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Home Theater & A/V

Best Projector

Projectors are used for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from high-end home theaters to business presentations and classroom applications. Depending on their intended use, projectors can vary in their technology, style, and price. We’ve compiled lists of some of the best projectors currently available while considering different budgets and performance needs. Although we’ve included several high-end models, we’ve kept ultra-expensive projectors off the list in favor of one’s which are more realistic for use in the average home or business. If you’re new to projectors and need some pointers on what to look for, be sure to also check out our buyer’s guide below.

NEC Display NP-PE401H 3D Ready DLP Projector

The NEC NP-PE401H is a true DLP 1080p projector with 1920x1080 resolution and 4000 lumens of bright light output. Two HDMI inputs let you plug in a video content source and a laptop computer at the same time, with full 3D support.

Overall image quality is extremely good, with good color saturation and high accuracy in all brightness modes. Text is easy to read, and still images maintain high levels of detail even at larger sizes. However, some rainbow effect is visible with video.

Set up is pretty straightforward, with front, center and rear height level positioning adjustments, and 1.1x zoom. Setting your levels is as easy as navigating some on-screen menus via remote; there is a whole list of connectivity options including the aforementioned two HDMI ports, a single VGA port, a composite video port, and S-video port.

NEC offers this projector as an entry-level professional projector, with the goal of getting all the basics right at an affordable price. This relatively compact projector offers excellent data images quality and video quality good enough for use in presentations, making it a very good choice for a business projector.

ViewSonic PRO8300 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector

The ViewSonic Pro8300 has a native 1080p resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a rating of 3,000 lumens of brightness output. While you might expect that to make this projector an easy choice for a home theater, this particular model actually performs the strongest for business applications. While video quality tends to display some rainbow effects and color issues, although it can be a solid choice for those who aren't likely to be bothered by these minor problems.

Data imaging has decent contrast, and text is legible though not sharply detailed. The Pro8300 is bright enough to be used even in quite a bit of ambient light. The dual ten-watt speakers offer decent sound quality; they don't get too loud, but they can perform well enough in a small living room or conference room.

As far as connectivity goes, there are two HDMI ports, two VGA-in ports, S-Video, RCA jacks for both composite and component video, external audio ports and a USB port for firmware upgrades. With its relatively affordable price tag, good connectivity, and full HD resolution, the ViewSonic Pro8300 is a solid all-around choice.

Dell M115HD Mobile LED Projector

The Dell M115HD is a small, lightweight, and portable DLP projector with a native WXGA resolution and brightness output rating of 450 lumens. The unit's LED lamp should last for about 30,000 hours of life, making it likely to outlast the projector itself.

Ideal for a business traveler, the M115HD can project and image of up to 60 inches at about eight feet away from the projection surface. Image is bright, but text quality is relatively low. Discoloration is also visible at times, especially during video playback. Connectivity options are excellent. The M115HD is equipped with a VGA port, a USB port, a micro SD card slot, and an audio-out jack.

Both the USB port and micro SD card slot can be used to play presentations directly from a USB thumb drive or micro SD card, while the USB port can also be used with an optional WiFi dongle. While the single speaker is woefully inadequate, even in small rooms, the Dell M115HD nonetheless offers a good balance of features and performance for the business traveler.

ViewSonic PJD5132 SVGA DLP Projector

The ViewSonic PJD5132 DLP projector delivers 800x600 native resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio and a light output of around 3,000 lumens. Offering long lamp life of near 10,000 hours and filter-less use for low maintenance, this already-affordable projector promises low ownership costs long term.

Picture quality is well-rounded, text enjoys good clarity, and video quality has good color reproduction with bright hues. Brightness is very good for the money, and there's no major loss of detail in rooms with ambient light. However, there is some rainbow effect along the edges.

There's no HDMI input on the PJD5132, offering connectivity that includes dual VGA inputs, composite video, S-video, a mini-USB port, and audio in and out. With a single speaker that offers mediocre audio at best, most users will opt to add external speakers.

Although not as compact as a pocket projector, the ViewSonic PJD5132 is relatively small and light. It offers good overall performance for an affordable price, and is well-suited to applications both for business and in the classroom.

Vivitek Qumi Q5 500 Lumen WXGA HD 720p HDMI 3D-Ready Pocket DLP Projector

The lightweight, stylish, and compact Vivitek Qumi Q5 has a native resolution of 1280x800 and a brightness output rated at 500 lumens. For its size, this projector includes a lot of connectivity options and features. There is an HDMI port, a universal I/O port that is compatible with VGA and Composite adapters, and a USB port. Four GB of internal memory can be used to store movies, photos, and other files by easily transferring them over using a memory stick. The USB port also allows for adding WiFi using an optional dongle.

