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Deciding on a new projector for your home, school, or office? Our team has evaluated over 60 models since 2019, landing on the top 7 in this review. We use each projector for movie night in our home theaters, presentations in the office, and slideshows in our living rooms. We evaluate them side-by-side in different lighting conditions, determining which models have the best image quality, broken down into contrast ratio, color accuracy, resolution, and brightness. We also pay attention to how easy each model is to set up and adjust as well as how user-friendly the interface and remotes are. Whether you're looking for something with a nuanced color palette for your home theater, or a light cannon that can create clear images while presenting in a bright room, this review can help you find the right projector for your unique situation.
Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Aspect Ratio: Native 16:9
REASONS TO BUY
Stellar skin tone accuracy
Great contrast ratio
Color accuracy is mostly on point
REASONS TO AVOID
Bright yellows are a little off
No lens shift
No lens cover
White contrast is slightly lower
The Optoma UHD35 stands out for its generally high-quality image. With a maximum resolution of 3840 x 2160 and a contrast ratio of 1000000:1, this projector produces a very clear image. The contrast is especially impressive in dark shadowed areas where most other projectors lose a lot of detail. The resolution allows for crisp edges, even when zoomed in 400%, on details as small as eyelashes, and the image quality doesn't stop there. The color accuracy is on point. We are consistently impressed with this projector's ability to convey most skin tones and colors properly.
While the black contrast is incredible, a small amount of detail is lost in the whites. This is only noticeable on our white contrast slide and does not affect the general viewing experience or image quality. The measured brightness of the UHD35 is 2306 lumens, which is somewhat average compared to the other options in our test suite, but it is affected negatively by ambient light. If you are looking for a high-performing projector with exceptional skin color accuracy, the Optoma UHD35 is the best option.
It's hard to do much better than the BenQ HT2150ST when you're looking for a decent-quality home theater centerpiece that stays out of quadruple-digit price tag territory. It offers stellar resolution and consistently vibrant colors, whether watching fast-paced action scenes or tranquil panoramic shots. Aside from the high-resolution performance, its best attribute is its relatively short throw ratio. This allows you to project an absolutely massive 150-inch image with the projector just over eight feet from the screen. Most comparable models would need to be placed at least 14 feet from the screen to achieve the same picture size.
The relative dimness of the lamp is one of the few downsides to this model. We measured it at 1449 lumens, which is okay in a darkened home theater but can feel very weak if you turn the lights on. Unfortunately, a lot of details are lost due to the narrow contrast ratio. Mid-tones and whites lack contrast which makes the overall image quality somewhat flat. The HT2150ST is our top recommendation if you're looking for a dedicated home theater device.
The Epson Pro EX9240 is the best option for those searching for an advanced projector for business settings. The impressive brightness and average resolution allow for a clear picture in the presence of bright conference room lights. The plethora of input types allows for all kinds of device syncing, and the image quality is good enough for small text and complicated graphs to read with ease. The EX9240 is not a small projector, which could make carrying it from home to the office cumbersome, but the protective carry bag and lens cap help make commuting with this device much easier.
While the EX940 is a great addition to any office, it is a bit of an investment. The projected interface and remote are not particularly intuitive. The small buttons are hard to see in the dark as they are not backlit, which shouldn't matter much in a bright office setting. Color accuracy is pretty abysmal, which makes this projector a bad choice for the cinematic experience. It is also worth noting that especially small font appears ever so slightly fuzzy, although this doesn't affect overall legibility too much. If you or your office are looking for one powerful projector to share, this is a great option. But, if you're more concerned about keeping to a tight budget, you may want to look at some of the less expensive models in our test suite. Just keep in mind, the units will not perform as well in ambient light.
The Anker Nebula Capsule II packs a lot of power into a small package. This portable device may not offer high-definition image quality or impeccable brightness, but the level of power it does hold in a container is only slightly larger than a soda can. Features like auto-focus and auto-keystoning make setting up the Capsule II a breeze. It offers WiFi connectivity and on-device streaming service capabilities, meaning you can watch Netflix right off the device, similar to an Android TV. If you do not have WiFi or would prefer to connect a device, there are HDMI, USB, and USB-C ports to ensure connectivity to your laptop, phone, or tablet. For a portable device, battery life is also vital — the Capsule II advertises 2.5 hours of battery life, but we could easily stretch it to 3.5, which bodes well for most movies.
