Outdoor Movie HQ’s Projector Reviews Guide
Don’t let our website name fool you guys, we started this site recommending outdoor movie gear but quickly expanded to cover all manner of projector tech.
We have a ton of reviews in all categories including LED, 4K, 3D, etc. By reading this guide, you can easily find which list you should be looking at to satisfy your needs. This guide will also tell you many tips on what you should be looking for when buying a projector, and try to answer any questions you have in the FAQ.
Now that you know this, go ahead and read through the list. You’ll be sure to find one review that will help you on your search to a great projector for you.
Let’s get projector-ing!
Projector Reviews Lists
Light Emitting Diode (LED) projectors are generally smaller, shorter throw projectors, called pocket or pico projectors, which use LEDs to project their images. Longer lasting projectors with lamp lives of around 20,000 hours, these projectors are not very bright, yet they produce very colorful images. This list goes over the top four LED projectors including the LG PF50KA and the LG PH550.
Digital Light Processing (DLP) projectors are very common projectors that are usually smaller and portable with great contrast. These projectors produce movie-like images, but aren’t as bright, sharp, or colorful as LCD projectors. This list reviews the top four DLP projectors including the Optoma GT1080Darbee and the Optoma UHD60.
One of the most sought after projector features of today is 3D. With 3D projectors, you can finally project your own theater-like 3D in your own home theaters. This list covers the top four 3D projectors out there including the Optoma Portable DLP LED Projector and the SeoJack Portable 3D Projector.
With expensive 4K being on the rise and SD losing itself to old times, HD is now an affordable option that is used more than any other resolution. HD projectors are perfect for people who like Blu-Ray, DVDs, and watching TV on their projectors. This list covers the best four HD projectors today including the BenQ SH960 and the Sony VPLHW45ES.
4K projectors produce the most immersive images with 8+ megapixels. Many having HDR and UHD, these projectors give a lot of definition to images with better black levels and higher resolution. This list gives our five best 4K projectors including the Optoma UHD60 and the Epson Home Cinema 4010.
Laser projectors use laser technology instead of bulbs to project images. They are some of the best projectors out there, though that comes at their pricey cost. These projectors around ~20,000 hours and produce colorful and more favored images.
While 4K projectors are on the rise, Full HD 1080p projectors are more affordable and are objectively better than 720p. Great for gaming, watching TV, and Blu-Ray, 1080p projectors are the norm of today when it comes to projectors. This list covers our top four choices including the Optoma GT1080Darbee and the BenQ HT2150ST.
Wireless projectors allow you to mount your projector without the need of cables and cords hanging from it. Wireless projectors are becoming more commonplace nowadays and are great whether for watching movies or gaming. This list covers the top four picks including the ASUS P3B Wireless LED Projector and the Epson Home Cinema 2150 Wireless Projector.
Bluetooth is a wireless technology that is in everything nowadays from headphones to car radios. This list covers projectors which allow you to connect to them via Bluetooth. We go over our top four choices here, including the BIGASUO Portable Bluetooth Projector and the WOWOTO Bluetooth Projector.
Short Throw Projectors
Short throw projectors are great for people with smaller rooms such as bedrooms, classrooms, and meeting rooms. These projectors can produce a 100” image from only four or five feet away. This list goes over the top four including the Optoma GT1080Darbee and the BenQ HT2150ST.
Christmas Light Projectors
Not everyone has the time to hang up Christmas lights, and some people prefer having fascinating moving lights on their house anyway. Christmas light projectors light up the outside of your house with a bouqet of patterned light arrangements. This list covers our best choices for Christmas light projectors.
Home Theater Projectors
Home theater projectors are the most common projectors and are probably what you’re looking for to make the perfect home theater. This list covers the top five home theater projectors to date. All of these projectors having 4K, this list includes favorites like the Optoma UHZ65 and the Sony VPL-VW285ES.
Mini projectors are portable projectors similar to pocket (“pico”) projectors. These are smaller projectors that are slightly bigger and beefier than pico projectors, no bigger than a book and no heavier than 5 lbs. Our list covers our top choices for Mini projectors.
Not everyone has all of the money in the world to spend, and we know that. Though there are some drawbacks from these, they are still good projectors. This list covers the best inexpensive projectors out there that’ll give you the most bang for your buck.
Short Throw 4K Projectors
These projectors are a combination of 4K and short throw, giving 4K images at a shorter distance. If you have a smaller room but want to experience 4K images, then these projectors are great for you. Our list covers our top choices for Short Throw 4K projectors.
