Best projectors for living room: The Best Home Projector for a Living Room of 2023

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The Best Home Projector for a Living Room of 2023

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  1. Electronics
  2. Home theater


Geoffrey Morrison


Photo: Michael Murtaugh


We tested the Dangbei Mars Pro 4K laser projector and added it to the Competition section. We also updated What to look forward to with new projectors we plan to test.

While the price of big-screen TVs has fallen, front projection is still the most cost-effective way to enjoy your favorite movies and TV shows on a huge screen (100 inches or more)—but few people have a dedicated room for a true home theater projector.

If you’re looking for a projector that will work great in your living room, the Epson Home Cinema 3800 has the best combination of brightness, picture quality, and features. It has more light output than most similarly priced projectors do, yet it still offers great contrast to deliver a punchy, beautiful image.

  • Who this is for

    These are for people who want a big-screen movie experience at home, and plan to use the projector in a brighter room.

  • Price range

  • The specs

    We focused on projectors with high brightness, a better-than-1080p resolution, and support for high dynamic range video.

  • Objective testing

    We measured each projector’s contrast, brightness, and color accuracy using color and light meters and Calman software.

Read more

Our pick

Epson Home Cinema 3800

This projector combines high brightness with accurate color, great contrast, and good setup tools to fit in a variety of rooms.

Buying Options

$1,600* from Walmart

$1,600 from Amazon

$1,600 from Dell

*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,700.

The extremely bright Epson Home Cinema 3800 projector offers a clear step up in picture quality over budget 1080p projectors, and its native contrast ratio—the difference between the darkest and brightest parts of an image—is much higher than that of most projectors around the same price. It can’t compete with the best 4K home theater projectors in overall performance, but its high brightness makes it a better choice for use in a living room or family room where you can’t block out all the light. The Home Cinema 3800 also has accurate colors, producing lifelike greens, blues, reds, and everything in between. The image isn’t technically 4K and doesn’t look quite as sharp as what you can see from some competitors, but it’s still highly detailed. And this projector’s higher zoom (1.6x) and better lens shifting give you increased placement flexibility, which may matter more in a living room than in a dedicated theater room.

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who this is for
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick: Epson Home Cinema 3800
  • Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • Other good living-room projectors
  • What to look forward to
  • The competition

Why you should trust us

I’ve written about and reviewed projectors and TVs for 20 years for a variety of publications, including CNET, Home Theater magazine, and Sound & Vision magazine. I also wrote most of the early projector reviews for Wirecutter. I’m ISF and NIST trained, and I have my own test gear (including a spectroradiometer, luminance and illuminance meters, and test-pattern generators) to measure the accuracy of a projector. I’ve also used a projector as my main “TV” for over 15 years, so I understand what makes a good all-purpose living-room projector.

Who this is for

If you have the space and you’re looking to upgrade your entertainment system to get a more cinematic big-screen experience at home, but you don’t want to completely darken your room, a bright, living-room projector might be exactly what you need. Today’s projectors can offer significantly more light output than those from just a few years ago, which means they are no longer confined to basements or other dedicated theater rooms where you can completely control the amount of light.

The projectors in this guide deliver a step up in performance over the 1080p picks in our guide to the best budget projector for a home theater. They all have a better-than-1080p resolution (their makers call them 4K, but that’s debatable—which we’ll discuss) and support high dynamic range (HDR) video playback, just like the best TVs—and they’re often brighter than budget projectors (especially the smaller portable and pico-style models). They’re ideal for a mixed-use room, where you’ll watch, say, a movie on Saturday night and a football game on Sunday morning.

For those who want the absolute best, most theater-worthy performance—and have a fully light-controlled room—we recommend one of the options in our guide to the best 4K projector instead. High-end home theater projectors usually aren’t as bright overall, but they produce much deeper black levels and higher contrast ratios, both of which are evident in a dark room.

As bright as today’s living-room projectors can be, they still look better if you can minimize stray ambient light falling on the screen. Our picks below are bright enough that you can still see what’s going on if you have some light in the room, but the ability to lower the lights, draw curtains, or close blinds will improve the image quality. For instance, if you have a Super Bowl party, you can leave the room lights on so people aren’t tripping over one another, but you should still close the curtains. If you prefer to have more light in the room, you might consider buying a special ambient-light-rejecting (ALR) screen to mate with your living-room projector.

Other great projectors

How we picked and tested

In deciding what models to call in and test, we first compiled a list of newer projectors that could input a 4K signal, had HDR compatibility, and supported at least HDMI 2.0. We focused on the $1,000 to $3,000 price range, which covers the gap between our budget projector guide and our premium 4K projector guide. In this price range, most projectors have at least a greater-than-1080p resolution (more on this later). Since we were looking for projectors that didn’t need to be used in a dedicated home theater, we wanted at least a claimed 1,500 lumens of brightness, ideally more.