The Capsule II claims to offer a brightness of 200 lumens, but we only measured 168 lumens during our testing. This is enough for a very dark room, but simply not enough if there's any ambient light. While the image quality is bearable, the 1280 by 720 resolution and 600 to 1 contrast ratio doesn't make for the most detailed scenes. Skin tones appear washed out, lacking saturation across the board. Still, the Capsule is a great option for those who value portability and ease of use over pristine image quality.
Why You Should Trust Us
We've purchased and hands-on tested more than 60 projectors in the last five years. Our testing process puts each model through a multi-point performance analysis. Each projector is subjected to more than 24 individual tests to analyze its performance across each metric.
Image quality is broken down into three metrics: Contrast Ratio, Color Accuracy, and Resolution. Our reviews utilize extensive research and observations from multiple testers. Our testing process involves spending hundreds of hours projecting everything from movies to text-heavy PowerPoint presentations with every one of our projectors. We projected the same thing on multiple devices in all of our image tests, side-by-side in the same room. This design ensures that both lighting and projection conditions are entirely controlled. We also pushed them to the max by forcing them to project a bright white screen for extended periods, allowing us to take accurate brightness measurements and see how loud the fans get after each machine heats up.
Our testing of projectors is divided across four rating metrics:
Projectors range from inexpensive pocket models that can run off a battery to multi-thousand dollar 4K behemoths that can rival the image quality you get in a real cinema. For this review, we narrowed our focus to models that cost one to two times what most people spend on a large-screen television since that is where most people looking to build a home theater will start.
There is a close relationship between price and quality within the price range of the models we tested. The Optoma UHD35 offers a superior home theater and presentation quality, respectively. The UHD35 is not a drop in the bucket, but the performance is worth the price if you are able to afford it. The BenQ HT2150ST is great on a budget but falls short in contrast ratio and brightness, so it is best used in a very dark room. For an office setting, the best option is the extremely bright Epson Pro EX9240. It is still an investment; however, it is worth it if you are looking for a model that will not lose detail in the presence of bright light. Depending on your needs and planned usage, you may not require spending the big bucks on getting something perfectly adequate.
The contrast ratio is far and away the most important contributing factor to a detailed image. The highest highs, lowest lows, and a proper set of mid-tones offer contrast in bright skies and dark shadows, providing a truly dynamic image. To visually test the contrast ratio, we use a calculated collection of slides. The first one exhibits dynamic contrast by displaying the darkest blacks and lightest whites. Slides two through five are used to showcase the spectrum of contrast the projector can achieve, with each slide providing more information through a wider range of colors. We also observe the contrast ratio through text and video, taking into account how the image appears while moving and when paused.
The Optoma UHD35 offers a contrast ratio of 1000000:1, which is quite high. It performs better on the black spectrum than the white. That being said, the lack of distinction between shades of white does not seem to affect the viewing experience negatively. The blacks and mid-tones are arguably more important, providing a very inclusive picture in the shadows. We pause our test video on a particularly textured frog to get a better look at the detail. The UHD35 flawlessly showcases the highs and lows of the bumpy frog back. Shadows prove to be no match for the UHD35 as well. While viewing our forest test video, you can easily see details in the shadows and a clear difference between the shadowed and unshadowed areas.
With a ratio of 70000:1, the Epson Home Cinema 2250 is also impressively clear. Six-point font is slightly hazy but still very easy to read. It performs exceptionally well in whites but struggles a little in the black spectrum but overall offers a clear image.
It's hard to focus on a movie when all the actors are orange, which is why color accuracy is next in our testing. We take note of any discrepancies between what we see on the computer and what each device projects. Our first slide consists of a number of different faces, including Oprah, Rihanna, and Emma Stone. We also watch The Martian with Matt Damon, stopping at different points to access cool and warm light on the skin. Lastly, we view various slides filled with primary and secondary colors, taking special note of those whose projections do not match what we see on the computer. All told, if you plan to use your projector to display slides consisting of pie charts and text, color accuracy may not matter as much.
The Optoma UHD35 takes the cake for color accuracy. It portrays accurate skin tones, although they do fall slightly on the warmer side. Oprah seems to be difficult for most of the projectors in our test suite to portray, but the UHD35 shows off some of the beautiful cool tones in her skin. The Martian movie confirms the accurate skin tone as well. Not only does the UHD35 properly display skin tones, but the color wheel is on point, too, offering the most consistent colors of the bunch while others tend to project one color accurately and the next terribly.
