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Best projectors 2022: Full HD, 4K, portable and short-throw

Best projectors Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best projectors – Full HD, 4K, portable and short throw – that you can buy in 2022.

The smell of the popcorn, the hush of the auditorium, the lights go down and on goes the film; there's nothing quite like the cinema. Making one's own private movie house can be a lot easier than you think. Spend the right kind of money on the best set of products and you could even make something better than your local theatre. The key to the experience, of course, is choosing one of the best projectors that money can buy and that's what we have for you right here.

With picture sizes often up to 300 inches, the best projectors are the only way to get that genuine big screen feeling.

We've rounded up our favourite projectors, including Full HD and native 4K models, which also support HDR, and some short throw projectors too for those with smaller spaces. There are even one or two portables that would make an excellent bring-along addition to a garden party for an outdoor cinema experience. The only question is how much do you have to spend?

Naturally, a great 4K projector will cost more than a Full HD one, and real, actual native 4K costs even more than those that use pixel shifting to spoof that top-end resolution. Fear not, though, we've got something for all budgets in our best projector list below. Just remember to save some money for the projector screen and the popcorn!

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, it's almost equally important counterpart is colour. Projectors can often struggle when it comes to colour, especially when it comes to projecting 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, 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.

Laser home cinema projector: Sony VPL-XW5000ES

Sony changes the game with the cheapest truly native 4K laser projector ever made. (Image credit: Sony)
Sony’s new laser projector is a cut-price stunner.

Specifications

Display Technology: Laser SXRD
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Size: Up to 200 inches
Ports: 2 x HDMI 2.0, USB A
Dimensions: 20 x 46 x 47cm

Reasons to buy

+
Stunningly detailed native 4K pictures
+
Impressive black levels and contrast
+
Excellent picture processing

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor manual lens controls
-
Dark HDR scenes can lose detail
-
No 4K/120Hz gaming support

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 either 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

Home cinema projector: Sony VLP-XW7000ES

A bright, bold and sharp projector that impresses at every turn. (Image credit: Future)
A dazzlingly bright and brilliant projector.

Specifications

Bulb technology: Laser diode
Projection technology: SXRD (LCoS)
Fan noise: 26dB
HDMI: 2 x HDMI 2.0
Brightness: 3200 lumens

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning contrast and detail
+
Sharp picture
+
Comprehensive remote

Reasons to avoid

-
Some rivals have better motion

Sony is taking no prisoners with its pair of new native 4K laser projectors, with the VPL-XW7000ES being the higher-end of the two models. As we’ve already given the cheaper VPL-XW5000ES a five star review, it's now time to look at its beefed up counterpart. 

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

Home cinema projector: JVC DLA-NZ7

The DLA-N27 is natural, crisp and effortlessly enjoyable. (Image credit: Future)
JVC brings the cinema home.

Specifications

Native resolution: 4096 x 2160
Light source: Laser
Bulb lifespan: 20,000 hours
Brightness: 2200 lumens
Native contrast: 40,000:1
HDMI: 2 x HDMI 2.1

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly natural image
+
Highly detailed
+
Great with motion

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic remote
-
Up against tough competition

JVC has set the standard for high-end projectors with its D-ILA designs since 1997, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. The DLA-NZ7 is here to carry the torch on for this long line of prestigious projectors. It's fully featured, capable of producing a gorgeous image and is just an all-round showstopper. 

Over the years, practically every JVC DLA projector has performed well in our reviews, so the NZ7 has a lot to live up to. Thankfully this projector, much like those before it, steps up to the challenge.

This projector never brags to you about how capable it truly is, instead letting the crisp, natural and cinematic picture wash over you. It's home cinema projection taken seriously, and while there are other options at this price with punchier pictures, the JVC is here for people who want to be immersed in the image rather than what the projector itself is doing.

Read the full JVC DLA-NZ7 review

Best projectors 2022: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

Epson ticks all the boxes and balances 4K quality with affordability.  (Image credit: Future)
A brilliantly well-judged and affordable 4K projector.

