I have been into everything to do with projectors, speakers, and other home entertainment related devices for some time now. Along the way I came across budget projectors, and it made me wonder about whether they perform well enough, as well as, what you get. So, I did some research and put together everything that I found in this helpful article.
So, are budget projectors worth it? There are projectors that perform excellently and as good as some more expensive projectors, at a small fraction of the cost. But, you need to be thorough in your research to get a good one at a budget price. And you can miss out on some features when getting a cheaper model.
So, I have compiled a list of the most common features you can expect to miss out on when you get a budget projector. But, it’s good news, and you can get some budget projectors that perform very well. Read on where I reveal all of the above, as well as a list of the best budget projectors based on my research.
What Are the Drawbacks of Budget Projectors?
Firstly a budget projector I will define as any projector under $400. It was only 15 years ago when projectors cost a minimum of $5000. Now with the increase in computer technology, and more trial and error. You can get a projector that is the same quality as those for under $400.
A quick note here, the most expensive projectors from the most popular brands such as Sony go up to around $20,000.
So, I will break down the differences between projectors that are priced at the budget range and those that are medium, and more expensive.
Lumens and Lux Can Go Up With the Price
One of the ways that projectors differ in their quality is the maximum lumens they can produce. Lumens are a measure of how bright the screen can get. Many people prefer a brighter screen. Especially in bright settings such as when you want to watch it during the day. Or with the lights on.
Lumens also has the same measurement called lux. Lux is a different name for the same thing. There is quite a bit of physics involved in converting between the two and understanding it. But, for everyday purposes, you want a projector with a higher lux score or a higher lumens score. Depending on what unit the manufacturer decides to use.
Some cheaper projectors have a lower lux or lumen score. And, when they do, they won’t be as easy to see when your room is bright because of the sun, or because you have the lights on.
Native Versus the Highest Definition
Most manufacturers use the highest resolution setting for the resolution description they display. For example, if a projector has a native resolution of 1200 x 800, but goes all the way to 4K. They manufacturer will sometimes list it as 4K because it is the most impressive.
It is a good marketing tactic, and most businesses will put their best foot forward. But, just know that you will get the best performance from a projector that’s native resolution is closest to what you want it to be. For example, if you want a 4k projector you should get a projector that has a native resolution of 4k.
When a projector you’re thinking about buying has a native resolution that is lower than the maximum resolution (that is normally written in their advertising). As an example, I will use a projector that has a native resolution of 720p. But, a maximum resolution of 1080p. When you put it up to 1080p it won’t be the same quality as a native 1080p projective set on 1080p.
Higher Contrast and Higher Resolution Goes Up with The Price
An easy way to check this is by looking at a TV that you like the contrast and the resolution of. And then choosing a projector that has the same or higher contrast and resolution. The higher the contrast and resolution, the clearer and sharper the image is.
It’s a bit technical, and I’ll pull out the old analogy -you don’t need to know how an engine works to drive a car-. It’s the same way with projectors. But, if you’re a bit technically minded like me, a helpful article that explains the difference can be found by clicking here.
With budget projectors you want to find one that has a high contrast ratio, and a high resolution relative to more expensive projectors. Based on my research you won’t find a projector with a 4K resolution under about $5000. And I haven’t found any projectors that do 8K yet. But, technology moves so fast, that I’m sure they’ll be out soon.
Speaker Quality Goes Up with Price
Many people have an inexpensive soundbar subwoofer combination to go with their TV or projector. That dramatically increases the sound quality. While giving you the added benefit of not having to fork out many thousands to get crisper more audible sound.
For my full analysis of the best soundbar for the money or best soundbar without a subwoofer, you should read my in-depth article that covers everything you need to know. To do that click [here], to go to the article.
Comparing a Budget Projector and The Same Priced TV
According, to digitaltrends.com, they compared across the different categories. I have summarized their key findings in the table below:
|Color accuracy||It was a draw|
So, overall a TV is better. But, I can honestly say a projector is so cool for gaming. Imagine playing your favorite game on a projector in low light. It is like being fully immersed in the experience, but you don’t get the drawbacks of breaking stuff like with a VR headset.
The conclusions I listed though should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, if you are very tech savvy then you won’t mind the installation. But, overall a TV does make more sense.
One thing they didn’t mention, however, was that a projector can normally be placed overhead. So it takes up next to no space in a room. Whereas a bigger TV can be cumbersome and be difficult to move around, and take up quite a bit more space.
Technology has now improved where a standard size TV can now be built amazingly thin. But, if not you can get a renovator to build it into the wall. Or, design a new room specifically.
Is There a Minimum You Should Spend on A Projector?
Although, there is no technical minimum. You can get a high quality projector that will create a much larger screen for under $300. Most you can find for under $200.
What Are the Best Projectors Under $300?
Although I have not personally purchased any of the below projectors. I will give me an analysis related to the criteria I mentioned above. So, I have filtered them out for you, to only include those with the highest ratings. And those that have the best contrast, native resolution, and lumens and lux ratings.
