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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Home Theater Projectors

    Have you ever wanted a movie theater experience in your own home, without the eye-watering cost of a giant-screen television set? If so, a home theater projector is your new best friend.

    The big question is, how do you find the right home theater projector for your living room?

    You can find a wide variety on the market, each with its own features, pros, and cons, so the purchasing process can become overwhelming – especially if you're not entirely sure what you want from a projector.

    Here's the good news, though: we at BestReviews are here to help! We test products in our labs, talk to experts, analyze data, and examine the opinions of existing customers — all to bring you fair and thorough reviews you can trust.

    Above, you'll find our top five home theater projectors, so when you're ready to buy, navigate there for a selection of great choices.

    But first, read our handy guide, below. It will tell you more about home theater projectors and how to find the perfect one to fit your individual requirements.

    A home theater projector can give you a true cinema experience in your own home; and you don't have to pay exorbitant prices for popcorn, either.

    Why Buy a Home Theater Projector?

    If you're still deciding whether or not a home theater projector is right for you, here are some reasons why we think it's an excellent purchase.

    • If you like to entertain guests, a home theater projector ensures your Super Bowl screenings or Oscar parties are the best on the block.

    • You can easily project a 120-inch video with a home theater projector. A TV that size costs over $100,000.

    • Many people find watching a larger image to be easier on the eyes, as well as more immersive.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Optoma HD142X DLP Home Theater Projector

    Performance

    The Optoma HD142X Home Theater Projector provides an impressive contrast ratio of 23,000:1. At 3,000 lumens, brightness is also above average, with a bulb that is good for 8,000 hours. Chip type, which governs the way the colors are displayed, is DLP (Digital Light Processing), and while DLP hasn’t advanced the way LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) has over the last few years, it's still capable of producing an excellent color range. The owners we surveyed love how easy it is to focus the image for a quick, sharp picture.

    All About Lumens

    Lumens are the units used to measure the brightness of a home theater projector.

    The amount of lumens you need from your home theater projector depends on the environment in which you'll be projecting video.

    If you intend to use your projector in a lighted room, a projector that produces too few lumens won't project an image bright enough to show up properly.

    EXPERT TIP

    Ensure you choose a projector with enough lumens for the environment in which you intend to use your projector – the brighter the room, the more lumens you need.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    • Dedicated home theaters, with controlled lighting and no ambient light, only need a projector that produces a minimum of 1,000 lumens.

    • Rooms with a little ambient light need a projector that produces at least 1,500 to 2,500 lumens (depending on the amount of light, and whether you can darken the room using drapes or blackout shades).

    • Rooms with a lot of ambient light need a projector producing at least 3,000 lumens.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Epson Home Cinema 5040UBe WirelessHD

    Features

    The Epson 5040UB Projector uses dual brightness technology with 2,500 lumens for both color and white light. Contrast ratio is a whopping 1,000,000:1, a much higher ratio than most other models. The Epson 5040UB features three LCDs for color which, according to the manufacturer, yield colors that are three times brighter than DLP models. Epson provides two different statistics for estimated lamp life: 4,000 hours normally and 5,000 hours using the Eco setting.

    Resolution and Image Quality

    Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image or frame of a video, and this is directly linked to image quality — the more pixels, the higher the quality of the image.

    Home theater projectors come in a range of resolutions, the most common being 1280 x 720, 1280 x 800, 1920 x 1080, and 4096 x 2160 (more often referred to as 4K, or ultraHD).

    Resolution makes more of a difference when blowing a video up to a large size using a home video projector than it would on a smaller screen, so we recommend budgeting for a projector with the highest resolution you can afford.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Aspect Ratio

    Aspect ratio is the shape of the rectangle projected by a home theater projector. Take, for example, the aspect ratio of HDTV, which is 16:9. This means the projected rectangle has 16 units of width for every 9 units of height.

    Home theater projectors have a "native aspect ratio," meaning the ratio is fixed and can't be changed.

    So, if you watch a movie or TV show filmed in 4:3 on a projector with a native aspect ratio of 16:9, parts of the side will be blacked out. You’ll see the full picture of the video you're watching, but it won't take up the full width of the screen.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    BenQ W1080 DLP Home Theater Projector

    Technology

    In terms of size and weight, the BenQ W1080 Home Theater Projector isn't the smallest on the market, but it's not difficult to move around, either. The BenQ sports built-in, 10-watt speakers and a standby mode (Eco Blank) that turns the screen to black if no source is detected after three minutes. Some critics claim that DLP technology hasn't made the advances that LCD has, but BenQ argues that their interpretation delivers long-lasting, high-quality imagery with great clarity.

    While you can watch a video of any aspect ratio on a projector of a different aspect ratio, the image will be at its biggest and best when displayed at the same aspect ratio as it was filmed.

    Since different TV and movie formats are filmed in different aspect ratios, it's best to pick a projector that matches the aspect ratio of whatever format you watch most frequently.

    Most people opt for a projector with a 16:9 aspect ratio, but if you mostly watch contemporary movies, a 2.40:1 projector might make more sense.

    Pick a projector with an appropriate aspect ratio for whatever you watch most often. Old TV shows and classic movies are usually filmed in 4:3. Contemporary television and HDTV programs are filmed in 16:9, and most newer movies are filmed in 2.40:1.

