Home theater projectors have come a long way over the past few years. Today’s models can handle a wide variety of multimedia content—films, photos, documents, and games—with aplomb, and many can play music files as well.
Although models with resolutions of 720p or less are still being introduced, higher resolutions (from WXGA to FHD) are commonplace, and we’re even seeing a few 4K versions, with horizontal resolutions of nearly 4,000 pixels.
Most home theater 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.
We’ve got you covered. We’ve tested a number of the best beamers from this year, last year and, well, for the better part of the last decade and can now declare the definitive winners.
Keys of best home theater projectors
A good projector to drop into a home theater, not only has color optimized for movie viewing, but also should be able to produce very dark “blacks.” Those dark blacks are the key to dark scenes looking great.
However, it is important to remember that most people expect to be watching more things than just movies at home, including HDTV, sports and there are a lot of folks using projectors for gaming. What you watch, as well as your room conditions, will be a key factor in selecting your projector.
Home theater projectors vs. TVs
Aside from producing spectacular images, projectors are often a better value than enormous flat-panel TVs if you figure the cost per inch of screen. And because you’re projecting the image onto a wall or separate screen, there’s no glass involved. You’ll see no reflection or glare from the screen.
That said, most projector owners also have at least one TV. The projector experience is unbeatable for movies, sports, or any other viewing where you’re really focused on what’s happening on the screen. But if you just want to catch a few minutes of news before bedtime, firing up a projector rig can be a little inconvenient.
5 Best home theater projectors 2021:
1. BenQ TK850
The BenQ TK850 is a 4K projector for your living room, with boosted audio, intense 3,000 lumens brightness, and a focus on sports broadcasts to help it stand out from the piles of other projectors out there.
It’s not the first BenQ projector that’s caught our eye: we gave a glowing review to the BenQ HT3550 last year, even if that model is more angled towards die-hard cinephiles than the TK850.
But with its similar pricing, exceptional HDR, and the addition of a motion-smoothing and contrast-heightening Sports mode for those wanting to watch the football on a large projection, the TK850 make a strong argument as the best BenQ projector we’ve seen – especially as it amends HT3550’s biggest flaws by drastically upping the brightness, and adding a lens shift tool to elevate or lower the height of the projection.
The BenQ TK850 can output 3,000 lumens of brightness, making for vividly-realized colors and immediately visible detail, even in daytime or with some level of ambient light in the room. For that, it get a thumbs up from us.
There’s some video noise in gray shadows or dark scenes, and the lack of streaming apps may disappoint some, but overall the TK850 is a fantastic projector for your home.
- Support for 4K and HDR
- Incredibly bright picture
- No streaming apps
- Some fan noise
The Epson PowerLite 1781W Wireless WXGA 3LCD Projector is a powerhouse as a portable data projector, providing solid brightness and resolution in a thin and light frame.
In our testing, it showed very good data image quality, and great video image quality for a data projector.
It delivers higher brightness and a longer lamp life than the Epson PowerLite 1761W Multimedia Projector while retaining its stellar image quality, so it’s our new Editors’ choice ultra-light WXGA data projector.
The Epson 1781W is a well rounded, thin-and-light projector, with good brightness and resolution, very good data and video image quality, and a wide range of connectivity choices.
One of its few shortfalls is that as an LCD-based projector, it cannot project 3D content, which you can find in many portable WXGA data projectors such as the ViewSonic PJD6544w.
But that only matters if you need to project in 3D. For its winning combination of features and performance at a reasonable price, the Epson PowerLite 1781W Wireless WXGA 3LCD Projector is our latest Editors’ Choice ultra-light WXGA data projector.
- Slim and ultra-light
- Long lamp life for an LCD projector
- Very good data and video image quality
- Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity
- Can’t project 3D content
- Soft sound system
The Optoma HD143X displays outstanding performance for a projector under $600. If you’re looking for an excellent projector for a budget price, look no further. The Optoma HD143X is a worthy successor to the HD line of projectors from the company, and while it doesn’t do anything revolutionary, its minor improvements and longer lamp life should be enough to justify its budget-level cost of entry.
