So you want to buy a projector but you don’t have the budget for a fancy, cinema-grade, projector. Don’t worry! There are plenty of budget projectors out there, and you can easily build a really nice home cinema, without spending too much money.
Buying a projector can be a bit tricky because there are so many features to consider. In this article, I’ll not only be sharing some of my favourite budget projectors but also some tips on how to find the perfect one for your needs (connectivity options, compatibility, ports, etc). Don’t forget you’ll need a projector screen too!
Bear in mind, while there are some very budget projectors on the market, such as under £100, those can lack important features. I recommend looking for mid-range projectors, in the £200 to £500 price range, because the build quality tends to be better, making them last longer.
On top of that, you also get additional features that will improve your experience. The last thing you want is to drop cash on a projector only to have it die on you in a matter of weeks. While brands like BenQ are known for high-quality projectors, they’re also a little pricey.
I’ll be covering some projector buying tips and suggestions later on in this article. There are plenty of alternative projector brands out there that are much cheaper and offer similar features.
List of Best Budget Projectors:
What to Look for in a Budget Projector?
When it comes to buying a projector, there are so many features to consider, it can be overwhelming for some. I’ll be breaking down the most important features to look for in this section, as well as some handy tips to get the most value for your money.
The brightness is one of the most important features to consider when buying a projector. Unfortunately, it’s not usually possible to test the brightness in person, so you’ll have to rely on the Lumen or Lux rate. The last thing that you want is a dim projection.
Most projectors will advertise their Lumen rating which is the amount of light created by the projector. The Lux rating is the amount of light that reaches the surface, which tends to decrease as the projection size increases. The Lux can be improved by using a proper projector screen.
Without going into too much detail, if you want a bright projector, look for one that has at least 6000 Lumens. Of course, in dark and small rooms, with a small projection size, projectors with fewer Lumens could work too. There’s also the possibility that the given Lumen specification is inaccurate, so that’s something to consider.
Types of Projectors:
How do you plan to use your projector? Is it for watching movies in your living room or playing a sports channel outdoors? Business presentations or gaming? There are so many ways to use a projector, but not all projectors are equal.
If you need a projector for tasks like business presentations that don’t require much colour or brightness, you could get away with a cheaper model. I would look for one that is portable and easy to carry. Casting features can be useful in this situation too. Generally, you don’t need a very powerful projector for business presentations, a budget one should be acceptable.
Home Theater and Movie Projectors
Projectors are primarily designed for movies and TV shows. For movies, you want something bright, at least 6,000 Lumens, with a good resolution. It’s hard to say which specifications are best because the manufacturers create their own specifications. It might take a bit of testing to find one that suits you.
I also recommend keeping the projection size smaller, so the light is more focused, resulting in a clearer image. Nevertheless, brightness and colour accuracy is important for movies and home theatres. I would invest a bit more into a quality projector if I was building a home theatre.
Projectors for Gaming:
For gaming, the specifications are similar to home theatres, but you’ll also want to consider the projector’s refresh rate, which is usually 60hz by default. Generally, gaming on a projector is possible, but the input delay is a lot more noticeable, and it might not appear as smooth as a regular monitor or TV.
Most home theatre enthusiasts do not recommend gaming on a projector. For casual games, like RPGs, it’s acceptable. There are projectors designed for gamers, but those are very expensive, and not nearly as good as a regular monitor or TV.
Long story short, take some time to think about how you’re going to use the projector, and then factor that into your decision. You might be able to shave off some bucks!
The higher the resolution, the clearer the image. Today, the most common resolution for displays and projectors is 1080P which is 1920×1080. I recommend looking for a projector that has 1080P or more.
However, there are cheaper projectors that offer 480P or 720P resolutions. Those resolutions can be acceptable if you don’t use a large projection area. I wouldn’t recommend them though. Look for the “Native Resolution” specification on projectors.
Connectors & Ports:
Most projectors have outdated ports that no one really uses, like VGA, AV, and SD Cards. 90% of consumers will only use HDMI because it’s the most common. Take a look at the devices you want to connect to the projector, what connectors do they use?
With a projector that has multiple HDMI ports, you can easily flip through sources, instead of having to re-wire devices. For that reason, I suggest looking for a projector that has two or more HDMI ports.
Audio & Bluetooth
While most projectors do include built-in speakers, the quality is usually about the same as any portable speaker, which is not very good. Watching a cinematic movie with built-in speakers definitely does not improve the experience.
What I recommend is connecting the projector to a separate audio device that has better quality audio, such as a soundbar, or even a home-theatre system. To do that, keep an eye out for projectors that either has Bluetooth or an aux port. I personally recommend using the aux port for audio.
Types of Projection Technology:
You might have noticed that projectors use different technologies to create the light source, such as DLP, LED, 3LCD, and others.. I’ll briefly explain how those work below. Do note that most projectors use a combination of technologies.
DLP (Digital Light Processing)
These types of projectors rely on DLP technology, which use small micro-mirrors to help create and focus an image by rotating a small wheel. They provide good image quality, and the images that they project are crisp and have an excellent response time.
They are always excellent with high colour contrast and “whiter whites and blackest blacks”. These are generally more expensive and don’t have a very long lifespan.
The upside is they’re usually brighter than other projector types. DLP projectors are also capable of 3D. The downsides? They’re more expensive.
LED (Light-emitting Diode):
LED projectors are the most popular, and for good reasons. For instance: they’re smaller, cooler, last longer, and are more eco and budget-friendly. For example, the average lifespan of a LED projector light is around 30,000 hours.
The colors are usually pretty good too. Most budget projectors use LED. Some people complain that LED projectors are not as bright or clear as other projectors, but it’s a matter of personal preference.
For personal use, LED projectors should be more than sufficient. BenQ is a popular brand that mostly manufacturers LED projectors.
3LCD is the term for LCD projection, which was pioneered by Epson. The number represents the amount of panels the projector uses. These are usually very bright, with a high colour output, while also using less power.
One downside is that a lot of 3LCD projectors have a “screen door effect” which is a visual effect that blurs images around the corners of the screen. Modern products counter this issue, but it’s still common on older models. They also require more maintenance.
The Bottom Line:
Buying a projector can seem like rocket-science at first, especially once you do more research, but it really boils down to your personal preferences. The truth is most modern projectors are decent for casual use, regardless of the technology they use.
To make things simple, I would stick to LED projectors, and look for one that has the ports you need, with good brightness. Worse case, you can always return undesirable projectors for a refund. And most companies offer good warranties too. Good luck!