What are the best projectors?
Best projectors 2020: For a big screen experience in the home, a projector is the best option . With prices starting around the same as a mid-range LED TV, you needn’t spend a fortune for that big-screen experience.
Projectors range come in a range of options and for a range of uses. Some are good for gaming, some are made for compact spaces and others even boast smarts.
From compact short-throw models to big, hefty units that require a dedicated space, whatever you purchase will be dictated by its purpose. If you’re after a 4K projector, you’ll need to pay top dollar for a true 4K experience. More and more projectors are compatible with HDR, and while they’re not bright enough to the kind of bright images TVs are capable of, good tone-mapping of HDR to a projector’s capabilities and they can deliver a knockout image.
Whether your needs are for a dedicated home cinema space, or for more casual use, this list has plenty of options to help you find the best one.
- Best projector: JVC DLA-N7
- Best 4K projector: JVC DLA-N5
- Best value 4K projector: Epson EH-TW9400
- Best projector image accuracy: BenQ W5700
- Best affordable HDR projector: BenQ W2700
- Best smart projector: ViewSonic X-10 4K
- Best affordable home cinema projector: Epson EH-TW7400
- Best 4K projector for detail: Sony VPL-VW270ES
- Best budget projector: Epson EH-TW650
- Best lifestyle projector: LG HU85LS CineBeam Laser 4K
- Best projector for voice control: Optoma UHD52ALV
- Best affordable 4K projector: Optoma UHD40
- Best compact projector: ViewSonic PX727-4K
- Best gaming projector: Optoma HD29H
- Best affordable projector: BenQ W1210ST
- Best portable projector: Epson EF-100
- Best pico projector: Nebula Capsule
The best native 4K HDR projector
- Genuine 4K images
- Impressive HDR performance
- Excellent blacks and shadow detail
- Comprehensive set of features
- Great build quality
- 3D is rather dark
The DLA-N7 is JVC’s first foray into (relatively) affordable native 4K projection and delivers an impressive performance with a comprehensive set of features.
Bg and heavy, the N7 requires a dedicated installation and for best results it should be used in tandem with a proper projection screen.
Whether you’re watching SDR or HDR content, the projector delivers knockout images with natural colours, bright highlights, deep blacks, and plenty of shadow detail.
For 3D you’ll need a synchro emitter and glasses, both of which aren’t included with the projector. Unfortunately, the 3D performance is also a bit dim than previous generations of JVC projectors, which is about the only misstep the N7 makes.
Tremendous picture quality
- Beautifully cinematic picture quality
- True 4K playback
- Easy to set up
- Runs a little noisily in HDR mode
- Not as bright as some projectors
- HD upscaling could be better
The step-down projector from the DLA-N7, the DLA-N5 is another beauty. Like the N7 it offers a native 4K image and a raft of features that includes HDR10, HLG, 3D (accessories required) and a low latency gaming mode.
It’s another showcase for JVC’s contrast prowess, and when combined with 4K and the HDR tone mapping, the results are glorious.
Images look spectacular: gorgeously detailed, textured and refined. Black levels are outstanding, even with more challenging HDR content. And while its nearest rivals can go brighter, the way the N5 handles contrast gives the image more punch and dynamism.
An impressively accurate image
- Superb image accuracy
- Effective HDR performance
- Excellent motion handling
- Good set of features
- Solid build quality
- Image could be brighter
- Black levels are weak
- Not native 4K
- Possible rainbow artefacts
- Rather noisy
Designed specifically for home cinemas, the W5700 is a DLP projector that delivers excellent colour coverage, great detail and sharpness as well as a remarkable level of accuracy.
Compliance with the D65 and 100% of REC.709 and DCI-P3 standards means content is viewed as the creator intended, and support for HDR10 and HLG means the W5700 can handle 4K HDR Blu-rays.
And though it’s not native 4K and brightness is limited, the HDR and picture quality is impressive, with motion handling and 3D also putting in excellent shifts.
A bargain for the price
- Good HDR and SDR pictures
- Great value for what’s on offer
- Lots of setup flexibility
- The colour filter takes a lot of brightness out of the picture
- Not a true 4K projector
- Needs ongoing care with setup to get the best out of it
The Epson EH-TW9400 carries a promising set of features with 4K and HDR playback; a claimed 2600 lumens of brightness, and even a wide colour filter for HDR.
The inclusion of the colour filter impacts performance in good and not so good ways. HDR sources look flat without it, but it also reduces the brightness of an image when activated.
If you can live with that, the TW9400 produces a superb performance with both HDR and SDR content. Even at its premium price, it represents fantastic value for those who want a serious home cinema projector but can’t afford the top range.
