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 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 Epson Pro EX9240 (>>> Check on Amazon). This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the best option for everyone, though. Let’s compare these projectors across the key features so you can see how they stack up side-by-side.
Best Projector Under 1000 Dollars – Options for 2021:
- Optoma HD146X
- Optoma GT1080HDR
- Epson Home Cinema 2250
- Epson Pro EX9240
- Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12
- BenQ TH685i
|Optoma HD146X||Optoma GT1080HDR||Epson Home Cinema 2250||Epson Pro EX9240||Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12||BenQ TH685i|
|Resolution||1920x1080||1920x1080 (supports 4K content)||1920x1080||1920x1080||1920x1080||1920x1080|
|Brightness||3,600 lumens||3,800 lumens||2,700 Lumens||4,000 Lumens||1,000 Lumens||3,500 lumens|
|Throw distance||3.3' - 32.2'||1.3' - 11.1||4.7' - 29.0'||4.7' - 28.8'||2.2' - 10.9'||3.2' - 24.6'|
|Max screen size||301”||306”||300”||300"||150”||300”|
|Input Lag||16ms||8.4ms||27ms||No data||120ms||8ms|
|Price||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon|
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, and the higher the better for daytime viewing in natural light.
Brightest projector: Epson EX9240
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 of 1:1 or lower, projecting a 60” image from just 2-3 feet away.
Shortest throw ratio: Optoma GT1080HDR
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, you can find many options that support 4K input at this price range. It will still play at 1080p, but this allows you to watch whatever content you want, and prevents the projector from becoming outdated as quickly.
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: Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12
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: BenQ TH685i
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.
- 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
The Epson Home Cinema 2250 is a great choice if you’re setting up a multi-use home entertainment system on a budget. It accepts all types of video content, with full 3D support and the capability to process 4K content. You can also use it for gaming, with an measured input lag of around 28ms, low enough to avoid lag and other frustrations.
From a picture quality standpoint, the Epson 2250 is impressive for the price. Dynamic iris technology improves the contrast ratio, while the 3LCD display provides accurate and vibrant colors without the risk of flickering or rainbowing that can be caused by color wheels.
The only potential limitation of the Epson 2250 is its throw distance, and you will need a good sized space to get a big screen. It does include adjustment options like lens shift and keystone correction, though, so as long as you have the space for it, aligning the picture is fairly quick and straightforward. Connectivity can also be a concern, as it only has a single HDMI input. The built-in streaming interface helps here, since many can watch content without an external device, but this may still be an issue for gamers or those who plan to use multiple content sources.
- 3LCD display for bright color with no rainbowing
- High dynamic iris contrast
- Accepts 4K content
- Built-in Android TV interface with Google Assistant
- Input lag is suitable for gaming
- Good range of image adjustment options
- Long throw distance
- Limited connectivity (only 1 HDMI input)
Epson Pro EX9240
The Epson Pro EX9240 serves a different kind of double-duty than other projectors in the under-$1,000 price range. It’s just as great for business and classroom presentations as it is in a home theater context, with a bright 4,000-lumen lamp that stays vibrant in any ambient light level and a portable design that weighs less than 10 pounds.
Like other Epson projectors, the EX9240 uses a 3LCD display that maintains the accuracy of the colors for all viewers. This is paired with full HD resolution and a decent on-screen contrast—it’s not quite cinema-quality, but it’s still impressive for the price. You can also play games with the EX9240 thanks to its 16ms input lag.
The long throw distance of the Epson EX9240 is its main limitation from an installation standpoint. One helpful feature is its built-in skew sensor, which allows for automatic alignment and image adjustment and gives it a very quick and easy set-up. Its connectivity is broader than many projectors in the price range, as well, with RCA, HDMI, and wireless options. For our more in-depth review of the EX9240 click here.
- Bright lamp suitable for any light environment
- Accurate colors with no rainbowing
- Variety of wired inputs
- Built-in wireless connectivity and screen mirroring
- Low input lag
- Automatic skew correction
- Lightweight and portable
- Long throw distance
- Doesn’t accept 4K content
Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12
If you want all-in-one capability for under $1,000, the Epson EF12 is your answer. This starts with its integrated Android TV interface, which lets you download any streaming app from the Google Play store right to the projector and gives it support for Google Assistant voice searches. Along with that, its Yamaha-designed speaker has quality and volume on par with stand-alone Bluetooth speakers, so you can use it without an external sound system.
The Epson EF12 has a high dynamic contrast and uses the same 3LCD color system found in other Epson projectors. This is paired with support for HLG and HDR10, as well as a proprietary Adaptive Color Correction that optimizes the color scene-by-scene for a clear, accurate picture. The only caveat to this: you’ll only be able to enjoy that picture if you’re in a completely dark room. The 1,000 lumen lamp is weaker than most home theater projectors and will wash out easily from any ambient light.
The Epson EpiqVision EF12 is built to be portable, weighing less than 5 pounds and with a compact, self-contained design. It doesn’t need as much space as other projectors, either, about 7 feet for a 100” screen, with 2D keystone correction for greater installation flexibility. For our more in-depth review of the EpiqVision EF12 click here.
- 3LCD color with Adaptive Color Correction
- Good sound quality and output
- Short throw distance
- Integrated Android streaming interface
- Compact and portable
- Accepts 4K and 3D input
- Low lamp brightness
- Input lag is too long for gaming
The BenQ TH685i is the best projector under $1,000 for gamers. Its input lag would be low at any price, measuring in the single digits, for lag-free gaming on any platform. Along with this, its Enhanced Gaming Mode optimizes the picture for games, enhancing detail in dark screen areas so you can see every enemy (and the loot they drop).
We also appreciate the versatility and user-friendly design of the BenQ TH685i. Its lamp is bright enough to use in any indoor light environment without need for light control measures. Setting it up is easy, too, thanks to the automatic keystone correction and digital lens shift, allowing for a wider range of projector heights.
Connectivity is likely to be the main concern with the BenQ TH685i. Its included streaming interface is on a dongle, not integrated, so it will take up one of the 2 HDMI ports. Gamers will be pleased with the inclusion of a VGA input, and you can mirror from other devices using AirPlay or Chromecast, but this can still be limiting for more extensive set-ups.
- Bright lamp
- Super-low input lag
- Compatible with 4K input
- Automatic keystone correction
- Screen mirroring with AirPlay or Chromecast
- Includes an Android TV dongle
- No built-in streaming interface
- May cause rainbowing
The Bottom Line
There are a lot of excellent options in the under $1,000 price range for projectors, and choosing the right one really comes down to deciding which factors are the most important for you. For gamers, the low lag of the BenQ TH685i makes it the best option. For presentations, the Epson Pro EX9240 has the bright lamp and compact build you’re looking for (>>> Find on Amazon), while the versatility and usability of the Epson EF12 outweighs its relatively dim lamp for many.
How the projector generates the image can have a lot to do with your decision. If you tend to be bothered by common visual issues like the rainbow effect or the screen door effect, go for an Epson projector that uses 3LCD 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!