Last updated on December 10th, 2019 at 12:43 pm
Best cheap home projectors
Most people believe that projectors are luxury items. However, projectors are just as, if not more accessible than TVs. As such, we’ve compiled the best cheap home projectors of 2019 for your personal cinema.
Why a cheap home projector system?
When delving into the world of projection as a first time buyer, you’re more likely to purchase a cheaper projector. Of course, cheap is subjective, but in the world of unknown technology we like to keep it below $500.
There are a multitude of reasons as to why a cheap projector can be better, including:
- Flexibility to change back to TV
- Experimentation over projector types
- Technology progress devaluing your projector
- Breaking or damaging is less impactful
So, although cheap projectors do offer lesser specs than their 4k counterparts, they have a multitude of benefits that counter this loss. So without further ado, let us delve into the best cheap home projectors of 2019.
Top pick: Optoma HD243x 1080p Projector short
The Optoma HD243x projector is our top pick because of the huge Lumen rating (3,300 ANSI) and high contrast ratio of 24,000:1. This provides a huge amount of colour depth, whilst also ensuring the images can be viewed in mid level ambient lighting conditions. The single DLP chip (although not as desirable as a triple chip), undoubtedly plays into the crisp 1080p image this projector offers. However, some people are prone to seeing the rainbow effect on DLP projectors, so before purchasing it’s best you ensure you don’t fall into that minority.
The projector weighs only 7 pounds and comes with a 1.1 zoom feature, meaning the installation process is quick and easy. Although definitely on the higher end of low budget, this projector comes with the features to validate the jump.
What we liked:
- High ANSI Lumen
- High quality
What we didn’t like:
- Higher budget
- Rainbow effect
Runner up: Hompow 2019 projector short
The Hompow is definitely one of the most under rated projectors currently available. As with the HD243x, the Hompow comes with 1080p native resolution (1920×1080). Not only will this provide crisp images, but in combination with 5000:1 contrast ratio, can provide huge depth colour. It’s important to note that neither the contrast ratio or brightness of this device are ANSI accredited.
The Hompow also comes with vertical keystone correction, which ensures your screen is properly aligned. In addition the projected screen size can reach between 50 – 240 inches, which makes it perfect for an immersive home cinema experience.
What we liked:
- Big screen size
- High contrast ratio
- High quality
What we didn’t like:
- No ANSI methods of Lumen or Contrast
Budget pick: Yaber Native 1080p projector short
The Yaber Native projector LCD capabilities allow it to create high contrasting images at it’s price point, with a contrast ratio of 8000:1. To put this into perspective, a contrast ratio of 2000:1 is considered excellent when viewing in dark conditions. This 1080p buys you some set-up flexibility, with both zoom and lens tilt features. The zoom lens allows you to minimise the screen by up to 50%, giving you more flexibility to place the projector in an area that suits you. On the other hand, the lens tilt features allow you to avoid the keystone effect.
However, although the Yaber Native claims a Lumen rating of 6000, this is not ANSI tested and is more likely to sit at around 1000-1500 ANSI Lumens*. The speakers in this projector although present, are not great. However, the LED light source will save you on electrical costs.
What we liked:
- Energy saving
- Long bulb life
- High image quality
- Lens zoom
What we didn’t like:
- Not ANSI tested
Best cheap home projectors: How did we pick them?
Home cinema systems have a hugely different needs to business projectors or cinema projectors. As such, we based our considerations on the following factors:
- Lumen rating
- Resolution and contrast
- Aspect ratio
- Lens zoom and tilt
Throughout this guide, we ensured that the cinema systems we picked were a reflection of the below details specifications. As such, we can recommend them to you with the highest level of confidence in their ability based on specification.
Home cinema: Lumen rating
Usually with home cinema systems we can control the surrounding environment. Because we can control lighting conditions, the projector won’t need a high Lumen count.
This means in general projectors for the home need lower a lower Lumen count. Depending on expected lighting conditions these are the minimum and maximum recommended ANSI Lumens:
|Lighting condition||Minimum ANSI Lumen rating||Maximum ANSI Lumen rating|
|Home theatre||No ambient light||2000||2300|
|Home theatre||Low ambient light||2300||2500|
|Home theatre||Mid ambient light||2500||3000|
Home cinema resolution and contrast:
Of course, one of the biggest factors for having a good home cinema is resolution. Watching TV and films should require your projector to be 1080p minimum.
Further to this, home cinema systems need high contrast levels. Contrast levels show the number of grey shades in between the whitest white and blackest black.
