Best Home Theater Projectors 2019

Over 350+ Hours Testing & Reviewing

Winner: Optoma HD29Darbee 1080P Projector

9.8 out of 10

After researching more than 35 home theater projectors online, we’re proud to report that the Optoma HD29Darbee Projector is the best home theater projector of the bunch. Its superb picture quality, low response times and excellent price make it a no-brainer for home theater enthusiasts and casual movie lovers alike.


To determine the top projectors available today, we purchased the top 19. We then went through a rigorous cycle of testing all of these projectors by watching our favorite movies and playing our top video games on each different model. During our tests, we specifically measured metrics like overall picture quality, total display size/range, and throw distance. We also measured more subtle features like color accuracy, mounting position and fan noise to ensure we recommended only projectors that are top of the line. 


Test Results and Ratings

How We Decided


4 main factors come down to picking the top home theater projectors.

1600 Lumens
Brightness


1080p+
Full HD

Rec.709
Color

$300-$800
Value


Optoma HD29Darbee 1080P Projector -Editor’s Choice/Best Projector

9.8
out of 10
Pros
Cons
  • Stellar picture quality, especially for the price
  • 1080p resolution with 30,000:1 contrast ratio
  • 3200 Lumens of brightness
  • HDMI and HDMI/MHL are only inputs
  • 10W speaker is a bit weak

Why We Like It: The HD29Darbee offers the best picture quality for the price. Moreover, despite its brightness capabilities, it operates at an almost whisper quiet level. And despite that it’s a formidable projector for those that enjoy a video game or two.

BenQ TK800 4K UHD Projector - Best Projector for Movies

9.7
out of 10
Pros
Cons
  • Incredible color representation
  • Low latency in gaming tests
  • Extensive settings and setup options
  • Design isn’t very innovative
  • Gets very hot during movies and games

Why We Like It: The BenQ TK800’s color representation and picture quality goes above the call of duty, all thanks to the Rec. 709 Cinematic spec which gives the BenQ TK800 unmatched color vibrancy on screen.

Optoma HD143X Full HD Projectors - Best Budget Projector

9.4
out of 10
Pros
Cons
  • 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

Why We Like It: 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.

BenQ HT2150ST 1080p Projector - Best Projector for Gaming

9.1
out of 10
Pros
Cons
  • 2200 ANSI Lumens
  • Large display, short throw distance
  • Low input lag
  • Sometimes struggles with brightness uniformity

Why We Like It: The BenQ HT2150ST is a gaming workhorse, offering an excellent contrast rate and plenty of brightness for home gaming setups. To top it off, the projector offers super low input lag, offering gaming performance even the most hardcore players will be satisfied with.

Anker Nebula Capsule - Best Portable Projector

8.8
out of 10
Pros
Cons
  • Incredibly portable
  • 4-hour battery life
  • Excellent built-in speaker
  • No full HD
  • Could be brighter

Why We Like It: The Anker Nebule Capsule is a unique choice on our lineup. It isn’t as bright as other projectors here, but its ultra portability and built in speaker makes up for it. If you want to take a projector with you on the go, this soda can-sized projector is a game changer.

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Why You Should Buy a New Home Theater Projector

Like any technology, the chips and lenses that make projector technology are always changing, evolving, and getting cheaper to manufacture with each product cycle that turns over. Home theater setups that would easily cost you over $3,000 just a few years ago can be had for $800 (or even less in the case of the Optoma HD28DSE). Best Home Theater Projector


Projectors are also becoming smaller and easier to place. You no longer need to devote an entire bookshelf in the back of your living room to keeping one of these things mounted properly, and exceedingly compact options like the Optoma HD143X are just as at home on your coffee table as they would be hanging from your ceiling.


Projectors released in the past few years are also coming with a long list of additional features that make them easier to use, are more flexible when it comes to mounting positions (with the help of four-corner keystoning systems), and are equipped with additional bonuses like 3D capability and USB media server options.