Best Cheap Projectors Under $100
If you’re really low on dough or don’t want to spend a lot on a projector, then this is the list for you. Though these projectors aren’t as good as most others out there, they still work greatly for their price. This list covers our top choices for the best projectors under $100 including the VANKYO Leisure 3 and the CiBest.
Business projectors are used mainly for presentations. These projectors are perfect to bring to meetings, advertising, sales, and more with amazing color quality and brightness. This list covers our top picks for Business Projectors.
Certain projectors are best for watching sports, whether you own a sports bar or just like watching sports. These projectors produce the most immersive live sports feeds out there. Chronicling the best sports projectors for bigger rooms, smaller rooms, and sports bars, this list features favorites like the Sony VPL-HW45ES and the BenQ TK800.
Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Projectors are one of the most common projector types. They are, sharper, and more colorful than DLP projectors. We cover our top five picks in this list including the Epson Home Cinema 2040 and the NEC Display Solutions NP-ME401W.
If you want to project movies outside then you’ll need an outdoor projector. These projectors have high brightness and great color quality. We cover the top six choices here including the Epson VS240 SVGA 3LCD Projector 3000 and the Crenova XPE460 LED Video Projector.
Portable projectors are a great choice for people looking to set up projectors on the go. They are lighter, easy to carry and generally a bit cheaper than regular units. In this guide we cover a couple of top choices for the job.
Backyard Projectors Under $500
Having a backyard projector can drastically enhance and elevate your movie watching experience. For that, you will need a quality projector that can handle working outdoors. Luckily, you don't have to break the bank to get such a projector. Now, there are some great models available for under $500.
Projector Reviews Buying Guide
There are several things to consider when buying a projector. We give you many pointers here on how to properly choose one for you.
What kind of build and image quality do you need?
You’re going to want a reliable projector with a sturdy build. In this essence, you want a projector that will last long, even if dropped. Stray from projectors with cheap builds because they are unreliable and easier to break.
An example of this is the Sony VPL-PHZ10, a sturdy and reliable laser projector, versus the cheaply built, though great, Optoma UHD60.
For image quality, you need to consider brightness, color, contrast ratio, and sharpness. An image’s sharpness depends on its brightness and contrast ratio, which determine the black and white levels of a projector.
Though many would assume the brighter and higher contrast ratio the better, this isn’t always the case because it also depends on other features of the projector as well. Color only adds to this.
You need to decide whether you want a larger array of colors, like LED projectors bring, or a smaller array.
4K projectors bring the best image quality, having more saturated colors, more colors in general, HDR, better brightness and contrast, and an overall better sharpness. If you’re interested in this, you should check out our best 4K projector list here.
Here’s an example of image quality differences in 6-pico projector technologies.
Does Portability Matter to You?
Projector sizes can impede on mounting conditions, where you’re going to place them, whether you plan to keep it in one place or move around, and much more.
If portability doesn’t matter, then getting a larger projector won’t either - as long as you’re not worried about mounting or not moving it. But if you want a portable projector, then you’re going to want something smaller, lightweight, and more compact. DLP and LED projectors fit this mold better than others, so if you’re looking for portability one of them would probably be your best choice.
A projector like the BenQ HT2250 is a good example of a portable projector, unlike the Sony VPL-HW45ES.
What Resolution Do You Need?
The resolution you need depends on what you’re looking for. At the least, you’re going to want HD (720p). Referring to two lists in particular: 720p vs 1080p and Best 4K Projectors, this depends on your screen size, seating distance, whether you want to project video games, watch films outside, watch TV, or watch UHD Blu-Ray, regular Blu-Ray, or DVDs.
In general, the larger your screen, the higher the resolution you’re going to want, but if you sit too far from the screen then you may not be able to tell the difference. Here’s an image to help you with this.
Most HDTV broadcasts in 720p, while streaming services can cast in higher res. If you just plan to watch TV, there is a slight difference with 720p (HD) and 1080p (Full HD). It looks a tiny bit better on higher resolutions, but you don’t have to spend more on such a minimal difference. This is the same with DVDs which are in 480p and are scaled up to the respective resolutions.
But when it comes to Blu-Ray, 1080p and 4K are the best; 4K especially for UHD Blu-Ray. If you plan on gaming, you’re going to want either 1080p or 4K, though it will look the best on 4K.
4K also brings a more immersive experience with better abilities to film outside as well. These projectors cost more, but are worth it.
