Home theater projectors can offer a lot to movie-lovers looking for a bigger TV alternative, but they also tend to require either a dedicated theater room or some serious shuffling around of your home entertainment system. That’s not always feasible.
One solution is a “short-throw” projector designed to be used at shorter distances. Unfortunately, many traditional short-throw models still need 6 to 10 feet of space or more, which isn’t really short for the average living room (or classroom). What you need are “ultra” short-throw projectors, which angle a tight projection upward and can be used from mere inches away from a screen. That often means you don’t have to change your TV setup much at all! Here are our favorite picks.
Samsung LSP9T Premiere
Best overall short-throw projector
- 4K picture at 120 inches
- High quality 2,200-lumen brightness
- Great voice assistant support
Why you should buy this: It’s an excellent all-around ultra short-throw projector.
Who it’s for: People who want one of the best big-screen short-throw projectors on the market and are willing to pay for it.
Why we picked the Samsung LSP9T Premiere:
Samsung’s short-throw projector has an excellent collection of specs that guarantee a high-end home theater experience while also saving a bunch of space. That includes a 2,200-lumen bulb that ensures images will be visible even in bright-room conditions, 4K resolution at a 120-inch image size, and Samsung’s own Tizen smart TV platform for browsing apps and more.
This ultra-short-throw project also comes with 30-watt speakers, and while projector speakers aren’t generally that impressive (we highly suggest getting a full sound system), these plus the built-in subwoofer are better than traditional TV speakers. It’s also a smart projector, with support for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung's own Bixby voice assistant, so you don’t have to get up when you can turn the projector on or search for a show with basic voice commands.
Like many short-throw projectors, Samsung’s model is also fairly portable if you’d like to move it to different locations, and doesn’t require the same sort of calibration each time that other types of projectors may require. It’s a complete package, although the price may deter some buyers.
Best for color reproduction
- Great color accuracy
- HDMI eARC support
- Supports casting with Chromecast
- 130-inch images may be too large for some traditional home setups
Why you should buy this: The incredible color accuracy, plus Android TV support.
Who it’s for: Those who want vivid, color-accurate images, with an existing sound system.
Why we picked the Hisense PX1-PRO:
Hisense’s TriChrome engine is the real highlight of this laser projector, able to reach 107% coverage of the BT.2020 color gamut: That means extra color accuracy, which is always an important consideration for projectors. Combine it with the peak brightness of 2,200 lumens, and you won’t have to worry about losing any image detail if you’re switching from a TV. It also provides a 4K image at up to 130 inches.
We love to see a projector supporting the Dolby Atmos sound format as well. Add in the HDMI eARC support for easy passthrough connections for modern speakers, and this is one of the best projectors for sound quality you can find. Thanks to its Android TV platform, it’s also friendly for Google app users and supports casting video using the Chromecast tools.
If there’s any downside here, it’s that 130 inches is a fairly large space, and you’ll need a lot of room for a screen that large, which may not fit in every home theater space.
Vava VA-LT002 Home Theater Projector
Best mid-range short-throw projector
- Capable mid-range model
- 60-watt Harmon Kardon speakers
- HDR10 support
- Speakers still can't compete with a full system
Why you should buy this: It has surprisingly good speakers for a project and, along with support for the latest optimization.
Who it’s for: Users without external speakers, those looking for a solid mid-range option.
Why we picked the Vava VA-LT002 Home Theater Projector:
Vava’s projector is more of a mid-range model that allows buyers to save some money without skimping on too many important features. Those features include support for up to a 4K image, a lamp that can reach 1,800 lumens of brightness, and capable 60-watt Harmon Kardon speakers. This is another projector that supports the Android TV platform, which should make managing your streaming services even easier.
We also like to see support for both HDR10 and Dolby Audio here, which will work well if you are primarily interested in a movie-watching experience. It’s another model that’s highly portable, too, so you can easily reposition it, or take it to different rooms (i.e., classroom, meeting rooms, etc.) if necessary.
LG Cinebeam HU715QW
Another great all-rounder
- Dolby Atmos and HDR10 support
- ThinQ smart platform
- Brightness modes depending on the room
- 20-watt speakers do not impress
Why you should buy this: It has excellent support for Dolby Atmos, HDR10, and beyond.
Who it’s for: Those who want to watch the latest movies the way they are intended.
