The 13 Best Projectors for Movies, Gaming and Live Sport

·15-min read
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Photo credit: *

So England didn’t manage to bring it home after all. We’re still struggling to get over it quite frankly, but at least we can now turn our attention towards Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics, and the home tech that will help us do it.

You'll want to catch every incredible sporting moment in as much detail as possible, and that means investing in a cinema-level experience. Sure, your telly might be decent, but the only true way to see the glint of gold on those medals is with a top-spec 100-inch+ projector.

And if sports isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty of good content to watch elsewhere. Cinephiles can catch the Oscar-winning Nomadland on Disney+ or catch Scarlett Johansson’s (last?) performance in Marvel’s Black Widow. Succession returns for its third season soon, and we still aren’t fully caught up with the Sopranos yet.

More of a gamer? No more excuses that you “didn’t see” that guy coming round the corner in Call of Duty Warzone. To guide you, we’ve done our research and picked out our favourite projectors from the top brands that can transform your home cinema set-up to rival your local Odeon.

What You Need To Know

If this is your first foray into the premium world of cinema projectors there are a couple of things you need to look out for.

Resolution - The most important thing about getting a new projector is getting a clear image – you want to be able to see as much detail as possible. This is measured in the number of pixels it can show off. The most basic on this list has a 720-pixel image, which is a bit outdated for our tastes but good enough if you’re on a budget.

Full HD (1080p) projectors are the most common, but the modern standard is 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) which all movie aficionados should hunt for. You might find some models capable of 8K reproduction which is a future trend that “doubles the visual quality”, though it isn’t quite ready for general consumption yet. Show-runners are looking at broadcasting the Tokyo Olympics in 8K but you won’t find much else to watch, so best to stick to 4K for now.

Contrast ratio - This is how well your projector can distinguish between blacks and whites, and will ultimately give you better clarity when watching darker content like that pitch-black episode of Game of Thrones: The Long Night. The bigger the ratio, the better the performance – at 500,000:1 and more, blacks will be inky and colours will pop; at 2,000:1, the image will look a little blurry and colours will bleed into each other.

If you’re a sports fan this won’t matter too much, as most stadiums are so bright that Jeff Bezos could see them from space, so you won’t need much contrast.

Brightness - Projectors need the perfect setting to get the most out of them, and that often means closing the curtains and watching in near-complete darkness. However, some can cope with brighter environments and even work in the garden if you’re throwing an Olympic watch party.

Brightness is measured in lumens, with a higher number offering a brighter image - around 2,500 is the sweet spot. Though you only really need to pay attention to this if you plan on keeping the curtains open or taking it outside.

Screen size - The screen size will depend on how close you put the projector to the wall or screen, so have a think about where you could put one in your setup. A lot of our favourites can be wall mounted or suspended from the ceiling, while others have a “short throw” meaning you can pop it just a few inches away from the wall and still get a big display.

TVs are getting wider, but they can’t compete with the width of some of the more advanced projectors, which can stretch to more than 500 inches if you happen to own the world’s biggest living room wall. Most projectors will be around 100 inches though, and can go as small as 30 inches if you’re tight on space.

Connectivity - Many on this list are smart enough to be able to link up to your wifi to allow you to watch Netflix or Disney+ over the internet, but some will also have plenty of ports to connect games consoles, streaming sticks or a laptop.

The models on our list will all have at least a USB port or HDMI cable so you can add another device to your set-up, though the more expensive options will have more ports for more gear.

You might also find built-in speakers for better audio, smart features like Alexa-compatibility, or headphone jacks for a more personal viewing experience.

Dimensions - Planning an outdoor cinema session for your mates? You’ll need a projector that is small and light enough to carry out into the garden.

The ones on this list range from half a kilo to just over 4kg and come in varying sizes. More portable ones will be roughly the size of a laptop (small enough to put in a rucksack if you need to), while the heavier ones will be about as big as a microwave.

To help you choose, we’ve broken the best projectors on the market down into three categories: the best for a cinema-like experience, sports and for gaming. Just add popcorn.

The Best Projectors For Sports

BenQ TK810 Smart 4K HDR Home Projector

Best projector for fast-moving sports

Resolution: 4K Ultra HD

Contrast ratio: 10,000:1

Brightness: 3,200 lumens

Screen size: Up to 100"

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB Type A, 1 x USB Type B, 3.5mm headphone jack, Built-in 5W speaker

Product Dimensions: 38 x 26.3 x 12.7 cm; 4kg

The BenQ is a brilliant all-rounder, but the dedicated sports mode – which, among other things, smooths out skin tones and makes grass look greener – will provide some much-needed live sport methadone while you still can't get into the actual stadium. At 3,200 lumens, you can watch the Ashes without needing to lightproof your living room, while its 4K UHD display means you'll see every bead of sweat straining from the athletes.

