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The 5 best projectors under $500

What you see above is not a poster that is somehow glowing in a dark room, but an image projected on a wall by a decidedly under $500 projector. If you’re looking at projectors in this category we expect that you’re looking for an entry level projector, a project for travel, or are already familiar with the power that projectors in this category are capable of. If you’re in the first two categories, get ready to become a part of the third. The best projectors under $500 are way more powerful than your middle school biology lectures would have led you to believe.

The best projectors under $500 for 2024

  • Buy the for the best overall projector under $500.
  • Buy the if you’re a beginner and want to get things started quickly and cheaply.
  • Buy the for the best portable projector.
  • Buy the to ace your next meeting.
  • Buy the for the best cheap projector.

Yaber K2s projector

Best projector under $500

A family enjoys the Yaber 1080p projector.
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Pros Cons
Works with Netflix and other key apps Somewhat hefty
NFC screencast at the tap of your phone
Offers Alexa voice control

If you’re used to the trappings of a modern TV, with app-based programming, voice-activated navigation and more, try Yaber’s K2s projector. It has a built-in TV dongle that gives you access to over 7,000 apps, but also Wi-Fi- 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 for connection to your other devices in case you want to port something over. In fact, if your phone is NFC-capable, you can pretty much just tap the projector with your phone to connect and start streaming from it. It’s all about easy options and getting started quick here.

Speakers on a projector are naturally going to be a bit contentious. Many people will not like them. They do, however, have an advantage over the speakers you’ll find on the best TVs in that the speakers are placed in a box and not a thin sheet. Here, in the Yaber K2s, we have dual speakers powered by JBL — one of the best speaker brands — which are going to give above-par speakers for the pay grade. In fact, you can turn off the screen and use this as a JBL Bluetooth speaker instead of a projector, should you want to. Finally, there is Dolby Audio support, so if you want to do the traditional television-user thing and pair it with one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, that’s not only totally fine, it’s actually highly recommended.

There’s little to not love about this tiny television alternative, except maybe that it is a bit heftier than most projectors of its style. And, again, that’s only a little, as this weighs in at close to seven pounds where most will be around three. And, really, that only means that it might be slightly less comfortable to travel with, when you include all of your other gear. We’ve not cracked one open to see how it works, but the general suspicion is that it is the dual-speaker design that pops the weight up a tad. And, for that, we’ll take it, as even with quality portable speakers, sometimes you simply don’t have room to take them and having good ones already built in will make you happy.

Key Specifications
Resolution 1080p
Connectivity HDMI, USB-A, USB-C, WiFi, Bluetooth
Lumens 800
Size 4.96 x 10.63 x 11.46 inches

Vankyo Leisure 470 Pro

Best for beginners

The Vankyo Leisure 470 Pro sitting on my desk.
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Pros Cons
Sets up in less than one minute On-device controls mildly annoying
Intuitive controls
Comes with nice case, cleaning supplies

The projector you see above is the one responsible for the hero image of this article. It’s a snappy, quick to use projector that works perfectly as a TV alternative for small rooms. Everything you need to do to set it up comes intuitively and you can get a surprisingly great picture out of it with no screen. Options to change color settings, throw size, aspect ratio and more all exist within its easily accessible menus. Once you’ve gotten it ready the first time, pulling it out and adjusting the knobs on the top the projector will come easily and getting a relatively focused shot can be done in less than a minute, with allowances for small adjustments once you pull up your favored media.

One mild point of annoyance with the Vankyo Leisure 470 Pro is its on-device controls, which are splayed out in a linear format. Why can this become annoying? When you need to use the arrow keys they aren’t arranged in the usual, usable WASD type format that we’re used to, which can be especially confusing in the dark and doubly so when you’re to the side of the projector and have to rotate everything in your mind yet again. Luckily, the Vankyo Leisure 470 Pro comes with great extras. For this issue, there is a handy remote with logical directional buttons, menu controls, and volume controls. Other extras contained within the soft carry case include cleaning tools to keep your lens looking as clean as possible.

