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The best projectors

Do you care most about price, 4K or a space-saving design?
Wirecutter, @wirecutter
07.05.19 in AV
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Chris Heinonen/Wirecutter

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By Chris Heinonen

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full guide to projectors.

We've watched hundreds of hours of TV, movies, and test patterns, testing dozens of projectors to figure out which model best fits your needs. Whether you're outfitting a small space for an occasional movie night, upgrading your living-room home-entertainment system, or building a dedicated home theater, we've got a projector recommendation for you.

Best 4K projector for home theater

If you want to set up a dedicated home theater in a basement or spare room and need a projector that can handle high dynamic range and wide-color-gamut material, choose the JVC DLA-NX5. This model provides the best combination of high contrast, high dynamic range, rich colors, and increased detail, and it's more affordable than other 4K projectors. But due to the light requirements of high dynamic range, the image looks best in a completely dark room.

Why we like it

  • The JVC's high contrast ratio creates deeper blacks than most 4K projectors offer, which allows it to show more details in dark scenes and make everything on the screen pop more, especially HDR content.
  • The wide-color-gamut support allows the projector to show most of the DCI/P3 color gamut from 4K content. This feature lets you see colors in 4K content that you can't see with lower-performing projectors.
  • The projector's high dynamic range support lets you see improved detail in highlights and bright areas of images that other 4K projectors can't show as effectively.
  • A motorized lens with lens shift plus several preset image modes for different screen brands make this projector easier to set up than most others.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • It's very large. Like other 4K projectors, this one needs to be permanently mounted, so you can't pull it out to watch a movie and put it away after you're done.
  • It needs a dark room, especially for HDR. If you're watching in a living room with the lights on, you might not see much benefit over cheaper models.

Image technology: Three-chip LCoS

Resolution: Native 4K (3840×2160)

Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal, motorized

Read more about all our picks in our guide to the best home theater projectors.

Best affordable home entertainment projector

If you don't want to spend a ton of money but still need a projector that produces a bright, colorful image and works well for both dedicated rooms and those with some ambient light, our pick offers the best combination of performance and value for most people. The BenQ HT2050A offers better contrast, color, and brightness than any projector in its class.

Why we like it

  • It offers the most accurate colors you can get from a projector for under $1,000.
  • It's bright enough for a living room and can overcome some ambient light if you don't want to use it in a completely dark room.
  • Out of the box this projector can produce a good image with very little adjustment, which means it's good for people new to projectors.

Projector

Photo: Chris Heinonen

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • The fan can be a little loud, but not enough that speakers at a moderate volume can't cover the noise.
  • It's not really portable. If you want a projector you can carry around with you, our mini-projector picks are much more portable but can't produce as large of an image.
  • In some images there's a slight red tint in 3D mode, which is common to projectors in this price range.

Image technology: Single-chip DLP

Resolution: HD (1920×1080)

Audio: 10 watts per channel

Read more about this pick and others in our cheap projector guide.

Best mini projector

If you need a small, compact projector you can easily put away, or even carry around with you in a backpack, a mini projector (also called a pico projector) might be your best fit. The Anker Nebula Mars II delivers the best combination of features, performance, and ease of use of any mini projector we tested. It offers plenty of connection options, and it features the Android TV operating system to stream services like Netflix and Hulu. Its automatic focus and keystoning, well-laid-out remote, and intuitive mobile remote app make the Mars II the easiest projector to set up and use, and its almost-four-hour battery life was the best of the bunch. Though its picture quality was not the absolute best of the group, the Mars II doesn't have any major flaws on this front, emitting a picture that's bright, detailed, and relatively color accurate.

Why we like it
  • The Mars II produces a bright, accurate image with good contrast ratio and detail for this category of projectors.
  • The built-in battery gives you nearly four hours of playtime, and the built-in speakers mean you don't have to add a Bluetooth speaker.
  • The Mars II automatically focuses and vertically keystones its image so that it's always optimized for your desired throw distance and angle, no matter where you place it.
  • It includes standard HDMI and USB ports, plus a 3.5 mm audio output to connect an external speaker.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • It's big for a mini projector (you can fit it in a backpack—but you won't be able to fit much else).
  • It's image quality isn't quite as good as that of other mini projectors we tested.

Projector

Photo: Sarah Kobos

Image technology: DLP

Resolution: HD (1280×800)

Audio: 10 watt × 2

Battery: nearly four hours

You can read more about this projector and others in our full guide to portable mini projectors.

Best projector for small spaces

In order to create a large image most projectors need to be positioned far from the screen. This distance is called the throw distance, and can be anywhere from 8 to 15 feet, depending on the projector and desired image size. Short-throw projectors are convenient for small rooms or other situations where space is limited. The BenQ HT2150ST can sit much closer to the screen than a standard projector, and is bright enough to use in a room with some ambient light.

Why we like it
  • It works in spaces other projectors can't, producing a 100-inch image with only a couple feet of space.
  • It produces a bright image that can work in a room that gets some ambient light.
  • Its integrated speaker and small size make it easy to store when not being used.

Projector

Photo: Chris Heinonen
Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • The short-throw lens can cause some fringing artifacts that you might notice.
  • It's bright, but the colors aren't as accurate as those of the non-short-throw BenQ HT2050A.

Image technology: Single-chip DLP

Resolution: HD (1920×1080)

Audio: 10 watts per channel

You can read more about this projector here.

An awesome 1080p projector for a dedicated home theater

If you don't need 4K, the Sony VPL-HW45ES is an awesome choice choice for a home theater projector. It offers great contrast, accurate colors, low input lag for gaming, a flexible lens for an easy install, quiet operation, and plenty of light output—all at a relatively affordable price. It's best in a dedicated, light-controlled room, where the image can pop while the letterbox bars disappear in the dark, leading to a more immersive viewing experience overall.

Why we like it
  • The built-in image reference preset produces a remarkably accurate picture right out of the box, without the need for professional calibration (unless that's what you want).
  • With the input-lag-reduction feature turned on, it has one of the lowest lag rates of any projector that we've tested.
  • It has excellent image quality, including a contrast ratio that produces blacks that are five times darker than our entry-level projector pick's.

Projector

Photo: Chris Heinonen
Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • It lacks a few necessities for homes with automation setups, including an Ethernet port and a 12-volt trigger output.
  • It doesn't have any analog video inputs, so if you have a device that connects via composite, S-Video, or component, you'll need to invest in a receiver or other adapter that converts analog to HDMI.
  • It also requires a separate sound system to play audio.

Image technology: Three-chip SXRD

Resolution: HD (1920×1080)

You can read more about awesome projectors here.

A great screen for the money

If you have a projector, you should get a screen. Most modern projectors are bright enough to throw a decent image on just about any close-enough-to-white surface, but you won't get accurate colors without a proper screen. A screen has less texture than a wall, plus it will add pop to the image, because paint almost always has less gain (that is, it reflects less light) than a screen, meaning the image will appear dimmer than is ideal. The Silver Ticket 100" performs as well as screens costing thousands of dollars.

Why we like it
  • The Silver Ticket 100" can display accurate colors with good viewing angles without hotspots.
  • Its performance is nearly as good as that of models costing far more.
  • It's easier to assemble than many of its competitors.

Projector

Photo: Silver Ticket Products
Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • It offers no gain, so it won't make your projector image brighter.
  • It's a neutral screen, which means it reflects back any ambient light as well, so it needs a dark room.

Available sizes: 92 to 200 inches

Aspect ratio: 16:9 or 2.35:1

Gain: 1:1

Read about screen materials and our testing methods in the full guide to the best projector screen.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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