The built-in speaker is passable, but really you're going to want to run this one into a dedicated set of speakers or soundbar to get audio that matches up to the picture quality.

APEMAN Projector

Best sports projector under £200

Resolution: Full HD (1080p)

Contrast ratio: 5,000:1

Brightness: 3,000 lumens

Screen size: 300”

Connectivity: 1 x HDMI, 2 x USB Type A, 3.5mm headphone jack, Built-in dual-speakers

Product Dimensions: 26.5 x 22 x 8.7 cm; 2.3 kg

If you’re looking for something less than £200, this Apeman model could be your best shout. Best known for sports cameras, the company has developed a full HD projector that is affordable, comes with a big display, and a few features to improve your viewing experience.

It has a “low-strobe” feature, which reduces flickering and eases the strain on your eyes when watching high-speed content, perfect for watching those ultra-slow-motion compilations throughout the Olympics.

All your content will be in Full HD, and you can push the image up to 300 inches if you have the space for it. The contrast ratio is a tad low so we recommend keeping the curtains shut if you want to watch this one.

ViewSonic X10-4K - DLP projector

Best Projector For Sports Overall

Resolution: 4K

Brightness: 2,400 LED Lumens

Contrast ratio: 3,000,000:1

Screen size: 300”

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1x USB Type-C, 2x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, built-in Harmon & Kardon speakers

Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 27.1 x 16.6 cm; 4.08 kg

For the man who wants it all without remortgaging the house, the mid-range X10-4K is up there among the best for sports and movie-watching. The high contrast ratio and the solid lumen count means you won’t have to invest in blackout blinds, either; pick it up by the handle and treat yourself to the big event in the garden.

Its short-throw tech is very useful for a portable projector, as it means you can stick it pretty much anywhere – we achieved a 90” display by placing it a metre away from the wall. Thanks to its unobtrusive design and the whisper-quiet fan, we completely forgot it was even there when watching Sound of Metal on Amazon Prime.

Equally impressive are the built-in Harman-Kardon speakers, which deliver crisp trebles and deep bass. They max out at 8W so are more for on-the-go than every day, but connecting a soundbar or surround sound system is nice and simple.

The inclusion of Alexa meant we could bark orders to change the volume or glide through the menus without having to hold the controller.

Best Best Home Cinema Projectors

BenQ W2700i True 4K Home Theater Projector

Best Home Cinema Projector Overall

Resolution: 4K

Brightness: 2,000 lumens

Contrast ratio: 30,000:1

Screen size: 100”

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1x USB Type-C, 2x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, built-in Harmon & Kardon speakers

Product Dimensions: 38 x 26.3 x 12.7 cm; 4.2 kg

For our money, this is pound-for-pound the best 4K projector in the world right now.

The BenQ W2700i offers incredible HDR images, courtesy of DCI-P3, the US film industry's preferred colour standard. That means the kind of deep blacks and rich, vibrant brights that you normally only get by adding a couple of grand to your budget.

People will find much to play with in the menus, but the W2700i's out-of-the-box calibrations and CinemaMaster Video+ mode mean you get multiplex-level performance without spending hours tweaking settings. That, alongside its integrated Android TV, makes this the perfect balance between performance and usability.

Optoma UHD42 4K UHD HDR DLP Projector

Best home cinema projector for fast-moving images

Resolution: 4K

Brightness: 3,400 lumens

Contrast ratio: 500,000:1

Screen size: 100”

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1x USB Type-C, 2x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, built-in 10W speakers

Product Dimensions: 38 x 26.3 x 12.7 cm; 4.2 kg

Optoma's mid-tier 4K projector offers an affordable way into true cinema-quality viewing, with lightning fast image transference and silky-smooth 240Hz refresh rate to make your films blast out the projector screen or wall.

Colour reproduction is particularly good – load up one of Nolan's Batmans to really appreciate how black the blacks get – but with 3,400 lumens of brightness, you don't need a hermetically sealed room to get the best out of this projector. Granted, you'll still want the curtains shut if you're watching TV at noon, but unlike cheap projectors, it does at least work in the daytime.

Setup is super simple, with all the ports you'd expect and enough of them to take all your hardware. At 5.5kg it's not the lightest projector, but also not so bulky that you'll struggle to house it (or risk pulling the plaster off if you ceiling-mount it). It doesn't, however, have a short-throw option (or much in the way of lens shift capabilities) so ideally it will need a dedicated home a couple of metres from the screen.

