The projector is the foundation for any home theater installation. Therefore it’s important to get the best projector you can, with the highest picture quality, and the largest feature set possible for your budget.
My Top Picks For Home Theater Projectors
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After hours of exhaustive research and testing here are my picks for the top home theaters in three different budget classes.
- Best Budget: BenQ HT2050A (view on Amazon)
- Best Mid-range: Optoma UHD35 (view on Amazon)
- Best High-End: Viewsonic X100-4K (view on Amazon)
Best Budget Projector for Home Theater
Why I like the BenQ HT2050A
While numerous economical home projectors are available on the market, it is always better to go for one with a reputable name. And one such brand which you can never go wrong with is BenQ.
BenQ is the manufacturer’s least expensive projector model, which delivers good color accuracy and an impressive 2,200 lumens of brightness, making it an excellent option for entry-level home theaters.
One does not expect HD resolution in budget projectors, but the BenQ HT2050A is an exception. It delivers crisp, bright images of a whopping 1080p resolution than you generally get in this price value.
It uses DLP technology to produce dynamic contrast and eliminate the green bias even during lights-on viewing. Even though its black levels are not super deep and closer to the dark grey shade, but in ambient light, it is good enough to be recognized as black to deliver an overall high contrast.
However, the department where BenQ HT2050A truly takes the lead is brightness and color accuracy. It boosts a 15,000:1 contrast ratio and a 6x speed RGBRGB color wheel to provide an optimal viewing experience. There are also other in-depth adjustment options you can dig in to get the best-in-class picture quality.
This model also possess a relatively high processing speed and performs well on games and most visual content, including intense action sequences and fast-paced sports. And this visual versatility makes BenQ an ideal all-rounder for multi-use spaces like bars and living rooms.
The BenQ HT2050A Projector comes with a built-in 10-watt power speaker on its left rear end. But unfortunately, like most projectors, it lacks bass and has a sub-par performance. Even though in an average-sized room, like the one I was using, the lack of bass was unnoticeable, but in larger spaces, the distortion can be heard pretty easily.
On the plus side, this model is very quiet and produces minimum fan noise, allowing you to watch your favorite movies without distractions.
One unexpected yet welcoming feature you will get on BenQ HT2050A is its motion resolution. Unlike LCD-based displays which suffer with motion blur, BenQ stays safe from this problem thanks to its DLP chip.
BenQ takes care of even the tiniest detail and creates sharp image when things move.
This unit also has a vertical lens shift and 2D keystone to tweak the geometry of the image to keep it square. While its keypad shows all the features on pressing the menu button for a quick fix. My personal favorite was the 1.3x zoom option which digitally zooms in on the image for a better, clearer view.
You get a USB port and a single HDMI input with BenQ HT2050A. This unit also supports most media players, mobile devices, Macs, PCs, and gaming consoles.
What I didn’t like
- As tempting as the price tag of the BenQ HT2050A is, it can be tough to look past its washed out picture quality. The images are much softer than its 1080p resolution claim.
- Inputs are sparse; another HDMI port would have been nice.
Best Alternative Budget Projector
For some reason, if BenQ HT2050A does not work out for you, you can go for ViewSonic PX701HDH (check price on Amazon) as the next best alternative.
It has a much faster input lag and is ideal for serious gamers. However, because of low apparent brightness and mediocre color, I would not recommend it over BenQ HT2050A.
Best Mid-range Home Theater Projector
Why I like the Optoma UHD35
Optoma UHD35 is the best choice for those who want to purchase a power-packed projector for a home theater experience, but without spending a lot of dough. Thismid-price range projector is sleek and compact and does a commendable job for all streaming and gaming purposes.
Optoma UHD35 uses Ultra Detail technology which guarantees enhanced image sharpness and a higher frame rate to produce sharper, crystal clear pictures. At the same time, its 8-segment color wheel further increases the color ratio for a more vivid and richer image.
The dynamic technology, on the other hand, creates a high contrast ratio to deliver lifelike images with more depth. This means brighter whites, deeper blacks, and ultimately an improved viewing experience.
In terms of brightness, UHD35 does a valiant job of portraying 4K images in a way that will not disappoint you. As with any mid-range projector, HDR brightness is not the major strength of this unit, but in a moderately lit room, it is definitely more than enough to satisfy your home theater needs.
The UHD35 surely excels in the domain of sound quality, all credited to its robust audio system. Whether you want to set your Optoma up for gaming with immersive sound or bring it to a friend’s house for a movie night, its powerful speakers are bound to get the job done. So that you don’t have to tote a separate sound system with you everywhere.