With 3,000 ANSI lumens of brightness to work with, the HD143X is perfect for anyone who wants to set up their home theater in a less-than-ideal space, like a living room with lots of open windows or near a screen-glass door.
At those lumen levels, the HD143X is still able to show off a crisp, clear picture that won’t be muddled out by ambient light during the day, and looks even better when you’re watching it during the dead of night.
It’s never going to match up to the pristine image quality of the BenQ HT3050 or the overall utility of its bigger brother, the HD28DSE, but that’s not what (or who) it’s made for.
The HD143X is the upstart home theater projector, for the consumer who may not be ready to go all in on their first setup but still wants the kind of quality and consistency that can be expected from such well-respected brands like Optoma.
- 8,000 hour lamp life
- Very bright in ambient light
- Quiet and cool in high-performance scenarios
- Doesn’t have much customization
- Onboard speaker is completely lacking in bass
4. BenQ HT2550
If you’re in the market for a projector, the BenQ HT2550 needs to be near the top of your list. With a beautiful 4K resolution, vivid 2,200-lumen brightness, and an HDR color palette, this model is a slam-dunk solution for any home theater, especially at its attainable price point.
Great picture quality is at the heart of the HT2550. The projector analyzes every image to provide an optimal balance between color accuracy and contrast. It also boasts automatic vertical keystone correction to true up the image when the projector is placed at less-than-optimal heights, and a 1.2x optical zoom helps you fit the picture to a screen.
Though the HT2550 isn’t designed to be portable, it is lightweight enough to do the job, should you want to put together pop-up viewing events, and a quick and easy setup process makes it equally agile if you plan on toting it between locations every so often.
Also, a well-backlit remote helps keep the projector easy to adjust in darkened rooms, and hotkeys help you deal with commonly needed adjustments quickly.
With a lamp that should last a solid 10,000 hours out of the box (15,000 in LampSave mode), the BenQ HT2550 should last through years of playback, and with an image quality this good, you won’t be thinking about an upgrade for a very long time.
- Short throw distance
- Attractive design
- Connects via multiple sources, including Wi-Fi
- Significant rainbow effect in video
- Somewhat dull colors in data images
- Low audio volume
One of the most feature-complete projectors you’ll ever find, the LG CineBeam is a fascinating box of tricks. It may not be the finest on this list for pure performance but it presents a very decent 4K HDR image from a larger array of sources – both smart and local – than any other here.
It’s blessed with the excellent webOS platform, which means direct access to all your video apps over Wi-Fi, and its Miracasting and Bluetooth abilities make for easy and intuitive ad-hoc connections to whatever mobile device you’d like to play back from, and external sound too.
Expensive? Maybe, but for those who want the flexibility to throw a film up on their wall whenever and however they choose, it’s just the ticket; decent sound and a very solid picture to boot.
- One-box, truly portable system
- Impressive 4K HDR picture
- Easy to build a system around
- Lacks a little detail
- Motion could be better
- Built-in speakers only adequate
Best home theater projectors buying guide
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.
How we choose the best home theater projectors
To make our list, each projector had to not only perform in real world testing, but had to achieve a set of features and match that with a price that was commensurate in value.
Collectively, the team at Gadget Review has spent well over 350 hours setting up, tweaking, and toying around with the 19+ projectors featured on our site. Of those run through the proverbial ringer, we’ve whittled down the results to the five best performers in their respective categories: whether it’s the best looking, the best performing, or the best for buyers on a budget.
Most home theater projectors are either LCD-based or use a Texas Instruments DLP (Digital Light Projection) chip along with a laser, LED, or LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) light source.
In some DLP projectors, the effect is minimal, but in projectors where the phenomenon is average to severe, people who are sensitive to these artifacts may find them distracting, particularly with video content.
LCD projectors are immune to this effect, so they’re a safer bet if you or someone in your family is sensitive to the rainbow effect. That said, there are plenty of DLP projectors with excellent image quality.