Bringing a projector into your home theater setup is one of the best ways to step things up as close to the movie theater experience as possible. The technology might seem daunting if you're new to home theater projectors, but today's models are easier to set up and use than ever, can be connected to soundbars and other sound systems with ease, and can be ready to start projecting with only a few short steps.
Capable of throwing images from around 100 to 200 inches in size on a wall or a projector screen, and able to be connected to everything from streaming devices, and game consoles to laptops, smartphones, and more, modern options range from cinema grade 4K laser projector to ultra-rugged and impossibly compact projectors that you can take anywhere, from camping trips to a weekend at the cottage.
But choosing the best home theater projector can be tricky. Specs such as lamp type (LED, laser), lumens of brightness (ANSI, ISO), and maximum image size, and features like Dolby Atmos can make your head spin. Some projectors do better in darker rooms and some are great in brighter rooms, while ultra short throw projectors are becoming more and more common and allow you to maximize space in small rooms by placing them mere inches from the wall or screen.
But if you're just getting started in your hunt for the projector that's right for you, we've also pulled together some other great options that range in price, features, portability, and uses from gaming to backyard movie nights.
Hisense PX1-PRO TriChroma Laser Cinema
Our favorite projector
- Excellent short-throw design
- Great color coverage
- eARC support
- Dolby Atmos support
- Android TV platform
- Not as useful if you don't use Google apps
This slim and stylish-looking home theater projector uses Hisense's TriChroma engine to produce amazingly accurate colors, covering the full range of the BT.2020 color gamut with its RGB lasers. That makes it a great pick for those who are used to a vivid image and don't want to give up any color accuracy on a projector. With peak brightness that can reach 2,200 lumens, this 4K (3840 x 2160) projector can cast an image from 90 to 130 inches in size, and supports Dolby Vision and HDR 10 and HLG for rich contrast, too. The useful ultra short throw designation of this projector also means that it can sit as close as 0.9 feet away from your screen or panel, allowing for versatility in placement.
The model also comes with HDMI eARC, which we love to see for easy setup and speaker passthrough without losing any audio quality or image optimization that your content may support. Dolby Atmos compatibility is also built-in for audio improvements, a feature many projectors miss out on.
The Hisense PX1-PRO Laser Cinema runs on the Android TV platform, which means you can install apps from the Google Play store, including all the streaming services you need (Netflix, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime and more), and Chromecast capabilities allows you to cast content from a variety of devices.
Hisense's projector also comes with a few different modes to help out certain activities, including a gaming mode that enables automatic low latency, and a filmmaker mode that disables motion processing so you get the most authentic projection images possible. Hisense has been quite innovative in the laser projection arena over the years and continues to innovate, announcing some new laser projectors at CES 2023, debuting some small projectors capable of throwing images upwards of 150 inches.
Xgimi Horizon Ultra
Standard-throw 4K with Dolby Vision for under $2,000
- Dolby Vision HDR support
- Smart auto picture adjustments
- Great dark-room brightness
- Excellent color accuracy
- Compact, premium design
- OK in brighter rooms
- Setup's a pain for non-Android users
- Sound could be better
When you get the Xgimi Horizon Ultra out of its box, its smooth faux leather covering, compact size, and cool, fabric-clad faceplate that slides down to expose the light source leave you wondering how something so pretty is so reasonably priced. And it has the tech to match.
The Xgimi Horizon Ultra is a 4K standard-throw projector driven by a dual laser/LED light source that delivers 2,300 ISO lumens of brightness and excels in dark rooms, but does OK in brighter rooms, too. But the star of this show is easily its Dolby Vision HDR capabilities. While the Horizon Ultra also supports HDR10 and HLG formats for some impressive contrast and black levels (it's still not as inky as OLED or QLED TVs, so don't get your hopes up for that), Dolby Vision-supported content is a step above the rest, further driving the "I can't believe this is $1,700" exclamation.
