Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: June 12, 2021
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When you want to watch a movie or play video games at home, while capturing the same experience that you get at a movie theater, the best thing you can do is upgrade from a television to a projector. With a projector, your screen size is highly adjustable and limited primarily by the size of your wall, which is much bigger than any standard television. While projectors can be much pricier than comparable televisions, there are a number of projectors under $1000 that come with many of the high-end features.
In order to find the best projector under $1000, we reviewed many of the top-selling projectors in this price range and looked specifically at features that differentiate the best projectors from their inexpensive competitors. For example, we looked at what display technologies these projectors offered, and how that impacted the brightness and contrast of the projected picture. We also considered factors like resolution and throw distance, which impacts how large a screen you can project and the quality of the picture displayed.
We spent tens of hours reviewing projectors under $1000, poring over customer reviews and technical specifications in order to identify the projectors that stood apart from the pack. We came away with seven projectors, listed in the table below, that we feel are great value for those looking for a high-quality projector on a budget. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each projector, complete with pros and cons. Our buying guide and FAQ sections cover everything you need to consider when choosing a projector, and, specifically, a projector under $1000. Finally, we sum up our top three favorite projectors for under $1000.
Users rave about this moderately priced projector from BenQ for its crisp, clear picture quality. There are a number of features that set this DLP projector apart. First, the projector is capable of projecting 3D movies and games (when used with 3D glasses), which is especially great for kids. Second, the projector has an extremely low input lag among projectors in this price range – just 16 milliseconds, making it a fantastic gaming projector: it’s possible to play fast-paced video games on this projector without experiencing video delays. Third, the 100-inch screen size at a distance of 8.2 feet means that you can easily project an enormous display within the range of most standard living rooms. However, if you are planning to show movies on a large wall outside, note that the 180-inch maximum screen size is significantly smaller than other projectors we reviewed.
The projector also sports additional features like 2D keystone correction and has a calibration depending on whether you are viewing during the day – when ambient light is abundant – or at night. The latter is particularly helpful, since the underwhelming 2,200 lumens of brightness can struggle and result in reduced contrast in well-lit rooms. That said, this projector excels at displaying colors, largely thanks to the 6x speed dual RGB color wheels that enable to projector to cover 96% of the Rec. 709 standard color range.
The projector also comes with a three-year warranty from BenQ, among the longest warranties found for projectors in this price range.
Although slightly more expensive than the HT2050A from BenQ, this projector takes many of the same design features that users loved and combines them into an even more powerful package. The projector is built with the same 3D DLP technology found on the HT2050A projector, including the same 2,200 lumens of brightness, a 15,000:1 contrast ratio, and the same 6x speed dual RGB color wheels for crisp, accurate color representation. Importantly, the projector also sports the same 16 millisecond lag time that enables this to be a great choice for gaming.
Where this projector goes above and beyond the HT2050A is in the throw ratio. This projector is able to produce a 100-inch display at only 4.9 feet from the screen, which is among the most impressive throws we have found on a projector under $1000, meaning it could replace your television in a small room as well as your living room. Note, however, that the maximum screen size of this projector is only 120 inches, as opposed to the 180 inches or more found on most other projectors.
Another advantage of this projector, especially for a small room where surround sound options are limited, is the inclusion of two 10-watt speakers to provide sound. This can save you money on building out an audio connection later, especially if you do not need crisp and clear audio.
Unlike the long three-year warranty found on the HT2050A, this projector comes with only a one-year warranty from BenQ.
This 3LCD projector from Epson was designed with presentations, rather than movies and gaming, in mind, but it works well for all purposes thanks to the high brightness and solid contrast. The key to this projector is the 3,600 lumens of light that the lamp puts out, which enables the projected display to be seen clearly, even in rooms with a significant amount of ambient light. The 15,000:1 contrast ratio is relatively low for an LCD projector but provides plenty of detail and clarity for presentations. A major downside to this projector that users note is the fan noise – this projector is significantly louder than its competitors, that are designed specifically for watching movies.
The projector is capable of producing a screen size of up to 300 inches, which is perfect if you need to give a large company presentation or are hosting a group movie viewing. Another advantage built into the design is the wireless mirroring to a laptop or mobile device using Miracast, although like the Home Cinema 2150 from Epson, this works only with Windows and Android devices – other devices can be connected via an HDMI cable. Users also loved the fast wireless setup for mobile devices, which uses QR codes to connect the projector to your device with minimal hassle.
This projector sports 10,000 hours of lamp life – far better than the 4,000 hours found on the 2150 projector from Epson – and comes with the same one-year limited warranty.
