A projector is a powerful product that makes our everyday life brighter, more colorful and much easier. It has become an important part of business meetings, scientific conferences and family home evenings. Here are some tips to help you choose the best projector for your personal needs.
How to choose the best projector
1. Categories of projectors
There’s some difference between a projector for your home theatre or office. Of course, you can get a kind of universal projector that can cope with any task but still, you will find out that there is one function that it can do better than others.
So, the best thing you can do in this case is to make up the list of tasks your new projector will do more often. This will help you to single out the category that suits your needs best of all.
Home theatre projectors
Projectors that are designed for home theatres will create a movie theatre atmosphere in your house or apartment. They can simulate a dark environment like in the cinema, so it’s always better to set up such projector in the special room. Home theatre projectors have high image quality as well as the contrast ratio.
Besides, if you get a high-grade reflective screen then you’ll be able to enjoy movies even in a partially or fully lit rooms. Except for movies such projector is suitable for photo slideshows and video games.
Home theatre projectors also have cooling systems that make their work almost noiseless. The only drawback here is that such option makes projectors rather bulky and therefore not portable and sometimes not able to support inverted, i.e. upside-down, installation.
Looking for such projector, pay attention to lumen ratings. If there are more than 3000 lumens you might be shown a multimedia projector instead of a home-theatre one. The point is that some companies may sell restyled multimedia projectors in the category of home theatre products.
Another feature that may be a signal for being deceived is zoom that is shorter than 2x and VESA instead of HD video native resolutions, such as WUXGA or WXGA. Note that home theatre projectors also have the highest prices.
The best category for business purposes are data (multimedia) projectors. They are aimed at the presentations during meetings that are held not in a complete darkness but in a well-lit conference hall.
Business projectors are brighter than home theatre projectors (from 2500 to 4500 lumens) and are perfect for the display of static images such as graphs. As their zoom range is shorter than home theatre projectors have (1.2x to 1.5x), you should be more than just attentive when selecting one of such projectors. The point is that the screen size may be not always compatible with the projector’s throw ratio.
Most of the business projectors are portable (they weigh from 3 pounds) and easy to set up. What is more, they have many inputs, so you can easily connect them to the laptops or Blu-ray players. There is also an option of wireless projection what makes them comfortable in use.
Short throw projectors
This is a special category of multimedia projectors that are divided into the short throw and ultra-short throw. Short throw projectors aren’t usually provided with zoom lenses, while ultra-short throw projectors have a mirror onto which the image is projected first and only then it’s reflected on the screen. Ultra-short throw projectors are mounted to the wall very close to the screen (18 inches to 2 feet). As to the short throws projectors they are used in the classrooms together with digital whiteboards.
If the main demand is a compact size of projector then it’s better to pay attention at pico projectors. Such projector will fit into your purse of briefcase. It weighs up to 3 pounds, so if you often have business meetings and trips that require slideshows and presentations, such project will suit you perfectly.
Nevertheless, a pico projector isn’t for business only. That’s a great thing for movie nights in the backyard where you can spend a good time with your family and friends. As it’s a portable product you can also bring it to your friend’s house and watch a movie or a sports game right there.
Pocket-sized projectors have no cooling systems and use LED lamps. Their brightness range from 25 to 1500 ANSI lumens, and very often there’s lack of optical zoom. It means that their image size and quality can’t be compared with the home theatre projectors.
Projector’s resolution presupposes the total number of pixels that can be displayed. And remember the more pixels the resolution has the fewer chances you’ve got to face annoying squared images. What is more, the higher resolution a project has the closer it can be set up to the screen. Thus, most home theatre projectors have high resolution.
Still, the best thing here is to match the projector resolution to the resolution of the video source. For example, Blu-ray players support 1080p resolution while the image format of your laptop should coincide with projector’s format.
Standard formats with 4:3 aspect ratio are suitable for DVD-based films and TV episodes. SVGA (800×600) and XGA (1024×768) formats are good for PowerPoint presentations while SXGA+ (1400×1050) format is a nice option for photography and data graphics.
