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 OLED TVs. 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 we review the top 10 best home theater projectors. We could have made up the entire list of units costing more than $1500, 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.
The picture it displays is quite stunning thanks to 4K detail and upscaling of 1080p source content, high contrast with HDR compatibility, and smooth motion due to advanced Motionflow technology. Other nice features include long-lasting 6000 hour lamp in Low mode, support for HDCP 2.2 standard, standard RF 3D compatibility, and flexible installation thanks to a 2.1x zoom and wide lens shift range.
The VPL-VW365ES has 1500 lumens of brightness which means it will work far better in dedicated theater rooms with no outside light. The biggest drawback is the shocking price, but that is what you will have to pay for true Ultra HD.
The bottom line is that if you want the best viewing experience for either 4K content or upscaled 1080p content regardless of price, then the Sony VPL-VW365ES is for you.
Other features include 2500 lumens of brightness, motorized lens with plenty of zoom and shift plus up to 10 memorized positions, support for HDCP 2.2, low lag for gaming, and 3D functionality.
Negatives of the 5040UB include its size – it is a bit on the large side – and its price which is much more than standard 1080p projectors. While it is not wireless you can get the wireless version – the 5040UBe for $3299.
We recommend that you should buy the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB if you want the best visual experience without spending a fortune on a true 4K projector.
Notable features include 1800 lumens, 1.6x manual lens zoom, extensive vertical and horizontal lens shift, 6000 hour lamp life in Low mode, 3D compatibility, low lag-time for gaming, and impressive 3 year warranty.
There are not any significant downsides to the VPL-HW45ES, although it will not work as well with lots of ambient light and there are also cheaper options available.
You should buy the Sony VPL-HW45ES if you want the best HD viewing experience and don’t use any 4K content, while also having a dedicated low light media room.
The Home Cinema 3100 provides full HD 1080p, 3D performance, large lens shift, 5000 hour lamp life in ECO mode, and MHL connectivity to display content from MHL enabled smartphones, tablets, and streaming devices.
Overall we would recommend the Epson Home Cinema 3100 for anyone looking for a solid home theater projector in the $1000 range since there are no major drawbacks.
On the downside the Home Cinema 1440 has no 3D, no lens shift – so you have to mount it perfectly centered on the screen, long lag time for gamers, and the lamp life is much less than other models at 4000 hours in ECO mode.
Overall we recommend the Epson Home Cinema 1440 for buyers who need a projector to use in well lit rooms. If you have a dedicated theater room with little to no outside light then there are better and cheaper options.
But the HT2150ST isn’t just for gaming, since we also rate it as the best home theater projector under $1000. This DLP projector has 2200 lumens, full 1080p HD resolution, 15000:1 contrast ratio, outstanding color balance, a lamp life of 7000 hours in ECO mode, and two 10 watt speakers that are surprisingly good.
There are two main negatives to the HT2150ST. First, the brightness is not uniform across the whole image. However, this is hardly noticeably during most movies or gaming. Also there is no lens shift, but since it is a short throw projector you can adjust the display easily by just moving the unit to a different spot.
Overall we highly recommend the BenQ HT2150ST for gaming and also for anyone who just wants a solid HD projector for under $1000.
The Epson 2040 has 2200 lumens, a 35000:1 contrast ratio, and a long lasting lamp of 7500 hours in the lowest setting.
On the downside there is no lens shift and the fan is a bit noisy at 37 dB when in the brightest setting. Also this model is not wireless, but you can buy the Epson Home Cinema 2045 which is wireless.
Overall the Epson Home Cinema 2040 is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a good home theater projector on a tight budget.
The HT2050 has 2200 lumens, a 15000:1 contrast ratio, 1080p resolution with 3D capabilities, 1.3x zoom lens, and a lamp life of 6000 hours in Eco mode. It has a 10% vertical lens shift that while helpful isn’t really that much.
One downside is that you might see a few rainbow artifacts due to the DLP technology, especially in black-and-white videos.
