With projectors now surpassing expectations in terms of latency, portability, and definition, it’s not so much of a stretch for companies to dub their designs ‘gaming projectors.’ And there are plenty of benefits to using a projector for big-screen gaming in place of a TV, too. As well as it being a mighty space saver, a projector is also a much smaller target for kids (or adults) who have a tendency to throw controllers. It’s also much easier to shift a projector around to suit your space than it is a TV.
We tested a wide range of projectors to see just how practical they are for gaming and cinema experiences, as well as any other media you might want to have writ large. We’ve tested the basic gaming experience each projector offers, as well as the effective latency compared with a 144Hz gaming panel.
Sure the super speedy, bright, and ultra-short throw, 4K Vava Chroma is highly desirable, but the $4,699 price tag may not be to everyone’s taste. Thankfully there are some more affordable gaming projector options on offer, each of which shines in their own way, so there’s a beamer for everyone.
What Makes a Projector Good For Gaming?
We think there are three main factors that make a projector great for gaming: input lag, High Dynamic Range, and the projector’s audio capabilities. Let’s look at why we think these factors are important.
The most important factor to consider when purchasing a gaming projector is input lag. Input lag is an important term in the world of projector gaming. It is a word that relates to the gaming speed performance on projectors – the time between when the gaming system sends out its signal, to the time it is received by the projector, and is measured in milliseconds. The range of acceptable input lag speeds are as high as 50ms to as low as 16ms and there are three categories these speeds fall into: Acceptable, Good, and Optimal.
Acceptable input lag the category of the casual gamer. These are the gamers who do it for fun, and do not compete. They’ll typically stay offline, and play games with their friends and family in person, or by themselves. These are your Nintendo Switch gamers, RPG players, and first-person shooter types who don’t spend much time playing against other gamers online.
RESOLUTION AND 4K GAMING WITH HDR
HDR is a feature that appears on many 4K UHD projectors on the market. The acronym stands for “High Dynamic Range,” and refers to a type of image processing in 4K capable projectors and TVs that saturates the colors to become more vibrant, with more “pop and wow” factor. It does so by expanding the contrast and color, often significantly. On most projectors, HDR will considerably reduce the brightness of whatever color mode it is being used on.
The list of projectors that have the ability to handle 4K games with HDR gets significantly shorter than the list of projectors that have HDR. This has to do with the type of HDMI port that is used on projectors that can handle 4K gaming with HDR, and those that cannot. To project a game in 4K HDR at 60 fps, the projector requires an HDMI port that is 18 Ghz.
Projectors aren’t necessarily considered the pinnacle of audio performance, and for good reason, they simply don’t match the power an AV sound system or a soundbar can offer in a small box, but that’s not to say that they can’t offer compelling audio performance.
For many projectors, the different gaming modes manipulate how audio is delivered from the projector. A great example of this in action is with role playing mode, which better amplifies deep bass from the projector, making monster roars and 50 caliber sniper rounds more guttural and impactful. Areas like voice are enhanced when using sports mode so the player can better understand what the announcer is saying in the game.
Whereas surround effects are more accurately placed when users access first-person shooter mode, which helps you better locate where other players are in relation to you in the game, making you a more effective player.
The size of the screen certainly helps a lot, but so does the ability to intelligently adjust the projector’s video and audio output to best match each game’s performance. Previously there were many obstacles that made projectors not as ideally suited to gaming as monitors or TVs, we’re pleased to see many—dare we say all—of these barriers adequately removed.
How We Decided
Since gaming projectors and home theater projectors are mostly synonymous, we had to be extra picky during our research and ranking phase of writing this guide. However, as we sifted through the multitudinous options, we found that two features were the most important to consider: input lag and refresh rate. As such, we only included projectors above if they offered input lag ratings under 40ms, ranking options higher if they offered input lag lower than that baseline point. We also preferred projectors with at least 120Hz refresh rates because they created the smoothest pictures. Bonus points went out to products with 240Hz refresh rates, but those are few and far between because it’s mostly 4K projectors that offer that high of a rating.
