The drive to produce bigger and badder television screens has been raging since the technology first caught hold in America during the late ’40s. Today, LED TVs can be had at sizes up to 90-inches, but they’ll cost you big time. If what you really want is a 10-foot HD picture up on your wall, then what you need is a capable projector.
For the best experience and easiest installation, you’ll want to consider factors like throw ratios, keystone correction, brightness and contrast capabilities and projector type (i.e. DLP, LED).
The best news is, you don’t have to spend and arm and a leg to get a projector that sports those kinds of features. There’s a host of affordable offerings under $1,000 from BenQ, Epson, Viewsonic, and others which are designed with HDMI in mind and grant you high-definition resolution on the medium of your choice. Some light cannons go even further, too, reveling in wireless connectivity and 3D playback — features that simply weren’t feasible a decade ago. Below are our current favorites, so you get the big-screen picture without the big-budget price tag we all dread.
BenQ HT1075 ($800 average street price)
Few exceed BenQ when it comes to consumer-based projectors, whether talking form or function. The company’s HT1075 is built for flexibility, allowing it to project up to 100 inches of image real estate at a distance just under 8 feet away, rendering it as apt for the living room as the bedroom. It touts full 1080p resolution and flaunts 2,200 ANSI Lumens as well, too, not to mention vertical and horizontal keystone correction for optimal positioning. Said hallmarks, combined with its vertical lens shift and resounding ability to accept wirelessly transmitted HDMI signals with an optional wireless kit ($350, ouch!), only taking your viewing experience to the next level.
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8345 Projector ($800 street price)
The PowerLite Home Cinema 8345 may be Epson’s budget-based solution for those looking to pick up a projector, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on features. The sleek, white device provides full 1080p resolution via a pair of HDMI ports housed on the back, as well as 1,800 Lumens worth of brightness and a contrast ratio of up to 25,000:1. It also touts both vertical and horizontal lens shift for quick positioning, along with quiet operation and a lamp designed to last up to 4,000 hours. The resulting image quality is impressive, too, whether talking skin tones or the projector’s handling of light and dark scenes.
Viewsonic PJD-7820HD ($630 street price)
You can’t ask for much more for $700 than what Viewsonic’s PJD-7820HD offers. Showcasing a jet-black exterior and the company’s iconic bird logo, the 3D-capable projector provides terrific functionality across the board, excelling in terms of both portability and image quality. The 1080p resolution is excellent — regardless of the vivid, yet slightly inaccurate colors — and makes adequate use of the supplied 3,000 ANSI Lumens of light even in the most well-lit of environments. The coupled, 3-year warranty and the DLP projector’s generous amount of keystone correction (+/- 40 degrees) merely round off the hallmarks.
Optoma HD26 ($690 street price)
The Optoma HD26 strikes an attractive balance between features and image quality, with an appealing price to boot. The projector supports full 1080p resolution in both 2D and 3D using either HDMI input, providing admirable color quality and appropriate black levels to match. Setup is quick and easy, and given the projector’s small footprint, you can easily stow it when not in use. Moreover, it can crank out 3,200 ANSI Lumens, ensuring you can view the image amid the ambient light present in a typical living room. It may be prone to the occasional rainbow effect, sure, but few tend to notice this affect.
BenQ W1080ST ($1060 street)
The only thing that separates BenQ’s W1080ST from the aforementioned HT1057 is its throw distance. The projector is identical in terms of features and functionality, allowing you to project 65-inch, full 1080p video from less than a meter away. Image quality is still a standout, though, basking in deep black levels and accurate colors, regardless of whether you’re using either the projector’s 2D or 3D capabilities. Two HDMI inputs also ensure compatibility with most devices, and though it lacks the manual lens shift of its long-throw brethren, the fact that you can place the device at close range helps us turn a blind eye.