A home theater projector used to be an expensive proposition. Anymore, though, you can find some great options at a very affordable price. But what’s the best projector under 1000 dollars? We’ve set out to answer that question, rounding up our 5 favorite options in the price range.
If you’re looking for an overall winner, that’s a hard determination to make. The reason is most projectors at this price point emphasize specific functions over others. Often this means sacrificing a bit on resolution and picture quality to get convenient features like a low input lag or short throw ratio.
Looking at all the factors together, our top pick for performance across categories is the Optoma GT1080HDR. Having said that, if you’re looking for the absolute best picture quality, the Optoma UHL55 is the winner hands-down. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the most important features so you can see how these projectors stack up side-by-side.
Best Projector Under 1000 Dollars – Options for 2020:
|Optoma HD146X||Optoma GT1080HDR||Optoma UHL55||Epson EF-100||ViewSonic PX706HD|
|Resolution||1080p||1080p (supports 4K content)||4K ultra HD||1280x800||1080p|
|Brightness||3,600 lumens||3,800 lumens||1,500 lumens||2,000 lumens||3,000 lumens|
|Throw distance||3.3' - 32.2'||1.3' - 11.1||2.6' - 17.5'||2.2' - 11.2'||3.6' - 6.0|
|Max screen size||301”||306”||200”||150”||120”|
|Price||Find Best Price||Find Best Price||Find Best Price||Find Best Price||Find Best Price|
The brightness of a lamp determines how well it maintains the quality of the picture when it has to compete with ambient light. In a completely dark room, you can get away with a projector that has as little as 1,000-1,500 lumens of brightness. With even a small amount of ambient light, though, a light that dim will become washed out, losing color and clarity.
You can always control the light level in your room by using dimmable bulbs and installing black-out curtains on the windows. If you don’t want to have to make these concessions, though, a brightness of at least 2,500-3,000 lumens is recommended for moderately to brightly lit rooms.
Brightest projector: Optoma GT1080HDR
The throw ratio measures the relationship between the size of the image a projector generates and the horizontal distance between the lens and the screen. Most projectors have a throw ratio somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-2:1. With this standard throw ratio, a 60” (5-foot) image would need 5-10 feet of distance, while a 120” (10-foot) image would need 10-20 feet of distance. Find the best short throw projector options.
For smaller rooms, you may want to consider a short throw projector. These models have a throw ratio lower than 1:1, projecting a 60” image from just 2-3 feet away.
Shortest throw ratio: Optoma G1080HDR
Resolution and Picture Quality
The majority of projectors on the market today offer a resolution of at least 1080p, which is equivalent to standard HD found on televisions. While most 4K ultra HD projectors cost much more than $1,000, there is one option that offers this resolution on this list: the Optoma UHL55.
Resolution determines the sharpness and detail of the picture, but it’s not the only relevant statistic. A quality picture also requires bright, accurate colors and deep on-screen contrast between bright and dark areas. For the best picture quality, look for a projector that offers HDR10 color support and a high contrast ratio.
Best picture quality: Optoma UHL55
Also called input latency, this is a measure of the delay between the user’s input and what shows on the screen. It is most important for gamers. A delay of even a fraction of a second can make a very big difference in your ability to be competitive in first-person shooters, racing games, and fighting games. Check 4K projectors for gaming buying guide here
An input lag of 30ms or less is recommended for competitive gaming. In truth, the lower the better, and you can find some projectors on this list with an input lag of less than 10ms. On the other end, anything over 60ms is generally considered unsuitable for gaming.
Lowest input lag: Optoma GT1080HDR
Best Projector Under $1000: Full Reviews
There are two key qualities you’ll get with the Optoma HD146X that you wouldn’t expect for the price: an ultra-bright lamp and a super-low input lag. It’s an excellent option if you’re looking for multi-use functionality in your home theater projector. The Optoma HD146X can easily take the place of a television in any living room without much modification of the space.
We like the picture quality of the Optoma HD146X, as well. The color is cinema quality, with a Rec. 709 color wheel that gives accurate and vibrant hues. While it doesn’t offer the best resolution on the list, the image quality is on par with what you’ll get from an HD TV—just a lot bigger.
Setting up and installing the Optoma HD146X is also very easy. It includes vertical keystone correction for easier ceiling-mounted set-ups, which you might need to use since it is a standard throw projector. The sophisticated DLP single-chip design makes aligning the image a snap. It also uses HDMI-CEC technology so you can control all connected content sources with the projector remote. All-told, a very user-friendly and versatile projector at a great value. The full review of Optoma HD146X can be found here.
- Bright lamp still gives a great picture quality in well-lit rooms
- Super-short input lag in Enhanced Gaming Mode
- High contrast ratio for excellent image depth
- Long lasting, low maintenance lamp
- Aligning the image is easy
- Vertical keystone correction
- Best value
- Doesn’t offer 4K resolution
- May cause rainbow effect for those sensitive to it
Here’s another one from Optoma that’s a great choice for gamers: the Optoma GT1080HDR. While it costs a bit more than the Optoma 146X above, it’s still comfortably in the under-$1,000 price range, and it offers some appealing additional features.
The Enhanced Gaming Mode on the Optoma GT1080HDR drops the input lag to 8.4ms—one of the lowest you’ll find at any price range. It pairs this with a 120Hz refresh rate for even smoother, more responsive on-screen action. You can play day or night thanks to the bright lamp. It has a long lamp life, too, so you won’t need to replace or maintain it for years, even if you tend to have marathon sessions.