As to the widescreen format with 16:9 aspect ratio, it’s an option for HDTV and widescreen DVD/Blu-ray. Besides, its WXGA (1280×800) is suitable for devices with a widescreen output. And if you are looking for an immersive image and real movie theatre at home then you should have a look at the projectors that include cinemascope with 2.35:1 / 2.4:1 aspect ratio. But keep in mind that this one requires an anamorphic lens and a suitable screen.
3. Picture contrast
Another crucial factor that has a huge impact on picture quality is picture contrast, i.e. the difference between dark and bright parts of the image. The key issue here is that the higher contrast ration a projector can offer the more chances you have to define shadow details as well as white/black levels of the image.
The contrast ratio is especially important for home theatre projectors as they usually are placed in dark rooms, where contrast is much more noticeable than in light conference halls. By the way, some models are provided with several lamp settings to reduce brightness and increase contrast. 4K projectors with HDR capability are able to decode HDR-enhanced video sources (e.g. Ultra HD Blu-ray) and show the highest level of picture contrast.
Light output, or brightness, is measured in lumens and the higher number of lumens a projector has the brighter image it can produce. Note that there are two brightness measurements you should take into account when selecting a projector.
The first one is white brightness that shows the general amount of emitted white light without color measurement. The second one is color brightness that shows the brightness level of red, yellow and blue colors. Note that color brightness should be higher than white brightness because otherwise, the images can be dark and dull.
Furthermore, the size of the room is one of those factors you should always take into consideration when studying the brightness of your future projector. The point is that if you have a large room and it’s also well-lit then you will definitely need a projector with the greater number of lumens. Therefore, if you are buying a projector for business purpose high brightness is a must. As to the home theatres, high brightness isn’t so essential. This category of projectors usually has from 700 to 2500 lumens.
5. Throw ratio
This feature shows what width your image will have if you place a projector at this or that distance from the screen. It’s always important to calculate the throw ratio for projectors that are planned to be installed permanently. And if there are certain layout peculiarities that do not allow you to place the projector far enough from the screen then pay attention to the short throw projectors. This kind of projectors can be mounted very close to the screen.
6. Projector Technology
LCD (liquid crystal technology) is one of the main technologies used in projectors. Its key advantages include impressive color brightness and sharp images of detailed data graphs. Thanks to its brighter output LCD is relevant in well-lit rooms. Thus, most of the business projectors are provided with this technology. What is more, LCD is less noisy and has higher energy efficiency than DLP projectors.
As to DLP (digital light processing) projector technology, it provides high color contrast as well as a smooth motion for videos. It can create a movie-like image from HDTV, DVD or Blu-ray sources too. DLP-based projectors are very popular with pico models that are well-known for their light weight and compact size.
LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) projector technology is mostly provided in top-notch models. That’s a kind of combination of all pluses DLP and LCD projector technologies have, such as a smooth video, immersive colors and brightness. LCoS may include 3LCD reflective technology, in which light is reflected from a silicone-/quartz-backed LCD panel instead of micro mirrors.
7. Lens Zoom
Lens zoom is especially effective for portable projectors. This feature will help you to adjust the image size and get a desirable result. The point is that you can’t always choose or change the screen size as well as projector placement. In such case, lens zoom is a kind of secret weapon. Note that not all of the projectors are equipped with lens zoom.
8. Keystone correction and lens shift
Another feature that will help you to install your projector correctly is keystone correction. It presupposes correction of all distortions you face when trying to place a projector perpendicular to the screen. Keystone correction allows you to adjust the image digitally. Almost all modern projectors have this option.
As to the lens shift, it’s available mostly on high-grade home theatre projectors that are usually placed semi-permanently on the ceiling or wall. Unlike keystone correction, lens shift involves mechanical adjustment of the lens angle by shifting it up, down or sideways.
The screen is an integral part of any projector. Of course, you may use a white wall in your room but it won’t show you the desired effect. Projector screens make the image look brighter and smoother.