Specifications

Type: 3LCD
Resolution: 4K pixel shift
HDR: Yes
Contrast ratio: 100,000:1
Inputs: HDMI 2.0 (x2), USB 2.0 (x2)
3D: Yes
Lamp: 3000 lumens
Lamp life: 5,000/3,000 hours (eco/normal)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent contrast handling
+
Balanced, nuanced colour palette
+
Good connectivity options

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K motion processing

It's a shade pricey for an entry-level device but, make no mistake, this 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

Home cinema projector: BenQ W1800

BenQ has proved that you don't have to break the bank for a cinematic experience at home. (Image credit: Future)
Proper home cinema doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Specifications

Type: DLP with lamp
Resolution: 4K via double flashing
HDR: Yes
Contrast ratio: 10,000:1
Inputs: HDMI 2.0 (x2), USB 2.0 (x1)
3D: Yes
Lamp: 2000 lumens
Lamp life: 15,000 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Impressively cinematic pictures
+
Small, living room-friendly design
+
Great value for what’s on offer

Reasons to avoid

-
Very basic built-in audio
-
Slight rainbow effect
-
Black levels could be better

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

Laser projector: Epson EH-LS12000B

A bright and bold projector with some welcome gaming features. (Image credit: Epson)
Despite occasional colour wobbles, this is another quality laser projector from Epson.

Specifications

Display technology: LCD laser
Resolution: 4K (via e-shift)
Screen size: Up to 300 inches
Dimensions: 19 x 52 x 45cm

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastically bright HDR pictures
+
Lovely filmic feel
+
4K/120 HDR gaming support

Reasons to avoid

-
Dark HDR colours can look unrefined
-
Really unhelpful menu system
-
Some strange preset decisions

Some AV fans may well consider that what the extra brightness the LS12000B can achieve with HDR content over the Sony XW5000ES makes it a more all-round enjoyable watch. The Sony’s picture processing, though, is clearly better in a number of areas, especially when it comes to motion and generating a wider light range with HDR images (as opposed to delivering a higher baseline brightness with a narrower range of light). The Sony’s colour performance is more refined and consistent too, and you can clearly see the advantages of its ‘true’ 4K resolution.

As we said at the beginning of this review, though, the Epson LS12000B’s job is to get close enough to the Sony XW5000ES to justify its cheaper price, while also outperforming the latest influx of cheaper ‘mainstream’ 4K laser wannabes. And in both these respects it succeeds brilliantly, delivering in the process some of the most straight-up enjoyable HDR pictures we’ve seen from any projector to date.

Read the full Epson EH-LS12000B review

Home cinema projector: JVC DLA-NP5

Bulb-based D-ILA magic from JVC proves that lasers aren't always needed. (Image credit: Future)
JVC’s latest projector doesn’t need lasers to be brilliant.

Specifications

Dimensions: (hwd) 234 x 500 x 495mm
Processing: Clear Motion Drive, Frame Adapt HDR, Theater Optimizer
Screen size: up to 200 inches
Native resolution: 4096 x 2160
Input with 60Hz in game mode: 36ms
Projector type: D-ILA with lamp lighting

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding contrast
+
Excellent HDR playback
+
4K/120Hz support

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive for a lamp projector
-
No VRR support

The DLA-NP5 is JVC’s most affordable D-ILA projector for 2022 – and with JVC’s cheapest laser D-ILA models setting you back well into five figures, we have a funny feeling that interest in the lamp-based NP5 could be seriously high. Especially now that the ‘Covid years’ have given us all a whole new appreciation of the value of a high-quality home entertainment system.

Don’t be put off by the DLA-NP5’s lack of laser lighting. Yes, you will likely have to change a bulb or two during your time with it, but the rewards for this occasional bit of maintenance are consistently gorgeous all-round picture quality at a fraction of the price you’d need to pay for one of JVC’s laser models.

Read the full JVC DLA-NP5 review

Best projectors 2022: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

A bold projector for those who like their movies to pack a punch. (Image credit: Future)
A powerful 4K projector with a bold picture to match.

Specifications

Type: 3LCD
Resolution: 4K pixel shift
HDR: Yes
Contrast ratio: 1,200,000:1
Inputs: HDMI 2.0 (x2), USB 2.0 (x2)
3D: Yes
Lamp: 2600 lumens
Lamp life: 5,000/3,000 hours (eco/normal)

Reasons to buy

+
Motorised and adaptable lens
+
Vibrant colours and good HDR
+
Excellent sense of depth

Reasons to avoid

-
Noisy at full power

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

Sony VPL-VW290ES

Sony's entry level native 4K projector gets a boost. (Image credit: Future)
The entry-level standard for native 4K projectors.

