There's nothing better than playing PS3, Xbox 360 or PC games on a great screen.

But big screens cost big money. That's certainly true in the world of flat panels and plasmas, where anything north of 40-inches is going to cost you a four-figure sum.

Go bigger than 60-inches and you'd better be an oil baron or a smart-arsed short seller who cleaned up in the recent stock market crash. You'll be looking at an outlay of at least £2,500.

But why spend thousands of pounds on a piffling 60-inch panel when there's an alternative that delivers truly cinematic results from just £500? It's a technology where the limiting factor for screen size is the width of your living room, not the depth of your wallet.

We speak, of course, of the humble projector, the most overlooked and misunderstood display technology there is.

And while the high-end full-HD projectors out there cost thousands of pounds, there are plenty of budget options that'll make your games and movies look fantastic.

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Optoma gametime gt-7000
Optoma GameTime GT-7000 | £487

It's refreshing to find that Optoma has racked its brains and come up with a delightful little product that includes everything you need to create an HD cinema in a truly portable package.

The GT-7000 projector itself is a compact 720p DLP unit.

It's a thoroughly competent pint-sized beamer, with decent black levels and lovely colours, even if there's some evidence of compression in our test scales.

The really clever bit comes with the single-piece portable speaker kit and rucksack carrying case, which comes as part of the package. The speakers are hardly audiophile-friendly, but they produce acceptable sound and slip into the compact carry case along with the projector. Simply
add a laptop and the job's a good 'un. Read the full review

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Sony vpl-ew5
Sony VPL-EW5 | £450

Sony is not pitching the VPL-EW5 as a home cinema model, rather it's a versatile all-rounder. But that doesn't mean it can't cope with movies.

Colours are surprisingly rich and vibrant, probably even more so than some of the big-budget LCD models.

Black levels aren't half bad, either, even if they do fall well short of the DLP power Optoma GT-7000.

In compensation, you get a high-power lamp mode that makes this projector the most effective tool here for watching video or playing games during the day. Read our full review

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Acer 5350Acer H5350 | £450

While it's reasonably commonplace to find HD Ready LCD projectors on sale for under a grand, wallet-friendly DLP models are hard to find.

The Acer H5350 is well under £500 - a truly remarkable sum that's even more incredible given that Acer swears that it's been designed from the ground up for movie and game (rather than PC) use.

Compared to most rivals the H5350 is quite small, which is no bad thing for casual users, who may want to stash the thing away in a cupboard.

The H5350's key specifications include a handy-looking native contrast ratio of 2,000:1 and a very high maximum brightness of 2,000 ANSI Lumens.

Since the H5350 is a DLP offering, that contrast ratio does not depend on any potentially distracting brightness adjustments during dark scenes, unlike rival LCD technology models. Read our full review

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InFocus x10InFocus X10 | £1000

You can't possibly buy a decent full-HD 1080p projector for just £1000 can you?

Well, in the parlance of our times the answer to that question is 'yes we can'.

Busting wide open that traditional conceit is the X10 projector from InFocus, a single-chip DLP projector that can give you Full HD 1080p for just £1,099 or less.

And that not only makes it terrific value for money compared to its rivals, but also turns into in a very worth alternative for a regular telly.

Fire it up and the InFocus X10 is capable of producing a deliciously rich and bright picture that packs in plenty of detail, especially with 1080p high definition sources.

Overall, the X10 boasts the kind of the brilliant picture quality that should make its more expensive rivals weep. Read our full review

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BenQ w5000BenQ W5000 | £1,300

The BenQ W5000 has been around for a year now.

That makes it a dinosaur in consumer electronics terms.

But rather than being ready for extinction, it's something of an old favourite. Indeed, its stately bearing means it's a couple of hundred quid cheaper than before.

In terms of home cinema sizzle, this is easily the best unit here. The TI DarkChip 2 DLP processor and dynamic iris combine to enable both the best black levels and the most fluent, natural and saturated colours.

Factor in the full 1080p res and 10,000:1 contrast ratio and you have eye-popping visuals. But is it really three times as good as the Acer you see above?

Not even close. But if we could afford it, we'd still find it very hard to resist. Read the full review

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Epson tw1000Epson TW1000 | £1,200

Most people are likely to associate the Epson brand with printers and scanners, rather than home cinema gear.

Yet, and this may come as a surprise, the company is actually the bone fide world number one in projectors: supply and manufacture.

And it's a leading shareholder in the 3LCD consortium - a tech utilised to the full with its first, impressively specced, 1080p home cinema PJ

Unfortunately, initial impressions are not great. The optics are so flimsy they struggle to maintain their position once calibrated.

Fire it up and things do not improve radically. The overall colour balance is a little murky and lacking in vibrancy. That said, static blacks are marginally superior to its Mitsubishi nemesis, while its dynamic iris is subtle in operation, even if it offers nothing more than on and off options.

What's more, the TW1000 has an epic zoom range, making it a versatile machine in installation terms. Read our full review

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Mitsubishi hc5500Mitsubishi HC5500 | £1,055

Mitsubishi's HC5500 Full HD LCD home cinema projector replaces the HC4900, and at around £1,200 seems like a reasonable entry into the burgeoning Full HD budget market.


Certainly it won't win you over with its style. Square and dumpy, it looks more like a piece of heating equipment than part of a high-tech entertainment system.

Still, it's light and compact, and shouldn't present any installation problems for those who want to ceiling-mount.

The 5500 is built around the highly-regarded Silicon Optix HQV chip, designed to get the best out of HD sources and to enhance SD material. Quoted brightness is 1200 ANSI lumens, and the automatic iris function is claimed to achieve a contrast ratio of 14,000:1, as well as improving sharpness.

In essence, we don't think buyers will be disappointed with the Mitsubishi HC5500, but we'd be tempted to go for the X10 instead. Read our full review

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