The best projectors 2019: 8 projectors to consider for your home cinema
Projectors are important in any home cinema set-up. Although TVs are a better way to deliver true 4K HDR content, you’re unlikely going to get a picture bigger than 75-inches – well, unless you want to refinance your house or move into a mansion.
But 75-inches is only the beginning if you have a good projector.
Whether you want to splash Blu-ray movies across a large white wall, magnify your gaming experience, or throw photos and slides from a mobile device onto a 100-inch plus screen, a home cinema projector should be your first choice.
Unfortunately, while most AV enthusiasts dream of the day they bring home a beamer for their living room, few tend to follow through. They have the misconception that projectors are hard to set up (they’re not), hard to maintain (they’re not) and cost significantly more than a TV (they don’t).
To that end, we want to dispel the myths perpetuated by non-cinephiles out there and help you pick a fantastic-looking projector without breaking the bank. To that end, we’ve rounded up the best projectors we’ve tested throughout the last year or two and have ranked them below.
The best projectors 2019 overview:
- BenQ HT3550 (2019)
- BenQ HT2550 (2018)
- BenQ TK800 (2018)
- JVC DLA-X5900 (UK-only, 2018)
- Optoma UHD51A (2018)
- Epson Home Cinema 4010 (2018)
- Optoma UHD65 (2017)
- LG PH450UG Minibeam Projector (2017)
The best projectors 2019:
We reviewed the predecessor to the HT3550, the BenQ HT2550, late last year, and to great results, but its sequel offers a few great new features: It has a beautiful new design, for starters, but it’s also optimized for BenQ’s HDR-PRO, which supports HDR10 and HLG, plus it zooms up to 1.3 times, and supports a screen size of up to 120 inches with a brightness of up to 2,000 lumens.
The real upgrade here, however, is the projector’s contrast ratio. While the HT2250 offered a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, the HT3550 steps that up to an impressive 30,000:1 – and the result is a super dynamic image.
While it might have been nice if the projector could get slightly brighter, given the fact that with enough ambient light it can put a serious damper on the overall image quality, we think the BenQ HT3550 is arguably the best way to go if you’re looking for a great projector in the $1,500/£1,500 price range.
The BenQ HT2550 may look a bit pricey to someone used to seeing discount 4K TVs, for the price you can’t do much better. The projector boasts vivid, clear colors, plenty of detail, and a 4K resolution – all at well under $2,000. That’s no small feat.
The projector isn’t perfect – the blacks on offer aren’t as deep as we might have liked, the projector still creates some fan noise and there’s also no lens shift – but those small downsides aside, we think the BenQ HT2550 is an excellent option for those that want a solid, no-frills projector with support for a 4K resolution and HDR content.
Are there better options? Well, there’s the Optoma UHD50, which is $100 cheaper and offers many of the same perks (though color accuracy isn’t quite as good, and the BenQ projector is slightly better-built) but in the end, we think it’s better to spent the extra $100 for the BenQ HT2550.
Like the HT2550, the main selling point of the BenQ TK800 is that it supports faux-4K by using XPR technology that essentially takes a 1920×1080 pixel DLP chip and flashes the image four times in incredibly fast succession to create an image with a perceived resolution of over eight million pixels.
Amazingly this actually works, and even with test patterns the images appear to be 4K in terms of resolution.
What’s different about it is that it’s also really bright, which means that even with SDR content it can deliver images that have genuine impact, even in less-than-ideal conditions. As such you can use the TK800 in a room with white walls or big windows, and still enjoy a huge projected image.
Also expect excellent motion handling, which is great for gaming, and it has a low input lag which is also good news for gamers. (The BenQ even supports 3D, although you will need to buy the glasses separately.)
On the debit side, the black level and the shadow detail are both poor, and the TK800 also uses a color wheel, which restricts its range of colors, especially where HDR is concerned. It also means that certain people will see ‘rainbows’, but that’s just a limitation of single-chip DLP projectors. On top of all that, it’s quite noisy thanks to both the color wheel and a fan, although the latter is necessary given the amount of heat generated by the bright bulb.