Using the above criteria, we called in contenders that had the features we wanted for a reasonable price. After adjusting their basic picture settings so that they would look their best, we checked their color and color-temperature accuracy using a spectroradiometer and Calman software, and we measured their contrast ratio using light meters. We then placed them side by side and connected them to the same source using a Monoprice video splitter. We watched a variety of 4K and HDR content on a 102-inch, 1.0-gain screen, blocking off one or two projectors at a time to see how they compared.

Arguably the most important attribute in judging picture quality is contrast ratio, which refers to how dark the darkest parts of the image are compared with how bright the brightest parts are. “Native” contrast ratio is what the projector’s image-creating chips and light source can do on their own, while “dynamic” contrast ratio is what the projector can do with the aid of an iris or lamp that automatically darkens the entire image for dark video content and brightens it for bright video content. Native is what you see at any given moment; dynamic is what’s possible across different scenes. Generally, native contrast is far more important. Dynamic contrast can, for example, help make black letterbox bars seem less noticeable during a dark scene, but the projector achieves this effect by making the entire image darker.

There’s no government-mandated way to measure contrast ratio, so manufacturers can generally make up whatever number they want on a spec sheet. This is why the measured numbers you see in our discussions below are much, much lower than what the manufacturers claim, as they would be with any projector measured in the real world.

I measured each projector in its most accurate picture mode, measuring its projection onto a 1.0-gain screen (luminance) as well as measuring directly at the lens itself (illuminance). I measured a full black image, and then with the same settings I measured a 100% white window (15% of the screen). I repeated these steps with different iris and lamp settings to get average native- and dynamic-contrast ratios.

I also tested each projector’s light output, aka brightness. I performed this test with each projector in its most accurate picture mode, since having a bright picture doesn’t mean much if it looks terrible. I also made note of how bright the projector could get for situations where maximum brightness is necessary. This typically meant using the projector’s Dynamic or Bright picture mode.

I also wanted to make sure the colors from each projector were accurate, per HDTV standards. We wanted reds looking red, greens looking green, and so on. A projector with accurate color looks far more realistic than one without. This aspect doesn’t have the top-line, headline-grabbing interest of brightness and contrast ratio, but it’s still very important. I measured each projector’s color with a spectroradiometer. All of our picks were quite good in this regard, at least in their accurate picture modes.

Additionally, I checked detail and noise using various test patterns and watching actual content. No projector in this price range is “true” 4K—as in, they don’t have imaging chips with 3840×2160 pixels. Instead, they rapidly shift the pixels they do have to produce multiple pixels on screen. This isn’t as big of a deal as it seems, and we’ll talk about it more in each pick’s discussion.

I also watched HDR content, though it’s important to note that projectors can’t display HDR as well as TVs can.

Lastly, I checked the projectors’ input lag, a test important to gamers as it determines how quickly pressing a button on a controller results in the action happening on screen. Any game that requires precise timing—be it a first-person shooter, a platformer, or a racing game—will be less annoying, and you’ll score better, on a display with low input lag.

One thing we didn’t factor into our decision was audio quality. Each projector we tested has built-in speakers, but they’re small and low powered. Since we assume these projectors are intended for a more elaborate setup than an occasional movie night, we think they’re best paired with a receiver and speakers or a soundbar.

Our pick: Epson Home Cinema 3800

Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Our pick

Epson Home Cinema 3800

This projector combines high brightness with accurate color, great contrast, and good setup tools to fit in a variety of rooms.

Buying Options

$1,600* from Walmart

$1,600 from Amazon

$1,600 from Dell

*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,700.

The Epson Home Cinema 3800’s combination of high brightness, great image quality, and good placement flexibility make it the best living-room projector for most people. Its exceptional brightness allows you to enjoy a massive image, a tremendously bright image, or some compromise between the two. Although the Home Cinema 3800 didn’t deliver the sharpest-looking picture in our tests, the image was still quite detailed. The projector offers low input lag for gaming, and it supports the HDR10 and HLG high dynamic range formats. The Home Cinema 3800 also has better setup tools than similarly priced competitors, as well as a built-in speaker and Bluetooth support to wirelessly send audio to an external sound system.

One of the Home Cinema 3800’s biggest strengths—and the main reason it works so well in a variety of rooms, even those without absolute light control—is its extreme brightness. In its most accurate picture mode, Cinema mode, the Home Cinema 3800 put out 57.44 foot-lamberts (196.8 nits) on a 102-inch, 1.0-gain screen. That translates to roughly 1,772 lumens. If you’re willing to forgo color and color-temperature accuracy, the Dynamic picture mode puts out a remarkable 93.4 fL (roughly 2,882 lumens). This isn’t the mode you’re likely to use most of the time, but it’ll do for watching the occasional midday sporting event in a well-lit room. For comparison, movie theaters are often 15 fL, and TVs from just a few years ago would have been considered bright if they were more than 50 fL (though modern HDR TVs are far, far brighter).

So, yeah, the Home Cinema 3800 is exceptionally bright—the brightest projector we tested in this group, and sometimes almost too bright (like, for watching movies at night in the dark). However, you can always lower the brightness. The Eco lamp mode, which is not only quieter but also better for lamp longevity, is roughly 30% darker. In this mode, the Home Cinema 3800 is the same brightness as the BenQ TK850i in its brightest mode and only slightly dimmer than the Optoma UHD35.

