Best Projectors For Home Cinema

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Best Projectors For Home Cinema
Photo by Alesia Kozik

It doesn’t always have to be a television: For huge screen diagonals and the typical cinema flair, a video projector (colloquially: “beamer”) is highly recommended instead.

In this blog article, we will introduce you to the 3 best projectors for home cinema.

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 Our tip (portable projector)Price tip 4K projectorGaming-Beamer
modelSamsung The FreestyleViewSonic PX701-4KOptoma HD146X
    
advantagePortable and flexibleInexpensiveBright and fast
DisadvantageSluggish user interfaceNo 3Dsea

Maximum flexibility (portable): Samsung The Freestyle


Best Projectors For Home CinemaBest Projectors For Home Cinema

Samsung The Freestyle

Sit back and let The Freestyle manage the setup. Once you find your angle, this portable smart projector will automatically adjust the image for you.


Advantages:

  • Compact body (102.4 × 172.8 × 95.2 mm)
  • Flexible stand (rotates 180 degrees) and autofocus
  • Can optionally be operated by battery ( USB PD protocol, at least 60 W / 20 V )
  • Operating system Tizen with Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, and other apps …

Disadvantages:

  • the user interface is confusing and sometimes sluggish/jerky
  • Autofocus not reliable
  • Low maximum brightness

In as much as big tech topics such as OLED televisions, folding cell phones, and PS5 – a product from the niche “portable video projectors” causes a worldwide sensation. the mini projector Samsung The Freestyle managed to get practically every technology blog talking about it.

After a few days of use, I can agree that the hype was at least partially justified. Above all, this is of course due to the versatility, which results from the adjustable stand and the automatic adjustment and optimization of the image.

The Freestyle can be placed in free space within seconds and aligned with the next wall (or ceiling). The image (1,920 × 1,080, Full HD) is then (mostly) immediately sharp and straight. The sound from the built-in speaker is clear and loud enough for small spaces. Sufficient for sitcoms, news programs, and football commentary.

Samsung The Freestyle
The smart projector with LED is beautifully designed and extremely compact

What I liked about the design is not only the functionality but also the aesthetics: The Samsung The Freestyle simply looks chic and also makes a good impression as a futuristic decorative object. My Epson EH-TW5400, on the other hand, looks like it was taken from a school’s technology cupboard – I put it back in its box after every home cinema use.

Despite all the enthusiasm, you shouldn’t let yourself be irritated and you have to classify the Samsung The Freestyle correctly: This is not the classic projector for film lovers who have the highest demands on image quality. This is a product for early adopters: people who enjoy new technology gadgets and want to be involved right from the start.

Fancy a beer and football on the terrace in the evening? No problem, nobody has to move the 55-inch television, we have the Freestyle.

samsung the free style needs more lightr
The Samsung Freestyle needs darkened rooms because its light output is not that high

This also means that you can turn a blind eye if everything is not yet fully developed. The small Samsung projector certainly has its flaws, especially the slow-reacting user interface (operating system: Tizen OS) and the sometimes failing autofocus does not match the high price in my opinion.

The brightness of the projection is relatively low (550 LED lumens), but this is normal for the case size. If you absolutely want to look in daylight, you should generally avoid mobile LED projectors.

Is the Samsung The Freestyle the perfect gadget that fulfills everyone’s dreams? No, absolutely not. Is it a charming piece of technology that makes completely new usage scenarios play? Yes, definitely.

Alternative to the Samsung The Freestyle


Best Projectors For Home CinemaBest Projectors For Home Cinema

Anker Nebula Capsule Max

Stay entertained at home with this mini projector’s 100-inch image. Watch movies, take online classes, or keep the kids entertained with hours of cartoons and educational videos. The possibilities are endless.


The Anker Nebula Capsule Max is popular on Amazon, has good customer reviews (4.5 stars out of 5). In contrast to the Samsung The Freestyle, the Anker Nebula Capsule Max only offers a resolution of 1,280×720 pixels and is less flexible in terms of placement, but it has an integrated battery for up to 4 hours of mobile operation.

Advantages:

  • 3LCD-Technologie
  • bright picture

Disadvantages:

  • No 3D

4K-Projektor: ViewSonic PX701-4K


Best Projectors For Home CinemaBest Projectors For Home Cinema

ViewSonic PX701-4K

With over 3200 ANSI lumens of brightness and a high contrast ratio, the PX701-4K lets you enjoy your movies and shows in bright and dark environments.


Advantages:

  • 4K resolution (pixel shift) at an entry-level price
  • Good subjective image quality
  • Supports HDR10

Disadvantages:

  • No 3D

4K is already the standard for televisions. However, for video projectors, the high resolution can only be found in those that cost the most. The ViewSonic PX701-4K is a cheap entry into the world of Ultra HD projectors.

Thanks to the XPR Shift technology, it can receive and process 4K signals – though it doesn’t have a native 4K panel, which can only be found in very expensive models (approx. $5,000 and more).

On the connection side, there are 2 HDMI sockets (HDMI 2.0b/HDCP 1.4/2.2), an audio output (3.5 mm), USB-A (power supply), and RS232 (control).

Viewsonic-PX701-4K
Connections and controls of the PX701-4K (Image source: Viewsonic)

“The image impression is pleasantly three-dimensional”.

Michael B. Rehders from Lite Magazine (01/2021)

The price-performance ratio of the ViewSonic PX701-4K is rated “excellent”.

M. David Stone writes for the video projector magazine Projector Central

“The ViewSonic PX701-4K may not quite be the light cannon you would want for HDR in ambient light, but it at least approaches that level, and it does a low price for a 4K projector.” The input lag is very low, so computer games can also be displayed without any noticeable delay. Fan noise, while audible, tends to “disappear in the background, especially in a family room with ambient noise.”

