Whether you want to splash Blu-ray movies across a large white wall, magnify your gaming experience, or throw photos and slides from a mobile device onto a 100-inch plus screen, a home cinema projector should be your first choice of display.
*The best-of-the-best home cinema projector
Unfortunately, while most AV enthusiasts dream of the day they bring home a beamer for their living room, few tend to follow through. They have the misconception that projectors are hard to set up (they’re not), hard to maintain (they’re not) and cost significantly more than a TV (they don’t).
To that end we want to dispel the myths perpetuated by non-cinephiles out there and help you pick a fantastic-looking projector without breaking the bank. To that end, we’ve rounded up the best projectors we’ve tested throughout the last year or two and have ranked them below.
1. JVC DLA-X5900
A cinema-beating projector for the home
For the last 10 years, JVC has been the projector brand to follow for black levels that will beat your local cinema screen. It’s all thanks to JVC’s D-ILA technology, which rival DLP and SXRD models just can’t touch.
Native contrast of 40,000:1 makes blacks look truly black. That is if you treat your cinema room to a nice, dark paint job.
This year one of the main upgrades is HDR performance. The punchiness of HDR won’t challenge an ultra-bright LCD TV, but here you’ll get an image several times the size.
One thing to note before buying is the JVC DLA-X5900 does not have native 4K projector panels inside. Instead, it uses JVC’s eShift technology, which projects two different 1080p images sequentially at a 120Hz frequency, making up the detail of a native 4K display.
Clever, right? And in person, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and 4K.
2. Sony VPL-VW300ES
“This 4K SXRD projector just refuses to put a foot wrong.”
Projection system: SXRD | Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 | Brightness: 1,500 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI 2.0 (1x HDCP 2.2), 1x S-Video, 1x VGA | Dimensions: 496 x 195 x 464mm
For that proper cinematic feel, it’s hard to beat a big screen projector, especially one that’s capable of filling a wall with 4K images.
First, there’s a great colour and black levels, whatever the ambient light levels. Secondly, awesome Reality Creation tech that brings out Maximum detail from native 4K sources, Blu-ray and even DVD. Thirdly, the exemplary Bright Cinema and Cinema Film 1 & 2 presets and, finally, the hugely flexible optical zoom/lens shift options that make set-up a cinch.
If you’ve got the money, space and the 4K source, the VPL-VW300ES is a shoo-in to become the centrepiece of your next home cinema.
“An all-around crowd-pleaser”
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 3,500 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI (1x MHL) | Dimensions: 314 x 224 x 114mm
Even in the company of excellent competition, the Optoma HD39Darbee is a high-value crowd-pleaser. It’s not always possible to satisfy movie fans and gamers, but this model scores more than it misses. It’s an effective gaming display, does a fine job with films and is bright enough to make your next sporting event a real social occasion.
That said, the Darbee technology can be a bit polarizing. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Darbee processing applies variable picture enhancements to create a snappier image. It bumps brightness, adds extra edge emphasis for more detailed images and pumps up colours. It’s the equivalent of a sugar rush for your favourite films and TV shows.
We don’t mind admitting it leaves us a little conflicted. Sometimes we like it, other times we don’t, it rather depends what we’re watching. Cartoony games and anime all benefit from higher colour saturation, dramas on Blu-ray less so.
Still, if you like eye candy, it’s definitely worth having on board.
4. BenQ W1070+
“Full HD images that impress even in ambient light make BenQ’s latest a bargain beamer for all seasons.”
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 2,200 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI (1x MHL), 1x RCA, 1x Component, 1x VGA | Dimensions: 312 x 104 x 244mm
There was a time when a decent home cinema-grade projection system would have cost well north of £1,000, and take-up a considerable amount of space too.
Edging ever closer to the plummeting price of a decent flatscreen TV, the BenQ W1070+ DLP projector offers enough brightness to be used in daylight as well as the all-important Full HD resolution.
If you’re wondering whether to take the plunge and make a projector your go-to display for films and games, the W1070+ is a certain bold and bright enough – and easily one of the best value entry-level projectors around.
5. Optoma UHD65
A sensibly priced projector perfect for sport
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 | Brightness: 2,200 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI | Dimensions: 498 x 141 x 331 mm
Many people use a projector as an accompaniment to a TV. It makes sense when DLP lamps last a few thousand hours rather than the 100,000 you might expect from a modern LCD TV.
