The Best Home Theater Projectors for Movie Night

Pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and settle in: You can get the cinema experience in your own living room with a home theater projector setup.

Best Overall

The Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K PRO-UHD Projector on a white background.

Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K PRO-UHD Projector

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Best Bang For The Buck

The Optoma HD146X Home Theater Projector on a white background.

Optoma HD146X Home Theater Projector

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Upgrade Pick

The Sony 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector on a white background.

Sony 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector

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Home theater projectors are a great alternative to traditional TVs, especially for those who want to enjoy media on a big screen. One of the main draws of a projector is to get the movie-theater experience in your own home. The large and immersive image, displayed on a home theater projector screen mounted to the wall, feels more like sitting in a cinema than when watching a backlit TV.

To better get to know their perks, we spoke to Vincent Wang, the CEO of XGIMI North America, a home projector retailer. “Projectors may be a better option than TVs for several reasons,” he says. According to Wang, projectors offer expansive visuals, excel in spatial efficiency, and even save room “without compromising on the big-screen experience.” He adds, “With a projector, you will have a more comfortable visual experience than with a TV because the device uses softer light. It offers a blend of innovation and brings a true cinematic experience to the comfort of your living room.”

The top options, some of which were tested by our reviewers, offer excellent picture quality, sufficient brightness, the right input, and additional features for your needs. Read on to see—by helpful category—the best home theater projectors for at-home viewing.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K PRO-UHD Projector
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Optoma HD146X Home Theater Projector
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Sony 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector
  4. BEST FOR SMALL ROOMS: Optoma GT2000HDR Compact Short Throw Projector
  5. BEST LED: BenQ HT2060 1080p HDR LED Home Theater Projector
  6. BEST FOR OUTDOORS: BenQ GS50 Portable Projector
  7. BEST MINI: Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro Mini Projector
  8. BEST FOR TRAVEL: Anker Nebula Mars II Pro Projector
  9. BEST FOR GAMING: BenQ TH685P 1080p 3500lm Home Theater Projector
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: Epson Home Cinema LS11000 4K PRO-UHD Laser Projector
The Best Home Theater Projector set up under a pergola and projecting a football game against a patio wall.
Photo: amazon.com

How We Chose the Best Home Theater Projectors

It can be difficult to choose the best home theater projector for your needs. Brands display lots of specifications and features that might sound impressive but may not directly translate to great performance. We considered more than 20 top-rated brand-name projectors for this guide. We then conducted extensive research into our top picks, going beyond the brand specs to research trusted third-party reviews and shopper’s comments. We also included comments from our own testing on a few of the top picks.

We chose home movie theater projectors that have good image quality at their price point; projectors can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, and much like a TV, the price has some ties to quality. Since people use projectors for a variety of needs, from a TV replacement to a portable outdoor movie or sports-viewing device, we chose the best home theater projector systems in a range of categories so there should be an option to suit every shopper’s needs.

Our Top Picks

Outfit your living or theater room and take advantage of an excellent viewing experience with one of the best home theater projectors.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: Lamp
  • Resolution: 4K PRO-UHD
  • Brightness: 3000 lumens

Pros

  • Offers a 4K resolution image for a reasonable midrange cost
  • Imaging technology provides excellent contrast and prevents the “rainbow effect” that can occur in similar projectors
  • Has a built-in speaker, but users can also connect to speakers with aptX Bluetooth technology

Cons

  • A bit large and bulky; projector looks chunky and might not fit some existing mounted setups

The Epson Home Cinema 3800 projector offers excellent performance packaged into a reasonably priced projector. This projector boasts Epson’s 4K PRO-UHD (ultra high-definition) technology, which uses processing technologies to enhance the image from the projector’s native 1080 pixels (p) to 4K quality. This technology also helps with color and image processing. Combined with the 3000 lumen brightness, this creates a vivid and bright image on the screen.

The imaging technology in this projector (3LCD) improves color accuracy, preventing the “rainbow effect” that can happen with some projectors (which looks like a blurry rainbow distortion around some images). Apart from its great picture quality, this projector also has a built-in speaker system, though buyers will probably want to connect it to their own using the product’s aptX Bluetooth technology.

