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:
1 - Apeman Mini Video Projector
Type: LCD 4.0 | Resolution: 1920×1080 | Brightness: 4500 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 2000:1 | Max Projection Size: 180” | Video Inputs: HDMI, VGA, USB, Micro SD, RCA AV | Built-in Speakers: Yes
In our opinion, the APEMAN portable mini projector is the best budget projector on the market. In fact, I was shocked by the price. When comparing features, you wouldn’t think this projector is one of the most budget-friendly options because it rivals theatre models that are much more expensive.
Right off the bat, the brightness is rated at 4500 lumens, making it brighter than 80% of mini-projectors. The maximum resolution is 1080P and it can easily handle resolutions below that. The good news is it has a maximum projection size of 180” making it perfect for home theatres or even outdoor viewings.
Now on to the technical details. Usually, budget mini projectors don’t have many connection options, but this model supports HDMI, VGA, USB, Micro SD, and even RCA. It also includes a remote and a carry case. The lamp life is rated at 50,000 hours.
Note: Apeman recently updated this model to a 2021 version which improves the LCD and noise reduction technologies. While you can’t expect the sharpest image, it’s good enough for a budget-friendly projector.
2 - BOMAKER WiFi Projector
Type: LCD 4.0 | Resolution: 720 to 1080P | Brightness: 6000 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 9000:1 | Max Projection Size: 300” | Video Inputs: 1xHDMI, VGA, SD, USB, VGA | Built-in Speakers: Yes
The BOMAKER Wifi Projector is a great budget projector and it includes some great features like Wif. The Wifi acts as a Miracast device, allowing you to cast or mirror media to the projector from your phone or laptop. You can also connect a Bluetooth adapter to enable Bluetooth, making it possible to pair with a soundbar or Bluetooth headphones.
The downside is you can’t stream Netflix or other popular apps directly from the projector because of copyright issues. YouTube, web-browser pages, and images should be compatible. The workaround is to insert a streaming device like a Chromecast.
Besides that, the BOMAKER projector has a great brightness level at 6,000 Lumens, making it acceptable for outdoor viewings. The colour contrast is good too, with a 9000:1 ratio. It was also recently updated to fix an issue with blurry corners, now the corners are crisp and clear. Another notable feature is the max screen projection size of 300”.
To summarize, the BOMAKER budget Wifi projector is definitely worth checking out.
3 - VANKYO L430W WiFi Projector
Type: LED | Resolution: 720 | Brightness: 6000 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 4000:1 | Max Projection Size: 236” | Video Inputs: 1xHDMI, 1xVGA, SD, USB | Built-in Speakers: Yes | Wifi: Yes
VANKYO is a lesser-known brand, but their projectors are pretty good for the price. The VANKYO L430W is quite similar to the Apeman Mini projector, with a couple of additional features. The most notable feature would be Wifi. In fact, this model is one of the cheapest wireless projectors on the market.
While the L430W is a good budget projector, the main downside is that it only supports 720P. When blown up on a large screen, 720P can start to look a little blurry. Besides that, it’s got pretty much all the features you would expect from a projector, and the casting feature is a great addition.
You can also activate screen-mirroring mode by plugging a compatible device into the USB port, such as a phone, it’s compatible with IOS and Androids. The wired connection tends to be more responsive than Wifi.
To summarize, a suitable projector for watching movies. With 6,000 Lumens, It’s surprisingly bright for a budget projector too!
4 - WiMiUS K1 7500 L Video Projector
Type: LED | Resolution: 1080P | Brightness: 7500 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 10000:1 | Max Projection Size: 300” | Video Inputs: 2xHDMI, 2xUSB | Built-in Speakers: Yes | Wifi: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes
Now we’re moving into mid-range projector territory. The WiMuUS K17500 L is a surprisingly feature-rich projector. For starters, it’s quite bright with 7500 lumens, making it much brighter than most budget projectors.
It also has a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, so the picture is very clear and vivid. Speaking of brightness, the LED lamp has a rated lifetime of up to 100,000 hours! Besides that, the WiMiUS K1 7500 has Wifi for casting and screen mirroring and Bluetooth for outputting audio to Bluetooth devices, like a soundbar. Another great feature is 4-point keystone correction.
