or analog media devices would need to acquire an adapter.

  • There's no lens shift to allow for placement anywhere other than dead center of a screen or wall. Though the keystone correction adds some flexibility to the projector's placement, lens shift could add this value without the digital compression of the image.

Warranty and Customer Service

Optoma's customer service team is well-reviewed and helpful. This projector is covered under a one-year limited warranty while the lamp is under a 90-day warranty. You can get a refund for this projector under Amazon and Best Buy's return policies. 

05

Best Portable Projector for Small Rooms

Best Portable Projector for Small Rooms

This elegant, portable projector can be used as an on-the-go TV or a handy companion for business presentations. LG's PH550 Minibeam Projector combines style and substance, making it a device you'll want to show off.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

This projector uses an LED bulb to project images which should last up to 30,000 hours.

What Works

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  • Other than in its 1.7 inch thickness, this projector has a similar silhouette to many flagship smartphones. It also includes a case which makes it even easier to carry around.

  • You can get a great picture with a 60 inch screen from about 6 feet away. The screen size ranges between 25 and 100 inches, depending on the projector's placement.

  • At 550 lumens, this is one of the brightest portable projectors you'll find.

  • The internal battery can last for up to 2.5 hours. Most portable projectors of this size can only last 1–2 hours on a full battery, but the PH550 can handle most feature length films.

  • This is the only projector in our recommended picks that can connect to devices and speakers via Bluetooth™. Since it only has a few ports, this connectivity opens up the possibilities for what users can project.

  • Speaking of ports, it has a USB and MHL-enabled HDMI port (great for streaming sticks) in addition to a composite video input for DVD/some Blu-ray players.

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  • In rare form, this projector has a TV tuner. If you're interested in picking up some local channels or connecting a set top box, you're one coaxial cable away from watching your favorite shows live.

  • Users have noted that owning a Chromecast adds more value to this projector.

What Could Be Better

  • The native resolution is only 720p. This can display great presentations, but might not be up to some people's standards for watching videos.

  • Though a 100 inch screen can give detailed presentations, 80 inches is the maximum recommended size for home theater purposes.

  • You won't use the internal speakers. Though the actual sound quality is okay, the volume is too low for most purposes. Fortunately, you can connect speakers via Bluetooth or an analog audio cable.

  • The power cord is bulky and doesn't fit in the carrying case. Since the projector itself is less than 2 pounds, jostling the cable can move the projector while it's in use. This issue is somewhat common in projectors of this size. Having to carry the cable separately from the projector, however, feels like an oversight considering they went out of their way to make a case.

Warranty and Customer Service

The PH550 has a one-year warranty that covers repairs and replacements, but we couldn't get any concrete information on whether or not the LED bulb could be replaced. Customer support was fairly formal and unhelpful.

06

Best Projector for People Sensitive to the Rainbow Effect

Best Projector for People Sensitive to the Rainbow Effect

If the rainbow effect is a known problem for you, the Epson Home Cinema 2040 is an affordable projector that solves it. We recommend this projector for people who can't enjoy DLP projectors and want beautiful images with a good range of connectivity options.  If you're looking for an upgrade, our home theater pick and other Sony picks are also great choices since their LCoS technology doesn't produce rainbow artifacts either.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

This projector uses an ultra high-performance (UHP) lamp (Epson refers to them as ultra high-efficiency lamps or UHEs). UHP lamps require a brief cool down period after you turn them off before you can turn them back on again. The lamp lasts up to 4000 hours in Normal mode and the replacement lamp is one of the cheapest out there at $79.

What Works

  • This LCD projector doesn't produce rainbow artifacts on the screen, so you know that everyone is enjoying the experience without any distractions.

  • The replacement lamp is very affordable at $79 and makes the projector's cost over time lower.

  • The projector displays 1080p HD and 3D images. With a solid contrast ratio, picture customization options, and 2,200 lumens to back that up, you can count on a vibrant, bright image.

  • Input lag is measured at 25 ms. This makes it a great gaming projector and ensures that audio will sync well with video.

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  • The projector has a nice range of connection options. With two HDMI ports, one MHL-ready (great for streaming sticks), regular and micro USB ports, composite inputs for Blu-ray/DVD players, a VGA port for connecting PCs, and an analog audio output port.

What Could Be Better

  • Users report that the fan can be fairly noisy. The noise range is measured at 29–37db which is definitely a volume you'll notice, but only during quiet scenes.

  • At 12 feet away, you get an impressive 120 inch screen. While this is great for larger rooms and outdoor uses, people with smaller installation locations will have a more limited viewing experience.

  • Users also note that the internal speaker quality is poor and the audio from it is often tinny. We would recommend using an external speaker with this projector.

