Best Home Theater Projector

Steve Scott —

Updated on

Home theater projectors, there are tons of them but only a handful rise to the top. 🙇

By projecting beautiful images onto the screen, you can use these projectors to create your own home theater.

The best of these have 4K and HDR. Along with several other great features, the images of these projectors rival actual movie theaters’. If you want to create your own home theater with one of the best projectors out there, then you’re going to love this list.

These projectors being 4K allows you to be farther from the screen and still see all of its greatness. These projectors need larger screens, and are perfect for larger rooms. If you have a smaller room, then a short throw projector will work better for you. If you’re interested, check out the best 4K short throw projector.

Now that you guys know this, let’s get onto the best home theater projectors out there:

Best Home Theater Projector Reviews - Our Top 5 Picks

1. Best Choice: Sony VPL-VW285ES

Brightest Full 4K Projector
image of the Sony VPL-VW285ES

Key Features

  • 4K HDR 60p 10 bit
  • Native 4K
  • SXRD Imagers Times 3
  • MotionFlow
  • IMAX Enhanced
  • TRILUMINOS Display
  • Wide Zoom Lens (2.1x) and lens shift
  • Reality Creation

Specifications

  • L x W x H → 19.5x7.7x18.3 in
  • Weight → 27.5 lbs
  • Display Technology → SXRD (3-chip)
  • Connectivity Technology → HDMI, USB, Network, RS232, 12V Trigger
  • Image Brightness → 1,500 lumens
  • Contrast Ratio → N/A
  • Resolution → Full 4K (4096 x 2160)
  • Lamp Life → 6,000 hr (In low mode)

PROS

  • Phenomenal Native 4K image
  • IMAX cinema-grade movie-rivaling images
  • 4K HDR
  • Immersive
  • Excellent black levels and contrast
  • ​HDR color gamut

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Horrible banding issues
  • Bad HDR and HDR problems
  • Manual zoom
  • Does not look good for gaming
  • Low brightness
  • No keystone

Overall Performance

A Full 4K projector with more pixels and better resolution than True 4K and enhanced 4K projectors, the Sony VPL-VW285ES is an astounding projector that will bring phenomenal images to your screen.

The VW285ES uses TRILUMINOS Display to bring true to life colors and tones, better looking faces, and hard to reproduce crimson reds, aqua blues, and emerald greens to your screen. With its highly loved HDR color gamut, its excellent black levels and contrast from its 4K HDR, and IMAX Enhanced images, it immerses those with bigger screens with its cinema-grade theater-rivaling images.

Using SXRD Imagers times 3, the VW285ES displays 8.8 millions pixels in full rich color. This is only made better by the VW285ES’ MotionFlow technology which displays a silk-smooth, razor-sharp on-screen look during fast moving action sequences. And for those who use Blu-Ray and DVDs, the VW285ES’ Reality Creation even upscales them to near 4K quality like some of the best 4K projectors have.

The VW285ES even has a wide zoom lens and shift, giving up to 2.1x zoom.

standard vs sony theater

Even though it is our best choice, this projector has many drawbacks. The first happens to be its cost. This projector is the most expensive on this list, $5000, and many people do not like taking the risk on something that costly.

While it has a 4K HDR 60p 10bit for gaming, this projector is not good for gamers. Gamers say that the VW285ES’ HDR is not good, and this bad HDR causes horrible banding issues and makes games look bad.

Also, there is no keystone to fix your images, and you must manually zoom to fix your aspect ratio because the remote won’t do it for you. And though this projector has the brightest Full 4K images, it is not really bright, having only 1,500 lumens; the lowest on this list.

Despite its problems with gaming, low brightness, and manual fixes, the VW285ES is one of the overall best short-throw projectors that makes you feel as if you are right in the movie theaters.

projector lens

2. Best Quality: Optoma UHZ65

Best Laser Projector with Unreal Contrast
Optoma UHZ65 projector

Key Features

  • True 4K UHD Resolution
  • HDR-10 Support
  • Flexible zoom, throw, and shift
  • Amazing Color Gamut
  • Bigger picture
  • 1,000,000:1 Contrast Ratio from Dynamic Black