Another smaller consideration we made when choosing the best home theater projectors was the rated bulb life of any given model. Though it wouldn’t be possible for us to actually run the number of projectors we’ve tested for the 1,000 – 2,000 hours that some of these bulbs can last, if you’ve been running your own projector for about that long or longer, you have a choice to make: either buy another bulb for anywhere between $80 – $350 in some cases, or cut your losses and take a chance on upgrading your whole system to the latest and greatest in home theater technology.

Shopping Guide for Best Home Theater Projectors

When we went on the hunt for the best home theater projector in 2019, we measured dozens of different features, stats, and metrics against one another to come up with a list of the top five you’ll find on shelves today.

When shopping for a new projector, you’ll want to keep an eye on a couple of key factors, including the resolution of the projector (most of those listed here are 1080p but 4K is rapidly dropping in price), the lumen output (for how much brightness you can expect to battle any ambient light in the room), and the weight of the unit itself (as many people use external mounts for their projectors to keep them out of the way).

Seriously, that’s it. Shop on these factors and we all but guarantee you’ll be happy with your purchase.

Why You Should Trust Me

As Gadget Review’s resident home theater expert, I’ve spent nearly 400 hours personally testing and reviewing over 20+ projectors from every major manufacturer in the business, including Acer, Optoma, and Epson.

I have a unique perspective on what makes a projector worth the money, as well as pages of spreadsheets packed with hard data that evaluate everything from how hot a projector gets under the collar to how much light output you can actually expect to get out of it vs. how much the company advertises on their press copy.

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.

Real World Testing That Matters
With so many factors that can affect the final picture quality you get out of a projector, it was important that during our testing we made sure to run each model through a series of real-world scenarios that the average user would encounter in their own living room.

These included running the projector for more than eight hours at a time to see if there was any risk of picture degradation or overheating (perfect for a lazy-Sunday Battlefield Galactica marathon), upping the color and saturation points to try and push out as many rainbow artifacts as possible, as well as running a LX1330B Digital Illuminance lumen meter around the edges and center of the picture to test for brightness hotspots on our 100″ EliteScreens Manual B projector screen.

Testing With Video Games, TV, Movies and More
Next, we run the projectors through three of the general use cases that consumers are looking for: computer use, TV/movies, and games. Whether it’s using your projector as a massive computer monitor or trying to get the best response times possible during a match of Halo 5: Guardians online, different projectors do better than others in certain situations, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on the specs so you know you’re getting the best possible pick for how you plan on using your projector the most.

How Easy Is It to Mount
After that, we evaluate the actual physical characteristics of the projector itself: how big it is, how heavy, and where it could be most optimally mounted given the fan placement. One mistake some upstart home theater geeks can get wrong is mounting the projector directly behind the heads of people sitting on the couch, not realizing that when a projector turns on it pumps out a whole lot of noise and heat as it tries to keep its big bulb cool.

Measuring Fan Loudness
Speaking of noise, there’s no getting around the fact that even the quietest projectors we’ve tested still need a substantial stereo system to drown out their constant whirr. We use a specialized decibel meter during testing, and will run the projector over the course of an hour before taking the reading to ensure that the fan is working at full capacity.

Key Features to a Good Projector

​Before (and after) you buy your next projector, educate yourself to some of the top features and terms associated with a home theater projector.

  • Display RES
  • Display Tech
  • Color ACC
  • Use Cases
  • Throw Distance
  • Mounting Pos
  • Fan Noise
  • Business vs. Home Theater

Color accuracy is another factor to consider when discussing the level of image quality that a projector is capable of putting out.

Many lower-end projectors can suffer from an issue known as “rainbow artifacting”, which happens when the color wheel lets a little too much of one primary color bleed into another.

Color accuracy on projectors in the cost tiers listed above will probably never be able to match up to what you’d get out of an equally-priced LED TV, but you also won’t be able to buy a 150″ LED TV anytime soon so many still think the tradeoff is worth it!

​Three Factors to Look For When Buying a Projector

When you’re in the market for your first projector, you’re going to want to keep an eye on three key features: bulb longevity, the different resolutions the projector is capable of displaying, and a high lumen rating.

