Looking for some ideas for some home cinema projectors? Here are some excellent units we’d recommend, along with a few tips as well.
Size does matter – that’s why IMAX exists. Projectors take screen sizes way beyond what TV sets are capable of, and sacrifice little in terms of resolution.
Projectors have a lot of advantages: you can get a screen of over 100 inches when TVs tend to top out at 85in, and while those top-end TVs tend to be ruinously expensive, a projector and screen often come in at a more manageable price.
It’s not all good news, however. Mounting a projector in the ideal position on your ceiling can be a mammoth DIY task, and a projector generally puts out a less bright picture than a TV, meaning a properly darkened room will be a necessity. As will some sort of soundbar or speaker system, as while some projectors do have built-in speakers, they’re likely to be even worse than those in TVs, and many projectors have a cooling fan that will need to be drowned out. Then there’s the likelihood of needing to change the projector lamp every few years to take into account.
It’s worth noting that many projectors claim to handle a 4K picture without themselves being able to output 4K. Some use a chip that can display four million pixels – half that of 4K – while others use 1080p chips and shift them slightly to give the appearance of a higher resolution. There are native 4K models available, but you’ll pay much more.
So while a projector setup might sound like the perfect home cinema experience, there’s more to it than simply stating they’re better than TVs. Things to look out for include the maximum brightness a model is capable of generating, along with the distance you need to mount it from your screen to get a big enough picture, and how you’re going to get an HDMI cable up to its mounting point. Installing a projector can be a life-changing experience for the movie lover, but like anything worth doing, it’s never simple.
Here are some units worth considering…
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Details and buy here
A projector that can, if needed, produce an image with a 500in diagonal, the EH-TW7100 is simple to set up and will produce a great image with a minimum of tinkering in the settings. You’ll get 100 inches of screen with a throw distance of around three metres too, which brings it nicely into line with modern house design.
This is considered a budget model, so while not native 4K, it uses a common trick of having three HDR 1080p LCD chips, one each for red, green and blue. By shifting these slightly, it can produce an extremely detailed picture, but purists may want to move on.
There are built-in speakers, but they are only worth bothering with as a last resort, and it gives off a small amount of fan noise. This Epson model is bright enough to use in a moderately well-lit room, but you’ll still want to keep direct sunlight out, and blackout blinds will improve things immensely. Connectivity is handled by a pair of HDMI ports and the same number of USBs, including one that can output enough power to run a streaming stick.
Details and buy here (bit expensive this one though)
A step up from the Epson above in terms of both specs and price, the UHZ65 uses a laser as its light source, which not only sounds sci-fi but means there’s no bulb to replace, so you get a longer lifespan (a film a day for over 25 years) and you don’t need to wait for it to warm up. Four metres of throw gets you a 120in screen, and the brightness and contrast are high enough to be seen in a lit room, but its all-black shell means it will vanish in a darkened one.
Connectivity comes courtesy of a pair of HDMIs and an old-fashioned VGA, while there’s a USB port to take a flash drive or power a streaming stick. An optical digital out will take audio to the speakers of your choice, so you don’t need to bother the inbuilt 4W system.
You don’t buy a projector to look at it, but the UHZ65 is smaller than many other projectors. There’s nothing little about its picture quality though – feed it 4K material and it shines, with a good HDR picture that’s bright and well saturated. PureMotion processing smooths out any jerks in pans, and the whole experience is as customisable as you like.
Details and buy here
Despite being a bit basic in the HDR and apps department, BenQ’s TK850 has one feature that’s essential to how projectors work: it’s really bright.
This brightness means HDR is excellent too, and makes it usable in a room that’s less than perfectly blacked-out. Exclude most of the light, however, and you’re in for a great home cinema experience as the bright HDR10 picture really glows. The remote lights up too, if you want to fiddle with a few settings without opening the curtains. It’s a shame the TK850 doesn’t support Dolby Vision or HDR10+, however.
For a 100in screen you’ll need to factor in 2.5m of throw, and all the zoom, shift and focus controls are manual – hidden under a hatch the top of the projector’s body – unlike the motorised controls provided by more expensive models. It’s worth a little fiddling, however, as you’re only likely to set this up once or twice, and the native 4K picture you get is worth the effort.
There are dedicated Cinema and Sports settings depending on what you want to watch, a Bright mode for a well-lit room, and plenty of custom options should none of those be to your tastes.
Details and buy here
A laser projector that’s native 4K/HDR and has a built-in soundbar, this Optoma model sounds like the closest thing to an all-in-one model in the world of projectors (except possibly for the next model on the list).
The manufacturer thinks this projector is a straight replacement for a TV set, rather than a complement to one. It’s certainly an appealing-looing box, all angles and edges, that means you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have it on display in york iving room rather than shut away in the darkened cinema room. It’s got good connectivity too, with Ethernet, Wi-Fi, aux out, digital optical out, three HDMIs (two on the back, one on the side) and a USB.
Those network connections point to the projector having a smart platform, and the curious decision has been made for this projector to run Android itself rather than Android TV. We’ve seen this before in cheap TVs from the likes of Cello, and it really doesn’t translate well to a screen that isn’t touch sensitive. You get the full range of apps though, even if they’re maddeningly stuck in a low resolution mode. Pop a streaming stick in one of the HDMIs instead.
That laser light source means that, if you can pipe it decent pictures, you’ll not be disappointed by what you see on the screen. The speakers don’t let it down either, with 20 watts of power easily beating the tinny cans in most projectors or TVs.
Details and buy here
This may look like a portable projector, and in a way it is, but it’s much better suited to being part of a home cinema system than you’d at first think. The image emerges, periscope style, from a mirror underneath the unit’s lid. This makes it more versatile than others, as you can point and angle the mirror in myriad ways at whatever you’ve designated its screen, or lay the unit down and point the lens directly. It’s a laser projector system that produces a brightness slightly lower than others on this list, but still manages to hold its own.
The Cinebeam uses the same LG Smart Hub system as many of the manufacturer’s TVs, which means you have access to apps such as Netflix without needing to plug in extra equipment. Outside, there’s a pair of HDMIs, two USBs, and an Ethernet socket. There are also stereo speakers, though they’re precisely as lacking as you’d expect from something so slim, especially as it’s important it doesn’t vibrate.
Once you’ve found the ideal placement and got a picture up on the wall, screen, or even ceiling, then the 4K picture is really very good, even if there is a lot of motion processing going on. You get crisp, natural colours, and a good level of detail. Plus the ability to quickly pack it up and pop it in the cupboard.
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