Specifications

  • L x W x H → 13 x 19.6 x 6 in
  • Weight → 16 lbs
  • Display Technology → DLP
  • Connectivity Technology → VGA cable, USB, HDMI, HDCP
  • Image Brightness → 3,000 lumens
  • Contrast Ratio → 1,000,000:1 with Dynamic Black enabled
  • Resolution → UHD (3840 x 2160)
  • Lamp Life → 4,000 hrs

PROS

  • Outstanding 4K and picture quality
  • Razor sharp images
  • Very Bright
  • Dynamic Black gives an amazing contrast ratio
  • Can connect to many devices

CONS

  • Common HDMI port malfunctions
  • No keystone
  • Large
  • Plastic unit build

Overall Performance

An astounding 4K UHD projector with unreal 2,000,000:1 contrast from its Dynamic Black mode, the Optoma UHZ65 is our choice for best quality.

The best laser projector, the UHZ65 lives longer than most projectors since it doesn’t use bulbs - lasting 20,000 hours and requiring minimal maintenance. Not only is it also easy to set up but it has a vertical lens shift of 1.6x zoom and its picture quality makes this projector a favorite to almost anyone that uses it. You can even save calibrated day and night mode settings for when you use it at different times with its ISF Modes.

With True 4K UHD, HDR10 support, and DCI-P3 wide color gamut and PureColor reproducing more detailed shades of color for vibrant, natural working images, the picture from the UHZ65 is impeccable and theater-rivaling. And if you want to use DVDs on this, the UHZ65 upscales them to 4K quality like the VW285ES.

Delivering bright, clear, and pin-sharp pictures with UltraDetail and using PureMotion technology to eliminate noise, motion blur, and judder in fast motion makes for an amazing experience when you sit down to watch something off of this projector.

Even though this projector doesn’t have Full 4K, its 4K image quality is almost indistinguishable from the VW285ES.

optoma uhz65 room setup

Its only drawbacks are that it has neither an auto iris or 3D, something that many people are looking for nowadays.

While this projector doesn’t have as great key features as the VW285ES, it is still a phenomenal projector that can give it a run for its money. You can read more about this fascinating projector in our Optoma UHZ65 review.

3. Best Value: Optoma UHD60

Outstanding Picture Quality
Optoma UHD60 projector

Key Features

  • True 4K UHD Resolution
  • HDR-10 Support
  • Flexible zoom, throw, and shift
  • Amazing Color Gamut
  • Bigger picture
  • 1,000,000:1 Contrast Ratio from Dynamic Black

Specifications

  • L x W x H → 13 x 19.6 x 6 in
  • Weight → 16 lbs
  • Display Technology → DLP
  • Connectivity Technology → VGA cable, USB, HDMI, HDCP
  • Image Brightness → 3,000 lumens
  • Contrast Ratio → 1,000,000:1 with Dynamic Black enabled
  • Resolution → UHD (3840 x 2160)
  • Lamp Life → 4,000 hrs

PROS

  • Outstanding 4K and picture quality
  • Razor sharp images
  • Very Bright
  • Dynamic Black gives an amazing contrast ratio
  • Can connect to many devices

CONS

  • Common HDMI port malfunctions
  • No keystone
  • Large
  • Plastic unit build

Overall Performance

A 4K projector with 3,000 lumens and very bright, razor-sharp images, the Optoma UHD60 is an amazing projector with true 4K UHD resolution and picture quality.

The UHD60 supports HDR-10, producing the blackest blacks and whitest whites. Combined with its Dynamic Black mode giving a humongous 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and its huge color gamut, its impeccable picture brings a quality like no other.

The UHD60 even gives you a bigger picture than other projectors, allowing you to be 10 feet away from the projector and still be able to experience its 4K pixels.

The UHD60 also has the great features of a flexible zoom, throw, and shift. It even has many cords and connections for devices.

optoma uhd60 backview

But, the build is heavy, massive, plastic, and, some would say, cheap. Its lack of a keystone and common HDMI port malfunctions only make it less desired.

