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10 best projectors to take family film night to the next level

Snuggling up with your family to watch a film is a fantastic way to enjoy quality time together. Delicious snacks, a cosy room and enthralling entertainment are made even more exciting with a big screen, immersive audio and cinema-quality images. Achieve the dream with our pick of the best film projectors to invest in.

By Gemma Lumley | Last updated Dec 20, 2021

Film projector showing film

Do you love the idea of snuggling on the sofa during winter to enjoy an at-home cinema experience? Or even chilling in the garden on a summer evening watching a movie outdoors? You might be thinking of inviting your friends over for cocktails, homemade pizza and the latest Netflix blockbuster. A home projector can take that dream to the next level.

Film nights are also a mess and stress-free theme for a children's party, so fill big bowls with warm, sweet popcorn, hang up the biggest screen you can find and sit back and watch the little ones enjoy their favourites. 

Creating an authentic home cinema is about vibrant moving images, the screen size and placement, and ease of set-up. Some features to consider are the picture resolution, the throw distance (short for small spaces) and connectivity. 

However, the tech specs can be confusing, so to help you choose your ideal film projector, we've searched for the very best choices based on the recommendations of the users on our forum,  suggestions from technical experts and honest consumer reviews.

Here are the best film projectors to buy this year.

1. Best overall projector: Anker Nebula Cosmos Max 4K Projector

Anker projector

Price: £1,399 | Buy now from Amazon

We chose the Nebula Cosmos Max for its sleek looks, impressive built-in Dolby surround sound and stunning 4K resolution, all for under £1,500. This projector would be an excellent purchase for an at-home cinema, film club or conference room. 

One of our favourite features is the automatic zoom which negates the need for hours of careful adjustment. Instead, the Nebula cleverly scans the projection area, shrinks or expands the beam to suit the size and obstructions, then projects the best image for the space. 

Connection is easy with multiple HDMI and USB ports for simple plug and play, plus wi-fi and Bluetooth for direct media streaming. Many entertainment apps have also been preloaded onto the machine so that family entertainment can begin straight away. 

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Detailed images thanks to 4K and HDR
  • Attractive design

Cons

  • Reviewers suggest it is not bright enough for outside viewing
  • Expensive

Key specs

  • Type: 4K DLP
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (16:9, UHD)
  • HDR?: Yes
  • Contrast ratio: Static 1000:1, dynamic 100,000:1
  • Inputs: HDMI; USB; Bluetooth; Wi-Fi
  • 3D?: No
  • Lamp: LED
  • Lamp life: 30,000 hours

2. Best budget projector: XuanPad Mini Projector

XuanPad projector

Price: £74.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“We bought our 8-year-old a projector and screen (it's a big white sheet you can hook up on walls, etc). I think about £50 for the projector and £10 for the screen. It was a big hit. We've only used it inside so far but it'll be great outside too.” - Blankiefan

This budget model is well under £100 (leaving enough money spare for a screen too) but still has some excellent features. It is quiet when running so it would be suitable for use in a small room, and the 3LCD technology gives bright images that work well in lighter rooms and outside. 

We loved the compact size, which makes it ideal for taking with you on holiday or weekends away. The wi-fi connectivity would also make it a great gift for teenagers who want to watch their TikTok videos on a big screen. 

We were impressed by the high-definition resolution. While you won’t be getting the same quality as Anker for this price tag, it is unusual that a budget option like this makes films look amazing.

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Long lamp life 
  • 2-year warranty 
  • Low price

Cons

  • Low contrast ratio - may be blurry on bigger screens

Key specs

  • Type: LCD
  • Resolution: 1080p Full HD
  • HDR?: No
  • Contrast ratio: Static 2000:1 
  • Inputs: MicroSD; VGA; AV Port; USB; HDMI
  • 3D?: No
  • Lamp: LED
  • Lamp life: 55,000 hours

3. Best home cinema projector: Epson EF-12 HD Home Cinema Projector

Epson projector

Price: £879 | Buy now from Amazon

“If we want to watch anything special, we use the projector. It's great - like having a private cinema.” - Time40

The Epson EF-12 is an ingenious little device that successfully combines portability and full-size features. It has built-in speakers to screen a film independently and is lightweight at 2.1kg, great for taking from room to room or to a friend’s house. 

One of the most impressive features of the EF-12 is the lack of noise when it’s in use. With only 27db of output, it’s much quieter than the vast majority of projectors, so it is the ideal option for small rooms. 