Warranty and Customer Service

Epson's customer service isn't always speedy, but they're helpful and seem to be well liked by reviewers. The projector is covered under a two-year parts and labor warranty and a 90-day lamp warranty. You can get a refund for the Epson Home Cinema 2040 under Amazon's return policy.

07

Best 4K Projector

Best 4K Projector

In a world full of "fauxK" projectors that upscale lower resolutions to 4K, it's hard to find a projector that offers a true 4K display. Only a few native 4K projectors exist, but the only ones anyone deems worthy of buying come from Sony.

"The VPL-VW285ES is Sony's entry-level 4K projector, but it has boss-level image contrast."

The VPL-VW285ES is Sony's entry-level 4K projector, but it has boss-level image contrast. If you don't mind spending $4,000 more for upper management contrast and the ability to save your zoom, lens focus and shift settings, we recommend the VPL-VW385ES. If not, we're confident the VW285ES will still exceed your expectations for high quality images.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

This projector uses an ultra high performance (UHP) lamp that lasts up to 6,000 hours. UHP lamps require a brief cool down period after you turn them off before you can turn them back on again. You can buy a replacement bulb for $500.

What Works

  • This projector creates beautiful images. With great image contrast, several pre-calibrated picture settings, 4K resolution, 3D compatibility, and resolution upscaling, you're guaranteed to enjoy whatever content you're watching.

  • The VPL-VW285Es is an affordable native 4K projector. There's a lot of confusion on the market over what a true 4K projector is. Currently, Sony is the only company delivering 4K projectors without significant picture compromises.

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  • As usual, Sony is on the minimalist side of the port game, but offers the right amount of options. There are two HDMI ports, a USB port, an ethernet port, and, not one, but two 12V triggers for your screen/speaker automation needs.

  • This projector uses an LCoS technology which means it doesn't display rainbow artifacts on the screen.

What Could Be Better

  • This projector doesn't have Sony's Picture Position feature. This feature allows the projector to remember your lens zoom, focus, and shift settings in different modes.

  • Gamers can't take full advantage of this projector's features. Even with input lag reduced to its lowest point, the lag is measured at 36ms at 1080p and 55ms in 4K. Additionally, the projector will down-scale 4K, 10-bit video game content to 8-bit. Reviewers note that gamers might have a better experience at 1080p in general, making this a poor choice for even casual gamers hoping for an upgrade.

Warranty and Customer Service

Sony's customer service team is responsive and thorough. Projector repairs and parts are covered under a three-year warranty while the projector lamp is under a 90-day warranty. You can return this projector under Best Buy's 15-day return policy and Amazon's return policy. 

08

Best for Projecting in Lit Rooms to Large Groups

Best for Projecting in Lit Rooms to Large Groups

There are many reasons you might need a really bright business projector. The most common places you might encounter these projectors would be in higher education classrooms, business meetings, or mid-sized (approximately 300 people or less) houses of worship. These are situations where you might have to compete with high levels of ambient light. You also might just want to keep the lights on for safety or note-taking purposes.

"There are some situations where your projector might have to compete with high levels of ambient light. "

We recommend the Optoma X600 projector for people looking to project pictures, data, and text in well-lit environments. The projector combines affordability with brightness, image quality, and connectivity.

If you're dealing with a much larger space, we recommend the projectors from Epson's Laser Pro Series (G, L, and Z models). Tristan Fuenmayor, Media Director for the Dream City megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona says these are the most sought after and revered projectors in larger venues. The laser light source lasts much longer than average UHP lamps allowing for ceiling installations with minimum maintenance. Your budget, the size of the space, and your connectivity needs will affect which product you buy.

What Kind of Bulb Does It Use?

This projector uses an ultra high-performance (UHP) lamp that lasts up to 2,500 hours. UHP lamps require a brief cool down period after you turn them off before you can turn them back on again. You can buy replacement bulbs for $169.

What Works

  • The 6000 lumens of brightness can clearly display text and data in rooms with a lot of ambient light. The high contrast ratio also helps black text to stand out on white backgrounds.

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  • From 32 feet away, you'll get a large 250 inch screen. You can find the sweet spot for your projector using this calculator.

  • Though this is a powerful machine, it's on the lighter side at 7.9 pounds. This weight makes the projector fairly portable for people and organizations who might want to use it multiple locations.

  • The connection options are versatile. The X600 has two HDMI ports, three VGA ports (two in, one out), composite ports, component ports, a Type B USB port, a Displayport (no HDMI dongle needed), and an ethernet port.

  • Reviewers report that the projector is quiet even though it falls at the higher end of the volume spectrum.

  • The projector supports 3D which can make for dynamic presentations and offer creative installation options.

