Home Theatre Projectors to Consider in 2021 – Best 5

Photo: Rolling Stone

You probably have a TV or even two, great! but have you thought about getting a home theater projector for your next entertainment upgrade? There’s nothing quite like watching a film on the big screen and that’s what the best projectors offer. It’s a slice of cinema in your very own home with pictures often up to 300in in size.

The latest models have excellent color, high brightness, keystone correction and a top-notch contrast ratio, and you don’t need to spend over a grand to get one with good picture quality (though if you want to, who’s to stop you from getting an HD projector?). The best part? With a home theater projector, you can get a huge image for a fraction of the price of a big TV. There are even portable and outdoor projectors for when you want to take movie night outside!

The best 4K HDR projectors can provide a glorious sense of immersion and depth. Throw in whisper-quiet operation, a decent AV amp and surround speaker package, and you’ve got yourself a proper home movie night.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Projector that Works for You

To the untrained eye, one projector looks very much like another. However, there’s a whole world of technology inside these plain-looking boxes you need to be aware of before making your purchase.

First, resolution. If you’re looking to buy a projector for watching movies, make sure you’re buying a Full HD projector (with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080). Data projectors tend to be cheaper, but typically have resolutions of 800 x 600 or 1,024 x 768, which won’t display Blu-ray movie content at native resolution.

If you want 4K, expect to pay more. True 4K projectors are becoming more widespread but projector tech is lagging behind TVs and there aren’t many affordable models on the market. “4K-enhanced” projectors are the ‘cheapest’ way to get your 4K thrills and these are improving all the time. They’re not true 4K machines, relying on pixel shift upscaling to deliver an approximation of 4K resolutions, but you have to look pretty closely to tell the difference.

DLP versus LCD  

Most modern home-theatre projectors are based on one of two technologies: DLP and LCD. Of these, DLP projectors are the most common, the most compact and tend to deliver the most bang per buck, while LCD projectors tend to be bulky and slightly more expensive.

DLP projectors do have a downside, though. As most display colours sequentially use a spinning, segmented colour wheel (there’s the odd exception to this rule), they suffer from what’s called the “rainbow effect”, where small areas of the image appear to splinter into small rainbows when you shift your gaze from one side of the screen to the other. Some people are less sensitive to this than others, though, so if you haven’t experienced a DLP projector, make sure you get a demo before spending your money.

If you want the very best quality, however, a laser light source projector is what you want. Laser light source projectors – typically combined with a three LCD image engine – deliver the best contrast and brightness, but tend to cost $9000 and up.

Things to Consider

Room Setting: After resolution and technology, the most important consideration is your room and how you’re going to set up and connect the projector. Here, you need to consider throw distance (how far you place the projector from the screen for a given screen size), optical zoom and lens shift capabilities, all of which will have an impact on projector placement.

Optical zoom allows you to enlarge or reduce the screen without moving the projector, while lens shift lets you move it up, down, left and right without losing quality – or moving the projector physically. The cheaper the projector, the more limited these options will be.

If space is really tight, you might want to consider a short throw or ultra-short throw projector, which can create big images on your screen or wall from incredibly short distances – as little as 10cm for a 50in image in some cases. The downside is the projected image tends to suffer more from geometric distortion.

Lamp life: Most cheaper projectors rely on UHP or metal halide lamps, which have a limited lifespan and whose brightness deteriorates over time. For a little more cash, an LED light-source projector will last longer and need replacing less frequently.

Brightness: Rated in ANSI lumens but not all that important in home cinema projectors beyond about 2,000 lumens. The brighter the projector, the easier it will be to see the image in daylight without the curtains drawn, but a brighter projected image typically comes at the cost of poor black level response and a greyish picture.

Noise: Most projectors have fans inside and not all are particularly quiet. How quiet a projector is a major consideration, especially if it’s to be positioned near your seating position.

Best Projectors

Here are some of our favourite projectors, including Full HD and native 4K models, which also support HDR, and some short throw projectors too for those with smaller spaces.

Naturally, a great 4K projector will cost more than a Full HD one, and real, actual native 4K costs even more than those which use pixel shifting to spoof that top-end resolution. Fear not, though, we’ve got something for all budgets in our best projector list below. Just remember to save some money for the projector screen and the popcorn!

