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Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, 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 2021.

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. 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 as well as all sorts more on Home Cinema Week on What Hi-Fi?.

With picture sizes often up to 300in, the best projectors are the only way to get that genuine big screen feeling. Whether 4K HDR, HD or portable all you need then is a decent AV amp and surround speaker package, and you've got yourself a bonafide home movie night.

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 which 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!

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

1. Epson EH-TW7100

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 review: Epson EH-TW7100

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

2. Sony VPL-VW270ES

Sony's native 4K projector is an absolute stunner.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy

Sensational sharpness
Stunning contrast
HDR10 and HLG support

Reasons to Avoid

No 3D glasses supplied

If you want one of the best 4K projectors available and a truly immersive picture, then it's hard to look past the Sony VPL-VW270ES.

Like many Sony 4K projectors, it uses the brand’s proprietary 4K SXRD panels to achieve its true DCI 4K 4096 x 2160 resolution. It includes support for 60fps 4K playback and beefed-up processing power, with faster response speeds and reduced input lag, which will no doubt have gamers interested.

Its amazing sense of insight and fantastically solid and smooth picture raises its calibre above that of cheaper rivals. The picture is wonderfully sharp and inviting and can be as large as 120in at distances between 3.67m to 7.55m. If you want 'true' 4K and have a hefty budget at your disposal, then this is the projector to go for.

Read the full review: Sony VPL-VW270ES

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

3. Epson EH-TW9400

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
Handles HDR well
Vibrant colours
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, its 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 50-300in 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 review: Epson EH-TW9400

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

4. JVC DLA-N5

Yet another high performing premium projector from JVC

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: D-ILA | Resolution: native 4K | HDR: Yes | Contrast ratio: 40,000:1 / 400,000:1 (native/dynamic) | Inputs: HDMI 2.0 (x2) | 3D: Yes | Lamp: 1800 lumens | Lamp life: 4500 hours (eco)

Reasons to Buy

Deep blacks
Excellent HDR handling
Brilliant colour control

Reasons to Avoid

Add-on required for 3D
No full-screen SD upscaling

JVC's D-ILA devices are some of the best home cinema projectors in the business. They offer exceptionally good contrast handling, effortless smooth colour blending and the best black levels around. The N5 may be the baby of this famed native 4K family but it's still an absolute belter.

Its bigger, pricier siblings are better and blacker but there's easily enough shading skill and depth of darkness even here to produce an incredibly involving and three-dimensional feel whether at 4K or Full HD. What's more, JVCs ongoing upgrades to its HDR capabilities just make that picture better and better as time goes on.

The motorised lens, simple menu system and excellent choice of usable preset picture modes make it surprisingly easy to set up. It might not compete with the others here for value but it's the best performing projector on this list.

Read the full review: JVC DLA-N5

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Sony VPL-VW590ES

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 it's 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 review: Sony VPL-VW590ES

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

6. Epson EH-TW7000

An entry-level 4K projector done right

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: 3LCD | Resolution: 4K pixel shift | HDR: Yes | Contrast ratio: 40,000:1 | 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

Strong 4K and HD detail
Excellent use of HDR
Flexible for positioning

Reasons to Avoid

No 4K motion processing
SDR settings can vary

This entry-level 4K projector is the baby brother of the Epson at No.1 in the list. The chassis and most of the features are the same apart from the missing internal speakers on this model which are a bit of waste of money anyway.

There are differences on the inside, though. It's still a 3LCD machine but the projection technology will only allow for a picture with a stated contrast ratio of 40,000:1 compared to the 100,000:1 on the TW7100. That said the picture performance is still excellent and very fair for the money.

HDR handling and dark detail are very good and, considering the price point, this projector is capable of some brilliant detail. Black depth and motion processing isn't a patch on more expensive models but the results are very appealing nonetheless and give a wonderfully naturally cinematic feel for very little outlay – a masterclass in budget projection.

Read the full review: Epson EH-TW7000

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

7. Optoma UHD40

Top-class projector technology at a budget price.

SPECIFICATIONS

4K capability: Yes | HDR: Yes | Speakers: 2 x 5W | Lamp: 2400 lumens | Lamp life: 4000 hours | Contrast ratio: 500,000:1 | Inputs: HDMI (x2), USB, 3.5mm

Reasons to Buy

Punchy colours
Insightful detail
Smooth motion

Reasons to Avoid

Black detail could be better

If you want top tech and a fantastic picture on a low budget – this is one projector to watch out for. It offers an excellent 4K image with HDR capabilities for under a grand, now way down from its original price. If that's not good value, we don't know what is.

At this price, you don't get native 4K projection but the pixel shifting technology works a treat. Colours are vivid, yet realistic; there’s lashings of detail; and motion remains silky smooth.

There’s no other way to say it: the Optoma UHD40 is a simply outstanding budget projector, and a worthy Award winner year after year.

Read the full review: Optoma UHD40

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

8. Epson EH-TW650

This brilliant budget projector brings the magic of cinema to your living room.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: LCD | Resolution: Full HD | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Contrast ratio: 15,000:1 | Inputs: Composite, HDMI (x2), VGA, USB | 3D: No | Lamp life: 11yrs

Reasons to Buy

Sharp, clean picture
Impressive brightness
Realistic colours

Reasons to Avoid

Slight issue with image stability

Budget projectors haven’t always won us over, but this talented and compact Epson model shows that you can get an excellent big screen picture for a very low price if you shop around.

This LCD panel model has short throw capabilities of between 1.35 - 1.64m, so it's perfect for those with small rooms and an even tighter budget.

The handling of brightness, colour and detail levels is skillful and indicative of a level-headed restraint we wish all budget products would adhere to. It might be 'only' Full HD and not 4K, but the EH-TW650 brings a bit of the magic of cinema into your living room for not a lot of money.

