Top Projectors for Gaming 2018 – Don’t Make the Same Mistake I Did

The first gaming projector I bought was for the newest version of Fallout. I didn’t do my research and the quality was pretty damn bad. Thinking back for all the time I spend playing that game I should have just spent the extra $150-200 especially when you consider that a good gaming unit can double up as a home theater system.

There is another big fallacy with cheaper projectors too, the projector bulb is usually a lot lower quality meaning that a year down the road you’ll be spending even more. 🙁

Finding out the best gaming projector isn’t too difficult. All you need to do is look at what professional gamers are using.


If you’re looking for the quick answer here are my picks….

  1. Absolute Quality for Price – Optoma HD142XE
  2. Short Distance Gaming – Optoma GT1080
  3. Cheapest/Lower Picture Quality – DBPOWER T20

In this guide I’m going to review just that projectors used by professional gamers. I’ll break it down into 3 tiers to better help you decide based on your price point.

In case you’re wondering my picks are a good choice, it’s because I’ve installed a lot of these units over the years. If you read my main projector guide you’ll see some of my top picks for outdoor units as well.

You will have to spend at least $500 to get a quality projector and while some brands may tell you otherwise the video quality just won’t be there not to mention a strong possibility of lag. Keep in mind as a hardcore gamer I’m also very biased towards high graphics quality.  🙂
 

Our PicksDescription
Optoma HD142 XE Review

Optoma HD142 XE Review

This thing is a beast. It was used recently at all the major gaming competitions and at one point was selling so ...

2 Optoma GT1080Darbee Review

Optoma GT1080Darbee Review

Another choice of pro-gamers the GT1080 is a great choice for top notch quality and speed. It comes with the built ...

3 Acer H6510BD 3D Review

Acer H6510BD 3D Review

Up against the Optoma HD131 is the AcerH65510. I apologize for the annoying names, I'm not sure why projector ...

4 Crenova XPE460 LED Video Projector

Crenova XPE460 LED Video Projector

The Crenova XPE460 is a great portable projector that you can use for your outdoor cinema. It has a brightness of 1000 ...


Top Tier Picks – For SERIOUS Gaming Snobs/Nerds – Xbox, PS4

1 – Optoma HD142 XE – Best HD for Larger Rooms

image of the optoma HD131

This thing is a beast. It was used recently at all the major gaming competitions and at one point was selling so fast on the Korean market that HD142s were going for 2-3X market value on Ebay.

When it comes to image quality you just won’t the HD142. It’s high quality graphics processor makes the native 1080p resolution incredibly clear and real. Combined with a quality screen and you’re looking at a gaming matchup made in heaven. It’s also fully 3D compatible. It doesn’t have 4k but if you check out our Optoma 4k review you read more.

Here it is… (video of 141 but HD142 has the exact same specs)

While the price tag might seem expensive when it comes to the resolution quality it’s actually the one of the cheapest Optomas out there. One of the things that makes this a great pick for gaming is that the image is extremely bright, meaning you can play in a basement or even take your projector outside in the summer.

Optoma HD142 XE

You won't beat the HD131 for screen resolution and color quality. Color quality is what you want when watching movies outside.

Bright displays are a key feature if your playing any shooting game as you’re able to see opponents on the screen a lot easier. You can think the nice gamma on the HD142 for that.

If you’re playing any graphics intensive game multiplayer this is definitely a great choice. Call of duty or Fallout looks incredibly on this as well.

The image is 2500 lumens with a great 18000:1 contrast ratio for fine details. It’s totally compatible for Apple TV, all gaming consoles (not including the original Ninetendo), Blue Ray 3D DVD.

It also has a build in energy saving feature which allows you to save 1/3 of the power according to Epson. The unit itself is also extremely quiet.

For newbies, it’s easy to setup. It comes with an auto-detect setup screen that is 5 screens total (if I remember correctly form my last install).

Here is a quick few of the back to see the connections.

back of Optoma HD131 XE

Let’s recap:

  • System used by pro gamers
  • Most affordable of all the Epson models
  • 1080p –  weeeee!
  • 2500 lumens
  • Easy to Install
  • Apple TV, DVD and all console ready
  • For the quality you won’t find another Epson product at this price point

2. Acer H6510BD 3D – Good Runner Up

image of the Acer H6510BD

Up against the Optoma HD131 is the AcerH65510. I apologize for the annoying names, I’m not sure why projector companies pick the worst product names.