Epson Home Cinema 2150 – Best LCD for the Money

Epson 2150
Reasons to Buy
Bright, colorful image
Lens shift
No DLP rainbows

Reasons to Avoid
Only average contrast and black level
Fairly noisy in normal lamp mode

Specifications
Native resolution: 1080p
Discrete pixels on chips: 1,920×1,080
HDR-compatible: No
4K-compatible: No
3D-compatible: Yes
Lumens spec: 2,500
Zoom: Manual (1.6x)
Lens shift: Manual
Lamp life (Normal mode): 4,500 hours
Rating: 7.9/10
Buy it now

If you’re susceptible to the “rainbow effect” on moving edges on a DLP projector, then an LCD projector is for you. The Epson Home Cinema 2150 is perhaps the most flexible home theater projector we’ve seen with a bright, colorful image and enhanced setup capabilities like a wider zoom and lens shift.  

ViewSonic M2 – Best 1080p Portable Projector

Reasons to Buy
Compact, stylish design
Built-in streaming
Can run off a USB-C battery pack

Reasons to Avoid
Worse picture than others at this price
Streaming options aren’t great
Battery not included

Specifications
Native resolution: 1,920×1,080
HDR-compatible: Yes
4K-compatible: Yes
3D-compatible: Yes
Lumens spec: 1,200
Zoom: No
Lens shift: No
Lamp life (Normal mode): 30,000 hours
Rating: 7.1/10
Buy it now

This battery-powered projector streams big. It’s small, portable and projects a huge image of Netflix or other video just about anywhere. Its the size of a cake and includes onboard streaming and a (less-powerful) speaker. Sadly you’ll have to supply your own external battery like a portable charger or power bank. The picture isn’t better than its competitors too, 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.

Optoma HD28HDR: Best for HDR

Reasons to Buy
HDR-compatible
Bright

Reasons to Avoid
HDR doesn’t do as much as you might expect.
Limited zoom range.
No lens shift.

Specification
Native resolution: 1,920×1,080
HDR-compatible: Yes
4K-compatible: Yes
3D-compatible: Yes
Lumens spec: 3,600
Zoom: Manual (1.1)
Lens shift: No
Lamp life (Normal mode): 6,000 hours
Rating: 7.8/10
Buy it now

The Optoma HD28HDR is one of the cheapest HDR-compatible projectors. It offers a bright image perfect for gaming (if you’re in the market for a gaming projector) or the latest movies. Unlike its more expensive Optoma stablemate it’s only 1080p, not 4K, but with HDR it actually performed better. Go figure!

Sony VPL-VW550ES – A stellar performing 4K HDR Projector

Reasons to Buy
Realistic colours
Impressive SD and HD upscaling
Easy set-up and controls

Reasons to Avoid
Nothing noteworthy

Specifications
Resolution
: Native 4K
Panel: SXRD
HDR: Yes
Max image size: 300in
Connectivity: HDMI 2.0 (x2), LAN, PC, USB
HDCP 2.2: Yes
Brightness: 1800 lumens
Lamp life: 6000 hours
Contrast ratio: 350,000:1
Rating: 9/10
Buy it now

Sony has supplied the market with a fair few native 4K projectors over the last few years – all high-end, all highly commendable.

While in many ways this particular Sony is an irrefutable showboat, its colour palette is, to its credit, more focused on realism and accuracy than eye-catching saturation – and that’s as we like it.

Set up is relatively straightforward, and once you have it up and running you’ll be rewarded with pictures that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.

LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) – Best for General Video and TV Watching

Reasons to Buy
Compact and lightweight.
Good video and data image quality.
Stylish.
Abundant port selection.
Bluetooth connectivity.
Built-in TV tuner.
Rechargeable internal battery.

Reasons to Avoid
720p resolution is relatively low for an entertainment projector.
Modest brightness.
Soft audio.
No zoom.

Specifications
HD Resolution (1280 x 720)
Wireless Connection (w/ Android O/S, WiDi)
Bluetooth Sound OutBuilt-In
Battery (up to 2.5 hours)
3D Optimizer
Rating: 8/10
Buy it now

Small, versatile, and capable of both home and portable use, the LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) has unusually good video quality for an LED-based projector, and good data image quality as well. Its built-in TV tuner and coaxial connector let you connect to a cable box or over-the-air antenna for home or portable projecting of TV shows onto a screen, and there’s also a wealth of other connectivity options. The PH550 doesn’t quite manage the brightness of the LG PW800, but can be powered from its rechargeable battery and connected to a Bluetooth speaker, two features that that model lacks.

The lightweight and portable LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) can project television shows thanks to its built-in TV tuner, has a wealth of connection choices, and boasts very good video and data image quality.

2 thoughts on “Home Theatre Projectors to Consider in 2021 – Best 5

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