The best 4K HDR projector under £2000
- Great value for what’s on offer
- Easily the best HDR picture we’ve seen at this price point
- Crisp, clean 4K playback
- Slightly high input lag for gaming
- Black levels only fair to middling for SDR playback
- Minor rainbow effect
Priced at £1500, the BenQ offers tremendous value. It’s not strictly native 4K, but its performance is crisp and clean, and colours have nuance and depth. HDR playback is outstanding at times, though the BenQ fares better with HDR content mastered at 1000 nits than 4000.
Input lag is high, so this is firmly a projector more suited to home cinema than to gaming. Black levels during SDR playback are middling too. However, at this price, this is one of the more impressive projectors.
ViewSonic X-10 4K
Combines convenience with a great performance
- Bright and punchy images
- Effective HDR performance
- Excellent motion handling
- Sound system surprisingly good
- Long-lasting LED light source
- Portable and easy to install
- Extensive smart features
- Stylish and well made
- Weak black levels and shadow detail
- Resolution isn’t native 4K
The ViewSonic X10-4K is a short-throw projector so it can be placed close to a wall/screen and generate a large image – you can get a 120in from just 2m away. It’s quick and easy to set-up, and its portability allows for convenience in terms of placement.
Showing a bright, punchy image whether it’s SDR or HDR; it’s an effective HDR performer that reveals plenty of detail and rich colours. The biggest surprise here is the integrated Harmon Kardon sound system, which has real size and depth.
Factor in Wi-Fi, video streaming services and voice control in Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant, and the X-10 4K is ideal for those who want a big screen experience but have limited space.
Impressive specs and great performance
- Excellent picture quality
- Accurate images
- Extensive features
- Low input lag
- Great price
- Poor blacks and shadow detail
- Not bright enough for true HDR
Home cinema enthusiasts only need apply as the TW-7400 really benefits from a dedicated room. Again, it’s not true 4K, though HDR is supported, as is 3D (glasses are available separately).
The TW7400 produces a bright and punchy image. SDR images are pleasingly rendered, while HDR is fairly good even if it struggles with tone-mapping. Highlights lose detail and the overall image becomes too dark with very bright content. For gamers input lag is very low.
The TW7400 has features that are rare on less expensive models, and delivers a performance projectors twice the price would struggle to match.
Punchy, flexible, true 4K performer
- Fantastic 4K sharpness
- Impressive HDR flexibility
- Excellent lens control
- Not bright enough for true HDR
- Requires regular input for optimised HDR pictures
- Black levels weaker than step-up Sony models
The VPL-VW260ES is Sony’s most affordable 4K projector – if you consider £5000 an affordable price. While that may put it out of the reach of many, for those who take home cinema seriously, the VPL-VW270ES offers a great native 4K presentation.
It supports HDR, but at 1500 lumens it’s not as bright as others. If you’re a gamer, Sony’s Input Lag Reduction measures around 30ms. The picture is outstanding – razor sharp and detailed, offering plenty of clarity and rich, punchy colours with little to no noise.
Big screen on a budget
- Bright and punchy picture
- Excellent colour reproduction
- Detailed and clear images
- Great price
- Poor black levels and shadow detail
Epson has produced a fantastic entry-level effort in EH-TW650, which delivers big-screen images with plenty of punch and vitality.
It’s capable of going very bright – 3100 lumens – which makes it suited for rooms with white walls or ambient light. Easy to set-up and good with sports, movies or gaming, while it deals in Full HD images, it puts in a clear and detailed image, with richly saturated and accurate colours. Though black levels and contrast ratios aren’t the best, the Epson feels like a bargain.
LG HU85LS CineBeam Laser 4K
A projector that shoots lasers
- Bright, colourful HDR pictures
- Excellent, TV-like user system; includes streaming app support
- Very good sound for a projector
- Black levels in dark rooms are only decent
- Some rainbow-like noise
- Not as cheap as non-laser models
The HU85LS is an ultra-short-throw DLP projector that uses lasers to produce a 120-inch 4K HDR image. While it’s not perfect, it achieves what it sets out to do.
The laser technology removes the need for replacement lamps. It’s big and heavy, but its bulk is partly due to its integrated audio system that sounds better than some TV speakers. And with a built-in webOS UI, the HU85LS has a similar TV-like interface and streaming app support.
It’s capable of outstanding colours – the laser lighting system produces a bright and wide colour spectrum that’s suited to bright and dark rooms. Though black levels fall short of dedicated home cinema projectors, and there can be some rainbow-like noise, this is an effective, user-friendly projector.
A projector that supports voice control
- Bright, punchy HDR pictures
- Runs quietly, even in high lamp mode
- Impressive voice control and external source support
- Black levels could be better
- Peak HDR colours can “flare out”
- High input lag for a DLP projector
For those after a simple-to-use and easy-to-watch living room projector should step right up.