Yet, in the end, its astounding picture quality, contrast, and brightness make those negatives almost irrelevant. We give a more detailed explanation of its features in our Optoma UHD60 review, take a look at it if you're interested!

home theater sample setup

Best Home Theater Projectors: Honorable Mentions

4. BenQ HT2550

Best Darkroom Projector at a Great Price
BenQ HT2550 projector

Key Features

  • True 4K UHD
  • HDR, HDR10 support
  • BenQ Auto HDR color rendition and cinema optimized technology
  • CinematicColor
  • Smallest and Lightest 4K HDR projector
  • Auto vertical keystone
  • 1.2x lens zoom
  • Hyper-Realistic video quality with HDR
  • ISF Modes

Specifications

  • L x W x H → 13.9 x 10.71 x 5.31 in
  • Weight → 9.26 lbs
  • Display Technology → DLP
  • Connectivity Technology → HDMI, USB, RS232, DC 12V Trigger
  • Image Brightness → 2,200 lumens
  • Contrast Ratio → 10,000:1
  • Resolution → 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)
  • Lamp Life → 10,000 hr; 15,000 on LampSave mode

PROS

  • Portable
  • Amazing picture quality
  • Great price and value
  • 3D support
  • Beautiful 4K UHD
  • Great lamp life
  • Great color quality
  • Amazing HDR
  • Nice and Sharp image

CONS

  • Large border of light around image
  • No lens shift
  • No gaming mode
  • 3D is not good
  • Loud humming noise
  • Large gaming lag
  • Focusing problem
  • HDR is not great to some

Overall Performance

A True 4K UHD projector with HDR10 and 3D support, the BenQ HT2550 is the best projector for those who love dark rooms.

The smallest and lightest 4K HDR projector, the HT2550 is portable. It has an auto vertical keystone and 1.2x lens zoom, and it can last up to 15,000 hours on its LampSave mode.

While many people love the HT2550’s HDR, 3D, 4K, and nice and sharp images, some claim that the HDR and 3D aren’t good at all and that the HT2550 has a blurry focusing problem, especially around the screen’s corners.

Yet, the HT2550’s amazing picture and color quality from its CinematicColor and BenQ Exclusive Auto HDR color rendition and cinema optimized technology is easy to notice. Its Hyper-Realistic Video Quality with HDR also works in its favor.

Equipped with ISF modes to save your day and night settings, the BenQ HT2550 is a projector with a great price and value.

projector 4k comparison

There are several downcomings with the HT2550. The biggest one is the large border of light that suddenly appears around the image and steadily grows bigger. Though the image itself is still great, the light is annoying and worrying.

There is also a large input lag and no gaming mode to the HT2550. And along with the 3D, HDR, and focusing complaints, there is also no lens shift, only the zoom. Lastly, many have reported a loud humming noise coming from the HT2550 that just can’t be ignored.

Despite these issues, the BenQ HT2550 is still a great priced and valued projector with 2,500 lumens, 10,000:1 contrast, and great picture quality.

benq ht2550 projector viewing

5. Epson 5040UB

#1 Voted Epson Projector and a Great Gaming Projector
Epson 5040UB projector

Key Features

  • 4K Pro-UHD
  • Mac and PC compatibility
  • HDR Compatible (HDR10)
  • UltraBlack Contrast
  • UltraWide Color Gamut
  • 100% Balanced Color Brightness
  • 4K Enhancement Tech
  • 3D
  • Powered Lens Position Memory

Specifications

  • L x W x H → 20.5 x 17.7 x 6.7 in
  • Weight → 24.3 lbs
  • Display Technology → 3LCD
  • Connectivity Technology → HDMI, USB, Mini USB, LAN, Computer/D Sub 15
  • pin, RS232-C
  • Image Brightness → 2,500 lumens
  • Contrast Ratio → 1,000,000:1
  • Resolution → 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)
  • Lamp Life → 3,500 hr; 5,000 in Eco Mode

PROS

  • Astounding picture
  • Motorized lens shift
  • Phenomenal 1080p
  • Great 4K
  • Amazing HDR
  • Unreal Color
  • Great contrast
  • Little gaming lag
  • 3D
  • Great streaming with Nvidia Shield TV

CONS

  • Sudden power failures
  • HDR
  • Not bright enough
  • Not great with 4K
  • Streaming issues

Overall Performance

The #1 Voted Epson Projector, the Epson 5040UB, a 3LCD 4K Pro-UHD projector with a highly loved motorized lens shift, brings amazing pictures to your screen.

With 4K Enhancement technology, the 5040UB projects great 4K images and phenomenal 1080p images. Its HDR10 support adds to this, displaying very nice HDR images; aided by its UltraBlack 1,000,000:1 contrast.