Specifications

Resolution: Native 4K
Panel: SXRD
Brightness: 1500 ANSI-lumens
HDR10: Yes
HLG support: Yes
Inputs: HDMI (x2)
Lamp life: 6000 hours
HDCP 2.2: Yes
3D: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Glossy HDR picture
+
Excellent HD upscaling
+
Insightful, cinematic image

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this price

This is Sony's replacement for the excellent VW270ES. Now armed with the X1 for Projector picture processor, and features such as Super Resolution Reality Creation and Dynamic HDR Enhancer, it resets the standard for the entry-level native 4K projector.

Like the rest of the native 4K Sony series, the 290ES uses Sony's SXRD, 4096 x 2160 resolution, D-ILA panels which combine the best of LCD and DLP technology. This results in this case in a sharp picture that draws an excellent balance between HDR punch and tonal detail.

As with most projectors, there's no Dolby Vision support, but Sony's own dynamic HDR technology can still provide a frame-by-frame HDR analysis for the best possible picture at all times.

Even with SDR material, the results are quite astonishing. There's little want for detail when upscaling from HD and there are bags of carefully shaded nuance with both contrast and colour.

Read the full Sony VPL-VW290ES review

Best projectors 2022: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

An eye catching projector that brings together vibrancy and detail. (Image credit: Sony)
A native 4K projector that majors on cinematic excitement.

Specifications

Resolution: Native 4K
Panel: SXRD
HDR: Yes
Max image size: 300in
Connectivity: HDMI 2.0 (x2), LAN, PC, USB
HDCP 2.2: Yes
Brightness: 1800 lumens
Lamp life: 6000 hours
Contrast ratio: : 350,000:1

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic 4K detail
+
Excellent motion processing
+
Solid contrast control

Reasons to avoid

-
Image can lack subtlety

Sony has supplied the market with a fair few native 4K projectors over the last few years – all high-end, all highly commendable.

In many ways this particular Sony is an irrefutable showboat. Its colour palette is more focused on vibrancy and eye-catching saturation, and its shading favours the dramatic to the subtle, but there's a definite appeal in that approach too.

Detail at 4K is outstanding and there's a very good texture and realism to every part of the on-screen image. Tonal detail in light and dark areas is excellent, even in scenes of mixed lighting, thanks to some pinpoint contrast control with help from the Dynamic Iris. There's also the very hard to beat bonus of Sony's superb motion processing.

Set up is relatively straightforward, and once you have it up and running you'll be rewarded with pictures that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.

Read the full Sony VPL-VW590ES review

Best projectors 2022: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

This projector may not be 4K, but it makes up for it with rich colours and dynamic picture.
Epson's '4K' projector is a talented all-rounder for the money.

Specifications

Type: LCD
Resolution: Full HD with '4K enhancement'
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Contrast ratio: 200,000:1
Inputs: HDMI (x2), VGA, USB
3D: Yes
Lamp life: 5000 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, dynamic picture
+
Rich, refined colours
+
Electronic lens shift

Reasons to avoid

-
Not full 4K
-
3D glasses aren't included

Despite only having a Full HD chip, the Epson still supports 4K and HDR content thanks to its clever '4K-enhancement' tech. It can't quite match the best native 4K projectors, but they tend to cost a lot more and it still delivers an exceptional picture for the money.

There's sharpness and colour in spades and the Epson also does a great job delivering punch and dynamism. It digs out plenty of detail in dark scenes too, and it's also easy to operate thanks to the motorised lens and handy remote control.

If you want something bigger than a flatscreen TV but more affordable than a native 4K projector, this is a great middle-ground solution.

Read the full review: Epson EH-TW7400

UST projector: Samsung The Premiere LSP9T

Ultra short throw doesn't compromise on the big picture. (Image credit: Future)
Surprisingly like a TV, only bigger.

