To help you find the best cheap projector, one that is well suited to a home theater or business environment, we tested out a plethora of models, looking for products that delivered pristine HD visuals onto large canvases, erring on the side of projectors with high resolutions and just the right lumen capacity, with long-lasting bulbs. We were also looking for products that were easy to set up and easy to navigate, so easy that anyone could get it out of the box and set up to watch movies or business presentations in minutes. We are looking for the best home theater projectors that you can get for your money.
Of the seven best cheap projectors on this list, the Epson VS250 projector certainly shined (!) the brightest, with an equal 3,200 lumens of both color brightness and white brightness output, helping to create a stellar, and easy to see, picture. This projector is simply perfect for business presentations, boasting 800 x 600 SVGA resolution, HDMI compatibility, and an easy-to-use zoom function. Keep reading to learn more about the Epson VS250 and the other projectors on this list.
- 1 Top 6 Best Cheap Projectors Compared
- 2 Overhead Projector Buying Guide
Top 6 Best Cheap Projectors Compared
#1 Epson VS250 – Top PickWHY WE LIKE IT: The Epson VS250 boasts 3,200 lumens of equal color and white brightness, which helps it produce accurate, vivid color, even in well-lit rooms, with an 800 x 600 SVGA resolution, which we found to be adequate for all of the tasks we threw at it. r This is the best projector to use in a business setting.
The Epson VS250 Projector is simply a stunning projector that is just as ideal for streaming visuals in a business presentation as it is at home watching Netflix. The 800 x 600 SVGA resolution may not be true HD, but the 3,200 lumens of equal color and white brightness allows the projected visuals to be seen in any room, no matter how brightly lit it is, a feature that helps offset the slightly lower-than-average pixel count. The included fan is also extremely quiet, with a power saving mode that spits out just 28 dB of noise, eliminating the need for a projector hush box.
We had this thing out of the box and set up in minutes, hooked up to a laptop via HDMI cable and projecting onto a wall. Though it is easy to use, however, there are some limitations when it comes to functionality. As stated above, this product does not produce HD visuals, though you’d be hard pressed to notice, though it does struggle with making small font sizes readable, something we noticed at 14pt and below.
#2 VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector – Honorable MentionWHY WE LIKE IT: The VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector can display content up to 170” and easily connects to USB, VGA or HDMI devices ( smartphones, gaming consoles, laptops or streaming device) all the while projecting at 1080p for a promising 40,000 hours of bulb life, all at an extremely reasonable price point. This is the perfect projector for homes or offices for play and work.
The VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector displays visuals in glorious HD, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and a maximum screen size of 170 inches. The projector is fully compatible with all major gaming systems and streaming devices, via HDMI, and smartphones, as long as you have an HDMI adapter that works with your device. The company also claims that the included bulbs will last through 40,000 hours of use, which means it will be years before you’ll be looking for a replacement product.
The projector is bright and well contrasted and we had no trouble seeing the visuals in a well-lit room in the middle of the day, though the picture was much better at night. The built-in speaker sounded a bit tinny, though there are plenty of output options to run it through your home audio setup. Additionally, this product is intended for home use and not recommended to be used with PowerPoint or other business applications.
#3 TOPVISION Mini Projector – Best Connection OptionsWHY WE LIKE IT: The TOPVISION Mini Projector is absolutely rife with connection options, with the ability to stream content via any HDMI-enabled device, USB stick and SD card, allowing smartphones and laptops to be plugged in via USB, which avoids the need for any special hookups. The extended feature set (keystone adjustments and more), and lengthy 2-year warranty makes this the best projector for folks looking for a product that will adjust to their preferred viewing habits..
The TOPVISION Mini Projector is a great entry-level product that is compatible with just about anything you can throw at it, including SD cards, USB sticks and streaming devices, with smartphones and laptops able to be connected via USB cable in addition to HDMI. The projector features a contrast ratio of 2000:1 and a 16:10 aspect ratio with a maximum screen size of 176” and a native resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. The company throws in a two year warranty and boasts that the LED bulbs are good for over 50,000 hours
This projector is best, however, for dimly lit rooms, especially at night. We found the visuals to be slightly difficult to appreciate during the day, as sunlight poured in. We also noticed some blur around the edges of the screen, though the center was particularly crisp.
#4 OKCOO Video Projector – Brightest ScreenWHY WE LIKE IT: The OKCOO Video Projector boasts a maximum screen size of 200”, by far the biggest on this list, and has 4500 lumens, making for a sharp and ultra-bright image that is perfect for both home and office use. This is the projector to buy if you are in need of a seriously bright display that can be viewed in just about any setting.
The OKCOO Video Projector’s main selling points are the ultra-large display, which maxes out at 200”, and the fact that the projector emits 4500 lumens, these features working together to produce some truly breathtaking visuals as you watch movies or play video games. On that note, the device boasts a large number of inputs, including HDMI, MicroSD and USB, making it fully compatible with a large number of gadgets, gaming systems and streaming devices. It also works with smartphones and tablets, but requires the purchase of an HDMI adapter.
The built-in speakers actually sound pretty good, though connecting to your home stereo is probably the better option as we thought the fan was slightly loud, though it wasn’t a huge disruption. We also found the adjustment capabilities to be somewhat limited, though it does have a keystone correction feature.