Color reproduction on the Horizon Ultra is excellent too, with 95.5% coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut and 99% of the Rec. 709 standard, which basically means the movies and content you watch will be accurate to what the filmmakers want you so see. All that tech talk aside, without any calibration, the colors of the Horizon Pro are vivid and clear no matter the source.
The Horizon Pro is a "smart projector" that comes with Android TV built right in so you don't need to connect your own streaming device as a video source, although in our experience, you might want to as it can be a bit finicky and sluggish. But we'd argue that it's the projector's auto setup and adjustment features are the real smarts here. It's auto keystone correction, straightening, and autofocus features are some of the best we've seen. You just point it where you want to project, and it fixes the image, even at extreme angles.
Connectivity-wise, the Horizon Ultra has plenty of ways to roll. There are two HDMI ports (one eARC), two USB ports, and a 1.5mm output for speakers or a set of headphones (the built-in 12-watt Harman Kardon speakers are not bad, though). There's also Bluetooth and Chromecast support, as well as Wi-Fi and LAN connectivity.
Samsung The Premiere LSP7T 4K laser projector
Premium UST laser projector
- Alexa, Google Assistant, and Bixby
- Compact, ultra short-throw design
- 30-watt speakers and subwoofer built in
- Up to 120-inch image
- Smart TV capabilities via Tizen OS
- No HDR features
Samsung's The Premiere ultra-short-throw (UST) laser projectors (they come in 120- and 130-inch variants) are a great way to turn your living room into a high-end home theater. Here we're going to focus on the 120-inch LSP7T model, mostly because it's more than enough image size for most people, and it's $3,000 cheaper. So here we go.
The Premiere LSP7T offers a beautiful 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution in sizes from 90 to 120 inches, and the UST design means you can place it only inches away (9.7 inches for a 90-inch screen to 16 inches for 120) from the wall or screen and still get excellent results. It also supports HDR10+ for good levels of color and contrast, and with 2,200 lumens it's bright enough for even the brightest of rooms.
It comes ready for the modern smart home thanks to Samsung's Tizen OS platform, giving you access to all the streaming services you need (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Hulu, Disney+, and more), as well as support for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Bixby voice assistants allowing you to give voice commands to control playback, search for shows, or operate other smart devices in your home.
Like some of our other picks, the Samsung LSP7T Premiere also includes a filmmaker mode for authentic projection. And while all projectors benefit from external speakers, this model's 30-watt 2.2-channel speakers and subwoofer can do a fine job on their own — and give you the freedom to take the LSP7T Premiere anywhere.
Formovie Theater 4K UST Laser Projector
Excellent Dolby Vision and Atmos support
- World’s first Dolby Vision + Atmos UST projector
- 4K UHD image
- Impressively-bright 2,800 Lumens
- Sound by Bowers & Wilkins
- Ultra short throw distance
With a 4K UHD quality picture, 2,800 Lumens of brightness, and an ultra-short throw distance, the Formovie Theater laser projector is already impressive. But what makes it even more so is that it’s the world’s first UST projector to support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos allowing you to get the most out of your modern entertainment. Sound by Bowers and Wilkins makes the entire experience that much more immersive, and all combined, you’re talking about one of the most technologically advanced projectors on the market regarding audio and video features.
Google Assistant far-field voice controls can be used to control the projector and interact using merely the sound of your voice, through basic commands. Plus, with AndroidTV 11.0 built-in, and fully certified, you can start streaming your favorite movies and shows right after setup. An auto low latency mode (ALLM) keeps on-screen action fluid and responsive while playing games, and the speckle elimination technology gets rid of any weird or nasty screen effects during playback.
By using the ALPD 4.0 RGB+ triple laser light source, the Formovie Theater is much more clear, vibrant, and powerful than comparable systems – it’s 30% more powerful than ALPD 3.0, for instance. It can output 107% of Rec.2020 color gamut, across 1.07 billion colors, delivering the utmost color accuracy, vibrancy, and superior contrast. If you’re not entirely sure what all of that means, just know it will deliver a picture, and audio, at unprecedented quality levels for a laser projector.
Finally, the ultra-short throw distance – with a ratio of 0.23:1 – means it can throw a large screen of 100 inches at a mere 9 inches away. The maximum projection size is 150 inches, which, we probably don’t need to tell you is a massive screen. It’s ready to go and you can use it anywhere in your house, and thanks to the brightness and vibrancy you can project on a wide variety of surfaces, including obviously projector screens. When all is said and done, we’re enamored with this projector and its long list of features. Even with it being a bit pricey compared to some of the others on the list, we still highly recommend it.
BenQ HT4550i 4K
4K and near perfect color for under $3,000
- Amazingly accurate color
- Bright 3,200 ANSI lumens image
- HDR modes for days
- Comes with Android TV
- Vertical/horizontal lens shift is excellent
- The fan is quiet
- Built-in sound isn’t great
- Black levels suffer a bit in light rooms
One in BenQ's outstanding 2023 lineup that has been focusing on accurate color, improved brightness, and HDR support for beautifully inky black levels, the BenQ HT4550i is a delight to set up and use, and has a picture quality that rivals projectors twice its price.
The HT4550i offers 4K UHD resolution (3,840-by-2,160 pixels) at a sun tan-worthy 3,200 ANSI lumens, and can throw a 60-inch image form just 5 feet away, all the way up to 200 inches from 16-feet. Driven by its 4LED DLP chipset, the HT4550i is a capable standard-throw projector that maintains its picture and contrast pretty well in rooms with a bit of ambient light, but those with dedicated, completely dark home theater rooms are in for a treat. Additionally, this projector uses BenQ’s new CinematicColor and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) that is capable of meeting 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut that matches the film industry.
Out of the box, the HT4550i comes pre-calibrated and ready to go with no tweaking necessary, although you can, till the cows come home. With support for HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG (no Dolby Vision, though), the HT4550i automatically detects the HDR mode from the input source (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Blu-ray etc.) and adjusts accordingly for the best picture.
That all might sound terribly complicated, and it is, but what isn't is the HT4550i's setup. It comes with an Android TV dongle that's easy to install and that gets you viewing with your streaming services ASAP. But, with two HDMI 2.0 inputs, USB-A, and Chromecast built it, you can connect streaming devices, USB drives, and cast right from your compatible devices, too.
Sound from the HT4550i is pretty good on its own, too, but with Optical and audio out ports (with Dolby Digital Plus support) you can connect to soundbars and sound systems, and AirPlay support means you can connect to other sound systems, such as compatible Sonos systems, should you have one.
BenQ HT2050A 1080p DLP home theater projector
A great budget 1080p projector
- Big image for an affordable price
- Vertical lens and keystone adjustment
- Bright 2,200 ANSI lumens
- Easy to set up out of the box
- 10-watt speaker sound is weak
- Noisy fan
- No HDMI 2.0
BenQ is a reliable name in the projector world for its reasonably priced products, and the BenQ HT2050A home theater projector fits that bill perfectly. It's a 1080p DLP projector with an impressive 2,200 lumens (in Vivid mode) light source that is more than adequate for anything you want to throw up on the wall or screen, and it's bright enough for a light-filled living room.
Its color is bright and vivid, and its CinematicColor gamut covers 96% Rec.709 color space, which BenQ says delivers images true to the original visions of the industry's leading directors.
The HT2050A features what BenQ calls Vertical Lens Shift and 2D keystone adjustment so you can easily adjust the projection to get a perfectly proportioned image on your screen or wall no matter what angle the projector is on. The projector will throw a range of image sizes depending on the distance from the wall you move the projector — 8.4 to 10.9 feet yields a 100-inch image while 12.5 to 16.3 feet can yield up to a 150-inch image. BenQ has a helpful distance calculator you can use, too.
Not that you'd expect great sound from a budget projector, but be that as it may the BenQ HT2050A has a 10-watt "chambered" speaker built in, which is adequate, but you could do better with a soundbar or a set of powered speakers.
A range of inputs litters the back of the projector, including two HDMI ports, USB-A and USB mini-B inputs, plus component and audio in RCA ports, allowing you to connect everything from DVD players and streamig devices to smartphones and more, all for under $800.
Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro
Best portable 1080P projector
- Compact and easy setup
- Great auto keystone and focus features
- Excellent image in the dark
- Decent sound, doubles as a Bluetooth speaker
- Can be powered by USB-C power bank
- Image fades in bright rooms
- Android TV can be laggy
- Not very loud
You don't typically think of projectors as a tech item that you can easily put in a bag or backpack to tote with you, say, on a family camping trip or just a weekend getaway. Well, portable movie projectors have come a long way. Not only can the good ones offer a big and bright movie watching experience at home, but while away they can keep, er, "enthusiastic" children happy and allow you to turn a hotel room into a movie theater.
The Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro is one of those "good ones." It's a full HD (1080p) projector that weights just 2.42 pounds and it about the size and shape of a Sonos One speaker (6.33 by 4.68 by 4.25 inches). It's one of many projectors on the market that come with the Android TV operating system baked in (and its own Wi-Fi connectivity), so you don't need to tote along a streaming device or stick to get access to your streaming services — although you could just as easily do that with the MoGo 2 Pro's HDMI 2.0 port. It's also got Chromecast built in so you can simply cast stuff right from your phone or computer, too.
Setup is easy as heck, and once up and running, the MoGo 2 Pro will project a crystal-clear image at 60 to 120 inches in size from its DLP lamp's 400 ISO lumens of brightness (that's around 500 ANSI lumens, if you're counting). During our review we found the auto keystone correction and auto focus to be excellent — just point it at the wall and no matter what the angle (within reason), the projector straightens the image and even readjusts automatically if you move the device. If you're worried about the little eyes of kids or pets, there's an eye protection feature that dims the bulb when movement is detected in front.
The Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro does its best work in the dark (as with any projector with this range of brightness) delivering a beautiful image with decent black levels and a clarity I wouldn't have expected from a portable. It's even got decent built-in sound from two 8-watt speakers (there's a 3.5mm AUX output, too), and with Bluetooth connectivity it doubles as a portable speaker for music.
On the battery front, while you'd expect a portable projector to have its own battery built-in, Xgimi has opted to instead use its USB-C connection to allow users to plug it into an outlet or to a portable power pack, which allows you to bring enough power for your needs, should you be off grid.
Xgimi Horizon Pro
a bright and portable 4K projector
- Compact and lightweight
- 4K UHD image
- Super-bright 2,200 lumens
- Harman Kardon speakers
- Android TV
- A bit pricey
The Xgimi Horizon Pro is one hell of a projector, period. Aside from it being portable, easy to set up, and packed with features, the Horizon Pro pumps out a beautiful 4K image and competes with the higher-end picks on our list in the brightness category with an impressive 2,200 ANSI lumens.
At just 3.5 pounds and reasonably compact at just 8.2 by 8.6 by 5.3 inches, the Horizon Pro can go pretty much anywhere and gets up and running fast with its Android TV operating system that gives you access to all the streaming service you need, baked in — no need to connect a streaming box or clumsily mirror a phone to do it. With that said, it also has two HDMI inputs (one eARC), two USB ports, and if you did want to mirror a device, it has Chromecast and Airscreen built in. Google Assistant is accessed through the remote, too, and the whole unit can be mounted on a tripod.