Picture quality is clear and sharp, suited for both data and video, although black levels aren’t this projector's strong point. However, the image can be pushed to well over five feet wide in a dark room; in lighter conditions when brightness levels have to be ramped up, the Q5 tends to suffer from loud running noise. The built-in speaker is as to be expected with a projector of this size and is really only good for smaller rooms.

Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6030UB 2D/3D 1080p 3LCD Projector

The Epson 6030UB has just about everything one could expect from a top-shelf home theater projector. This 3LCD projector offers outstanding picture quality in both 2D and 3D, with image processors to up-convert your DVDs to true high definition.

With a brightness output rated at up to 2,400 lumens, the 6030UB is perfectly sufficient for use is various light environments. However, this projector has clearly been made for use in the controlled light environment of a dedicated home theater.

Setup offers a number of possibilities ranging from mounting it to a ceiling, resting it on a table or even a high bookshelf. Whatever you choose, the 6030UB gives you plenty of options using a 2.1:1 zoom lens and horizontal/vertical lens shift. You can even add an anamorphic lens for a 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio in almost any size room and screen.

The projector has multiple presets for use with various size screens and room length distances. Epson makes it easy to customize picture settings, allowing you to tailor performance for your space and taste. Connectivity is good, with two HDMI ports, 3-RCA ports, and an RS-232C for easier external control. The Epson 6030UB also comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, a spare lamp, and a ceiling mount.

Panasonic PT-AE8000U 1080p Full HD Projector

The Panasonic PT-AE8000U is a full 1080p HD, 3D-capable LCD projector with brightness rated at 2,400 lumens. Offering what is arguably some of the best home theater image quality you can buy, this projector is reasonably priced.

Setting the PT-AE8000U is aided by the inclusion of both horizontal and vertical lens shift. You can move the image up or down or side to side, which is accomplished with an intuitive joystick mechanism. Once properly set up, this projectors image quality is very impressive.

With rich detail and strong contrast, the PT-AE8000U delivers deep blacks, and colors have vivid hues and fine shading. The PT-AE800U also displays 3D playback with excellent results, with the eye strain often associated with 3D is partially addressed thanks to Panasonic's realistic depth of field.

This projector can be used with very large screens, and is bright enough to withstand a fair amount of ambient light. However, it will always perform best when you can be in control of the light, as with the kind of dedicated home theater setup where this projector is likely to end up.

Three HDMI inputs, VGA, component video, composite video, and S-video round out the unit’s decent connectivity options. The Panasonic PT-AE8000U is undoubtedly pricey, but offers image quality outstanding enough to make it well worth the money.

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Sony VPL-FHZ55 LCD Projector

The VPL-FHZ55 stands out for being Sony's first lamp-less projector using 3 LCD technology. This use of a laser instead of a traditional lamp is a new breed of projector, likely to change the way all manufacturers design LCD projectors. This projector is capable of 4,000 lumens of brightness with an approximate 20,000 hours of light source life. This means incredible brightness and very little to low maintenance needed over the likely lifetime of the projector, somewhat making up for its hefty price tag.

This unique approach allows the VPL-FHZ55 to deliver excellent picture quality that’s adjustable adjusted via the projector's settings and modes. Even at its brightest output, the projector offers rich color and definition with excellent contrast and detail. Place this in a darkened theater environment or a room with high amounts of ambient light, and watch the VPL-FHZ55 produce an image with outstanding brightness and clarity.

Connectivity on the VPL-FHZ55 is extensive, encompassing HDMI, S-Video, composite video, DVI-D, and more. This projector can accommodate numerous sources of content input, although it lacks WiFi and built-in storage.

Placement options include using it on a tabletop, where the adjustable front feet and horizontal/vertical lens shift will get your image centered as needed. However, due to the bulky size and weight of this projector, many will opt to it permanently installed.

Suitable for presenting text, images, and video, the Sony VPL-FHZ55 offers a glimpse into the future of projector technology. This outstanding projector is as pricey as one would expect when purchasing cutting edge technology, but the performance more than justifies the cost.

Epson PowerLite 4855WU WUXGA 3LCD Projector

While it has been marketed primarily as a high-end data projector for business use, the Epson 4855WU is comfortable handling both data imaging and video playback. This projector uses 3LCD technology, meaning equal brightness values for both colors and whites, resulting in less inconsistencies between the two in your projected image.

The 4855U offers a WUXGA (1920x1200) resolution and a brightness rating of 4,000 lumens making this projector is a good choice for larger size rooms even with some ambient light. With a 1.8x zoom and a native 16:10 aspect ratio, the 4855WU can produce a large image without losing detail. Image quality overall is excellent, whether for text or photos. Video quality is also good, showing 1080p content without scaling.

Both horizontal and vertical lens shift make easy work of precise placement of your projected image while the weight of this projector makes it an ideal candidate for permanent installation. Connectivity options are varied, ranging from the expected HDMI to a network port. Although the built-in speaker is fairly powerful for what is usually seen in projectors, most users will likely opt to hook up an external sound system for higher quality audio.