  • The Optoma X600 be easily networked with other projectors which is useful for educators or people interested in larger installations.

What Could Be Better

  • Like most business projectors, the resolution isn't HD. For still images, data and text, however, HD is less of a necessity in comparison to contrast ratio.

  • There's no horizontal keystone correction or lens shift. Combined with the small amount of vertical keystone correction, this lack of features can limit projector placement.

Warranty and Customer Service

Reviewers find Optoma's customer service to be fast and helpful, and our experience can confirm this. This projector is covered under a three-year limited warranty for parts and labor and the lamp has a 90-day warranty. You can receive a refund under Amazon's return policy and Best Buy's 15-day return policy.

09

Best Premium Projector for People Who Don’t Want to Settle

Best Premium Projector for People Who Don’t Want to Settle

If you're looking for the best possible projector you can get before you have to start calling yourself a cinema owner, this behemoth from Sony is for you. With every premium spec loaded into a device that won't actually look like a projector on your TV stand, the VPL-VZ1000ES has it all. We recommend this projector for anyone who wants the best of the best and won't settle for anything less.

What Kind of Light Source Does It Use?

This projector uses a phosphorus laser as its light source and should last for about 20,000 hours. It requires no cool down period or replacement lamp.

What Works

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  • This is one of the few true 4K projectors on the market. It also supports HDR to allow for the image upscaling on non-4K content.

  • You can put this projector right next to the wall and get an 80 inch screen. Move it away about 8 inches and you have a 120 inch screen that no one's going to block by standing up or reaching for the dip.

  • It's one of the best looking projectors you can find. That isn't saying much, but it is easy for this projector to blend into any other consoles on your TV stand.

  • The size keeps the inside of the projector cool and the fan noise to a minimum.

  • Since it uses a laser light source, you don't need to worry about replacing lamps.

  • The LCoS chip helps people who are sensitive to the rainbow effect.

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What Could Be Better

  • Though this is a great projector, the price is a bit high even when considering its many features.

  • This projector doesn't perform well in areas with a lot of ambient light. It can stand up to a decent amount of light, but a bright room washes the picture out, even with the recommended Sony screen.

  • The maximum screen size is 120 inches, so if you were looking to give your local theater a run for their money, look elsewhere.

Warranty and Customer Service

There's a three-year limited warranty that covers repairs and replacements. 

What We Know and What You Need to Know About Projectors

Anyone in the market for a projector knows that a basic search returns an onslaught of options. Beyond brands, how you plan to use your projector impacts the value of the different features available. We know you're up to your eyeballs in confusing specs, so we've highlighted what you should look for.

Display Source

This is where the magic happens. The display source is the beating (sometimes spinning) heart of a projector. The technology used in a projector affects its image quality, but keep in mind that top-tier components have top-tier price tags.

"Your local movie theater probably uses a DLP projector."

More often than not, you'll see projectors with DLP (digital light processing) or LCD (liquid crystal graphics) display technology.

Your local movie theater probably uses a DLP projector. These projectors use hundreds of thousands of tiny mirrors to reflect images via a spinning color wheel. This process can create rainbow-like artifacts on the screen, which some people are more sensitive to than others. Most high-end DLP projectors use three chips, one red, green, and blue, and don't produce these subtle rainbows.

LCD projectors also use three chips with liquid crystal panels. Each is assigned to a red, blue, or green image and project simultaneously. An LCD projector is an affordable option for people who can see the rainbow effect.

An LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) projector combines the best aspects of LCD and DLP projectors. These chips are reflective, but also block light and achieve better contrast ratios than other display sources.

Based on this information, you're probably gravitating towards an LCoS or 3-chip DLP projector, but these are very expensive machines with limitations of their own.

Light Sources

The type of light source will primarily affect the brightness and temperature of your projector and its cost over time. When discussing the lifespan of bulb-based light sources, that's the point of the bulb's half-life (when it gets too dim to produce a clear image). 

We recommend always buying replacement light sources directly from the manufacturer, but we've included links in our reviews from B&H Photo for Optoma's projectors. They recently closed their online store.

"We recommend always buying replacement light sources directly from the manufacturer."

Lamps: Sometimes projectors use metal halide lamps, but you'll usually see a UHP (ultra high performance) bulb. This light source tends to be the hottest option which can affect the fan noise and even the temperature of the room. These lamps usually last 3,000–4,000 hours before they need to be replaced. Additionally, since these lamps contain mercury, they require a cool down period when they're turned off.

LEDs: Projectors that use LEDs typically run cooler than lamps or hybrid light sources. They also have much longer life with up to 50,000 hours of usable light. Though you'll have to change the bulb less often, LEDs can't get as bright as the other light sources. If you have a lot of light control over where you'll be installing your projector, this can be a great option, but otherwise LEDs are mostly useful in portable projectors.

