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 2023.
If you want the most cinematic image in your home, then a quality projector is a must. Providing you have the right setup, you can indeed recreate the movie magic of the cinema at home, just don't forget to factor in appropriate home theatre speakers for your setup and, of course, a lot of popcorn.
While you'll usually find us recommending the best TVs, some films really do deserve the big-screen experience. Just recently we've had the likes of Avatar: The Way Of Water and Top Gun: Maverick that proved in an age of streaming, cinemas are still the place to be to witness these epic blockbusters. With a home cinema setup, you can emulate the big screen buzz, just make sure you pick carefully, as finding the perfect projector isn't as straightforward as it sounds.
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's even a portable option that would make an excellent bring-along addition to a garden party for an outdoor cinema experience and an ultra-short throw model that's designed to replace your TV. 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
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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