Best Home Theater Projectors of 2020
Home theater projectors offer movie-watching experiences that rival the cineplex. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best home theater projector for your family's viewing enjoyment.
Movie Night: Your Guide to the Best Home Theater Projectors
There's no doubt we're living in a golden age of cinema and television, so isn't it about time you picked up a home theater projector to watch your favorites on the big screen? Today's home theater projectors offer full HD viewing experiences in 2-D and even 3-D that rival the cineplex.
But choosing the right home theater projector for your living room can be intimidating. With so many makes and models of home theater projectors on the market, where do you begin?
Start with us. At BestReviews, we aim to simplify shopping with our product picks and shopping guides. We do the in-depth research, test products in our labs and the field, ask the experts, and crunch data from real-life customers, so you can simply sit back and click "buy." And because we purchase all the products ourselves and never accept free gifts from manufacturers, you can trust that what we have to say is honest and unbiased.
If you're ready to buy a home theater projector, scroll up for BestReviews' favorites. For everything you need to know to super-size your favorite movies and TV shows with a home theater projector, you've come to the right place.
The Dark Side: Where Is the Best Place for a Home Theater Projector?
Home theater projectors throw light on a screen, and if there is other light in the viewing area, the image becomes difficult to see. A home theater projector makes any room into a movie theater. So just like at the movies, the darker the room, the better.
Basements work especially well as viewing areas, although other rooms work just as effectively provided window light is sufficiently blocked out. If you plan on putting your home theater projector in a room with lots of natural light, think about how you'll darken the room for viewing.
Resolution and Lumens: What to Look for When Buying a Home Theater Projector
When it comes to understanding what's under the hood of today's home theater projectors, there are four important features to consider.
While most home theater projectors are high definition, maximum resolutions vary between 720p, 1080p, or 2160p (4K). Most current TV shows and movies are released in 1080p, making 1080p home theater projectors an attractive, affordable option. That said, 4K home theater projectors will upscale any content to 4K resolution, so many people consider the added cost of 4K support to be well worth the money.
Lumens are the measurement unit for home theater projector lamps and indicate how bright a projected image will be. In general, more lumens means better picture quality. For a modest viewing room, BestReviews recommends a home theater projector with a minimum of 1,000 lumens.
Although TVs are no longer manufactured with 3-D compatibility, many home theater projectors can display 3-D movies at home. While 3-D content is still limited to feature films, nothing awes guests quite like 3-D, and the 3-D experience on a home theater projector is nothing short of immersive.
High Dynamic Range, or HDR, is a cutting-edge feature for home theater projectors designed to improve image quality by providing a wider range of colors than typical displays. The image clarity and brightness of HDR make standard HDTV look grainy and outdated. If you're building a high-end home theater, look for a home theater projector with HDR.
Hidden Costs of Home Theater Projectors
- Bulbs: Depending on the home theater projector, replacement bulbs cost anywhere from $350 to $600. Manufacturers are working to bring these costs down by making bulbs more efficient, but in the meantime, you may want to start saving for when your first few bulbs burn out.
- Audio: Most home theater projectors require separate hardware for audio. You can pair your home theater projector with anything from an affordable sound bar to a full Dolby Atmos surround-sound setup. If you're buying a home theater projector, consider how to separately handle audio because the projector's on-board speakers will likely be insufficient.
- Repair: Home theater projectors are durable, but no technology is immune to the occasional failure. If anything goes wrong, be prepared to ship your home theater projector to the manufacturer or a repair shop and expect the costs to be significant. Carefully consider the terms of the warranty before buying a home theater projector.
Tips for Setting Up and Caring for Your Home Theater Projector
- Keep your home theater projector away from where you sit to watch movies and TV. Home theater projectors generate a lot of heat, and they keep cool with on-board fans, which can get noisy. Placing your home theater projector out of earshot—for example, above or behind your viewing area—ensures you'll never be distracted by noise from the fan.
- Once your home theater projector is installed, spend some time learning and using the image adjustment controls. A well-calibrated home theater projector will look significantly better than one with the default settings.
- Keep a lens cleaning kit handy and remove dust periodically. Home theater projector lenses get dusty quickly, which can interfere with image quality. Treat your home theater projector lens with the same care you would a pair of glasses or a smartphone screen. Clean the lens periodically with a nonabrasive microfiber cloth.
- Always allow your home theater projector to go through its power-down procedure. Home theater projector bulbs are sensitive, and as a result, most projectors take a few moments to shut down entirely. Always let your home theater projector complete the process on its own as pulling the plug could break the bulb, and replacement bulbs are expensive.
Q. Do I need to buy a projector screen, or can I use a blank wall with my home theater projector?
A. The projection surface you choose will have a big impact on your overall image quality. Using a dedicated projector screen will deliver the best results, although a plain white wall can suffice in a pinch. If a projector screen is out of your budget, consider buying projector paint, which is specially formulated to optimize a home theater projector's display.
Q. How long do home theater projector bulbs last?
A. Most home theater projector bulbs claim a lifespan of 1,500 to 2,000 hours, although this varies by model. Replacement bulbs start at around $350, so don't forget to turn your home theater projector off when it's not in use.
Q. Do home theater projectors include speakers, or do I need to buy a separate device for audio?
A. Most home theater projectors have modest speakers that are appropriate for small scenarios like a conference room, but in a home theater setting, separate speakers are a must. As you're planning your setup, don't forget that your playback source or AV receiver will need to send the video and audio to different devices. For example, a Blu-ray player would send the video signal to the home theater projector and the audio signal to the speakers. Some home theater projectors include Bluetooth output, so you can pair the projector with any standard Bluetooth speaker for audio.