A home theater projector can transform your entertainment system, allowing you to create an immersive, cinema-style viewing experience at a cost that’s far less than a new LED or OLED TV. While you might need to spend at least $1,000 for a one of the best projectors, you can still find plenty of great projectors for less than $500. Most projectors in this range deliver impressive image quality, lots of connectivity options, portability options, and flexible controls.
But even in the sub-$500 category, there are important differences to consider. To help you find the right projector for a home, office, or on-the-go setup, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best.
What to look for in a projector under $500
When looking for a projector that costs less than $500, 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.
There are two leading types of projectors on the market today – an LCD and a DLP projector.
A DLP projector is known for higher resolution picture quality compared to its counterpart. They have high brightness and sharper images, which extend to fast-moving objects onscreen. For good resolution, 3D support, and realistic imaging, DLP is the way to go.
However, that’s not to say DLP projectors don’t have their disadvantages. A DLP model has issues with dark scenes, especially in a well-lit room where you might encounter the rainbow effect.
An LCD unit is not as bright, which can pose an issue with background light. It’s also because of the wide color gamut seen in the DLP that raises the issue of dark color rendering, which is unseen in LCD units.
A major pro of LCD units is their price range to get a projector with good resolution. They are often more affordable but the full 3D pictures and fast-moving objects portrayed onscreen doesn’t match up to DLP models.
Is one really better than the other? Each video projector has its benefits and drawbacks, so depending on your application and purpose, the video quality might be more suited to your needs than the other. For example, DLP is better for movies and Blu Ray player content, while LCD is enough for presentations and slideshows.
Brightness, Contrast, Resolution
The brightness, contrast, and resolution come together to create a quality image for the best home theater projectors. For exceptional color accuracy and white brightness, you need to look at these characteristics. Working together, these will create the ultimate entertainment in your home theater system.
Let’s start with the brightness. When turned up to the max, the brightness of a portable projector can give you eye fatigue and a headache. This is why simply turning up the backlight is not the solution in a bright room or well lit rooms. What you can do is determine the amount of ambient lighting that will be present in your viewing space to determine the brightness levels.
The brightness is measured in lumens, or ANSI lumens, a more detailed lumens standard. Yes, in general, a higher lumens rating in a portable projector will equal a brighter picture, but that doesn’t always mean better.
If you intend to watch movies or TV shows in a dark room with no lighting to match a Dolby Cinema or IMAX movie theater experience, then something as low as 1000 lumens will be enough for your home theater. However, in a living room where floor-to-ceiling windows are present, you will need upwards of 3000 lumens or even 3600 lumens to combat the daylight.
When picking out the best projector under 500 bucks, 3000 lumens for a pitch black room is not needed. If you go for a projector this bright, the experience won’t be a pleasant one. Not to mention, it might cost you extra cash you could have saved.
The next item to consider is the contrast. Contrast is the difference between the brightest and darkest colors in your content. 10,000:1 is our experts’ recommended standard, but the higher it is, the better.
In addition, contrast affects the realism of the color accuracy and warmth and coolness they portray. The contrast ratio needs to be optimal and not too extreme. Also, consider a good ratio between the deep black levels and the shadow details.
Lastly, the resolution is the most crucial point for picture quality. The better the resolution, the better quality the picture and images are.
It’s quite simple, the higher the number, the higher the resolution of the quality images. Most of the best projectors under 500 will offer at least 1280 x 800p resolution or 1920 x 1080p resolution. Our experts also do not recommend going below 1280 x 800 as this will affect the quality of the images.
A projector screen will have a maximum and minimum screen size it’s able to cast on the screen. The best projector under 500 dollars will need to match the screen or the surface you intend to cast the image onto. Measure the wall or white screen to decide on the best range.
However, the max and min screencasting will also depend on the throw range, which our experts will also cover in a bit. In short, the screen sizes will depend on how far or how close you place the projector to the screen or wall.
The working life of a projector depends on how long its lamp works. A projector with a good lamp life requires less maintenance, giving you years of bright, smooth service. Hence, look into the lamp life of the projector you are getting.
You should consider those projectors providing at least 10,000 to 15,000 hours of lamp life. This would be enough to give you more than 3 years of maintenance-free display.
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 10 Picks:
1. Nebula Capsule II Smart Mini Projector
The Anker Nebula Capsule II is about the size of a soda can, but don’t let its diminutive size fool you: This little gadget packs a ton of useful features for cinephiles, gamers, and casual viewers alike. In this tiny contraption you’ll find Android TV, voice control, a built-in speaker, a rechargeable battery, and a bunch of connection options: HDMI, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast.
While it’s a bit pricey for this category, the Nebula Capsuke’s 200 ANSI lumens make it bright enough even for some outdoor environments. We’d also like to see Full HD quality for the price, but there’s still a lot to like about this little gadget.