The Home Cinema 3800 has two HDMI inputs, plus a USB port that can power a streaming stick. You also get custom-installation-friendly connections such as an RS-232 port and a 12-volt trigger. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Different projector manufacturers use different technologies to produce an image. Pretty much all projectors priced under $2,000 use DLP or LCD technology. The Home Cinema 3800 was the only LCD projector in our test group; the others were all single-chip DLP designs. In this price range, LCD projectors generally have better contrast ratios than DLP projectors do, and the Home Cinema 3800 is no exception. (For further detail, read more about the difference between LCD and DLP technology.) Not only was the Home Cinema 3800’s contrast ratio the best of the projectors we tested for this guide, but it was better than that of nearly all the budget 1080p projectors I’ve tested, as well. I measured an average native contrast of 1456:1. That may not seem like a lot, but most less-expensive 1080p and 4K projectors have a contrast of less than 1000:1. This means the projector can produce deeper shadows while at the same time generating bright highlights, so the image has more depth and punch. Although none of the projectors we tested for this guide looked washed out, the other models’ images did look flatter than the Home Cinema 3800’s. Even the BenQ TK850i, which had the second-best contrast ratio in our test, measured about 30% lower in contrast ratio.

The Home Cinema 3800’s out-of-the-box color accuracy in its Cinema mode was also excellent, the best of the projectors we tested for this guide. The primary colors of blue and green were spot-on accurate, with red being only very slightly orange. The secondary colors of cyan, magenta, and orange were also accurate. The result was a very natural-looking image, whether I was looking at tomatoes, grass, or cloudless skies. According to our measurements, the Home Cinema 3800 also had an accurate color temperature, which indicates how cool (bluish) or warm (reddish) the overall image looks: Darker images were right on the D6500 standard, while brighter images were very slightly cool but not enough to be noticeable when we were watching actual content.

No projector shines bright enough, nor has the dynamic range, to do HDR the way it’s meant to be done. However, the Home Cinema 3800 does a decent job of converting an HDR image to something it can display correctly, without overly clipping any highlights that are too bright. There isn’t really any performance benefit to this, but unlike many less-expensive “HDR-capable” projectors, the Home Cinema 3800 doesn’t add noticeable processing artifacts that make an HDR image difficult to watch.

Epson’s remote is backlit and offers lots of buttons to take you directly to different inputs and picture adjustments. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Home Cinema 3800 is small enough to set on a coffee table and light enough to move around easily (though you can also put it in a ceiling mount). Lens shift of any kind is rare in this price range, so the presence of both horizontal (±24 degrees) and vertical (±60 degrees) lens shifting makes the Home Cinema 3800 practically a unicorn. This functionality, combined with the 1.6x zoom lens, gives you a wider range of placement options in comparison with the other projectors we tested, including putting the projector on a shelf or stand behind a couch.

Unlike some competitors, the Home Cinema 3800 doesn’t have any built-in video-streaming services, but it does have two HDMI 2.0 inputs and a USB connection that can output 2 amps of power, so it can run a streaming stick if you want to connect one directly. It also includes dual 10-watt speakers, an analog audio output, and Bluetooth support (with aptX).

If you’re a gamer, note that the Home Cinema 3800 had a low input lag of 28.4 milliseconds in our measurements. This means there’s less of a delay between when you press a button on a controller and when that action appears on screen. As far as projectors go, this is one of the lowest input-lag figures you can find.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Like most “4K” projectors in this price range, the Epson Home Cinema 3800 doesn’t have a true 3840×2160 resolution. Instead, Epson uses what it calls “4K Enhancement (1920 x 1080 x 2)” technology, which “shifts each pixel to achieve double Full HD resolution on screen.” There’s a bit of wordplay in that claim, since true 4K is actually quadruple the resolution of Full HD, not double. On the Home Cinema 3800, the result is an image that is unquestionably detailed but, when viewed side by side with images from the DLP projectors we tested, less sharp. This isn’t as big of a deal as it may seem, since the Home Cinema 3800’s improved contrast and color make for a better-looking image overall.

The lamp life isn’t as long as that of the other projectors in this guide. Epson rates it at 3,500 hours in its brightest mode and 5,000 hours in its dimmest (though still very bright) mode, Eco mode. If you watch four hours of video per night, for example, the Eco mode will give you over three years of viewing before you’d need to replace the lamp, which as of this writing costs $100. It’s less expensive than most projector lamps, so the fact that it doesn’t last as long isn’t a big concern.

Other good living-room projectors

If you want a 4K laser projector (and are willing to pay more to get it): The Optoma UHZ50 is a step up in picture quality from our pick, along with the commensurate step up in price. With two times the resolution of the Epson Home Cinema 3800, plus the inherently sharper image you get from 4K DLP technology, the detail is excellent. The laser+phosphor light engine produces a bright, colorful image. It also means you’ll never need to replace a lamp, and it allows for fast power-on and -off, more like a TV. The UHZ50 has 1.3x zoom and a small amount of vertical lens shift—but the Epson is still more flexible in these areas. Overall the UHZ50’s image quality is better, but not as much as the price implies. You can read more about it in my CNET review.