For the last 10 years, JVC has been the projector brand to follow for black levels that will beat your local cinema screen. It’s all thanks to JVC’s D-ILA technology, which rival DLP and SXRD models just can’t touch.
Native contrast of 40,000:1 makes blacks looks truly black… that is, if you treat your cinema room to a nice, dark paint job.
This year one of the main upgrades is HDR performance. The punchiness of HDR won’t challenge an ultra-bright LCD TV, but here you’ll get an image several times the size.
Similar to the BenQ HT2550 and TK800 listed above, this beamer uses JVC’s eShift technology, which projects two different 1080p images sequentially at 120Hz frequency, making up the detail of a native 4K display. Don’t worry, in-person you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and 4K.
Smart, voice-activated controls for a home cinema projector may sound like the kitchen-sink approach to feature lists at first glance, jumping on the buzz-word (or should that be ‘wake word’?) bandwagon of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google’s Assistant. But think about the environment and scenario that your average projector viewing session takes place in, and it starts to make a lot of sense – you’re in a dark room where seeing buttons isn’t always easy, possibly with your hands loaded up with popcorn and other treats.
Being able to shout “play the movie!” at a voice-activated projector, potentially installed in a bracket high above your head, seems like a sound move.
Ultimately, while the Alexa features are fun (if a little perfunctory) everything about this the Optoma UHD51A performs exceptionally. At this price, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a projector that can deliver this level of picture quality and this feature set more confidently.
The Optoma UHD51A represents a great shift in 4K projecting quality if you find yourself on a tighter budget. What’s on offer here allows even those with smaller living spaces and more modest bank balances a taste of the home cinema high life.
Now selling for $1,799.99 (£1,799.99), this very large projector is based around Epson’s own 3LCD engine and it deals in 4K, HDR 10, 3D, it has an electronic lens, an auto-focus system, and it can reach 2,400 lumens brightness.
What prevents this from being higher on our list is that doesn’t offer the greatest feature-set around – even Epson offers models with more bells and whistles (notably its step-up EH-TW9400, which adds Hybrid Log Gamma, 4K/60p HDR at 18Gbps, and Epson’s 4K WiHD wireless transmitter), nor is as ultra-detailed as native 4K projectors – but the massive 4010/EH-TW7400’s combination of must-have features and uncompromisingly cinematic images is impossible to argue with.
The UHD65 is a hugely enjoyable projector that manages to deliver very good images in both ambient light and blackout conditions. Most projectors commit to one or the other, halving their versatility.
Though the UHD65 sacrifices both ultra-high brightness for daytime viewing and completely convincing black levels in a blackout, it’s actually giving as close the ‘best of both worlds’ as any projector could: From upscaled HD TV channels and DVDs to Netflix 4K and a Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, few users will have complaints about the cleanness, detail or colour of the UHD65’s images.
However, we did miss a few luxury touches that a projector this price should include: The remote control is the same as you’d find on a projector a sixth of the price (and includes some button that have no function), and there’s no motorised zoom, focus and lens shift. All of these would’ve added a more polished, professional feel, which high-priced products like the UHD65 should always offer; it shouldn’t just be about new technology.
If you want big-screen home entertainment but don’t have space, or funds for a large flat-panel TV or home cinema projector, then LG’s DLP LED Minibeam PH450UG Ultra Short Throw (UST) could be the answer.
It needs only a dozen centimetres or so to cast a huge image onto a white wall or screen and, even better, it’s also ridiculously compact and relatively affordable at $650 (£529, around AU$864).
There is a catch of course: The PH450UG has a resolution of just 720p. If you need more, LG has the PF1000U, a slightly larger 1080p UST model, that sells for $1,399 (£999). There are other projectors in this price range capable of 1080p – like the class-leading BenQ HT670 – but if you’re committed to the small form factor, the PH450UG is the way to go.