Best Home Theater Projector

If you are looking to get that big screen home theater experience then a projector should be the choice for you. Many display full 1080p HDTV, have 3D capabilities, and they provide a better value for large screens of over 70 inches versus LED TVs or plasma televisions. These media projectors still work best in darker rooms with a special screen, but newer, brighter models also make them useful in sunlit rooms, outdoors, or on entire walls.

The image quality of each model varies depending on several factors including the technology used, resolution, brightness, contrast ratio, and the screen. You should be aware that to get the best performance you need to purchase a screen large enough to handle the image size you desire. Buyers should also note the lamp life of the projector they are looking at, because eventually they will have to buy a new one to replace it.

Below you will find our list of the top 10 best home theater projectors reviewed. We could have made up the entire list of units costing more than $3000, but we tried to choose models in several different price and performance ranges. If you need more advice or help check out our Home Theater Projector Buying Guide.


9.4
#1)

Sony VPL-VW350ES

If you are looking for a projector to deliver amazing Ultra HD 4K content then the $9998 Sony VPL-VW350ES might be just what you are looking for. It provides native 4096×2160 resolution with excellent overall picture quality and solid light output and black levels. The video processing and upscaling of 1080p content is second-to-none and it produces superior color accuracy. The VPL-VW350ES features a 2.06x zoom lens with vertical and horizontal lens shift, full 3D compatibility, “reality creation” detail enhancement, MotionFlow frame interpolation, and a 3-year warranty.

The biggest drawbacks to this Sony model are the pricetag and the current lack of 4K content. However, even upscaled 1080p content looks much better than that of a top tier HD projector, so if you want the best you can buy without having to upgrade until far into the future than the Sony VPL-VW350ES will provide years of viewing enjoyment.


9.3
#2)

JVC DLA-X700R

A slightly cheaper option for a 4K projector, yet still expensive at $5999, is the JVC DLA-X700R. While it can deliver a resolution of 3840 x 2160 for 2D content and 1920 x 1080 for 3D content, it is not a true 4K. Instead it uses what JVC calls e-shift 4K which uses 2 full HD resolution chips in sequence to obtain the 3840×2160 resolution. The best feature is in its superb contrast with super deep, dark blacks and brighter highlights. This makes for an outstanding overall picture quality, but it might take professional calibration to make it truly great. With only 1300 lumens of light output, it isn’t that bright which means you also need a dedicated low-light room and high quality screen to make the most of it. It is also whisper quiet and has a 3000 hour lamp life.

It is expensive, but overall while not a true 4K experience, the JVC DLA-X700R provides an image quality as good as any home theater projector you can buy.


9.2
#3)

Sony VPL-HW40ES

The best home theater projector you can buy under $2500 is the Sony VPL-HW40ES which sells for $2498. This 1080p model has many of the favorite features found on the more expensive Sony units and produces an image quality that will match or exceed anything in this price range. You can get 2000 hours of lamp life and 5000 in Eco mode, while outputting 1700 lumens. The 1.6x zoom lens can shift horizontally and vertically.

There really isn’t any major weakness to the Sony VPL-HW40ES, but there are some cheaper options if price is a concern for you.


9.2
#4)

Epson Home Cinema 5030UB

A very close second to the Sony VPL-HW40ES in the under $2500 price range is the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UB which costs around $2300. It delivers great HD images with excellent color accuracy and has plenty of light output with 2400 lumens. Some other features include motorized lens cover, vertical and horizontal lens shift, 4000 hour lamp life, and two pairs of 3D glasses.

Also available is the Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe for $2700 which lets you wirelessly stream full 1080p HD.


9
#5)

Epson Home Cinema 3500

Our pick for the best home theater projector under $1500 is the Epson Home Cinema 3500 which costs $1499. Out of the first 52 reviews on Amazon it only received two scores below a 5-star rating, and both of those were 4-stars. It boasts a very good 1080p image with an extremely bright 2500 lumens that works well even in rooms with ambient light. You also get a 1.6x zoom lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift and a lamp life of 3500 hours or 5000 hours in eco mode. It even has two 10 watt speakers, that while not great, are vastly superior to almost any other speakers built into a projector.

We highly recommend the Epson 3500 for those of you looking for a mid-range projector.


8.9
#6)

BenQ HT1085ST

If you need a short-throw projector that costs less than $1000 then you should take a look at the BenQ HT1085ST which sells for $929. With this short-throw unit you can get a screen size of 100 inches from less than 5 feet away. It also has horizontal keystone correction so you can correct the image if you have to place the projector off center. This 1080p model also has 2200 lumens, a 10000:1 contrast ratio, full 3d HD, and built-in 10 watt speaker.

The image quality is not quite as good as the models higher up on our list, but the BenQ HT1085ST still projects a very good image and many people rave about the 3D performance. Overall the HT1085ST is a great choice for anyone looking for an affordable home theater projector and needs the short-throw capabilities due to lack of space.


8.9
#7)

BenQ HT1075

The BenQ HT1075 provides virtually identical performance to the HT1085ST, just without the short-throw capabilities. However, it does have a 1.3x zoom lens with vertical lens shift and can project a screen size of 100 inches at less than 8 feet away. It also has an optional wireless kit you can buy separately which lets you stream full 1080p HD content. The lamp life will last 3500 hours in standard mode or 6000 hours in eco mode.


8.7
#8)

Optoma GT1080 Gaming Projector

If you are a gamer who is looking for a cheap gaming projector then you should check out the Optoma GT1080 which costs just $700. Designed specifically for gamers, this thing is small, lightweight and portable, and can project a 100 inch screen image only 3.5 feet away from the screen. It has full 3D 1080p, 2800 lumens, 25000:1 contrast ratio, up to 6500 hour lamp life, and a MHL enabled HDMI port. The best feature for gamers though is the less than 14 millisecond latency in gaming mode which means no delays in response times.