This is another great choice for gaming. A bit cheaper than the HD131 but definitely a solid choice. I personally wouldn’t purchase this one as I find some of the technical aspects are just a little lagging.

AcerH65510

A solid choice for gaming but just keep in mind the lag issue

Let’s take a look at them.

Not sure if it’s the processor or graphics card but this projector tend to occasionally lag. Not often, but it will lag. You can read about lots of reports of this. The color, while still at 1080p just doesn’t quite pop the way the Optoma projector does. That might be due to the constract ratios.

This unit is fully compatible with all forms of media and supports Blue Ray 3D, DLPD and Nvidia 3DTV.  It comes equipped with two controllers for multiple PC source input feature (HDMI and D-sub)

Constract ratio is 10000:1 which is 8000 below the Optoma and aspect ratio is 16:9. All in all the ACERH65 is a good choice, but if you’re a hardcore gamer you’ll definitely notice the difference.


3. Optoma GT1080Darbee – Best for Shorter Distance Gaming

image of the Optoma GT1080

Another choice of pro-gamers the GT1080 is a great choice for top notch quality and speed. It comes with the built in DarbeeVision which is an advanced graphics processor that is capable of displaying high-resolution HD. The throw ratio is great for people who don’t have a lot of room for their projectors.

Optoma G1080

The GT10180 is the perfect projector for short distances. If you're playing in your bedroom or a smaller space this works well.

If you’re just working with a smaller living room or even bedroom than this is hands down the best high-end projector for shorter distances.

It also comes with the enhanced game mode, which creates good quality flowing graphics at 16ms. Constrast ratio blows the other two out of the water at 28,000:1. The Darbee system also has an advanced color correction which makes the picture extra crisp.

This is a great choice for FPS games and even BETTER for horror/survival games.  Fallout on this looks absolutely incredible. 🙂 🙂

Great video explaining the projector here.

At 3000 lumens, brightness isn’t an issue and you can even take this projector outside with no issues. Lamps are a bit expensive but each one is good for 3000 hours of playing. At 4 feet away the projector goes up to 100 inches and retains clarity.

No issues with lag like we experienced on the ACER model. It’s fairly easy to install, comes with inputs for controllers and is fully compatible with all major consoles.


Best Mid-Level Projector for Gaming 2018

At this point you’re probably thinking does Steve work for Optoma?

I don’t but do like their products as they are one of the few companies who have maintained to their original mission of creating high quality visual devices. They don’t cater to the mass market. For that reason my mid-tier choices also include Optoma.

The products below are all great choices for anyone looking for a projector under 500.

1. Optoma GT1080 1080p – Good for Short Distance

If you only have 4 feet of space than you’ll get a beautifully rendered graphics display at 111 inches. Increase that to 6 feet and you’ll get 166 inches. Pretty good right?

The Optoma GT1080 is my top choice for mid range options. It comes in at 2800 lumens meaning it’s bright enough to play games basically anywhere. Contrast ratio is 25,000:1 which means it’s

Optoma G1080

The GT10180 is the perfect projector for short distances. If you're playing in your bedroom or a smaller space this works well.

The Keystone Correction option auto corrects any color distortions and we haven’t had any issues with lag when playing multiplayer games. It comes with all the inputs and hookups you need for HDMI, controllers and more.

The overall speed of the GT1080 is very impressive, there is absolutely no lag in any of the loading screens even when you have multiple players. Image quality is ensured through the high constrast ratio.

It’s easy to install as well and comes 6500 hours of lamp life for a great gaming experience.


2. BenQ DLP HD 1080p Projector

image of BenQ DLP HD

Another great choice. I gave my son one of these last Christmas. Spec-wise you’re getting roughly the same as the other Optoma projectors, the big tradeoff is contrast ratio at only 10,000:1 and only 2,000 lumens of brightness.

While the video quality isn’t anything to complain about, you won’t get that incredible detail you will with an Optoma projector. To make up for that, I’d suggest playing in an extra dark environment which may or may not make your eyes uncomfortable. Due to the lumens, I wouldn’t suggest this for outside gaming.