Specifications

Resolution : 3840x2160
Type: DLP
Connectivity: HDMI x 3, USB x 1, Optical audio, LAN, Freeview TV tuner
Built in streaming apps: Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ (same as Samsung TVs)
OS: Tizen
Lamp life: 20,000 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Bright, colourful pictures
+
Comprehensive smart system
+
Good sound quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Fiddly to set up
-
‘Rainbow’ effect

Anyone who’s into home cinema appreciates the value of a really big TV screen. But they’ll also be all too aware of how much really big TV screens cost. As soon as you step up to screen sizes above 80 inches the cost of TVs explodes, leaving the vast majority of households having to limit their home theatre dreams to 75 inches at the very largest. 

Unless, that is, they go for a projector. But then, of course, projectors aren’t usually a convenient fit for living rooms. Cue Samsung’s The Premiere LSP9T: a projector designed from the ground up to deliver an epic TV-like experience for a fraction of the cost.

Thanks to its uniquely (by projector standards) potent audio and the remarkable colour range and brightness made possible by its tri-laser lighting system, the Premiere LSP9T really does get closer than any other projector to date to making you believe you’re watching a king-sized TV. Which is pretty handy considering that it’s going to be many, many years (if ever) before you’ll be able to get a 130-inch TV for anywhere near its asking price.

Read the full Samsung The Premiere LSP9T review

Native 4K projector: Sony VPL-VW890ES

Sony's razor sharp 4K projector is breathtaking. (Image credit: Sony)
Sony produces one of the sharpest, most detailed projector performances we’ve ever seen.

Specifications

4K capability: Yes (native)
Type: Laser
HDR: Yes
Brightness: 2200 lumens
Connectivity: HDMI (x2), USB, Ethernet, LAN

Reasons to buy

+
Breathtakingly sharp picture
+
Excellent motion handling
+
Exceptional HD upscaling

Reasons to avoid

-
Black depth not convincing
-
Short on dark detail

For native 4K projectors, the devil is rarely in the detail. The Sony VPL-VW890ES, and top-end machines like it, specialise in transcribing every crumb of picture resolution from source to screen.

Sony has an excellent track record for resolution and colour with its SXRD projectors and the VW890ES has both in spades. This is one of the sharpest pictures we’ve ever seen – a corner-to-corner level of detail that’s simply breathtaking.

Compared to the lower-end SXRD projectors in the Sony range, the VPL-VW890ES really is next level. It produces the kind of picture that will rival your local multiplex and have you wanting to watch disc after disc of your favourite films so that you can enjoy finding new details in them that you could never appreciate before.

Read the full Sony VPL-VW890ES review

UST projector: Xgimi Aura

Punchy colours and surprisingly solid sound make the Xgimi Aura a convincing ultra short throw option. (Image credit: Xgimi)
An entertaining short throw projector with punchy colours and sound.

Specifications

Type: Laser
Resolution: 4K
HDR: Yes
Inputs: HDMI 2.0 x 3 (1 Arc)
3D: Yes
Lamp: 2500 lumens
Lamp life: 25,000 hours (high brightness)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound for a projector
+
Bright picture with punchy colours
+
Decent motion handling

Reasons to avoid

-
Missing key apps
-
Poor black detail
-
Some rainbow issues

f you’re on the hunt for convenient and accessible home cinema solutions, ultra-short-throw (UST) projectors such as the Xgimi Aura can seem like an obvious choice. The Xgimi Aura puts in a thoroughly entertaining big-screen performance that’s more impressive than the sum of its parts and almost makes us forget its flaws.

It throws big with a dramatic, vibrant picture bolstered by streaming smarts and the best quality sound system we’ve yet to hear in any projector. It may be bulky, but if it fits into your home, the Xgimi Aura offers a quality UST performance that undercuts its competition.

Read the full Xgimi Aura 4K review

Home cinema projector: LG HU810PW

Looking for an all-in-one option? This LG is the smart option for onboard streaming. (Image credit: LG)
Sharp, bright and smart.