What to look forward to

There are several new living-room projectors that we plan to test:

BenQ has announced the TK860i, which is a lamp-based 4K projector with a claimed brightness of 3,300 lumens. It uses BenQ’s new HDR-PRO technology to improve contrast and HDR tone mapping, and it supports the HDR10+ format. The projector comes with an Android TV dongle and will cost $1,800 when it starts selling in June.

Epson’s Home Cinema 2350 is a smart, gaming-oriented projector with built-in Android TV, a 120 Hz refresh rate, and low input lag under 20 milliseconds. This model is a step down from our current top pick, the 3800; it uses the same PRO-UHD pixel-shifting technology for a better-than-1080p resolution but has a lower claimed light output of 2,800 lumens.

Optoma has introduced the UHD35x and short-throw UHD35STx. (The UHD35x replaces our former pick, the now-discontinued UHD35.) Both versions are 4K DLP projectors with a claimed light output of 3,600 lumens, a 240 Hz refresh rate, and low input lag of 4 milliseconds for 1080p video.

ViewSonic’s X2-4K short-throw projector is a 4K DLP model with an LED light source and a claimed brightness of 2,900 ANSI lumens. ViewSonic heralds this projector as being “designed for Xbox,” with Xbox-exclusive resolution and refresh-rate combinations, plus 4.2 ms input lag and a 240 Hz refresh rate for smoother gameplay. It is due out in July with a selling price of $1,600.

The competition

The Dangbei Mars Pro is a value-oriented 4K laser projector with built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and speakers and a supplied Android TV dongle. It’s a solid performer for the price: The image is sharp, bright, and clean; the form factor is smaller than average; and the fan noise is minimal. But in our tests, it was just average in its contrast ratio, black level, and color accuracy, and there are no advanced picture adjustments to fine-tune the image—not even color-temperature presets. While this model is highly affordable for a 4K laser projector, we’d still like to see more refinement for roughly $1,400.

We compared the LG HU70LA directly with our picks, and it was simply too dim and a little too expensive—but it’s still a very good projector. Like many other single-chip DLP projectors we’ve tested, the HU70LA has a contrast ratio that’s quite low. Its LEDs do let the HU70LA create far deeper, more vibrant colors than our picks can produce, so in our tests it almost held its own against the far brighter competition, especially with HDR content. It has streaming apps built in and even has an antenna connection (it’s the only projector we’ve seen with one). Overall, if you hate the idea of replacing a lamp or you want deeper colors than what’s possible with the other projectors we tested, you may want to check out the HU70LA.

We also tested the pricier LG HU810PW, which uses two lasers and a phosphor to create light. The result is a fairly quiet, bright projector with great color. However, the contrast ratio is well below average for a DLP projector. So with anything but fully bright scenes, the HU810PW looks washed out and flat. For a little less money, the Optoma UHZ50 4K laser projector (mentioned in the Other good living-room projectors section above) offers a better picture overall, though with slightly less zoom and lens-shift functionality. You can read more about it in my review at CNET.

The soon-to-be-discontinued BenQ TK850i was an above-average performer in our tests, but the Epson outperformed it in brightness, contrast, and color accuracy. The DLP-based TK850i looked far sharper than the Home Cinema 3800, especially with motion. The 850i is less convenient for most people, compared with the Epson, as it offers only ±30 degrees of vertical lens shift and 1.3x zoom.

The soon-to-be-discontinued BenQ HT3550i (which I tested independently from the work I did for this guide) is the home theater counterpart to the TK850i and has many similar features and specs. It offers excellent color (far deeper than that of the TK850i) but does so at the expense of light output, which makes it far dimmer. Color is great and important, but the other projectors here offer very good—and usually highly accurate—color while being much brighter for living-room use.

The Optoma UHD35 is a former pick that offered good brightness and detail, but had lower contrast and fewer setup tools than our top pick. It has been discontinued and replaced by the UHD35x, which we plan to test.

We did not test the Epson Home Cinema 3200, which is a cheaper sibling to the 3800 and has a similar design. It’s rated at 100 fewer lumens, which isn’t a big deal, but it has only 40% of the rated contrast ratio. Although manufacturer contrast-ratio numbers are never accurate, that much of a difference and the lower price imply that this projector doesn’t offer the image quality of the 3800. If you can’t afford the 3800 and don’t want a DLP projector, the 3200 is worth considering.

We also did not test the older and more expensive Epson Home Cinema 4010 because it uses HDMI 1.4 and is not as bright as the 3800 for living-room use.

We dismissed the ViewSonic X100-4K because its claimed brightness was below our minimum criterion of 1,500 ANSI lumens. Like the LG HU70LA, this DLP projector uses an LED light source instead of a traditional lamp, and it does not appear to be bright enough for living-room use. Plus, reviews we’ve seen say its overall performance is average at best.

