Best projectors Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best projectors – 4K, Full HD, and ultra short throw – that you can buy in 2023.
If you want to put the "cinema" in a home cinema, then you're going to want a quality projector. It's the best way to replicate the feeling of going to the theatre without leaving your house. While they might be a tad tricky to set up, we can assure you it's completely worth it.
The authentic cinema experience is best replicated with a 4K projector, of which you'll find seven of our favourite offerings on this list. Each is positioned with a different function or price point in mind, with everything from a brilliant entry-level model to a super-premium native 4K laser projector and even an Award-winning ultra-short throw that might be able to replace your TV.
Our reviews team has thoroughly tested each entry on this page, and you can find full write-ups on each below too. We'd be remiss not to remind you to also invest in a good screen, as well as a decent audio setup in the form of an AVR and a surround sound speaker package to achieve the full home theatre experience, of which you can find similar What Hi-Fi? approved lists just like this one.
The quick list
Putting laser technology within reach of mere mortals, Sony’s VPL-XW5000ES is the best projector for most people, delivering a stunning 4K picture without ever having to replace a lamp.
Best entry-level 4K
Best entry-level 4K
While it’s no slouch for gaming, the reasonably priced W1800 truly excels at what it was specifically designed for: bringing Hollywood home.
Not the cheapest, but the EH-TW7100’s picture out-punches the outlay and the features will fulfil your dreams.
Solid, vibrant and with plenty of picture pop, this powerful 4K projector from Epson is a proper crowd-pleaser.
Sony’s native 4K projector creates a deep, rich and sharp picture that truly dazzles.
The best projector overall
The VPL-XW5000ES is a watershed moment for not just Sony’s projection business but the home cinema world in general. Why? Because it’s the cheapest truly native 4K laser projector the home cinema world has ever seen.
Prior to the XW5000ES, Sony’s entry-level SXRD 4K projectors – such as last year’s VW290ES (VW325ES in the US) – have relied on lamp rather than laser technology. Moving to laser, though, means no longer having to put up with the inconvenience and ongoing costs associated with having to replace lamps every few thousand hours of use, or the relatively rapid degradation in brightness that lamps suffer.
While you inevitably have to accept a compromise or two in return for Sony delivering a full 4K laser projector at this price, those compromises are ultimately crushed by the joyous impact the XW5000ES’s combination of laser lighting and exceptional X1 Ultimate processing has on both your immediate and long-term movie night thrills.
Read the full Sony VPL-XW5000ES review
The best entry-level 4K projector
BenQ divides its consumer projector range into quite specific categories these days. There's premium ‘CinePro’, mid-range ‘CinePrime’ and entry level ‘CineHome’ home cinema models, as well as more general purpose (usually brighter and more affordable) home entertainment models, laser TV models, and dedicated gaming projectors.
The W1800 sits squarely in BenQ’s CineHome section, where its focus on serving up a cinematic experience on a budget serves it extremely well.
The BenQ W1800’s pictures immediately struck us as genuinely cinematic as soon as we clapped eyes on them – and while deeper scrutiny uncovers a limitation or two, our first impressions hold well throughout our time with the W1800.
BenQ’s decision to focus with the W1800 on what we guess could be considered good old-fashioned home cinema values has paid off handsomely. Its pictures might not be the showiest around, but they’re refined, natural, authentic and, to use that word again, cinematic.
Read the full BenQ W1800 review
The best mid-range projector
A shade pricier than an entry-level device, this Epson is the king of affordable 4K projectors. It’s easy to set up and install, and produces a picture that’s reminiscent of what you'll get at the cinema.
You'll get a great image right out of the box without needing to be any kind of expert at tinkering with the settings. All the preset modes are very well judged and it gives an excellent level of black depth and dark detail for a projector at this price. Colours are balanced and motion is naturally smooth.
That said, it's as much the convenience of this machine that makes it so good. Bluetooth allows for direct connection with a wireless speaker or soundbar, and the high luminance means that it's usable in moderately lit rooms. In other words, an AVR, speaker package and home cinema room are not entirely necessary. How's that for a superb family projector?
Read the full Epson EH-TW7100 review
The best premium projector
This big, brassy projector is as good as you'll get before forking out for the beauty of native 4K projection. The detail may not be as stunning as its brethren in those upper echelons but for colour accuracy, subtlety of contrast and HDR handling, it's a real corker.
The result is a picture more involving than you'll find anywhere else at this price point, with a sense of depth so absorbing that you'll pick up detail from your favourite films that you'll have always missed on smaller screens.
It's also a dream in terms of practicality. Its 50-300-inch image size can be thrown from a good range of distances and the motorised lens means you can set it all up from the comfort of your sofa using its superb, backlit remote. Just sit back and enjoy some cinematic greats.
Read the full Epson EH-TW9400 review
The best high-end projector
Sony is taking no prisoners with its native 4K laser projectors, with the VPL-XW7000ES being the higher-end of the two models.