Connecting to media can be done in several ways, including connecting an HDMI cord to your laptop or console, connecting via Chromecast-style phone screen casting, and plugging in USB sticks with media loaded onboard. Overall, this is an incredibly usable projector that you can get for not only under $500, but under $200, making it a great first projector. It would be shocking if you were not able to eek out loads more than 200 hours of entertainment out of this device, if you treat it well, making the money per hour of entertainment in the cents, not dollars.

Key Specifications
Resolution 1080p
Connectivity HDMI, USB, Wi-Fi
Lumens 170
Size 5.7 x 2.95 x 7.8 inches

Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro

Best portable

The Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro portable Andtroid TV projector.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends / .
Pros Cons
Compact and easy setup Android TV can be laggy
Excellent image in the dark
Great auto keystone and focus features

The Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro is reminiscent of a round portable speaker that you might take with you to the pool or on camping trips. And, functionally, it fits in kind of the same usability space. It weights less than 2.5 pounds and has a durable hard plastic exterior so that you can easily pack it in your bag and not worry about running out of room or weighing down the bag.

When you get to where you want to project, the built-in features of the Xgimi MoGo Pro 2 should help you get the most of the experience. There’s auto focusing and keystone correction, which will be helpful with the not-perfectly-level environments that come with travel and portability. Another nice feature, is eye protection that will make the projector avoid shining brightly into your eye as you pass in front on it — a situation much more commonly found when traveling than when using a projector is a more dedicated location.

The Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro comes with Android TV, which will provide an excellent modern interface for you to work with. You can also connect via Chromecast to your Android phone. We do find these systems to be somewhat laggy, but that is as much a property of the systems themselves as the projector. As per usual, using HDMI comes most highly recommended.

Key Specifications
Resolution 1080p
Connectivity Chromecast, HDMI, USB-A, USB-C, Bluetooth
Lumens 400
Size 4.3 x 4.7 x 6.3 inches

BenQ WXGA Business Projector

Best for business meetings

The front of the BenQ WXGA Business projector.
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Pros Cons
Many connection types You’ll need external speakers for larger rooms
High lumen projection
Special business projection modes

For the classic business meeting with a projector, we find that BenQ’s WXGA Business Projector likely has most everything that you’ll ever want for a reasonable audience. With things like automatic vertical keystone correction, special modes for data presentations and showing infographics, and high lumen projection, things should run smoothly every time you get ready to present. Furthermore, there are a ton of connection options, including the relatively rare VGA, USB mini-B, and S-Video ports as well as the more common HDMI and USB-A. No matter what specialize hardware and tech your industry uses, you’ll likely have a good option to connect with the BenQ WXGA Business Projector. Bringing this projector along will certain project a sense of preparedness.

You’ll also like the quick turn-on features that get everything ready with 90 seconds. Furthermore, as soon as a VGA input is detected by the projector it will begin to turn on automatically. It’s things like this that can reduce time spent in awkward silences and technological fumbling and more time presenting confidently. One extra step you can take for presentation success is to buy quality speakers to bring along with you, especially if you intend to present to larger crowds, as this projector’s internal speakers are on the quiet side. Note that this is not a true slight against the BenQ WXGA Business Projector, which likely expects you to do most of the noise-making, and projectors in general do not have great speakers.

Key Specifications
Resolution WXGA
Connectivity USB-A, USB mini-B, VGA, HDMI, S-Video
Lumens 4000
Size 11.65 x 8.7 x 4.72 inches

Onn. 720p Home Theater Projector

Best cheap projector

A turned-on Onn. Home Theater Projector.
.
Pros Cons
Great for testing out projectors or as a gift Lack longevity
Works from 4 to 23 feet
Ceiling mountable

If you came looking for a projector under $500 but realized that what you really wanted was a very cheap projector that you don’t have to worry too much about, can experiment with, or want to give your kids as a gift, this is the one. Somehow managing to be under $100, Onn.’s 720p Home Theater Projector provides a usable projector on the cheap that can give you the experience without the cost. Things are admittedly bare bones and there aren’t a ton of extra features, much as you would expect for a projector of this price, but the picture should still be a decent 720p, you can use it as close as four feet from your wall, and you’ll even have the ability to wall-mount it should you so choose. Ultimately, the value-for-the-price is there.