Users love the image quality on this 3D DLP projector from Optoma. The projector sports a whopping 3,500 lumens of brightness to keep the contrast strong even in brightly lit rooms, while the contrast ratio of 32,000:1 ensures that you will get all of the detail out of your movies and games. Although the projector has an input lag time of 32 milliseconds, twice that of the BenQ projectors, users experienced little delay in the picture when using it to play fast-paced video games.
Like for the HD29Darbee, some users struggled with the long throw of this projector. There is no zoom ring or horizontal keystone adjustment, so before purchasing, it is essential that you consider whether you have 15 feet or more of throw in the room where you plan to place this projector, and whether it can be directly centered on the screen. That said, the maximum screen size of 370 inches at 1080p was the largest that we found among projectors under $1000. That, combined with the high brightness, makes this the ideal projector for hosting large viewing parties outside in your backyard in the evening.
This projector also has the longest lamp life among the projectors we reviewed, at 15,000 hours. Although this might not seem important, this can save hundreds of dollars in the replacement lamps over the lifetime of this projector, compared to projectors with lamps that last only 7,000 hours or less. Optoma also offers a one-year warranty on this projector to protect your purchase.
What makes it special?
3,500 lumens brightness and 32,000:1 contrast ratio
Despite selling for a bargain price, this 3D-capable DLP projector from Optoma sports tremendous brightness and contrast for a spectacular picture quality. The 3,200 lumens of brightness are able to overcome significant ambient light levels, which makes this projector a great choice for daytime viewing in living rooms with a lot of windows and light-colored blinds. Plus, the 30,000:1 contrast ratio is among the best contrast ratios found on projectors under the $1000 price point. However, where this projector cuts corners is in the color wheels – compared to the 6x speed color wheels found on the BenQ projectors, the color wheels in this projector are only 2x speed.
An important point to consider about this projector, and part of what makes it so inexpensive, is the throw. Although the projector is capable of producing up to a 305-inch screen, indoor users with smaller living rooms may struggle to create enough distance between the screen and projector to create a 100-inch or larger screen. For reference, users note that the projector requires a 17-foot throw in order to produce a 144-inch screen. A nice advantage to this projector is that it comes with a 40° vertical keystone adjustment, although there is no horizontal keystone adjustment.
Although the projector does not come with a built-in speaker, users appreciate that the fan is relatively quiet and that it is easy to connect a wired speaker for audio output. The projector comes with a limited one-year warranty and Optoma estimates an 8,000-hour lifespan for the lamp.
What are its best features?
3,200 lumens of brightness and 30,000:1 contrast ratio
Users love this extraordinarily modestly priced projector from Epson, a company known in the projector world and beyond for its deep colors and image quality. In comparison to the DLP-based BenQ projectors, this Epson model uses 3LCD technology that has no rainbow effect and offers a significantly higher contrast ratio of 60,000:1 – making it the most contrast-rich projector that we reviewed for under $1000. The 2,500-lumen brightness is not quite enough to overcome significant amounts of ambient light, but the contrast ratio is so high that most users do not notice the loss of clarity, even in brightly lit rooms.
The projector is capable of producing up to a 300-inch screen at 1080p, which makes this projector a great candidate for hosting viewing parties in your backyard and projecting onto a massive screen. The projector requires 11 feet of throw to produce a 132-inch display, so it will work well for large living rooms, but may disappoint in smaller rooms, where there is less throw distance to work with.
Another feature that users loved from this Epson projector is the inclusion of wireless casting technology via Miracast. However, note that Miracast is only available on Windows and Android devices, not on Apple devices. The projector also has a 10-watt speaker built in, although you will likely want to add additional speakers to hear audio clearly over the fan. Epson offers a one-year limited warranty on the projector to protect your purchase.
Another 3D DLP projector from BenQ to make our list of favorite projectors under $1000, this compact and quiet projector is somewhat different from the HT2050A and the HT2150ST. The projector still brings 15,000:1 contrast and dual RGB color wheels, but only 2,000 lumens of brightness – which means this projector can struggle to produce vivid colors and detail, even when there is a moderate amount of ambient light. One important factor that users noted is that the projector is virtually free of a rainbow effect, which can cause serious headaches for some users on other DLP projectors. The projector has a slightly better throw than the HT2050A, producing a 100-inch display at 8.4 feet from the screen, and is capable of producing up to a 180-inch screen at a resolution of 1080p.
What really makes this projector stand out out is the cooling fan system. BenQ designed this projector to have one of the least noisy fan systems among projectors in this class, which, when combined with the built-in 20-watt stereo speaker, means you’ll be able to hear your movie rather than the projector. Users hardly noticed the projector was there at all, even after hours of watching movies and the projector heating up.
