The best budget projectors

The best affordable projectors for gardens, gaming and home cinemas

Close-up of a budget projector lens

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

If you love the cinema, a projector is going to allow you to bring a bit of its theatrical wonderment into your living room. But it’s not just popcorn-munching movie-lovers who are going to enjoy using a projector.

These devices have a special appeal for families and friends, who gather indoors and out, to blockbusters and home-made movies. Likewise, gamers find them a valuable addition to their gaming tech roster, allowing multiplayer free-for-alls and heart-stopping championship races to playout on 150-inch-plus screens.

Related: The best 43-inch TVs | The best 55-inch TVs

For shoppers on a tight budget, the £4,000-plus pricetags of the market-leading projector can be a little overwhelming. Thankfully, many, many more options are far more affordable. While they might not carry 4K UHD resolutions, clever short-throwing lens and laser lamps, they can still offer immersive and exciting experiences without breaking the bank.

We’ve rounded up the very best budget projectors to help you find what you need. Our picks include pocket-sized options that are great for sharing short videos and photos with loved ones from a smartphone, through to ceiling-mountable units that can link up with streaming devices to deliver night-after-night of entertainment.

If you're not sure what you should be looking out looking for, head to the bottom of this page for our quick guide.

Here are our picks of the best budget projectors:

Best Budget Projectors

Best budget projector under £100

The L430W is a great entry-level projector. There are plenty of connections for playback devices, including a WiFi setting for smartphone screen mirroring. Though the resolution is only a native 720p, it gets warm and the fan can be a little loud, it's still a budget-friendly method of injecting some excitement in family movie night.


  • Affordable
  • Plenty of connections


  • Unverified lumen count

Best portable projector under £150

Boasting a range of interfaces, the Philips NPX442 can cast an image of up to 65-inches from a distance of only two metres. The inbuilt media player is really easy to navigate. This portable option also has a decent battery life and a small internal speaker, allowing entertainment to be enjoyed away from mains connections. There's no report on the exact lumen count, but it's best used in the dark to avoid washed-out visuals.


  • Good operating system
  • Small
  • Light


  • Unverified lumen count

Best budget projector for home cinema

The H184x from Optoma, king of projectors, is a great foundation for an affordable home cinema. The projected images carry vibrant colours with a powerful and deep contrast for immersive viewing. The lumen count ensures that the projector can be used well-lit environs from a range of up to 10 metres (that distance will create a 300-inch image, too). There's an integrated speaker, but using the 3.5mm line-out to link to a larger system is preferred, allowing a more complete cinematic experience to be unlocked.


  • Excellent contrast and brightness
  • Reliable product from a leading projector manufacturer


  • No 1080p support

Best contrast

ViewSonic PS501X, £478.98
Price: $729.00

Though initially designed for use in education, the ViewSonic PS501X has the credentials to deliver a compelling and entertaining image. Though only 720p resolution, the deep contrast ratio and brightness help images to punch through. The varied and abundant connection interfaces are a real boon, offering up the chance to watch and game with contemporary and legacy hardware (including 3D Blu-ray players).


  • Superb contrast
  • Solid lumen count
  • Good connections


  • 3D-support is niche
  • No 1080p

Best projector features

Towards the higher end of the budget projector market sits the EH-TW740 from Epson, and there's a lot on offer in exchange for the extra spend. The resolution is a crisp 1080p, projected using 3LCD and RGB liquid crystal technology to create a deep, bright and vibrant image. There are different colour modes to maximise the image for a given media type, including a cinema and game mode. Plus, the 16000:1 contrast speaks for itself. This one is ideal for mounting in the home cinema.


  • Valuable feature set
  • 1080p support


  • Price might be off putting to newcomers

Best ultra-portable projector

The Kobak Luma 150 takes projector portability to its absolute limit (well, for the moment at least). Measuring roughly 1-inch thick and 4-inches long, the Luma 150 can slip into a coat or backpack pocket with ease. Using Digital Light Processing (DLP), the projector pushes out a huge array of realistic colours that bring media to life. Though diminutive, the connection option are plentiful, including both wired and wireless connections. There's even a mini 1.5w speaker tucked away in here. All of this runs from its internal rechargeable battery. Though the resolution, contrast and brightness are modest at best, it's still a pretty neat gadget.