Overall we would not hesitate to recommend the BenQ HT2050 especially if users like the look of DLP projectors better than 3LCD projectors.
Features for the Optoma HD142X include 3000 lumens, a 23000:1 contrast ratio, full 1080p resolution, 3D, and the longest lamp life on our list at 8000 hours in the lowest setting.
Negatives include no lens shift and a 1.1x zoom lens which means you have to mount the projector far away to get a large screen size. Also everyone seems to have a different reaction to the DLP technology rainbow effect – some people can’t even see it, but for others the rainbow effect on the HD142X is quite noticeable.
The bottom line is that the Optoma HD142X is a great choice for anyone who wants the best cheap home theater projector, unless you know that the rainbow effect bothers you or you have a short media room that doesn’t have enough depth to get a large image size.
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.
Buyers should note that the Optoma GT1080 was first released in 2014, so it is getting a bit old and might be discontinued soon which means they will not be available once they are sold out.
Best Home Theater Projectors Comparison Chart
|Model||Rating||Price||Resolution||Technology||Lumens||Contrast Ratio||Standard Lamp
|Throw Ratio||3D||Lens Shift||Lens
|Sony VPL-VW365ES||9.5||$9,998||4k||SXRD||1500||100000:1||3500?||6000||1.38 – 2.82||Yes||Vertical +85%/- 80%; Horizontal +/- 31%||2.06x||No||26 dB||LMP-H220||$699|
|Epson Home Cinema 5040UB||9.4||$2,799||1080p w/ 4K enhancement||3LCD||2500||1000000:1||3500||5000||1.35 – 2.84||Yes||Vertical +/- 96.3%; Horizontal +/- 47.1%||2.1x||No||20 dB – 31 dB||V13H010l89||$299.99|
|Sony VPL-HW45ES||9.3||$1,798||1080p||SXRD||1800||60000:1||3500?||6000||1.36 – 2.16||Yes||Vertical +/- 71%; Horizontal +/- 25%||1.6x||No||21 dB – 28 dB||LMP-H210||$323.75|
|Epson Home Cinema 3100||9.1||$1,115.66||1080p||3LCD||2600||60000:1||3500||5000||1.32 – 2.15||Yes||Vertical +/- 60%; Horizontal +/- 24%||1.6x||No||24 dB – 35 dB||V13H010L85||$185.50|
|Epson Home Cinema 1440||9.0||$1,499.99||1080p||3LCD||4400||10000:1||3000||4000||1.38 – 2.28||No||No||1.65x||No||31 dB – 39 dB||ELPLP77||$149|
|BenQ HT2150ST Gaming Video Projector||9.0||$999||1080p||DLP||2200||15000:1||3500||7000||0.69 – 0.83||Yes||No||1.2x||No||27 dB – 29 dB||5J.JEE05.001||$255|
|Epson Home Cinema 2040||8.9||$631.45||1080p||3LCD||2200||35000:1||4000||7500||1.22 – 1.47||Yes||No||1.2x||No||29 dB – 37 dB||ELPLP88||$64.61|
|BenQ HT2050||8.9||$750||1080p||DLP||2200||15000:1||3500||6000||1.15 – 1.5||Yes||Vertical +10%||1.3x||No||27 dB – 29 dB||5J.JEE05.001||$255|
|Optoma HD142X||8.8||$549||1080p||DLP||3000||23000:1||5000||8000||1.48 – 1.62||Yes||No||1.1x||No||24 dB – ?||BL-FU195C||$167.50|
|Optoma GT1080 Gaming Projector||8.7||$699||1080p||DLP||2800||25000:1||5000||6500||.5 – 1||Yes||No||1x||No||26 dB – ?||BL-FP190E||$125|
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. At a minimum we recommend getting a full 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. Newer 4K or Ultra HD projectors are becoming available which display 3840 x 2160 pixels. However, you must have content that is also in 4K (like a 4K Blu-ray player) to take full advantage of that resolution.
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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