The Epson 4855U is ideal for those who need high resolution and excellent image quality even in larger rooms with ambient light. This projector is an ideal choice for varied business and classroom applications.

Boxlight Boston X30N LCD Projector

Boxlight Boston X30N LCD Projector

The Boxlight Boston X30N was designed with classroom and business use in mind, making it ill-suited to home entertainment applications. A native XGA resolution (1024x768) and a brightness rating of 3,000 lumens, yield solid video and image quality. Image imperfections are minor, with good overall colors, contrast, and brightness. Smaller text can sometimes have a slight soft focus effect, but not noticeable enough to impact the projector's performance during presentations.

The X30N has generous connectivity options, including two VGA ports, HDMI, RCA ports, S-Video. There’s a USB port to allow for plugging in a WiFi dongle or connecting a computer and moving files to the projector's 1.5 GB of internal memory.

This projector doesn’t include 3D capability and the built-in sound is only capable of volumes suited for a small space. Overall though, this projector projects reliably good images and video quality even in spaces with quite a bit of ambient light.

Optoma ML550 WXGA 500 Lumen 3D Ready Portable DLP LED Projector with HDMI

The Optoma ML550 offers a rating of 500 lumens and a WXGA native resolution in a compact and lightweight package. This pocket projector is one of the newer generation ones that use a DLP chip and an LED light source, which allows for brighter light in a smaller size. The LED light sources are usually also rated to have very long lifetimes, as is the case with the ML500; the 20,000 lifetime is meant to last the life of the projector.

Although usable, this is not an ideal projector for video although image quality is quite good, with very little rainbow effect and only some discoloration visible. Although it does show some scaling artifacts even at the native resolution, text clarity remains good overall. The ML550 can read files from its 1.5 GB internal memory, a micro SD card, and from USB thumb drives. The USB port can also be used with an optional WiFi dongle to add wireless connectivity.

An HDMI port is also included. As with most compact projectors, the built-in speaker is much too quiet for use in anything more than a small room. This projector does tout 3D support, but it’s limited to VGA connections and resolution up to XGA. However, the Optoma ML550 is very good overall, with excellent brightness levels and only slightly less exceptional image quality.

Vivitek Qumi Q5 500 Lumen WXGA HD 720p HDMI 3D-Ready Pocket DLP Projector

The lightweight, stylish, and compact Vivitek Qumi Q5 has a native resolution of 1280x800 and a brightness output rated at 500 lumens. For its size, this projector includes a lot of connectivity options and features. There is an HDMI port, a universal I/O port that is compatible with VGA and Composite adapters, and a USB port. Four GB of internal memory can be used to store movies, photos, and other files by easily transferring them over using a memory stick. The USB port also allows for adding WiFi using an optional dongle.

Picture quality is clear and sharp, suited for both data and video, although black levels aren’t this projector's strong point. However, the image can be pushed to well over five feet wide in a dark room; in lighter conditions when brightness levels have to be ramped up, the Q5 tends to suffer from loud running noise. The built-in speaker is as to be expected with a projector of this size and is really only good for smaller rooms.

Dell M115HD Mobile LED Projector

The Dell M115HD is a small, lightweight, and portable DLP projector with a native WXGA resolution and brightness output rating of 450 lumens. The unit's LED lamp should last for about 30,000 hours of life, making it likely to outlast the projector itself.

Ideal for a business traveler, the M115HD can project and image of up to 60 inches at about eight feet away from the projection surface. Image is bright, but text quality is relatively low. Discoloration is also visible at times, especially during video playback. Connectivity options are excellent. The M115HD is equipped with a VGA port, a USB port, a micro SD card slot, and an audio-out jack.

Both the USB port and micro SD card slot can be used to play presentations directly from a USB thumb drive or micro SD card, while the USB port can also be used with an optional WiFi dongle. While the single speaker is woefully inadequate, even in small rooms, the Dell M115HD nonetheless offers a good balance of features and performance for the business traveler.

Brookstone Pocket Projector ProGCo200 Lumens

The Brookstone Pocket Projector Pro might be relatively down on brightness, with a rating of 200 lumens, but it offers a compelling combination of performance, usability, and portability. This pocket projector is suited for general purpose use, although it excels for personal applications as opposed to business ones. The Brookstone Pocket Projector is the projector to have when friends want to watch a movie that's saved on your phone.

A DLP chip and LED light source allow this projector to be compact in size, while offering a light source lifetime that is likely to last the lifetime of the projector itself. There is an HDMI input to connect to smartphone, tablets, cameras, and more, but Apple devices will require an Apple AV adapter. A USB port is also included.

Picture quality overall is decent for what it is although colors are slightly off at times, and 16x9 content tends to become slightly stretched vertically due to the resolution. Although not extreme, this effect will bother some users more than others, so verify your intended use(s) before purchasing.