Epson EH-TW7100 3LCD 4K Projector

Best home cinema projector for a big screen

Resolution: 4K

Brightness: 3,000 lumens

Contrast ratio: 100,000:1

Screen size: 500”

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0

Product Dimensions: 49.3 x 49 x 23 cm; 6.9 kg

It might not be the prettiest, but the EH-TW7100 is an affordable 4k projector that offers an incredible image at a very friendly price. Ironically, that's thanks to some slightly dated tech: Epson's 3LCD is long in the tooth compared to laser and short-throw projectors, but if what you're looking for is brilliant colour reproduction, inky blacks and hi-def visuals, sometimes the traditional approach is best.

It helps that it comes with up-to-date extras, including in-built Bluetooth (the onboard speakers are fine, but you'll need dedicated audio for a proper cinema experience) and all manner of HDMI and USB ports. At 3,000 lumens, it's bright enough to replace your TV for an afternoon film session.

Epson EF-12 3LCD, Full HD Gaming & Home Cinema Projector

Best portable home cinema projector under £1000

Resolution: Full HD

Brightness: 1,000 lumens

Contrast ratio: 2,500,000 : 1

Screen size: Up to 150 inches

Connectivity: 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB 2.0 Type A, 1 x USB 2.0 Type B, Stereo mini jack audio out

Product Dimensions: 28.7 x 24.9 x 24.3 cm; 2.1kg

If you’re after a Full HD projector that’s under £1,000, then look no further than Epson’s EF-12 series, which sits around the middle of their range. At 17.5cm across, and weighing just 2.1kg, it's easy to move around from room to room or to your friend's house for film night.

But there's smart guts in that slim profile, to whit: 1080p resolution courtesy of Epson's 3LCD laser projection at an enormous 2,500,000:1 contrast ratio, which offers an incredible colour reproduction and pin-sharp images that you'll swear can't have emerged from a box that size, as well as a 360-degree projection angle, so you can position it wherever you like.

The one downside is that, at just 1,000 lumens, this is very much a projector for a dark room with the blinds drawn, rather than a TV-replacer. But on the plus side, it also comes with a pair of 5W speakers, by audio specialists Yamaha, built in. Because a portable projector isn't that portable if you have to lug a Bluetooth speaker around with it.

Best Gaming projectors

Optoma CinemaX P2 – UHZ60UST

Best overall gaming projector

Type of projector: Home cinema projector

Resolution: 4K

Brightness: 3,000 lumens

Contrast ratio: 2,000,000:1

Screen size: Up to 120 inches

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI2.0, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x USB3.5mm headphone jack

Product Dimensions: 13 x 56 x 38 cm; 0.4kg

Pro gamers might sniff at the 67ms lag time, but if you're not playing Valorant for money then the Optoma is one of the best gaming projectors on the market, courtesy of a daylight-beating 3,000 lumen image in 4k at 60hz, so gameplay stays nice and smooth even at 120 inches.

It's also short-throw, which means more flexibility in where you position it in your room (it's no fun having to position all your furniture around where your projector needs to live). Throw in the excellent onboard sound and you've got the perfect gaming projector, in a very sleek package.

It’s also our lightest model on this list, so you can take it with you to a friend's house to keep the gaming going.

BenQ TH685 DLP 1080p HDR Projector

Best gaming projector under £1,000

Resolution: 1080p Full HD

Brightness: 3,500 lumens

Contrast ratio: 10,000:1

Screen size: 300 inches

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI2.0, 1 x USB Type A, 3.5mm headphone jack, built-in 5W speaker

Product Dimensions: 45.5 x 34 x 17.5 cm; 2.8kg

Some 'gaming' projectors are really just rebadged cinema projectors, but BenQ's TH685 is a console-friendly specialist, courtesy of the two HDMI ports and a mere 8ms lag between the time you press a button and the action appearing on your screen, as well as a frankly blinding 3,500 lumens display that means you could probably play Fortnite outside, at midday, during the summer solstice, and still get a clear image.

That said, it will do movie night proud too, thanks to a sharp 1080p HDR display that offers deep blacks and poppy brights.

Granted, it can't quite hit the cinematic experience of the Optoma above (its 10,000:1 contrast ratio pales in comparison to the Optoma's 500,000:1) but the opening scene of Star Wars: A New Hope is still appropriately epic on a 300-inch screen.

ELEPHAS 3600 Mini Projector

Best gaming projector under £100

Resolution: 1080p Full HD

Brightness: 4,500 lumens

Contrast ratio: 2,000:1

Screen size: 180 inches

Connectivity: 2 x HDMI2.0, 1 x USB Type A, 3.5mm headphone jack, 2 x built-in speaker

Product Dimensions: 22 x 17 x 8.9 cm; 1.25kg

You don't need to spend big, of course. Just take look at a super-cheap projector, perfectly set up for your gaming needs, from Elephas. This one is less than £100, making it one of the cheapest projectors in this list, and will get the job done with no issues. Obviously there's a drop in quality compared to more expensive models, but for this price there can be no complaints.

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