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What are the features that make up the best projectors for a living room? The best home theater projector should feature flexible installation options so that you have some freedom regarding where to place it. It will also have plenty of options for connecting with various devices and streaming services, plus multiple connectivity options for external speakers and other peripherals.
Because of the variability of ambient light, brightness is also crucial, just like with projectors for churches, large halls, and schools. If you’d like to find the perfect machine for your family movie night or for sharing photos and home videos with guests, you also need a portable projector with enough light output to display a bright image on the projector screen, even with variable ambient light. This is equally true if you want to use it as a gaming projector.
Keep reading our projector for living room buying guide to learn more about selecting the best model for your needs.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This is a highly compact option that you can easily take with you anywhere you go. It includes a tripod accessory so that setup is accessible no matter where you end up watching movies. There is also a carrying case.
This multi-use model not only projects but also includes a DVD player. This makes it an all-in-one entertainment system that you can rely on for consistent movie nights. Its compact size means you can fit it into any room no matter how cramped the conditions are. Unfortunately, some problems have been reported with the projector overheating during usage. This might be a problem if you’re planning on watching long movies.
It comes with a native resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels with a contrast ratio of 8000:1. This allows for enhanced brightness and rich color depth. The high-quality lenses are coated so that the picture reproduction can be higher. There is a super decoding ability along with the high-definition display screen, so you always get the best picture possible. They include a 5.0 Bluetooth chip to make this projector a wireless-enabled speaker system.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This option supports multiple connections, so you can stream from any system you want. There are seamless touch controls to put you in the driver’s seat during usage. It also runs on Android 7.1 OS.
The seamless touch controls on this mini projector allow you to easily and quickly change settings and make adjustments. You’ll be able to navigate menus, direct your device, and more with the transparent touch panel. It has a highly compact size that can fit comfortably in almost any place. This makes it perfect for smaller living rooms. However, the fan might get loud at times. This shouldn’t be a huge distraction, but it is a consideration before making your decision.
It carries a 200 ANSI lumen DLP lamp, perfect for use in a dim living room when you just want to watch your favorite shows on a big screen. You can enjoy movies, TV shows, video games, and so much more using this system. It can provide an image up to 100 inches in length, depending on how close it’s placed to the screen. You’ll also enjoy easy streaming access since it runs off Android 7.1 and is compatible with services like YouTube, Netflix, and more.
Award: BEST FOR WATCHING OUTSIDE
WHY WE LIKE IT: You’ll enjoy the built-in battery that provides a longer battery life of up to 2 hours. An advanced DLP lamp is installed to give you a whopping 300 lumens. You can also directly download streaming services.
A built-in battery provides that extra boost of power that you want in a projector. It gives at least 2-hours of big-screen entertainment. You’ll also have access to Android TV, which means streaming services are only a download away. You can enjoy YouTube, Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and more from the Google Play store. Some consumers have reported that the picture has a habit of dropping out sometimes. This might be a dealbreaker for some people.
This projector has an automatic Keystone Correction autofocus feature. This means that you won’t have to fiddle with things manually to get the perfect alignment with your screen. You’ll always have the best aspect ratio possible. It also comes with Harmon Kardon sound, powered by two 3-watt built-in speakers. If you want to use your own sound system, this mode comes Bluetooth-enabled to connect any set you prefer.
Award: BEST FOR BRIGHT PICTURES OUTSIDE
WHY WE LIKE IT: The high-brightness option lets you see flawless imagery even in ambient light outside. It packs in a whopping 7,500 lumens. There are multiple connection options, so you can watch media however you choose.
A whopping 7,500 lumens are present in this projector. That provides high enough brightness to contend with even challenging ambient light in the room. It runs off an LED light source to provide the best and brightest lighting technology. You’ll also enjoy a 1080P full HD resolution for your images. Unfortunately, the one compatibility it lacks is with Android phones. You can still use one, but you’ll need to purchase an adapter separately.
This projector is built with the newest 3LCD color calibration and adjustment technology. This means you’ll have the full depth of color as well as rich, deep tones. There is also a highly adjustable watching size that can range from 32 inches to 220 inches. The lamp provides 60,000 hours for its lifespan, so you can rest assured that longevity is a priority for this model.
Award: BEST FOR COMPACT SIZE
WHY WE LIKE IT: This little model comes complete with a remote control so you can change settings and make adjustments from anywhere in the room. It’s a highly compact option that can fit just about anywhere and travels quickly.