The Brookstone Pocket Projector also lacks a built-in battery although a separate battery pack is available for purchase, it is pricey. However, this projector offers good overall brightness and image quality for a portable model. It comes with adapter tips to allow for use with different devices, and the weak built-in speaker can be circumvented using the aux out jack to hook up external speakers.

View Sonic PLED-W200 WXGA Front Projector

The Viewsonic PLED-W200 offers a WXGA native resolution and is rated for a brightness output of up to 250 lumens. The projector is very small and lightweight, thanks in part to the use of a DLP chip and an LED light source allowing for more brightness in a smaller package, as well as a longer light source lifetime.

The PLED-W200 excels as a business projector, but can be used both at work and at home. Image quality is very good overall, with only some rainbow effect visible during video playback. Although artifacts do create a slightly soft focus effect with text, data image quality remains high quality.

Connectivity isn’t offered in the traditional array of options which could pose a problem for some, so be sure that it will work for you before purchasing. However, this projector can read files directly from SD cards.

Audio quality is decent for the size, with two speakers that are suitable for use in a small room. The Viewsonic PLED-W200 is a projector capable of handling video playback and data presentation with good overall brightness and clarity.

BenQ W1080ST 1080p 3D Short Throw DLP Home Theater Projector

The BenQ W1080ST has full 1080p resolution at a rated brightness output of 2,000 lumens. This makes it a good choice for home entertainment environments where chances are that there's a lot of ambient light. Image quality is excellent on the W1080ST, and even relatively accurate right out of the box.

Connectivity options are  good, with two HDMI ports than both support full 1080p 3D (although 144Hz glasses are needed for 3D). There’s also a component video, S-video port, VGA, and composite video ports. If the units short throw lens isn't enough to make it work, the 1.2x zoom can help the W1080ST can fit in any size area from a large family room to a cramped apartment.

Although the built-in speaker delivers decent audio, this projector is best used when hooked up to external speakers. The BenQ W1080ST offers very good image quality overall so for those wanting high-quality video and plenty of features at a relatively affordable price, this is an excellent choice.

Optoma HD91 DLP Projector

Optoma HD91 DLP Projector

Relying on an LED light source instead of a traditional lamp, the Optoma HD91 projector delivers a considerably longer lifespan on its light source. This unit provides a consistent image as it ages so you there’s no inevitable dimming you get with an aging lamp. The LED light also means there’s also no warm up/cool down periods needed with operating a typical projector.

The HD91 offers excellent image quality for the money, with very good clarity and detail, handling colors very well, resulting in a natural and well-balanced image. Although there is too much input lag for the HD91 to be ideal for gaming use, it is an excellent choice for home entertainment. It also offers 3D support.

There is plenty of connectivity options, with two HDMI slots, component video, composite video, two USB ports (one for firmware updates and the other for powering other devices), and more. While the projector is reasonably compact, be sure to keep track of the remote; there are no controls on the projector itself. Setup is simple, aided by the 1.9x zoom. Overall, this well-rounded DLP projector performs very well for the money.

NEC Display NP-PE401H 3D Ready DLP Projector

The NEC NP-PE401H is a true DLP 1080p projector with 1920x1080 resolution and 4000 lumens of bright light output. Two HDMI inputs let you plug in a video content source and a laptop computer at the same time, with full 3D support.

Overall image quality is extremely good, with good color saturation and high accuracy in all brightness modes. Text is easy to read, and still images maintain high levels of detail even at larger sizes. However, some rainbow effect is visible with video.

Set up is pretty straightforward, with front, center and rear height level positioning adjustments, and 1.1x zoom. Setting your levels is as easy as navigating some on-screen menus via remote; there is a whole list of connectivity options including the aforementioned two HDMI ports, a single VGA port, a composite video port, and S-video port.

NEC offers this projector as an entry-level professional projector, with the goal of getting all the basics right at an affordable price. This relatively compact projector offers excellent data images quality and video quality good enough for use in presentations, making it a very good choice for a business projector.

InFocus IN8606HD 3D Ready DLP Projector

This all-purpose projector can display movies, cable TV, and gaming in any living room much in the same way you'd expect your HDTV to perform. It's bright enough to watch with the lights on or off, and offers picture settings that can be adjusted for ambient light or total darkness.

The InFocus IN8606HD is rated at 25,00 lumens, providing enough brightness for a potential screen width of over 200 inches diagonally while the image quality overall earns high marks in both color and contrast. However, there is enough of a rainbow effect with video playback to potentially annoy those who notice it, however.

Connectivity is good, with two HDMI ports, S-video, component video, and VGA and composite video. The HDMI ports can be used with 1.4a devices such as Blu-ray players and cable boxes, making it even easier to use this projector as part of a setup that replaces an HDTV. The InFocus IN8606HD is small enough to move around the house, although the lack of controls on the projector itself makes it paramount not to lose the small remote control.