    Lamp Life

    Home theater projectors rely on a lamp to produce the image, and these don't last forever. Replacement lamps are fairly pricey – usually around the $200 to $400 mark – so the lamp life of a projector is important.

    The longer the lamp life, the less often you'll need to replace it, and the less you'll spend.

    Lamp life is generally measured in hours, but it can vary by a significant amount, with some projectors offering a lamp life of about 3,000 hours. Others boast as much as 9,000 hours.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    ViewSonic PJD7720HD Home Theater Projector

    Ease of Use

    The ViewSonic DarkChip3 Home Theater Projector has a single HDMI connector and inputs for VGA, component, and S-video. It "supports" 3D, which is a slightly confusing statement. According to the manufacturer, you need active shutter (RF) 3D glasses, which are not supplied, plus 3D content and a 3D-enabled video card.

    While the cost of a replacement lamp might sound prohibitive to some, they do last longer than you might think.

    If you use your projector four hours per day (the U.S. TV-watching average), that's roughly 1,500 hours per year.

    So, even those projectors on the shorter end of the lamp life spectrum may only need a replacement once every couple of years, whereas those lamps with the longest life could last six years.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The listed lamp life of a projector refers to the half-life of the lamp. If the lamp life is 3,000 hours, it will actually last a total of 6,000 hours, but will gradually get weaker after the 3,000 hour mark. Most people replace lamps once they've reached their half-life.

    Tips

    • If your projector doesn't have enough lumens for the amount of ambient light in the room, try making the room darker using blackout shades, or only use the projector at night.

    • Find out the "throw distance" of your home theater projector – this is the distance it needs to be placed from the screen to get the best image – and place it accordingly.

    • Regular cleaning of the filters in your home theater projector will improve lamp life.

    • For optimal image quality, look for a projector that supports DEEP color. Before DEEP color, HDMI cables transmitted 16.7 million colors, compared to the 2,800 trillion colors supplied by DEEP color.

    EXPERT TIP

    Make sure you don't choose a model that produces too many lumens if you have a dedicated, blacked-out home theater – the screen will be too bright to look at. We recommend no more than 2,000.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Home Theater Projector Price

    The average cost of a home theater projector varies depending on factors such as the resolution and amount of lumens.

    • A basic home theater projector with a reasonable resolution of 1920 x 1080, decent image quality, and at least 2,000 lumens should cost between $400 and $600. While you can find cheaper projectors than this, we don’t recommend them, due to their poor resolution and image quality.

    • A mid-range home theater projector should cost between $800 and $1,500. These may have more lumens and better image quality than basic projectors, though most will still have 1920 x 1080 resolution. That said, you may find some 4K models from lesser-known brands.

    • A high-end home theater projector should come from a known and trusted brand. It will have enough lumens to be used in bright rooms, and should have 4K Ultra HD resolution. These kinds of projectors tend to cost from $1,500 to more than $3,000.

    It's definitely worth spending a little extra to get a proper projection screen, instead of simply projecting video onto a wall.

    FAQ

    Q. Do I need a screen, as well as a projector?

    A. While you can project video onto a wall or a sheet, you'll get the best image quality if you project onto a dedicated projection screen. The good news is, they're fairly inexpensive: you can find 120-inch projection screens costing less than $50.

    Q. Should I ceiling-mount my home theater projector?

    A. Whether you mount your home theater projector on the ceiling or simply set it on a table is simply a personal preference – you'll find no difference in image quality. If you do choose to ceiling-mount it, the process is fairly simple. If you're unsure, you may prefer to get a professional to do the job for you. After all, you don't want your new gadget to go crashing to the floor because you haven't installed it correctly.

    Q. How can I avoid running lots of wires in and out of my projector?

    A. Most home theater projectors need to be plugged into your video sources using an HDMI or other cable. However, some models have a "wireless HDMI" option, which means you don't have to run cables into your projector, leaving your room looking much tidier.

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    When's a good time to go to the movies?
    Well if you're looking to watch an Oscar-winning Best Picture, you might as well skip the months of February through September.

    Since 1996, 82% of the movies that went on to win Best Picture were released within 4 months of the presentation of the Academy Awards held in February.

    It turns out that more than half of the winners were released during the two months preceding the Awards ceremony, with January (the month before the Oscars) having the highest total of best picture-winning releases.

    We offer two different explanations for these results.

    Theory 1:

    It's possible that releasing a movie in the few months preceding the Oscars gives the film an edge in terms of visibility with film critics and the 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the people who ultimately vote on the winners. These members, who are 77% male and have a median age of 62, may pay much less attention to movies released during the spring and summer months. However, as the Oscar buzz begins in the fall, film critics begin writing about their favorite movies, and the voters, who can be swayed by public opinion themselves, make their selections with an obvious bias towards the movies that are top of mind.

    Theory 2:

    Film studios that are gunning for the Best Picture award may selectively time their releases to take advantage of the fall and winter months preceding the Academy Awards. Best picture-aspiring movies are often targeted at older and more mature viewers, so film producers wait to debut these films until after the summer winds down and the movie-going audience shifts from children to adults.

    What's your theory?