Its 10-watt mono speaker provides loud, high-quality sound which can easily fill a small-to-large family room. But, if you still want something louder, you can always connect external speakers through its S/PDIF outputs and 3.5mm port.
These speakers further block out fan noise when turned all the way up, and ensures that the only sound you hear is of your favorite chick flick.
Optoma UHD35 also supports 3D content and can automatically switch to the 3D mode on detecting an appropriate signal. Obviously, the brightness takes a hit when playing the 3D content, and there is slightly more motion blur, but the overall experience is relatively good.
The input lag is the most interesting part of this unit. Being the true game projector, it goes as low as providing single-digit input lag, which even some modern TVs lack. Its 4.2 ms response time means faster registration of commands, quick reflexes, and an extremely smooth gaming session.
What I didn’t like
- The UHD35 is in the same boat as other low-priced 4K pixel shifters when it comes to downsides. Its HDR brightness is not impressive enough, and the black levels can suffer greatly, specifically in completely dark rooms.
- The projector’s high refresh rate can also disappoint a few people, but there is nothing that you can do until the manufacturers themselves start implementing HDMI 2.1 ports in these units.
With its VGA, HDMI, and USB ports, this projector can connect to an array of inputs like gaming consoles, mobile devices, Blu-ray players, and other streaming devices.
Still not impressed by the UHD35? If so, you can also purchase the Epson EpidVision EF12 (check price on Amazon) without any worry.
Like the Optoma, this mini projector can also handle 4K input and native 1080p output resolution. Its sound system is also deceptively good, but not good enough to beat its newer cousins.
Best High-End Home Theater Projector
Why I like the Viewsonic X100-4K
There is no way that an avid projector user hasn’t come across the name Viewsonic. With hundreds of quality products under its belt, the Viewsonic X100-4K is the brand’s latest high-end model, which is jam-packed with all the smart features to provide the greatest cinematic experience.
Viewsonic X100’s DLP display exceeds the Rec.709 color spectrum and provides high contrast and image accuracy. This, combined with the 4K resolution, results in impressively realistic pictures, which allows the users to get immersed in the shows completely.
However, suppose you are still not satisfied with the picture quality, in that case, you can always fiddle with RGB levels, gamma levels, and color temperature to optimise your viewing content.
Coming towards X100’s brightness, it is sufficient to say that with its 2900 LED lumen bulb, X100 is as bright as it can get. This means you won’t have to necessarily dim or put off the lights to get a viewable picture. You can even keep the curtains open and enjoy the screen in daylight without any issue.
It won’t be wrong to say that X100-4K is a dream come true for every audiophile. Unlike most projectors that suffer from quiet or muffled sound, this unit’s dual 20-watt Harman Kardon speakers are loud enough to turn your living room into a bar. The audio is bassy and clear, with enough oomph for commentary and other sports related content.
The model also contains an efficient airflow system that keeps it quiet by reducing fan noise and providing vibrant, room-filling sound.
Where the X100-4K lacks is at producing more nuanced sounds, such as those in dramas and films, which depend on the dynamic range of the speakers. Thankfully, you can solve this issue within minutes by simply plugging the unit to an external sound setup.
With its high price tag, it is no surprise that X100-4K has something extra up its sleeve. Its unique Wide Lens Shift ensures that the image looks centered and is in the correct shape. This shifting is done manually through dials housed just above the lens on the projector’s top. The company claims X100 is the world’s first projector under $4,000 to have this feature.
Another smart feature of X100 is that it operates on a Frame Interpolar Technology, which considerably reduces the motion blurs in both 2D and 3D action-packed gaming and fast-paced sequences, delivering images without any delay.
What I didn’t like
- Even though the model offers four preset color modes, none of them provides the true sense of three-dimensionality or good contrast, primarily because the black level is not low enough to provide a high contrast ratio.
X100-4K comes with four HDMI 2.0 ports, 3.5mm stereo, 2 USB type-A ports, and the ability to connect over Wi-Fi or the usual wired network. Either type of network connection allows you to benefit from voice control and stream shows with a simple command.
If you are looking for a home projector with more or less the same price tag of X100 but with deeper blacks and higher brightness, you can also opt for Optoma GT1090HDRx (check price on Amazon).
With its incredible 4,200 lumens of brightness, you can use this projector during any part of the day or night and even take it to your backyard without worrying about high light levels. However, sometimes the HD content can get compressed or downscaled, which is hard to overlook and the reason why I won’t recommend it over the Viewsonic X100.