Projectors have long held a vaunted position in the home cinema. That’s because while TVs are more than adequate to deliver 4K HDR content, you’ll likely need to refinance your house if you want a picture larger than 75-inches. But 75-inches is just the beginning for the cinema world.
Whether you want to splash Blu-ray movies across a large white wall, magnify your gaming experience, or throw photos and slides from a mobile device onto a 100-inch plus screen, a home cinema projector should be your first choice.
Unfortunately while most AV enthusiasts dream of the day they bring home a beamer for their living room, few tend to follow through. They have the misconception that projectors are hard to setup (they’re not), hard to maintain (they’re not) and cost significantly more than a TV (they don’t).
To that end we want to dispel the myths perpetuated by non-cinephiles out there and help you pick a fantastic-looking projector without breaking the bank. To that end, we’ve rounded up the best projectors we’ve tested throughout the last year or two and have ranked them below.
1. BenQ HT2550
The BenQ HT2550 may look a bit pricey to someone used to seeing discount 4K TVs, for the price you can’t do much better. The projector boasts vivid, clear colors, plenty of detail, and a 4K resolution – all at well under $2,000. That’s no small feat.
The projector isn’t perfect – the blacks on offer aren’t as deep as we might have liked, the projector still creates some fan noise and there’s also no lens shift – but those small downsides aside, we think the BenQ HT2550 is an excellent option for those that want a solid, no-frills projector with support for a 4K resolution and HDR content.
Are there better options? Well, there’s the Optoma UHD50, which is $100 cheaper and offers many of the same perks (though color accuracy isn’t quite as good, and the BenQ projector is slightly better-built) but in the end, we think it’s better to spent the extra $100 for the BenQ HT2550.
2. BenQ TK800
Like the HT2550, the main selling point of the BenQ TK800 is that it supports faux-4K by using XPR technology that essentially takes a 1920×1080 pixel DLP chip and flashes the image four times in incredibly fast succession to create an image with a perceived resolution of over eight million pixels.
Amazingly this actually works, and even with test patterns the images appear to be 4K in terms of resolution.
What’s different about it is that it’s also really bright, which means that even with SDR content it can deliver images that have genuine impact, even in less-than-ideal conditions. As such you can use the TK800 in a room with white walls or big windows, and still enjoy a huge projected image. Advertisement
Also expect excellent motion handling, which is great for gaming, and it has a low input lag which is also good news for gamers. (The BenQ even supports 3D, although you will need to buy the glasses separately.)
On the debit side, the black level and the shadow detail are both poor, and the TK800 also uses a color wheel, which restricts its range of colors, especially where HDR is concerned. It also means that certain people will see ‘rainbows’, but that’s just a limitation of single-chip DLP projectors. On top of all that, it’s quite noisy thanks to both the color wheel and a fan, although the latter is necessary given the amount of heat generated by the bright bulb.
3. Optoma UHD51A
Smart, voice activated controls for a home cinema projector may sound like the kitchen-sink approach to feature lists at first glance, jumping on the buzz-word (or should that be ‘wake word’?) bandwagon of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google’s Assistant. But think about the environment and scenario that your average projector viewing session takes place in, and it starts to make a lot of sense – you’re in a dark room where seeing buttons isn’t always easy, possibly with your hands loaded up with popcorn and other treats. Advertisement
Being able to shout “play the movie!” at a voice activated projector, potentially installed in a bracket high above your head, seems like a sound move.
Ultimately, while the Alexa features are fun (if a little perfunctory) everything about this the Optoma UHD51A performs exceptionally. At this price you’re going to be hard pressed to find a projector that can deliver this level of picture quality and this feature set more confidently.
The Optoma UHD51A represents a great shift in 4K projecting quality if you find yourself on a tighter budget. What’s on offer here allows even those with smaller living spaces and more modest bank balances a taste of the home cinema high life.
4. Epson Home Cinema 4010
Now selling for $1,799.99 (£1,799.99), this very large projector is based around Epson’s own 3LCD engine and it deals in 4K, HDR 10, 3D, it has an electronic lens, an auto-focus system, and it can reach 2,400 lumens brightness. Advertisement
What prevents this from being higher on our list is that doesn’t offer the greatest feature-set around – even Epson offers models with more bells and whistles (notably its step-up EH-TW9400, which adds Hybrid Log Gamma, 4K/60p HDR at 18Gbps, and Epson’s 4K WiHD wireless transmitter), nor is as ultra-detailed as native 4K projectors – but the massive 4010/EH-TW7400’s combination of must-have features and uncompromisingly cinematic images is impossible to argue with.
5. Optoma UHD65
The UHD65 is a hugely enjoyable projector that manages to deliver very good images in both ambient light and blackout conditions. Most projectors commit to one or the other, halving their versatility. Advertisement
Though the UHD65 sacrifices both ultra-high brightness for daytime viewing and completely convincing black levels in a blackout, it’s actually giving as close the ‘best of both worlds’ as any projector could: From upscaled HD TV channels and DVDs to Netflix 4K and a Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, few users will have complaints about the cleanness, detail or colour of the UHD65’s images.
However, we did miss a few luxury touches that a projector this price should include: The remote control is the same as you’d find on a projector a sixth of the price (and includes some button that have no function), and there’s no motorised zoom, focus and lens shift. All of these would’ve added a more polished, professional feel, which high-priced products like the UHD65 should always offer; it shouldn’t just be about new technology.