Updated: May 9, 2015

Home Theater Projector Reviews and Buying Guide:

Home theater projectors are still fairly expensive, but they have come down in price and the technology has only improved. Some of the high end 1080p projectors from Sony are still well above $3000, but for less than $1000 you can get a quality 720p LCD or DLP home projector that will make your theater room come to life. There are some budget models approaching the $700 mark, but we say the best value is still around the $1500-$2000 price range. Much like choosing a new LED or OLED TV, you need to look for the right qualities and features in your home projector. You'll want the highest possible resolution for the best price, good picture quality and image sharpness, good black levels (described below), and a brand with the top performance ratings. The field is loaded with competition and the top ranked brands are Optoma, Sony, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Sanyo, InFocus, Toshiba, Sharp, Hitachi, Epson, and BenQ. More expensive models offer more bells and whistles, but often the price difference doesn't give you that much of a superior image/picture. Down below we have written a general buying guide for digital and multimedia projectors followed by reviews of the top rated models in various categories.


What are the main features to focus on when buying a projector for your home? First, you need to choose between LCD and DLP projectors. There are standard LCD projectors (less common) and polysilicon LCD (more common), the polysilicon models have 3 panels versus just 1 on the standard LCD projectors meaning you get higher color saturation. As for DLP projectors, they are very popular and run on a single chip that "modulate the lamp's light and project it through the lens" onto the screen. DLP projectors can run almost nonstop with little or no effect on the image, but LCD projectors can only give you about 8-10 hours of continuous play before you will see a reduction in brightness and picture quality. There are 3 basic weight sizes - fixed installation for the home market (100 lbs or more), the conference room variety (mid-range in weights), and the ultralight, portable projectors that are under 10 lbs. We are going to focus our buying guide on home users who want the best performance in an home projector. The fixed projectors you find in homes are versatile and are often ceiling mounted (permanently). The more aspect ratios to choose from a machine the better. Some projectors offer a 4:3 aspect ratio which works best on classic films and TV series that are put on DVD's like Seinfeld or Friends. The more standard aspect ratio today is 16:9 which works great on HDTV and widescreen DVD. Some newer movies are released with a wider 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Another important feature you will hear plenty about is the projector's resolution capability. This refers to the # of pixels available to create an image on the screen. The higher the resolution, the better quality image and more details. Projector's offer resolution of 854X480 (lowest quality), 1024X576, 1280X720 (720p and very common), 1280X768 (hybrid resolution), and 1920X1080 (1080p is the highest available resolution). Of course the higher the resolution, the more expensive the machine. Many people are opting to go with the 1080p projectors since they are capable of displaying HDTV 1080i and 1080i and 1080p signals from HD DVD and the new Blu-ray discs. A 720p projector will still give you a great picture with some pixelation issues with black colors and sharpness. Brightness is another factor to look at when purchasing a home projector. Experts say that brighter is not always better. You want just enough light to fill your projector screen but still maintaining good contrast. Talk with a salesperson about the room in your home where the projector will be located and describe the lighting conditions so they can recommend a good lumen level. Contrast levels having gone up dramatically in recenty years and these levels refer to the "difference in brightness between maximum white and deepest black in an image". Todays top rated machines offer 75000:1 contrast ratios, but 40000:1 will probably do you just fine. You will also find most projectors have zoom lenses which let you adjust the image size without having to move the projector. This feature comes in handy when you have a fixed projector in your home that is ceiling mounted and not easily movable. Just which projector is the best on the market? We found some excellent home projector reviews on Amazon.com, Projectorbuyingguide.com, CNET.com, Audioholics.com, and Projectorreviews.com. For general feedback on home theater projectors and systems, go to Hometheaterblog.com. Most sites break down the reviews into 720p and 1080p projectors along with price ranges that go from about $800 up to $6000. Consumer Reports rated 10 LCD projectors based on HD picture quality, DVD picture quality, ease of use, and price. CR says you should go with the 1080p resolution and Epson came out on top of their rankings. You can browse the top selling home theater projectors online here.