The Sony VPL-XW7000ES takes everything up a notch, pushing brightness up to 11 and featuring a more comprehensive set of motorised lens controls. Its native 4K resolution and notably high lumen count should catch the eyes of those looking for a flashy projector that will have people talking about the device as much as the content that's being watched on it.
The Sony VPL-XW7000ES consistently received involuntary verbal reactions of “wow” and “can you believe how good this looks?” throughout our testing. The brightness surpasses the gimmicky branding that many would expect, and the details are razor sharp.
Read the full Sony VPL-XW7000ES review
The best ultra short throw projector
Ultra short-throw projectors are becoming much more frequent within the projector market at large, and for good reason. Designed as a TV alternative that can reach up to 100 inches without costing nearly as much as a super-large TV would, as well as having the added benefit of being practically plug-and-play (obviously with some fiddling required), a UST projector strikes a nice balance between practicality and theatricality.
At the forefront of this UST revolution is Hisense, which has been developing ultra short-throw models for over six years now. The PL1 that we have before us today is the latest model in Hisense’s line of Ultra Short-Throw Laser Cinema Projectors, not to be confused with its separate line of Laser TVs, which act in a similar fashion but specifically come with a dedicated screen.
In order to be a successful UST, it has to tick every box we look out for in both the best projectors and the best TVs, which is no easy task. Thankfully, the PL1 not only steps up to the task, but it clears many other options within its field.
With its clean, punchy and solid image, the Hisense PL1 is a gem at this price. Undercutting many of its UST rivals and even its own Hisense siblings, it's a TV alternative that actually lives up to its promise. You’d be hard-pressed to find a 100-inch TV for this price, let alone one that features such a punchy and crisp image. While we wish it had a couple more HDMI ports, it’s a compromise we’re willing to make, as its picture performance more than makes up for it.
Read the full Hisense PL1 review
How to choose the best projector for you
There are a multitude of factors to consider when choosing the right projector to suit your needs. Whether its budget, resolution, screen size or even the type of lamp, all of these factors can drastically alter the performance of a projector.
It's important to recognise the differences between projector lamp technologies, as different options give you different performance. Laser-based projectors are quick to reach optimal performance after booting up, they produce more accurate colours and have longer lifespans due to not requiring a bulb to power the picture. However, they tend to be more expensive than DLP (Digital Light Processing) LED and LCD projectors, which in turn have their own benefits and caveats.
Ultimately, the goal with a projector is to encapsulate the cinematic feeling of a theatre at home, so this is where screen size and resolution are important. Ideally, this is where a 4K projector would be best for crisp and clear visuals. As you'll notice, almost all of our top picks are either native 4K projectors, or achieve a 4K-like image through clever trickery for a higher picture quality.
While resolution is a pivotal aspect of the picture quality, its almost equally important counterpart is colour. Projectors can often struggle when it comes to colour, especially when it comes to darker shades. Contrast is key here to ensure that black depth is the best it can be, although no projector will be able to live up to an OLED TV in this regard.
Within the mix are also some ultra short throw projectors. These can project a big, clear image onto a wall from a very short distance away, making them ideal for space saving set ups or for those wanting to avoid wall- or ceiling-mounting their projector.
Then there are portable projectors, which are ideal of taking on the go or using outside to create a grab-and-go cinema experience. They might not match up with the performance of dedicated home cinema projectors – the fact that none have made our list should tell you that – but you're paying for the experience and versatility here. You can't beat an open-air cinema experience under the starry night sky after all.
We do often recommend that you budget for a speaker when shopping for a projector, as although many options here include on-board speakers, they are invariably pretty poor. Similarly, while some projectors do now feature built-in streaming platforms, they're often a bit patchy in terms of performance and app selection, so it's often worth keeping some cash aside for a dedicated streamer.
How we test projectors
Testing projectors involves taking the time to explore their capabilities fully through lots of options-tweaking and content-watching. This includes checking every item in the settings menu, and individually tweaking picture features to ensure the projector is giving us the best visual performance it can.
We conduct these tests in our state of the art testing room in Bath, which is outfitted with a 100-inch screen and a plethora of external sources to hook the projectors up to, including 4K Blu-ray players, video streamers and games consoles. This is also where each of these projectors meets its rivals, as every product is tested side-by-side with the competition to ensure it meets expectations and so that its place in the market is considered as a whole – no product exists in a vacuum after all.
We test using a wide range of content from 4K Blu-rays, to streaming services, video games and standard definition DVDs to make sure all kinds of content are put through these projectors. This helps us find the strengths and weaknesses of each projector.
At the end of this process, a verdict is reached by a team of reviewers who work closely together in order to ensure that each projector is tested fairly, and to avoid the possibility of any personal preferences creeping in. This is also to make sure our reviews are consistent and thorough, and so that no feature or flaw is missed within our testing process.
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