The 10 Best Projectors under $500

Gone are the days when a normal 50-inch LCD screen was enough to make a movie night memorable. Home projectors are now as affordable as ever, bringing family evenings and date nights to a whole new level. Not only are home projectors much more portable and allow for significantly larger images, but they also won’t demand you to plan your entire living room décor around them.

Up until very recently, projectors only came in two varieties: the poorly lit, blurry, and cheap ones found in conference rooms, which nobody could ever show true art on, and the very expensive home cinema specialty projectors, which provided great image quality but at prices that were out of reach for most people.

Nowadays, a plethora of new, yet untested brands has cropped up. Many of them began offering high-tech solutions for a fraction of the price, although most would prove to be unreliable as a long term purchase. In order to face the unexpected competition, established brands began releasing new entry-level quality projectors at much-reduced prices.

For those willing to shop around, finding a decent home video projector under $500 is fairly easy with this review.

Here are the 10 best projectors under $500. And for those who want a little more information on what to look for, we’ve included a quick buyer’s guide after the final review.

ViewSonic PA503X XDA ProjectorViewSonic PA503X XDA Projector

A more than capable DLP projector, the PA 503X by View Sonic offers bright colors for home movies and business presentations alike. It is small and light enough that it can be carried in a briefcase without causing back pain, although it would have been nice if it came with its own case. Thanks to its throw distance, which starts at 3.9 feet, it is also ideal if you want to pack it for the beach house or long-weekend getaway because you should be able to find enough space for it even if your accommodations are minimal.

It offers a display ranging between 30 and 300 inches wide. For best image quality, it is best to keep it less than 100 inches (especially if you will be taking advantage of its reduced throw size). The lamp can last up to 8,000 hours if you use it on “Eco Mode.” However, we wouldn’t recommend this for watching movies (it performs great with slideshows, though).

Although the rainbow effect is noticeable, it is quite minimal, especially for its price range. As an added bonus, it is remarkably silent, so you won’t have to contend with any annoying fan noise disrupting suspense scenes.

Specs:

  • Weight: 4.63 pounds
  • Lumens: 3600
  • Resolution: 1024 x 768
  • Compatibility: VGA, HDMI, Mini USB, Blu-ray
Purchase

Apeman Mini DLPApeman Mini DLP

This Mini DLP projector is a true wonder of micro-engineering. It weighs less than 1.5 pounds and can easily fit in the palm of a manly hand, turning it from merely portable into spy gear territory.

Worry not, however; it is not hiding a camera or tracking your movements. It does, however, equip its own set of integrated speakers, and if the volume is kept at a reasonable level, the sound quality they provide is actually quite good. If you need to add an extra oomph to the sound of your car explosions, there’s a 3.55mm audio output jack that can fit almost everything.

In addition, it also offers seamless screen duplication and projection with any iPhone smartphone. It can also be used with Android equipment (both phones and Chromecast), but it will require an MHL adapter or a Wi-Fi extender.

Because of its relatively low brightness, this projector will require closed curtains – at least if you want it to double as an office projector and have a lot of tiny numbers to show. The projector comes with its own HDMI cable, separate USB and AC chargers, as well as a tripod and a mini HDMI adapter.

Specs:

  • Weight: Less than 1.5 pounds
  • Lumens: 700
  • Resolution: 1080 x 800
  • Compatibility: iPhone, Amazon Fire Sticks, USB, HDMI
Purchase

Epson VS250 SVGAEpson VS250 SVGA

Bigger does not always mean better, and this SVGA model by Epson is a great choice for those who want a home cinema experience in a small home. This model can project images up to 350 inches wide. However, the full resolution is at 800 x 600, which they have combined with an above-average contrast of 15000:1. The result is very neat video quality, provided the full size of the image is kept under 80 inches, and a remarkably affordable price, which should allow you to throw in a pair of nice speakers and a screen while still keeping your full tab under $500.

The display uses 3LCD technology and is, therefore, free from any rainbows. It also offers a very simple setup to any laptop, thanks to its HDMI cable. The warranty and potential replacement parts are all provided by Epson and therefore come with the backing of a well-established manufacturer.

The mechanical zoom ring is also easy to maneuver thanks to its responsive button panel. Once you combine that with its integrated keystone correction, you will get a very customizable image size without sacrificing video quality. Finally, it offers password protection, which is always a nice, extra perk, especially for those of us who are sharing living quarters with roommates or children.

Specs:

  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Lumens: 3,200
  • Resolution: 800 X 600
  • Compatibility: HDMI
Purchase

EUG-Home-Movie-full-HD-ProjectorEUG Home Movie full HD Projector

This is a great example of the wonders that can be achieved when an up-and-coming brand chooses one target market and runs with it. Designed exclusively with home movie fans in mind, the EUG full HD projector discards some of the features expected of an office-worthy projector in order to maximize the moving video quality.

It has two built-in 5-watt speakers and a connections panel that appears intimidating, but is, in reality, no different from a TV’s back panel. It may not allow you to make the most of your time if you are paying for a conference room by the hour, but it won’t require expert setup either.