Read the full review: Epson EH-TW650

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

9. Epson EH-TW7400

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

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

10. Optoma UHD65

This Award-winning 4K HDR model performs brilliantly, and comes in at a very competitive price.

SPECIFICATIONS

4K capability: Yes | HDR: Yes | Connectivity: HDMI (x2), VGA, USB, Ethernet, 3.5mm analogue, optical | Speakers: 2 x 4W

Reasons to Buy

Impressive level of detail
Good range of colours
Upscales HD and SD films well

Reasons to Avoid

Dark scenes could be more detailed
SDR to HDR conversion best avoided

This is a sophisticated, 4K-capable, HDR projector is competitively priced. Considering there are more expensive models on the market that are neither 4K nor HDR-compatible, those looking for a top-notch home cinema projector should give the Optoma UHD65 serious consideration.

It may not have all the bells and whistles of a high-end 4K projector, and, indeed, it may not be native 4K, but the picture is superb with brilliant motion handling, colour production and excellent upscaling abilities.

It's also future-proofed enough to keep you happy for years. At this price, the Optoma is the one to beat, and if you find it at a discount, then you'd better not blink.

Read the full review: Optoma UHD65

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

11. LG CineBeam HU80KSW

An all-in-one, do-it-all portable projector that has it all and does it all well.

SPECIFICATIONS

4K capability: Yes | HDR: Yes | Speakers: 2 x 7W | Brightness: 2500 lumens | Lamp life: 20,000 hours | Contrast ratio: 150,000:1 | Max image size: 150in | HDCP 2.2: Yes | Connectivity: HDMI (x2), USB (x2), 3.5mm, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Miracast | Streaming apps: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer

Reasons to Buy

One-box, truly portable system
Impressive 4K HDR picture
Easy to build a system around

Reasons to Avoid

Lacks a little detail
Motion could be better
Built-in speakers only adequate

One of the most feature-complete projectors you'll ever find, the LG CineBeam is a fascinating box of tricks. It may not be the finest on this list for pure performance but it presents a very decent 4K HDR image from a larger array of sources - both smart and local - than any other here. 

It's blessed with the excellent webOS platform, which means direct access to all your video apps over Wi-Fi, and its Miracasting and Bluetooth abilities make for easy and intuitive ad-hoc connections to whatever mobile device you'd like to play back from, and external sound too.

Expensive? Maybe, but for those who want the flexibility to throw a film up on their wall whenever and however they choose, it's just the ticket; decent sound and a very solid picture to boot. One of the best outdoor projectors you can buy.

Read the full review: LG CineBeam HU80KSW

Best outdoor projectors

(Image credit: Future)

12. Epson EF-12

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

(Image credit: Future)

13. Anker Nebula Solar Portable

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 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Nebula)

14. Nebula Mars 2

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 above and the other Nebula below, the Mars 2 is a smartbox style portable projector which 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 in the house you happen to be.

It offers a picture size of up to 150in (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 review: Nebula Mars 2

Best projectors 2021: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

15. Nebula Capsule

A hugely convenient and fun way to get your portable big-screen kicks.

SPECIFICATIONS

Resolution: 854 x 480 | Brightness: 100 lumens | Streaming apps: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer | Connectivity: AirPlay, Chromecast, Miracast, HDMI, microUSB, Bluetooth speaker mode | Operating system: Android 7.1

Reasons to Buy

Neat design
Solid sound
Passable pictures

Reasons to Avoid

Doesn't like dark scenes or lit rooms
Needs fuller range of apps
Short of connections

Don't be put off by the star rating: this tiny, tin-shaped projector has a big picture and bigger ambitions. It's an ingenious piece of tech - a portable projector with built-in Android-esque app store. The Capsule can also be used as a dedicated Bluetooth speaker.

Whether streaming from Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube, the Capsule presents a decent picture that rivals other pico projectors. It's not perfect, but those looking for something a little bit different, portable and easy to use, and who don’t mind missing out in absolute picture quality terms, will enjoy it very much.

Read the full review: Nebula Capsule

  • nnorton00
    This article has been updated to "Best projectors 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw". The problem is the #1 projector, the UHD40, has been discontinued since May 2019, over a year! Any other suggestions to replace that top spot?
    Reply
  • abacus
    The Optoma UHD51 is probably the best bet or jump up a bit further to the Benq W2700.

    Bill
    Reply
  • nnorton00
    The UHD51 was also discontinued in May 2019!
    Reply
  • abacus
    nnorton00 said:
    The UHD51 was also discontinued in May 2019!

    The UHD 51 is still on the Optoma website and can be bought from many dealers (As well as the Optoma online shop) so not discontinued.

    Richer Sounds currently do it for £1299

    Bill
    Reply
  • gel
    abacus said:
    The UHD 51 is still on the Optoma website and can be bought from many dealers (As well as the Optoma online shop) so not discontinued.

    Richer Sounds currently do it for £1299

    Bill
    Richer Sounds one got £50 off too:

    https://www.richersounds.com/tv-projectors/projectors/4-k-projectors/optoma-uhd51.html
    Reply
  • Dan Sung
    The UHD40 is also still available with certain vendors too, here at Bax, for example - https://www.bax-shop.co.uk/projection/optoma-uhd40-4k-ultra-hd-projector
    We're also getting in the UHD42 shortly. Hopefully Optoma has done a good job there.
    Reply
  • Dan Sung
    nnorton00 said:
    This article has been updated to "Best projectors 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw". The problem is the #1 projector, the UHD40, has been discontinued since May 2019, over a year! Any other suggestions to replace that top spot?

    New No.1.
    Reply