Specifications

Type: Dual laser
Brightness: 2700 lumens
Resolution: 4K UHD (3840 x 2160)
HDR: HDR 10, Dynamic Tone Mapping, HLG, HGiG
Inputs: HDMI x 3 (1 eARC), USB x 2

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed, bright, vibrant picture
+
Excellent motion processing
+
Onboard streaming

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires a fair amount of tweaking
-
Colours lack subtly
-
Shallow black level

Household projectors fall into two types. There are those for discerning enthusiasts with dedicated space for entertainment, and there are those for more casual viewing that offer a portable all-in-one home cinema but without the picture refinement of a more purist design. 

In recent years, companies such as LG have focused on improving these smaller, more everyday models. The increasing affordability of laser technology means that manufacturers are now starting to produce slimmed-down long-throw projectors such as the LG HU810PW that aim to deliver excellent picture and functional flexibility.

With a crisp, detailed picture, punchy colours and smooth motion handling, the HU810PW delivers a lot of value and, despite its limited contrast range, it performs well both as a flexible all-in-one system and install model.

Read the full LG HU810PW review

Home cinema projector: Optoma UHZ50

A sharp and punchy picture that doesn't cost the Earth. (Image credit: Future)
A bright 4K picture that doesn’t break the bank.

Specifications

Type: DLP
Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (UHD)
Brightness: 3000 lumens
Light source: Laser
Laser lifespan : 30,000 hours
Ports: 3 x HDMI 2.0 (1 x eARC), 3 x USB A, 1 x 3.5mm Audio, 1 x Optical Audio

Reasons to buy

+
Empty List

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

The Optoma UHZ50 is the company’s latest stab at an entry level all-in-one DLP 4K laser projector. It comes with everything you need to get started with a home cinema set-up including integrated speakers, the ability to stream apps and HDR support.

That’s a useful array of abilities that makes this projector an appealing proposition for those after a fuss-free solution to their projection needs. 

As a package, the Optoma feels like a good deal if you’re after a plug and play solution that you can dive straight into watching, but it would certainly benefit from an external sound system and a streaming device. 

While the UHZ50 might not be quite up to class-leading standards, it still produces a sharp, clean and punchy image, making it a solid choice if you’re in the market for a 4K projector.

Read the full review: Optoma UHZ50

UST projector: Epson EH-LS300

The EH-LS300 is an affordable UST that delivers above and beyond its asking price. (Image credit: Future)
An affordable ultra-short-throw projector that delivers above its price.

Specifications

Type: Laser
Brightness: 36,000 lumens
Resolution: 1080p
HDR: Yes
Inputs: HDMI x 2, USB x 1
Lamp lifespan: 20,000 hours in high brightness

Reasons to buy

+
Bright picture
+
Natural colours
+
Onboard streaming

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most detailed
-
Noisy fan
-
Missing key streaming apps

As a relatively nascent product category, high-quality ultra-short-throw (UST) projectors that can project images above 100 inches tend to be pretty pricey. These all-in-one home cinemas have to tick many boxes, delivering advanced optics, onboard streaming and integrated sound within a single compact package designed to be used flexibly.

So when it comes to models at the more affordable end of the market, such as the Epson LS300, we’re inherently sceptical about the prospect of it producing a well-rounded and immersive big-screen experience. Which makes it all the more satisfying to find that it does.

It may not have the highest spec, but Epson’s LS300 brings convenient big-screen projection to a price point that is far less prohibitive than is usual for its class. It is less detailed and vibrant than its pricier 4K counterparts, but at this price it's hard to quibble with what is an authentically rendered, bright, big picture and the onboard streaming smarts it comes with. Just be sure to also budget for a soundbar.

Read the full Epson EH-LS300 review

Home cinema projector: Samsung The Freestyle

A versatile projector to take on your travels. (Image credit: Future)
And now for something completely different.

Specifications

Resolution : 1080p
HDR: Yes
Type: LED
Connectivity: Mini HDMI x 1
OS: Tizen
Streaming apps: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Apple TV+

Reasons to buy

+
Cute but practical design
+
Bright, sharp, colourful pictures
+
Impressive auto keystone/focus

Reasons to avoid

-
Below-par black levels
-
Auto keystone system isn’t perfect
-
A bit expensive

The Freestyle, Samsung’s diddy new LED-based projector lives up to its name by enabling you to take projection to places it’s never really been able to go before. Literally. Even the usual power cable ‘tether’ doesn’t have to hold The Freestyle back from doing its thing in even the most inaccessible corners of your home.  

The sheer extent of its flexibility actually makes its performance feel better than we arguably have any right to expect, though. So if you’re prepared to show it the sort of love it needs, the Freestyle has the potential to be your home’s new best friend. Right up until the point where you end up squabbling over whose turn it is to use it, anyway.

Read the full review: Samsung The Freestyle

Best outdoor projectors

This compact cube can is punchier than its form may suggest. (Image credit: Future)
A smart, small and seriously punchy projector.

Specifications

Resolution: 1080p HDR
Type: 3LCD
Speakers: 2 x 5W
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Inputs: HDMI (x2), USB
Audio out: Bluetooth, 3.5mm
Smart platform: Yes
Battery: No
Storage: 10GB

Reasons to buy

+
Tidy build
+
Strong black depth and dark detail
+
Decent sound system

Reasons to avoid

-
Colours lack complexity
-
Mains power only
-
Some key missing apps

Epson's 3LCD projection system is squished down here and housed in a very tidy 14‎ x 18 x 18cm, 2kg box. While not quite as serious for brightness and picture quality as the company's more traditional home cinema machines, it still has a way with contrast and shading that's beyond the reach of most portable projectors.

What's more, its sound system is streets ahead of almost all others on this list. It's a 2 x 5W set-up that's been tuned by Yamaha. It's remarkably expressive with just enough precision to hold its own even in scenes with heavy action.

There's no iPlayer, Netflix or All 4 apps on the smart platform and we'd like Epson to have fitted an internal battery too but these are relatively minor gripes and nothing that neither a media streamer nor an extension cable can't solve. Definitely one for your portable projector shortlist.

Read the full Epson EF-12 review

Anker Nebula Solar Portable

Unlike its namesake, you can move this Anker around quite easily. (Image credit: Future)
The best Nebula portable projector so far.

Specifications

Resolution: 1080p HDR
Type: DLP
Speakers: 2 x 3W
Lamp: 400 lumens
Inputs: HDMI, USB
Audio-out: Bluetooth
Smart platform: Android TV OS
Battery: Yes
Storage: 8GB

Reasons to buy

+
Vivid but balanced picture
+
Great portable size and features
+
Decent spread of sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Sound system lacks impact
-
Blacks could be deeper

This is Anker's best Nebula projector to date and also a very, very good portable in its own right. Feature-wise, it's got almost everything one could need in an outdoor projector. There's an excellent smart platform, a three-hour battery life, a good degree of brightness and plenty of source material options.

What tops it off, though, is some really rather impressive picture quality. There are brighter machines out there but, for this price, there's a great blend of both punch and subtlety to the image. In the right setting, it's just the ticket.

The onboard speakers are a touch weedy but the quality and spread of sound from them is good.

Do be warned that the app platform is missing a few of the UK catch-up services, iPlayer included, but otherwise, this feels like one of the best projectors out there for taking on your travels. It's small, convenient and very well appointed.

Read the full Anker Nebula Solar Portable review

Best projectors 2022: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

While it may not be the sharpest, the Mars 2 is still a lot of fun. (Image credit: Nebula)
More fun than the average portable projector.

Specifications

Resolution: 720p
Brightness: 300 lumens
Streaming apps: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer
Connectivity: AirPlay, Chromecast, Miracast, HDMI, USB, Bluetooth speaker mode
Operating system: Android 7.1

Reasons to buy

+
Fun, quick and easy to use
+
Solid image quality in darker rooms
+
Useful built-in speaker

Reasons to avoid

-
Somewhat crude colour
-
Requires careful light control
-
Not the sharpest lens

Like the LG other Nebula above, the Mars 2 is a smartbox style portable projector that offers both convenience and a good dollop of fun. It's an excellent pick up and put down mini-movie night in which ever room of the house you happen to be.

It offers a picture size of up to 150 inches (you'll need very low lighting to appreciate it) and it'll run for four hours on its internal battery before it needs plugging in again – not bad for a summer evening's outdoor cinema, then. It also has a 2 x 10W speaker system built in.

Obviously, it's not the last word in picture quality but it delivers enough of the goods to be worth your while.

Read the full Nebula Mars 2 review

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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