To really put the “theater” in your home theater, there’s nothing quite like a projector capable of beaming a big, bright movie or sporting event image on your wall or accompanying screen, effectively turning your living room or backyard into your own private AMC. A projector can offer an excellent cinematic experience … if you pick the right one. But when you consider all the tech and terms involved in modern projectors — from short-throw projectors to lasers to DLP to LcOS — choosing the right one can be tricky. It’s also important to choose a projector that’s going to be at home in your theater space and not too painful to install and adjust.
If you’re making the leap from a TV to a projector for the first time, some projector specs and requirements may feel overwhelming. Our guide will help you focus on what matters — like choosing what popcorn to buy for your movie night. Let’s jump in!
Start with our guides
Don’t stop at this guide — we have other resources that will be a huge help, too. Our list of the best home theater projectors and best short-throw projectors are a great place to start looking for potential models when you are ready, and they include some FAQs to explain a few important things in more depth.
Our guide on how to set up a home projector is also an invaluable resource that will help you learn about throw distance, important projector placement decisions, and much more when you are ready. We also have some great guides on choosing the right projector screens for indoors and outdoors.
What’s your budget?
Perhaps the most important question you need to ask yourself is, “How much do I want to spend?” It’s always a good idea to start with budget parameters, especially since a home projector is a significant investment, often costing as much (or sometimes more) than a TV. Have a look online and you’ll see everything from a budget pick for around $600 to a model packed with features for over $3,000. For a proper home theater experience, we recommend sticking to at least the $1,500 to $2,000 range, but there’s wiggle room. And don’t forget about extra expenses like a projector screen, soundbars or sound systems, and a projector mount if you need one.
It’s time to make choices to narrow down what kind of projector you want. A standard-throw projector, like theusually requires around 8 to 10 feet of space from the wall to properly cast a 100-inch image. For smaller theater spaces, that could put the projector right in the middle of your seating, which is why standard-throw projectors often offer ceiling-mount options to ensure the projector is out of the way.
A “short-throw” projector will cut down this distance by a few feet, making it easier to find a non-ceiling solution for your projector placement, which will make a huge difference.
For a real game-changer, consider an ultra-short throw (UST) projector. These projectors, such as theoperate from only a few inches away from a screen or wall, so they’re excellent for saving on space and time with a home theater … but they also tend to cost more.
Consider lamp versus laser
The light in a projector can come from two different possible sources — a lamp or a laser. A lightbulb-based lamp typically has a “half-life” of several thousand hours, after which the image quality starts to decline and you’ll want to replace it with a new bulb. A laser projector (and its close cousin