The images it produces are HD, but it also effectively handles both 4K and HDR content. This functionality allows you to appreciate some of the high-resolution differences in a film. It also works beautifully with action movies as it projects fast-moving images with aplomb. 

Pros

  • High contrast ratio 
  • Long lasting laser lamp 
  • 360-degree projection angle 

Cons

  • Low brightness so needs a dark room

Key specs

  • Type: 3LCD
  • Resolution: Full HD
  • HDR?: No
  • Contrast ratio: 2,500,000:1
  • Inputs: USB; HDMI 
  • 3D?: No
  • Lamp: Laser
  • Lamp life: 10 years with average use

4. Best outdoor projector: BenQ GV1 Portable Projector

BenQ portable projector

Price: £229 | Buy now from Currys

“Get a portable projector from BenQ. Around £300-500ish. They've got built-in speakers but probably also have Bluetooth to connect to other speakers. They can connect to Amazon, Netflix, Disney etc. Runs off batteries. Then all you'll need is a white sheet to project onto.”  - Bontanics

The BenQ Smart Portable Projector is perfect for travel, sharing with friends and family and carrying around the home. It is lightweight, has a powerful built-in battery and a high-quality speaker system that can be used separately as a Bluetooth speaker.

As well as the usual USB and HDMI ports, it can also connect wirelessly to your media devices with Bluetooth or Wi-fi. We were delighted with the Android operating system that lets you download apps such as YouTube and Netflix, so you’ll be watching your favourite films and TV within minutes of opening the box, with no need for faffing with wires or cables.

This portable projector's resolution is low compared to more expensive models. However, for home cinemas created in dark rooms with the curtains closed or on dark nights outside, the images are still bright and sharp with lots of contrast. 

Pros

  • Long lasting built-in battery
  • Fast connectivity 
  • Great price

Cons

  • Low resolution 

Key specs

  • Type: DLP
  • Resolution: 800 x 480
  • HDR?: No
  • Contrast ratio: 100,000:1
  • Inputs: HDMI; USB Type-C; Bluetooth; Wi-fi
  • 3D?: No
  • Lamp: LED 
  • Lamp life: 20,000 hours

5. Best HD projector: Optoma HD145X 1080p Home Entertainment Projector

Optoma projector

Price: £429 | Buy now from Amazon

“We have an Optoma which is great. Have had it for a few years. It's connected to a smart Blu-ray player (Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer, as well as Blu-rays) but we occasionally hook it up to a laptop for other stuff. Very easy via HDMI cable.” - Peppaminttea

The Optoma HD145X is great for daylight and outdoor viewing, thanks to the high number of lumens that make it super bright. You don’t need to dim the lights so it can be used as a replacement TV rather than just on cinema-style movie nights.

The colours that this compact and portable projector produces are fantastic too. Bright hues are vivid, with lots of detail, and the high contrast ratio means that dark colours are inky but defined. So whatever you’re watching, it will look fabulous. 

Setting up the Optoma is so easy thanks to the presets that automatically adjust the picture for the lighting in the room and the ‘keystone correction’, which moves the image, so it’s flat against the screen. 

Pros

  • Easy to connect
  • Portable 
  • Great value

Cons

  • Occasional rainbow flashes 

Key specs

  • Type: DLP
  • Resolution: HD
  • HDR?: No
  • Contrast ratio: 25,000:1
  • Inputs: HDMI, USB
  • 3D?: Yes
  • Lamp: Bulb
  • Lamp life: 4,000 (Bright); 15,000 (Dynamic); 10,000 (Eco)

6. Best portable projector: Anker Nebula Solar Portable Projector

Anker Nebula portable projector

Price: £449.99 | Buy now from Amazon

The compact Anker Nebula Solar is portable yet feature-packed. It produces vibrant pictures that work beautifully for sports, gaming and all genres of film and TV. The conveniently built-in sound system is balanced with lots of clarity, but you do need to turn it right up in large rooms. 

The Nebula is part of Anker’s ‘Go Anywhere’ range, so it works on a rechargeable battery that delivers stunning images for over three hours and connects by Bluetooth and Wi-fi as well as HDMI and USB. 

Installation is easy thanks to automatic focus and keystone correction, which optimises the placement of the image on the screen. The built-in stand also helps with minor adjustments to the angle of projection. 