Why we picked the LG Cinebeam HU715QW:
As of this post date, this particular Cinebeam is open for pre-order, and you may want to nab it early if you’re interested in high-end image quality. Combine the impressive 2,500 lumens with 4K technology backed by LG’s XPR tech, add in support for HDR10, and this projector can really deliver an image to make your friends jealous. It’s another model that includes Dolby Atmos and HDMI eARC to benefit your careful speaker setup, too.
The platform also uses LG’s ThinQ smart tech, which means you can give voice commands if you like. Screen sharing is supported via AirPlay 2, Miracast, and more. There are also some handy modes here, including different brightness modes for medium light, bright rooms, dark rooms, and others. Unfortunately, the two 20-watt speakers could be more impressive, so this is another example of why you’d really want an external sound system or soundbar to use as well.
Epson EpiqVision LS300
Best affordable ultra-short-throw projector
- Affordable model
- Extra-high 3,600-lumen brightness
- Lacks some smart and optimization features
Why you should buy this: It’s affordable and extra bright.
Who it’s for: Those who want to save money while watching TV in bright rooms.
Why we picked the Epson EpiqVision LS300:
It’s hard to find a budget ultra-short-throw projector, but Epson’s model will probably be the best you can find. It costs about the same as a very good HDTV, and you get support for up to 4K images at 120 inches, although only native HD support (always look at the native support numbers). The laser can reach 100% of the traditional RGB color base, and HDR optimization is here as well for improving contrast and clarity for many kinds of content.
Android TV and its associated support for Chromecast casting is here as well, making this another good pick for Google users or those streaming content from other devices. The Yamaha 2.1 speakers are also very good considering the price. And brightness is perhaps the most impressive of all, reaching all the way up to 3,600 lumens if necessary (although staying at that level will burn your bulb out quickly). All in all, this is an ideal pick if you want to replace a TV that’s frequently watched in the daytime.
Wemax Nova 4K Laser Projector
Best big-picture projector for a cinema experience
- Extra-large 150-inch mode
- 3D content support
- More suited toward pure theater rooms than other entertainment spaces
Why you should buy this: It supports extra-large images and even 3D content.
Who it’s for: Those who want to mimic a theater experience more closely.
Why we picked the Wemax Nova 4K Laster Projector:
This well-rounded projector does all kinds of things right, starting with 4K support, HDR10, and an extra-large image option that can reach up to 150 inches (although at that point your 4K resolution may not be the same). It has a great 2,100-lumen rating that pairs well with ALPD technology that uses light more efficiently to help reduce eye strain at closer distances and save lamp life.
While the main draw here is the support for extra-large images that can easily span a whole wall or home theater room, the broad support of this Wemax model — which also uses Android TV — makes it a good fit for a variety of users. Although if you really want that 150-inch cinematic experience, you may want to break out the measuring tape before you hit the buy button.
Throw distance is the minimum/maximum distance the projector can be from a surface (like a screen or a wall) to cast a desirable image. Ultra-short throw projectors tend to have a range of around 7 to 8 inches. From there, throw distance jumps up to at least several feet.
Brightness is critical for projectors, determining how clear the image will be and how dark the room needs to be to properly see it. Brightness is measured in lumens, though ANSI lumens are a common measure in DLP (digital light processing) projectors.
There isn’t a hard and fast way to measure lumens, so the actual lumen rating can vary from model to model. Generally, the most common brightness for ultra-short-throw projectors is between 2,000 and 2,500 lumens. Portable projectors are usually significantly dimmer, but that’s largely because of the smaller lighting fixture in the compact form factor.
Resolution naturally determines the clarity of the image. This is measured the same way it is on televisions and monitors. It’s important to read the fine print when shopping for projectors, however. Many will boast 4K or 1080p resolutions but are referring to the content the projector supports — different than the projector’s native resolution. Many cheaper projectors will promote HD resolutions, but only have a native resolution of 840×480 (DVD quality).
Any time you’re shopping, check the native resolution to get a clear idea of what the image will look like.
Projectors these days usually come with a healthy number of ports to connect Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and streaming devices. These are usually critical, even if the projector has a built-in SmartTV interface. These interfaces are usually clunky and outdated, so you’ll always have a better experience connecting an external media device.
You will also want to make sure the projector has audio-out jacks or HDMI eARC. Projector speakers are usually weak, if they have speakers at all. To get the best experience, you’ll want to connect a soundbar or home theater system.
If you want to go wireless, some projectors do support AirPlay or Chromecast, though this is far from a universal feature. But you can make just about any projector cast video by connecting an AppleTV, Chromecast, or other streaming stick.
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