This article was edited by Adrienne Maxwell and Grant Clauser.

Meet your guide

Geoffrey Morrison

Further reading

  • The Best Projectors

    by Wirecutter Staff

    We reviewed every type of projector to find the best projector to fit your needs, whether it’s for a home theater or a home office.

  • The Best Gear for Building Your Home Theater

    by Grant Clauser

    We researched and tested to find the best-looking and best-sounding home theater equipment that will take your personal setup from functional to enjoyable.

  • The Best 4K Projector

    by Adrienne Maxwell

    The Epson LS11000 4K laser projector delivers a big, beautiful image and has most of the features you need.

Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).

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  • Staff demographics
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How to Pick the Right Projector for Your Viewing Needs

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The Answer

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While the price of big-screen TVs has dropped a lot in recent years, a front projector is still the best value for someone who wants to enjoy their favorite movies and TV shows on a really large screen. But choosing the right projector from a crowded field of models that range in price from a couple hundred bucks to thousands of dollars can be a daunting task.

Different projectors are designed for different uses. And, even more so than for a TV, a projector’s performance is impacted by the room environment and the size and type of screen you pair with it. So before you shop, here are some key questions to ask yourself to help find the best projector for you.

What do you plan to use the projector for?

Are you looking for a projector primarily for watching movies or sports, playing games, or displaying business presentations? Many of the lowest-priced projectors are best suited for business uses such as PowerPoint or whiteboard presentations and company video chats. They can offer a decent amount of brightness and a variety of options for connecting to a computer, but their resolution may not be full HD (1920×1080 pixels) or be in the correct shape (16:9) for movie and TV watching. Most important, projectors designed for business use often have highly exaggerated colors that are meant to pop in a brightly lit conference room but don’t look natural with movies in a darker room, and they lack the video adjustments to make the image more accurate.

For movies, you should get at least a full HD projector that can reproduce all or most of the Rec 709 color gamut that’s used for HDTV and home video releases. Ideally, it includes a Cinema or Movie mode that comes close to reference standards, plus the controls you need to fine-tune the image for the best performance. If you’ve invested in a 4K Blu-ray player or other 4K source, be prepared to pay more for a projector with a 4K resolution and support for high dynamic range video, such as the JVC DLA-NX5.

For sports and gaming, ideally you should get a full or 4K HD model that’s very bright (2,500 lumens or more) and has a 120 Hz refresh rate, which results in less motion blur in fast-moving images. Gamers should look for a projector that offers very low input lag, which means less time between when something happens in the game and when you see it on your screen. Many home entertainment projectors now include a game mode with lower input lag; we recommend that the lag amount be 16 ms or less. We like the Viewsonic PX701-4K for sports and gaming.

If you’re less concerned about picture quality and just want a simple option for watching the occasional YouTube video or TV show, a portable mini projector like the Xgimi MoGo Pro can serve as a replacement for a modestly sized TV. Such projectors often have features that you won’t find in a traditional projector—like built-in streaming apps, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth—but they can’t deliver the brightness, contrast, or color accuracy of their larger siblings (more on this below). Plus, they’re small, so you can move them around or take them to a friend’s house.

What type of room will you use the projector in?

This question is particularly important for movie enthusiasts because it affects how much you should spend on a projector. Do you have a dedicated theater room in which you can fully block out extraneous light, or do you watch movies only at night with the lights off? Do you want to have a truly cinematic big-screen experience and see all the finest details in your favorite dark, moody thriller? If so, it may be worth paying more to get a higher-end home theater projector that can deliver an image with truly deep, dark black levels and an especially high contrast ratio that results in a richer, more engaging picture. These projectors often use higher-quality lens systems that allow for better contrast and crisper images, but they’re also bigger and heavier—so you’ll likely want to place them permanently in a projector mount attached to the wall or ceiling, as opposed to setting them on a table or shelf.

If movie night usually takes place with a few room lights on (even if they’re dimmed), or you’re looking for a projector for a living room or den that will also serve to display movies, TV shows, and sports during the day, the black-level performance becomes less critical and the projector’s brightness matters more. You can find good living-room projectors and budget home theater projectors that may not deliver that nth degree of performance but can still produce a big, bright image with respectable color accuracy. These projectors are usually smaller and lighter than dedicated home theater projectors, so you can move them around easily, and they have built-in speakers so you don’t have to add an external sound system (though you’ll probably want to because their speakers seldom sound good).

Another thing to consider is the size of your room. Traditional projectors need a lot of space to cast a large image. Generally speaking, to cast a 100-inch image, you need at least 100 inches between the projector and screen. For a small room, you may need a projector with a short-throw lens, which allows it to cast a larger image from a shorter distance.

How big of a screen do you want?

The bigger the screen size, the more light output your projector needs to produce a well-saturated image. A projector’s brightness capability is usually listed in ANSI lumens, but keep in mind that manufacturers’ stated light specs can be misleading; in real-world use, projectors usually put out a lot less light, at least in the more accurate picture modes. We recommend at least 1,000 ANSI lumens for a 100-inch screen, which means to be safe you should look for a projector with a stated light output of around 2,000 lumens. (If we’re talking about a dedicated theater room projector, you can get away with a slightly lower number because you’ll probably be keeping the room completely dark.)

