Irrespective of whether you are using a projector to watch a movie with your family at home or for a presentation in your office or gaming, projectors have taken image quality to a whole new level. Until now, you had projectors that were either the inexpensive ones that displayed blurry, poorly-lit images to the extremely expensive specialty projectors.
Today, there are so many hi-tech projectors available at a fraction of the cost and you can easily find a very decent video projector for your home or office for under $500. Here is our review of the best projectors under $500 and a buying guide that can help to make your buying decision easier.
Top 5 Reviews of Projectors Under $500
- Best Overall — ViewSonic PA503S 3600 Lumens High Brightness Projector: The DLP projector has a wide throw range and it has the highest contrast and brightness on our review.
- Best Compact — Fixeover GP100 Video Projector: LCD/LED projector with a large screen and has a long bulb life, high contrast and high brightness.
- Best Buy — Epson VS250 SVGA 3,200 Lumens Projector: The 3LCD projector has high contrast and brightness, which produces decent image quality.
- Best Budget Pick — GooDee 3,200 Lumens Video Projector: The LCD projector is suitable for home and office use and offers many features at a very affordable price.
- Best Features — Optoma HD143X 1080p Home Theatre Projector: The projector is loaded with features and is very versatile and its high brightness and contrast produces high-quality images.
Undoubtedly, the ViewSonic PA503S Projector is our top pick in the under-$500 category. The DLP format projector offers excellent maneuverability and a throw range of 3.9 to 43 feet, which makes it ideal for various applications as a small office or an outdoor projector for an exciting outdoor movie experience. The projector offers an extremely bright 3,600 lumens and the bulbs last around 15,000 hours before they have to be replaced. The ViewSonic PA503S offers several connectivity choices and it supports RCA, HDMI and VGA hookups and you can connect the projector to your Mac, PC, DVD or Blu-Ray players, among others.
- Big screen projection
- Image Size: 30 to 300 inches
- Noise Range: 27dB
- Lumens: 3,600
- Throw Range: 3.9 to 43 feet
- Plug-and-play projector
- Resolution: Full-HD — 1920 x 1080, VGA — 640 x 480
- Connectivity: Supports Mac, PC, mobile devices with input options like VGA, HDMA, etc.
- 3-year limited warranty on parts and labor, 1-year warranty on lamp
- US-based customer service
- Easy to set up and control.
- Versatile projector ideal for education, small business environments, etc.
- SuperEco mode allows the lamp to shine for around 15,000 hours.
- DLP format offers crisp and clear images.
- Lamp life shorter compared to other projectors.
- The in-built cooling fan is quite noisy.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive projector, then the Fixeover GP100 is a high-quality buy for less than $200. This is a great multipurpose projector for movie marathons with your family and friends, for business or classroom presentations. The 3,500 lumens of brightness make this projector ideal for a well-lit room. The cute and compact size of the projector makes it easy to carry around and set up very easily, making it truly your personal projector. However, despite its compact size, the Fixeover GP100 delivers excellent performance.
- Display Technology: LED
- Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels
- Image Brightness: 3,500 lumens
- USB plug-and-play
- Lamp Life: 30,000 hours
- Projection Screen 35 to 180 inches
- In-built speaker
- Good picture quality
- Very affordable price
- The long-lasting lamp that does not have to be replaced for 10 years
- Easy operation
- Not very lightweight
- A bit noisy
When it comes to projector technology, Epson is undoubtedly one of the leading brands. Tried and tested, the Epson VS250 offers high-quality and excellent performance. The projector is equipped with 3LCD display which produces images that are crystal clear and a brightness of 3,200 lumens. Although the projector works best in 800×600 resolution, it can work at other resolutions too. The Epson VS250 has a 15000:1 contrast ratio, which makes it the best compared to other LCD projectors. The Epson VS250 is surely one of the best projectors that you can buy under $500.