Pros

  • Plug and play options as well as wireless
  • Long-lasting LED lamp 
  • Portable 

Cons

  • Low contrast ratio
  • Quiet audio

Key specs

  • Type: DLP
  • Resolution: HD
  • HDR?: Yes
  • Contrast ratio: 407:1
  • 3D?: No
  • Inputs: Bluetooth; USB; USB Type C; HDMI
  • Lamp: LED
  • Lamp life: 30,000 hours

7. Best 4K projector: Epson EH-TW7100 4K Film Projector

Epson projector

Price: £1,598.76 | Buy now from Amazon

4K is the highest resolution of a moving picture available to the general public, which means they are the most expensive film projectors. However, should you invest, the Epson EH-TW7100 would make an excellent replacement for a standard TV as well as a treat for Saturday nights in front of the latest blockbuster.

From the contrast ratio to the balanced colours, the picture quality is superb, even in brighter rooms. As a result, games, films, TV and social media content will look fantastic, even on bigger screens. The preset image options are great too; there is little need to adjust any settings. 

Connection to devices such as soundbars and TVR boxes can be via Bluetooth or wi-fi, so there are no wires to find a home for if the Epson will be a permanent fixture in your front room. 

Pros

  • 3D option
  • Easy set-up
  • Includes Amazon Fire TV Stick

Cons

  • Expensive 
  • Heavy

Key specs

  • Type: 3LCD
  • Resolution: 4K
  • HDR?: Yes
  • Contrast ratio: 100,000:1
  • Inputs: HDMI 
  • 3D?: Yes
  • Lamp: Laser
  • Lamp life: Seven years

8. Best short throw projector: ViewSonic M2 Smart Projector

Viewsonic projector

Price: £522 | Buy now from Amazon 

Short throw projectors like this ViewSonic M2 are helpful if you enjoy movie night in a smaller room. They can be as close as a couple of inches away from the screen and still work effectively. They also tend to be quiet to operate so they can sit close to the viewer without spoiling the film soundtrack. 

The images this projector produces are bright, clear, and have lots of defined contrasts for such a reasonable price. In addition, the high number of lumens means that you can watch it without drawing the curtains and creating a dark space; this is useful for all-day, all-year-round viewing. 

We were thrilled with the built-in speakers, they are fantastic for most viewing needs, but if you’re watching a concert, it’s easy to attach a soundbar. In addition, Alexa’s presence is fabulous for turning the volume up and scrolling through menus.

Pros

  • High contrast ratio 
  • Can be used outside 
  • Good for small spaces 

Cons

  • The apps can be glitchy

Key specs

  • Type: DLP
  • Resolution: HD
  • HDR?: Yes
  • Contrast ratio: 3,000,000:1
  • Inputs: Bluetooth; USB; HDMI
  • 3D?: No
  • Lamp: LED
  • Lamp life: 30,000 hours

9. Best projector for gaming: BenQ TH671ST Short Throw Gaming Projector

BenQ projector

Price: £699 | Buy now from Amazon

The BenQ TH671ST is a film projector that has been designed for gameplay. It has a high resolution for detailed images; it’s quick to upload content and has ingenious automatic colour and contrast adjustment. 

The stunning images move as fast as your gameplay with no blur, and buying one of these intelligent machines might tempt your teenager downstairs to play the latest video games with the rest of the family. 

One of the best features of this projector is the audio. It is powerful and well-balanced and can be adjusted to suit the content you’re viewing, be it music, games, films or sport; it’s a sound system that creates an immersive experience. 

Pros

  • 3D capability
  • 3000 lumens of brightness 
  • Short throw 

Cons

  • Some rainbow effect

Key specs

  • Type: DLP
  • Resolution: HD
  • HDR?: No
  • Contrast ratio: 10,000:1
  • Inputs: VGA, HDMI
  • 3D?: Yes
  • Lamp: Bulb
  • Lamp life: 4,000 hours, 10,000 (eco)

10. Best phone projector: Yaber 7800 HD Mini Projector

Yaber projector

Price: £189.99 | Buy now from Amazon

This mini projector is the ideal way to watch videos stored on your phone or laptop; it has high definition resolution and fantastic image quality for such a low-cost device. The audio is super sharp too, it sounds terrific, even at loud volumes. 

The Yaber 7800 is easy to connect to devices you already own, such as a Playstation or MacBook. If you want to share your home videos or holiday snaps, it will project onto a portable screen, a plain white wall, or even a sheet. 

The LED lamp is bright enough to watch films in daylight, and the lamp life is impressive. You won’t have to replace it for years, even with regular use. At this price, the Yaber would make a wonderful Christmas gift for a teenager who would love to watch Instagram cat videos on a big screen rather than their phone. 

