The Best Home Theater Premium Projectors [March 2020]
The rise of on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have all but done away with traditional cable connections. With thousands of movies and TV shows available at the click of a button, more and more people are finding it hard to justify the hefty cable fees that bring a relatively tiny selection of media. Thus, the computer has largely taken over for the humbled cable box. But even users who once connected their computers to their TV’s in order to enjoy their on-demand streaming content on a wider and more versatile screen are ditching their TVs all together—thanks to a rising number of high-quality projectors that can turn virtually any surface in your home into a full-fledged, theatre-sized display.
As with all things tech, these projectors vary when it comes to both quality and price, and while we’ll be releasing a list of more moderately priced projectors in the near future, this list is dedicated to the high-end models that deliver stunning quality in compact packages.
If money is absolutely no object, it’s hard to beat VAVA’s 4K UHD Laser TV projector, which is one of the most advanced projectors we’ve seen to date. Not only is it super powerful, but it’s incredibly easy to set up and use, and its picture quality is hard to beat. At $2,800, it’s not exactly the cheapest device you can find on the market today, but it’s one of our favorite projectors, and once you take a look at its specs, it’s easy to see why.
The VAVA projector began life as a project on Indiegogo, where it grossed more than $2 million over its campaign, and has continued to sell well on Amazon. It’s easy to see why people were excited in the first place: there isn’t much else on the market like VAVA at this price point. For under $3,000, it truly is an exceptional projector, and that starts with the setup. Unlike most projectors on this list, there’s no need to set up the VAVA far away from your projection display. Instead, this unit goes directly under where you’re trying to project, utilizing what’s called an ultra short throw projection. This means that moving objects won’t get in the way of your projector, and you don’t have to worry about mounting your projector to the ceiling or as a permanent fixture in your home.
And once you have your image set up, what an image it is. The VAVA can spawn a screen up to 150″ in size, much larger than anything you’ll find in terms of televisions on the market today, and everything is shown right in 4K. With a brightness level of 6000 lumens, the VAVA promises clear images in ambient lighting, so you don’t necessarily need to run out and buy blackout curtains for your room. As with any projector, you’re still going to want to dim bright lights from interfering with the image, but the light from a soft lamp shouldn’t get in the way of you enjoying a new movie in your home theater. This projector also supports HDR10-capable content, which should help keep your colors rich and accurate.
Although most people buying a projector as expensive as this will likely be looking to invest in a killer sound system as well, VAVA hasn’t let the sound of their unit gone unnoticed. 60W speakers from Harman Kardon that sound loud and clear. They can’t compare with expensive soundbars or Dolby Atmos setups, but when compared to budget soundbars under $200, the VAVA manages to come out on top.
All in all, it’s hard to beat VAVA’s projector if you’re looking to build your own personal home theater. Ultra short throw projection is a total game changer, and while $2,800 is by no means cheap, it is affordable for many home theater enthusiasts, and compares well to high-end televisions on the market today. And with an estimated life span of 25,000 hours (nearly three straight years of projection), the bulb should last through plenty of movie marathons before it needs to be replaced.
- Incredible picture
- Fast setup
- Projects up to 150"
- It's expensive
- Sound can't compete with high-end audio systems
- Startup brand
While ultra short throw projection may be the future, some may not be willing to commit to a new layout—especially if you’ve already used a projector in your home and you’re looking to just replace an older unit. If that’s you, Optoma’s UHD60 True 4K is the projector for you. For $800 less than VAVA’s unit, you’re still getting a fantastic traditional projector. With 4K projection and 3,000 lumens of brightness, Optoma offers an incredible picture built for home theaters, and support for HDR10 technology all but guarantees deep blacks and brighter whites. Optoma supports both ceiling mounts and table placement, offering 1.6x zoom, throw ratios, and keystone correction to ensure your image appears correctly on the display.
Unfortunately, the Optoma does fall short of VAVA’s projector in a few key areas. 15,000s of lamp life is nothing to ignore, but it does come in far under the 25,000 hours supplied by VAVA. Likewise, despite the cheaper price of Optoma’s unit, you’ll have to make sure you pay up for a sound system, since the Optoma can’t handle audio at all. That said, the Optoma can handle screen sizes up to 302″, far greater than what we saw from VAVA, so if you’re looking to build the biggest screen possible, this is a great projector. Minor qualms aside, Optoma’s UHD60 remains our pick for the best traditional projector money can buy today. It’s well worth a look, even for those interested in VAVA’s short throw projection.
- Great traditional projector
- Fantastic picture
- Huge display area
- Shorter lamp life
- No sound system
Our cheapest projector on the list yet, BenQ’s TK800M is a fantastic 4K projector with a great, fun design to go with it. With a brightness level of 3,000 lumens and a high native contrast ratio, this traditional projector is able to work with an impressive number of leading media formats, and delivers truly rich and vibrant colors. The only downside to this projector putting such a heavy emphasis on color depth, however, is that tones can occasionally become exaggerated. Most movie-watchers or gamers won’t find this to be much of an issue, but those who like their screenings to perfectly emulate the tones and contrasts of the original film may have their qualms. That said, it’s fantastic for sports fans, thanks to its rich colors and eye-popping images.
- Fun design
- Great for sports fans
- May be too oversaturated for movies
- Requires far distance from screen
Anker offers several different portable projectors in their Nebula line, and if money is no object, it’s hard to beat the Mars II Pro. At $549, this is an expensive projector, but if you’re looking to throw the best summer movie nights on the block, it’s the one to get. This is an absolute beast of a projector, capable of outputting a 720p image at 150 inches with 500 lumens of brightness. Dual 10W speakers along the sides of the projector negate the need for additional speakers. The built-in battery manages to power the Mars II for up to three hours, a notable decrease from the Apollo, but understandable considering the pure power of this thing. Still, if money is no object, this is the projector to get. Though at this rate, you might be better off waiting to see if Anker releases a full 1080p project in the next year or two.
- Great portable projector
- Loud speakers
- Low brightness
- Not worth it if you're not looking for portability
If you’re after an ultra short throw projector like our top pick, but you’re looking for something that comes from a known manufacturer, it’s hard to beat LG’s HF85LA. A unique form factor allows LG’s projector to display a 120″ image from just 8 inches away, so you never have to worry about ceiling mounts again. An insane 150,000:1 contrast ratio makes the image appear deep and colorful, but unfortunately, a few elements keep this from beating out VAVA’s unit for UST projection. First, LG’s projector is limited to 1080p, not 4K, despite the $1,600 price tag. Even worse, however, is the 1500 lumen rating that keeps the HF85LA from being useful in all but the darkest of rooms. Projection fans have grown used to keeping their media room dark, but you’ll still have to keep this in mind before picking up LG’s projector.
- Huge image from just 8" away
- TruMotion improves games
- 1080p resolution
- Dim brightness for UST