Lasers: Projectors with a laser light source sometimes use a red, blue, and green laser to produce vibrant, bright images. More (relatively) affordable options use a blue laser to excite a phosphorous component to create a wide spectrum of colors. These projectors usually produce images brighter than LEDs and they maintain their brightness over time while bulbs dim. Replacing and repairing these light sources is expensive, but they last for about 20,000 hours.

Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio compares the brightest white to the darkest black the projector is capable of producing. While you want the white to be considerably better, contrast doesn't exist in vacuum. Dark blacks and bright whites mean less if you don't have picture customization option to see the differences of the various shades of grey, especially if you're dealing with an environment where the lighting changes often.

Contrast ratio is more important in business projectors or for people using home theater projectors to watch 3D video content. Contrast provides more detail to graphs and charts in presentations and adds more depth to video.

Brightness (Lumens)

"While you might automatically assume more lumens are better, this spec is only as good as the environment your projector is in."

Lumens are a unit of measurement that describes brightness. While you might automatically assume more lumens are better, this spec is only as good as the environment your projector is in. How much control you have over the light in the room, the color of the room's walls, and the screen you use (or lack thereof) can all affect your perceived brightness of the projector.

Under most conditions, pico/portable projectors should be at least 100 lumens, home theater projectors should be 1,000–2,500 lumens, and business projectors need at least 4,000 lumens. Home theater projectors can be brighter, but once you enter the 3,000–4,000 lumen range, a highly reflective projector screen could make video hard to watch for extended periods of time.

Noise

All projectors need a fan to keep their internal components cool, regardless of their light source. Most modern projector fans stay under 30 db, which isn't a distracting volume to the average person. Eco modes can make fans quieter, but this can also result in a dimmer image.

Additionally, DLP projectors will emit some noise from their color wheel in addition to the fan noise. Projectors with irises which expand and contract to improve contrast are occasionally audible, but are a rare complaint point among projector owners.

Other Factors

Keystone correction: If a projector isn't placed dead center in front of a screen or wall, the image will display something known as a trapezoid effect. Digital keystone correction can adjust the image, but at the cost of quality. This can be a great feature for business and/or portable projectors where you have less control over projector placement.

Lens shift: The ability to move the projector's lens vertically or horizontally gives you more flexibility in where you can place your projector. Keep in mind that just having this feature isn't enough; how much the lens moves is where the value lies.

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Janthiwa Sutthiboriban

Inputs and outputs: Depending on what you need to project, you should consider what kind of ports you value. Media minimalists can be satisfied with a couple of HDMI ports and a USB port, but people who want to connect PCs, Blu-ray/DVD players, set top boxes, etc. should be on the lookout for VGA/SVGA ports and component ports. People who streaming sticks or want to stream content from their phone might enjoy MHL-compatible HDMI port. This allows you to  stream content while supplying power to the device, freeing up an outlet.

Most projectors' internal speakers aren't anything to write home about, so you should make sure you can connect your setup to a sound system of your choice. Keep in mind that most projectors under $1,500 will only have an analog sound port.

Another port you might be interested in is a 12V trigger. This can connect your projector to a motorized screen or certain speakers, so they turn on simultaneously.

Throw ratio: This spec describes the distance from a screen you projector needs to be to get an image of a certain size. Short throw projectors can be less than 7 feet away from a screen while ultra-short throw projectors can be less than 3 feet away.

Input lag: Though this spec is mostly tossed around with gaming projectors, it affects home theater projectors as well. As input lag climbs above 50ms, this signal delay can leave gamers behind their opponents and cause some audio-video sync issues in videos. Ideally, casual gamers should look for a lag of 33ms or less, while serious gamers will need their input lag to be less than 25 ms. For movie and TV watching, an input lag between 40–50 ms won't be noticeable to the average person, but a lower number is always better.

Battery life:  For the best quality, you'll want your projector plugged in while you use it, but people looking for portable projectors should pay attention to battery life. Portable projectors can usually only last 1–2 hours on a full charge, so they're not the best option for watching feature films.

Note: All of the chosen projectors can be mounted in front of and behind a screen (rear projection), and they can be ceiling mounted in either direction. You will need a special screen for rear projection.

How We Chose Our Picks

After devouring information about technical specifications from projector reviewers at CNET, Projector People, and Projector Central, we narrowed down the ideal features for the categories we've outlined. We consulted the media director of Dream City Church, a megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona, who has 10 years of lighting and sound design experience in large venues throughout the greater Los Angeles area. We also consulted recommendations made by CNET and Wirecutter. We then cross-referenced reviews on Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H to choose the best projectors. 

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The Guide Team