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.