Overall, if you’re looking for a good mid-range projector with decent brightness and wireless capabilities, this one is a good choice. I especially liked how clear the image appears, colors really pop, unlike other projectors where the colors look washed-out. The wireless casting features are great for screen sharing mobile devices.
5 - ELEPHAS Projector, GC333
Type: LCD | Resolution: 480P | Brightness: 4500 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 2000:1 | Max Projection Size: 300” | Video Inputs: HDMI, VGA, USB, SD | Built-in Speakers: Yes
Looking for a bare-bones projector? If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest on the market, with no special features, the ELEPHAS GC333 is an option. This model is the cheapest on our list and it offers okay features for the price.
The projection brightness is rated at 4500 Lumens, and the maximum projection size is 180”. I wouldn’t use this one outdoors during the day, but it could work well for small gaming rooms. While you can’t expect much from a budget projector, my main concern with this one is the native resolution is only 480P.
Nevertheless, if you combine this with a streaming stick, you can use it to stream shows pretty much anywhere. It’s really lightweight and budget-friendly. If you just want a simple projector, the GC333 is a good option. Just remember, the resolution is not full HD, and the brightness is a little low, so I would only recommend using this in dark rooms.
6 - Vamvo projector L6200
Type: LED | Resolution: 1080P | Brightness: 7000 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 5000:1 | Max Projection Size: 300” | Video Inputs: 2xHDMI, VGA, AV, USB, MicroSD | Built-in Speakers: Yes
The Vamvo L6200 projector is another mid-range projector that has great features. For starters, it has lots of connection options: 2 HDMI ports, VGA, AV, USB, and MicroSD. I personally liked how this one has two HDMI ports, so you can plug in a casting stick and another device, like a console, at the same time.
Besides the numerous connection options, the brightness is surprisingly good too, with 7000 lumens, and a contrast ratio of 5000:1. As for image quality, it’s very bright, and the native resolution is 1080P, so the details are nice and clear. If the image is unfocused, you can use the +15 keystone to adjust it without moving the projector.
Any downsides? I noticed the L6200 does not have Wifi or Bluetooth. It does have a 3.5 mm output to connect to another audio device. I would have liked to see a casting feature, but I think the second HDMI port makes up for it. Overall, a really good and bright mid-range projector.
7 - YABER WiFi Projector Mini Portable Projector 6000
Type: LED | Resolution: 720P | Brightness: 6000 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 600:1 | Max Projection Size: 236” | Video Inputs: HDMI, VGA, AV, USB, MicroSD | Built-in Speakers: Yes
Looking for another budget mini-projector? The YABER Wifi Mini projector is a bare-bones projector that delivers a decent experience for the price.
While it doesn’t have many bells and whistles, it’s one of the cheapest projectors with Wifi on our list. The Wifi allows you to cast to it from mobile devices, and you can also use the screen sharing mode.
Other than that, the brightness level is not too bad, at 6000 Lumens, and the maximum projection size is 236”. The downside is the resolution is a little low, it only supports 720P which can look a little blurry. Some customers mentioned the Wifi is a little unstable too.
Other than that, if you want a cheap projector that gets the job, this one is worth a look. Don’t expect to be blown-away with features, though. It could make a good gift.
8 - Artlii Energon 2 Wifi & Bluetooth Video Projector
Type: LCD | Resolution: 1080P | Brightness:8000 Lumens | Contrast Ratio: 10,000:1 | Max Projection Size: 300” | Video Inputs: 2xHDMI, VGA, AV, USB, SD | Built-in Speakers: Yes
If you’re looking for a more professional mini-projector, the Artlii Energon 2 is worth checking out. It’s a good mid-range budget choice, and it has a lot of great features.
The most important features are brightness, Wifi, and Bluetooth. The lumen count is 8000, so you can use this projector outdoors. It’s surprisingly bright. On the subject of image quality, the resolution is 1080P and the contrast ratio is 10,000:1.
The wireless features allow you to cast to the projector, and you can use Bluetooth to pair it to a soundbar or another audio device, like Bluetooth headphones. Another feature I like is they include two HDMI ports, along with the usual set of ports (VGA, AV, USB, SD, etc).
So you can use two devices with the projector at the same time and easily switch between them.It’s a little heavier and bulkier than most projectors, but the build quality is great. If you want something in the higher-end category, this one is worth the money.
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!
Foto credit: Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash