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 ten top models of home cinema projector. They range from pocketable Pico projectors, to cinema grade 4K Ultra HD models; the surprisingly affordable to reassuringly expensive. The days of fuzzy old pub projectors are long gone.
With HD now ubiquitous, you can get great results from 1080p source material. Indeed, our top pick is an Epson Full HD model that won't break the bank, yet is equally outstanding with movies as games and sports.
1. Epson EH-TW6600
Superb value home cinema projector
Epson's EH-TW6600 is the ideal projector for home cinema fans looking for a giant picture on a modest budget. It delivers sharp, vibrant Full HD images comparable with models costing twice as much. Rated at 2,500 lumens, it's also bright enough to be used in a partially lit living room, making it a great choice for gamers, plus there's a 2 x 10w sound system for impromptu FPS sessions. Contrast is rated at 70,000:1, which translates to plenty of visual punch. Operating noise is an unobtrusive 23dB in Eco mode. Overall, unbeatable value.
2. Optoma HD50
Great value, high performance home cinema projector
The Optoma HD50 is a Full HD projector designed for wall-sized movie watching and console gaming. At 3.8kg it's easy to park on a coffee table. and would suit those who want to go large occasionally. There's no onboard audio, so you'll need to use it with a separate sound system. HD images are bright (Optoma quotes 2,200 ANSI lumens) and contrast is good (50,000:1). Rainbow fringing, an artifact common to single chip DLP projectors, is notable only by its absence. Operating noise is 29dB. A fine 1080p projector for AV enthusiasts and gamers.
3. JVC DLA-X700R
With inky blacks, JVC D-ILA is built for home cinema.
Home cinema aficionados will be delighted by JVC's DLA-X700R. It uses D-ILA imaging technology to deliver prodigious black levels with unbeatable contrast, on this model rated at 1,200,000:1. Images pop with extraordinary clarity. Although a 1080p model, it uses proprietary e-shift3 technology to deliver a pixel dense 3810 x 2160 4K resolution image. Don't think you'll be able to pull this out of sock draw when you need it though, it's big and hefty. Build a home cinema around it though and you'll always have a full house.
4. Sony VPL-HW40ES
Dynamic SXRD projector for gamers and movie fans.
Sony's curvaceous VPL-HW40ES is solid choice for all-round entertainment duties. Using SXRD imaging technology, it casts colour rich, contrasty pictures that look particularly great with live sports. The low-lag game preset is effective too. Brightness is rated at 1700 ANSI lumens, so it's best used in a fully dark room. Build quality is excellent although serious users may bemoan the lack of a 12v trigger for automatic screen control. Operating noise is a low 21dB, making this a very easy model to live with.
5. Sony VPL-VW300ES
The most affordable 4K Ultra HD projector yet.
Offering four times the picture resolution of Full HD, 4K UHD is tailor made for the big screen. Native content may be scarce, but the Sony VPL-VW300ES does a great job of upscaling regular HD to digital cinema grade. There are caveats though. With a brightness of 1500 lumens you'll need to use it in a light controlled room, and it deserves a dedicated screen for the best results. Operating noise is 26dB. A future-proofed option for hardcore cinephiles.
6. Philips PicoPix PPX3614
Versatile pocket projector for mobile devices.
This Wi-Fi enabled LED PicoPix projector is perfect if you want to throw big images from a smartphone or tablet. Weighing just 0.28kg, it throws vivid (140 lumens) images from mains or battery. It comes with a simple remote control, but also boasts a touchpad on top for easy navigation. There's even a diddy onboard 1w sound system. In addition to multimedia files, this little Pico LED DLP projector can also read office documents, so it's handy for road warriors too. Native resolution is 854 x 480. Astoundingly good value.
7. Asus S1
Recommended for portability and ease of use.
If you want a pocket Wi-Fi enabled projector, but don't need all the features of the PicoPix PPX3614, consider the Asus S1. This gorgeously finished pocket-sized LED model is perfect for pop-up presentations, casual gaming or impromptu sports screenings. The onboard battery gives around two hours of use. Fan noise is a moderate 28dB. Rated at a 200 lumens, the S1 is able to throw an image roughly 1.5m from about the same distance. Native resolution is WVGA 854 x 480, so don't be tempted to blow it up larger.
8. Vivitek Qumi Q7 Plus
Good for home entertainment and business presentations.
Slim enough to slip in a briefcase, yet smart enough to inspire envious glances on a coffee table, this latest iteration of the Qumi Q7 ticks all the right boxes. Image clarity is higher than its smaller Pico projection rivals, thanks to a native resolution of 1280 x 800, and brightness is quoted at 1000 ANSI lumens. With a contrast at 30,000:1, this is a solid home entertainment proposition, while the Office Viewer offers PDF support.
It also runs quietly. A tad pricey, but worth it.
9. Viewsonic PLED-W800
Best for boardroom presentations and weekend r&r.
The PLED-VW800 is an LED DLP projector with quite a few tricks up its sleeve. You can use it with HDMI/MHL sources and laptops, SD cards and USB sticks, or wireless connectivity via an optional £49 dongle. The Viewsonic is native WXGA 1200 x 800 and rated at 800 lumens. For the best movie watching results, you'll need to watch in a darkened room. Contrast is a tad limited, but the onboard sound system is loud enough to be heard in a smallish boardroom.
Read our full PLED-VW800 review
10. Canon LV-X300ST
This Ultra short throw projector is brilliant for business, classrooms.
If you have limited room to cast an image but need a big image, consider an ultra short throw projector. The LV-X300ST uses clever optics to cast a huge picture just one metre from the screen. There's also a powerful 10w sound system onboard. The projector is unusually bright too, rated at 3,000 ANSI lumens. Operating noise is high at 36dB though. Native resolution is 1024 x 768, so text and graphics look sharp. Ideal when space is limited, or in a classroom/boardroom environment.