Bulb Hours


The first is measured in what’s known as “bulb hours”. These are important because bulbs will only last a certain amount of time before they eventually start to lose some of their luster, and the longer a bulb is rated to last, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy your content while it’s looking its very best. On average, a good bulb hour length is anywhere from 1 – 10,000 hours, depending on the type of technology your projector uses to display an image. Replacing a bulb can cost anywhere from $60 up to $250 depending on the model of the projector you eventually choose.Enter your text here...

Lumen Rating


Next, there’s the lumen rating. Lumen ratings measure the absolute maximum brightness you can expect out of the projector, a key component for anyone who plans to do the majority of their watching during the day when it may be harder to see darker movies or all the details you need to in your games. Even 1000 lumens should be just enough to handle the job during night-watching, you’ll want something a little closer to 4000 lumens if your projector screen is near a window or experiences a lot of glare while the sun is still in the sky.

Resolution – Full HD (nothing less)


Last, always make sure your projector is capable of handling at least 1080p resolution, as 720p doesn’t scale well with the types of image sizes that standard projectors are capable of putting out. 4K projectors have begun making a splash on the scene as of late, but they’re priced so far beyond what you’d pay for a 1080p that it’s already obvious which one is the best pick for 95% of home theater consumers shopping today.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

There are a few mistakes you should try to avoid when you’re shopping for your next projector. Read on to find out what they are.

Don’t Buy for Day-Watching: Even though I’ve listed a number of projectors here that still look somewhat decent in ambient day lighting, the fact remains that if you don’t have your projector set up in a room with blackout curtains, you and your guests will be straining your eyes to see all the detail of your favorite movies, television shows, and games no matter what the lumen rating is.

Don’t Get Sticker Shocked: If you can, do your best not to think about price as the end-all be-all factor in which projector you ultimately decide to go with. Projectors are a hefty investment upfront, but their utility, portability, and longevity is simply unmatched by any other display technology on the market today.

Measure Twice, Mount Once: Last, always remember to carefully measure out the space you plan to project in before buying your next projector. If you need to project in a space that’s less than six-feet from where the projector will be mounted to where the screen sits, you’ll have to invest in a short-throw model over a regular long-throw. Calculating the exact distance you’ll need to get the picture size you want out of your projector is easy if you use the tool provided here.

What Else You Should Think About

Even though we’ve covered just about everything you need to know related to projectors and associated home theater projects, here’s a few more things you should keep in mind before you take the final plunge to make your purchase.

Whether you’re setting up your first home theater or your fifteenth, there are always a number of extra things you should check off the list before you call the project finished. Because the speakers you’ll find on a projector are almost always for show (they lack any sort of distinct bass and should only be turned on in emergency situations), you might want to head on over and take a look at our list of the Best Soundbars for 2019 to make sure you always get the best movie watching or gaming experience possible for all your senses, instead of just sight alone.

Next there’s the projector screen. Sure, technically you can display your projected image on almost any surface imaginable (including pure-white walls), but why waste all that money on a new projector if you’re going to cut corners when it comes to what you’re watching it on, right? Projector screens are printed on special materials that can help add subtle amounts of brightness and vibrancy to your images that plain white walls can’t match, which is why I went through the trouble of testing them all for you to come up with our list of the Best Projector Screens for this year.

If you’re a stickler for 4K resolution and can’t accept anything less, you have two options: spend upwards of the same amount as you would on a small car to get a 4K projector, or simply bite the bullet and go with a standard 4K TV instead. We will always recommend this route over a projector if you don’t have a dedicated home theater space, because even when you’re strictly looking for as much brightness as you can get for the best day-watching experience, the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1440’s lumen rating still may not be enough to counter the ambient light if your projector screen is facing any kind of open window.

If a 70″ flatscreen still isn’t big enough for your next big Super Bowl party or you just want to be blown away every time you watch a new movie though, the best projectors for 2019 are sure to make anyone feel like they’re getting the full movie theater experience right from the comfort of their own home.

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