Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the new affordable price of home projectors, there’s barely a reason to visit the cinema anymore. For just under £1000, any film fan can set up a cinema-quality projection system at home in less than an hr. Add a few comfortable seats, an old-fashioned popcorn machine, and a surround-sound speaker setup (or a sound bar) and you’re ready for action!
Buying a new home theater system can be an intimidating experience. With so much information out there, how do you know what features you actually need? How do you choose between brands and models? And once you’ve made your decision, how do you make sure you get exactly what you want? At the end of the day, buying a home theater system should be fun and easy. That’s why we put together this buyer’s guide to help answer these questions and more. From choosing the right screen size to understanding speaker placement, we’ll cover everything you need to know about getting set up for watching movies and TV shows in style. Here’s how to choose the Best Smart Projector.
|BEST OVERALL 4K PROJECTOR: Horizon Pro 4K Projector Editor's Rating: 9.7 Brand: XGIMI Check Price|
|BEST BUDGET PROJECTOR: Solar Portable 1080p Projector Editor's Rating: 9.5 Brand: NEBULA Check Price|
|BEST VALUE FOR THE MONEY PROJECTOR: HT2150ST 1080P Short Throw Projector Editor's Rating: 9.2 Brand: BenQ Check Price|
|BEST SPLURGE PROJECTOR: VW325ES 4K HDR Home Theater Projector Editor's Rating: 9.1 Brand: Sony Check Price|
|BEST SMART LASER PROJECTOR: EpiqVision Mini EF12 Smart Streaming Laser Projector Editor's Rating: 9 Brand: Epson Check Price|
|BEST PORTABLE 1080P PROJECTOR: Halo True 1080p Portable Projector Editor's Rating: 8.9 Brand: XGIMI Check Price|
|BEST PALMTOP PROJECTOR: Luma 350 Portable Smart Projector Editor's Rating: 8.8 Brand: KODAK Check Price|
|BEST OUTDOOR-FRIENDLY PROJECTOR: GT780 Short Throw Projector Editor's Rating: 8.6 Brand: Optoma Check Price|
- Best Smart Projector – Buyer’s Guide Best Picks
- BEST OVERALL 4K PROJECTOR: Horizon Pro 4K Projector
- BEST BUDGET PROJECTOR: Solar Portable 1080p Projector
- BEST VALUE FOR THE MONEY PROJECTOR: HT2150ST 1080P Short Throw Projector
- BEST SPLURGE PROJECTOR: VW325ES 4K HDR Home Theater Projector
- BEST SMART LASER PROJECTOR: EpiqVision Mini EF12 Smart Streaming Laser Projector
- BEST PORTABLE 1080P PROJECTOR: Halo True 1080p Portable Projector
- BEST PALMTOP PROJECTOR: Luma 350 Portable Smart Projector
- BEST OUTDOOR-FRIENDLY PROJECTOR: GT780 Short Throw Projector
- How to choose a projector
Best Smart Projector – Buyer’s Guide Best Picks
XGIMI's new Horizon Pro 4K projector is loaded with features and performance specs that make it one of the best options around. Its 4K resolution means crisp images across any size display. And thanks to the included wireless remote control, you can easily navigate through menus and adjust settings without having to get out of your seat. But what really sets the Horizon apart is the stellar image quality it produces. With a native contrast ratio of 10,000:1, the Horizon Pro 4K delivers crystal-clear images no matter where you place it in your home theater setup. Plus, it offers a slew of connectivity options so you'll be able to stream movies and TV shows from just about anywhere.
Some product details
- Intelligent Screen Adaption Technology: ±40 Degrees Auto Keystone Correction (Horizontal & Vertical), Auto Screen Alignment, Auto Focus, and Obstacle Avoidance. Super-fast setup and incredible ease of use
- True 4K Technology: 3840 x 2160 Pixels Standard Resolution with 8.29 million pixels and ultra-bright 2200 ANSI lumens
- Advanced Image Engine: X-VUE 2.0 Image Engine, 60Hz MEMC super-smooth motion compensation. Also packed with HDR10 x HLG lifelike color format and AI Brightness Adjustment
- Beautiful 4K resolution
- Excellent picture quality and clearness, even on big screens.
- Impressive 16W Harmon Kardon speakers
- Maximum 300” screen size
- Sleek, compact design
- Reasonably priced
- Mediocre HD upscaling
- No internal battery
- Some spotty streaming support
The Solar Portable is a good choice if you're looking for a small, affordable projector that can handle multiple inputs and project images up to 120" across. It offers great performance for its price and includes a number of useful extras, such as 3-hour battery life, a retractable stand, and a Smart Platform.
Some product details
- Easy to Adjust: Leave that heavy tripod at home. Use Solar Portable 1080p projector’s built-in stand to adjust the angle of projection by up to 13 degrees.
- Unforgettable Audio: Hear every whisper, explosion, and song in incredible clarity with Dolby Digital Plus and the dual 3W speakers. The sound is so powerful and clear that you can even use Solar as a portable Bluetooth speaker.
- Entertainment Tailored to You: Choose from more than 5,000 apps with Android TV 9, including favorites like YouTube, Hulu, and more. You can even mirror content from your smartphone or other devices to Solar Portable 1080p projector.
- Balanced picture
- Compact and portable design
- For its size, solid sound quality
- Three-hour battery life
- Great smart platform
- Retractable, adjustable stand
- Not as bright as similar models
- Fan can be loud
BenQ’s awkwardly titled HT2150ST is marketed as a home theater PC for games. But it’s also a solid choice for watching movies, playing music, and doing homework. Its short-throw lens projects images onto a wall only 12 feet away, so you can enjoy a big screen without having to sit uncomfortably close. And the built-in stereo speakers are surprisingly powerful for such a compact device. We liked how easy it was to set up. Just plug it into your TV, connect the HDMI cable, and run through a couple of simple setup steps. Once everything’s connected, you can start enjoying high-quality video and audio without worrying about cables or wires.
Some product details
- LOW INPUT LAG: The specialized low input lag and unique game modes ensure gamers an ultra-smooth and comprehensive gaming experience
- INDUSTRY LEADING WARRANTY : 3-year limited parts and labor coverage makes you rest easy that our us-based customer service team is here when you need it
- AWARD WINNING PROJECTOR - Best Overall - Best Projectors for Gaming 2019 - IGN
- A short-throwing lens means a large image in small spaces.
- For the price, solid colors and high contrasts
- Built-in 10W speakers
- Easy setup
- Included soft carry case
- Low input lag is great for playing games.
- No HDR support
- Maximum output limited to 1080p resolution
- Only suitable for dark/dim rooms
If you're shopping for the very best projectors and money is no obstacle, Sony's $5,500 VW325ES 4K HDR is our top pick. Although that sky-high cost is twice, three times, or even five times as much as the rest, we argue that it's well worth the money. In addition to offering the highest resolution, brightest picture, and deepest blacks of any 4K HDR projection system we've ever tested, the VW325ES delivers an exceptional contrast ratio that beats out "ordinary" LCD and DLP displays. And because it utilizes proprietary SXRD technology, the VW325ES boasts a contrast ratio that's far superior to both ordinary LCD and DLP models. If you've spent big bucks on movie theater tickets before, you know how important great picture clarity can be. For those who haven't, the VW325ES stunning picture performance should convince you to take the plunge.
Some product details
- TRILUMINOS Display for wider array of rich colors
- High brightness of 1,500 Lumens
- Full Native 4K resolution on 3 SXRD imagers: 4096 x 2160 pixels each
- Stunning image quality
- Deep, rich blacks
- Full 4K resolution
- Anamorphic wide-lens compatible
- Motorized lenses provide a wide variety of zoom and shift settings.
- Mediocre brightness (1,500 lumens)
- Premium price tag
Epson manages to cram an amazing 3LCD projection system inside the compact EpiqVision Mini EF 12 – an ultra-portable projector that can project images up to 150 inches diagonal at full 1080p high definition. The device provides surprisingly good pictures, thanks to its deep black levels and shadows, even though it’ll fit easily on a desk or tabletop. And for sound, it has two built-in stereo speakers that deliver acceptable audio quality.
An incredible value at under $1000, it offers better performance than most portable projectors in this price bracket. However, it’s missing one key feature – an internal battery. While that might not matter much to most people, it could make it harder to take your projector around with you. Also, it doesn’t support popular streaming services like Netflix, so if those are important to you, you may want to consider something else instead. Otherwise, it’s got good performance, great picture quality, and excellent build quality.
Some product details
- 8Auto Picture Skew and Focus Correction — Depending upon how you orient the projector to the wall, the projector will analyze the projected image and correct the geometry, while automatically focusing the picture for a beautiful viewing experience.
- Sound by Yamaha — Custom-designed audiophile speaker system offers a powerful and emotional performance that rivals soundbars; connect via Bluetooth to use as standalone speaker.
- Elegant Compact Design — Designed with simplicity in mind, the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 Streaming Laser Projector has a clean, compact and modern design to beautifully fit within any décor.
- Dark rich blacks and deep shadows
- Decent speakers
- Compact size
- Long-lasting laser
- No internal battery
- Lacks most common apps
- Lackluster color representation
Like every movie screen in XGIMI's lineup, the Halo comes with a sleek, metal body that instantly feels more premium than its $700 price tag should permit. At about six inches cubed and weighing only three and a half pounds, it's extremely portable, making it an ideal choice for anyone who enjoys watching films inside and outside or occasionally setting up their home theater in various locations. The 800-luminous LED light isn't the brightest on this list; however, we did find it to be more than sufficient in our own testing. We also experienced the occasional software glitch (apps not syncing properly or the remote lagging) but nothing that a reboot couldn't remedy. For the money, there aren't any better portable projectors.
Some product details
- Android Tv: Access 5000+ apps via Google Play, including YouTube, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney +, HBO Max, and more! Please note that our product does not stream the native Netflix app.
- Automatic Keystone Correction: ±40 automatic vertical and manual horizontal keystone correction and autofocus ensures a clear picture, hassle-free.
- 10W Harman Kardon Sound: Dual 5W Harman Kardon speakers provide sound quality. Users can also wirelessly connect soundbars and Bluetooth headphones.
- Bright picture
- It sounds decent for its size.
- Surprisingly portable
- Maximum 200-inch image size
- Onboard Harmon Kardon speakers
- Software occasionally buggy
- Indecisive autofocus
- A two-hour charge isn't adequate for long movies.
Not every movie requires a big screen. For those who travel often, a portable smart projector can be a great solution. With a compact design, it's easy to take along and set up anywhere. And, because it doesn't require any external power source, you won't have to worry about running out of juice halfway through a presentation. However, the lack of advanced features means that it may not be suitable for hardcore film fans. If you're looking for something with better picture quality, we recommend checking out our list of the top 10 best home theaters.
Some product details
- For an enhanced experience, update your projector to the most recent firmware on the Kodak Photo Plus website. Note: Copyrighted content from Hulu, Netflix, and similar services CAN NOT be mirrored or screencast. Download and use the apps directly through Apollo to view copyrighted content from these providers. Chromecast is not supported. Mirroring and screencast can be used to display non-copyrighted content downloaded on an external device.
- THE PREMIER CHOICE FOR DLP PROJECTION | Portable Smart Projector Utilizes Breakthrough Digital Light Processing Technology to Render HD Video & Imaging w/ Stunning Color, Clarity &LED-Lumen Brightness | Massive Displays Up to 150” | Use With the iOS Luma 350 App for Intuitive Wireless Access
- ADVANCED ANDROID 6.0 & iOS INTERFACE | Download Apps, Browse the Internet & Access Other Exciting Content Directly on the Projector | Device Features Easy-to-Use Light-Up Touch Controls, Manual Focus, Audio Output & Remote Control |Connect your Android or use the iOS Luma App for Even More Options
- Compact, lightweight design
- A decent sized image for most casual viewing.
- Above-average picture quality
- Remote included
- Mediocre movie watching
- Some popular video platforms aren't supported by YouTube TV.
- Occasionally buggy software
Most projectors fall far short of their advertised specifications. For example, the Philips DLP6500U offers an impressive 6,500 lumens, yet we found it was barely adequate for watching movies outdoors during the day. The Optoma GT780 is no exception; it boasts a respectable 3,800 lumens, but that won’t cut it if you’re trying to watch movies outside during daylight hours. Fortunately, it does come with a high-quality lens that reduces glare and produces sharp images. And, unlike many projectors, it doesn’t require an external power source. That said, the GT780 comes with a number of limitations, including small screen size and low native resolution. But, for those who aren’t bothered by these shortcomings, it’ll provide plenty of light for your home theater setup.
Some product details
- HDMI CONNECTIVITY: Connect to a variety of devices including laptops, Blu-ray players, Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick & other streaming devices.
- VERSATILE PROJECTION APPLICATIONS: Ideal for both outdoor or indoor use – bright image for summer backyard movie nights without having to wait till sunset; ideal for daytime movies indoors
- 15,000-HR LAMP LIFE: Enjoy up to 15,000 hours of lamp life enabling an average of 3 hours of viewing time every day 9+ years
- Eye-popping 3,800-lumen brightness
- Giant 300-inch maximum display size
- Easy setup
- Short throw is great for small spaces.
- Good built-in speakers
- Mediocre video resolution (720p)
- Replacing lightbulbs can be expensive
How to choose a projector
Most projectors aren’t cheap. However, you can reduce costs by honestly assessing your personal needs. Don’t purchase “more projection” than you need for casual viewers who occasionally like to watch Hulu while traveling. Parents searching to amuse their children in the basement playroom may require a slightly better choice. Gamers and athletes might appreciate an even more premium product. But, unless you’re a hardcore movie buff wanting to immerse yourself into a full 4k IMAX-quality experience at home, you likely won’t need to invest more than $2,500 on a home projection system.
Projectors come in various sizes and shapes, each one offering a unique set of features and benefits. For example, if you’re looking for a compact option, consider an ultraportable laptop. Or, if portability isn’t important to you, then opt for a large format display. On the other hand, if you’d rather save space, go for smaller screen size. Whatever your needs may be, we can help you find the right product for your home theater setup.
Measuring projection quality is similar to measuring fuel efficiency. It’s hard to get an accurate reading because it relies on so many variables, such as your personal preference for watches, projectors, and the type of screen you choose. To determine how bright a given display is, check the specs listed on the packaging or online. You can also try testing the display yourself by projecting a white image onto a wall or window. Be aware that the number of lumens (lumen being a unit of measurement for luminous flux) may vary depending on the size of the screen you select. A smaller screen will typically produce brighter images.
How We Tested
We test each projector by watching different kinds of video files – including still images, animated TV shows, the most over-the-top blockbusters, and the most mundane home videos – in a wide array of rooms and lighting conditions. We make note of how each model performs in a number of categories. Those include the smallest features (how easy the remote is to operate), essential technical specifications (luminance, resolution, color gamut, etc.), and other important factors to consider before purchasing. Every aspect is weighed to determine the very best overall model in each category.
What’s the difference between DLP and LCD projectors?
Home theater projector technology has evolved from three main types: DLP (Digital Light Processing), LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon), and LCoS (Liquid Crystal On Glass). Of these, DLP is the most common, the easiest to use, and tends to deliver the best picture quality for the price. However, LCD projector technology is becoming increasingly popular due to its portability, size, and affordability.
DLPs do have some downsides, but if you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to check out our reviews first.
If you’re looking for the very best quality, then a high-end projector (typically combining a 3LCD image system) delivers the best contrast and brightest images. However, they tend to be expensive and usually cost between £2,000 and £5,000.
Do I need optical zooming and/or a camera lens shift?
After considering these factors, you should then consider the room where you’re setting up the projectors, the type of screens available, the number of people who will be viewing the presentation, the number of speakers you may want to use, and whether you’ll be using a laptop or desktop computer.
With optical zoom, you can increase or decrease the size of the image on the screen without having to move the projection device. If you’re using an inexpensive digital projection system, however, this feature may not be available.
If space is really limited, you may want to consider a short-throw or ultra-short-throw projector, which can project big images onto your TV or computer monitor from extremely close ranges (as little as 10 cm) but at the expense of having an image that suffers more from geometric distortion.