BenQ DLP HD

The BenQ is actually a great choice for budget projectors under 500. It works well and has a solid history of performance.

1080p resolution really brings out the picture. It comes with SmartEco technology which ensures that the unit will maintain energy while in use. Lamp time is around 6,000 hours.

It comes with full HD capabilities and can project a great 200-230 inch display across any surface. Speakers are actually built into the unit meaning that you’ll only need to setup the video and power cord.

Overall I’d say a great medium-tier choice but if you want top notch quality I’d go with one of the higher contrast ratio units.


Best Cheap Projectors for Gamers 2017

The below units are not bad by any means. They will still function great and work very well. Projector technology has come a long way and even units around $100 will producing quality which was once considered “high end”.

1. Crenova XPE460 LED Video

Crenova XPE460 LED Video Projector

For a while the Crenova was one of my top recommended projectors for outdoor use. It was affordably priced and easy to use. It will work well for gaming and watching movie at home. The Crenova is 20% brighter than regular LED screens, meaning you’ll get a much clearer picture over the other options in this category.

Crenova XPE460

The Crenova has been one of my top recommended choices for budget projectors for a long time.

You can hookup your smart phone, Ipad as well. Projector size is 37-130 inches and works at a distance of roughly 1.3m to 3.9 meters. The fan isn’t too bad and you won’t be able to hear it over the game/movies.

The only issue is this doesn’t come with an HDMI cable (this is why it’s cheaper). You’ll need to purchase that separately. The Crenova comes with a 12 month warranty and there aren’t too many reports of issues with it.

2. Ogima BL20 Video Projector  – Good Price/Lacking in Quality

image of Ogima BL20

The Ogima is also another cheap reliable choice for gaming projectors. If you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank and works well at both short and long distances this one will definitely be a solid choice.

Ogima BL20

The lowest tier of projectors, while this has a lot of reviews don't expect that much from it.

Video projector utilizes a 5 inch lens which helps enhance clarity and keep the image looking sharp and crisp. The internal lamb is made from an energy efficient LED light that can save you up to 70% in energy cost.

This supports everything including VGA, USB, SD, HDMI and TV inputs.  It’s also possible to hookup your notebook, tablet or Xbox to this.  I would definitely check what settings are required for each one before purchasing though.

Resolution is 800×480 and it supports 1080p. I couldn’t find any info about the contrast ratio but I’m sure it’s nowhere as nearly as good as the Epsons.

Cooling system is a bit loud but if you’re watching a movie it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

3. DBPOWER T20 1500 Lumens – Cheapest Option Available

image of DBPOWER T20

Really simple to use and setup the DBPower is an multifunctional projector system that isn’t designed for just video games but rather just projector usage in general.

The light from the projector is pretty strong and it works well in dark locations. I’ve only seen this model being used a few times and most of them were customers who already had one they wanted installed. The DBPower works well at distances of 1.5m to 5m with an image size of about 130 inches.

DBPowerT20

Another good choice in the budget projector category.

You can also connect your phone to this one and it supports the majority of different outputs. Also comes with a nice little 3 year warranty which is sort of rare in the lower end gaming projector world.


Best Settings and Specs for Gaming

Remember the days when we were all arguing about what monitors to get for gaming? Back a few years ago, when 1080p monitors were super expensive, a lot of people (me included) argued that it wasn’t so much resolution that mattered, but brightness and screen size.

Now that 1080p monitors are just about affordable for the average gamer, part of that argument has dated badly – over half of Steam users half 1080p monitors now, and that proportion seems set to grow. But just as we seem to have decided on that issue, here comes another: what are the best projectors for gaming? While there is a lot of argument about the best choices out there.

In some ways, I can’t believe it took the gaming community so long to catch on to the potential of monitors. After all, if what you are looking for is screen size, a projector is definitely the way to go. Set up correctly, you can get gorgeous images that cover a whole wall.

And in contrast to gaming monitors, which tend to lurk in whatever dim corner you do your gaming in, projectors also double-up as an awesome home entertainment system. With a bit of creativity, you can turn your gaming rig into a pretty good home cinema, and invite your friends round. If you want to go further, and get a projector that will work outside, you can even set up an outdoor cinema.

