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Modern digital projectors are something of a revelation to use. Similar to the projectors at your local cinema, only smaller, simpler and thus more suitable for home use, they’re remarkably easy to install and move.
Thanks to improvements in the performance and affordability of projectors in recent years, these devices are emerging as a popular alternative to traditional tellies for watching media at home.
Why a projector, rather than a TV?
For anyone who spends any length of time watching films, TV, sports, or playing video games, the addition of a digital projector to your household is truly transformative. We've had one for a decade, and still find it breath-taking to take in a viewing of The Shining in a screen as wide as our lounge wall, from our own sofa, with no irritating strangers munching on popcorn behind us.
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Mass Effect is an altogether more immersive experience when the players are the same size as you. You may find flat-screen TVs impressive – but watching Game of Thrones on a screen seven feet wide and four foot high leaves even big screens in the dust.
We all know we spend too much of our lives staring as screens, and you may think that an addition of a digital projector to your life will only compound this. But the light is quite different. Rather than light shining directly at you, you're seeing it reflected off the surface you're viewing, causes considerably less eye-strain.
Provided you get the specs right, a digital projector will result in a smoother, more 'cinematic' image for viewing than a TV. You know that slightly synthetic, overly bright quality some HD TV has? Projectors bring a depth of image without tipping over into the 'hyper-real'
The portability of a projector is a serious boon. We've taken projectors away on holidays to set up so our travel-mates can play PlayStation, while a big-screen TV doesn't have the same flexibility.
Our favourite digital projectors for 2021
As with all technology, the opportunity to spend up large is certainly there, but we've opted for a selection here that's on the lower end of the cost spectrum, to reflect what people usually spend on in-house entertainment (save for our last choice, which is our pick of the high-end options). Nevertheless, the performance of these projectors is seriously impressive.
ANKER Nebula Capsule II Smart HD Ready Portable Projector
This is a phenomenal projector for video playback, boasting crisp, HD resolution across a width of ten feet. In our testing, the projection was clear and bright. The projector proved capable of playing media such as films and live-streams with minimal lag, turning our reviewer’s living room into something very much resembling a theatre.
The only question mark over the Anker Nebula Capsule is whether or not it’s suitable for gaming. There’s a bit of input lag, which means the projector is not a great fit for games that require lightning-fast reactions. However, when it comes to gentler-paced gaming, the projector offers a gorgeous, immersive experience at an unbeatable price. We particularly enjoyed using it to play Kentucky Route Zero on the PS4.
There’s so much to love about the Anker Nebula, from its pint-sized, portable design to its clever auto-focus feature, which helps ensure a crisp projection no matter where the projector is placed. For superstar performance without the need to pay an astronomical price, this projector would be our pick.
BenQ GV1 Portable Projector
With solid performance, an approachable price and a cute, compact design, the BenQ GV1 Portable would make a great introduction to projecting films and TV shows at home.
Setting up the GV1 Portable was especially easy, with only a few steps required to produce a good-quality projection. In our testing, this projector’s colour contrast proved a particular strong point, with fantastically bold distinctions between brighter hues and dark areas of the image.
While there’s no autofocus feature with this projector, its manual focus is easy enough to get the hang of.
One minor downside to the GV1 Portable is its lack of an HDMI input, which will make the projector tricky to use with certain media devices. Nonetheless, this is an excellent, accessible option, particularly for first-time users who would prefer to avoid complex features and major expense.
Puppy Hachi Infinite M1
Here’s something a little different to just about any other gadget on Earth.
The Puppy Hachi Infinite M1 is a touchscreen projector, capable of turning smooth surfaces around your home into Android 9.0-powered touchscreens. We tried the projector on a kitchen table and on a hard floor, and found ourselves quite amazed by the responsiveness of the screen, which we used to browse the web, play games and use social media.
Of course, you can also use the Hachi Infinite M1 for more run-of-the-mill purposes like watching films and other streaming media. The projector certainly does a decent job of playback, but the biggest draw here is clearly the cutting-edge touchscreen capability. It’s a must-try for tech aficionados.
Optoma UHD30 4K Ultra HD Home Cinema Projector
As you might expect of such a high-end projector, the UHD30 also offers fantastic film and TV viewing, with the 4K projection making for rich colours, sharp contrast, and smooth motion. Top notch.
Philips NeoPix Easy 2+ NPX442 HD Ready Mini Projector
This small but mighty HD Ready Mini Projector from Philips is the ideal option for buyers who want a projector to use every now and then.
While the Neopix Easy 2+ understandably lags some of the other options we’ve tested in terms of screen size and brightness, it can still do a great job of projecting video in a darkened room.
We expect this would be a particularly suitable projector for households with children who want to bring a sprinkling of cinematic magic into their homes.
The Neopix Easy 2+ may be a relatively affordable option, but it’s very well made, performing reliably in our testing.
EPSON EH-TW7400 4K Ultra HD Home Cinema Projector
If you're looking for a deluxe at-home cinematic experience, then investing in the EPSON EH-TW7400 4K Ultra HD Home Cinema Projector is well worth the price tag. You can sense the expense – and the quality – as you watch.
As you’d expect, the EH-TW7400 does the basics beautifully, with easy setup, reliable performance and 5,000-hour bulb life. What sets this projector apart is its capability to project in dazzling 4k quality, delivering some of the crispest and brightest playback we’ve seen from an at-home projector.
The digital enhancement feature worked beautifully to eradicate motion blur when watching Lord of the Rings, and the auto focus function is second to none. With its high brighness rating (2400 lumens), we found the picture perfectly crisp even during daylight, when the lights weren't dimmed in our flat.
This projector wouldn’t necessarily be our pick for gamers, as its high video quality comes at a slight cost in terms of input lag. However, for projecting films and TV shows at home, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option.