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Is a projector the right gift for your favorite movie lover? Our tech expert weighs in

Expertly reviewed by Jaime Vazquez

Should you buy your movie-loving friends a projector?

Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to bring the theatrical experience to your home. Projectors are better and more affordable than ever, meaning they can be excellent gifts for the film buffs in your life. To learn more about gifting projectors, we sat down with our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez.

In this article: Epson Home Cinema 1080p Projector, Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K Projector and WeMax Nova 4K Ultra-Short Throw Smart Laser Projector

What to consider when buying a projector as a gift

Is a projector a better gift than a TV?

Projectors give people a movie theater experience. In many cases, they can produce screens up to 100 inches without taking up much space. "The projector market has turned a corner in the last few years," said Vazquez. "4K projectors are more common than ever, and the ultrashort throw market really took off in terms of the features and quality. Thanks to ultrashort throw technology, projectors are less cost-prohibitive and space-prohibitive than before."

Ultrashort throw projectors have a wide-angle lens and can be placed right in front of the projector screen or wall. These devices make ideal gifts since they can be used in nearly any space.

Features to consider

It's important to consider a projector's native resolution. Some projectors say they stream high-definition video, even though they actually upscale the content to HD. Upscaling is the process of making standard-definition content appear HD. Although upscaling improves the video quality, you won't get the exact resolution you would from a true HD projector. 

"If you want to set up a big theater in your backyard a few times a year, it may not need to look amazing," Vasquez said. "If you're building a regular-use setup, you should shoot for at least 1080p. If you're building a home theater, you'll want 4K video."

The recommended size is another important consideration. Many projectors say they're capable of projecting a 100-inch screen. Still, if the recommended screen size is 60 inches, anything larger than that will reduce video quality.

Buying projectors from well-known brands is ideal. Lesser-known brands are more likely to make projectors that aren't built to last.

Finally, you'll want to consider whether the gift receiver prefers an LED or a traditional bulb projector. Standard projectors often produce the highest-quality video, so they're likely a better choice for major film buffs. On the other hand, LED projectors last longer and may be better for those who only plan to use their projector a few times a year.

Do you need anything besides a projector to watch movies?

Many newer projectors have built-in streaming capabilities, meaning you won't need to plug in a laptop or phone. "My favorites are those with Android OS," said Vazquez. "As a streaming OS, it's super flexible and is compatible with most streaming services. Those with Apple Airplay are also great since they let you cast content from your Apple devices."

Many projectors have USB ports, so you can use a streaming device if yours doesn't have built-in streaming capabilities. 

Projector FAQ

Do you need a dark room to use a projector?

A. Vazquez said, "In general, they do better in dark rooms or rooms you can make dark. If you're in a big open space with a ton of windows and light, it probably won't look that good."

Can you tell the difference between a 4K projector and a 1080p projector?

A. 4K projectors will produce a higher-resolution video than a 1080p projector. Still, most 4K projectors are more expensive than those with 1080p resolution. You can always buy a 1080p model with 4K upscaling, although it won't look as good as native 4K.

Is there anything else you should consider when gifting a projector?

A. It's a good idea to consider how the gift receiver will use their device. If they have a small home, you'll probably want to buy them an ultrashort throw projector. If they'll use it outside, it may be best to prioritize durability. 

Consider their sound solutions as well. If they have a soundbar, it's a good idea to buy a compatible projector. On the other hand, if they don't own external speakers, you may want to buy a projector known for high-quality sound.

Projectors our expert recommends

Best budget projectors

Epson Home Cinema 1080p Projector

It's surprisingly easy to set up, and most were impressed with the picture quality. The top-notch contrast ratio means colors will stand out. It has HDMI and USB ports.

Sold by Amazon

WeMax Go Advanced Portable Smart Laser Projector

This features a compact design, making it easy to take on the go. It automatically calibrates the picture, so you don't have to worry about complicated settings menus. It has built-in streaming service capabilities and 1080p video resolution.

Sold by Amazon

BenQ HT2050A 1080P Home Theater Projector

This projector doesn't have a noticeable lag, making it ideal for gaming. It features two HDMI ports and a USB-A port. The picture and sound quality are impressive.

Sold by Amazon

Best high-end projectors

Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K Projector

This features a compact design and a handle for enhanced portability. It's available in 1080p or 4K configurations. It automatically adjusts the screen size to your viewing area. It has Android TV, so you'll never have to plug in a laptop or phone.

Sold by Amazon

Optoma GT5600 Ultrashort Throw Projector

It lets you mirror content from Android or iOS devices. The 1080p video quality looks crisp and clear. It can project a large screen that's 100 inches diagonally.

Sold by Amazon

WeMax Nova 4K Ultrashort Throw Smart Laser Projector

It can project screens as small as 80 inches or as large as 150 inches diagonally. The 4K resolution looks incredible. The ultrashort throw design means you don't need a large space to use it. It has Android OS and is compatible with most streaming services.

Sold by Amazon

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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