When you move into the realm of portable and mini/pico projectors, you can expect a big dropoff in lumens. This type of projector isn’t designed to deliver a true big-screen movie experience, and in most cases the smaller the projector, the less light it outputs. For our guide to the best portable mini projectors, we set a minimum requirement of 300 ANSI lumens, which allowed us to get a decently bright image at a 55-inch screen size in a room with moderate light. Even at that low number, a lot of the super-tiny pico projectors were disqualified since many of them come in under 200 lumens. (Many of them lack a full HD resolution, too—but that matters less at smaller screen sizes.) These little things are good for casual movie and TV watching, but keep your expectations in check.

We should add that your choice of screen material (and yes, you should use a screen) also matters here. Different materials have a different screen gain, which is the amount of light that the material reflects back at you. A 1.0-gain screen reflects back the same amount of light as a standard magnesium oxide white board. Higher gains reflect more light and can help make your projector-and-screen combo seem a little brighter, while lower gains reflect less light and can help improve black-level performance. If you plan to use a projector in a living room or den with minimal light control, consider an ambient-light-rejecting screen, which is specially designed to reject light from lamps and windows to help improve contrast in a brighter room, but keep in mind that those screens can cost a lot more and are generally available only through custom installers.

What special features do you need?

The final question to ask yourself: Are there any special features you need that may not come standard? Pretty much all home entertainment projectors now include at least one HDMI input to connect easily to media players, cable or satellite DVRs, and gaming consoles. If you plan to stream all your content, you can connect a streaming stick from Roku or Amazon via HDMI and not have to deal with connecting an extra set-top box.

Many projectors still include an RGB computer input, but analog connectors like component and composite inputs are becoming rare—so if you wish to connect an older, analog-only source device, make sure to specifically search for a model that has them.

If you need to supply power to a connected device such as a wireless HDMI receiver, many projectors now include a powered USB port for just such a purpose. And if you have a motorized screen, a 12-volt trigger allows you to automatically send raise or lower commands when the projector is turned off or on. This feature is common in higher-end projectors but less so in budget models.

As I mentioned above, dedicated home theater projectors seldom have a built-in speaker, as the expectation is that you’ll add a home-theater-worthy sound system, too. Many lower-priced projectors, including all of the picks in our budget home theater projector guide, have internal speakers that sound mediocre at best; you’ll probably want to incorporate some type of external speaker. Sadly, few traditional projectors offer built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to send audio to a tabletop speaker, but most of them have a 3.5 mm audio output—so you can connect a tabletop speaker via a cable, or you could buy a cheap Bluetooth transmitter to send the audio wirelessly to a better sound system.

When it comes to features, there’s no beating a portable entertainment projector like the Xgimi MoGo Pro. It has almost everything you need built in: streaming apps like Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, battery power, and a better-sounding internal speaker than on many traditional budget projectors. If you’re willing to sacrifice screen size to get an easy-to-use, all-in-one model, this projector may be the way to go.

We hope these questions and answers will assist you in narrowing down your options. If you still have questions, drop them in the comments section, and we’ll try to help.

  • If you want the best AV presentation of your favorite films, we recommend 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and our new pick for the best Blu-ray player.

    The Best 4K Blu-ray Player 

  • The Epson Home Cinema 3800’s combination of high brightness, great picture quality, and convenient setup tools make it our favorite living-room projector.

    The Best Home Projector for a Living Room 

  • The BenQ HT2060’s good contrast, bright output, and impressive color accuracy make it our pick for the best budget home theater projector.

    The Best Budget Projector for a Home Theater 

  • A portable mini projector won’t perform as well as a good TV or home-theater projector, but Xgimi’s MoGo 2 Series ably blends performance and convenience.

    The Best Portable Mini Projector 

  • We spent 90 hours building, painting, testing, and comparing video projector screens to find the best image quality for the best value. Here’s what we found.

    The Best Projector Screen (for Most People) 

  • If you want to send HDMI signals wirelessly instead of through cables, the Nyrius Aries Home+ performs reliably and has more features than the competition.

    The Best Wireless HDMI Video Transmitter 

Further reading

  • The Best Projectors

    by Wirecutter Staff

    We reviewed every type of projector to find the best projector to fit your needs, whether it’s for a home theater or a home office.

Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).

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KP top 10 rating

The projector is the backbone of the home theater. And, with all the respect of the mass user to modern LCD and OLED TVs, they cannot become a full-fledged replacement for the projection picture. What’s more, the best projectors in 2023 may even be better value-for-money than their on-screen brethren. Seductive, isn’t it? But there are many nuances, says Petr Krivilov, iCinema shop expert.

– Before running to the store for a new or even the first projector, you need to decide: for what purpose you are purchasing it, how often it will be used and what signal source you will connect it to. And only after you give yourself the answers to these questions, it makes sense to decide on the brand, model and budget for the purchase.

Top 10 rating according to KP


XGIMI h3. Photo: XGIMI

A very advanced LED projector that can surprise the viewer with its picture quality. The projector is capable of delivering a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, the device is capable of creating an image on surfaces with a diagonal of up to 8.8 m. An LED matrix is ​​used as a light source, which has many advantages compared to conventional solutions. There is no need to worry about the life of the lamps, and due to the reduced focal length, the projector can simply be placed in front of you and used as a replacement for a monitor. In addition, h3 produces a very bright and contrasting picture. There are built-in speakers, and Android, and even an autofocus system. There was no fly in the ointment in a barrel of honey. So, the projector did not receive an optical zoom of the picture and has small flaws in the firmware.

Pros and cons

Well proven LED model, good picture

No optical zoom

LG CineBeam HU80KSW

LG CineBeam HU80KSW. Photo: LG

One of the most advanced projector models from the Korean manufacturer, which is designed to bring the experience of using this class of devices closer to modern flagship smart TVs. The actual resolution given by CineBeam HU80KSW is 4K standard. The so-called hybrid Laser-LED acts as a light source in the projector. This allows the device to balance between a good image and a reasonable price. LG HU80KSW also has an original appearance: an elongated parallelepiped made of white matte plastic with a metal carrying handle, thanks to which the projector can be placed horizontally or vertically, mounted to a wall or ceiling. In addition to all this, there is also one of the most user-friendly smart modes for the projector, based on LG’s proprietary webOS system.

Pros and cons

4K resolution, one of the best smart system among competitors

High price, especially for the first projector

Unic GM60

Unic GM60. Photo: Unic

An ultra-affordable projector billed as a portable solution. Despite the use of an LED light source here, the resolution is modest by today’s standards – 800 x 400 pixels. The projector has a simple multimedia player that handles most video formats. The evaluation of such a device must be approached, looking back at its price. In principle, except for a noisy fan, there are no minuses.

Pros and cons

Cheaper for nothing, good build quality, built-in media player

Fan noise can be annoying, especially in silence

Epson EH-TW5650

Epson EH-TW5650. Photo: Epson

Epson as a representative of the usual projector manufacturers will be of interest to many. Epson’s proprietary UHE technology is used here as a light source. It is a projection lamp with increased brightness and efficiency in a small size and low power consumption. The downside is that its claimed resource ranges from 4500 to 7000 hours, which is several times less than that of lampless competitors. The picture quality here is very high, although the projector loves the dark. This device has proven itself well among gamers, who liked it with a good picture response. The disadvantages include the fact that the fan is quite noisy in the standard operating mode.

Pros and cons

Traditional projector manufacturer, well-established in Russia, excellent picture quality

The lamp has a limited life, increased noise from the cooling system

CINEMOOD ivi film cube

CINEMOOD ivi film cube. Photo: CINEMOOD

Russian design assembled by hard-working Chinese in Shenzhen. Not the cheapest device on the market has a very modest resolution – 640 x 480 pixels. LED is used as a light source with a declared resource of 20 thousand hours. The maximum projection diagonal is 3.8 m. But this is not the main thing in this device. Firstly, it is very light – only 300 g. Secondly, deep integration with the ivi online service is announced. Thirdly, there is a battery that provides Kinokubik 5 hours of battery life. There is even 32 GB of internal memory where the user can upload their data. But the buyer needs to be prepared for not the most debugged software and a mediocre picture.

Pros and cons

Real mobility: light weight and built-in battery, built-in memory

Overpriced, below average image quality

Viewsonic PA503W

Viewsonic PA503W. Photo: Viewsonic

Another projector from a manufacturer well known to Russians for monitors and other office equipment. The projector uses a lamp as a light source, the life of which ranges from 5,000 to 15,000 hours. With an actual resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, the PA503W is capable of displaying a picture diagonally from 0. 76 to 7.62 m. By the way, the projector is able to produce a bright image even in the presence of light in the room. This model even has an outdated VGA connector, which will be very popular with those who do not have the latest computer equipment. However, there is one “but”. Some users have encountered a defective lamp in this model, which causes the image to flicker. Such defects are recognized by Viewsonic as warranted and will be repaired free of charge.

Pros and cons

Relatively affordable price, compatible with old peripherals

There is a defective lamp

Acer H6517ABD

Acer H6517ABD. Photo: Acer

Projectors from Taiwanese Acer are well known to the Russian buyer, because they are very common in our country, especially in business and education. H6517ABD is well suited for domestic use as the basis of a home theater. The actual resolution of the projector is 1920 x 1080 pixels, while the device can create an image with a diagonal of 1. 06 to 7.62 m. There is also a special feature here – support for 3D content (using special glasses). Although the fashion for it has already subsided, but an additional opportunity will not be superfluous. By the way, the projector uses a P-VIP lamp as a light source, which provides increased brightness and a smooth, flicker-free glow throughout its entire service life. But after 5000-10000 hours of operation, it will require replacement. The disadvantages of the Acer H6517ABD are that the model lacks horizontal trapezoid correction, which hints at the low cost of this solution.