On the picture front, we already mentioned its brightness, which is great for rooms with windows, sure, but the Horizon Pro will throw a 4K UHD image from 40-inches to a whopping 200 inches, with support for HDR10 and HLG HDR. Auto focus and auto keystone correction add to the simplicity making it a piece of cake dropping it on a table and projecting it to a wall or screen, even at awkward angles. Object avoidance will also automatically adjust the image size to avoid hanging art or wall lights.
Two 8-watt Harmon Kardon speakers are also packed in there should you not have access to a soundbar, and with DTS HD and Dolby Audio the Horizon Pro will also create virtualized surround sound, too. It's still probably best to use your own external soundbar, but the built-in audio is pretty good if you're on the go.
Bluetooth 5 and 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi connectivity round out the features, and gamers will even be down with the Horizon Pro's gaming mode, which delivers a low 35ms latency, which might not cut it for hardcore gamers but will be good for most.
Even when picking an entry-level projector, there are a few basic things to keep in mind. The most important is the projector's brightness capability. Simply put, the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the image. The more ambient light you have in the room when you watch, the more brightness you’ll want to combat it.
You'll also want to consider the projector's throw ratio, which explains how wide a projector's image will be given the distance between the lens and the screen. Also, be sure the projector you pick offers enough keystone correction and zoom ability to match your installation.
Sound complicated? It’s not as hard as you might think. (And for that matter, neither is setting up a home theater projector.
Finally, you've got to think about sound: You can count on nearly any projector’s built-in speakers to be terrible. They are an afterthought in most cases, designed to get you by if you're doing an office presentation, but not much more. Any projector will benefit from even a modest outboard speaker system, such as a soundbar, though for big movie nights, we say go nuts with the sound system.
Home projector inputs are designed to be similar to TVs, but you should always check before you purchase. Usually, you won't have any compatibility problems, although you may need to rearrange some of your home entertainment equipment. Many projectors even have the same platforms that smart TVs use for easy streaming.
It's highly recommended. A dedicated projector screen is the only way you'll get a sharp image with good color accuracy. But it isn't required for casual viewing — a solid, clean, white wall can be adequate enough for some applications.
Home projectors typically need a certain number of lumens to perform well, especially since they may be used in central rooms with windows or rooms with lights on. Most of our picks are around 2,000 lumens or higher.
It depends on the projector, and each projector will have specific instructions for the best results. Generally, you're looking at around 10 feet away for a traditional projector. But there are also "short throw" projectors that can work from only several feet away, and ultra short throw projectors, which can work from several inches away, which is useful in home theaters that don't have a lot of room to spare.
When you're ready to pick a projector screen, you'll quickly notice they come in a variety of colors, like white, silver, gray, and black. Which works best for you? That depends. Lighter screens tend to have better color accuracy and do well in low-light conditions and in dedicated home theaters. Darker screens tend to have better contrast and do better in brighter rooms with ambient light. The brighter the projector, the less you'll have to worry about screen color.
Keystone correction features automatically sense if the angle of the projector isn't right, which would make the image tilted or otherwise distorted. It then tries to correct the image so that it appears flat.
Permanently placed home projectors shouldn't have much need for automatic keystone correction, since they should be set up and angled properly, both horizontally and vertically. Manual keystone correction may take some tweaking to get right, but then you don't have to worry about it again. Portable projectors get more use out of automatic correction features.
Projectors use fans, vents, and heat dissipation to stay cool, and it's usually very effective, especially with LED bulbs that don't produce much heat. If a projector is overheating, that's a sign something is wrong, like blocked vents or a broken fan.
Our projectors on this list – except for our portable pick, are generally designed to be carefully tuned and left in place. But don't worry. We also offer another guide to the best outdoor projectors.
- Best Sony TV deals: Save on best-in-class 4K TVs and 8K TVs
- Best projector deals: Replace your TV with a big screen from $58
- This 86-inch LG 4K TV just crashed from $1,250 to $800
- The best 8K TVs for 2024: from Samsung, LG, and Sony
- Don’t miss your chance to save $350 on this 86-inch LG 4K TV