- Brightness: 3,200 lumens
- SVGA Resolution: 800 x 600
- Focal Length: 16.7 mm
- Pixel Number: 480,000 dots
- Projected Distance: 30 inches to 350 inches
- PC and Mac compatible
- Speakers: 2W Mono
- Supports HDMI
- Can be connected to devices in different ways
- Can project to a widescreen of size up to 2.9ft
- The built-in speakers are of good quality
- Easy and quick setup
- Low resolution may limit the usage of the projector
- Does not come along with an HDMI cable
The GooDee LED projector is ideal for use at home or the office. The compact design of the projector makes it easy to fit anywhere at all. The projector can produce high resolutions and its bulb is long lasting, which means that it will last without replacement for 10 years. You can connect the GooDee projector to various devices such as Blu-Ray or DVD players and also to your computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet, etc. Overall if you’re on a tight budget, the GooDee projector is a great value buy.
- LED projector
- Native Resolution: 1280*800
- Image Size: 35 to 80 inches
- Projection Distance: 4-16 feet
- 1080P video input
- Supports VGA, HDMI, USB and AV
- In-built stereo speakers with SRS sound
- In-built fans
- Single LCD panel
- Ultra-high-power LED light source projection
- Light Source: 30,000 hours of life
- 3-year factory warranty
- The projector works very quietly
- High resolution
- Plenty of connectivity options
- Color reproduction may not be very good quality
- The contrast range is quite low
If you’re looking for a high-quality projector with several features, then the Optoma HD143X is a great option for your home theater, office presentations, classrooms and training labs. The projector offers 3,300 lumens brightness and a contrast ratio of 22,000:1 that produces high-quality images with sharp text and rich colors. The lamp gives around 12,000 hours without requiring replacement for 8 years (with 4 hours of viewing). The projector is compact and lightweight, which makes it extremely portable.
- Resolution: 1080p (1920×1080)
- Brightness: 3,000 lumens
- High contrast: 23,000:1
- 1080p input response times
- 1.1x zoom
- True 3D content
- HDMI inputs and USB power
- Weight: 7 lb
- Clear, sharp and detailed images without compression or downscaling.
- Bright and accurate colors.
- Low lag for gaming purposes.
- Easy to install.
- Easy connectivity to gaming consoles and devices for HD video streaming.
- Difficult to line up with the screen.
- Oversplash around the screen edges.
How Does an LCD Projector Work?
LCD projectors make use of 3LCD technology, which uses a combination of 3 liquid crystal displays and the image is created using a multi-step process. A beam of white light is provided by a light source which passes to dichroic mirrors or 3 mirrors, which are shaped in a way that they reflect light of only a certain wavelength.
In this case, the mirrors reflect blue, red and green light and each of the colored beams of light is passed to an LCD panel that gets an electric signal, which tells the panel how the pixels must be arranged in order to create an image. The same image is created by all 3 LCD panels but each one is created with different colors because different colored light is passed through each panel. All the images combine in a prism and results in a single image with around 16.7 million colors and then the image is passed via the lens and projected onto the screen.
Types of Projectors
There are different kinds of projectors depending on the technology used and the 2 main types are DLP projectors and LCD projectors.
These are available in 2 versions — single-chip and 3 chip. Single-chip projectors are usually cheaper and are used mainly for home entertainment and they provide sharp images. 3-chip projectors are quite expensive and they are suitable for smooth running of images and do not have rainbow effects. 3-chip projectors are usually used in movie theaters as they produce clearer and more prominent images. They produce more colors and are available up to 4K resolutions.
Compared to DLP projectors, LCD (liquid crystal display) projectors are not as bright, but they offer good quality images. LCD projectors are very lightweight and can be carried around quite easily. LCD projectors are fast and sharp and are excellent for gaming. While you can watch 3D movies using LCD projectors, the image quality may not be as great as a DLP projector.
Why Buy a Projector under 500
There is a wide range of projectors available under $500, even well-known brands such as Acer, Epson, BenQ, etc. have models priced under $500. Usually getting a projector under $500 is considered safe, because you can get several decent choices that meet your requirement without burning a hole in your pocket. Projectors under $500 offer various features and excellent image quality that is sufficient for a smooth presentation or a movie session. While you may not get the bells and whistles and hi-tech features as in the expensive, high-end models, the projectors below $500 are completely value-for-money buys.
Things to Consider When Buying a Projector under $500
Here are some of the factors to keep in mind when buying a projector under $500.