  • Ultra-portable
  • Good colours for size


  • Small image, limited use outside of intimate gatherings and presentations

Best portable projector

Anker's Nebula Mars 2 is, in our opinion, the best portable projector around. It can cast a crisp 150-inch 720p image running from local files or wireless and wired devices. The Android OS is easy to use and plays host to the likes of BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Prime Video and Netflix for direct native streaming. The dual 10w Soundcore speakers look after the audio well, and a Bluetooth and line-out connections allow the projector to link up with external speakers. The internal battery holds four-hours of charge. The Mars 2 really does deliver, holding up well across garden movie nights and all-night gaming marathons.


  • Excellent feature set in a portable form
  • Solid sound performance
  • Reliable UI


  • Expensive for no 1080p support

What to look for when buying a budget projector


Pink Lightbulb, probably around 1500 lumens

Living rooms and smaller spaces with limited ambient lighting will want a projector with between 200-500 lumens ANSI. Several thousand lumens are needed for well-lit large rooms, classrooms and offices. Often, lumen output can be altered in a projector's settings.

A lumen is a measurement of the brightness of a light source. ViewSonic reports that a candle measures around 14 lumens, while a bright and sunny day clock is 100,000 lumens.

Standardised by the American National Standards Institute, the acronym 'ANSI' should follow any lumen measurement: for example, 1000 ANSI lumens. Some lumens reported on budget projectors are not tested to the ANSI standard and may be inaccurate - we’ve highlighted any instances of this in our selection.


Exaggerated low-resolution

As with monitors and TVs, resolution refers to the number of pixels a projector can display. The pixels, the more precise an image.

While full HD (1920×1080 pixels) and 4K UHD (3840×2160 pixels) devices are available, budget projectors are typically limited to standard HD (1280×720 pixels). However, when coupled with enough lumens and a deep enough contrast, 720p can still produce an immersive and engaging image quality.

Contrast Ratio

Abstract contrast

Contrast ratio is the ratio between the brightest elements of an image and the darkest.

A contrast ratio of 3000:1 means that the brightest whites of an image are 3000 times brighter than the darkest blacks. Higher contrast ratios allow an image to have improved detail and realism. Low contrast ratios can cause images to look flat and lifeless.

With projectors, there's some interplay between contrast ratio and lumen brightness. Projectors with lower lumen counts are designed for low-lit indoor spaces and can afford lower contrast ratios than a projector intended for large, brightly lit offices.


Speaker close-up

In-built speakers are a common feature of projectors. They are often single or dual speakers sitting between 1W and 5W of power.

They can be a convenient addition, especially for portable projectors, allowing a device to become a standalone unit. Though useful, internal projector speakers are no replacement for a dedicated speaker system or soundbar. Such devices typically have excellent bass response and dialogue enhancements. Those looking to set up a home cinema will want to look for a projector with quality audio-out interfaces.


Ethernet connections on a server

The available input connections determine how a projector receives input.

The more interfaces available, the greater its versatility. Wired connections like HDMI, VGA and RCA are well known and reliable - though only a HDMI connection will get you HD-quality images. These connections are found across DVD and Blu-ray players, media streamers, laptops, camcorders and cameras.

Wireless connections are increasingly popular, even on budget projectors. Bluetooth and WiFi connections reduce the need for fussy cabling and installation and can allow smartphone mirroring. They can also link to laptops with Bluetooth.

Other interfaces include USB and MicroSD ports. These ports allow access to stored movie and image files using a projector's in-built media platforms. Audio interfaces are also important, with 3.5mm line-outs and AV receivers allowing external speakers to connect. Some Bluetooth connections also facilitate external speakers.

Throw Range

Projector throwing image

Throw range refers to the distance between the projector and the screen.

A single projector has a range of distances from which it can project an image, with the closet distance creating a smaller image and a longer distance a larger image. It’s an important specification to consider when purchasing a projector, especially for use in small rooms.

William Lobley is a Content Writer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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