I got my first gaming projector a few years back now, and I’ll never go back to just playing on a screen. For point and click strategy games, I turn the resolution up as high as it will go, and can see my whole empire at once, laid out on my wall like some mad dictator. For First Person Shooters, nothing quite beats the experience of the big projector screen – you really feel like you are inside the game.

Today, I’ll take you through a few key things to look for when getting a projector for gaming. If you’ve done a bit of research before reading this article, you’ve likely been overwhelmed with lists of stats that make little or no sense. My aim here is to give you a straightforward guide to the terms you need to know, and then answer some common questions about setting up your projector.

Optimal Resolution for Gaming 

Here we go. A lot of people talk about resolution as though it’s the single measure of how good a monitor / projector / cell phone is. It is certainly important, but I’ll let you into a little secret – the resolution you need depends on how far you are away from the screen. That’s why smart phone resolutions are the same as your fancy new monitor:

That said, you shouldn’t sell yourself short when it comes to display resolution. Though most games will look fine in HD, 1080p is now becoming the dominant resolution in both home cinema and gaming contexts. Take my advice: get a projector that can handle 1080p, even if most of your games won’t run at that resolution just yet.

Bear in mind that nowadays, 1080p is still a compromise between high and low resolution. It might not have felt like it the last time you dropped hundreds of dollars on a 1080p monitor, but remember that 4k is probably only 5 years away for most people.

Going the other way, and getting a VGA, SVGA, or XGA projector, is just silly. These might look like a bargain when you’re searching for a projector online, but they are simply not capable of handling most games. Remember that the primary use of projectors is to display static powerpoint slides, and a lot of them are still set up for this purpose only.

Thankfully, getting a 1080p projector is a lot less expensive than it used to be. In fact, some of the best value projectors, like the Optoma 4k, rival monitors in terms of price.

Check out one of the setups we helped built. Pretty damn cool right?

image of a gaming projector setup

If you’re not already running a 1080p setup, of course, you might need to upgrade your gaming rig to handle it. Oh well. You can tell your wife / girlfriend that you need that new graphics card so you can watch romantic movies together.

Brightness

Brightness is an even more controversial subject than screen resolution. In principle, measuring how bright a projector is is easy enough – every projector comes with a lumens rating, which tells you how bright it is. 1500 lumens is pretty low nowadays, 3000 is quite high.

The problem is that how bright your screen appears depends on a whole host of factors, and not just how much light your projector is pumping out. The largest factor is ambient light, but this is also one that is easily overcome. Instead of spending hundreds of extra dollars on a brighter projector, get some window blinds.

That said, you don’t want to go too low when it comes to brightness. If, like me, you like to play a lot of gloomy, scary FPSs, get a bright projector. If you don’t, you’re going to die a lot, because you won’t be able to see any detail in the shadows. And that’s where the enemies are.

Contrast Ratio

A related point here, and while I’m talking about shadow detail, is another performance measure for gaming projectors that might have baffled you – contrast ratio. The idea is simple: this is a measure of the difference between the brightest spot a projector can display, and the darkest.

The difference, when actually playing a game, is pretty striking. Have a look at this video to get an idea of what I mean:

See? If your contrast ratio is not high enough, the most recent games don’t look good at all. Either the shadows are too light, or the gorgeous over-saturated lighting effects that are now all the rage lose all their power.

The numbers, when it comes to contrast ratios, are pretty big, but easily understandable. A cheap projector will give you about 5000:1, a really expensive one 100,000:1. As long as you get a projector with a decent resolution, and plenty of brightness, you should be able to get away with 40,000:1 in most situations.


Gaming Projector Setup and Installation – 5 Easy Steps

Phew. Hopefully, you’ve now taken my advice and got a gaming projector with plenty of pixels, light, and contrast. Now comes the fun bit: setting it up.

Forgive me, but I’m going to skip that section where I talk about what cables you need, downloading drivers, and setting external screen resolutions. I’ll assume that, if you’re reading this, you know what you’re doing inside the computer, and just need some help thinking about how you’re going to set up your projector in the real world. As in the physical world. As in the world we live in.