In the end, this is up to you, but if you have the money then 4K is the best option to go with.
What are Lumens?
A projector’s brightness is measured in ANSI Lumens, where one lumen is equivalent to the light a birthday candle emits in a square-foot. The more lumens you have, the brighter your picture will be.
You need to know a projector’s brightness if you want to display images without a muddy look.
Your viewing environment will determine how many lumens your projector needs. The sizes of the room and projector screen, how far the projector is from the screen, and how much ambient light the room has will all affect how many lumens you need.
Generally, a dedicated home theater, which lacks ambient light and has controlled lighting, needs a projector with 1000 lumens or more. Having some ambient light brings the need up to 1500 lumens, and having a high amount up to 3000.
This room has ambient lighting:
This one doesn’t:
Is Widescreen Format Needed?
In short: No, but widescreen is what most projectors use.
The most common projector aspect ratios are 16:9, 16:10, 4:3, 21:9, and 2.35:1. The only one not widescreen amongst these is 4:3, which is used by TVs.
You can use 4:3 if you want and if your projector supports it. Otherwise, you’re most likely going to have to use widescreen. Many people believe widescreen looks better, especially for higher resolutions.
4:3 images fill the screen, but the images look a little more scrunched and you can be missing out on things. In the end, this is up to your discretion.
Do you need additional speakers or audio?
Not necessarily, but most projectors have bad native sound. It is most likely that you’re going to want to get additional speakers or audio to create a better sounding, more immersive experience, but you do not have to if you are fine with the sound that comes from the projector.
What is short throw?
Short throw projectors use short throw lenses, which separates them from other projectors. These lenses allow for the projectors to create bigger images from shorter distances. This is due to the throw-ratio of a short throw projector being less than 1 to ~0.4. Ultra short throw projectors have even shorter throws, their ratios being less than 0.4.
Throw-ratio is the relationship between the distance from the lens to the screen, otherwise known as throw, to the screen width.
What are Contrast Ratios?
Contrast-ratios tell you the relationship between the darkest and brightest parts of an image. Though a higher contrast-ratio doesn’t always mean the picture will be better, a higher ratio delivers whiter whites, blacker blacks and better details; while a lower ratio can make your picture look muddled and washed out.
In a darkened room, a contrast-ratio of 2,000:1 or more is excellent; though having a ratio of at least 1,500:1 is good enough.
Factors like ambient light, throw, your screen, and much more will affect how your picture looks overall, so this is one more thing to look out for.
How much distance do you need?
There is no definite answer to this because it depends on many factors, such as the resolution of the picture and the length of your room, but we do have some formulas here to help you find out how far your seats should generally be from the screen:
Width of the screen (not the diagonal) x 2 = minimum distance
Width of the screen (not the diagonal) x 5 = maximum distance
This works great if you are using many seats because it will tell you where the first and last seats should be from the screen. We will refer to this image here again for additional guidance:
How do you connect your projector?
Connecting your projector so that it works is essential to the process. After mounting it and setting up the screen and seat distance, you’re going to want to plug the projector’s power in.
Then, you connect your TV, cable box, laptop, etc. to the projector through a cable, whether that be HDMI, VGA and an audio cable, or whatever your projector/TV/laptop uses, and change the input source on your appliance.
After this, you just start up the projector and work from there to properly align your image, adjust its focus, choose the right picture mode you want, and then turn off the lights and get into business.
Here’s a video to teach you how to connect your laptop to your projector:
This video uses a VGA cable, whereas most projectors nowadays use HDMI, but the process is the same.
What is Aspect Ratio?
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.
DLP vs LCD: Which is better?
A projector’s display technology is determined whether it uses Digital Light Processing (DLP), Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), or other technologies such as LEDs or Lasers.
DLP projectors use a spinning color wheel, millions of microscopic mirrors in its DLP chip, and a lamp to produce its images. The mirror structure in DLP projectors allows for there to be a fine image without the lattice effect that LCD projectors have.
Also, DLP projectors have closed systems that block out dust and smaller parts that allow for their builds to be lighter and smaller than LCD projectors. This makes DLP projectors require little to no maintenance.
Yet, unlike LCD, DLP has moving pieces which can result in the DLP rainbow effect.
LCD uses three LCD panels - red, green, and blue - and a lamp to create its image. LCDs are heavier, cheaper, and have no moving parts. They produce brighter and sharper high-quality images with greater color than DLPs. Yet, LCDs require a lot of filter replacements and constant maintenance due to a huge dust problem.