The projector comes with a one-year warranty from BenQ and users note that the 7,000-hour lamp life appears to be accurate – some users report using the projector daily for multiple years before the lamp needs to be replaced.
What makes it stand out?
Extremely quiet fan
Built-in 20-watt speaker
Crisp, clear picture under dark conditions
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Only 2,000 lumens brightness
Things to Consider
Now that you have read more about our seven favorite projectors that retail for under $1000, how do you choose among them to find the projector that is right for you? Especially for people just switching from a television to a projector for the first time, understanding the many technical specifications that are associated with projectors, and determining which of them matter for your needs, can be difficult. Our Buying Guide will highlight the most important features to consider when choosing a projector, and explain what each of these specifications means in real terms. In addition, we will answer several of the most frequently asked questions that beginners often have when switching to a projector.
What to expect from a projector for under $1000?
Projector prices can be nearly unlimited at the upper end of the spectrum, but what can you expect from a reasonably priced projector that sells for under $1000 – especially compared to a television in the same price range? Certainly, projectors under $1000 do not offer the same crystal-clear picture or the brilliant colors of more expensive projectors. But that doesn’t mean they don’t provide excellent picture quality.
First, the main advantage of a projector over a television is that the screen size of a projector is limited only by the size of the wall you are projecting onto. For under $1000, that is a significant difference, since under that price point you will be forced to choose from televisions that are relatively limited in screen size. You can expect plenty of color and contrast to produce a realistic image on your wall, as well as projector lamps that are designed to last for thousands of hours, in addition to low fan noise.
The downsides to projectors under $1000, compared both to televisions and more expensive projectors, are the resolution, brightness, and picture quality.
There are few quality 4K projectors available for under $1000, while there are plenty of small televisions in this price range capable of 4K resolution. That said, most movies and video games are still produced in 1080p, so you will not notice a huge difference due to the limited resolution.
More important is the brightness – lower priced projectors are not as bright as more expensive projectors or televisions. While this might not matter at night, during the day it can make it relatively difficult to see the projector picture clearly, even when the window blinds are closed and the lights turned off. Brightness is one of the major advantages that you pay for in pricier projectors.
Finally, the picture quality, in terms of the contrast and color quality, suffers slightly in projectors under $1000, compared to more expensive projectors. While this is not an issue for most people who are buying a projector for the first time, it can make it difficult to go back to a less expensive projector after using a higher quality unit.
The two main types of technologies used to project a picture in modern projectors are DLP – digital light processing – and LCD – liquid crystal display. Although LED technology is also found in some projectors, the seven projectors we reviewed do not use this technology. DLP projectors use a panel of mirrors, each representing one pixel, to point light towards or away from the screen. Some DLP projectors, like the projectors from Optoma, incorporate 3D technology, which allows you to use 3D glasses with 3D-ready movies, to create the effect of images popping off the screen towards you. DLP is the technology used by most of the projectors found in movie theaters.
LCD projectors use the same technology found in most modern televisions. LCDs have no moving parts inside and thus are typically less expensive than DLP projectors.
When it comes to picture quality, the display technology used in the projector matters to some extent, although the specifications of the particular projector in question are the defining factor. In general, DLP projectors are brighter than their LCD counterparts, but do not have nearly the same contrast ratio to produce a crisp picture. Another advantage to DLP projectors is that they refresh extremely quickly, so that there is no motion blur effect when fast action is happening on screen.
Brightness, contrast, and resolution
Projector brightness is measured in lumens and is one of the factors that most differentiates projectors under $1000 from each other and from more expensive projectors. More brightness is typically better, as the projector image will be able to overpower ambient light, making the picture is easier to see. Brightness is significantly more important if you plan to use your projector in a room with numerous windows, during the daytime, with the lights on, or outside. As a rule of thumb, projector spaces with a significant amount of ambient light require a projector with at least 3,000 lumens – such as the projectors from Optoma and the Epson Pro EX9220 – to allow you to see the picture clearly.
Contrast is another extremely important factor in picture quality, and is typically measured as a ratio of how much brighter the white images are than the black images. In general, a higher contrast ratio indicates a better picture quality since the projector will have a wider dynamic range and allow you to see more shades of colors and light in the projected image. However, the difference between a high-contrast and low-contrast projector will be negligible if there is ambient light in the room.
Resolution is another important factor in the projector picture, although all of the projectors that we reviewed offer the same 1920 x 1080 resolution. This resolution indicates the number of pixels in the projector – a higher resolution would allow finer detail in the projection of light and color.