Best Home Theater Projector:

RECOMMENDED - The top rated Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 6500UB 1080p 3LCD Home Theater Projector is #1 in consumer magazines and online with owners and experts. The 6500 UB projector provide incredible detail and dark blacks and the contrast ratio is 75,000:1. The built-in HQV processor by Silicon Optics is the key behind the superior video quality and the lens gives you a 2:1 zoom ratio. The E-TORL lamp lasts up to 4000 hours and lights very efficiently. This high definition 1080p home theater projector projects a 60 inch image from 6 feet away or a 120 inch image from 12 feet. Another top rated model is the Mitsubishi HC6500 - LCD projector - it's a step up from the HC5500 providing crystal clear 1920 x 1080 widescreen high def. HD and DVD programming have excellent picture quality per independent testing and only the Epson (listed above) gets better scores.


Best Value: DLP or LCD Projector:

The Optoma HD73 ($1999) is the first home theater projector with a Darkchip3 DLP chip to be priced below $2000. The black levels on the HD73 are better than on the HD72 (last years Optoma) but the brightness is considered "average". Many experts in this field say the Optoma HD72 is still considered an excellent buy and they may prefer it over the HD73, but it's getting harder to find the HD72 versus the newer HD73. The HD73 is best for those wanting to watch movies with accurate colors and owners say you get the best results in rooms that can be fully darkened. The HD73 should be ceiling mounted or placed on a table top but it's not meant to be rear wall mounted. Some of the most notable drawbacks to the HD73 is that your screen size will be limited 100 to 106 inches, no lens shift, limited zoom lense, and not the brightest model on the market. The overall reviews, though, are positive and people say for the money it's hard ot find a better deal. RECOMMENDED - The Sanyo PLV-Z700 is one that several magazines and websites listed as their "best buy". The Sanyo projector gives you 1080p resolution, 1200 lumens, and a contrast ratio of 10,000:1. Selling for close to $2000 is the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 6100 which features the new D7 3-chip technology for some of the best detail you will find on any screen. The native 1080p home theater experience and owners say it is better than Infocus or Optoma with similar packages.

720p Home Projector:

Looking for the "best 720p projector", then the Panasonic PT-AX200U ($1080) may be the one for you. Websites like Projectorcentral.com and Projectorreviews.com say this model is a bargain and customer reviews back that up with positive feeback and comments. Experts say this machine has all the strengths in a projector, except price. This LCD 720p projector will eliminate those "rainbow effects" that some viewers see on their DLP projectors. You'll get excellent black levels, great light output, placement flexibility, and invisible pixel structure with SmoothScreen Technology that Panasonic offers. The PT-AX200U gets ranked as the best overall projector for under $1200 with a contrast ratio of 6000:1, zoom lens ratio of 2.0:1, lens shift (horizontal/vertical), and brightness of 2000 lumens. Some say the 1 year warranty is a bit cheap for Panasonic, but so far the machines have excellent reliability ratings. Also, the sharpness of the Panasonic projector is considerably better than all the previous models released by Panasonic (AE900U and others).

1080p Projector:

The big dog on the block with 1080p projectors is the Sony VPLHW10 3-LCD 1080P Home Theater Projector - with prices having dropped on this model slowly over the last 6 months or so. You can now find the Bravia VPL-HW10 for less than $3200 and that will continue to drop as the season goes by. With 1080p resolution (the highest possible at this time), the Sony projector makes the home theater enthuasiast a happy customer if they buy this one. With a contrast ratio of 30000:1 and 1920X1080 resolution, image sharpness and black levels are uncomparable to most. The machine runs quiet and smooth, although replacing a lamp will cost you. For those with the money, this 1080p projector is the best of the class.


Budget 1080p Projector:

Not everyone has the $7000 to buy a high end 1080p projector so that's why Panasonic created the PT-AE3000U ($2500) which rates very high for a budget model. With full HD resolution and an HD optimized lens unit, the PT-AE3000U projector is fully capable of delivering crisp images on any screen. The contrast ratio is 60,000:1 and reviews from consumers are a perfect 5 out of 5 stars from everyone who rated it on Amazon. We say view the most popular Panasonic home projectors online here.