The BenQ HT2150ST is significantly warmer when it comes to skin tone than the UHD35, but it's far from Oompa Loompa status like some of the cheaper projectors. Yellows are a little off and tend to be slightly green, but other than the BenQ is pretty on point.
Some honorable mentions in the Color Accuracy metric are the Epson Pro EX9240 and Optoma CinemaX P2. The EX9240 is over-saturated and too warm, but it does not affect the viewing experience too much. The over-saturation is easily noticed in skin tones and especially obvious in green, which turns bright and yellow when projected. Orange is extremely bright and unnatural looking. The CinemaX P2 offers a similar lack of consistency, especially when viewing skin tones.
Most people think the resolution is the most important factor of clarity, and while it's not, there is no doubt that it's a contributor. Our resolution testing consists of HD images, the Siemen's Star, and a video viewing. We zoom into the HD images and Siemen's Star to ensure tiny details like eyelashes are clear. We also take note of how motion affects the overall images by watching videos.
The UHD35 offers a maximum resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, while the Epson Home Cinema 2250 and BenQ HT2150ST offer 1080 pixels. All three of these projectors use a high resolution to improve clarity and image quality.
The UHD35 and the Home Cinema 2250 show nearly perfect detail when viewing HD images. Even when zooming in on details as small as eyelashes, these projectors provide a crystal clear image. When zooming in to 400% on the Siemen's Star, we are still able to tell the lines apart nearest the center. The Cinema 2250 has a small amount of cross-hatching near the center, but overall its performance is impressive. The video resolution for these projectors is just as impressive, easily showing details as small as the hairs on an ant. The UHD35 offers a little more clarity than the Cinema 2250.
The BenQ HT2150ST is also pretty impressive across the board but falls slightly behind the UHD35 and Cinema 2250. Small details like eyelashes have a slight haze to them, and the Siemen's Star has slight steps near the center, but neither of them is very noticeable and therefore does not ruin the viewing experience. The video resolution is also very clear. For a more budget-friendly option, the BenQ has some pretty high-quality resolution.
Ease of Use
The hardest part of using a projector is getting its picture square on the screen and focused. This either involves fine adjustments of a few moving parts or some digital sorcery. Initial positioning like this is a major concern if you want a projector that can easily move from room to room. Suppose you're looking for a dedicated home cinema machine. In that case, you'll likely have to go through this process once, which means the remote control interface is more important than the initial setup process. We test the user-friendliness of both of these aspects by setting up and breaking down each model multiple times and navigating through all of their menu options with their associated remote controls. We also take into account the portability of each device.
One term you should be familiar with is keystoning. This refers to the trapezoidal shape a projected image takes on when the lens isn't perfectly square to the screen. We're referring to fixing this issue when we mention 'keystone correction' below.
The Epson Home Cinema 2250 has a highly intuitive interface and verticle lens shift, and automatic keystoning and focusing make this device extremely easy to use. We wish this model came with a bag for better portability and that the buttons on the remote were backlight, but this projector is still among our favorites for usability.
The UHD35 is not particularly portable as it lacks a lens cap and weighs just over 10 pounds, but the backlit remote and intuitive interface make using it a breeze. This projector comes equipped with a wide range of specialized buttons: color mode, brightness, contrast, aspect ratio, 3D, DB, sleep timer, mute, menu, and input selection. The verticle and horizontal keystoning is also very simple, and the twist-to-focus works much better than the standard lever.
We also love how easy the portable Nebula Capsule II is to use. First and foremost, this projector is only slightly larger than a soda can, so it's easy to throw in your bag for a movie night by the campfire or over to a friend's place for a backyard screening. Secondly, connecting to WiFi and using streaming services right off the device makes it easy for people of all ages and technological abilities to navigate. Its projected interface is very similar to an Android TV.
The BenQ HT2150ST has the most intuitive remote interface by far, and it is simple to switch between inputs and color modes. The buttons also have a red backlight that renders them easy to find in a dark room without making you feel like you are suddenly emerging into bright sunshine. The included vertical keystone correction and large zoom are easy to use and make it a breeze to get the image square and the correct size. The vertical lens shift is also a huge plus when installing a permanent mount in a home theater. Finally, its throw ratio of 0.69 to 0.83 is shorter than most other comparable models, allowing you to create a huge 150-inch image with the projector just about eight feet from the screen, whereas most models would need to be at least 14 feet away to do the same. This allows for more versatile mounting options in smaller rooms without sacrificing screen size.