Pros

  • Great value
  • Impressive contrast ratio 
  • Lots of connectivity options

Cons

  • The remote control doesn’t light up 

Key specs

  • Type: LCD
  • Resolution: HD
  • HDR?: No
  • Contrast ratio: 100,000:1
  • Inputs: VGA; AV Port; USB; HDMI
  • 3D?: No
  • Lamp: LED
  • Lamp life: 100,000 hours

How to choose the best projector

The technical aspects of choosing a film projector are complex. The baffling acronyms and jargon are endless and, when it means the difference between spending £1,500 and £300, it's essential to understand. So here are the critical things to consider before you buy. 

  • Price: If you're a lover of film and high-quality TV, you're likely to invest more in a film projector as you will use it often. However, if you're choosing a projector for a one-off party or very occasional use, there's no point spending thousands when a machine costing £199 will deliver all the features you need. 
  • Resolution: The beautiful thing about cinema is the clarity, vibrancy and detail of the exciting images on the big screen. Replicate this with a projector that produces high-resolution images such as 4K or 1080p, which is full HD (high definition). 
  • Throw distance: The size of the film screen depends on how close the projector is to it. If you don't have a lot of space to play with, buy a 'short throw' projector which will provide an impressive display even if it is only a few inches away. 
  • Lamp life: Some projectors have bulb lamps inside, and these have a short lifespan, and the brightness will dull over time. Replacing them can be expensive, so if you'll be using your projector a lot, it's worth investing in a projector with LED lamps that last longer. 
  • Connectivity: Most modern film projectors will have a USB port or HDMI cable, maybe both. This is called plug and play capability and allows you to easily attach another device such as a TVR box to the viewing set-up. State-of-the-art projectors will connect via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and interact with streaming devices such as Chromecast or Fire Sticks. 
  • Contrast: The contrast describes how well the projector shows the difference between bright colour and black. If you're watching The Dark Knight, the clarity of inky colours is vital, whereas it doesn't matter for a football game. 500,000:1 or more will give defined shades of black and dark grey, and the colour will pop, whereas 2,000:1 will be blurry, and colours won't have edges.  
  • Brightness: Like at the cinema, film nights require a dark room for maximum viewing pleasure. If this is your style, you don't need a projector with lots of lumens as a high level of brightness isn't required, and 2500 lumens would be perfect. However, if the light will intrude, in the garden or from the comings and goings of restless children, then go for a high number of lumens.
  • Noise: Most projectors have fans inside, and they can be noisy. If it will be near you when you watch a movie, purchasing a quiet model is a good idea. 

What's the difference between DLP and LCD projectors?

DLP stands for Digital Light Projection; they are compact, more affordable and deliver excellent image quality with lots of detail. However, they occasionally produce annoying rainbow-like flashes of light in film scenes with a lot of contrast. 

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display; they don’t suffer from the rainbow effect, deliver a brighter image, work better in small spaces and run quietly. The negatives are that they are more expensive, bulky and don’t have replaceable light sources, so they won’t last for as long. 

What screen do I need for a projector?

Some advanced projectors can beam a film onto a screen of 500 inches, but most people don’t have the wall space for that, so the average size of a film screen in a family home is 80-110 inches. At just under £20, this Mebios 100 Inch Portable Projector Screen is great value, robust and portable. 

Avoid buying a screen that is too big for your space; if the viewer is sitting too close, it will cause eye strain and the need to move around constantly to see the full image. 

It’s also essential to buy a screen that will work well with your projector. For example, a large screen needs a projector that produces a high-resolution image such as 4K or Full HD as it will stretch the pixels, which may cause a lack of clarity in lower resolutions. 

What is the best projector? 

The Anker Nebula Cosmos Max was our best film projector thanks to the superb image quality, user-friendly interface and automatic functions that take the stress out of setting up your home cinema system. Admittedly, it’s an investment purchase, but we believe it is well worth the money as the features and functionality are those of an even more expensive machine.

How we chose our recommendations

We focused on the image and audio quality, connectivity and ease of use of each of the film projectors we have recommended to ensure that they provide you with a fantastic family film night or garden cinema. 

We consulted independent technology experts and visual media best buy lists for trusted product opinions to find the best products. In addition, we checked out the suggestions made by our Mumsnetters to ensure we are bringing you a helpful summary of the best film projectors of 2021.

Why you should trust us

Mumsnet has been helping parents make their lives easier since 2000 and, in that time, we've seen, tried and reviewed thousands of products.

We strive to provide honest and independent advice you can trust, and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find amazing products that real parents love.

Transparency is vital to us, and that's why we're always honest about where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their friends and family.

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