At the end of the day, we don’t expect this projector to give you year-after-year longevity in continual use. But, that’s not what this product is about. Use it for the occasional slumber party with your kids, letting them play video games on the wall, or use it as a quick addition to your display options for showing off the pictures you took and have stuck on a MicroSD card. Instead of viewing it as a TV replacement, but instead as a use-as-needed device, this projector will quickly show that its quality exceeds the price.

Key Specifications
Resolution 720p
Connectivity HDMI, USB, MicroSD
Lumens 250
Size 9.60 x 7.17 x 3.46 inches

How we chose the best projectors under $500

When we created our guide to the best projectors, with it we included a well-rounded guide into what makes a projector good. There won’t be an attempt to replicate that in full here. If you’re interested in projectors at large, you should definitely read that (and check out the sweet projectors highlighted there) instead. Here, instead, we’re focusing on what makes a projector under $500 tick and what you should look out for — and completely ignore — on these devices.

Ease of use

One of the advantages of an expensive projector is a lot of rather complex features that provide a superior, crisp, almost movie-like experience. Home theater projectors — when you factor in the comforts of home — can even exceed the quality of experience you’d have in a movie theater. But projectors under $500? They’re going to be quite a bit different. You’ll certainly be blown away by the quality you can get out of a budget projector, especially if you’re wading into them as something new and have the expectations of yesteryear on your mind.

However, one of the unexpected advantages of projectors under $500 is the freedom from complex features. Here, we make a trade-off; we accept that we won’t be getting movie theater quality, but that we should be able to use the projector easily and understand its features on a more intuitive level than we might otherwise expect.

The bottom line: If you aren’t a quality fanatic, projectors under $500 might suit you better than more expensive projectors due to the peace of mind you’re getting the best out of them you can in minutes, with little fiddling.

Projector screens

In the same vein as the above, your sub-$500 projector coming with a screen may or may not be the bonus you think it is. While some categories of projectors absolutely need a screen, the vast majority at this price level will not. Unless you’re going outdoors, when an outdoor projector screen will pay off in dividends, a white (or, even an off-white) wall should be fine. In any event, many of the best projector screens are relatively inexpensive to begin with and can be purchased separately, later.

The bottom line: We’re not necessarily considering the addition of a projector screen as a bonus, especially if it feels like it is used as a justification to bump up the price. On the other hand, if the screen is of good quality and it feels like a bundle deal, then the purchase will be considered worth. This is a play-it-by-ear aspect of buying budget projectors.

Projector styles and deals

There are a ton of projector styles, most of which have a special buying guide on this very website. As a result, there is no firm look or style for projectors under $500. That being said, looking at the best ultra short throw projectors and best 4K projectors, for example, and it will be hard to find something under $500. If you find yourself interested in something, however, be sure to check out our main articles for the category, as you may find something just beyond the $500 mark that we’re halting at here. Also consider checking our consistently updated list of the best projector deals for more projectors under $500 (that would normally cost considerably more).

In particular, we recommend you go check out Samsung Freestyle projector deals. When on sale, Samsung Freestyle projectors hit at $500 or under, but their MSRP exceeds the mark, disqualifying them from the list. They’re quick and simple to set up, have a point-and-shoot method of being cast, and the second gen one has access to Samsung’s Gaming Hub. Without a doubt, should either one be under $500 at this moment, due to a deal, you should strongly consider it as if it were a member on this list.

This article is managed and created separately from the Digital Trends Editorial team.

Editors' Recommendations

John Alexander

John Alexander is a former ESL teacher, current writer and internet addict, and lacks the wisdom to know what the future holds. His writing has appeared in PopSci, HeadPhonesty, WIRED, and Digital Trends. When not working, he can be found playing board games, drinking too much tea, taking long walks, and attempting to read foreign language books.

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