This is a fantastic option as far as mini projectors go because of the 35% brighter image it provides when compared to competing models. You’ll enjoy a 2,000:1 contrast ratio, as well as a 1080P resolution so that images are bright, adjusted, and full of deep, rich color. While the compact size comes with many upsides, there are also downsides. This won’t be the right fit for those seeking an extra-large picture.
You’ll be able to get anywhere from 32 to 170 inches of projection image from this model, depending on how far away you place it. From 1 meter of distance, this model can provide 32 inches. From 5 meters, it will offer the full 170 inches. There are built-in speakers, so it is truly ready to use right out of the box. There’s also advanced fan cooling technology so that the projector won’t overheat while you’re watching longer movies or when playing video games.
Award: BEST FOR BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: The included accessory in this package makes it incredibly budget-friendly. This model offers you an in-house cinema experience with complete immersion. It also has broad compatibility with streaming services and connections.
This mini projector packs in around 85% higher brightness than similar models on the market. It features upgraded LED lighting to see the projections even when there is a little bit of ambient lighting and has a 1920 x 1080P resolution. Unfortunately, it’s not the best unless you’re in a dimly lit or completely dark room. This project will struggle with ambient light so keep that in mind when it comes time to view media.
Depending on how far away it is from the screen, it can conjure up a projection of anywhere between 72 inches to 240 inches. The best distance is 9.5 feet away, which grants a projection size of 90 inches. The built-in speakers are made to have a robust, crystal-clear sound. However, there is also a 3.5mm audio output so that you can hook up your sound system of choice. You’ll also receive a 100-inch projector screen in this package.
In a general sense, living room projectors are devices that project an image onto a screen, similar in design to cinema projectors but typically more portable. A modern, digital home theater projector consists of input from a computer, TV, memory card, or wireless connection along with an imaging chip, a light source, and a lens.
Compared to projectors in general, the types of projectors best for living room use are usually smaller and more portable, like pico projectors. They are more likely to have shorter throw ratios, allowing them to display a larger image even when placed closer to the screen.
Like all modern projectors, including those used in movie theaters and classrooms, living room projectors typically use a digital input and an LCD matrix to resolve the image, a light source, and a lens to project the image onto a screen.
Compared to other projectors, the lens in one of these models is more likely to feature an adjustable lens shift and a shorter throw than other projectors. In fact, the best projectors for living room use are often ultra-short-throw projectors, which are specialized models for use in tighter spaces. These models can display a large image just a few feet away, unlike cinema projectors. Home portable projectors may come with built-in speakers.
Like nearly all modern projectors, the most popular living room and home theater models are digital devices that receive input from a PC, smartphone, smart TV system, or other sources. Typically, they offer wired connections via USB, VGA, or HDMI cable.
Most compact projectors use a semi-translucent LCD screen to generate the image. In an LCD projector, a light source placed behind the LCD chip projects the image through a lens to create the image on the projector screen. Digital projectors often feature digital light processing and variable aspect ratio support.
Many current mini projectors have in-built image processing ability and can display excellent image quality from various input formats. The native resolution of the projector, along with the brightness level of the light source, determines the largest image it can display with acceptable picture quality.
A projector offers a unique solution for home entertainment, creating a cinematic experience for movie nights and gaming sessions. Projectors are also great for parties and events since they are easier to move around than large TVs or monitors.
Newer living room projectors can produce graphics of comparable quality to older, more expensive projectors. You can compare video projectors vs overhead projectors using our resource article. They are also more likely to offer flexible installation and input device options than older projectors. Wireless and Bluetooth capability are also common features, making it easier to pair the projector with your mobile device or tablet. Current model home theater and mini projectors work well with streaming services and popular streaming apps.
Laser projectors with 7,000 lumens of brightness were once the domain of large halls and auditoriums, but newer projector lines include options like short-throw laser projectors that work well in smaller spaces and have plenty of light output for bright rooms. This type of projector uses longer-lasting laser light sources, which reduces maintenance requirements while producing bright images with high contrast and excellent dynamic range.
Home Video Viewing: For displaying home videos, slide shows, and social content at home, a projector creates a theater-like, cinematic experience that no TV or monitor can match. With a quality home projector, you can enjoy watching movies with 100-inch images up to about 150 inches for less money than an ultra-large monitor or big-screen TV.
Parties and Entertaining: Projectors have some unique advantages for showing videos at parties and family gatherings. Modern, bright projectors are more flexible and more portable than large display devices. They also feature numerous options for connectivity from a large array of sources and can display output from a streaming stick, SD card, PC, and more.
