So you probably have a TV (or even two or three), but for your next entertainment upgrade have you thought about getting a home theater projector? The latest models have excellent color, high brightness, keystone correction and a top-notch contrast ratio, and you don’t need to spend over a grand to get one with good picture quality.
Although models with resolutions of 720p or less are still being sold, higher resolutions, from 1080p (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) and up are commonplace, and we’re seeing a wave of 4K versions over the past year or so, with horizontal resolutions of nearly 4,000 pixels. Plus, most home projectors offer a wide range of connection choices. With the way the state of the art is advancing, if your den or living room has the right characteristics, your next TV could well be a projector.
If you’re ready to level up your home theater, or you simply want to replace your existing projector with a more advanced model, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for everything you need to know about home theater projectors. When you’re ready to buy, check out or top picks, too.
5 Best Home Theater Projectors 2021:
When it comes to home electronics, our experts are especially looking for the sweet spot between value and performance. The Home Cinema 2150 nails it, delivering big, bold LCD picture quality and ample (if not quite cinema-grade) sound through its 10-watt speakers, all at a reasonable price.
Our experts found the Home Cinema 2150 especially easy to setup. The flexible lens shift makes it simple to adjust image size, which can get up to 11-feet wide, several times that of a typical flat-screen TV.
The only problem is you might have to rearrange the family room to come up with enough wall space. But from then on, movie night will never be the same.
- Easy set up
- Solid picture quality
- Good value
- Fan is a bit noisy
2. JVC DLA-NX5
JVC’s D-ILA devices are some of the best home cinema projectors in the business. They offer exceptionally good contrast handling, effortless smooth colour blending and the best black levels around. The N5 may be the baby of this famed native 4K family but it’s still an absolute belter.
Its bigger, pricier siblings are better and blacker but there’s easily enough shading skill and depth of darkness even here to produce an incredibly involving and three-dimensional feel whether at 4K or Full HD. What’s more, JVCs ongoing upgrades to its HDR capabilities just make that picture better and better as time goes on.
The motorised lens, simple menu system and excellent choice of usable preset picture modes make it surprisingly easy to set up. It might not compete with the others here for value but it’s the best performing projector on this list.
- Deep blacks
- Excellent HDR handling
- Brilliant colour control
- Add-on required for 3D
- No full-screen SD upscaling
If you want to experience insane refresh rates while gaming and theater-like quality in your living room at an affordable price, there is no better option than the Optoma UHD50X. With 4K resolution and astonishing color, the UHD50X takes your favorite films and TV shows and projects them in optimal 120-plus-inch glory (to a maximum of 302 inches).
With 3,400 lumens of brightness and a contrast ratio of up to 500,000:1 — plus support for HDR 10 and HLG — the UHD50X will take anything you throw at it and reproduce it with breathtaking clarity, especially games. PC gamers, in particular, will be treated to the UHD50X’s Enhanced Gaming Mode, which delivers a 240Hz refresh rate and low latency 16 milliseconds response time when playing at 1080p resolution. Playing at 4K isn’t too shabby either, with 60Hz refresh and 26 ms response time, allowing gamers to choose their priority — speed or gobsmacking resolution.
Two HDMI ports (HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 1.4), VGA, and optical connections mean that you’ll be able to easily connect the projector to everything under the sun, including older computers and modern streaming devices. It even has a USB power port, which provides juice for players and phones alike.
- Great picture quality for the price
- Fast image response time
- Noisier than most
Here we go – a true, native 4K projector, meaning the best picture quality outside of a proper movie theatre. In fact, this image actually looks better than some movie theatres we’ve visited in our time. Its color palette is more about realism and accuracy than pure, eye-catching saturation. There are no candy-bright hues here, thankfully. Just realistic skin tones and impressive shading.
In other ways, though, the VPL-VW550ES is a bit of a showboat. But then it is made by Sony, who has plenty to showboat about – its native 4K projectors are some of the best money can buy, and this model wears its heritage proudly on its sleeve. Justifiably so, we say.
Unlike some high-end models, it’s simple to set up and work, too, so you won’t need any rocket science qualifications to get it up and running. And once it’s on, you won’t want to shut it off.
- Realistic colors
- Impressive SD and HD upscaling
- Easy set-up and controls
- Nothing noteworthy
As the name implies, this top-performing home projector uses laser technology, instead of the standard lamp. The result is exceptionally crisp, bright picture quality, so much so that you can easily watch during the day.
The VAVA also differs from a lot of the competition in that it’s a short-throw laser projector, so it sits close up against the wall, instead of across the room. The built-in Harmon Kardon speaker adds impressive sound quality.
Our pros found the initial setup to be more complex than competitors and weren’t thrilled with the limited selection of apps. But you’ll likely look past those flaws if sleek design and a dazzling picture are your top concerns.
- Solid picture quality
- Exceptional sound
- Streamlined design
- High cost
- Complex set-up
Buying guide for home theater projectors
In the world of home theaters, 4K TVs get a lot of hype, but if you’re looking for a true cinematic experience, you should consider getting a home theater projector.
Home theater projectors have all the same bells and whistles as their TV counterparts, with one big difference: with a projector, you can easily watch your favorite shows and movies on a 100-inch (or larger) screen. The projector works with any content source, so you can enjoy everything from streaming video to video games on a giant screen, and all for less money than you’d spend on a 4K TV.
5 things to know about home theater projectors
Home theater projectors range in price from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, but you don’t need to spend that much to get a high-quality image. But what features do you need? What technology is best? How do you decode UHP, ANSI, LCoS, DLP and countless other abbreviations and acronyms?
- Lovely lumens: One of the most important specifications for projectors is “lumens,” which describes how much light a projector can create. This, in turn, determines how bright the image is and how big you can make it. There are a lot of problems with this spec.
- Laser, lamp or LED? Projectors create light and image separately. A light source creates the light, which is then focused on an image-creating chip. Modern projectors use one of three technologies as light sources: LEDs, lasers and UHP (ultra high pressure) lamps.
- Chip tech: After the UHP lamp/LED/laser creates the light, some kind of chip manipulates that light into an actual image. There are three technology types when it comes to projector chips: DLP, LCD and LCoS.
- Placement: Now that you’ve got the basic tech down, it’s worth considering where in your house you’re going to put the projector. That might limit which projectors you can buy, as some might not fit where you want them to.
- Don’t forget cables: Most new projectors have a USB connection that will let you power a streaming stick which plugs into an HDMI input.
Today’s projectors targeting a home theater or “cave” start at under $500 dollars for 720p resolution, and as low as $700 for 1080p projectors. Just four years ago one could not buy 1080p resolution home theater projectors for much under $2000. Note please that the least expensive home projectors are “crossover” projectors, their design based as a business portable. Despite their “upbringing,” some of those can do an admirable job for the amount spent, but they are home entertainment.