#5 Auking Mini Projector – Best ValueWHY WE LIKE IT: The Auking Mini Projector offers some impressive features, including the ability to play content from a variety of sources at a maximum screen size of 170”, with 1080p support and a keystone correction feature, all at a very low price point. This is a great entry-level projector for consumers looking to get started with the hobby at a price that won’t break the bank.
The Auking Mini Projector is a nifty little unit that offers similar features to the competition at a much lower price point. It boasts a maximum display size of 170”, which is on the higher end, with decent built-in speakers and a proprietary cooling technology that keeps the internal fan quiet as can be. The projector is compatible with USB drives, gaming consoles, HDMI-enabled devices, smartphones and tablets, and it is light, coming in under three pounds, making it a great product to take camping or to help host outdoor movie nights.
The project can play 1080p content, but the native resolution is actually 800 x 480 pixels, though the downgrade is barely noticeable. Like some of the other lower priced products on this list, this projector is absolutely perfect for nighttime viewing or viewing in a dimly lit room, but does not excel in brightly lit rooms or during daylight hours.
#6 ELEPHAS Mini Projector – Best SpeakersWHY WE LIKE IT: The ELEPHAS Mini Projector comes with a pair of HiFi stereo speakers built-in which, to our ears, sound absolutely great and much better than the built-in speakers found with equatable products. This is a great product for people who want good sound out-of-the-box, without the necessity to plug into a home stereo system, though that is an option.
The ELEPHAS Mini Projector is a solidly built unit with some above average stereo speakers, along with the option to add an external speaker via a 3.5mm output. It has a maximum display size of 180” and comes with the ability to send the projection in four different directions, maximizing your living or outdoor space. The company also throws in a three-year warranty and boasts that the LED bulbs are rated to last for 50,000 uses, which is tied for the longest bulb length on this list
Though the projector is not HD, maxing out at a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, we found the picture to be excellent, especially at night or in a dimly lit room. This product has the loudest fan on this list, however, though the noise was offset by the brilliance of the stereo speakers.
How We Decided
There are many overhead projectors out there, with a ton of features and, also, limitations. Our primary concern as we ran through testing was to see how the display looked and whether or not it was watchable in both daylight and nighttime hours. Many of the above projectors are not 1080p, on paper, but if they offered a lower resolution we made sure that it would be hardly noticeable to the eyes, favoring products with suitable brightness and contrast to make up the difference.
We also wanted to make sure that these projectors could work with a variety of input sources, with most of the above products offering connectivity via HDMI and USB and some offering SD card support and the ability to stream content wirelessly from a phone or tablet. We were also looking for quiet projectors whose fans would not interrupt family movie nights or business presentations. On that note, the above list offers a nice mix of projectors suitable for home or office use, with many options able to do both equally well.
Finally, we favored projectors that would last a long time, with bulbs that were rated for extended use, in some cases for decades, and products that offer lengthy warranties, in the two or three year range.
Overhead Projector Buying Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
Simply put, the brighter the room, the bigger the need for a projector with a high lumen count. For dark rooms, 1000 to 1200 lumens should be sufficient, although classrooms and conference rooms often need 2500 lumens or more. In addition, in order to project large images clearly, you'll want a product with a higher brightness rating.
- Contrast Ratio
Contrast ratio, in its simplest form, is the ratio of light reflected from an all white image and an all black image. A projector with a 3000:1 contrast ratio means that the white image is 3000 times brighter than the black image. A higher contrast ratio indicates a greater ability for the projector to show subtle color details and help tolerate ambient light. A projector should have a contrast ratio of 1000:1, at a minimum, which is a threshold every product on the above list meets or exceeds.
- Input/Output Options
Modern projectors offer a variety of input and output connections, with every above product offering HDMI and VGA ports, at the very least. Some products boast SD card slots, USB ports and the ability to stream content wireless from a smartphone or tablet. On the output end, it’s always nice to have the ability to connect the projector to external speakers.
Make sure to check the weight of the projector and whether or not it can easily attach to a tripod device, both factors ensuring that it can easily be moved about for outdoor movie nights and the like. At the very least, look for products that allow for easy projector adjustment, with some of the above units allowing for adjustments on the fly using packed-in remote controls. If you are looking to use the projector outside, you may want to invest in a projection screen.
- Are overhead projectors environmentally friendly?
Most projector manufacturer has an environmental policy in place that covers the types
of materials used in manufacturing. Originally a European standard, many projectors sold in the United States comply with RoHS (also known as Lead-Free) and WEEE (which sets collection,
recycling and recovery targets for electrical goods.) LED-based projectors, which
naturally use less power, are attractively green choices.
- Do I need to use a projector in a dark room?
While many of the above products excel in sunlit rooms during daylight hours, they always, without fail, perform better in darkness. That is because any front projection system looks best when there is no light in the room; this includes stray light from the screen that reflects off the walls or ceiling. There is a reason movie theaters are dark, after all.
- What is throw distance?
Throw distance is the distance from the tip of the projector's lens to the screen. This distance determines where the projector will sit in your home or office relative to the projection screen and, and along with screen width, is used to ascertain a throw ratio. Simply put, a throw ratio is the width of the image divided by the throw distance. The most common ratio among projectors being 2.0, meaning that for each foot of image width, the projector needs to be two feet away.