ViewSonic PRO8300 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector

The ViewSonic Pro8300 has a native 1080p resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a rating of 3,000 lumens of brightness output. While you might expect that to make this projector an easy choice for a home theater, this particular model actually performs the strongest for business applications. While video quality tends to display some rainbow effects and color issues, although it can be a solid choice for those who aren't likely to be bothered by these minor problems.

Data imaging has decent contrast, and text is legible though not sharply detailed. The Pro8300 is bright enough to be used even in quite a bit of ambient light. The dual ten-watt speakers offer decent sound quality; they don't get too loud, but they can perform well enough in a small living room or conference room.

As far as connectivity goes, there are two HDMI ports, two VGA-in ports, S-Video, RCA jacks for both composite and component video, external audio ports and a USB port for firmware upgrades. With its relatively affordable price tag, good connectivity, and full HD resolution, the ViewSonic Pro8300 is a solid all-around choice.

AAXA P4X Pico Projector

The AAXA P4-X projector offers excellent brightness and image quality overall for the money, with a brightness rating of 80 lumens when plugged in. Although this projector is a bit on the large side to be called a pico projector, it is nonetheless highly portable and an excellent choice for a compact and capable projector. The P4-X can read files directly from micro SD cards and USB memory sticks, and also has mini-HDMI and a variety of adapters for connectivity.

Image quality is very good, with solid picture uniformity and excellent brightness. As with most smaller projectors, the AAXA P4-X suffers from poor built-in audio quality, but this can be rectified by attaching external speakers or headphones to the audio-out port. Fan noise can also get rather noisy, although not typically loud enough to disrupt presentations or media consumption. Overall, the AAXA P4-X offers an ideal combination that makes it a solid choice for anyone needing a compact projector for general purpose use.

ASUS S1 LED Projector

This compact and lightweight projector offers an affordable way to pick up a projector suited for home use and occasional business use. The ASUS S1 is rated at a brightness of 200 lumens and a WXGA native resolution. It offers a relatively short throw for its class, and the LED light source (paired with a DLP Pico chip) promises a long lifetime of use.

Limitations include fairly low brightness and resolution which is especially visible when displaying smaller text or anything more than short video clips. However, the ASUS S1 includes a built-in battery and a stylish exterior at a relatively budget-friendly price. When it comes to connectivity, the only input is an MHL-enabled HDMI input; the S1 stands out for its USB output, which allows for charging of mobile devices that are attached. There is also an audio-out jack to allow for hooking up external speakers or headphones.

With only a single built-in speaker, this projector might be a good idea for use in anything other than a small space. More for home use than business use, this small projector is a good overall choice for those who value the battery and charging capabilities more than outright image quality.

AAXA P2 Jr Pico Projector

The AAXA P2 Jr offers excellent overall performance for its size, save for perhaps its built-in speakers. This ultra-compact and lightweight projector is extremely portable, making it suitable for carrying around and pulling it out whenever it is needed. With a 90 minute battery life, it has enough juice to complete a presentation or watch a shorter movie.

Although its 55 lumens rating might not seem like much, the AAXA P2 Jr delivers crisp details, good color, and text that is readable even at smaller sizes. It might not be as bright as its bigger relative, the AAXA P4-X, but its data and video quality overall (despite not having a native HD resolution) are excellent for its size.

This projector can read files from micro SD cards and USB memory sticks, and works with smartphones and other devices thanks to the MHL-enabled mini HDMI port. There are also a mini-VGA and composite in, accomplished by a proprietary connector and adapter cables which both come with the projector. The P2 Jr can be somewhat difficult to get in focus, and the lack of an audio out makes the poor built-in audio especially frustrating. However, despite these issues, this projector is excellent for its size.

Optoma PK320 Pico Pocket Projector

This lightweight DLP projector can fit easily into your pocket, thanks to its compact size. The Optoma PK320 has a brightness output rated at 100 lumens, which is reasonable for this projector class and its LED light source promises a long lifetime, likely to last as long as the projector itself. Image quality is above average, however, with very little visible rainbow effect.

There's two GB of internal memory and a micro SD slot allowing for running presentations without a computer or laptop. The projector has very good connectivity for its size, with a proprietary port and adapters that allow for connecting a VGA cable, mini-HDMI, micro-USB for file transfers, AV-in, composite video, and and audio-out jack.

Battery life is decent, with an average length of just over an hour depending upon the brightness setting. As usual with projectors of this size, audio quality suffers, being suitable at best for a small room. Although this projector is not the best for business presentations due to relatively soft text, it is a good all-around performer.