Speaking of resolution, that was also a major factor in our decision-making process. We mostly included options with 1080p resolution, but still found a couple of excellent 4K options. Ultra HD resolution projectors are still very expensive, so their 1080p counterparts often tend to be a much better buy for the average gamer. Along with resolution, we measured each projector’s overall picture quality, including contrast ratios and color accuracy. We preferred options with higher contrast ratios and color-boosting functionalities because they created a truly immersive gaming experience.
Finally, we considered brightness and adjustability. In general, it’s better to purchase a projector with a higher lamp brightness, and we ranked our picks accordingly. However, this doesn’t mean projectors with lower lamp brightness should be excluded. It just means they should be used in darker rooms. The projector you buy should also include some kind of adjustability options so you can create the most precise picture for your individual gaming space. We awarded points if the projectors included options like keystone correction, vertical tilt, and optical zoom adjustability.
10 Best Projectors for Gaming in 2021:
1. BenQ X1300I
With one of the swiftest refresh rates on the list at 120Hz, the BenQ X1300I comes in at the top. That’s thanks in no small part to its impressive 8ms response time, meaning you’ll be able to get some competitive big screen gaming in without fear of compromising your rank. It may not be as fast as the BenQ TK700STi, but there’s more to gaming than speed.
The built in speakers are surprisingly punchy, and the 30,000 hour lamp life means it’ll last a while longer than the speedier BenQ model… provided you don’t block the exhausts. As long as you can mount it on the ceiling—where it’s best situated—that shouldn’t be an issue. Just make sure you do have the space for a long throw projector before you commit to buying.
Either way, it’s backed by exceptional brightness, so the light of day shouldn’t hamper your gaming experience. And coming in with the kind of speeds you’d expect from a tidy gaming monitor, this beamer will see you right.
Optoma built this projector from the ground up to satisfy the needs of gamers. The result is the perfectly optimized short throw projector with enhanced response times, vibrant visuals and rich contrast. First, the .49 throw ratio is perfect for gamers, allowing the projector to be placed on your TV stand or entertainment center for a 100-inch image from just four feet away.
That image is going to be glorious, thanks to the DarbeeVision Image Processor that reveals extraordinary detail, depth and object separating, so the details of your games show in cinematic quality. Expect full HD 1080p resolution, 3,000 lumens of brightness, as well as a 28,000:1 contrast ratio that creates amazing black levels for the best experience in all genres of games. Don’t worry about lag, either. Enhanced Gaming Mode gives you a best-in-class response time of 16ms to keep you engaged in even the most demanding circumstances. Other nice features include Full 3D and a long-life lamp that will last up to 8,000 hours.
Epson is arguably the king of projectors, but many of their options are catered to either business presentations or movies. When you’re looking to game on your projector, color response is hugely important, because modern video games are just as much works of visual art as they are fun challenges. With an astounding 60,000:1 color contrast, you have a really wide range of tonal options available here.
For perspective, many mid-tier projectors settle in at 15,000:1, meaning their range from the blackest blacks to the whitest whites is vastly smaller than this one. The Epson 2150 offers 1080p resolutions, and at an 11-foot minimum throw, it offers a screen four times larger than a 60-inch flatscreen panel. There’s a built-in 10W speaker, and it even supports Miracast so you can easily stream HD media should you choose to use this for other entertainment purposes. Plus, at less than $1,000, it’s far from the most expensive option out there, especially considering its rich color spectrum.
For 4K gaming with limited room, the BenQ TK700STi is a spectacular choice. Boasting a 4K ultra-HD resolution with HDR, the TK700STi produces a bright image thanks to its 3000 ANSI lumens. An ultra-low 16ms input lag at 60Hz on 4K ensures compatibility with PCs and consoles such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The TK700STi can game at 4K 30Hz with 33ms of input lag, 1080p 60Hz with 16.67ms of lag, 1080p 120Hz at 8.2ms, and 4ms at 1080p 240Hz. There are pre-set gaming modes for different types of games such as first-person shooters (FPSes) and role-playing games (RPGs).
There’s great connectivity. You’ll find a pair of HDMI ports, one of which features HDMI ARC, an RS-232 input, 3.5mm audio output jack, and USB Type-A header. BenQ includes an Android TV dongle that provides smart TV capabilities for streaming from the likes of Hulu, Disney+, Plex, and other services. While a dedicated surround sound system or soundbar is recommended, the onboard 5W speakers work extremely well.
If you want to step up to a 4K gaming projector, the Optoma UHD50X is an incredible performer. Sporting a blisteringly fast 240Hz refresh rate and a 16ms response time, the UHD50X is an awesome 4K projector with low input lag. Its HDR implementation features HDR10 and HLG support for lifelike colors. A whopping 500,000:1 contrast ratio gushes inky dark blacks and ultra-bright whites. Although the UHD50X isn’t a short-throw projector, a 1.3x zoom and 5-15% vertical lens shift coupled with its +/-40-degree keystone correction makes for a flexible installation. 3400 ANSI lumens shoot a bright image that doesn’t get washed out even with lots of ambient light.
Disappointingly, its lowest input lag gaming setting requires a resolution dip down to 1080p. If you want to experience true 4K UHD, you’ll need to accept an input lag of 26ms. That’s not terrible and should be fine for both serious and casual gamers alike. What’s more, toggling on its advanced gaming mode disables any picture adjustments such as keystone. So if you can’t get a perfectly straight image naturally, the lowest input lag setting won’t be useful.
Overall, the Optoma UHD50X is one of the best projectors for Xbox One X, PS4, and PC gaming as a 4K projector featuring low input lag.
The Sony VPL-VW695ES projector is a god among projectors, offering cutting-edge features and functionality…if you’re willing to pay for it. This projector is on the higher end of the budget scale, but you do get a ton of extras as compared to other, more affordable projectors. For starters, the Sony offers ultra-sharp image quality with a native 4096 x 2160 pixel resolution. While still technically 4K, this resolution is much higher than the usual 3840×2160 you see in 4K projectors and TVs, making it one of the best 4K projectors around. This results in a super-detailed picture quality that’s incredibly hard to beat. Plus, Sony has built this projector with its proprietary Reality Creation technology, which only serves to increase the sharpness and detail you can see.
The VPL-VW695ES also offers a dynamic iris that creates super deep blacks and HDR10 support for bright, vivid colors. You can even play IMAX content on this projector and view it as it appears, and sounds, in the theaters. When it comes to gaming, we were impressed to find a sub-30ms of input lag on 4K UHD gaming content. While not the best for the most competitive gamers, this is more than enough for most applications, especially on 4K resolution. We do wish Sony included some smart or streaming functionality, but more likely than not you’ll have this connected to a home theater AV receiver, which you can use to connect to streaming services via your Blu-ray player or video game console.
7. Optoma UHD35
The Optoma UHD35 would be an excellent 4K gaming projector at any price, so it’s especially impressive that it’s also one of the most affordable options on the market. Using Enhanced Gaming Mode drops the input lag down to just over 4ms in full HD (16ms in 4K). That’s as close to instant as you’re likely to find from a projector. Paired with the high frame rate, this make it a suitable option for even pro-level gamers, with no worry of lag or frame tears interrupting your flow.
The picture quality of the UHD35 is on par with other Optoma 4K projectors, and it utilizes much of the same technology. This includes Dynamic Black contrast enhancement, delivering rich black levels and full detail in shadows. The colors are vibrant, too, with an 8-segment color wheel and a bright lamp that keeps those hues saturated in any light level.
Now you will need a good amount of space to use the Optoma UHD35—about 11-12 feet for a 100” screen. You’ll also need to be fairly precise if you’re ceiling-mounting it. It does have some installation flexibility, working in table-top or mounted set-ups and with a 2D keystone correction, but the zoom is narrow and there aren’t options like rotation or lens shift to fine-tune the alignment.