Because of this, having high contrast means there are more grey shades shown in between black and white. This is important as there will be a wider array of shades available and thus your images will have a higher colour depth.
This will allow you to view darker scenes in more detail.
The minimum contrast level we recommend for a home cinema is 1000:1.
This details the ratio of the image displayed. Most TV shows are in 16:9 ratio and most films are shot in 2.35:1 or 1.85:1.
If you’re going to watch a mixture of film and TV, it’s best to make sure your home cinema set-up has a 16:9 ratio.
Tilt shift and lens zoom
Lens zoom and tilt shift will help you position and align your screen without having to move your projector.
Lens zoom helps you zoom the screen size in, meaning you don’t need to position your projector at its exact throw ratio.
Tilt allows you to move the screen up, down, left and right. As a result, tilt means you can properly align your screen if your projector isn’t exactly centered.
For cheap home cinema systems, it’s undeniable that laser projectors are not going to be featured. As such, lamp based LCD and DLP projectors are the way forward.
LCD projector systems tend to have higher contrast levels because they don’t use a spinning colour wheel. For details on how exactly LCD projectors work, check out our projector guide.
However, some DLP projectors offer great features, such as energy saving mode and long bulb life expectancy.
Either of these options will be sure to deliver great home cinema quality on a budget.
Top pick: Optoma HD243x 1080p Projector
The HD243x produces excellently crisp images with accurate colours, which is more than other projectors at its price point. This is in part to the huge contrast ratio (24,000:1) that this projector offers, meaning that even in dark scenes, the details remain sharp. The colour saturation is invigorated by the 3,300 ANSI lumen rating, which ensures that the image is easy to see even in medium ambient lighting conditions. Overall, the projector really delivers on image quality for its low price.
The Optomas HD243x Lumen rating means not only can it be seen in varying lighting conditions, but that it offers compatibility with larger screen sizes. This means that even when used for large screens, using a lux meter to measure, it will still produce a high lumen rating. As a result, the projector is also compatible for outside use.
As we mentioned previously, the 24,000:1 contrast ratio is a force to be reckoned with. This is an incredible feature as a lot of projectors at higher price points will only reach 800:1 contrast levels. The difference in the black level is incredible when compared to other similar models. Of course, in combination with its native 1080p resolution, watching films on this device is a delight.
The projector has a throw ratio of between 1.47 – 1.62, meaning that if you want to use a 100 inch screen, you will need to sit the projector between 147 and 162 inches away. It’s recommended to place the screen closer and use the zoom feature to adjust the screen to fit. Generally speaking, the further away the screen is placed, the greater it limits your screen options.
The zoom lens itself is 1.1, meaning there isn’t too much flexibility with screen correction. However, at this price point we can’t complain that resources went into more functional aspects of the projector. Although the projector also offers vertical keystone correction, we would have preferred lens shift. This is because keystone correction can often rob you of screen space.
The HD234x has a maximum lamp life of 12,000 hours, however it will dim over time. It’s important to consider that there is no promise of a minimum lamp life on this projector (meaning you’re on your own if it dies out of warranty). However, the current cost of replacement isn’t too high at around $90. When you buy a replacement lamp it’s always important to try and buy directly from the manufacturer.
Some noteworthy points:
- The inbuilt audio for this projector is good. However, we would recommend on splurging out on surround sound and not relying on the inbuilt system.
- For gaming there is only a 16ms delay. This means that if you’re playing online, there will be no noticeable difference that will hinder your gameplay.
- There is a 10 second warm up period and a 30 second cool down period for this projector. However, this is common amongst lamp based projector models.
- The Lumen rating is high at 3,300 ANSI Lumens. This projector is best used in “eye comfort” mode to reduce eye fatigue.
What we didn’t like
The HD234x is a great projector at its price, but it’s not perfect. The projector runs on a single chip DLP it uses an RGBCYW colour wheel. Not only does this mean the projector is prone to the rainbow effect, but the noise of the wheel in combination with the fan can be pretty high.
Not everyone is prone to the rainbow effect, only a small minority. It’s important to check if it impacts you before making a purchase. It’s important to note that if you’re prone to seeing the rainbow effect, no DLP projector will be a solution for you. Instead, try an LCD or Laser projector.
Runner up: Hompow 2019 projector long
The Hompow is definitely a worthy runner up to the Optoma and in many ways challenges the Optoma’s price point. Although lower in price, the Hompow projector provides clear, crisp images in low ambient lighting conditions. This however is where it falls short of Optoma’s ability to project well in most lighting conditions.