What our testers say: Jared Wilder and Markkus Rovito, Bob Vila writers, note in The Best Outdoor Projectors that this projector displayed rich colors and great picture quality: “Epson counsels a maximum of 300 inches for the projection size; we tested it at around that size with no appreciable loss in detail quality. Internal processing can also ‘upscale’ a 1080p full-HD video source to 4K resolution.” Get the Epson Home Cinema 3800 home theater projector at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, or Epson.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: Lamp
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Brightness: 3600 lumens

Pros

  • Great performance for its under $1000 price
  • Relatively long lamp life (when used in Eco or Dynamic mode), offering up to 15,000 hours of viewing time
  • High brightness; can be used in rooms with some ambient light

Cons

  • Some reviewers note the fan sound is quite loud and can be disruptive

For a sub-$1,000 price tag, the Optoma HD146X home theater projector is for shoppers on a budget who want a decent projector. This full HD 1080p projector is bright; at 3600 lumens, it can be used during the day. The projector has great contrast and color accuracy, so it will display TV shows and movies nicely. In darkened rooms, take advantage of the Eco or Dynamic settings, which dim the projection but improve lamp life (up to a maximum of 15,000 hours, which is great for a lamp light source).

Of course, like any budget-friendly electronic product, this projector will lack some features to accommodate for its lower price point. This projector has fewer connectivity options, with just an HDMI input and an audio 3.5mm and USB-A output. Some reviewers also note that this projector runs a bit loud.

Get the Optoma HD146X home theater projector at Amazon, Best Buy, Adorama, B&H, or Optoma.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: Laser
  • Resolution: 4K
  • Brightness: 2000 lumens

Pros

  • Native 4K resolution for sharp and realistic images; excellent picture quality
  • Long-lasting laser light source won’t dim or need replacement like a bulb would
  • Modern-looking housing looks nice in a movie room

Cons

  • High price tag and impressive specs aren’t for everyone; may not be worth the cost for some
  • This projector is heavy, weighing around 28 pounds

Those willing to shell out more cash for a projector will want to consider the Sony 4K HDR Laser home theater projector. This unit is a native 4K projector, which means it provides full 4K resolution without the help of image-boosting technology (which is the case for our top pick, the Epson Home Cinema 3800 projector). Keep in mind that many people can’t see much difference between these different “types” of 4K, so it will be up to individual shoppers if it’s worth the cost.

This projector also uses a laser light source instead of a lamp. The laser light source provides up to 2000 lumens of brightness, and it won’t dim over time like lamp light sources do; there’s no need to change a bulb. Stunning color and immersive contrast also give this projector an edge. In addition, this projector looks modern, so it won’t be an eyesore in a theater room.

Get the Sony home theater projector at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, or B&H.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: Laser
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Brightness: 3500 lumens

Pros

  • With a short throw lens, the projector can sit only 3 feet from a wall or screen
  • Laser light source is bright; lasts for up to 30,000 hours of viewing time
  • Fairly small and compact, so home theater projector installation is easy in tight spaces

Cons

  • Some reviewers noticed a rainbow effect (slight color distortion around some images)

A short throw home theater projector is the best choice for small rooms; it allows viewers to place the projector closer to the screen than they can with a regular projector. The Optoma GT2000HDR compact short throw projector can project a 100-inch image from about 3 feet away, so those who don’t have space for a proper mounted setup can still enjoy home theater projection.

Impressively, this unit is a laser projector and provides up to 3500 lumens of brightness for daytime viewing. It’s not too expensive either and provides great image quality and contrast without the need to change out a lamp bulb over time (the laser should last up to 30,000 hours). This model is compact, up to 34 percent smaller than the brand’s other models, so it won’t look too clunky in a small room either.