I have included links to Amazon, if you buy through that link I will get a small commission. If you can use my links it will really help me out. To produce helpful guides like this one in the future.
Screen size: 236 inches (6 metres)
Resolution: 1080p supported, they are vague on the output resolution. Minor red flag.
Lumens/Lux: 4000 Lux
Analysis of customer reviews: Customers have reported it works across a range of game consoles and laptops. So, it is safe to say it will work for what you want to plug into it. Others have said the carry case is a big bonus, because it makes it easy to carry around.
Average customer rating: 4.7 out of 5 after 2,500 customer reviews. This is a huge check mark for this projector. You can be virtually guaranteed of it’s quality. So, you won’t have to return it, and waste time getting a different one.
My thoughts: The projection size is a bit small only going up to 236 inches (0.5m). But it is very small and lightweight. So, if you want something that works like a portable TV, definitely go with this one.
Screen size: Up to 200 inches (5 metres)
Resolution: 1080p input, it only projects 720p. 1280x 1080.
Lumens/Lux: 5000 Lux. Higher than the previous model I discussed before this one. By about 20%
Analysis of customer reviews: People have said it is very easy to install and takes only a few minutes from unboxing to when you can begin watching it. People have also said because of the increased LUX you can watch it during daylight hours.
The speakers are also loud, and good quality. People who have bought similar priced projectors have said that the sound quality on this one is far superior.
Average customer rating: 4.7 out of 5 after 2,400 customer reviews. A huge vote of confidence for this projector. When buying this projector you can be 100% confident it is an excellent choice. And you will thoroughly enjoy it.
My thoughts: It has a higher contrast to the first projector on this list. It also has a better brightness. However, it has a slightly smaller maximum screen size, but not by much. And I would argue you won’t notice the difference in screen size between the two models.
Screen size: Up to 300 inches (7.5 metres)
Resolution: 1920 x 1080. Native 1080p.
Lumens/Lux: 6000 Lux
Analysis of customer reviews: The bag is really handy to take it to friends and family’s house to watch sports games, or have a family movie night. When compared with a 1080p side by side, this projector is superior.
People have said that when you first turn it on, the icons look too blurry. But, once it’s all set up, and you are watching shows and movies, you don’t notice it. Customers have said that it is easy to install and takes 3 to 5 minutes.
Most people have commented that the value for money on this projector is second to none.
Average customer rating: 4.7 out of 5 after 2,000 customer reviews. An impressive review score, and review count. You can buy with confidence if you like the features it has to offer.
My thoughts: It is priced at $300, so it is at the top of the range for budget projectors. For the extra $150 you get a native 1080p. The contrast is comparable with other similar price models.
But, it has a much larger projection size. All of these factors can be justified depending on what you are looking for. But, the additional benefits aren’t too major. So, that is why I put this projector at #3, below the others.
Screen size: Up to 200 inches (5 meters)
Resolution: 1280x720p native. It supports 1080p.
Lumens/Lux: 6000 Lumen (this is very high).
Analysis of customer reviews: It has a user friendly app, which you use when setting it up, and switching between inputs. Customers have said they love the image and sound quality. It is lightweight, and is easy to set up. It seems most people are surprised at how good it is, considering how cheap it is.
Average customer rating: 4.7/5 after more than 1000 reviews. This is a very solid rating, and the amount of reviews makes this budget project attractive. Whether you want it as a second one for the kids, a cheap back up, or for your main projector. It ticks all the boxes.
My thoughts: It has the highest brightness and highest contrast of the previously mentioned models. It is also one of the cheapest.
Screen size: Up to 200 inches (5 meters). It is the minimum screen size for the projectors that made the list.
Resolution: It is native 1280*720p. But, it supports 1920*1080p.
Lumens/Lux: 4500 Lux. Not the greatest, but it is a definite pass.
Analysis of customer reviews: People were happy that it comes with a remote control, and the speakers were loud. Also, they found the HDMI cable that comes with it handy.
Because sometimes the Wi-Fi connection can go in and out. Though, this isn’t a fault with the projector. Only with interference that happens with all Wi-Fi connections.
Average customer rating: 4.4/5 with over 940 customer reviews. That is a solid rating. It’s not clear why this projector has a slightly lower rating than the others. It might even out once it gets more reviews. Most of the others on this list have upwards of 2000 reviews.
My thoughts: This is a solid budget projector. Although the customers aren’t raving as much about this one as the others, it still performs well and is as described. I would choose the projector before this one though because it is brighter.
Which means it will look better in bright rooms, during the day, and overall. But, people like different things, and this one might stick out to you because of the design or for some other reason. So, I have included the link to Amazon below if you fancy this one.
That sums up the top 5 budget projectors, and they are definitely worth it. Many people have bought them and loved them.
Summing up, many people have found that budget projectors perform excellently. It seems most of the reasons for purchasing a more expensive model are due to people being unaware that you can get a quality projector for so cheap these days.
Boy, times change fast. When comparing a projector to a TV in a straight side by side comparison a TV does come out on top. But, the screen size just isn’t as big for the price. And this is a major draw for a projector. So, at such a price, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t grab one.