Best projectors 2021: Bring the big screen home
What are the best projectors?
For a big screen experience in the home, you really need one of best projectors available. With prices starting around the same as a mid-range TV, you needn’t spend a fortune for the silver screen experience.
But projectors are not just good for films. Some are good for gaming, some are made to suit compact spaces and others even boast smarts.
If you’re after a 4K projector, you’ll need to pay top dollar. More and more projectors are compatible with HDR, not all of them can do justice to HDR.
Whether your needs are for a dedicated home cinema space or for more casual use, our list has plenty of options to help you find the best one.
1. Sony VPL-VW790ES
Best in its class
- Spectacularly bright, contrast- and colour-rich HDR pictures
- Excellent motorised lens control
- 20,000-hour laser lifespan
- One or two rivals can do better black levels
- No support for VRR, 4K/120Hz and ALLM next-gen gaming features
- Laser distractingly turns off for black shots when using the best Dynamic Control setting
With a price tag of £11,999, the VW790ES is not for the casual living room market. But for those who can afford it and have the set-up to accommodate it, this Sony projector would make for a fantastic investment.
Why? It’s able to get more joy from 4K HDR content than any other projector we’ve tested in its class. It serves as a big leap forward for laser projection, borrowing technology from Sony’s TV range and adapting with great results.
While it arguably doesn’t have the finest black levels in the projection field (that honour lies with JVC) the HDR performance is outstanding, boosting highlights without compromising black levels with a brightness that’s outstanding for a projector. It’s not cheap, but the VW790ES boasts the best HDR performance from a projector we’ve seen.
2. JVC DLA-N7
The best native 4K HDR projector
- Genuine 4K images
- Impressive HDR performance
- Excellent blacks and shadow detail
- Comprehensive set of features
- Great build quality
The DLA-N7 is JVC’s first foray into (relatively) affordable native 4K projection, and it delivers a comprehensive set of features.
Big and heavy, the N7 requires a dedicated installation, and for best results it should be used in tandem with a proper projection screen. Whether you’re watching SDR or HDR content, the projector delivers knockout images with natural colours, bright highlights, deep blacks, and plenty of shadow detail.
For 3D you’ll need a synchro emitter and glasses, both of which aren’t included. Unfortunately, the 3D performance is also a bit dim than previous generations of JVC projectors, which is about the only misstep the N7 makes.
3. JVC DLA-N5
Tremendous picture quality
- Beautifully cinematic picture quality
- True 4K playback
- Easy to set up
- Runs a little noisily in HDR mode
- Not as bright as some projectors
- HD upscaling could be better
The step-down DLA-N5 is another beauty. Like the N7 it offers a native 4K image and a raft of features that includes HDR10, HLG, 3D (accessories required) and a low latency gaming mode.
It’s another showcase for JVC’s contrast prowess, and when combined with 4K and the HDR tone mapping, the results are glorious. Images look spectacular: gorgeously detailed, textured and refined. Black levels are outstanding, even with more challenging HDR content. And while its nearest rivals can go brighter, the way the N5 handles contrast gives the image more punch and dynamism.
4. BenQ W5700
An impressively accurate image
- Superb image accuracy
- Effective HDR performance
- Excellent motion handling
- Good set of features
- Solid build quality
- Image could be brighter
- Black levels are weak
- Not native 4K
- Possible rainbow artefacts
- Rather noisy
Designed specifically for home cinemas, the W5700 is a DLP projector that delivers excellent colour coverage, great detail and sharpness, as well as a remarkable level of accuracy.
Compliance with the D65, REC.709 and DCI-P3 standards means content is viewed as the creator intended, and support for HDR10 and HLG means the W5700 can handle 4K HDR Blu-rays. And though it’s not native 4K and brightness is limited, the HDR and picture quality is impressive, with motion handling and 3D also putting in excellent shifts.
5. Epson EH-TW9400
A bargain for the price
- Good HDR and SDR pictures
- Great value for what’s on offer
- Lots of setup flexibility
- The colour filter takes a lot of brightness out of the picture
- Not a true 4K projector
- Needs ongoing care with setup to get the best out of it
The Epson EH-TW9400 carries a promising set of features with 4K and HDR playback; a claimed 2600 lumens of brightness, and a wide colour filter for HDR.
The inclusion of the colour filter impacts performance in good and not so good ways. HDR sources look flat without it, but it also reduces the brightness of an image when activated. If you can live with that, the TW9400 produces a superb performance with both HDR and SDR content. Even at its premium price, it represents fantastic value for those who want a serious home cinema projector but can’t afford the top range.
6. BenQ W2700
The best 4K HDR projector under £2000
- Great value for what’s on offer
- Easily the best HDR picture we’ve seen at this price point
- Crisp, clean 4K playback
- Slightly high input lag for gaming
- Black levels only fair to middling for SDR playback
- Minor rainbow effect
Priced at £1500, the BenQ offers tremendous value. It’s not strictly native 4K, but its performance is crisp and clean, and colours have nuance and depth. HDR playback is outstanding at times, though the BenQ fares better with HDR content mastered at 1000 nits than 4000.