Another advantage of the Optoma GT1080HDR is its short throw ratio. You only need about 4 feet of distance to get a 120” picture. That makes it a lot more workable in small spaces, and also makes it easier to adjust the image. There’s also a vertical keystone adjustment and other helpful easy-to-use image settings. Check full review of Optoma GT1080HDR.
- Bright lamp with sharp, accurate colors
- Easy to set up and adjust the image
- Supports 3D content from all sources
- Short throw ratio for easy set-up in smaller rooms
- Incredibly low input lag
- Long lamp life
- Color settings often need adjustment out of the box
- Image adjustment features difficult for 3D
Want a projector with built-in smart features? You might be surprised that you can get one for less than $1,000. The Epson EF-100 uses the Android TV navigation system. You can download streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu directly to the projector, no need for a streaming stick. For navigation, you get the choice of a remote or Google Assistant voice search.
The Epson EF-100 also has a high picture quality. It uses a 3LCD chip display that gives bright, accurate colors without the risk of the rainbow effect that plagues 1-chip designs. The array of microlasers used to generate the picture also provide an excellent contrast and image depth.
Design-wise, the Epson EF-100 is certainly the most visually appealing. There’s more to its design than aesthetics, too. It’s compact and lightweight, so you can easily move it anywhere you want to use it, indoors or out.
Our major complaint against the Epson EF-100 is that it can be a bit tricky to set up. It’s lacking key image adjustment options, like zoom and keystone correction. Compared to other projectors, it’s harder to align the picture to the screen, which can make the set-up frustrating and time-consuming. In terms of picture quality, the resolution is also relatively low, and it’s prone to the “screen door effect” in darker rooms.
- Android TV and Google Assistant voice navigation built in
- Compact, stylish design
- Multi-array laser for high picture brightness
- 3LCD chip technology eliminates potential rainbow effect
- Built-in speakers have relatively high sound quality
- No lens shift or zoom options
- Eco Mode makes lamp too dim for daytime viewing
- May experience screen door effect
The ViewSonic PX706HD 1080p Short Throw Projector has similar strengths to the Optoma GT1080HDR above but at a slightly lower price. This makes it an excellent choice for value if you need a multi-use projector that’s flexible to install.
With a bright lamp and short-throw ratio, this ViewSonic projector can work well in pretty much any room. It’s also flexible in terms of connectivity, with 2 HDMI inputs as well as a USB-C connection. The inclusion of automatic vertical keystone adjustment makes the set-up one of the easiest on the list. Another impressive aspect of the design: it weighs just over 5 pounds. That’s great news if you want a projector you can take to the backyard for movie nights.
Performance-wise, you can use the ViewSonic PX706HD for both home theater and gaming applications. It has a low input latency and sharp true HD resolution. In addition, it supports 3D content from all sources. The only potential issue with the picture quality is that it uses a 1-chip system, which makes it susceptible to the rainbow effect for sensitive viewers.
- Short throw ratio
- Flexible connection options
- Supports 3D content
- Automatic keystone correction
- Full HD resolution with high color accuracy
- Low input lag for gaming
- Lightweight and portable
- May be susceptible to rainbow effect
- Built-in speakers are weak
Finally, Optoma has another option in the under $1,000 category you’ll want to consider: the Optoma UHL55. It’s the only projector on this list to offer native 4K ultra HD resolution, something you couldn’t find in a projector at this price until recently. It pairs this resolution with HDR10 color support. If you’re looking for cinema-level picture quality, the Optoma UHL55 delivers.
The Optoma UHL55 is also a very smart projector for the price. It has built-in compatibility with popular voice control systems, so it’s a great choice if you want to integrate your projector into your smart home system. Those modern touches have other benefits too. There’s built-in Bluetooth for easily connecting external speakers and an on-board smart TV platform for playing streamed content right through the projector.
As you might expect, there are a couple trade-offs you’ll have to make to get these features at this low price. For one, the lamp is relatively dim, at 1,500 lumens. You’ll need a dark viewing area to get the best picture from the Optoma UHL55—basically, it’s designed for dedicated home theaters. You also shouldn’t expect to play video games using the Optoma UHL55. Even in Game Mode, the input lag is 70ms—too high for any kind of competitive, fast-paced game.
While the Optoma UHL55 isn’t the most versatile option, it is the top choice if you’re looking for the best picture quality in the price range. The portability and ease of set-up also give it high marks for usability. It comes with a backpack and handle so you can take it anywhere—so long as it’s dark wherever you plan to use it. A more detailed review of Optoma UHL55 can be found here.
- Native Ultra HD resolution
- Compatible with both Google and Alexa voice control
- Built-in Bluetooth for connecting external speakers
- HDR10 color gamut with DCI-P3 chip technology
- Long-lasted LED light source
- Smart TV interface supports popular streaming apps
- Low lamp brightness
- Input lag too high for gaming
The Bottom Line
There are a lot of excellent options in the under $1,000 price range for projectors. It really comes down to deciding which factors are the most important for you. Would you rather have 4K resolution, or have the option of playing games on the big screen?
How the projector generates the image can have a lot to do with your decision, too. If you tend to be bothered by common visual issues like the rainbow effect or the screen door effect, go for one of the projectors that uses 3-chip technology.
Whatever your needs or situation, one of these projectors will give you the quality and features you’re looking for. We hope this review and comparison has been helpful for your search!