Pros and cons

Bright and clear picture, support for 3D content

Cannot correct horizontal keystone

BenQ W1720

BenQ W1720. Photo: BenQ

One of the most affordable 4K projectors on the market. There is also support for 3D and HDR10. A high-quality and bright picture is provided by the lamp, and it can be scaled up to a diagonal of 200 inches. The good sound of the built-in speakers can also be recorded as an advantage. But what I really don’t like is the lack of even a simple internal multimedia player (the USB port is used here for downloading new firmware) and a noticeable frame of gray pixels along the edge of the image.

Pros and cons

Inexpensive 4K player, excellent contrast picture

Gray pixel frame, not even a basic file player


Sony VPL-HW45ES. Photo: Sony

A Japanese projector made using proprietary SXRD imaging technology. At a considerable price, this device is not suitable for everyone. SXRD is a type of liquid crystal on silicon, which means it has a deeper black color and is more suitable for professional use. Resolution Sony VPL-HW45ES only 1920 x 1080 pixels, but interesting image smoothing algorithms are used here. Note that the projector has one of the quietest cooling systems in the class. But for some reason there is no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth in such an expensive device.

Pros and cons

SXRD technology gives excellent image, quiet operation

Not the widest functionality

Vivitek Qumi Q3 Plus

Vivitek Qumi Q3 Plus. Photo: Vivitek

A portable projector weighing 460 g can surprise with its capabilities. LED-baby is capable of producing a picture on a diagonal of 2.54 m with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. The device has many wired and wireless interfaces, and is also capable of playing multimedia files on its own. There is also built-in memory – as much as 8 GB. Moreover, Vivitek Qumi Q3 Plus gives good picture quality. The disadvantages of the projector include an inconvenient remote control and the inability to control the device without it.

Pros and cons

Lightweight and mobile, good image quality

Problems with control

How to choose a projector

Projectors as a class of devices for content consumption, although they do not break sales records, but arouse stable interest among buyers. After all, they have a number of advantages over modern TVs. But before a beginner in this topic, the question always arises – how to choose the best projector and not miscalculate? A few tips to help you not get lost in the world of this technique.

Size and mobility

There are many sizes of projectors on the market, but they can be roughly divided into two large groups. The first are truly mobile models weighing up to 2 kg. They are able to work in any room, they focus on wireless interfaces, and some have built-in memory and batteries. You have to pay for compactness with a picture. But heavier and larger projectors with various types of mounting are designed for stationary use.

Imaging technology and light source

There are currently two main approaches to projector design: three-matrix and single-matrix. The three-matrix uses three colors from the white spectrum, the one-matrix uses only one at a time, and the rest is cut off. This means insufficient brightness. In household projectors today, single-matrix DLP projectors and three-matrix LCD (3LCD) are common. In expensive models, there are three-matrix LCoS (Sony calls them SXRD) and three-matrix DLP. Single-matrix DLP features deep blacks, but in contrasting scenes, an unpleasant “rainbow effect” can occur. 3LCDs have high color brightness, but there is pixel misalignment. Three-matrix DLP projectors are completely devoid of most of the shortcomings of single-matrix counterparts. LCoS combines the benefits of 3LCD and DLP, but is very expensive.

A separate conversation – a light source. Now on the market there are lamps, LEDs, lasers and hybrid sources. Traditional mercury and xenon lamps combine relatively low cost and ease of replacement with high brightness, with an approximate maximum output life of 3,000 to 5,000 hours on average. Semiconductor (LED and laser) give pure colors, have a huge resource up to 20,000 hours and low power consumption. At the same time, lasers are more powerful and are used in premium models. Hybrid sources have appeared relatively recently, they simultaneously use a laser and an LED.


As with all digital technology, one of the main characteristics is the actual resolution. And it would seem that the higher it is, the better the detail of the picture that the projector produces. But don’t jump to conclusions. The reasons for such a seemingly paradoxical statement can be divided into those that relate to any digital technology, and those that apply only to projectors. So, to get real 4K on a device that supports this resolution, you need a video file with a resolution of 3840 (4096) x 2160 pixels. In addition, the projector itself or the signal source that spins the video must be able to cope with such a resolution. Speaking about the specifics of the projector resolution, it is worth noting such characteristics as the resolution of the optical path, the interpixel distance and the quality of the surface on which the image will be projected.

Brightness and Contrast

Brightness and contrast – these two properties are not least responsible for the final perception of the projector. The first parameter also depends on the diagonal of the screen – the larger it is, the less light is required per unit area. Keep in mind that the stronger the illumination of the room, the higher the brightness should be. In a small and dark room, 700 lumens will also look good, but for a large hall with many windows, at least 2000 lumens will be required.

A projector’s contrast ratio, to put it simply, is the ratio of its maximum white brightness to its minimum black brightness. Its ability to block the light of the lamp in the black areas of the image is implied. And the stronger this blocking, the black color becomes “deeper”. Low contrast turns black into dark gray.

rating of projectors in 2023 [TOP 10]