As a dedicated shut in, there’s one positive thing about never leaving the house. Media started companies to drop theatrical releases on various streaming platform last year. Some may argue that a bit of magic is lost when you watch movies intended for theaters on a small screen. But what if you could project movies on a big screen at home, and in 4k, no less? We’ve compiled the best home theater projectors worth splurging on.
What are home theater projectors?
The concept of buying a film-quality movie projector isn’t new. I mean, you’ve always been able to buy one. The main difference here is that we’ve reached a point where projectors are made specifically for home theater environments. Like computers and microwaves, these appliances were insanely expensive luxuries that are now, more or less, widely available.
Granted, you’ll still be dropping a pretty penny on them if you actually want something that will replicate the crisp sound and image quality you expect from your local movie theater. However, if you’re anything like me, there are plenty of compromises that you’d make to not have to get in your car, schlep to a busy parking lot, and deal with “people” anytime date night rolls around.
When it comes to the home theater projectors featured here, here are the three rubrics I will be judging them by:
- Ease of use
- Audio and video quality
- Versatility and special features
Is a home movie projector right for me?
I don’t want to discount the magic of watching a new film in a crowded theater with like-minded folks laughing at the same jokes or jumping at the same frights. The last film I saw in theaters was Sonic the Hedgehog, with my partner and my then 12-year-old niece. To see both pie-eyed millennials and doe-eyed zoomers enjoy the same film was heartwarming.
Still, I rather like my couch, I can pop a pretty tasty corn, and I buy Sour Patch Kids in bulk. All that’s missing from the equation is a good quality home theater projector. Aside from ornery homebodies like me, there’s one word that keeps going off in my head: accessibility.
There may be some physical, mental, or emotional limitations that keep folks away from watching films in a theater. Why shouldn’t these folks be able to tap into some film magic at home? Here’s a selection of the best home theater projectors available.
Cheap home theater projectors for beginners
It’s not always prudent to drop half a paycheck on a projector you may end up hating. If you’re not terribly picky about things like sound quality, high-definition, and other bells and whistles, there are a handful of models that will get the job done without the massive investment.
- Features: Like just about every home theater projector, the screen size is variable depending on how far the projector is from the screen (or wall – more on that later). This one goes from 40 inches all the way to 300. Talk about theatrical. Not only is it bluetooth compatible, but you can use any plug and play device like Roku or Amazon Fire to stream on it. It even comes with a handy carrying case. Plus, at 8500 lumens, it’s one of the brightest projectors at this price range.
- Setbacks: It’s noisy. The fan inside the machine is audible and can get in the way of hearing whatever film you’re watching. Still, connecting it to an external sound device via bluetooth may be worth it if you’re looking to save money.
- Price: $169
- Features: We’ve all had that thought. “I wish my home theater projector was as small as a can of Coke Zero.” Well, thanks to modern tech magic, this wish is now a beautiful reality. It’s got a built-in Android OS, so you can stream directly from the machine. Just point, adjust focus, and sit back and enjoy.
- Setbacks: It’s portable, but it’s not exactly a powerhouse. It only runs up to 4 hours, and that’s when it’s in battery saving mode. Plus, it tops out at 100 inches. However, that’s still pretty massive, considering the size of home screens.
- Price: $279 (with coupon)
Mid-range movie projectors for budding film buffs
Remember the first time you saw a show in HD? It’s hard to go back to lesser definitions, isn’t it? These projectors are a step up in both image, sound, and versatility.
- Features: My love affair with home theater projectors started with this bad boy. If you’re willing to make the slight investment, it’s a great starter projector because it works right out of the box. Built-in Android TV lets you stream videos in up to 4K, with sound by Yamaha. It’s even small enough to be considered portable. Check out my full review for the device here.
- Setbacks: At only 1000 lumens, you need to operate it in a dark environment. This may seem silly, but some folks like watching movies with the lights on. Go figure.
- Price: $899
- Features: While the EpiqVision works in most gaming situations, some picky gamers say there’s a slight input lag. The Optoma UHD50X 4K is built with film buffs and gamers in mind. Lag free gaming in true 4K at an unfathomably bright 3,400 lumens. Plus, there’s even a vertical zoom lens, so you can mount it just about anywhere.
- Setbacks: The enhanced gaming mode actually downscales the image quality to 1080p. In other words, not “true 4K.” Seems like a very big asterisk for a machine built for modern gaming consoles. Still, the image it projects is definitely theater quality.
- Price: $1,267
The best home theater projector
- Features: Do you love movie theaters but hate the dark? Who can blame you, that’s where monsters live. Luckily, this projector is so good it even works in lit environments. That means you can enjoy rich colors and clear images morning, noon, and night. Best of all, everything about this projector is automatic, from the focus to screen alignment. And because it has built-in Android TV 10.0, you can use it right out of the box. Many projectors cheap out on the sound system. The XGMI does not. The sound quality is crisp and perhaps more importantly, loud. All that’s missing from the true theater experience is a couple of fountain drinks and a gigantic bucket of popcorn.
- Setbacks: Unless you have some black out curtains, it may not be ready to completely replace your television. It’s bright, but unless you’re in a dark room, it may not be as bright as you’d like it to be, especially considering the astronomical price.
- Price: $1,699
A few notes
If you have white walls, you may not need a dedicated projector screen, especially if you invested in a pricier model. The internet is full of inexpensive screen solutions that essentially boil down to hanging a white sheet.
However, If you’re going to go hard, using a dedicated projector screen will ensure the best picture quality possible. There are countless projector screens available online at various price points. The one feature you should not compromise is getting a screen that retracts when not in use. This will help it from gathering dust. Here are two models we recommend.
- The Elite Screens manual 120 inch pull-down screen is almost exactly akin to the one your high school biology teacher used. It’s simple, but elegant, and available for $190 on Amazon.
- Elite Screens Spectrum is a little more high tech. Instead of a simple pull-down, this baby operates with a remote control. Very fancy. It’s available on Amazon for $487.
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