Type of Projection
When you’re planning to buy a projector under $500, it is a good idea to choose between 3LCD or DLP projection because they offer better quality images compared to TFT LCDs. However, LCD and DLP have a few issues too. For instance, LCD faces 3D artifacts or motion blur issues and DLP faces the issues of rainbow effect and black depth. So, you must evaluate both options and choose the one that works best for you.
It is recommended that you always choose a projector having around 3,000 to 4,000 lumens, as this offers the best brightness level. However, if your budget is tight, you can opt for 1,500 lumens, but you must not go below 100 ANSI lumens or 1,000 lumens.
The image size depends mainly on your room size and your usage. If you’re planning to use the projector both indoors as well as outdoors, then look for a projector with a wide projection size. Or else, you can opt for one that offers a decent projection range.
You already are aware that as the resolution gets better, so does the image quality with 480p being the bare minimum for reasonable quality. Ideally, getting a native resolution of 720p or 1080p is the best option; however, this really depends on your budget.
Ensure that the projector you buy has a wide contrast range. The ideal contrast ratio is around 10000:1 and it is recommended that you don’t go below 5000:1, as you will not get clarity.
Different projectors have different throw ratios and you must choose the throw ratio according to the size of the room. If your room is very large, then the throw ratio will not matter a lot; however, if the room is small, then opt for a short or low throw ratio, as even from a short distance, the projector can achieve a large screen size.
Ideally, you should choose a projector that has a lamp with a long lifespan because replacing the lamp can be quite expensive. Ensure that the lamp has at least around 10,000 hours, which will enable it to run for at least 3 years.
LCD vs DLP Projectors
DLP projector technology makes use of a digital micromirror device. One chip of the DLP projector has a reflective surface containing thousands of tiny mirrors which when coordinated with a light source reflects digital images to any surface.
- Smoother video
- Pixels are less visible
- Higher contrast
- On HD TV, it is film like
- Produces blacker blacks
- More moving parts
- May produce a rainbow effect
- Yellows and reds are poorer at full power
- Produces an audible whine
- More lumens with ambient light
This is a video projector for displaying images, video or data on a screen or flat surface and is the equivalent of an overhead or slide projector. Light is projected onto the mirrors which splits into the 3 primary colors – blue, green and red. The colors pass through 3 prisms, converge and the image is then projected on the screen.
- Less power
- Produces less heat
- Does not produce a rainbow effect
- Quiet operation
- Richer color dynamics
- Visible pixels
- Produces a screen door effect on some video images
- Poorer contrast
- Black is lighter than DLP
Projector Do’s and Don’ts
- Ensure that the filters of the projector are clean.
- When you are changing the bulb, reset the lamp life.
- Always let the projector be cooled completely by the fan.
- When the image becomes foggy or blurred, change the lamp.
- Do not let the projector run when you are not using it.
- Ensure that you don’t turn off the projector using the AC switch.
- Avoid installing or using the projector near heating ducts.
- When the lamp is on or if it is hot, avoid moving the projector.
Is a $500 projector good for a home theatre?
Projectors under $500 are very well suited for home theatres because most of the models come with all the features and hardware required to offer good home entertainment.
Is it possible to get an HD projector for under $500?
Yes, it is possible to get a projector having HD native resolution for under $500; however, you may not have too many choices.
How can I make my projector clearer?
You must use the focus ring or any other tool to adjust the image in order to focus the image on the screen properly and make it sharper and clearer.
What are ANSI lumens?
ANSI lumen is a unit that determines the level of light or brightness of the projector.
How many lumens does a 50-watt halogen bulb emit?
As per the standard measurement, a 50-watt halogen bulb produces around 500 to 700 lumens.
Buying the right projector under $500 can be a difficult decision; however, with our reviews of the top projectors under $500 on the market and our buying guide, the decision should be a whole lot easier. Do your homework and look for a projector that offers the best brightness, good image and audio quality, and other features. Also, ensure that you get one that is compatible and will work well with all your devices. With a good projector as your ally, you will be all set to enjoy a fantastic movie night with your family and friends or make a rocking presentation at work.
Last update on 2020-03-30 at 10:05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API