Input lag is high, so this is firmly a projector more suited to home cinema than to gaming. Black levels during SDR playback are middling too. However, at this price, this is one of the more impressive projectors we’ve reviewed.
7. ViewSonic X-10 4K
Combines convenience with a great performance
- Bright and punchy images
- Effective HDR performance
- Excellent motion handling
- Sound system surprisingly good
- Long-lasting LED light source
- Portable and easy to install
- Extensive smart features
- Stylish and well made
- Weak black levels and shadow detail
- Resolution isn’t native 4K
The ViewSonic X10-4K is a short-throw projector so it can be placed close to a wall/screen and generate a large image – you can get a 120in from just 2m away. It’s quick and easy to set-up, and its portability allows for convenience in terms of placement.
It offers a bright, punchy image whether it’s SDR or HDR. With the latter it’s an effective performer, revealing plenty of detail and rich colours. The biggest surprise here is the integrated Harmon Kardon sound system, which has real size and depth.
Factor in Wi-Fi, video streaming services and voice control in Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant, and the X-10 4K is ideal for those who want a big screen experience but have limited space.
8. Epson EH-TW7400
Impressive specs and great performance
- Excellent picture quality
- Accurate images
- Extensive features
- Low input lag
- Great price
- Poor blacks and shadow detail
- Not bright enough for true HDR
Home cinema enthusiasts only need apply as the TW-7400 really benefits from a dedicated room. Again, it’s not true 4K though HDR is supported, as is 3D (glasses available separately).
The TW7400 produces a bright and punchy image. SDR images are pleasingly rendered, while HDR is fairly good even if it struggles with tone-mapping. Highlights lose detail and the overall image becomes too dark with very bright content. For gamers input lag is very low.
The TW7400 has features that are rare on less expensive models, and delivers a performance projectors twice the price would struggle to match.
9. Samsung Premiere LSP9T
A projector that’s a TV replacement
- Remarkably bright, colourful pictures
- Compact, living-room friendly design
- Built-in tuner and TV-like smart system
- It’s not cheap for this sort of projector
- Loss of colour finesse in very dark scenes with certain presets
- Rainbow effect
Think of the Premiere as a replacement for a TV and it starts to offer value – at least as much as a £6999 projector can.
It’s an ultra-short throw projector so it can be placed closed to a wall. The benefits being it can fit into a relatively normal sized living room and is less affected by ambient light. The size of the image is a whopping 130-inches, and more TV comparisons come via its built-in sound system, Freeview HD tuner and smart system that apes Samsung’s own Eden interface with apps that includes Netflix and Prime Video.
We found the Premiere delivered remarkably vibrant images; its laser projection unlocks a wide range of colours that has more in common with a TV. The sound is something of a revelation – at least where projectors are concerned – as it avoids sounding harsh. Whether you’re looking to replace a TV with a big (projected) screen or are a home cinema fan, the Premiere LS9PT works to appeal to both segments – if you can afford it.
10. Sony VPL-VW270ES
Punchy, flexible, true 4K performer
- Fantastic 4K sharpness
- Impressive HDR flexibility
- Excellent lens control
- Not bright enough for true HDR
- Requires regular input for optimised HDR pictures
- Black levels weaker than step-up Sony models
The VPL-VW260ES is Sony’s most affordable true 4K projector. While that may put it out of the reach of many, for those who take home cinema seriously, the VPL-VW270ES offers a great native 4K picture.
It supports HDR, but at 1500 lumens it’s not as bright as others. If you’re a gamer, Sony’s Input Lag Reduction puts lag around 30ms. The picture is outstanding – razor sharp and detailed – offering plenty of clarity and rich, punchy colours with little to no noise.
11. Epson EH-TW650
Big screen on a budget
- Bright and punchy picture
- Excellent colour reproduction
- Detailed and clear images
- Great price
- Poor black levels and shadow detail
Epson has produced a fantastic entry-level effort in EH-TW650, delivering big-screen images with plenty of punch and vitality.
It’s capable of going very bright – 3100 lumens – which makes it suited for rooms with white walls or ambient light. Easy to set-up and good with sports, movies or gaming, while it deals in Full HD images, it puts in a clear and detailed image, with richly saturated and accurate colours. Though black levels and contrast ratios aren’t the best, the Epson feels like a bargain.
12. LG HU85LS CineBeam Laser 4K
A projector that shoots lasers
- Bright, colourful HDR pictures
- Excellent, TV-like user system; includes streaming app support
- Very good sound for a projector
- Black levels in dark rooms are only decent
- Some rainbow-like noise
- Not as cheap as non-laser models
The HU85LS is an ultra-short-throw DLP projector that uses laser projection to produce a 120-inch 4K HDR image. While not perfect, it achieves what it sets out to do.
The laser technology removes the need for replacement lamps. Though it’s big and heavy, its bulk is partly due to an built-in audio system that sounds better than some TV speakers. With webOS integrated, the HU85LS has a similar TV-like interface and streaming app support.
