With winter fast approaching, we have a sneak feeling *lots* of at-home movie nights are about to be on the horizon.
And, let’s face it, our television (and/or laptop) just isn’t really cutting it anymore. Which is where a projector comes in. A bit like setting up your own cinema, an at-home projector allows you to watch your TV and films on a much bigger scale, as the image is projected onto a large wall or canvas. So, as you get ready to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and plenty of festive snacks, why not get the full experience by projecting your favourite Christmas film onto an even bigger screen?
Plus, once summer rolls back around, projectors are perfect for taking outside for your very own backyard cinema with friends too. All you’ll need are some garden rugs and comfy chairs, and you’re good to go. Or, for a chilled solo night in, you can string up a few fairy lights alongside your projected film of choice, creating a cute self-care den. What could be better?
What to Consider
When looking for a budget projector, keep an eye out for these specs and features: screen size, brightness/lumens, LCD versus DLP, resolution, throw distance, connectivity (HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi). If you plan to take the projector with you, you’ll also want to consider specs like size and weight.
Also, bear in mind that projectors as a whole have their limitations when compared with TVs; they simply cannot match the color, brightness, or contrast performance of modern HD or 4K LED TVs. A few more things to consider:
- All projectors have a minimum or maximum screen size, which means you should know the size of the surface you intend to project onto before buying anything. You’ll also want to have an idea of how far the projector will be from the surface—known as the “throw distance.”
- Brightness, measured in lumens, is extra important for projectors because it affects the quality of the image as well as its size. If you can, look for or convert the lumens rating to ANSI lumens, which is a more accurate reading.
- LCD projectors generally deliver sharper, more colorful images, but DLP units are simple, cheaper, and more portable. Consider the difference when choosing between more expensive projectors.
How We Selected
Although the concept is simple enough, projectors serve a variety of purposes. In selecting the best models, we made sure to include something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a presentation tool, a portable gaming display, or a home theater setup, there’s a projector here for you.
We combed through user reviews, independent reviews, and product specs to identify the most promising models. We then narrowed the list down based on the above-mentioned criteria: screen size, brightness/lumens, LCD vs. DLP, resolution, throw distance, ease of use, and connectivity. As for other features like lens shift, motorized zoom, and keystone correction—those are all nice perks, but they may or may not be available in this price range, so we didn’t necessarily require them.
Our Top Picks (All Under $500):
1. Best Budget Projector Under $100: Vankyo Leisure 3
The combination of hardware and sheer value makes the Vankyo Leisure 3 our top pick. The Vankyo Leisure 3 is easy to set up, and easy to transport. It comes with its own carrying case which our reviewer Benjamin particularly enjoyed. “It fits everything inside including the cables and remote without having to stuff anything in. It has what feels like a strong zipper and a sturdy fabric handle.”
Setting the projector up is as simple as setting it down and powering it on. Unfortunately, there are no feet for leveling the projector and the single post in the front used for aiming doesn’t give you a whole lot of height. Even with the foot, you may need to prop the projector up on something.
Benjamin quite enjoyed the projector’s built-in software. “The Vankyo Leisure 3 runs custom software with all the usual options. It’s easy to understand and navigate via the remote or the hardware buttons on the chassis. It includes adjustment options for things like contrast, brightness, and luminosity—the same types of settings you may be familiar with from your TV or computer monitor.”
The projector has solid mid-range specifications at 2400 lumens and a 2,000:1 contrast ratio. The fan is also relatively quiet, and all those combine to give you good value at this price point. There are better projectors out there, for sure, but the combination of specifications and value really make this projector shine.
2. Best for Phones: TopVision T21
One great way a projector can enhance your viewing experience is by taking your phone screen and blowing it up to the big screen. The Topvision T21 plugs into your smartphone and mirrors the screen up to 176 inches. It’s inexpensive and can typically be found for less than $100. The projector displays an image at 1080p and a surprisingly bright 3,600 lumens.
Simply plug your phone into the back of the projector using the USB-A cable you use to charge it. There is a pretty big limitation though. You cannot project apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu due to copyright restrictions. You can project those apps from your laptop, but not your phone. Some people bypass that by plugging a streaming device into the HDMI port.
A really cool use case for this comes in the realm of gaming. You can plug your phone into the projector for a large screen mobile gaming experience. Blowing up Call of Duty mobile to a 100-inch screen puts you even more into the game. It’s a fun way to make your mobile gaming an even more immersive experience.
3. Best Portable: Kodak Luma 150 Pocket Projector
The Kodak Luma 150 is a pocket-sized projector you can fit in your back pocket or a small pocket in a bag. It has a built-in, rechargeable battery for use on the go. Touch-sensitive controls on the top of the projector help you navigate the custom operating system. You can plug in a device using HDMI, USB Type-A ports, and a microSD card reader, so there are a lot of input options to work with.
The projector has a tripod mount which makes it easy to aim, but it doesn’t come with a mini tripod. All that portability and small size have limitations though as the projector tops out at 60 ANSI lumens and a fairly poor 1,000:contrast ratio. You’ll want to make sure you’re watching in a pitch-black room.
4. WiMiUS Projector
This projector offers both Wifi and Bluetooth connections allowing you to connect easily and display images from various devices.