Gaming-Beamer with Full-HD: Optoma HD146X


Best Projectors For Home CinemaBest Projectors For Home Cinema

Optoma HD146X

Enjoy brighter whites and deeper black levels for an enhanced viewing experience of images and videos, enabled by HDR10 & HLG technologies


Advantages:

  • bright picture
  • Fast response time (input lag in games)

Disadvantages:

  • Loud fan
  • Only 1 HDMI input

What exactly is a “gaming projector”? Well, like TVs and monitors, we’re talking about models with the lowest possible latency. This means that there is no noticeable delay between the moment the image signal arrives and the visible image output.

This is not a matter of course, because most TVs and projectors have internal image processing (software and hardware) that can produce an offset of a few milliseconds. The higher this value, the more likely it is that a gamer will notice a certain sluggishness between input on the controller and the corresponding reaction in the game (“input lag”).

The model offers “a short enough delay to satisfy most gamers.

The Optoma HD146X was able to collect praise in the trade press

In “Enhanced Gaming” mode, “it (…) achieved a value of 16.4 milliseconds,” .

M. David Stone of PC Mag

The image quality of the HD146X is – considering the price range – consistently decent: ” Pretty bright with reasonably accurate colors and a decent contrast ratio,”.

CNET’s Geoffrey Morrison

The sometimes annoying fan noise is a major disadvantage of the Optoma projector. Ambitious home cinema fans can also be annoyed by the fact that there is only one single HDMI input.

This is how the recommended Projectors were selected

I have included my own experiences with video projectors and research in specialist journals in this summary. Presented are current models that have received special praise from the press and customers and are therefore recommended for purchase.

Answers to the most frequently asked questions

Technical data for projectors: what do the terms mean?

Here is a small overview of the most common features as they can be found in data sheets and descriptions of video projectors.

  • Keystone correction (trapezoid correction): As soon as a projector is not aligned exactly at right angles to the projection surface, the image is distorted. One side is shown longer than the opposite one – you are looking at a trapezoid instead of a rectangle. This is compensated for by the projector using keystone correction. Although this function straightens the image, it also reduces the image quality: brightness is lost and the effective resolution is reduced. Home cinema professionals completely forego keystone correction and rather try to install the projector perfectly in the middle and at right angles to the screen. However, the feature is useful and justifiable for occasional and, above all, spontaneous projector use.
  • Lens Shift means “lens adjustment”. It takes place manually or motorized. A movable lens allows the projected image to be shifted vertically and/or horizontally, which makes positioning the projector more flexible (oblique projection).
  • Rainbow Effect: An annoying phenomenon that occurs with some projectors and is perceived differently by people. You can see colored fringes around objects (“bursting colors”). The “Rainbow Effect” (RBE) can only be found in video projectors with DLP technology.
  • HDR means High Dynamic Range and refers to a particularly high dynamic range (contrast, color depth)

How much does a good home projector cost?

First of all, a projector intended for home cinema use should have certain key technical data: Full HD, HDMI inputs, keystone correction, and low operating noise are essential. These features alone currently lead to prices of $500 or more. If it is then also supposed to be 4K or with special features such as HDR, then you can quickly reach over $1,000. The upper limit is open, for example, the excellent 4K laser projector Sony VPL-VW890ES costs well over $20,000.

Projector screen: do you really need it?

Anyone who is serious about the home cinema experience cannot avoid a screen. Projector screens have a particularly fine surface and good reflection properties – this visibly improves the image quality (resolution, plasticity, contrast). A good model is one, which is suitable for wall/ceiling mounting and is extended by a motor.


Best Projectors For Home CinemaBest Projectors For Home Cinema

SUPER DEAL 120”

Approx 120 inch DIAGONAL, View Size: 84″ H x 84″ W. Overall Size: 90″ H x 87″. This material is 4K Ultra HD and Active 3D ready, boasts full tension uniformity, and is fully black-backed to eliminate light penetration.


Where does the sound and the image come from in the projector?

Almost all projectors have an integrated loudspeaker – and this is almost always of little use for films or games because it sounds quiet and tinny like the speaker of a mid-range cell phone. Even more so than with televisions, the following applies to projectors: you should also soundbar invest. A huge picture needs a solid sound foundation.

Similar to smart TVs, some projectors are equipped with an operating system (Android, Tizen, etc.) and can run apps (Netflix, WOW, Amazon Prime Video, etc.) independently. The more common way: A player (Fire TV Stick, PS5, etc.) is connected via HDMI.

My station wagon at home: An Apple TV 4K is connected to the projector via HDMI, and the sound comes to the Sonos Ray . When I’m watching alone, the speaker stays off and I send the sound via Bluetooth to headphones with noise canceling – the fan noise is also completely hidden.

Rent a projector instead of buying it?

Most households are already equipped with one (or more) televisions. Current models are also quite large compared to the past (screen diagonal 50 inches or more) – this naturally raises the question of how essential it is to buy a projector. It would be a shame if a $1,000 device spent most of its time collecting dust. In some cases, it is financially more advantageous and, above all, more sustainable to rent a projector – for example during the World Cup or in the winter months when you want to comfortably enjoy the Hollywood blockbusters of the past few months.

A well-known rental company for technology is Grover, here you can get a projector for around $20 a month. The 4K model BenQ W2700 (purchase price approx. $1,500) is from Grover for around $74.90 per month (minimum rental period 6 months). If you then split the costs among friends or in a flatshare and find a suitable joint event (Olympics, Eurovision, etc.), “renting instead of buying” is definitely worth considering.