There are white and grey screens. White screens are usually paired together with business projectors as they have higher brightness level and that’s important for well-lit rooms, which often become the place for business meetings. Grey screens are popular with home theatre projectors. The point is that they are aimed at a high contrast level and this factor plays a crucial part for 3D images.
Except for this classification, there are four main categories of projector screens:
Motorized (electric) screens
This type of screens can move up and down just at the light touch of a button. They make the control process fast and easy. Note that’s really great for those screens that are placed out of reach.
Unlike motorized screens, these ones are permanently mounted on the wall and do not have any options of movement. So, if you’ve got enough space for the screen and it is a part of your interior design then a fixed screen is a good choice.
Manual (pull-down) screens
If you don’t want a projector screen to become an integral part of your room and there’s not enough space for it then pay attention to a manual screen. You can use this type of screens only when you need it. By the way, it’s one of the most popular screens for classrooms as they allow using the same space for whiteboards.
Portable (tripod-mounted) screens
This category of screens is relevant for those who have a portable projector and need a portable screen. Such tripod-mounted screen includes tripod legs or a built-in stand for support.
By the by, don’t forget to take into account a screen size. Before choosing a screen, remember to measure the ceiling height and decide what place will be the best for it.
10 Best Projectors in 2018
Best 1080p projector
This Full HD home theatre projector has advanced SXRD panel technology that is combined with Sony’s Super Resolution processing technology. Such combination results in a detailed image with subtle colours and textures.
Sony VPL-HW45ES has 1800 lumens, high contrast ratio and 6000 hours of lamp life. Although it’s more a home-theatre projector it can also show a nice performance in well-lit rooms for business purposes.
It is provided with MotionFlow technology, which guarantees minimal blur, and has the panel’s super-fast response rate. There is also a manual zoom lens with a 1.6x zoom ratio and wide lens shift range to make its installation a more flexible process.
- advanced SXRD panel technology
- Sony’s Super Resolution processing technology
- MotionFlow technology
- Manual zoom lens
- high picture quality
- built-in 3D
- no 3D glasses
- lamp life
Best LED projector under $500
This is an example of best budget projectors you can find on the market. Epson VS250 costs less than $300. It will be a good choice for everyday PowerPoint presentation of graphics and different kinds of data thanks to its SVGA resolution (800×600).
Epson VS250 has 3200 Lumens of color and white brightness. Besides, it includes 3LCD reflective technology what makes the image much brighter and more accurate. This cheap projector is well-compatible with all up-to-date devices and supports HDMI standard.
- 3LCD reflective technology
- bright and accurate image
- perfect for business use
- low resolution
- not durable
Best projector for gaming
Optoma HD142X is a powerful projector with 3000 ANSI lumens that provide bright colours. There’s also high contrast ratio what is great for the reproduction of REC.709 colour spectrum, the international standard for HDTV viewing.
Having Full HD this projector is suitable for gaming and watching Blu-ray movies without any compression or downscaling. Optoma HD 142X has extended lamp life of 8000 hours, so it’s a durable project that will last for more than 10 years.
It is also provided with a powerful 10W speaker that has a crisp sound. So, you won’t need to spend extra money on a high-quality speaker system. What is more, this 1080p projector has an option of MHL connectivity that allows you to turn it into a smart display.
- bright colors
- high contrast ration
- lamp life
- 10W speaker
- MHL connectivity
- Full-HD resolution
- light black levels
- internal speaker sound
- rainbow effect
Best TV projector
ViewSonic PJD7720HD is one of the best TV projectors. It is provided with 3200 lumens and has an advanced colour technology for the bright and sharp image.
Besides, it’s equipped with a built-in 10W speaker and its lamp life reaches up to 10000 hours. Even if one of the lamps breaks down you can exchange it during the first three months after your purchase.
There is also a unique PortAll option. It includes HDMI/MHL connection compartment and supports wireless HDMI dongles as well as MHL connectors. This ViewSonic projector is compatible with Windows, Mac, DVD/Blu-ray players, Amazon FireTV, AppleTV, etc.
