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 (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.

Its connections, meanwhile, are passable, with just a single v1.2 HDMI socket that won't handle the Deep Color format.

Sizeable spec

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.

Although the machine is seemingly light on fancy video processing, it does have more user tweaks available than we'd have expected for its money.

Acer has even squeezed a couple of speakers into the H5350's diminutive body, although they're so feeble that you'd be insane to consider using them.

Fiddly remote

First the bad news: the H5350's remote control is one of those flat, 'credit card'-style horrors you lose down the side of the sofa and can never use properly in a dark room.

The 'winding leg' system for adjusting the projection angle is fiddly, too, and there's hardly any optical zoom, making it potentially tough to get the lightbox to deliver the image size you want.

On the upside, it's easy to focus the image and get the edges straight via keystone correction. Plus, the onscreen menus are efficient.

Picture impact

While picture quality is inevitably far from perfect, it's not an absolute disaster, by any means.

For instance, its presentation of movies, games and the like is exceptionally bright for DLP technology generally, never mind such a cheap model. The impact this generates is backed up by a surprisingly sharp HD performance that belies the H5350's non-1080p resolution and lack of high-grade image processing to deliver oodles of fine detail.

The unit also avoids DLP's once-common tendency to mess up horizontal motion with fizzing dot noise, and presents moving objects with very little judder, even during 1080p/24fps playback – a feat beyond many projectors costing twice as much.

We are also astonished by how watchable SD sources are and by how quietly the unit runs, especially given that somewhat outlandish maximum brightness.

Rainbow effect

But we had to knock off points for its susceptibility to DLP's infamous rainbow effect. The colour wheel system used in single-chip DLP projectors use can cause you to see stripes of greens and reds flitting around your peripheral vision and on the H5350 this phenomenon is more distracting than we've seen on any projector for many a moon.

If you're at all susceptible to the rainbow effect (some people don't see it all) then you can't help but notice it on the H5350. And if you're especially sensitive to it (as some are), it's bad enough to make the projector a non-starter.

Other issues we have with the H5350's pictures are that black levels, while decent versus LCD models, are slightly grey compared with most DLP rivals. Plus dark scenes are rather lacking in subtle shadow detail, and one or two colour tones look rather odd.

Finally, contoured edges on the H5350 tend to look pretty jagged and 'striped'.

Budget projector

This is a tricky one to judge, as the H5350's lowly price definitely requires you to swallow some bitter performance pills.

But ultimately we think the price tag is so low that, provided you're not a 'rainbow effect' sufferer, it's well worth giving an audition and a punt.