Best projectors: get a cinematic experience at home

The best projectors for an immersive viewing experience when your TV just isn't big enough

best projector: kodak luma 350 projector
(Image credit: Kodak)

If you want to create a home cinema then you'll want the best projector (your) money can buy. They'll give you what even the best TV can't: a screen that's 100 inches or larger, without breaking the bank.

This year we have seen projectors for the outdoors – which create an outdoor cinema – fly off the shelves. And it's no surprise, since we've all been spending more time at home. So why not make a cinema in the front room, too, which will be ideal for entertaining the household of kids, big and small, during the festive season.

To help hone in on the top projectors for your home – in the US and UK – we've scoured retailers, and created this expert guide, which we feel will be just the ticket to create the home cinema. We've considered everything you'll need to know before parting with your cash – cost, image quality and other factors – that will affect your overall experience. Keep scrolling to see what we've chosen...

The best projectors 2020

best projector: LG HU80KS 4K UHD Projector

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. LG HU80KS 4K UHD Projector

The best projector

Resolution: Ultra HD
Light output: 2500 Lumens
HDMI Inputs: 2
Reasons to buy
+A 'one box' system+Fab picture quality
Reasons to avoid
-You'll need speakers if you want big audio, too

The LG HU80KS 4K UHD Projector gets our vote for THE best projector because it has everything you would need to create a home cinema set up, with an exceptional quality.

You'll find that EVERYTHING is built into the compact unit; speakers and power plug included, which makes for a very neat design. You can stream content from your smart device to the projector, via the LG Smart Platform, or you can opt to use the physical ports.

It's suitable for illuminated spaces, or if you prefer to have the lights on, with its impressive high brightness level of 2500 lumens which should last you up to 20,000 hours. Of the screen, the Harman Kardon speakers will mean that you could hear the drama unfolding infront of you from the next room BUT, if you want your audio to pack a punch, then a soundbar will also be required so you can totally immerse yourself.

best projector: BenQ True 4K HDR-PRO

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. BenQ TK850 4K UHD Projector

Best projector (runner up)

Lumens: 3000
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Contrast ratio: 30,000:1
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly bright picture+Support for 4K and HDR+Sports mode
Reasons to avoid
-No streaming apps

This projector boasts an amazing 4K resolution, boosted audio, an intense brightness and a focus on sports broadcasts, which really helps it to stand out from the crowded projector market.

The projector really is for the Live Sports Enthusiasts, and those of you who just appreciate a very impressive picture. You can replicate the football games in your living room, or garden, to create the ultimate stadium experience. This model even comes with Custom Sports modes, with powerful sounds, for that all-round home cinema experience. The HDR-PRO technology works with the 4K HDR to enhance the viewing experience, offering a wider field of contrast to bring out every detail of the scenes as they unfold.

Beyond the vision is the sound. Featuring a powerful 10-watt chambered speaker, this projector will enhance the sound of your games, movies and favourite shows, whether your in or outside the house. And you don't need to worry where you position this projector, either. When the projector must be placed off-centre, such as placing it on a table on uneven ground, the vertical keystone function will adjust the image so it is ideally aligned for viewing.

The best outdoor projector: Optoma H183X Full 3D HD

3. Optoma H184X 3600 Lumens HD Ready Projector

Best projector for gamers

Lumens: 3600
Resolution: 1280x800
Contrast ratio: 28,000:1
Reasons to buy
+Super bright picture +Wireless streaming ability+Quick response time good for gamers, too 
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best speakers around

Movie lovers, football fans and game players will love this projector, and it gets our vote for the best projector for gamers.

With a fast response time, this model is great for action films and action-heavy games. Thanks to a massive 3,600 lumens and an excellent contrast ratio, you can expect to experience a great picture whether you’re inside or out. And 3D fans are catered for, too. And, you can choose how you connect with multiple in / outputs: HDMI, VGA in/out, Composite video, Audio in/out, RS232. Just to keep things simple..

The best outdoor projector: Epson EB-S41 SVGA 3300 lumens Projector

4. Epson EB-S41 HD Ready Projector

Best budget projector

Lumens: 3,300
Resolution: 800x600
Contrast ratio: 15,000:1
Reasons to buy
+Impressive image quality for price+Very affordable +Comes with a speaker
Reasons to avoid
-Does not offer HD

If you're on a slightly tighter budget, and live in the UK, you can't look past the capabilities of this projector.

When it comes to watching films outside, the brighter the lumens the better. It means there’s a greater contrast against any background light, which should mean a higher quality image. And while it may not boast HD resolution, this projector has a pretty impressive contrast ratio, too, so there should be no compromise made to your favourite movie scenes. 

best projector: Optoma UHD65 4K Projector

5. Optoma UHD65 4K Projector

Best (mid-range) projector

Resolution: Ultra HD
Light output: 2,200 Lumens
HDMI Inputs: 2 (1x 4K)
Reasons to buy
+Amazing colour+Fluid viewing+Easy to install
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive when compared with some of the other models in this guide

The Optoma UHD65 is one of the older models in this guide so, when compared with the newer projectors, it is a tad on the expensive side.

However, it offers impressive 4K digital cinema quality images which is compatible with High Dynamic Range (HDR) AND has PureMotion frame-interpolation processing. What does this mean? It means that you'll be watching all your fave movies in incredible detail, colour and contrast with any motion blurring totally eliminated (even if you're into high-speed action thrillers).