With its UltraWide Color Gamut, giving 100% of the 3D DCI-P3 color gamut, and 100% Balanced Color Brightness, it delivers vibrant and rich colors even in rooms with ambient light. The 5040UB also has 3D capabilities, which is huge in today’s projector market and what makes it one of the best LCD projectors out there.

Not only is the 5040UB compatible with PC and Mac computers, but it is also great for gaming due to its almost nonexistent gaming lag.

home theater projector setup 3

The Epson 5040UB falters in big ways. Its 2,500 lumens is not seen as bright enough, and it is much better with 1080p than 4K. Some people dislike both the 4K and HDR, saying that there are many problems with them, such as them not working, and that they are just plainly not good.

There have also been problems with streaming to anything other than the Nvidia Shield TV.

The biggest problem the Epson 5040UB has is its faulty power supply. Most of its complaints come from its sudden power failure where it just turns off and never comes back on, or just never turns back on after you turn it off. Though many people have never had this problem, it is still quite prevalent to some current buyers of the 5040UB.

Even though it has a sudden power failure problem, this projector is still one of the best. It has amazing images and is great for gaming. If you were to be interested in buying this, like with any projector, make sure to get a warranty just in case.

epson 5040UB in motion

Best Home Theater Projectors: Buying Guide

There are many things that you need to consider when buying a home theater projector. Here are some pointers to help you find the best one for you.

4K Resolution Technology: Enhancement versus True vs Full

The best projectors have 4K resolution, but there is a difference in the resolution depending on the kind of 4K the projector dishes, whether that be True 4K UHD, 4K using Enhancement Technology, or Full 4K. Native 4K resolution has 4096 x 2160p, but not all of these three have this. Yet, most times you can’t tell the difference.

4K Enhancement technology is the “worst” of the three and isn’t seen as “real” 4K. It takes 1080p and shifts its pixels to create 4K images that can barely be told apart from True 4K.

True 4K UHD has 3840 x 2160p, around 8.3 megapixels, and does not have as many overall pixels as Full 4K. It portrays 4K images amazingly, projecting Native 4K images, and many can barely tell it from Full 4K.

The best 4K resolution is True 4K, giving 4096 x 2160p, around 8.8 megapixels, which projects the best Native 4K images. This is the actual 4K that TVs have. It is better than any other and has the best resolution and picture quality of the three.

If you want to understand even more about 4K enhancement versus Native 4K check out this

pixel scaling

Light Technology: Lamps vs Lasers vs LEDs

Your projector’s light technology determines multiple things such as a projector’s noise, its lamp life, how bright it is, and so on. There are three types of light technology: lamps, LEDs, and lasers.

Traditional lamps use bulbs and are used in most projectors with display technologies like DLP, LCD, and more. They require more maintenance than lasers and LEDs, because of the need for bulb replacements, and have less life than them, dying around 2,000-4,000 hours. They are the most affordable of the three and produce a bright light.

LED projectors are not as bright as lamps, but they live much longer - up to 20,000 hours. Not using bulbs or requiring much maintenance, they have better colors than lamps, are used a lot in pico projectors, and are very energy efficient and quiet. Unlike lamps, these projectors don’t require cooling due to the instant on and off buttons.

Laser projectors do not use bulbs either, making for much less maintenance and a long life of up to 20,000 hours. They are also energy efficient, very bright, and have better contrast and wider color ranges than lamp projectors. These projectors are the most favored of the three.

Both LEDs and laser projectors can use DLP, LCD, and so on, in hybrid combinations. If you wanna know which is better: LCD vs LED projectors, read our other article.

projector mechanics

Lamp Life: The Livelihood of Your Lamp

Your lamp’s life should matter a lot to you. How long your lamp lasts will determine how long before you need a bulb change. With a bulb costing around $200-$400 and having around 2,000-4,000 hours of life, you’re going to want to keep a close eye on your lamp’s life.

If you plan to only use your projector every once in awhile this shouldn’t be a big worry, but if you plan to use your projector very often then you need to know this. With the average projector being used about 8 hours a week, this gives you approximately 4.8 years with your 2,000 hour life projector before it needs a new lamp.

You can improve your lamp’s life by keeping up on its maintenance and remembering to give it filter changes. This won’t greatly increase its life, but it will improve it.