Brighter is generally better in the world of projectors. You can always make an overly bright image softer, but if a lamp's full capacity produces an image that's too pale, it can't be made any brighter. Top-end brightness usually isn't an issue in a dark home cinema setting. In fact, most models have a cinema mode that dims the lamp to provide more vivid colors and truer blacks. Top-end brightness becomes a bigger issue when projecting in well-lit rooms, the most common scenario being a business presentation in a conference room. In this situation, you want to be sure text and graphs are crisp, easy to read, and not washed out. To do this, the lamp must be bright enough to ward off miscreant photons from ambient light that like to bounce around rooms at random, fading colors and washing out text. Accordingly, most of our brightness testing involves viewing Excel sheets and PowerPoint presentations in a bright room. We also measure brightness using a lux meter and compare our measurements to the manufacturers' claims. Across the board, the brightness we measured is roughly 30% lower than the manufacturers' claim.
The Epson Pro EX9240 comes in hot with a measured brightness of 3136 lumens. If you are pitching an idea to important executives, you'll be happy that they can see the data you've put together to back up your pitch — even in a well-lit conference room. This projector is by far our brightest model even though it is almost 900 lumens dimmer than the manufacturer claimed 4000.
The Optoma models also offer decent brightness. While neither of them quite reaches 3000 Lumens, they fall somewhat close behind. The CinemaX P2 comes in at an average of 2112 lumens, and the measured brightness of the UHD35 is 2306. Surprisingly, the P2 performs a little better than the UHD35 despite the fact that it offers fewer Lumens. This is because movement seems to increase the measured Lumens, making it a great option for movie viewing.
Producing a respectable 2245 lumens, the ViewSonic PA503W offers a comparable brightness to the Optoma models. It can handle very bright rooms without its picture fading out. The WXGA resolution also makes its text look much less fuzzy than some of the other models.
Projectors and, in particular, their bulbs are often referred to as "light cannons," and like this moniker's namesake, those bulbs produce a lot of heat. This necessitates some sort of cooling system to keep the projector from frying itself — usually a fan. In turn, that fan will produce some noise, possibly even enough noise to ruin the dramatic weight of a long moment of silence in a film. Similarly, during an important presentation, an incessant hum can annoy clients, which isn't going to help you make your point. To assess fan noise, we conducted a real-world test of watching a film at a normal volume to see how often we noticed the fan's whir. We also put the projectors through a heat torture test that involved projecting a bright white screen for half an hour and precisely measuring each fan's maximum volume.
The Nebula Capsule II is among the quietest. While these small devices often emit a higher frequency noise, the Capsule remains soft and easy to ignore. Since this pico model isn't among the brightest of our test suite, the lightbulb only gets so hot, so the fan doesn't have to work as hard.
The UHD35 is another quiet low hum that does not get in the way of your viewing pleasure. The noise it emits is quite low, a measured 59 decibels. Aside from the sheer level of sound a projector emits, the pitch is the other contributing factor. The Home Cinema 2250 is pretty loud but smooth and lower-pitched, which is easy to ignore.
A Note on Input Lag
Input lag, or the amount of time that lapses between pressing a button on a controller and seeing the result on the screen, is an important factor for video game aficionados, as even a millisecond of hesitation can mean digital life or death. We first tested input lag objectively using a dedicated input lag meter. Those measurements showed minor differences between models, so we moved on to a real-world test, bringing a cadre of avid gamers into our testing theater. Those gamers didn't notice a difference in input lag between models, and none believed any model supplied enough input lag to detriment their game playing. Therefore, gamers need not worry about input lag when looking at the tested projectors.
A Note on 3D Quality
Today, most projectors on the market are compatible with 3D media players, allowing you to bring 3D cinema into your home theater. However, 3D images force projectors into a specified image mode, somewhat dampening the individual image quality of different models and lessening their differences. We confirmed this in our testing, finding little if any 3D image quality differences across many models. Therefore, we did not consider 3D image quality in our final rankings.
Home theaters are becoming more and more affordable and thus more common. Despite becoming more accessible, projectors are still rife with arcane specifications and confusing marketing claims, making for a confusing purchasing process. We hope that our objective side-by-side tests have helped you cut through all of the noise and find the perfect projector to enhance your home or office environment.
Michelle Powell, Max Mutter, Hayley Thomas, Jessica Riconscente
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.