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

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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 jewel in the crown of your home theater set-up should be one of the best 4K projectors around. You want epic scale for movie nights and you should have it with some top notch quality too. You deserve it.

With picture sizes greater than 100in, not to mention the requisite 'lights off' setting, a projector can bring the movie theatre experience right to your den. And you don't need a huge room to benefit – today's short throw models can turn even a modest-sized lounge into a movie theatre.

Add in an AV amp and surround sound speakers, and you're good to go.

We've rounded up the very best projectors out there to give you a big screen whatever your budget. There are even portable models that make great bring-along additions to a pool party for an outdoor movie experience.

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 create that top-end resolution. Just remember to save some money for the projector screen and the popcorn!

Black Friday projector deals US

Nebula Capsule portable projector $350 $250 at Amazon (save $250)

Epson Home Cinema 1080 HD projector $750 $649 at Crutchfield (save $101)

BenQ TK800M 4K projector $1449 $1099 at Walmart (save $350)

Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K projector $1700 $1449 at Amazon (save $251)

Samsung The Premiere LSP7T $3500 $2500 at Samsung (save $1000)

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

(Image credit: Future)

1. Epson Home Cinema 3800

For great 4K pictures at an affordable price, this is the best 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 Home Cinema 3800

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

(Image credit: Future)

2. JVC DLA-NX5

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 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-NX5

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

(Image credit: Future)

3. Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB

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 colors+Excellent sense of depth
Reasons to avoid
-Noisy at full power

If you want the best projector picture possible, but don't want to pay the extra for native 4K projection, this is the projector for you. It might not offer quite the same level of detail as a native 4K model, but in terms of color accuracy, contrast subtlety and HDR handling, it certainly delivers.

The picture is stunning, more involving than any rivals at this price, and so absorbing you'll pick up details you never noticed before.

It's eminently practical, too. The picture goes from 50-300in, which should suit most house sizes, and it can be thrown from a good variety of distances, so it will work in your lounge regardless of your setup. It has a motorized lens too, so you can set it up from there comfort of your couch using the fantastic, backlit remote. Kick back and enjoy.

Read the full review: Epson Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB

Sony VPL-VW290ES

(Image credit: Future)

4. Sony VPL-VW395ES

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 VW295ES. Now armed with the X1 for Projector picture processor, and features like 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 395ES uses Sony's SXRD, 4096 x 2160 resolution, D-ILA panels which combine the best of LCD and DLP technology. The results in this case are sharp picture which draws an excellent balance between HDR punch and tonal details.

As with most native 4K machines, 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. The only thing that stands in its way is that the even better JVC DLA-N5 isn't a whole lot more expensive.

Read the full review: Sony VPL-VW395ES

Best projectors

(Image credit: Future)

5. Epson Home Cinema 3200

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 Home Cinema 3200

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

6. Epson Home Cinema 4010

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 colors+Electronic lens shift
Reasons to avoid
-Not full 4K-3D glasses aren't included

It might only have a Full HD chip, but the Epson Home Cinema 4010 still supports 4K and HDR content thanks to its clever '4K-enhancement' tech. True, it's not native 4K, so will look a little wanting compared to a 'proper' 4K model. But this model is a lot cheaper, and still delivers an exceptional picture for the money.

The image is pin sharp ad very colorful, while also popping with punch and dynamism. The Epson digs out plenty of detail in dark scenes too – useful if moody, moonlight-lit thrillers are your bag. Plus it's a cinch to operate thanks to the motorised lens and handy remote control.

If you're ready to take the step up from a big-screen TV, but don't want a native 4K projector (which tend to be prohibitively expensive), this is a great middle ground. Invite people round for a movie night, and you won't hear any complaints.

Read the full review: Epson Home Cinema 4010

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

(Image credit: Sony)

7. Sony VPL-VW715ES

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-VWVW715ES

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

(Image credit: Future)

8. 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 really fascinating box of tricks. It may not be the finest on this list in terms of pure picture quality, but it presents a very decent 4K HDR image from a larger array of sources – both smart and local – than any other here. And for that, we commend it.

It's blessed with LG's 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. These can provide external sound, too.

So is it expensive? Maybe. But for those who want the flexibility to throw a movie up on their wall whenever and however they choose, it's just the ticket, with decent sound and a very solid picture as well. One of the best outdoor projectors you can buy.

Read the full review: LG CineBeam HU80KSW

Best outdoor projectors

(Image credit: Future)

9. 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)

10. 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: 4K, Full HD, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Nebula)

11. 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: 4K, Full HD, portable, short throw

12. 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

Three stars!? In a Best Buy? What's going on? Let us explain.

This is a bit of an odd one. It's a tiny, tin-shaped projector with a big picture and even bigger ambitions. It's ingenious, really – a portable projector with built-in Android-esque app store. And when you want to discuss the movie after? The Capsule can also be used as a dedicated Bluetooth speaker. So stick on some tunes and have yourself a (socially distanced) party.

Its picture is surprisingly impressive, given the size and price. Admittedly it's not going to rival a native 4K model, but at this money, we wouldn't expect it to. It's great for streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or YouTube (all of which are very easy to access using the built-in app store).

If you're looking for something a bit different from your projector, and you want a model to carry round to other people's houses, or just move around the garden, and you don't mind a picture that's a bit rough around the edges, you'll find plenty to like about the Nebula Capsule.

Read the full review: Nebula Capsule

MORE:

These are the best outdoor projectors 2021

Take a look at the best home cinema deals

Dan Sung

Dan is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and his job is with product reviews as well as news, feature and advice articles too. He works across both the hi-fi and AV parts of the site and magazine and has a particular interest in home cinema. Dan joined What Hi-Fi? in 2019 and has worked in tech journalism for over a decade, writing for Tech Digest, Pocket-lint, MSN Tech and Wareable as well as freelancing for T3, Metro and the Independent. Dan has a keen interest in playing and watching football. He has also written about it for the Observer and FourFourTwo and ghost authored John Toshack's autobiography, Toshack's Way.

  • 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
  • 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