Gaming: A projector can help create a more immersive gaming experience and display gaming content more accessibly. Especially for multi-player games, using a modern projector with image adjustments provides more flexible screen viewing and seating options.
Movie Nights: If you like to have people over for movie viewing parties, even an entry-level projector may outperform a monitor or TV when it comes to displaying beautiful images at wall-filling sizes. Plus, today’s budget projectors may come with convenient features like cinema mode, eco mode, variable brightness, and a zoom function for flexible positioning.
Very Bright Living Room: If your home gets a lot of natural light, you may think a projector for living room use wouldn’t be able to produce a very clear image. However, modern projector options have a surprising amount of light output, given their size. Laser projectors are especially known for producing a brighter image and maintaining picture quality with variable ambient light.
Small or Confined Space: If your living room or home theater area doesn’t seem spacious enough to accommodate a projector, you might want to consider a newer ultra-short-throw projector. These models are capable of showing a huge image from just a few feet away.
Fan Noise: Traditional projectors often produce a tell-tale fan noise while running. This is rarely an issue in a large auditorium or cinema, which can be distracting for use in the living room. However, a newer portable smart projector will often have noise-reducing features such as an automatic fan that stops running when the projector cools off.
According to general business and education tech guidelines, you can expect digital projectors to last three to five years. Depending on how often you use them, the environment where they’re stored, and the maintenance schedule, a modern projector’s real-world lifetime can vary from around one year to over a decade.
Knowing this, you’ll need to keep up with your projector, especially if you use it for business meetings, or they’re leading brands such as RCA projectors and Sony projectors.
On most entry-level projector models, the bulb may require replacement after around 1,500 to 3,000 hours of use. However, some models feature bulbs rated for 20,000 hours or more.
Moreover, this is why it’s important to maintain your projectors. Knowing what color should a projector screen be and how to fix the color on a projector, especially if something doesn’t look right, will help your projector last longer.
Portable micro projectors may include other components that wear out over time, such as lithium-ion battery packs or Bluetooth receivers. Other parts of a projector, such as a lens and the fan motors, typically last the device’s lifetime, and decades-old professional projector lenses are still in use.
Along with budget considerations, various factors, including the size of your home theater space and what type of media you’re planning to display, and the noise level of a quiet projector, generally help determine the best home and living room projector for your needs.
To make sure of getting a projector that works well in your space, you’ll want to look at key specs including maximum brightness, throw ratio, and native resolution. You may also want to take into account connectivity specs such as wireless, HDMI, and VGA, which many of the leading 4K projectors have.
If you plan to display media from a mobile device or laptop with Bluetooth, you may want to look for a projector that supports wireless or Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. Many of the current mini projectors and portable projectors come with multiple connectivity options, which may be helpful for setting up your living room theater space.
The size of the room and the space available to install the projector may help determine what throw ratio to look for and whether you need a projector with the option of top or bottom-mount brackets.
If you’re looking for a home projector capable of showing a crisp image in a relatively bright room, consider searching for models with about 6,000 lumens of brightness or more. A higher brightness level also helps with dynamic range and contrast, allowing for more vivid and accurate color representation.
Another factor in determining which home movie projector is right for you may be the sound system in your living room. For the simplest approach, great for portable projectors and offering easy setup, you might want to consider a projector with internal speakers. For a more immersive experience with full sound quality, however, most cinephiles prefer a projector that connects with external speakers.
While any reasonably empty, flat surface will work in a pinch, most UST projectors work best on specially designed projector screens. The quality of the screen is more important for higher-resolution short-throw projectors and may make a difference for an entry-level 4k projector.
Depending on the projector’s brightness and the room’s natural light, you can get a clear image with good picture quality even in the daytime with many contemporary projectors. Laser projectors do a great job at this, in general.
Depending on when and how often you watch TV, it may, in theory, be possible to replace your TV with a projector. Most projectors are designed to show a relatively large image, however, and while they are becoming more convenient to use with smart TV and streaming stick devices, they still require more setup than the typical TV.
A short-throw projector uses a shorter-than-average throw ratio. Exact definitions vary, but in general, expect a short-throw projector to have a throw ratio of less than 1:1. That means that for a 100-inch image on the screen, you'd place the projector about 100 inches back from the screen, for example.
It depends on how large an image you need, how large the space is, and how much ambient light there is. For displaying text or video in a dark room, a few hundred lumens is likely enough. If you want to show large, low-contrast imagery in a large room with some natural light, however, you may need 10,000 lumens or more.