Although the Hompow states 5000 Lumens, it doesn’t specify whether these are ANSI Lumens. This means that Hompow has used unregulated methods to provide a Lumen count. Although this sounds scary, these are just the marketing Lumens a company provides to compete with others. Realistically the projectors ANSI lumen count is around 1000. This means that the projector is only viewable in low lighting conditions. As a result, this makes it an excellent choice for keeping in a dedicated cinema room.
The contrast ratio for the Hompow sits at 5000:1, although also not verified by ANSI. However, ANSI or otherwise, measured contrast ratios fall relatively close to each other. This means the lowest ANSI rating this projector could fall to around 3000:1, still making it great for its price. The Hompow provides huge levels of black tones as a result of this, although not as high as Optoma.
Because the Homepow is an LCD projector, it won’t become subject to the rainbow effect. This makes it a great alternative low-price projector. In combination with this, the Hompow uses LED as a light source. LEDs are often more shock resistant and consume lower energy than traditional lamps. Furthermore, LEDs have a longer lamp life, with the Homepow offering 80,000 hours.
One word of warning with this: LEDs are extremely difficult (if at all possible) to replace. This means when LEDs break, the projector is done for good.
A huge downfall of this projector is its mounting ability. The Homepow only provide “legs” for the projector with no ceiling mounting features. Although this makes it great for portability, the projector could become a hassle to hang. It would either need to sit on a back shelf (dependent on room size) or table.
Budget pick: Yaber Native 1080p projector Long
If you only use a projector occasionally, the Yaber Native 1080p projector won’t set you back by much. With a contrast ratio of 8000:1, this projector offers a wide variety of depth in colour that’s sure to allow you to see darker movie scenes with ease. The Optoma HD243x is the best projector for view ability in all light conditions and surpasses the Yaber Native.
This is due to the Yaber Native not using ANSI Lumen ratings, instead it uses an unregulated method to calculate their Lumens.
Unregulated Lumen rating is especially seen in LED projectors as often these energy saving bulbs produce less light than traditional lamps. The 6000 Lumen rating in the Yaber is more “marketable” than its true ANSI Lumen rating. At a guess, the ANSI rating of the Yaber would be around 1000-1500 Lumens.
This makes it a great projector to use in minimal ambient lighting conditions, but not likely to produce the best results for daytime watching. For watching movies though, this projector is a great choice. It offers native 1080p quality, with no pixel shifting tricks other projector brands use to hit resolution numbers.
It’s worth mentioning that the Yaber Native projector uses “mirror” technology to produce an image. Although this does this job, you need to ensure the content streamed is 1080p to enjoy this. Of course, the image displayed isn’t as clear as higher priced projectors and has some image blur around its edges. However, in regard to other projectors in this price bracket, the Yaber Native really holds its own.
A noteworthy fault of this projector is the noise the inbuilt fan produces. If just used alongside the projectors native features, after a while of watching it can become a bit of distraction. Further to this, the projector also has a multitude of plugin options.
Yaber Native overview
In the grand scheme of things, if you’re watching the occasional film on this projector, it does the job. If you’re going to be using this projector on a nightly basis, it’s perhaps better investing in a brighter projector. One thing to note is that although this projector is a good solution for a home cinema use, it is not recommended for gaming. This is due to the input lag the projector has (around 1 second), which can hinder online gaming.
Perhaps one of the most nifty little projectors we’ve seen on the market is Ankers Nebule Capsule. It is by no means going to provide the best quality video or audio, however its sleek design, size and portability are a feat of technology.
If you’re looking for a projector to take on vacation, keep in the kids room or stream to from your phone, this is your solution.
This little DLP projector offers 100 ANSI lumens, which although low, will be fine in zero ambient lighting conditions. Perhaps the coolest feature about this projector is that it runs on its own operating system. Similarly to a smart TV or your phone, the Nebule Capsule can connect itself to Netflix or Youtube and stream directly. It’s some pretty incredible specs for something the size of a coke can.
Of course, the Nebule Capsule also offers surround sound speakers, which means it truly provides an all in one device.
However, this device should not be considered good enough to be your main projector. That doesn’t mean that it’s not good enough to be a bedroom projector or one for the kids. One thing this little projector does prove though: the future of projectors should be all in one systems.
Owning a projector is awesome, but if you are confused about any terminology we used, check out our:
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