Once again, this can be avoided altogether by getting a laser or LED projector. With up to 20,000 hours of life, these projectors will last approximately 48.1 years before they die.

projector lamp bulb

Aspect-Ratio: Creating the Best Picture for Your Theater

Aspect-ratio is the shape of the image that is being projected. The most common aspect-ratios are 4:3, 16:9, and 21:9. There are many other aspect-ratios, but we will only discuss these three here.

4:3 is used by TVs. 4:3 isn’t for wide screens nor does it use very high resolutions, but you may find some movies or disks where it is better than 16:9.

16:9 is used by most modern projectors use it. A widescreen format, it is designed for home theater use and is used by widescreen DVDs, HDTV, and Blu-Ray. You will most likely use this aspect-ratio.

21:9 is a ratio that is being more used because it is great for cinema. It is wider than 16:9 and is loved more by cinefiles.

tv screen scaling

Best Home Theater Projector: Frequently Asked Questions

There are many common questions that come up around with home theater projectors. We answer some of them here.

What is vertical banding?

Vertical banding is a problem in some LCD projectors where vertical bands of about 1-inch thickness are evenly spanned across the image. It can be more noticeable in some projectors over others, mainly coming from manufacturing flaws.

You can avoid this by making sure to get a warranty and/or buying from a good, reputable buyer. This problem is usually noticed quite immediate, so you won’t miss it.

What is an appropriate projector lag for gaming?

It was found in a Eurogamer study that games running at 30fps have the worst lag and that a player usually starts to feel lag around 133 to 166 ms. This means that if you’re playing Halo 3, like they had in the test, which has 100ms lag for firing, you’d want a projector with less than 66ms lag to not push you over the edge.

This actually isn’t hard to find, many projectors do not have that much input lag. Yet, this also depends on the lag of the game and the fps you’re running.

As long as you don’t pass 166 ms of lag, you shouldn’t even recognize it. Better yet, check out our list of the best projectors for gaming.

What is the best amount of lumens for a projector? 

This depends on how much light you have in your room. A room with high ambient light needs at least 3,000 lumens, while rooms with some ambient light, like classrooms, need at least 1,500, and dedicated home theaters need at least 1,000. The darker the room, the better in some cases.

Most people prefer more lumens than 1,000 or 1,500, but this is all up to your discretion.

How big of a screen do I need for a 4K projector? 

This answer depends on your seating distance and cannot be given an exact answer. 4K projectors allow you to go farther back and still see all of the 4K. Here’s a chart to help you:

screen resolution chart
Can you watch TV on a projector?

Yes. All you have to do is connect your TV or cable box to the projector through a cable, whether that be HDMI, VGA and an audio cable, or whatever your projector/TV uses, and change the input source.

Can you watch Netflix on a projector?

If you have a Smart projector or something to connect the projector to that has Netflix or any other streaming service like a computer, Apple TV, Chromecast, gaming console, etc., then yes.

Is watching a projector bad for your eyes?

Not anymore than watching a TV. Anything that emits light strains your eyes, especially in dark rooms, and should be something that you’re wary of.

One thing that actually helps is getting a bigger screen. Smaller screens emit more light than larger screens, making your eyes take in more light, stay dilated, and strain more. A larger screen allows for more darkness and a better ability for your eyes to adjust to the incoming light.

Do I need a screen for my projector?

Not necessarily, but the projector’s images will look better on a screen than a bare wall.

One way to amend this is by buying projector-friendly paint - which is reflective matte paint - and painting your wall to be your “screen.” This will help you get the best image out of a projection onto the wall without having to worry about the price of the screen or it possibly getting ripped.

Conclusion

No matter which you prefer, all of the projectors above are great options to choose from to create the best home theater out there. All giving amazing 4K images, these are top-of-the-line projectors that you’re sure to love.

Make sure to go over all of your needs and get warranties before shelling out loads of money, whether that be if you’re a gamer and you mistakenly bought a projector that is not good for gaming, or if you’re just someone who wanted an amazing home theater and it didn’t work out in your favor.

Our FAQ and Buyer’s Guide will only help you even more with finding that perfect home theater projector if you’re ever confused about what you should be looking for.

Sources

My name is Steve Scott. Father of 2 and owner of Outdoor Movie HQ. I’ve been involved in the A/V industry for most of my life and built this blog to help people better understand projector technology. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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