Here’s a step by step guide:

1. Choose a Room

Strange first step, I know: most of us don’t have that many spare rooms to chose from! However, I raise this for an important reason. Most of us have our computer in a different room to our TV, and so you’ve got a choice to make. You can either move your computer into the living room (ugh) or set up your projector in your tiny office, where there is one office chair, and not much else (also ugh).

But wait, think about it. Just run a cable from your office to your living room. Sorted.

2. Mount Your Projector image of a projector ceiling mount

In principle, the best projector set ups are when you mount your projector high up on a wall. It’s out of the way, nothing will get in front of the beam, and you can put it wherever you want. In practice, however, I know that a lot of people don’t have the time, money, or space for a professional mount.

In this situation, the easiest solution is to have the projector in front of you as you look at the screen. That way, nothing will get in front of the beam.

One word of warning, however – if you are going to put your projector on your coffee table, please build some kind of protective box for it.

Spilling water or beer into your red-hot projector is a great way of spoiling your day. 🙁

3. How Far Away Should Your Projector Be? chart for throw distance for projector

I know this is not really a “step”, but I’m including it because I get asked this question all the time. There are basically two approaches to take. One is to wing it.  The other, which will give you the best picture, requires some math. Trust me, do the math, and in the long run you’ll thank yourself.

Here we go. If this seems overwhelming, use this calculator

If we take D to be the distance from lens to screen, and W to be the width of the screen, then by dividing the former with the latter, we get the ratio of a projector’s throw.

D/W = Rt

Think of the Projector’s throw ratio (R) as the π of home cinemas.

So, beginning from this formula, we can derive the two formulas for calculating the distance from the screen and the width of the screen, respectively:

D = Rt * W

W = W/Rt

Now, for our purpose, we need to calculate the distance from the projector’s lens to the screen.  All we need is the width of the screen and the projector’s throw ratio. For the former, it’s easy enough. Let’s take a random number and say the screen is 6 feet wide. But how do we find out what the ratio of our projector is? Simply consult your projector’s specs.

Well, since projectors feature zoom lenses, they will not have a single throw ratio, but a range of throw ratios, so we’ll have to write two equations. For now, we’ll take it to be2 – 2.4:1, as this is the most common range, getting:

D = 2 * 6ft = 12ft and

D = 3 * 6ft = 14.4ft

So, in this case, the optimal distance to place your projector would be anywhere from 12 to 18 feet (3.7 to 5.5 meters).

And there you go. Bear in mind that nowadays “short-throw” projectors will typically be able to sit far closer to your screen than 12 feet, so when you do your sums you’ll probably get less than this figure.

4. (Maybe) Get A Screen

 

Oh yeh, the screen! Perhaps you forgot to buy one. In truth, it doesn’t matter so much. If you’ve got a projector that is nice and bright, and you are using it inside, a smooth white wall should be all you need. In fact, to my mind, it’s better to spend a little bit extra on a projector that will work with just a wall, rather than have an ugly projection screen hung on your wall.

That said, there are some situations where you might need a screen. Some projection screens are made specifically for setups with high ambient light, and can be useful if you can’t block this out. And of course, if your walls are bright red or something, you can’t project on them. But in that case, perhaps you should just re-paint your walls!

That, in principle, is all you need to setup you projector. However, I’m going to add one more step to this list, because I get asked this question all the time:

5. How Often Do I Need To Change My Projector Bulbs?

About every 3000 hours. I know – that’s a simple answer, right? The thing is, there is an awful lot of discussion online about this question, and it’s not always conducted in good faith. Manufacturers will tell you that their bulbs will last for 5000 hours, because that sounds impressive. Bulb “experts” will tell you that you need to replace your bulbs every 1000 hours, because then you buy more bulbs.

In truth, the answer to the question is this – if you notice your projector is dim, and have the money to replace your bulb, go for it. You can leave the old bulb in until it fails, or you can buy a new bulb every week. Personally, I tend to buy a new bulb at the same time as a game I’m really excited about, so I can enjoy it properly, but it’s up to you. Read more about it in our projector bulb article

Happy Gaming

And that’s it: your guide to buying and setting up a projector for gaming. In short: get a projector  with at least 1080p resolution, good brightness, and acceptable contrast ratio, and you’ll be fine.

Happy gaming!