It’s capable of outstanding colours – the laser lighting system produces a bright and wide colour spectrum that’s suited to bright and dark rooms. Though black levels fall short of dedicated home cinema projectors, and there can be some rainbow-like noise, this is an effective, user-friendly projector.
13. Optoma UHD52ALV
A projector that supports voice control
- Bright, punchy HDR pictures
- Runs quietly, even in high lamp mode
- Impressive voice control and external source support
- Black levels could be better
- Peak HDR colours can “flare out”
- High input lag for a DLP projector
Those after a simple-to-use and easy-to-watch living room projector should have a look at this Optoma
Black levels are less than what you’d get from a dedicated home cinema projector, and HDR colours at peak brightness tend to look washed out. Take nothing away from its HDR performance, which is bright, punchy and produces realistic looking images.
While voice support works impressively, voice commands are limited in scope. Think of this as a casual living room projector and your expectations will be more in line.
14. Optoma UHD40
Affordable 4K performance
- Pictures look surprisingly 4K
- Surprisingly and consistently enjoyable HDR pictures
- Remarkably good value
- Black levels are average
- Occasional rainbow effect
- No real support for wide colour technologies
If what you seek is an affordable 4K projector, the Optoma UHD40 may fit the bill.
The UHD40’s workmanlike design disguises some eye-catching features. Brightness is 2400 lumens, while contrast is 500,000:1. It only supports the Rec 709 colour standard, so it can’t extract the most out of wide colour gamut (WCG) content.
While this model isn’t strictly 4K – it renders a virtual 4K image – it produces a picture full of detail and rich in texture and clarity. Projectors struggle to produce excellent HDR pictures in the manner a TV can, but the UH40 at least makes HDR images bright and intense.
15. Optoma HD29H
An impressive and enjoyable all-rounder
- Great value for what it offers
- Surprisingly good contrast and brightness
- Lowest input lag we’ve seen on a projector
- Bright HDR colours can look washed out
- Clipping in the brightest HDR areas
- Can’t use the lowest input lag mode when gaming in 4K or HDR
The Optoma HD29H is pitched as a gaming projector, claiming a input lag of over 8ms. To achieve that requires enabling the Enhanced Gaming setting, but the issue is that this mode isn’t available with 4K or HDR images. To be fair, the 33ms or so of lag with 4K is still decent.
The HD29H boasts plenty of tricks that make its aggressive £700 price attractive. These include the ability to pass-through HDR and 4K sources, a built-in 10W speaker and 3400 lumens of claimed brightness. It’s a surprisingly effective home cinema unit, combining more brightness and contrast than similarly priced HDR projectors.
16. BenQ W1210ST
An affordable projector for gamers and film fans
- Superbly low input lag
- Good contrast and colour
- Strong movie performance
- Slight noise in dark movie scenes
- Some black crush in the best all-round lamp setting
- Minor DLP rainbowing
The BenQ W1210ST is a single-chip DLP projector with a short-throw lens, so it can be placed close to a wall or screen and produce a huge picture and excellent image quality.
Gaming is where the W1210ST shines best. Its fantastic low-lag input is great for gaming sessions and there’s no sign of the “running through treacle” effect some projectors suffer from. Blu-rays look great, too, with excellent contrast and vibrant, realistic colours. The picture can suffer from the rainbow effect, but this isn’t too pronounced.
17. Nebula Capsule Max
A fun portable projector
- HD resolution
- Great build quality
- Good battery life
- Nice app
- Android built-in
- Not very bright
- No Google Play Store
- No lens protector
When it comes to Pico projectors, we’ve not found one we’ve liked. However, the Capsule Max is a step up on the ones we’ve previously seen.
Of course niggling issues remain. More brightness would be nice, as would a carry case considering its portable nature. The Android interface is one built with a touchscreen in mind and while there are a few fiddly moments, we found the experience of operating the Capsule Max mostly good.
As it’s not very bright the Capsule Max is best suited for dark rooms, or at least closing some curtains during the day. The HD Ready (720p) resolution is largely a step up from the competition. Watching streamed content on an 100-inch screen colours are reasonably accurate and vibrant. Contrast isn’t great and blacks veer to grey, but that’s not unsurprising for a cheap projector. The built-in 8W speaker produces some surprisingly meaty bass as long as everyone is quiet, but it’s worth hooking a speaker via Bluetooth or the Max’s 3.5mm output.
18. Epson EF-100
A portable projector that fits into a rucksack
- Very bright for its size
- Smart TV stick-friendly design
- Fairly sharp lens
- Significant “screen door” effect
- Poor black level
- Speaker distorts with some content
- Poor resolution
The EF-100 is the Epson’s first portable laser projector. Weighing 2.7kg, it’s small enough to fit into a rucksack and features Bluetooth connectivity and Epson’s laser technology.
It’s also one of the brightest projectors of its size at this price, and that strength means its far better for use during the day than in dark rooms. Image quality does display some flaws with poor black levels and it suffers from the “screen door” effect (visible pixel structure) than its nearest rivals, such as the Asus F1.