Which is the best projector for a big-screen home cinema experience?
Best projectors 2019: TVs are getting increasingly bigger, but if you want a true big screen experience in the home, you can’t look past the best projectors for that cinematic experience
There are several things you’ll need to know before your search begins. Are you looking for a HD projector or want to make the leap to 4K? 4K is becoming more affordable, although you’ll need to stump up a lot of cash get a true 4K experience.
Projectors range from compact short-throw models to big, hefty units that require a dedicated space, so depending on how much space you have will affect what type of projector you’re after.
Are do you want a unit that does HDR? Again, projectors are capable of producing HDR images, but know that they’re compromised and that TVs are far more effective at producing a bright, HDR image.
With prices starting around the same as a mid-range LED TV, you needn’t spend a fortune for that big-screen experience.
Here are the best projectors we’ve tested in recent years to set you on the path to your new one.
- Best overall: JVC DLA-N7
- Great with SDR and HDR: Epson EH-TW9400
- Best for affordable HDR: BenQ W2700
- Great for image accuracy: Epson EH-TW7400
- Best for convenience: ViewSonic X-10 4K
- Great value: Optoma UHD40
- Best for 4K: Sony VPL-VW260ES
- A great all-rounder: ViewSonic PX727-4K
- Great for gaming: Optoma HD29H
- Great for movies: BenQ W1210ST
- Best for bright rooms: Epson EF-100
- Best pico projector: Nebula Capsule
The best native 4K HDR projector in the sub-10 grand price bracket
- 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.
Both big and heavy, the N7 requires a dedicated installation and for best results it should be used in tandem with a proper projection screen.
In terms of performance, this a fantastic all-round performer. 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 and darker than previous generations of JVC projectors, which is about the only misstep the N7 makes.
Arguably the projector bargain of 2019
- 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 with it a promising set of features, with both 4K and HDR playback; a claimed 2600 lumens of brightness, and even a wide colour filter for HDR.
The inclusion of colour filter does impact the performance in good and less good ways. HDR sources look flat without it, but it also reduces the brightness of an image, which is important for HDR to work.
If you can live with that compromise, the TW9400 produces a superb performance with both HDR and SDR content regardless, and even at its £2.5k price, it represents fantastic value for those who want a serious home cinema projector, but don’t have the funds to truly go for the more expensive models.
The best 4K HDR projector you can currently buy for less than £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 for what it does. Like other projectors on this list, it’s not strictly native 4K, but its performance is crisp and clean, and colours have both 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, and black levels during SDR playback are middling. However, at this price, this is one of the more impressive projectors we’ve reviewed.
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
Despite its size, the ViewSonic X10-4K is a feature-packed effort and with a surprisingly comprehensive list.
It’s 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 in SDR or HDR; it proves to be 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 at a knockout price
- Excellent picture quality
- Accurate images
- Extensive features
- Low input lag
- Great price
- Poor blacks and shadow detail
- Not bright enough for true HDR
Epson’s EH-TW7400 is the projector giant’s entry-level model – and the TW7400’s features and performance make it a potential bargain, despite its £1700 price.
Home cinema enthusiasts only need apply as the TW-7400 really benefits from a home cinema room. Again, it’s another projector that’s not true 4K, though HDR is supported as is 3D. Glasses are available separately.
Right out of the box the TW7400 produces a bright and punchy image. SDR images are pleasingly rendered, while HDR is fairly good even if it struggles with the tone-mapping of HDR content. Highlights lose detail and the overall image becomes too dark with very bright content. For gamers there’s good news – 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. A compelling effort for the film fan.
A true 4K performer with a punchy, flexible picture
- 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 on this list. If you’re a gamer, Sony’s Input Lag Reduction measures around 30ms. The picture is outstanding – razor sharp and detailed, it offers plenty of clarity and rich, punchy colours with little to no noise.
While this projector represents a hefty financial investment, you won’t get as sharp an image from cheaper efforts.
Enjoyable 4K performance without breaking the bank
- 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 won’t break the bank, the Optoma UHD40 could fit the bill.
The UHD40’s workmanlike design disguises some eye-catching features. Lumens is 2400, brighter than some more expensive projectors, while contrast is 500,000:1. It only supports the Rec 709 colour standard, though, 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 an 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.
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
The ViewSonic PX727-4K offers 4K just below £1000, and manages to put in an effective performance.
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 surprisingly dynamic performance.
An impressive and enjoyable all-rounder for the money
- 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 groundbreakingly low input lag of just over 8ms – a claim backed up in our tests.
To achieve that requires enabling the Enhanced Gaming setting, but the issue here is that this mode isn’t available with 4K or HDR images. To be fair, the 33ms or so of lag yo dou get is still pretty decent.
The HD29H boasts plenty of tricks that make its aggressive £700 price seem very attractive. These include the ability to passthrough HDR and 4K sources through its Full HD DLP optical system, a built-in 10W speaker, and 3400 lumens of claimed brightness.
It proves a surprisingly effective home cinema unit, combining more brightness and more contrast than any other similarly priced HDR-capable projector.
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
While it’s one of the older models on this list, the BenQ W1210ST still offers good value.
It’s a single-chip DLP projector with a short-throw lens, so it can be placed close to a wall or screen and still produce a huge picture, delivering 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.
If you want a flexible, affordable projector that’s a good all-rounder and particularly strong for gaming, the W1210ST is the model for you.
Epson’s first portable projector 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, small enough to fit into a rucksack and toting Bluetooth and Epson’s laser technology, the EF-100 aspires to be a big-screen wonder in a small package.
It’s 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, however, displays some significant flaws with poor black levels. The EF-100 also suffers from much clearer “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. It has a few flaws. Picture quality is just 848 x 480, while brightness is low at 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 looking for a projector that offers portability and smart features at a cheap price, this a decent effort.