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There are many reasons why you might want a projector above your TV: you might want a wider picture than your TV can provide, or you don’t like the look of your TV in your living room, or you want to have lazy movie nights with your friends or family. Since cinemas are not an option for most people these days, many friends ask me which projector to get in the living room. So to give them the best answer, I tested nine different projectors in my apartment. After three months and too many movies, I have found the projector that works best in most situations.
Whats A Good Projector For Home Theater
First, there are many specifications and choices when it comes to projectors: lumens, lasers or lamps, DLP or LCD, 1080 or 4K, short throw, zoom lenses, projection size… there
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. But the main things that matter are how easy it is to set up, the sound, the picture quality, and the price.
There are currently five types of projectors you can purchase for your home: DLP, LCD, LED, LCOS, and laser. For this test, I looked at the DLP and LCD types common to home projectors, as well as a DLP projector that uses a laser light source instead of a lamp, ranging in price from $530 to $2,800. You can spend a lot more on high-end dedicated home theater projectors. But for this test, we kept the budget as reasonable as possible. Most of the models I’ve tested max out at 1080p, but we also have a few 4K options.
My top pick is the $899 Epson Home Cinema 2150 . This is a 1080p LCD projector with a great bright picture, good speakers and very easy to set up. However, before getting into the details, there are a few basics to consider when buying a projector.
DLP or digital light processing and LCD projectors are based on lamps, so the lamp eventually degrades, but they are much more affordable than laser projectors. DLPs tend to be smaller and more portable, offering higher contrast and deeper blacks. LCDs tend to have sharper, sharper images and appear brighter than DLPs, even at lower lumens. Projectors of laser sources
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Based on the lamp, so they require less maintenance. On average, a laser lasts 5 times longer than a light bulb. And unlike an incandescent projector, where the lamp emits light through a color wheel to create an image, laser projectors only create the exact colors needed for the image. This efficiency provides a much brighter image and very accurate colors, deep black levels and contrast. But all this has a much higher cost. Low-end laser projectors typically cost around $2,000, although you can find them for less.
Then there’s the throw factor, which tells you how big the image is relative to how far it is from the surface. Traditional projectors are placed behind the viewer, ideally 10 to 20 feet from the surface they are projecting onto. Meanwhile, short-throw projectors can project a large image from just a few feet away from a wall, while ultra-throw projectors are mostly placed directly on the wall.
The surface you project onto is important—you can use a wall. White is best, but it won’t show the projector at its best. Every tiny bump refracts light and creates small shadows, so the image loses quality and brightness over time. You will benefit greatly from purchasing a projector screen, especially if you are viewing in low daylight. Projector screens noticeably brighten the image depending on what they are covered with. I used a cheap 80-inch Panoview pop-up display — you can find one like this for around $100 — but it still produced a better experience than pointing the projector at my wall.
4K projectors are much more expensive and not as common as 4K TVs because the pixels on the projector chips are incredibly small. But unless you really invest in a proper home theater, most living room setups won’t allow the average viewer to tell the difference between a good 1080p projector and a reasonably priced 4K projector.
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And when it comes to content, every projector I’ve tested has an HDMI input, built-in speakers, and an audio output, so I could easily stream stuff by plugging in my Roku stick. You can also use a laptop, Apple TV, or any other device you use to stream video.
The best projector I’ve tested—the one I’ll recommend to my friends—is the $899 Epson 2150. The picture is excellent: large, bright, color reproduction is excellent. The 2150 is an LCD projector that produces a clear image even when projecting a 130-inch image, and can project up to 300 inches. It’s 1080p, but unless you’re in a completely dark theater with a screen, it won’t be noticeably different from 4K.
Brightness, rated at 2,500 lumens, is lower than other rated projectors. But the LCD makes the low-lumen image brighter and brighter than a DLP projector with the same rating. You can look at it in daylight, but certainly not with unfiltered light streaming through the window. Switching to dynamic mode ensures the best image throughout the day, which is great for Epson projectors: you can easily switch between projection modes and each one looks great. Use cinema mode with deep blacks to watch movies at night.
The 2150’s built-in 10-watt speakers are loud. I didn’t find the need for external speakers, but there is a 3.5mm audio output to connect them if you want. However, the fans are also loud and it gets hot. I would avoid putting it near the head. It’s easier than it sounds because the Epson 2150 has automatic dialing. The keystone is important because it allows you to align the image so the projector doesn’t have to be perfectly parallel to the wall.
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There are also manual buttons for focus, zoom, lens shift and keystone, which are much easier to use than the digital controls. The zoom lens has 1.6x magnification, which is more than the average on most projectors in this range. This means that without having to move the projector, you can have an image from 80 inches diagonally to 132 inches wide. A smaller image can better deal with ambient lighting in a bright room.
This zoom lens combined with all the other controls make the projector truly versatile and easy to use. if you move or if you end up placing the projector in another room, you can adapt it to the new space very quickly.
All in all, the Epson 2150 offers a pleasant experience: it is easy to use and provides bright and clear images.
A less expensive but excellent projector is the Optoma HD146X. It costs $549 and has many of the same features as the Epson 2150.
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The biggest difference is that it’s a DLP projector, so the 3600 lumens rating doesn’t make it any brighter than 2150. It actually looks darker and less bright. It’s also not as sharp as the 2150 because it’s DLP instead of LCD.
Optoma’s picture modes are also less versatile, with the “bright” mode producing an unusable green image. The “Vivid” or “Cinema” modes are much nicer. But if you’re projecting in the middle of the day, you’ll probably have to lower the curtains, especially if you don’t have a screen. In addition, the HD146X offers good contrast that produces a sharp image.
Finally, the HD146X’s built-in 3W speaker isn’t loud, but the fan is. At maximum volume, you can still hear the fan when the projector is close to your head. It’s manageable, though: if this projector is for your bedroom, a speaker will do. But if you are going to organize a movie night with friends or make noise outside, I recommend speakers that can be connected via a 3.5 mm audio output. The 1.1x zoom lens has a shorter range than the 2150, so it’s hard to get a really big image in my apartment. At 11 feet, the image is about 100 inches, which is pretty big, but I wish it was even bigger.
Of all the projectors I’ve tested, the Optoma projectors have some of the nicest images. Although the HD146X is one of Optoma’s less expensive options, the picture still stands out. If you’re watching in a very dark room and have external speakers, the HD146X will deliver a great picture at a price you can’t beat for quality.
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The Optoma HD146X is a good projector if you don’t want to spend more than a few hundred dollars.
If the price is less
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