Brookstone Mobile Pocket Projector

For a reasonable price, the Brookstone Mobile Pocket Projector will display an image of up to eighty inches diagonally, although image clarity will take a bit of a hit. The projected picture is quite sharp for a projector of this size, although won't match up to the resolution of an HDTV.

The Brookstone employs an LED lamp rated at 100 lumens of brightness, performance that can be maintained for roughly two hours on battery power. This stands out amongst much of the competition, which often run the risk of running out of charge before a movie is finished.

In terms of connectivity, the Brookstone Mobile Pocket Projector uses and MHL-enabled HDMI port to connect to most devices, ranging from computers to tablets and smartphones. Although you can't use it with USB or micro SD alone, it does also come with adapters to expand connectivity.

Dual speakers can get loud for the size, although for best sound quality it is best to hook up external speakers or headphones. Despite being designed primarily with watching movies from a mobile device in mind, this projector can also be used for giving presentations. With its lightweight and compact design, the Brookstone Mobile Pocket Projector is a good overall choice.

BenQ W1080ST 1080p 3D Short Throw DLP Home Theater Projector

The BenQ W1080ST has full 1080p resolution at a rated brightness output of 2,000 lumens. This makes it a good choice for home entertainment environments where chances are that there's a lot of ambient light. Image quality is excellent on the W1080ST, and even relatively accurate right out of the box.

Connectivity options are  good, with two HDMI ports than both support full 1080p 3D (although 144Hz glasses are needed for 3D). There’s also a component video, S-video port, VGA, and composite video ports. If the units short throw lens isn't enough to make it work, the 1.2x zoom can help the W1080ST can fit in any size area from a large family room to a cramped apartment.

Although the built-in speaker delivers decent audio, this projector is best used when hooked up to external speakers. The BenQ W1080ST offers very good image quality overall so for those wanting high-quality video and plenty of features at a relatively affordable price, this is an excellent choice.

InFocus IN8606HD 3D Ready DLP Projector

This all-purpose projector can display movies, cable TV, and gaming in any living room much in the same way you'd expect your HDTV to perform. It's bright enough to watch with the lights on or off, and offers picture settings that can be adjusted for ambient light or total darkness.

The InFocus IN8606HD is rated at 25,00 lumens, providing enough brightness for a potential screen width of over 200 inches diagonally while the image quality overall earns high marks in both color and contrast. However, there is enough of a rainbow effect with video playback to potentially annoy those who notice it, however.

Connectivity is good, with two HDMI ports, S-video, component video, and VGA and composite video. The HDMI ports can be used with 1.4a devices such as Blu-ray players and cable boxes, making it even easier to use this projector as part of a setup that replaces an HDTV. The InFocus IN8606HD is small enough to move around the house, although the lack of controls on the projector itself makes it paramount not to lose the small remote control.

ViewSonic PJD5132 SVGA DLP Projector

The ViewSonic PJD5132 DLP projector delivers 800x600 native resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio and a light output of around 3,000 lumens. Offering long lamp life of near 10,000 hours and filter-less use for low maintenance, this already-affordable projector promises low ownership costs long term.

Picture quality is well-rounded, text enjoys good clarity, and video quality has good color reproduction with bright hues. Brightness is very good for the money, and there's no major loss of detail in rooms with ambient light. However, there is some rainbow effect along the edges.

There's no HDMI input on the PJD5132, offering connectivity that includes dual VGA inputs, composite video, S-video, a mini-USB port, and audio in and out. With a single speaker that offers mediocre audio at best, most users will opt to add external speakers.

Although not as compact as a pocket projector, the ViewSonic PJD5132 is relatively small and light. It offers good overall performance for an affordable price, and is well-suited to applications both for business and in the classroom.

C205 DLP LED Projector

The Acer C205 offers a native WVGA (854x480) resolution and a brightness rating of 200 lumens. Since this DLP projector uses an LED light source, the lamp should last the lifetime of the projector itself, potentially saving you considerable money in terms of maintenance. The C205 includes a rechargeable battery for up to two hours of use without being plugged in, enhancing the convenience of its small and portable size.

Image quality is decent overall with text quality tending to be somewhat soft, and there's visible rainbow effects during video playback. Brightness is just okay, making this projector ideally suited for a smaller room. Audio is surprisingly clear and loud, making it one of the better performers in this size and price class.

The C205 offers basic connectivity, with an MHL-enabled HDMI port, a USB port for charging devices, and an audio-in jack. If you're seeking an affordable projector for presentations, this is a good choice for those who prioritize audio quality over outright text clarity.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 Projector

The Epson 8350 offers exceptional HD image quality for its relatively affordable price. This 3LCD projector might not match the image quality of more expensive projectors, but its performance is extremely good for the money. There is little to no evidence of any visual rainbow effect, and the projector can be used both in a dark home theater and rooms with ambient light.