- Lots of connections
- Cool design
- Only 720p
2. ViewSonic PA503S
This is, without a doubt, one of, if not the, best projector under $500 on the market today. First off, is it’s maneuverability. Whether you need your projector close or far away, this DLP format projector can get the job done. It boasts a throw range of 3.9–43 feet! This makes it ideal for some applications, from a cramped office, a home theater, or even as an outdoor projector for a great movie experience on a warm evening.
You’ll also have no problem seeing the image with projector either. It boasts a startlingly bright 3600 lumens, which is bright enough for pretty much anywhere. What is surprising about this ultra-bright bulb is how long it lasts. Even at this high brightness, these bulbs should last you about 15,000 hours before they need to be replaced. While this is not the longest bulb life on the market, it is still impressive for such a bright bulb.
This projector also gives you tons of choices for connectivity, since it can support VGA, RCA, and HDMI hookups. These various connection options make it simple to hook this projector up to DVD or Blue-Ray players, Mac or PC сomputers, or any other device you might want to utilize it with.
- Lots of connectivity options
- 3,600 lumens
- 15,000-hour bulb life
- Wide throw range
- DLP format for crisp images
- Shorter bulb life than other projectors
3. Epson VS250
Epson has long been one of the leaders in projector technology, and it is easy to see why with the VS250. It is super simple to set up and can be connected in a variety of ways. Its 3LCD display helps it to produce crystal clear images at a high brightness level of 3,200 lumens. This projector can also operate at a variety of the most popular resolutions, though it works best at 800×600, which might not be the best for some movies or games.
The contrast for this projector is among some of the best for LCD types. It has a contrast ratio of 15000:1, making it quite easy to get really good clarity on the darker parts of your presentation or media.
This projector would be a good one to use pretty much anywhere you need one. Its throw distance makes it perfect for large or small spaces, or anything in between.
- 3,200 lumens
- High contrast ratio
- Easy setup
- Low native resolution might not be good for some media types
4. ViewSonic PX701HD
If you are on the lookout for the best projector under 500 that would suit a gaming freak, the ViewSonic PX701HD Projector would be it. You can get a huge screen up to 300 inches with stunning picture quality thanks to its full HD 1080p resolution. It has a 3500-lumen brightness making it a great option for both indoor and outdoor uses.
It has an exclusive SuperColor technology that makes use of the wide color gamut resulting in a wonderful color scheme. Each detail is sharpened and highlighted giving you a wholesome theatrical experience. The low input lag is of special importance to gamers. It has a 16 ms response time which gives an ultra-smooth, and fast performance.
Furthermore, it has additional features such as lens schist and zoom pertaining to a flexible and convenient system. With the help of these features, you can align your screen with the best angles. You do not have to replace the lamp for at least 10 years if you use the projector for 5 hours each day. This averages the lamp life to 20,000 hours which is great if you are on a budget.
- Low input lag
- High brightness
- No HDR
5. Optoma HD146X
Optoma HD146X Projector is also an amazing option when it comes to the best projector under 500. It has an exceptional quality display with a native 1080p resolution and a stunning color wheel. Retailing for exactly 500 dollars, you get complete worth of what you spend.
The DLP DMD single-chip design ensures a well-aligned, sharp, and vibrant image. The picture quality is unbeatable due to the combination of Full HD resolution and DLP technology. The 3600-lumen brightness provides a sharp display even in moderate lights.
It also serves as a gaming projector if you account for the low input latency. Furthermore, the gaming display mode adjusts the display with the right shadows and darkness to the action game’s needs. The remote control provides an easy means to control the settings and manuals. This adds to your ease and convenience.
- Amazing black level
- Supports 3D display
- Crisp graphics
- Average built-in speakers
6. GooDee WiFi Mini Projector
If you are on a budget, a mini projector with good display performance would suit you. Therefore, GooDee WiFi Mini Projector can be listed as the Top rated projector under 500. You will not find wifi compatibility in any other budget projector other than this. This feature alone makes it a worthy investment. The price point is not high either. Hence, you should look into this mini projector.
The 720p native resolution provides good results. Of course, not as great as Full HD, but nevertheless clear and bright. The color support and 200-inch display combine to upraise your viewing experience. It is compact and lightweight. This means you can easily take it with you on camping trips or set it up in your backyard for movie nights. The built-in internal speakers provide fine-quality audio to accompany your display. You can watch unlimited movies and media for 50,000 hours without a single run for maintenance.
Moreover, the GooDee WiFi Mini Projector comes with a lot of input options. You can connect it to your Roku Stick, Fire-TV, Chromecast, External Speakers, USB Disk, PS4/XBOX, Laptop/PC, DVD Player, and Mobile Phone/iPad. This is done through the HDMI, AV, VGA, USB, and TF ports so you do not have to worry about the connectivity.
- Keeps the focus
- Clear picture
- Fine speakers
- A little challenging to connect to iPhone
7. BenQ TH585 1080P Home Entertainment Projector
If you are in the thought of owning a default setting of a big-screen projector, idealistically suitable for meetings and classes, let alone a home entertainment system, BenQ TH585 Projector is worth your expectation. With its native resolution of 1080p definition, coupled with a high contrast ratio of 15000:1, the best home theater projector under 500 will allow you to experience Blu-ray, video, and HD broadcasting without downscaling or compression either in your living room or backyard with ambient lighting.