Get the Optoma short throw home theater projector at Amazon, Best Buy, Abt, or Adorama

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: LED
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Brightness: 2300 American National Standards Institute (ANSI) lumens

Pros

  • Reasonably priced projector’s LED light source won’t require replacement during the product’s lifetime
  • Filmmaker Mode is excellent for movie viewing, displaying the film as intended for a cinema experience
  • 1.3 times zoom range, 2D keystone feature, and vertical lens shift help with flexible installation locations

Cons

  • Some reviewers note poor sound quality and low volume from onboard speakers

Projectors with an LED light source last longer than projectors with a lamp but often come at a lower price tag than their laser counterparts. This LED home theater projector from BenQ is on the more budget-friendly side, and with its LED light, it should last 20,000 to 30,000 hours. This unit delivers good contrast, great color, and 1080p resolution.

This projector is another compact option, plus it has built-in speakers (though it can connect to external speakers). For easier setup, it has a decent 1.3 times zoom ratio; 2D keystone (which eliminates the trapezoid shape that projections can sometimes take on from certain installation locations); and vertical lens shift, which isn’t common at this price point. One handy feature is the Filmmaker Mode, which disables image enhancements to display movies as they were intended by the director.

Get the BenQ HT2060 home theater projector at Amazon, Best Buy, or BenQ.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: LED
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Brightness: 500 lumens

Pros

  • Great picture quality for a portable projector, with decent brightness, sharp images, and vivid colors
  • Features impressive sound for built-in speakers on a projector of this size
  • More rugged than some; splash-resistant and drop-resistant to better tolerate outdoor use

Cons

  • Netflix does not support this projector, so it takes a few extra steps to access this streaming service

The best outdoor theater projector is the perfect setup for outdoor movie nights. The BenQ GS50 portable projector’s image and audio quality are excellent, so it makes for a great outdoor projector setup—no extra speaker required (though users can add their own for even better audio quality). Once put in place and switched on, it has an adjustable stand that lets it angle as much as 15 degrees, so the projector autofocuses quickly.

This 1080p-resolution projector is compact and lightweight, so it’s easy to move about outside. It’s also water-resistant against splashes (IPX2 splash proof), so a little inclement weather won’t ruin the device. With drop protection from 2.3 feet high, it won’t be destroyed after taking a small tumble. The projector comes with an enclosed Android TV stick that gives users streaming access. Unfortunately, this projector is not supported by Netflix, but users can connect another device through the HDMI input to access this streaming service.

What our testers say: Jared Wilder and Markkus Rovito, Bob Vila writers, note in our tested guide that, “After positioning it and powering it up, the GS50 autofocuses its picture very effectively, and the remote has easy-to-operate corner correction with the flexibility to place the projector in a variety of positions away from the projector screen or wall.” Get the BenQ GS50 home theater projector at Amazon, Staples, or BenQ.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: LED
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Brightness: 400 lumens

Pros

  • Small footprint: Tall, narrow design makes it possible to fit on small and crowded tables
  • Has Android TV and Chromecast built in for simple streaming and casting
  • Easy to set up and offers decent picture and sound quality for its small size

Cons

  • Isn’t supported by Netflix, though it is easy to cast with a smartphone using Chromecast
  • No internal battery; needs to connect to an electrical outlet or power bank to work

The BenQ GS50 projector can be used indoors, but those looking for a portable projector with an even smaller footprint may find the Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro Mini projector a better choice. This projector has a very small footprint; unlike most models, it’s taller than it is wide. It measures 6.33 inches tall by 4.68 inches wide by 4.25 inches deep at its base, so it’s easy to position on a crowded coffee table or side table, and its small size makes it a cinch to move around.

Little but mighty, this projector has fairly good image quality, with 1080p resolution and 400 lumens of brightness (small portable projectors are expected to be less bright). Speakers are built-in so there’s no need to pair it with an external speaker. Chromecast and Android TV are also built into the device so users don’t need to add additional dongles to stream.

Get the Xgimi home theater projector at Amazon, The Home Depot, Best Buy, or Xgimi.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: LED
  • Resolution: 720p
  • Brightness: 500 ANSI lumens

Pros

  • All-in-one movie-watching solution; good image quality, built-in speakers, and battery power
  • Small, lightweight, and with a carrying handle for easy portability and travel
  • Can be used out of range of an outlet for up to 3 hours of battery life

Cons

  • Lower picture quality than the other projectors on this list

The Anker Nebula Mars II Pro projector is another compact mini projector, and with the addition of a carrying handle, it’s easy to cart around. This unit uses battery power, providing up to 3 hours of viewing, so it can be set up inside or outside (in good weather) without needing an outlet nearby. With built-in speakers, it’s an all-in-one movie-watching unit; it just needs to be aimed at a white wall or projector screen.