In terms of display, this projector boasts 6,500 lumens of brightness which claims to provide a whopping 8000:1 contrast, meaning the image produced should look bold.
The WiMiUS projector is also extremely lightweight, weighing a mere 1kg making it great for portability.
5. FANGOR F-506
The Fangor F-506 is another solid choice and includes Bluetooth which can be an extremely useful tool to have with a projector.
Thanks to Bluetooth technology, you’ll be able to connect to many of the best wireless speakers, giving you the freedom to match the visuals with your favourite speaker.
When it comes to visuals, you’re getting a maximum display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, with up to a 230-inch display and 6,500 Lumens which should work together to produce high-quality images.
Another standout feature of this is the screen mirroring, which can be done wirelessly from your smartphone or tablet via a WiFi connection.
6. ViewSonic M1 mini
The ViewSonic M1 mini is an impressively portable pocket-sized projector that essentially lets you carry a large screen anywhere. It is our top pick for the best projector under £200 in the UK. If you travel a lot, this is a must-have piece of tech in your backpack. The reasonable street price also means it’s a fantastic choice for a gift.
The ViewSonic M1 mini, with its throw ratio of 1.2, is capable of projecting a large 40-inch screen from a mere distance of 1.1 meters. The auto ±40° vertical keystone correction ensures proper projection alignment, no matter how you tilt the unit. However, a darker environment is necessary for an optimum viewing experience.
While the 120 Lumens brightness, 500:1 contrast ratio, and native 480p resolution of the 0.2” DLP chip don’t sound impressive on paper, it’s pretty decent for a projector that nearly has the same size as your wallet. Despite the lower resolution, the image remains relatively sharp and detailed as the projector is capable of downscaling a 1080p video source.
7. Philips NeoPix Easy 2+
NeoPix Easy 2+ Projector is another great pick for the best budget projectors under £200. If the ViewSonic M1 mini is too underpowered for your preferences, the NeoPix Easy 2+ from Philips is a considerable upgrade. It offers not only a crisper projection at 720p but also a 6W pair of stereo speakers for better audio quality.
The NeoPix Easy 2+ with its 1.4:1 throw ratio gives you up to an 80” screen, though Philips recommends 65” max in a dark room. The projector takes up to a 1080p Full HD input from the HDMI or VGA source, so the native image still looks pretty sharp after the downscale.
The built-in media player lets you play movies, music, and view images from the onboard USB and MicroSD card slots. You can also plug in your own headphones or speakers via the 3.5mm auxiliary jack.
All in all, the NeoPix Easy 2+ is a great source of entertainment for something that easily fits in your travel backpack.
8. GooDee YG420
If you are searching for an even cheaper mini projector, the GooDee YG420 is well worth considering. This 720p projector gives you an optimum 60-inch screen for your content consumption needs. It’s also an excellent media machine for outdoor parties due to its compact design.
Despite its price, you still get ±15° manual keystone and focus correction, as well as digital zoom functionality on this projector. The two HDMI inputs support the MHL function, so you can connect a compatible Android smartphone or iPhone/iPad using a MicroUSB/USB-C/Lightning to HDMI adapter cable.
Other connectivity options include VGA, AV, MicroSD, and USB 2.0. The YG420’s built-in media player supports a wide range of audio and video formats, so you can play your movies and music from external storage.
9. Epson EH-TW740
Towards the higher end of the budget projector market sits the EH-TW740 from Epson, and there’s a lot on offer in exchange for the extra spend. The resolution is a crisp 1080p, projected using 3LCD and RGB liquid crystal technology to create a deep, bright and vibrant image. There are different colour modes to maximise the image for a given media type, including a cinema and game mode. Plus, the 16000:1 contrast speaks for itself. This one is ideal for mounting in the home cinema.
10. APEMAN LC350
APEMAN LC350 is a projector that is just under our budget for this post, yet APEMAN has tried really hard in providing the most value they can, and having a look back on the price – they’ve succeeded in making one of the best LCD projectors in the market.
Even though this projector is classified as a mini projector, you shouldn’t judge it by its size. It can create a perfect movie night for a large family with a screen size of up to 180″.
And yet, thanks to its compactness, it’s super easy to take it anywhere with you. What’s even easier is setting it up since this projector has a very versatile way of connecting devices. We had no problem connecting our iPhone.
However, keep in mind that you should have the right cable to connect your smartphone with APEMAN LC350 projector.
Is 5000 Lumens good for a projector?
Lumens is the standard measurement used to indicate the brightness produced from a projector, how much you need largely depends on use.
If you’re going to be using your projector for a home theatre or gaming in a smaller dimly lit room, then we’d say 3,000 Lumens is more than enough.
If you’re wanting to use the projector outside during the day or in well-lit indoor environments, then we’d recommend upwards of 7,000 Lumens.
What is the best projector screen size?
The best display size to suit your needs is largely dependent on the size of the room and the viewing space you’ll have available.
It is recommended that you sit a minimum of double the screen width away and a maximum of five times the screen width for an optimal viewing experience.
We’d say around 100-inches is the minimum to look for to get the home cinema feel with upwards of 150″ being preferable depending on the size of your room.
Is 50,000 hours of lamp life good?
The short answer is yes, 50,000 hours is more than enough. 50,000 hours will last over 5 years on continuous use, over 11 years if used 12 hours a day and over 17 years if used 8 hours a day.