Home entertainment always looks better when it's been super-sized. Whether you want to splash Blu-ray movies across a large white wall, magnify your gaming experience, or want to throw photographs or slides from a mobile device onto a 100-inch plus screen, a home cinema projector should be your first choice of display.
To help bring the big-screen home we've tested some of the top models of home cinema projector. They range from budget-oriented HD beamers right up to cinema-grade 4K Ultra HD models; the surprisingly affordable to reassuringly expensive.
The days of fuzzy old pub projectors are thankfully long gone.
With HD now ubiquitous, you can get great results from 1080p source material. And as more Ultra HD content becomes available from media streamers like the new Amazon Fire TV and the Nvidia Shield, as well as the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray revolution, the future's looking great.
1. Sony VPL-VW300ES
"This 4K SXRD projector just refuses to put a foot wrong."
Projection system: SXRD | Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 | Brightness: 1,500 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI 2.0 (1x HDCP 2.2), 1x S-Video, 1x VGA | Dimensions: 496 x 195 x 464mm
For that proper cinematic feel it's hard to beat a big screen projector, especially one that's capable of filling a wall with 4K images.
First, there's great colour and black levels, whatever the ambient light levels. Secondly, awesome Reality Creation tech that brings out Maximum detail from native 4K sources, Blu-ray and even DVD. Thirdly, the exemplary Bright Cinema and Cinema Film 1 & 2 presets and, finally, the hugely flexible optical zoom/lens shift options that make set-up a cinch.
If you've got the money, the space and the 4K source, the VPL-VW300ES is a shoe-in to become the centrepiece of your next home cinema.
Read the full review: Sony VPL-VW300ES
2. BenQ W1070+
"Full HD images that impress even in ambient light make BenQ's latest a bargain beamer for all seasons."
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 2,200 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI (1x MHL), 1x RCA, 1x Component, 1x VGA | Dimensions: 312 x 104 x 244mm
There was a time when a decent home cinema-grade projection system would have cost well north of £1,000, and take-up a considerable amount of space too.
Edging ever closer to the plummeting price of a decent flatscreen TV, the BenQ W1070+ DLP projector offers enough brightness to be used in daylight as well as the all-important Full HD resolution.
If you're wondering whether to take the plunge and make a projector your go-to display for films and games, the W1070+ is a certainly bold and bright enough – and easily one of the best value entry-level projectors around.
Read the full review: BenQ W1070+
3. Sony VPL-VW520ES
"Stunning images. Unprecedented future-proofing. It's one hell of a beamer."
Projection system: SXRD | Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 | Brightness: 1,800 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI | Dimensions: 495.6 x 195.3 x 463.6 mm
If you can stretch your budget to £8,800, the VW520ES rewards you with the most future-proof specifications and, for the most part, best picture quality the home cinema world currently has to offer.
If you want the full 4K HDR home cinema experience, and can stomach the nigh-on £9K price tag, then this is the pinnacle of home beamer brilliance.
Read the full review: Sony VPL-VW520ES
4. Epson EH-LS10000
"4K Enhancement, a mathematical fudge or remarkable innovation? Definitely the latter."
Projection system: 3LCD laser | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 1,500 lumens | Video inputs: 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2), 1x Composite, 1x Component, 1x VGA | Dimensions: 550 x 225 x 553mm
The Epson EH-LS10000 is an excellent home cinema projector. Blistering black levels, great colours, a huge amount of convenience features and some nifty frame interpolation help produce some of the most fluid, colourful and realistic Full HD images from any projector out there.
However, there's no getting away from the fact that even with the awesome power of Epson's 4K Enhancement feature – which really does work – the native 4K trickery of the Sony VPL-VW300ES, available for exactly the same price, means that the slightly less detailed Epson EH-LS10000 must take a back seat, at least for now.
Read the full review: Epson EH-LS10000
5. Optoma HD36
"An ideal, low-cost, beamer for everyday use, even in daylight."
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 3,000 lumens | Video inputs: 1x HDMI 1.4a, 1x S-Video, 2x VGA, 1x Composite, 1x DVI-D | Dimensions: 386 x 162 x 280mm
For those who think that home cinema is an occasional luxury that is just not affordable or practical, the HD36 is serious food for thought. A searing brightness that is most unusual on a home cinema projector make it possible to watch films, TV and games in the middle of the day, whatever the ambient light levels.
Boasting great colours, superbly bright images and yet somehow also decent black levels, the HD36 is as versatile as it is good value. Although it's no looker, and its sole HDMI input may be a concern to some, this do-it-all projector is ideal for semi-permanent home cinema.
Read the full review: Optoma HD36
6. BenQ W2000
"Meet the gold standard for Blu-ray colour."
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 2,000 lumens | Video inputs: Composite Video In x 1, Component Video In x 1, HDMI x 3 | Dimensions: 380.5 x 121.7 x 277 mm
The gold standard for an affordable projector with a quickdraw design? A modicum of DLP rainbow effect, some so-so black levels and a hint of film judder can't prevent the W2000 from offering one of the loveliest, most involving Blu-ray performances so far from an affordable quickdraw DLP projector. A host of convenience features – most notably an excellent built-in speaker – help make it easy to live with, too.
Read the full review: BenQ W2000
7. ViewSonic LightStream PJD7830HDL
"This cost-effective DLP all-rounder is firmly aimed at the use-it-anywhere crowd."
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 3,200 ANSI Lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI 1.4, 1x Composite, 1x RGB input, 1x Video out | Dimensions: 362 x 109 x 231mm
Forget the PJD7830HDL's lacklustre blackout performance; anyone interested in home cinema perfection will just have to pay more.
This cost-effective DLP all-rounder is firmly aimed at the use-it-anywhere crowd, which all projector makers must surely aim for to popularise the practice of watching truly big-screen movies and games.
In most regards, the PJD7830HDL does really well, with an excellent daytime image and speakers that deliver the finest audio performance from a projector yet. Add that low, low price and ViewSonic just came up with a bargain all-rounder that's hard to resist for anyone who wants a slice of the big picture.
Read the full review: ViewSonic LightStream PJD7830HDL
8. Optoma HD26
"Fresh-looking, Full HD detail with strong colour and black levels."
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 3,200 lumens | Video inputs: 2x HDMI (1x MHL) | Dimensions: 315 x 114 x 224mm
It says something about the advancements in home cinema projectors that this great value HD beamer isn't our favourite entry-level projector around.
Odd, because it's got everything going for it; excellent images, a compact size, quiet operation, and a superbly low price. It's great for gaming, and at its best when watched in dimly-lit, traditional home cinema conditions (and it even has a backlit remote control).
However, with brighter projectors around that can offer all of this and more detail during the day as well as in a blackout, and with both a bigger choice of ins and outs and optical image shift options for maximum versatility, the HD26 struggles to hold up against the competition.
Read the full review: Optoma HD26