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Best projectors 2020: 4K, Full HD, 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 2020.

If you don't want to go to the movie theatre right now – and we can't say we blame you – you'll want to recreate the big-screen experience at home. You could buy a huge TV, and we're sure you'd have a great time. But nothing says silver screen quite like a projector.

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 lounge. 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 best projectors money can buy 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 spoof that top-end resolution.  Just remember to save some money for the projector screen and the popcorn!

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Best projectors 2020: 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 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

2. 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 colors
Excellent sense of depth

Reasons to Avoid

Noisy at full power

If you want the best 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 EH-TW9400

Best projectors 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

3. Epson EH-TW650

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

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 colors

Reasons to Avoid

Slight issue with image stability

Projectors at the lower end of the market vary wildly in merit – some are Adam Driver quality, some are more Adam Sandler. But this small, talented Epson model shows that budget models can still provide plenty of thrills.

This LCD panel model has short throw capabilities of between 1.35-1.64m, so it's perfect for those with small movie rooms and even tighter budgets. It skilfully handles brightness, color and detail, showing an even-handedness and level of restraint we wish that similarly-priced rivals would display. 

True, it's Full HD rather than 4K, but at this price, we're not complaining. And neither will you once you've seen it in action. (That's especially true if you're running standard DVDs and Blu-rays rather than 4K discs or streaming 4K-capable services like Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.)

Is it the most capable projector around? No. But if you want movie nights without the cost, look no further.

Read the full review: Epson EH-TW650

Best projectors 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

4. 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 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 EH-TW7400 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 EH-TW7400

Best projectors 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

5. Sony VPL-VW550ES

A stellar performing 4K HDR projector even at this price.

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

Realistic colors
Impressive SD and HD upscaling
Easy set-up and controls

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing noteworthy

Here we go – a true, native 4K projector, meaning the best picture quality outside of a proper movie theatre. In fact, this image actually looks better than some movie theatres we've visited in our time. Its color palette is more about realism and accuracy than pure, eye-catching saturation. There are no candy-bright hues here, thankfully. Just realistic skin tones and impressive shading.

In other ways, though, the VPL-VW550ES is a bit of a showboat. But then it is made by Sony, who has plenty to showboat about – its native 4K projectors are some of the best money can buy, and this model wears its heritage proudly on its sleeve. Justifiably so, we say.

Unlike some high-end models, it's simple to set up and work, too, so you won't need any rocket science qualifications to get it up and running. And once it's on, you won't want to shut it off.

Read the full review: Sony VPL-VW550ES

Best projectors 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

(Image credit: Future)

6. 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 projectors 2020: Full HD, 4K, portable, short throw

7. 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

  • 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