Black levels are less than what you’d get from a dedicated home cinema projector, and HDR colours at peak brightness tend to look washed out. But take nothing away from its HDR performance, which is bright, punchy and produces more realistic looking images.
While voice support works impressively, interaction in terms of what you can ask is limited. Think of this as a casual living room projector and your expectations will be more in line.
Affordable 4K performance
- Pictures look surprisingly 4K
- Surprisingly and consistently enjoyable HDR pictures
- Remarkably good value
- Black levels are average
- Occasional rainbow effect
- No real support for wide colour technologies
If you’re seeking an affordable 4K projector that doesn’t break the bank, the Optoma UHD40 may fit the bill.
The UHD40’s workmanlike design disguises some eye-catching features. Brightness is 2400 lumens, more than some more expensive projectors, while contrast is 500,000:1. It only supports the Rec 709 colour standard, so it can’t extract the most out of wide colour gamut (WCG) content.
While this model isn’t strictly 4K – it renders a virtual 4K image – it produces a picture full of detail, rich in texture and clarity. Projectors struggle to produce excellent HDR pictures in the manner a TV can, but the UH40 at least makes HDR images bright and intense.
An impressive and enjoyable all-rounder
- Great value for what it offers
- Surprisingly good contrast and brightness
- Lowest input lag we’ve seen on a projector
- Bright HDR colours can look washed out
- Clipping in the brightest HDR areas
- Can’t use the lowest input lag mode when gaming in 4K or HDR
The Optoma HD29H is pitched as a gaming projector, claiming a low input lag of just over 8ms. To achieve that requires enabling the Enhanced Gaming setting, but the issue is that this mode isn’t available with 4K or HDR images. To be fair, the 33ms or so of lag with 4K is still pretty decent.
The HD29H boasts plenty of tricks that make its aggressive £700 price attractive. These include the ability to pass-through HDR and 4K sources, a built-in 10W speaker and 3400 lumens of claimed brightness.
It’s a surprisingly effective home cinema unit, combining more brightness and contrast than any similarly priced HDR projectors.
A very good all-rounder
- Cheap for a 4K projector
- Decent all-round picture quality
- Compact design
- Black levels aren’t the best
- Requires careful set-up
- Input lag too high for competitive gaming
Like so many other “4K” projectors, the ViewSonic isn’t true 4K, achieving the resolution through pixel shifting, shifting or reflashing a 1920 x 1080 pixel frame three times.
While it’s not as sharp as an entry-level Sony 4K, it is cheaper. With a claimed brightness of 2200 lumens, it’s bright, if not bright enough to fully do justice to HDR. The ViewSonic is a good all-rounder, offering natural, detailed and balanced images; with rich colours and a dynamic performance.
An affordable projector for gamers and film fans
- Superbly low input lag
- Good contrast and colour
- Strong movie performance
- Slight noise in dark movie scenes
- Some black crush in the best all-round lamp setting
- Minor DLP rainbowing
The BenQ W1210ST is a single-chip DLP projector with a short-throw lens, so it can be placed close to a wall or screen and produce a huge picture and excellent image quality.
Gaming is where the W1210ST shines best. Its fantastic low-lag input is great for gaming sessions and there’s no sign of the “running through treacle” effect some projectors suffer from.
Blu-rays look great, too, with excellent contrast and vibrant, realistic colours. It’s fair to say that films look superior compared to many of its low-cost rivals. The picture can on occasion suffer from the rainbow effect, but this isn’t too pronounced.
A portable projector that fits into a rucksack
- Very bright for its size
- Smart TV stick-friendly design
- Fairly sharp lens
- Significant “screen door” effect
- Poor black level
- Speaker distorts with some content
- Poor resolution
The EF-100 is the Epson’s first portable laser projector. Weighing 2.7kg, it’s small enough to fit into a rucksack and has Bluetooth and Epson’s laser technology.
It’s also one of the brightest projectors of its size at this price, and that strength means its far better for use during the day than in dark rooms. Image quality does display some flaws with poor black levels and it suffers from the “screen door” effect (visible pixel structure) than its nearest rivals, such as the Asus F1.
A pico projector with Android support
- Effective Android OS
- Great remote app
- Excellent build quality
- Attractive design
- Decent battery life
- Limited resolution
- Not very bright
- No Google Play Store
- Noisy fan
The Nebula Capsule is a different proposition to the other entries on this list. Picture quality is 848 x 480, while brightness is 500 lumens. But what it lacks in picture quality, it makes up for in features and convenience.
Android 7.1 is supported, offering a limited number of apps such as Amazon, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and YouTube. There’s also support for AirPlay, limited Chromecast connectivity and Miracast for Microsoft devices. If you’re after a projector that offers portability and smart features, this a decent effort.