Horizontal and vertical keystoning help to project a stable image at a range of angles for easier setup. This projector also has autofocus to start watching movies quickly. While this model has lower picture resolution than others at 720p, it is a bright projector (compared to other portable projectors) at 500 ANSI lumens.

Get the Anker home theater projector at Amazon, Walmart, or Nebula.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: Lamp
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Brightness: 3500 ANSI lumens

Pros

  • Low input lag minimizes delays between controllers and the displayed image
  • Black detail enhancement accentuates details in dark gaming scenes
  • Onboard speakers have decent sound quality, though the unit can connect to external speakers

Cons

  • Reviewers note that this projector sometimes shows a rainbow effect

A gaming projector should have a low lag time to keep up with gameplay. The BenQ TH685P 1080p gaming projector fits the bill. Ultrafast 16 millisecond low input lag means essentially no delay, so images on the screen match the actions on the controller. Black detail enhancement, which accentuates details in dark scenes, improves gameplay for darker adventure games. The projector also supports HDR to optimize images. Onboard speakers provide deep audio for an immersive gaming experience.

The projector is very bright, so it’s possible to game during the day. With its many features, this is great for movie-watching or gameplaying. This projector also isn’t very expensive; we consider it another budget-friendly pick.

Get the BenQ TH685P home theater projector at Amazon, B&H, or BenQ.

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Product Specs 

  • Light source: Laser
  • Resolution: 4K PRO-UHD
  • Brightness: 2500 lumens

Pros

  • Delivers bright 4K image quality; can be used in rooms with ambient lighting
  • Excellent picture quality with a sharp and colorful image not prone to rainbow effect
  • Uses a laser light source that will last projector’s lifespan; no need for replacements

Cons

  • A bit clunky and heavy at 28 pounds, so some might find it difficult to mount

The Epson Home Cinema LS11000 projector is another upgrade pick, though it comes at a lower price than the Sony projector on our list. This is another Epson projector that uses the brand’s 4K PRO-UHD to upscale images to 4K quality. Its 3LCD projector engine reproduces color beautifully and eliminates the rainbow effect some people see when using projectors. In short, the image is sharp, bright, and vivid.

Instead of a lamp, this projector has a laser array light source, so it won’t suffer from worsening performance or need to be replaced over the unit’s lifetime. With 2500 lumens of brightness and an excellent contrast ratio, this projector still performs in rooms with ambient light. Setup is easy with this projector. It has a motorized lens to shift the image digitally (up to plus or minus 47 percent horizontally and up to plus or minus 96 percent vertically) without distorting the picture. It’s also possible to save up to 10 settings in a memory preset and go back to the saved setup without needing to start from scratch.

Get the Epson Home Cinema LS11000 home theater projector at Amazon, Best Buy, Dell, or Crutchfield.

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What to Consider When Choosing a Home Theater Projector

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a home theater projector. Each shopper has individual preferences and requirements. For example, someone who uses a projector in a darkened home theater room might look for different specifications than a gamer. We explore factors like resolution, imaging technology, lighting source, brightness, and input options ahead.

Resolution and Picture Quality 

While 4K and UHD resolution is now common for new TVs, home theater projectors haven’t quite caught up. New 1080p models are still common, and excellent options are available in the $500 to $1,000 range. While 4K and UHD home theater projectors are also available, they come at a higher price tag. The higher resolution will often mean a better picture quality, though other factors like imaging technology, contrast ratio, and brightness also have a major effect, which we explain ahead.

Contrast ratio refers to the difference between the whitest white and darkest black that a projector can display. However, with different ways to measure contrast ratio, there isn’t a standardized system between brands, so take the advertised contrast ratio at face value. Reading detailed shopper and trusted third-party reviews can help narrow down options to a projector with good overall picture quality.