- bright and sharp image
- built-in 10W speaker
- HDMI/MHL connectivity
- high compatibility
- loud fan
- no backlight on the remote
- no vertical lens shift
Nebula Mars Portable Cinema
Best portable projector
This example of the best mini projector has an impressive 19500 mAh battery and can work 3 hours non-stop. Thanks to its 3000 lumens all images have high-end contrast and brightness.
This pocket Nebula Mars is equipped with built-in JBL dual 10W speakers. Of course, you may look for the best home theatre speakers on the market to get an immersive sound experience but this speaker system is more than enough.
There is also a 3D display and an option of 4K format. In a word, this outdoor projector is great for watching movies at home as well as taking it to your friend’s party.
- compact and portable size
- impressive battery life
- bright images
- built-in JBL dual 10W speakers
- 3D display
- 4K format
- supports external speakers via Bluetooth
- poor Wi-Fi connection
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth don’t work at the same time
- doesn’t work with Google Play Store app or VLC player
LG MiniBeam PF1000U
Best Ultra Short Throw projector
LG MiniBeam PF1000U is a Full HD Ultra Short Throw projector that supports wireless connectivity using Wi-Fi. It is compatible with Android and Windows platforms and can be connected both with a tablet and a smartphone.
Besides, that’s one of the best TV projectors as you can enjoy webOS 3.0 Smart TV using Magic Remote, Magic Mobile Connection and Magic Zoom.
- compact and portable size
- great color balance
- remote control with pointer
- built-in TV tuner
- picture quality
- rainbow effect
- too sensitive to positioning
- noisy fan
- weak onboard speakers
Best 4K projector
This is a true 4K projector which has a top-notch contrast ratio and wide colour gamut. Its brightness equals 3000 lumens and there is Ultra detail technology for sharp images.
Optoma UHD60 is HDR-compatible. This 4K projector uses a single DLP chip system for perfect alignment. What is more, it’s provided with HDR10 to make black darker, whites more brilliant and colors deeper.
- 4K format
- high contrast ratio
- Ultra detail technology
- sharp image
- single DLP chip system for perfect alignment
- black levels
- purple hue in bright white images
- no keystone adjustment
- no 3D
Best projector under $1000
BenQ HT2150ST is one of the best projectors under $1000. It has 1080p Full HD image quality and 2200 ANSI lumens of brightness. Thanks to its DLP technology you won’t face such unpleasant processes as aging problems and image decay.
This projector will server as a true movie theatre at home. It is suitable for big screens and there is a built-in 10W speaker system that produces crisp and immersive sounds.
- DLP technology
- built-in10W speaker system
- bright and sharp picture
- accurate color
- good remote
- no 4K
- no lens shift
Best home projector
As well as the previous BenQ projector this Epson model supports 4K UHD content. Thus, you will be definitely satisfied with the image quality. There is also advanced 3-chip 3-LCD technology that guarantees smooth and sharp image at the same time.
Epson 5040UB has an option of 3D Drive that provides a bright 3D projection. Note that there is an equal number of color and white brightness – 2500 lumens.
- 4K format
- 3-chip 3-LCD technology
- smooth and sharp image
- black levels
- no 3D glasses
- HDMI cable length
Best home theatre projector
Another example of the best 4K projector for home is Acer H7850. It’s HDR and Rec.2020 compatible. Its image quality is boosted with Acer’s AcuMotion technology that adds more accuracy and sharpness to fast-moving scenes. This projector is also equipped with two speakers, 5W each.
By the by, Acer H7850 is very simple to install thanks to its 1.6x zoom with vertical lens shift. You can shift the image and bring its original size and format back even without using projector’s digital menu.
- 4K format
- Acer’s AcuMotion technology
- accurate and sharp image
- 10W speaker system
- 1.6x zoom with vertical lens shift
- easy installation
- compact size
- black levels
- Not HLG HDR/Dolby Vision compatible
In a word, there is a nice range of best projectors to choose from. Just remember to pay attention to the pre-cited features and options in order to make the right choice.