With its horizontal and vertical lens shift feature, finding the right placement for the Epson 8350 is simple. This feature allows for directing the lens up, down, left, and right until you find the right angle. There is also a wide array of connection options, with two HDMI hookups, three RCA plugs, composite and S-video ports, and an RS-232 hookup to control the projector from a computer.

Unfortunately, this slightly older projector lacks the 3D support found in many current projectors. However, its blend of image quality and a reasonable price make it an excellent option for those who aren’t interested in 3D playback.

Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6030UB 2D/3D 1080p 3LCD Projector

The Epson 6030UB has just about everything one could expect from a top-shelf home theater projector. This 3LCD projector offers outstanding picture quality in both 2D and 3D, with image processors to up-convert your DVDs to true high definition.

With a brightness output rated at up to 2,400 lumens, the 6030UB is perfectly sufficient for use is various light environments. However, this projector has clearly been made for use in the controlled light environment of a dedicated home theater.

Setup offers a number of possibilities ranging from mounting it to a ceiling, resting it on a table or even a high bookshelf. Whatever you choose, the 6030UB gives you plenty of options using a 2.1:1 zoom lens and horizontal/vertical lens shift. You can even add an anamorphic lens for a 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio in almost any size room and screen.

The projector has multiple presets for use with various size screens and room length distances. Epson makes it easy to customize picture settings, allowing you to tailor performance for your space and taste. Connectivity is good, with two HDMI ports, 3-RCA ports, and an RS-232C for easier external control. The Epson 6030UB also comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, a spare lamp, and a ceiling mount.

Panasonic PT-AE8000U 1080p Full HD Projector

The Panasonic PT-AE8000U is a full 1080p HD, 3D-capable LCD projector with brightness rated at 2,400 lumens. Offering what is arguably some of the best home theater image quality you can buy, this projector is reasonably priced.

Setting the PT-AE8000U is aided by the inclusion of both horizontal and vertical lens shift. You can move the image up or down or side to side, which is accomplished with an intuitive joystick mechanism. Once properly set up, this projectors image quality is very impressive.

With rich detail and strong contrast, the PT-AE8000U delivers deep blacks, and colors have vivid hues and fine shading. The PT-AE800U also displays 3D playback with excellent results, with the eye strain often associated with 3D is partially addressed thanks to Panasonic's realistic depth of field.

This projector can be used with very large screens, and is bright enough to withstand a fair amount of ambient light. However, it will always perform best when you can be in control of the light, as with the kind of dedicated home theater setup where this projector is likely to end up.

Three HDMI inputs, VGA, component video, composite video, and S-video round out the unit’s decent connectivity options. The Panasonic PT-AE8000U is undoubtedly pricey, but offers image quality outstanding enough to make it well worth the money.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 Projector

The Epson 8350 offers exceptional HD image quality for its relatively affordable price. This 3LCD projector might not match the image quality of more expensive projectors, but its performance is extremely good for the money. There is little to no evidence of any visual rainbow effect, and the projector can be used both in a dark home theater and rooms with ambient light.

With its horizontal and vertical lens shift feature, finding the right placement for the Epson 8350 is simple. This feature allows for directing the lens up, down, left, and right until you find the right angle. There is also a wide array of connection options, with two HDMI hookups, three RCA plugs, composite and S-video ports, and an RS-232 hookup to control the projector from a computer.

Unfortunately, this slightly older projector lacks the 3D support found in many current projectors. However, its blend of image quality and a reasonable price make it an excellent option for those who aren’t interested in 3D playback.

BenQ W1080ST 1080p 3D Short Throw DLP Home Theater Projector

The BenQ W1080ST has full 1080p resolution at a rated brightness output of 2,000 lumens. This makes it a good choice for home entertainment environments where chances are that there's a lot of ambient light. Image quality is excellent on the W1080ST, and even relatively accurate right out of the box.

Connectivity options are  good, with two HDMI ports than both support full 1080p 3D (although 144Hz glasses are needed for 3D). There’s also a component video, S-video port, VGA, and composite video ports. If the units short throw lens isn't enough to make it work, the 1.2x zoom can help the W1080ST can fit in any size area from a large family room to a cramped apartment.

Although the built-in speaker delivers decent audio, this projector is best used when hooked up to external speakers. The BenQ W1080ST offers very good image quality overall so for those wanting high-quality video and plenty of features at a relatively affordable price, this is an excellent choice.

Optoma HD91 DLP Projector

Optoma HD91 DLP Projector

Relying on an LED light source instead of a traditional lamp, the Optoma HD91 projector delivers a considerably longer lifespan on its light source. This unit provides a consistent image as it ages so you there’s no inevitable dimming you get with an aging lamp. The LED light also means there’s also no warm up/cool down periods needed with operating a typical projector.

The HD91 offers excellent image quality for the money, with very good clarity and detail, handling colors very well, resulting in a natural and well-balanced image. Although there is too much input lag for the HD91 to be ideal for gaming use, it is an excellent choice for home entertainment. It also offers 3D support.