Imaging Technology 

There are three types of imaging technology: digital light projection (DLP), liquid crystal display (LCD), and liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS). DLP is the most common; it’s found in projectors in a range of price points. DLP often offers the sharpest picture of the three, with little motion blur. Its color quality is midrange.

LCD imaging technology is more likely to come in budget to midrange projectors. There is some motion blur and the contrast ratio (the difference between white and black on screen) isn’t always great, but the color can be better than with DLP projectors.

LCoS is more often found in mid- to high-end projectors. It has the best contrast ratio of the three but is prone to motion blur. The color on these projectors is also great, so overall, these projectors have excellent picture quality, but at a price. Two major manufacturers of LCoS chips are Sony, with SXRD, and JVC, with D-ILA.

Light Source and Brightness

Home theater projectors can have a standard lamp, laser, or LED light source. Lamps are the most common. These projectors can sell at a reasonable price and they’re bright. There are a few drawbacks, though. One is that the lamps run hot; they also become dimmer over time. Eventually, the lamp will need to be replaced, generally around the 10,000-hour mark.

Laser lights aren’t as common in home projectors, though they are available in some higher-priced models as well as in commercial projectors. Lasers run cooler and are more efficient than traditional lamps, but they aren’t as bright comparatively—it costs more to get a laser light that has the equivalent brightness of a lamp. However, a laser home theater projector tends to be a low-maintenance and longer-lasting option than lamp-based ones, with up to 30,000 hours of usage time.

LEDs are more common in portable projectors. The lights run cool and draw limited power, which is well suited for portable units. However, they have limited brightness and may not provide the best picture quality. These also tend to last about twice as long as lamps with up to 20,000 hours of runtime.

Brightness is an important factor when shopping for a home projector, especially for rooms that have a lot of natural light. Wang warns that “a projector may not be the right option if you’re looking to do lots of daytime viewing when there is ambient or harsh light.” He says, however, that a high-quality projector can still have the power and brightness required to project distinct images “in any environment.”

Many projectors will advertise the amount of lumens they produce, which is a measure of brightness. However, there isn’t a standard way to measure projector lumens (apart from ANSI and the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, which many brands don’t display). This leads to some discrepancy between brightness, even when products provide similar lumen numbers. That being said, a shopper can assume that a 3000 lumen projector will be brighter than a 1500 lumen one. A brighter projector is generally better (it’s usually possible to turn down the brightness of a projector, but not to boost brightness beyond the projector’s limit). Ideally, for a 100-inch screen, look for a projector with at least 1000 ANSI lumens or an advertised 2000 lumens.

Inputs

Consider accessory devices and look for the necessary projector inputs—and the right number. For example, those with just a streaming stick won’t need many, while shoppers who want to plug in a streaming device, gaming devices, and the occasional computer will need to verify the right type and number of inputs.

Many new home projectors have HDMI inputs, often several, so users can plug in a few devices. Some also have a USB connection to power devices like a Roku or other streaming stick. Wi-Fi or Bluetooth home theater projector connectivity features enable wireless connections. Some models have older inputs like VGA, DVI, and S-Video. Buyers can always get adapters for these types of inputs.

Those who also want to use their projector for gaming will want to look for a low input lag (the projector’s response time). Some projectors have an optimized gaming mode to reduce lag.

FAQs

With so many specifications and features, it can be overwhelming to shop for the best home theater projector, especially since some specs aren’t standardized between brands. With this guide and our product recommendations, you’ll have a better idea of how to shop for a home theater projector setup. To help, we’ve also answered a few frequently asked questions ahead.

Q. How many lumens are good for a projector?

Generally, a good projector will have a minimum 1000 ANSI lumens or advertised 2000 lumen rating.

Q. What is the best mini projector?

The Xgimi home theater projector is our favorite mini projector; it fits great picture quality into a portable projector with a small footprint.

Q. What is the best projector for outdoor movies?

The BenQ GS50 home theater projector is the best projector for outdoor use. It’s more rugged than an average indoor projector, with splash- and drop-resistance features.

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Jasmine Harding

Contributing Writer

Jasmine Harding is a freelance writer specializing in home products. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2020 and covers a range of product-related topics, from the best household appliances and tools to the latest gadgets and tech for the home.

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