It is also meant to be friendly toward your home electricity bill, thanks to the inclusion of a quick startup mode that will minimize warm-up times. Less heat generated is less energy wasted and less time spent fidgeting while you set up the night’s entertainment. Images are clear and colorful enough to be shown outdoors, and the DLP lamps will last for at least 5,000 hours. It also offers 360º image flip and decent vertical keystone correction.

Specs:

  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Lumens: 3,900
  • Resolution: HD, 1280 x 800, WXGA
  • Compatibility: HDMI, USB, Component video, PS3/PS4 and XBOX gaming consoles
Purchase

BenQ DLP Home & Business ProjectorBenQ DLP Home & Business Projector

BenQ has made a name for itself in the consumer sector with this projector thanks to its reliability and its ability to withstand the occasional bump and scratch. It offers a dependable image, simple installation, and bright colors while still keeping its overall price tag firmly in the budget range.

It offers a contrast ratio of up to 15,000:1 and images up to 300 inches wide when placed at distances anywhere between 120 and 13 inches. The lamps are designed for an expected life of around 6,000 hours, but this can be extended, thanks to the inclusion of an Eco mode and smart use of its auto-shut off option. It also packs an integrated speaker, although the sound quality was not very impressive.

Setup is relatively easy, although there are many hidden bells and buttons that will allow you to adjust the image size, quality, and zoom level. The independent SVGA and HDMI ports allow more than one unit to be connected and ready to go at the same time, which is invaluable in offices that require collaborative presentations or if you are planning a movie marathon. Triple adjustment feet and vertical and horizontal keystone complete the package.

Specs:

  • Weight: 5.24 pounds
  • Lumens: 3,300 – 3,600
  • Resolution: 1280 x 800, WXGA
  • Compatibility: HDMI, Mini USB, VGA
Purchase

Optoma HD Home Theater ProjectorOptoma HD Home Theater Projector

Optoma has enough years of experience in the AV and gaming industry to make us automatically trust pretty much almost any of their new releases. A Full HD projector with over 10,000 hours of estimated lamp life, integrated speakers, and full 3D support, for less than $500$ That one was a bit harder to swallow.

The projector’s performance does not disappoint, though. At five and a half pounds and nearly 12 inches of width, it is not as “portable” as many of the other models on this list, and it may require you to actually reserve space for it. It is not, however, a cheap and light gadget that deserves to be thrown away inside a suitcase. Its relative bulkiness is a small price to pay for superb color output, an astonishing contrast ratio of 23,000:1, the ability to play high-definition 3D movies at home and play games on it.

The output of 3,000 lumens, on the other hand, means that this model is a bit dimmer than some of the other models on this list. If you won’t need to use it daylight, the chances are you won’t be able to tell the difference, though, and the return in dark blacks and crisp images will be more than worth it.

This model is able to project images ranging between 28 to 301 inches, although it will need at least 10 feet of distance from a pojector screen or wall to reach its highest potential.

Specs:

  • Weight: 5.5 pounds
  • Lumens: 3,000
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Compatibility: HDMI, USB, 3D
Purchase

Epson VS355Epson VS355 Projector

A brand like Epson is sure to target many markets simultaneously, and the fact that they do not do so with the same model is actually an even better testament to their quality and attention to detail.

This projector was specifically designed for laptop users who need the extra brightness to deal with high-light conditions. A projector that’s not afraid of the dark is ideal for business conferences, schools, and family gatherings that involve a lot of children.

The general capabilities and design of the Epson VS355 make it hard to identify as a budget model at a glance; the polished white case, durable buttons, and general sleekness make it look like professional equipment. It works with DLP technology, and the lamps have an expected lifespan of at least 6,000 hours. However, this can be expanded by frequent use of its ECO mode.

Its resolution is firmly in the WXGA range, at least according to the spec sheet. Thanks to the superior brightness capabilities, it is very easy for it to appear better than that at first glance. Once you add the very decent contrast ratio of 15,000:1, and the ability to zoom in by 2X, the chances are that most of your guests will walk out with the impression of having witnessed a very high-end performance.

The speakers don’t reach a very high volume, unfortunately, and this seems to be a trade-off for avoiding sound distortion. So, you may need to add a pair of external hi-fi speakers if you want a truly Dolby worthy system.

Specs:

  • Weight: 5.5 pounds
  • Lumens: 3,300
  • Resolution: 1280×800
  • Compatibility: HDMI, USB
Purchase

Nebula Capsule by AnkerNebula Capsule by Anker

Small, stylish, and shaped a bit as if it belongs on a Star Trek movie set, the Nebula Capsule by Anker is a great minimalist option for AV fanatics and the design-conscious alike.

As tall as a smartphone and as discreet as your Alexa microphone, the Nebula Capsule blends in perfectly with existing smart home ecosystems. The relatively low resolution and lumens are offset by a tidy price and an internal battery that can offer you up to four hours of video playtime and 30 hours of good high-fidelity sound.