There is plenty of connectivity options, with two HDMI slots, component video, composite video, two USB ports (one for firmware updates and the other for powering other devices), and more. While the projector is reasonably compact, be sure to keep track of the remote; there are no controls on the projector itself. Setup is simple, aided by the 1.9x zoom. Overall, this well-rounded DLP projector performs very well for the money.

Buyer's Guide

 

Finding the Best Projector: Buyer’s Guide

Whether it’s for home or business use, buying a new projector can be a frustrating experience. With the amount of options available and technology going into them, these products can seem confusing to the average buyer. Fortunately, we’ve compiled this projector buyer’s guide to make the process much easier. We’re focusing primarily on projectors for home theater use, but most of the following information applies just as well to any projector type.

Projectors are typically used for displaying data, video, photos, and games. While a projector can technically show any kind of content, some models are better suited for one purpose over another.
Business projectors tend to excel at showing data such as text, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations, while home theater projectors are more suited for HD video.

Once you determine the kind of content you’re looking to project, it’ll narrow down your choices considerably. If you also need something that’s portable, you may want to prioritize looking at small and lightweight projectors such as those on our Pocket Projector and Pico Projector lists.

Projector Types

Digital Light Processing (DLP)
These projectors are usually compact and tend to offer deep blacks, detailed image quality, and smooth visuals, making them a popular choice for home theater use. Prices range widely, from entry-level models at just a few hundred dollars to those up in the thousands.

DLP projectors are known for sometimes producing a rainbow effect which can appear on the screen when there’s movement. Though most people don’t notice, these colors can be very irritating to those able to see it.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)
These models tend to offer better color saturation, project sharper images, use less energy than DLP projectors, and avoid the dreaded rainbow effect which plagues some DLP projectors. Although they perform better in rooms with bright light, these projectors are still excellent all-around performers.

Features

Many projectors now include features such as zoom lenses and lens shift in order to accommodate different screen sizes and room layouts.

Zoom Lens
This allows for making the projected image larger or smaller. A zoom lens offers flexibility but it somewhat lowers the projectors overall light output.

Lens Shift
This is the ability to move the projected image up, down, left, or right while the projector itself remains stationary. This allows you to adjust the image to fit the screen perfectly without needing to move the projector or the screen.

Connectivity
You’ll want to check the connections your primary devices use to ensure the connectivity of your equipment and the projectors you’re considering match up.

Most projectors have an analog VGA connector for linking to a computer as well as a composite video connection for video equipment. Some models have an HDMI connector for connecting to compatible video sources as well as other projectors with MHL-enabled ports for linking to Android devices.

While wireless connections aren’t the best for home theater, some projectors have WiFi connectivity through the use of a wireless dongle which fits in a USB port; this also opens up the possibility of connecting a thumb drive to access content.

Lamp Maintenance
The majority of projectors regularly used in home theaters, business conference rooms, and classrooms use lamps bulbs with a performance life ranging from 2000 to 4000 hours. While modern bulbs can last a very long time, it’s wise to set aside the $200-500 for replacing it at some point. New laser projectors have also been gaining popularity, replacing the traditional lamp with a laser to create light necessary for image projection. Despite their high cost, these new laser projectors offer obvious benefits.

Terminology

Aspect Ratio
Aspect ratio refers to the rectangular shape of the projected image; for example, the HDTV standard is 16:9 so there are 16 units of width for every nine units of height. Most people choose a 16:9 projector for home theater, while some choose 4:3 if they primarily enjoy watching classic films and TV shows or for use in business applications. Since no single projector can fit every format, it’s best to pick a projector which will work with the majority of content you’re watching.

Resolution
Native resolution refers to the number of pixels the projector has to create an image; the more it has, the higher the resolution; the higher the resolution, the more expensive the projector will typically be. Resolutions are typically written as 720p or 1080p; alternately you may see it written as 1280x720.

Some newer projectors are able to handle 4K or UHD content but a projector with 1080p resolution will fit the needs of most buyers thank to their affordability and compatibility with most forms of media content.

Brightness
Along with the reflectivity (gain) of your screen, projector light output will have significant influence on the resulting image quality. Most projectors are measured in lumens which is the light energy produced by the projector.

Although the brightness of a projector is important, the actual lumens rating is less so; these ratings aren’t reliable for determining actual performance, and most modern projectors have sufficient brightness levels for your average applications.

Also take the time to consider the ambient light of the space you’re most likely to use the projector in. For example, a brighter projector will be needed for particularly bright rooms or spaces.

Contrast
Contrast refers to the difference between the brightest and the darkest parts of the projected image. The greater this difference is, the higher the contrast. A home theater projector requires a decent screen and excellent contrast since deep black levels and image details are crucial to good picture quality in dark rooms.

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