8.6
#9)

Optoma HD141X

If you need a budget home theater projector then consider the cheapest one on our list – the $575 Optoma HD141X. No the image quality won’t quite match up to more expensive models, but it still delivers a quality cinematic experience on screens up to 300 inches. It has full 1080p HD along with 3D compatibility, a 3000 lumen white light output, and a 20000:1 contrast ratio. The lamp life is impressive with up to 6500 hours of life.

On the downside the color light output is only 1000 lumens which can make colors seem dull or less vibrant. The color adjustments are also less than ideal which makes it difficult to get a perfect balance. You may also notice the “rainbow effect” from the DLP chip set. Buyers should be aware that it does not come with lens shift, so you will have to mount this unit centered up on the screen.

Even with a few negatives, we feel at this price point the Optoma HD141X in an incredible value.


8.5
#10)

Optoma HD26

The Optoma HD26 is very similar to the Optoma HD141X although it has a white case instead of black and costs a bit more at about $635. Compared to the HD141X the HD26 has a higher contrast ratio of 25000:1 and just a slightly better overall visual performance. Most of the other specs are the exact same.

We would really only recommend the Optoma HD26 over the HD141X if you really want a white case instead of a black one. We feel the difference in performance is too small to make a big difference so you might as well go with the cheaper unit.


Home Theater Projector Buying Guide

Purchasing a projector for your own home theater can be a very confusing experience. There are many different styles including portable and pocket-sized models with each designed for a specific setting like classrooms, the office, or home theaters. In this article we are reviewing projectors designed for use as home theater units. Here are some important things to consider when looking for a new home theater projector:

  • Technology – There are three main types used in front projectors: LCD, DLP, and LCOS. LCD essentially uses the same technology as flat panel TVs. They tend to be towards the lower end of the price range. DLP stands for digital light processing and uses small chips with millions of tiny mirrors. They handle motion better, but their black levels and contrast ratios tend to be lower than LCD and LCOS units. They also range greatly in quality and price. LCOS stands for liquid crystal on silicon and is somewhat of a hybrid of DLP and LCD. They provide the best contrast ratios and black levels, like what is found on Sony’s version of LCOS called SXRD. They are towards the upper end of quality and price.
  • Resolution and Aspect Ratio – The resolution is simply the number of pixels that a machine can display. We recommend getting a high-definition unit on which you will see 1920 x 1080 or 1080p. The 1920 means there are 1920 pixels in a horizontal row while the 1080 refers to the amount of pixels in a vertical column. The aspect ratio refers to the rectangular shape of a video image. Older TVs came in a 4:3 aspect ratio (4 units across and 3 units tall), while HD broadcasts are in 16:9.
  • Many movies are shot in a wider format such as 2.35 or 2.40:1. If you want to get that true cinema experience you might want a model that can display in that aspect ratio, just be aware that some projectors require another special anamorphic lens in order to display the wider formats which will cost more money.

  • Brightness – The brightness depends on two factors; the light output of the projector and the reflective properties of the screen you are using. Brighter does not necessarily mean a better image, but in a room with lots of ambient light you probably will need a model that puts out more than 2000 lumens. Many top of the line units are not that bright and are designed for use in a dark, controlled light setting such as a designated theater room with no windows.
  • Contrast Ratio – Contrast is the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black in an image. The greater the difference the better the image quality and the more contrast it is said to have. In home theater projectors contrast is probably the single most important measurable quality, however manufacturers can measure contrast in varying ways so be careful when just looking at specs of a certain model.
  • Installation, Throw Range & Lens Shift – How and where you install the projector in your room will impact the size of the overall image and where the image can be displayed. The throw range is the relationship between the projector’s distance from the screen and the size of the image. Some units require a large throw range to display a large image, but there are some that are specifically built with a short throw range that work well in a more cramped space.

    In order to help with flexibility and adjust the image many models now have zoom lenses and lens shift. A zoom lens can make the projected picture larger or smaller by adjusting the optics of the lens. This allows you to get the desired image size from a range of throw distances. For example a lens with a 1.20:1, or 1.2x zoom, means that the max image size is 1.2 times or 20% larger than the minimum image size that can be displayed. Lens shift is the ability to move the projected image up, down, left, or right, while the unit remains stationary. This gives you great flexibility in where you have to install your projector, because you won’t necessarily have to locate it in the center of your screen. Not all models come with lens shift and some only have horizontal or vertical capabilities.

  • Lamp Life – The lamp life refers to how many hours of operation the lamp has until it reaches its half-life at which point it will be half as bright as it was originally. Most models also come with an ECO mode which reduces brightness, but increases lamp life. Because a replacement lamp usually costs between $200 – $400, a longer lamp life means less expense in maintaining your projector. Depending on use, plan on having to replace the lamp about every other year.
  • Connectors / Cables – You might want multiple HDMI inputs on your machine to allow for multiple sources of video like your cable or satellite box, video game system, or Blu-ray player. Also keep in mind how far you will have to run your HDMI cables from the source to the projector.
  • Audio – Many newer projectors either do not come with any audio or it is of a poor quality. You will need to have a separate audio receiver and speakers or surround sound system to get quality sound.
  • Screen – Screens are another source of confusion. We do recommend that you get a screen, which could either be a fixed unit or a pull down screen, over just projecting on a flat wall. Some screens have better light characteristics or make a brighter image, while some can make the black level better or minimize the effect of ambient light.

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