The massive 3,300 lumens bulb can project a 16:9 ratio image that ranges in size from 60-inch to 300-inch being a reliable substitute even for the costly 55 to 85-inch Sony Bravia. Its two-megapixel high resolution delivers enhanced picture detail, ultra-sharp readability that go with highly professional presentations, either in dark or well-lit rooms.
- Project a 16:9 ratio image ranging in size from 60-300 inches
- Blu-ray, video and HD broadcasting
- Environmentally conscious power savings
- Remote control including Quick Install button
- Triple adjustment feet
- Replaceable lamp
- No smart TV functionality
8. ViewSonic M1+ Portable Smart Wi-Fi Projector
A versatile and compact utility of a very small-sized projector is a real wonder to experience with the ViewSonicM+ Projector. The ViewSonic M1 is a must-have for your next camping trip or outdoor excursion as its compact and lightweight design makes it ideal for indoor/outdoor usage.
The LED projector is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and weighs less than 2 pounds that make it surprisingly easy to put in your suitcase for presentations and entertainment on the go. With a built-in battery providing up to 6 hours of entertainment without a tangled power cord and over 30,000 hours of operational life, this projector will deliver years of multimedia entertainment wherever it goes.
Dual speakers by Harman Kardon provide crisp and clear sound for an all-around immersive experience of multimedia content, while a short-throw lens can display large images in small spaces. Well, the versatile connectivity options including a MicroSD card slot, USB Type-A, and USB Type-C allow the M1 to be a great offer for sharing and displaying videos, movies, and other multimedia content.
- Ideal for your next camping trip or outdoor excursion
- Versatile and compact utility
- Very small-sized & light-weighted projector
- Crisp and clear sound
- Short-throw lens
- Little bit of noisy fan
- Not good for business presentations for excessive brightness
9. Epson VS260 3-Chip 3LCD XGA Projector
The Epson VS230 3LCD projector has been one of the most reliable projector on our list, which you can get at the cost of under 500 dollars. Epson is a top leading brand for offering the quality of best projectors under 500 at an affordable cost and quality results.
The main reason for its high popularity is its SVA resolution and its lumen count, which can add brightness in dim or low lightroom. Due to the lengthen lamp life, the frequency and cost are gradually maintained. You will also find it available with a wireless networking system.
It even measures 3.2″ x 11.9″ x 9.2″ in the weight of 5.3 pounds. Hence, this makes this model be a moderately portable unit for easy movement. Plus, it is available with a single connection at the backside for the HDMI. It is available with two different ports for USB, i.e., USB A and USB B type ports.
- Great data-image quality
- Excellent quality of video
- Reasonable in loud audio
- USB Access Type-A port
- Compact and extra portable
- Lacks in 3D capabilities
- Does not offer optical zoom
10. YABER Y30 Native Full HD Video Projector
This projector is available with the availability of 7200 lumens with a contrast ratio of 10000:1. It is excellent when it comes to providing excellent HD picture quality with genuine contrast and brightness level. In this way, you will receive sharp and bright image quality in a lit room.
Apart from you, you will also experience a superior projection experience in the native Full HD resolution (1080p) and hence supports almost 4K Ultra HD format. Due to the Color Matching Algorithm, this 1080p projector under 500 grants you great color gamut and genuine color representation.
Above all, it has various connection ports in which we have 2 HDMI and 2 USB, 1 VGA, 1 AV plus 1 mini jack (3.5 mm) audio. You can easily get it connected with PS3, Xbox One, pen drive, headphones, and android smartphones.
- 50-degree use of keystone correction
- Offers 8000 lumens
- Great motorized zoom
- Has a Manual focus ring
How to install a Projector on the Ceiling?
Can I expect that 4K projector comes under 500?
No, you can’t find any projector with 4K resolution under $500. Its cost comes between the range of $500 to $1000.
Is 500 Lumens enough for a projector?
In 2022, I would say – No. However, the 100″ screen projection requires only 350 lumens, according to SMPTE (the motion picture technicians). If you want a good quality image on your screen, then it is recommended that you go for a projector that offers at least 1000 lumens.
What projectors can I use with my 3D glasses?
Any projector that offers DLP technology as most of the DLP projectors are designed for 3D technology so that we can use them with 3D glasses. However, it doesn’t mean that all DLP types of projectors support 3D technology. Moreover, you also have to make sure the content which you intend to play should be 3D as well.
Are cheap projectors any good?
There are plenty of cheap projector options available as low as $60 and are worth it for the price. However, if you’re planning to run HD movies or playing moderate gaming, then we recommend you to go for projectors at least $500 or higher depending on your budget.
Do projectors use a lot of electricity?
In general, a projector actually won’t use that much electricity in comparison to other forms of entertainment, like watching a TV. But, this all really depends on the specific projector, as some can use a lot of electric. Many projectors are battery powered, and they get through that battery pretty quickly.