Keystone correction is a useful feature if there is a possibility that you might use your projector at an angle to your screen – not something that is likely to be the case in your home theater, but important if you plan to move your projector around. Keystone correction rectifies the projection of the image so that it appears rectangular and non-distorted when it reaches the screen. Keystone correction can be performed manually, although in most modern DLP and LCD projectors the correction is performed automatically by an algorithm. The amount of correction varies widely between projectors, from 12 degrees to as much as 35 degrees.
The throw distance defines how far away your projector must be in order to produce a specific screen size. For example, a projector with a throw ratio of 2 will produce a 10-foot wide image when it is placed five feet away from the screen. For this reason, smaller throw ratios are typically favored – you can project a larger image without having to move the projector quite as far from the screen. This is particularly important for home theaters, where the distance that you can put between the screen or wall and the projector is often the limiting factor in image size. Throw distances are typically rated as a range, since the projector allows a range of focus distances for whatever distance you use.
The screen size of a projector is rated for the smallest and largest image sizes that projector can project, while retaining 1920 x 1080 resolution and a clear picture. Typically, the projector will produce the best picture somewhere in the middle of this range. When considering maximum and minimum screen size, be sure to think about where you are most likely to use the projector and whether the wall or screen you will use is large enough to accommodate the minimum recommended screen size.
Warranty and lamp life
Even under $1000, a projector is a major investment and you want to know that it will be protected. Manufacturers vary widely in whether they offer a warranty on their projectors and the length of their warranties. One-year warranties are typical among projectors in this price range, although the BenQ 2050A projector comes with a three-year warranty.
In addition, the lamps that power these projectors do not have unlimited lives. Lamps typically last for several thousand hours before they must be replaced, although some lamps – like that found on the Optoma HD39Darbee – last for a whopping 15,000 hours.
Some projectors come with design features, like a powerful cooling system, that can add additional value and reduce the chances of burning out your projector. In addition, if you know that portability is important to you, be sure to look for a small and compact projector that is easy to connect and has long wires.
How do you set up a projector?
For better or worse, a projector is not quite as easy to set up as a television and you must consider a few additional factors.
First, the room in which you will set up your projector needs to be as dark as possible with the lights off, in order to preserve the contrast in the picture.
You also need to think about the size of the wall or screen that you will project onto – it needs to be larger than the minimum screen size of the projector and, ideally, as large as possible, so that you can project a larger image. Part of this calculation is determining how far back you can move the projector from the screen as well – you need a clear path from the projector to the screen to avoid shadows on the projection.
Also consider that your projector is likely designed to be placed vertically in the middle of the projected image, so you will need a table or stand on which to place the projector.
Once you have the projector in the right place, you can use an HDMI cable or Wi-Fi connection to connect to your computer or phone, and then adjust the focus of the image using the dials on the projector itself.
In general, you will get the best picture quality and contrast from your projector if the room you are in is as dark as possible. However, a projector with a higher brightness will be better able to overcome ambient light than projectors with less bright pictures. For rooms with a lot of ambient light, projectors rated to more than 3,000 lumens are best. In addition, shrinking the image size will typically increase the brightness of the image.
All modern projectors are compatible with Apple devices. All Apple laptops have video out ports, either as an HDMI out port or a Thunderbird port. Since most projectors use an HDMI connection, you will need an inexpensive adapter if connecting through the Thunderbird port. You can also rout the laptop’s video signal through an A/V receiver rather, than connecting directly to the projector.
In order to use 3D glasses with your projector, you need a projector that has 3D technology to produce separate images for the left and right eyes. Some DLP projectors are designed with 3D display technology to take advantage of 3D glasses and give the impression of the image popping off the screen. Note also that the movie you are playing must be designed to play in 3D.
The lamp that produces the light within the projector does not have an unlimited life, and lamp life varies widely among projectors from less than 10,000 hours to 15,000 hours or more. Of the projectors that we reviewed, the longest lamp life was found on the Optoma HD39Darbee.
Our overall favorite projectors were the HT2050A and HT2150ST from BenQ and the Home Cinema 2150 from Epson. All three of these projectors offered incredible picture quality and a number of easy-to-use additional features that set them apart from the pack. The Epson projector had the best contrast out of any projector under $1000 that we reviewed, with a 60,000:1 contrast ratio and stunning color. Meanwhile, the two BenQ projectors offered 16-millisecond input lag times, making them excellent choices for gamers. While the brightness on all three of these projectors could have been higher, the picture quality is unbeatable in appropriately dark rooms. In addition, the HT2150ST has an extraordinarily short throw – producing a 100-inch screen at 4.9 feet – that makes it perfect for small rooms. Overall, we felt the HT2050A from BenQ was the best projector under $1000 thanks to its incredible value and the addition of a three-year warranty.