You could use the Optoma UHD65 as your main video source if you like, but its sensible price makes it a good fit to wheel out on sports and movie nights. Its ultra-sharp 4K images, created using a pixel shift technique and clever motion modes make it particularly well-suited to sports like football and tennis.
More of a movie fan? You don’t get the amazing black level and contrast as the top Sony or JVC projectors here. However, unless you can watch regularly in a very dark, light-controlled room, you may not notice that much of a difference.
6. LG PH450UG Minibeam Projector
“LG’s mini beam projector is a great way to bring big-screen entertainment to smaller spaces.”
If you want big screen home entertainment but don’t have space, or funds for a large flat-panel TV or home cinema projector, then LG’s DLP LED Minibeam PH450UG Ultra Short Throw (UST) could be the answer.
It needs only a dozen centimetres or so to cast a huge image onto a white wall or screen and, even better, it’s also ridiculously compact and relatively affordable at $650 (£529, around AU$864).
There is a catch of course: The PH450UG has a resolution of just 720p. If you need more, LG has the PF1000U, a slightly larger 1080p UST model, that sells for $1,399 (£999). There are other projectors in this price range capable of 1080p – like the class-leading BenQ HT670 – but if you’re committed to the small form factor, the PH450UG is the way to go.
“4K Enhancement, a mathematical fudge or remarkable innovation? Definitely the latter.”
Projection system: 3LCD laser | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 1,500 lumens | Video inputs: 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2), 1x Composite, 1x Component, 1x VGA | Dimensions: 550 x 225 x 553mm
The Epson EH-LS10000 is an excellent home cinema projector. Blistering black levels, great colours, a huge amount of convenience features and some nifty frame interpolation help produce some of the most fluid, colourful and realistic Full HD images from any projector out there.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact that even with the awesome power of Epson’s 4K Enhancement feature – which really does work – the native 4K trickery of the Sony VPL-VW300ES, available for exactly the same price, means that the slightly less detailed Epson EH-LS10000 must take a back seat, at least for now.
Optoma’s HD142X from 2016 is a solid runner-up
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 3,000 lumens | Video inputs: 1x HDMI 1.4a, 1x S-Video, 2x VGA, 1x Composite, 1x DVI-D | Dimensions: 386 x 162 x 280mm
For those who think that home cinema is an occasional luxury that is just not affordable or practical, the ultra-affordable HD142X is serious food for thought.
Despite its lean price tag, it has a full 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution, 3,000 ANSI lumens of brightness, 23,000:1 high contrast ratio and built-in 10-watt speakers. It even supports 3D video to boot.
Optoma says that the lamp life for the HD142X is somewhere in the ballpark of 8,000 hours – and claims that it would last around 10 years if you watched a two-hour movie every single day. Input-wise the HD141X offers 2 x HDMI (1.4a 3D support) + MHL v1.2, perfect for hooking up a PS4 or 3D Blu-ray player.
9. BenQ TH670
This is the best cheap projector we could find.
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 2,000 lumens | Video inputs: Composite Video In x 1, Component Video In x 1, HDMI x 3 | Dimensions: 380.5 x 121.7 x 277 mm
We’re pretty big fans of the affordable BenQ TH670. It might not be the top of the line from the highly lauded projector manufacturer, but it strikes the perfect balance of price to performance to be worth an audition in your living room.
The TH670 has a Full 1080p (1920×1080) resolution, 3,000 ANSI lumens of brightness, 10,000:1 high contrast ratio and built-in speakers. Those speakers could be a fair bit more powerful, but for the price, it’s hard to complain too much. The projector is capable of images spanning from 60 to 120 inches across and its lamp is rated for 4,000 – 10,000 hours depending on which modes you primarily use. Input-wise it offers Computer in (D-sub 15pin) x 2 (Share with component), Composite Video in (RCA) x 1 and HDMI. Win!
10. Optoma HD27
“Midway through the Movie of the Week, you’ll struggle to remember that the HD27 is a cut-price beamer.”
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 3,200 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI (1x MHL) | Dimensions: 315 x 114 x 224mm
Midway through the Movie of the Week, you’ll struggle to remember that the HD27 is a cut-price beamer – its images have genuine cinematic appeal. It’s also tremendous as a gaming display: Hook up a PS4 or Xbox One, find a big white wall large and giant screen theatrics can be yours.
While you can get better performing projectors, you’ll pay significantly more and will probably struggle to match the convenient form factor. The HD27 may not represent the leading edge of tech, but it is at the cutting-edge of fun.