While their images are great, the cost of constant maintenance is enough to make people buy other projectors.
A better alternative to both of these are LED projectors. Though not as bright as LCDs, they live longer, have better color, and require little to no maintenance.
4K Video Resolution and Ultra HD Explained
There are three kinds of 4K for projectors: true 4K UHD, Full 4K, and 4K enhancement technology. True 4K UHD brings a little more than 8 megapixels to your screen, which is 4x the amount that 1080p has; giving off the Ultra High Definition (UHD) resolution 3840 x 2160.
Full 4K has even more pixels than True 4K, and is the actual native 4K with 4096 x 2160 pixels. 4K enhancement shifts 1080p pixels to create 4K images that can barely be told apart from true 4K, getting 4K resolution with 1920 x 1080 x 2 pixels.
Through these three resolutions, 4K projectors give you very detailed images with amazing contrast and more saturated colors. Most people can’t tell the differences between them from a certain distance away regardless.
4K projectors allow you to sit closer to the screen than regular projectors, see all of the image’s details, and be immersed in its pictures. If you want to see images in the most immersive and cinematic resolution yet, project outside, play video games, or use UHD BluRay, then you’re going to want to get a 4k projector.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many questions pop up when it comes to buying a projector. We answer many of those questions here for you.
What is the Keystone Effect?
The Keystone Effect is when your projected image comes out trapezoidal instead of rectangular because the projector isn’t mounted perpendicularly to the horizontal centerline of the screen. Most projectors have a keystoning feature to allow you to fix the image and make it rectangular.
What is the Screen Door Effect?
The Screen Door Effect comes from the screen door-like image in typically older projectors that occurs when you can physically see fine lines between pixels on a projected image. It’s pretty rare nowadays unless you buy a cheaper, lower-quality projector.
What is the Rainbow Effect in Single-Chip DLP Projectors?
The Rainbow Effect is caused by the moving color wheel in usually older DLP projectors. When this occurs, you can see flashes of red, green, or blue on your image. This is due to the spinning wheel usually having these three colors and flashing each sequentially.
The spinning wheel usually moves so fast that your brain doesn’t see the three colors, but all together. The rainbow effect occurs when the wheel is moving too slow.
What is an Anamorphic Lens?
An Anamorphic Lens is a lens with typically 2x the squeeze as spherical lenses. These make the lenses capture twice the amount of horizontal information than a spherical lens.
Loved by cinematographers and usually acquainted with 35mm film, this produces a 2.39:1 aspect ratio referred to as “Scope” or “CinemaScope.” This gives a super wide-screen view that would be much harder to achieve with a spherical lens.
What is DLP?
Digital Light Processing (DLP) Projectors are one of the most common projector types out there, along with LCD, LED, Laser, and many more.
DLP projectors use a spinning color wheel, millions of microscopic mirrors in its DLP chip, and a lamp to produce its images. The mirror structure in DLP projectors allows for the projector to produce a fine image.
Typically smaller and more portable projectors that require little maintenance, many people prefer DLP projectors over LCD due to their better contrast and more theater-like images. Using Digital Light Processing, DLP projectors give off great images that many people love and enjoy.
What is LCoS Technology?
Liquid Crystal Technology on Silicon (LCos) is a hybrid mix of LCD and DLP. Using crystals like LCD and tilting mirrors to reflect light into or away from the lens like DLP, LCoS produces whiter whites and deeper blacks by combining the reflective technology of DLP and blocking light using crystals like LCD.
It delivers colors simultaneously with its DLP color wheel and red, green, and blue 3-chip technology channels which control light.
What is D-ILA?
Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier (D-ILA) is a variant of LCoS. With no moving parts and 3-chip technology, D-ILA uses silicon crystals and light to project its image. The light source projected is polarized by a Polarized Beam Splitter that reflects off of each of the chips to produce the image.
What is SXRD?
Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) is an LCoS technology only found in Sony projectors. Using 3-chips, liquid crystal, and a reflective display these projectors operate like LCoS with hybrid DLP and LCD technology.
You are sure to find a projector that fits you by visiting one of our guides. Whether you’re looking for a 4K projector, a 3D projector, a Short Throw, or whatever else, we will be able to assist you here.
Before you go out and just by one, make sure to know what you want, what kind of technology you want, if portability matters, and so much more. By following our FAQ and Buyers’ Guide, you will be led down the right path to choosing a projector perfect for you.