(Pocket-lint) - The cinema - we absolutely love it. The big-screen experience, popcorn, a crowd, you just can't beat it. With that said, what if you could? It's becoming easier and easier to replicate that class of projection at home, especially if you've got a wall or projector screen big enough to use.
That means you could turn your movie nights from small-screen situations to main events, and upgrade your home into a rival to your local multiplex.
Of course, you'll need a top projector for the job - preferably a future-proof model that can project at 4K resolution. We've taken a deep dive into the market to find you the best candidates for your home projection needs.
Our testing means not only seeing how picture quality holds up under a variety of lighting situations, but also going into more depth and comparing contrast ratios, resolutions, lumen output and portability.
Value also plays a huge part in deciding the order and what's made the cut, so check out our list of the best options below. We've also got a list of Full HD projectors, if that's more your price bracket.
Our Top Pick
- Superb value
- 4K resolution
- Great brightness and colour
- Not really portable
The key to Optoma's success with this projector is its price - you simply won't find 4K imaging this cheaply and with such quality reproduction anywhere else.
In fact, as you'll see, you could pay multiples of its price from other manufacturers.
The UHD40 is a cracking projector with solid brightness and great colour, plus pinpoint detail. If you're looking for a 4K projector and don't have thousands to spend it's a superb pick, although it lacks some of the portability and ease of use that others manage.
4K projectors we also recommend
Here are four other great 4K projectors that we recommend you check out:
- Upscaled 4K with HDR
- Great contrast
- Fairly expensive
- 4K isn't native
This sleek projector from Epson might be a good chunk more expensive than others on this list, but it's still a good price when you survey the market more widely, given that you're getting really good 4K video with HDR, and a really impressive contrast ratio.
It uses pixel shifting to upscale to 4K, meaning that it can't quite match the detail of more expensive models (like the Sony that's up next), but it's still a great option for most people's needs.
It's really easy to use and adjust, too, which is an absolute must for home projection, and its remote is a dream.
- Perfect picture quality
- Supreme brightness
- Native 4K
- Crazy price
With native 4K and even 3D capabilities, Sony's hugely expensive beast of a projector will have you feeling like a professional cinema owner before long.
It offers a simply stunning picture, bright and sharp, and is one of the best ways to watch any video content at home.
That said, it's also ferociously expensive, and surely outside of most people's budgets. If you've got the money, though, and want to view movies at home in stunning quality blown up massively, there's not much that can compete with Sony's picture.
LG CineBeam HU80KS
- Great for adaptability
- Easy to use
- Pricey relative to picture quality
- Middling sound
LG's idea with the CineBeam is to make an all-in-one portable projector that can do it all, and it's managed a really impressive feat along those lines.
Simply place the tower where you want it to project, power it up and you're away. It's genuinely portable and easy to use, with really solid picture quality to go with it.
That convenience means it's pretty expensive, though, and you aren't exactly getting cinema-quality sound from it, either, but we really like how it can seamlessly fit into your home, easily storing away when you're not using it and coming out for movie nights.
- Amazing brightness
- Great upscaling
- Not the best contrast
With extremely impressive 4K upscaling and HDR on board, this is a great option from BenQ if your top priority is the brightness of the picture - something that can take a little getting used to when you switch to projection from a TV.
It cranks out 2,000 lumens to make for a super-bright picture, freeing you up to worry a bit less about dimming your room right down.
That's a nice bonus, but you also get really solid picture quality - although that brightness does have a trade-off when it comes to shadow depth and blacks. Still, it's a great projector at its price.
Other products we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. Many of the devices we consider don’t make our final best guides.
These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5:
How to choose a 4K projector
Buying a new ultra-HD projector might not be quite as simple as we'd like yet - so here are some of the questions you should really be asking yourself before you take the plunge and make a purchase.
Do you need native 4K?
While every option we've included on our list, including those that didn't make our top five, is a 4K projector, some of them use upscaling to reach that resolution, rather than have it as a fully native experience. If you're not an audio-visual expert you might never notice the difference, but full native 4K tends to drive the price of a projector up (much like it does with a TV).
Of course, the added question here is whether you might prefer to just go with a 1080p option - if you're finding that your budget is getting pretty stretched this is a great way to get more quality for your money.
How important is brightness?
A key variable when it comes to playing movies and TV on your projector will be how bright it can get. Unless you have a blackout cinema room (and we're assuming you don't), you'll want to make sure that your projector is bright enough to work during the daytime if you know you'll want it to. That means checking between the different options to prioritise brightness.
If, though, you know it'll be used more rarely and exclusively after dark, you don't have as much to worry about.
Do you want a short-throw projector?
There are multiple types of projectors out there, and a growing niche of these are short-throw projectors. Rather than sitting at the back or in the middle of a room, projecting across distance onto a wall, these sit directly in front of the wall and project upward onto it at a sharp angle.
They're super convenient and much more easily stored, for the most part, but to get a high-quality picture using one you typically have to spend more - that's the drawback!
Will you be gaming on it?
Another question around projection is response time - if you're watching a movie, this doesn't matter too much, but if you plan to game at all it will become more key. If you think or know that you'd like to hook up your Xbox or PlayStation for some big-screen fun, we'd recommend double-checking your shortlist for its response times.
If that figure creeps up too far, you might find that you can feel the input lag as you play, and that's absolutely no fun at all.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
For a projector, especially one that outputs in 4K, that means using it in a variety of different lighting conditions to establish how it performs in different situations, not just on the brightness front but also in terms of colour accuracy.
Build quality is also important, as a projector that breaks after a few uses is a nightmare, and it also means establishing which represent actual value, in a market that has some extraordinarily expensive options in it, alongside those that are more open to those with smaller budgets.
We aren’t interested in pointless number crunching or extraneous details - we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. And don’t for a second think that the products aren't tested fully because the reviews are concise.
We’ve been covering tech since 2003, and, in many cases, have not only reviewed the product in question, but the previous generations, too - right back to the first model on the market. There is also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Conor Allison. Originally published on 8 April 2020.