Best Budget Projector for a Home Theater for 2020
Projectors can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. However, the image quality does not increase linearly with the price. Gemstones are more common at certain prices. In our experience of reviewing projectors at all levels, paying more generally will give you a better contrast ratio (and therefore a better looking image). However, a higher price does not always guarantee more light output – and also does not like more functions (3D and 3D). In this guide, we will focus on projectors priced below $ 1,000 that provide a high-quality, cinematic experience on big screens.
Home theater projectors can use one of three technologies to produce an image: DLP, LCD, or LCoS (called D-ILA by JVC and SXRD by Sony). Most DLP projectors reflect the light from a single microchip with millions of individual mirrors and then feed the light through a spinning color wheel to create colors. The resulting image can be very sharp, but the color wheel can create rainbow effects for some viewers. LCD projectors simultaneously direct light through three liquid crystal panels (one each for red, green, and blue) to create the image. They often have better black levels than DLP projectors, but can suffer from color fringing, as perfect alignment of the three panels is almost impossible. LCoS reflects light from three silicon chips with LCDs on top and they usually produce the best black level of any of these technologies, but cost more than DLP and LCD. Most projectors use high power lamps, but all of them can use laser or LED light sources. In this guide, we’ve only covered LCD and DLP projectors due to the higher cost of LCoS.
The two most important properties of a home theater projector are contrast ratio and brightness. Roughly speaking, contrast ratio refers to how good the picture looks and brightness refers to how large an image can be before it looks washed out.
Contrast ratio measurements are easy to play with so you can’t trust what you’re reading on a data sheet.
Contrast ratio is the difference between the lightest and the darkest part of the picture. A high contrast ratio means dark black and light white. A low contrast ratio means the image is more washed out, usually with more gray looking blacks. No projector in this price range has a good contrast ratio, but some are certainly better than others.
We’d like to give you a minimum specification to look for in a feature list. The sad truth, however, is that contrast ratio measurements are easy to play with so you can’t trust what you’re reading on a data sheet. Therefore, the only way to get reliable information about performance is to read reviews. Anything greater than 1,000: 1 is good for measurement results in this price range. When you spend more, you get a ratio of up to 5,000: 1, but only in complete darkness. If you spend less, that number drops to around 600: 1.
Brightness, or light output is almost as important in a projector as the contrast ratio. Light output not only determines how bright the image is (obviously), it also determines how large an image you can create (image brightness decreases as the image size increases), and thus in many ways determines what type of screen you want You can use. If you have a room that isn’t completely dark, you should look for a projector that produces more lumens: the ambient light of the room means you won’t benefit from a higher contrast ratio, so sheer brightness becomes more important.
The brightness measurements given on the technical sheets are more accurate than the contrast ratios but are measured in a very imprecise mode that you do not want to use. Halving the number is more accurate for real use. For example, considering that 1,000 lumens is enough for a 100-inch bright image, you should look for a projector that offers 2,000 lumens or more to give you some wiggle room.
After brightness and contrast, color accuracy comes next, followed by (distant) resolution and color temperature.
Exact color means that everything you see appears more realistic and natural. Some projectors cannot produce fully saturated colors and produce yellows and reds that look dull next to the projectors that can. For projectors, however, the screen you choose will also affect the accuracy of the color. For anything other than a neutral white screen, results may not be accurate.
Roughly speaking, contrast ratio refers to how good the picture looks and brightness refers to how large an image can be before it looks washed out.
resolution is the last of the great elements in picture quality, and it is far more important in a projector than in a television. Ideally, you want a full 1080p projector so that you can create a large, detailed image with no chance of any visible pixels. The results from 720p projectors look a little softer. When such models create a large image (or when you sit nearby) the pixels will be visible. In extreme cases, they can have the effect of looking through a screen door. 4K projectors are available these days, but they cost more than $ 1,000. Some projectors priced under $ 1,000 will accept a 4K signal but will scale the resolution to 1080p. If you’re interested in a 4K projector, check out our Best Projector for a Home Theater Guide.
Beyond image quality, you’ll want to look for features that make it easier to set up.
A zoom lens A throw ratio of 1 or less makes it easier to position the projector in a room. If the throw ratio is much larger, you may not be able to get as large a picture as you’d like.
Lens shift You have more flexibility to place the projector above or below the screen, making installation easier. The more lens shift, the easier it is to position the projector, but it usually costs more.
For our original guide, we’ve compiled a list of all of the home theater projectors that are in the $ 1,000 price range that have had positive professional reviews. It was a surprisingly short list as not many websites review projectors using the detailed, objective measurements we were looking for. In some cases a manufacturer had more than one model that appeared to meet our criteria. In these situations, we asked the company which model best suited our needs and the competition we were involved.
For the last few updates, we’ve tested newer models against our previous picks to see how they’ve performed.