With a maximum image size of up to 100 inches, this projector is ideal for small flats and won’t grow enough to show pixelated edges. The sound quality is improved by the omnidirectional speaker, which, in turn, takes advantage of the soda-can like shape of the device. The result is a near-surround sound experience that will feel as if you have a whole speaker set rather than just a small device.

Its many customization options require something more than a standard button panel in order to be fully operated. Rather than having you spend hours reading the manual, the Nebula works with an Android 7.1 operating system and a Quadcore processor. This means you will be able to operate it intuitively from your smartphone directly, a great option for when you don’t feel like leaving the couch after the rom-com is over.

Specs:

  • Weight: 1.04 pounds
  • Lumens: 1000
  • Resolution: 850-480
  • Compatibility: HDMI, USB, Hulu, Amazon Fire, Music, Gaming Consoles
Purchase

ViewSonic M1 Portable ProjectorViewSonic M1 Portable Projector

The M1 is ViewSonic’s alternative for those who need something light, small, and that works equally well indoors and the dark outdoors. Durable and resilient, it has an internal battery with five hours of life per charge. Meanwhile, the DLP lamps are expected to last for approximately 30,000 hours, thanks to the clever energy-saving heat sinks that will prevent anything from burning or making the drapes behind it catch fire.

Another remarkable quality of this device is its double lens, which provides it with an extra-short throw. As a result, it will enable you to project images up to 200 inches wide even if placed less than 10 feet away from the wall.

Clearly aimed at a younger crowd that needs to make the most out of small spaces, the M1 has a proprietary Smart Stand that will allow you to adjust the image height and angle quickly and with remarkable flexibility. When not in use, the machine will stay protected both by the automatic shut-off feature and by the rotating stand itself, which will act as a lens cover.

Finally, the M1 can also play from wireless dongles (such as Chromecast), cast your smartphone or laptop screen, and provide superb music or sound effects; the integrated speakers are Dual Harman Kardon, which are a far cry from the standard quality offered by most models. The degree of immersion and detail of the sound system will become apparent after just a few minutes of an action flick.

Specs:

  • Weight: 1.52 pounds
  • Lumens: 250
  • Resolution: 854-480 (WVGA)
  • Compatibility: HDMI, regular USB, Type-C USB
Purchase

Crenova XPE660Crenova XPE660

Trailblazer Crenova has sought to redefine the budget home projector category with a device that offers unprecedented brightness, modern design, and completely revamped fan system that lets you enjoy the sounds of your movie – and nothing else.

The projector’s full HD resolution offers the unmistakable colors and sharpness that would be expected from 1080P, as it is capable of using up to 16,700 colors. The projection size ranges between 60 to 200 inches, and it can be placed as close as 7 feet away from the screen or wall, provided you are keeping the image under 80 inches. This is a surprisingly wide and cinema-worthy image size, as the Crenova is fully compatible with both 16:9 ad 4:3 image ratios. They have not sacrificed quality for quantity here, though; the painstakingly polished lens offers a rich contrast even near the corners.

The main distinguishing feature of the XPE 660 is its fan system. Not only do dual fans manage to cancel each other’s noise, but they also act as powerful coolers. This radically extends the like of the DLP lamps, which are meant to last for up to 20,000 hours; that is several years’ worth of daily use.

This model has its own set of integrated speakers, but sound quality will be increased if you add an external set.

Specs:

  • Weight: 1.52 pounds
  • Lumens: 5,000
  • Resolution: 1080P HD
  • Compatibility: HDMI, iPhones, Android, DVD, USB, SD cards, Gaming Consoles
Purchase

What Are Your Options for a Projector?

In this price range, you will find two main types of projectors: LCD, or liquid crystal display, and DLP, or digital light processing.

DLP projectors offer blacker blacks and sharper images and are the ideal choice for those who can totally block out the light from their viewing area. However, they are also slightly more expensive than LCD models and have a tendency to sometimes show some “rainbows” (that is, the light degrades into tiny specs of red, blue, and green) during fast-moving sequences.

LCD projectors, on the other hand, are generally less expensive to buy, but they consume more electricity. They are also better in places where you can’t or won’t install blackout curtains.

Liquid crystal on silicon projectors provide the advantages of both and usually offer 1080p or 4K images. However, this is a newer technology that cannot be found in the under $1,000 range, so we have not included any on our list above.

What to Look for in a $500 Projector?

There are four factors you should take into account when shopping around for a home projector. The first one is the maximum image size. Many options in this price range offer slightly smaller images than the industry standard. This may be worth avoiding if you are planning on devoting an entire room for the experience. On the other hand, if you live in an apartment, then forking out $100 extra for an extra-stretched image may not be worth it.

Second, you want to look at the contrast ratio and them lumens offered by the specific model. Both will play a major role in image quality and sharpness. Lumens will become extra important for people who will need to contend with some light around their movies.

Third, take a look at the number of accessories you can afford and have space for. External speakers provide a very noticeable difference in sound quality, so unless your budget is really tight or you need a portable option, you don’t want to rely on the projector’s own integrated sound card.

Finally, consider whether you will be getting a screen as well: two projectors may offer the same image quality on paper, but one of them may require a high quality screen in order to truly shine.