Installation is mega easy with vertical lens shift, which will enable a wider range of screen size options and give you the flexibility on the positioning. 

best projector: Sony VPL-HW45ES Projector

6. Sony VPL-HW45ES Full HD Projector

Best HD projector

Resolution: Full HD
Light output: 1,800 Lumens
HDMI Inputs: 2
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic picture quality+Low input lag
Reasons to avoid
-A little dim

If you're not fussed about 4K, but are still prepared to pay decent money for an HD projector, then the Sony VPL-HW45ES is a great step-up option. 

It's difficult to measure this step up in functionality though. This is still an HD projector after all, with two HDMI ports, and a decidedly average 1,800 lumens of light output.  But start watching content on the HW45ES and you'll see what the extra money gets you, with fantastic motion handling and great performance across both light and dark areas of an image. 

Reviewers have also praised the projector's low input lag, which would make this a great choice if you're planning on doing some gaming on the big screen. 

best projector: Sony VPL-VW550ES 4K Projector

7. Sony VPL-VW550ES 4K Projector

Best 4K projector

Resolution: 4K
Light output: 1,800 Lumens
HDMI Inputs: 2
Reasons to buy
+4K / HDR support+Great upscaling of HD/SD content
Reasons to avoid
-Hideously expensive-HDR settings can be a faff

If the LG HU80KS (UK) or Optoma UHD60 (US)  is the best bang-for-buck 4K projector you can buy right now, then the Sony VPL-VW550ES shows what projectors can achieve once you leave the idea of affordability behind. 

What you're getting here is a fantastically crisp image, even when there's a lot of heavy motion going on in the image. Contrast and brightness is good, but the projector's real strength is in its blacks, which over a lovely amount of depth to the images the projector is capable of. 

The only downside this creates is that you'll need to run the projector in high lamp mode for the best HDR images, and there's no way to have the projector automatically enter into this mode when it detects an HDR signal. But, aside from this complaint, you can't get much better without getting into the realm of professional equipment not meant for home use. It's not cheap, but the Sony VPL-VW550ES shows the best of what consumer projectors were (and still are) capable of from a couple of years ago. 

The best mini projector

8. Optoma ML750ST

Best mini projector

Weight: 0.42kg
Lumens: 800
Resolution: 1280x800
Reasons to buy
+High resolution for it's size+Portable+Good option for presentations, too
Reasons to avoid
-Sound could be clearer

If you want a mini projector but don’t want to skimp on quality, then this Optoma projector is the best way to watch movies in HD right from a microSD card, USB stick or via the HDMI cable which allows you to connect this mini projector to your laptop or Blu-Ray player. 

It is a short throw projector, which means you’ll get a clear image on your chosen wall, and it can display up to a 100 inch image from just over a metre away. For business use, you can project your presentation wirelessly from your mobile phone, too.  

IGBC Green House

(Image credit: Boca do Lobo)

How to create a home cinema

There's no doubt that televisions are getting bigger. The largest screen we've seen so far is the LG 86UN85006LA (2020) LED HDR 4K Ultra HD Smart TV which has a whopping 86 inch panel. BUT if you need an even larger screen size (more than 100 inches) then a projector screen is usually a better choice for you right now.

A fold-down projector screen will stores neatly away, too, so that you can use the space for other things. And to get the best acoustics, you'll need to consider getting an acoustically transparent projector screen so a set of speakers can help project the audio around the room. This will allow the picture and sound to come from the same direction. 

Want to make your home cinema cosy for Christmas? Here's how...

1. Get some serious seating. If you want to experience the real deal then you'll want some chairs which are comfortable and accommodating for all your movie needs. If it's just you and your partner in the house then a set of matching armchairs will look sharp but if there's more than the two of you look at some row seating (or a large sofa).

2. Get close, but not too close. The positioning of your seating is just as important as getting the right chair. Ideally, you'll need the seats to start 2/3 of the way back into the room from the screen. 

3. Lights then action. This is key to creating an atmosphere which could make or break the movie experience for you. You'll need to ensure that the lights will not be reflecting on the screen and if the room is not just a cinema room, your choices will need to be subtle yet effective. We like light star lighting, fairy lights and stair lighting. These can be used all year round and don't require any hard wiring, if you like to keep it flexible.

How to choose the best projector

Projectors come with their own set of downsides, which are worth running through before you rush out in search of ever-gigantic screen sizes. The first is that while projectors make large screen sizes cheaper than ever, getting them at high resolutions still commands a price premium that's much higher than equivalent TVs. 

While 4K TVs can now be had for budget prices, their projector equivalents tend to cost in excess of a grand, and that's for a budget 4K experience. 

Second is the fact that if you're investing in a projector then you almost certainly going to need to buy a set of external speakers. While most projectors include a set of speakers in their housing, we've generally found these to be equivalent to those you might find in a laptop. They sound cheap, they sound tinny, and they don't sound like something you want to enjoy the latest Hollywood blockbusters with. 

Finally, there are noise and heat concerns with projectors that simply don't exist with TVs. Projectors get hot while they run, and that means that you'll need to leave them in a well-ventilated position and, more importantly, be prepared to deal with a certain amount of fan noise. 

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Jennifer Oksien
Jennifer Oksien

After returning to Future Publishing in February 2020, Jennifer has been working on our appliance and mattress content to showcase the best in class examples which are available to buy for your homes. When she is not scouring the web for deals or reviewing products for your pursuit, she can be found hanging out with our three guinea pigs in her Victorian terraced home which she has lovingly (patiently) been renovating with her husband over the past few years. Jennifer also likes tea and homemade cake, very much.