LG is renowned for producing top-tier gaming TVs and monitors, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that their projector is top-notch, too. The HU810PW 4K short-throw box is very impressive, especially when you stack up against some of the other competing options under $2000.
For starters, you get true ultra-high-definition resolutions without compromise from this LG unit. A lot of other “gaming projectors” promise native 4K without actually being able to deliver, and likely upscale images to compromising on quality. Fortunately, that’s not an issue with this setup.
Secondly, the latency you’ll see is actually pretty decent. There’s a little bit of delay on input from your Xbox X controller, but it’s probably a lot less than what you’re used to getting from a projector. Providing you’re not doing any competitive gaming this shouldn’t be an issue.
As the lumen count is on the lower end of the scale, it’s worth noting that this projector is better suited to darker rooms. Furthermore, The speakers are only average at best. However, that shouldn’t be a problem for most console gamers who are likely using headsets anyway.
A budget projector for gaming, you might think, would be lackluster in terms of brightness and picture quality. However, as components are becoming more affordable, the manufacturers in the projecting industry for years have been able to create projectors that are great for home cinemas and in this case, gaming.
Optoma is one of said companies that have been producing top projectors for years and with their GT1080 Darbee, they’ve created a budget projector that has some really impressive features. You’ll receive DarbeeVision image-enhancement technology which enables greater detail in textures and reflective surfaces, essential in today’s gaming environments with an array of game worlds and environmental elements. Further enhancing its gaming capabilities is the enhanced gaming mode which creates lightning-fast response times of 16ms, impressive for any normal display never mind a projector.
Looking deeper at the specs we can see that you will be able to make the most of the 3,000 lumens and 28000:1 contrast ratio on up to a 120-inch screen, creating a bright and vivid image for a cinema-like gaming experience. This projector can provide that 120-inch full HD picture from just 4 feet away due to the short-throw lens, meaning you won’t need a huge room to get the most out of this device.
This is an excellent projector for a narrow room as it provides 100-inches of projection from only 1.5m away and set up was incredibly straightforward. We particularly liked the modes feature, which adjusts the picture it’s throwing out according to the colour paint you have on your wall. In addition, the 1.2x zoom means that you don’t have to keep messing around with where the projector sits in the room and you can just use the zoom to scale your picture to your watching wall.
A lag time of 16.67ms will satisfy the most demanding gamer and BenQ’s sharp picture really brought the digitally rendered images to life on the wall. All the necessary connection ports are catered for and there’s even a very good in-built speaker to complete the package.
Is a projector better than a TV for gaming?
Using a projector over a TV for gaming has its pros and cons. projectors for gaming give you variable screen sizes and more portability over TVs. However, you have to be pickier when choosing a projector for gaming so you get the right feature set, including input lag and a high level of brightness.
Do you need a screen to use a projector?
Typically you will get a much better picture if you use a projection screen, however, it’s not strictly necessary. You can use a blank, white wall as a screen and it’ll work just fine. Keep in mind that the wall’s color will have an effect on the colors from the picture. For example, a tan wall will skew colors toward the brown range.
Can you connect an Xbox X to a projector?
An Xbox X console connects to a projector via the HDMI port on the back. Fortunately, the ultra-high-speed HDMI cable that comes with the Xbox X is backward compatible so it can support both HDMI 2.1 and HDMI 2.0 projectors.
Why are short-throw projectors best for gaming?
For three major reasons, they’re good for gaming. They can get you a huge monitor in front of your eyes, cost less than a 100″ TV, and are easy to use and maintain.
What’s the difference between ANSI lumens and lumens?
Lumens are a measurement of luminous flux, or the observed power of light. ANSI lumens are measured as per the standards set forth by the American National Standards Institute, which means that the light is measured the exact same way every time. It gives you a more exact figure as to how projectors compare with one another. Other measures of lumens are valid, but they’re not as strictly controlled.