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Compare the Best 4K ProjectorsSeptember 2020

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What is the Kagoo Score? Our unique projectors rating which considers: 3,400 US prices • 9,100 expert & user reviews • 2,600 product comparisons • 300 industry awards • Score breakdown
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Projector Native Resolution
Noise Level
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76

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Sony logo

Sony VPLVW285ES

 

$4,998.00

4096 X 2400
(4K)
Info
26dB
Info
Very High
very high (200000:1)
Info
(Unknown)
Oct 2017

72

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Sony logo

Sony VPLVW885ES

 

$14,999.99

4096 X 2400
(4K)
Info
29dB
Info
Ultra High
ultra high (1000000:1)
Info
$85
Over 5 years
Oct 2017

79

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Sony logo

Sony VPLVZ1000ES

 

$19,999.00

4096 X 2400
(4K)
Info
24dB
Info
(Unknown)
Info
$90
Over 5 years
Mar 2017

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

QWhat is projector brightness measured in?
AThe brightness of a projector is measured in 'ANSI lumens'. Most projectors means for use in the dark have a rating of around 2,500-3,000 lumens. A higher rating than that means it will work better in brighter conditions, such as classrooms or in public.
QWhat does 'throw distance' mean for a projector?
AThrow distance is how far the projector can be placed away from the screen or projecting surface. The lower the throw distance, the closer the projector will have to be placed to get a good picture.
QWhat does 'contrast ratio' mean?
AThe contrast ratio is the ratio between the brightness of the brightest white and the brightness of darkest black that the projector can produce.A higher contrast ratio means that the projector can produce images with greater contrast so that they will appear more vivid.
QWhat is the average noise level for a projector?
AProjectors typically give off about 35-40Db of noise, making them very quiet - the noise of the projector definitely won't interfere with your movie!

4K Projector Buying Guide

4K Resolution Projectors

The resolution of a projector is a mesaurement of how many pixels make up the projected image. At it's most basic level, the more pixels that make up a projected image, the higher the detail level and the overall image quality will be. 4K projectors have an extremely high resolution of 3840 x 2160, which allows them to project extremely high-res and detailed movies. 4K projectors are far more expensive than the norm, but the significant boost to image quality is worth the price.

Projectors vs Large Screen TVs

Projectors a great option if you want to watch movies and TV shows on a large screen, very similar to a cinema. Projector technology is moving forward at a steady pace with 3D projectors and high resolution 4K projectors now available at affordable prices.

But is a projector a better choice than a large screen TV?

This depends on a number of factors, including where and how often you want to watch TV or movies. If you are after a huge picture at an decent price and have a room that can be blacked out almost completely, then a home cinema projector is a great choice. Multimedia projectors are very portable and can easily be taken to meetings and events.

If, however, screen size and mobility are not as important and you want to watch your favourite shows without having to dim the lights, then an large screen TV will be the more convenient option and deliver an better picture.

Projectors

Huge picture
Immersive experience similar to a cinema
Much cheaper than the same size TV
Mobility - most pocket and multimedia projectors can be taken with you
Room needs to be dark
Lamps need to be replaced periodically
Some models can be noisy
Additional screen may be required

Large Screen TVs

Easy to set up
Great picture even in bright rooms
Speakers are usually built-in
Less maintenance
Cheaper to run - no replacement bulbs required
Better for shorter and more frequent use
Screen sizes are limited
Large screen sizes are very expensive

Projector Types

Pocket Projectors

These ultra-portable projectors are ideal to take with you when you travel a lot and have to give presentations in different locations. Pocket projectors and also sometimes referred to as ‘pico projectors’ and are the smallest projector type.

Still regarded as somewhat of a novelty, these small projectors have made quite and impact on the projector market due to their portability and practicality. Pocket projectors use LED lamps which are less bright (20-1,000 lumens compared to 2,500-4,000 lumens for multimedia projectors), limiting the size of the image.

They also don’t have a zoom lens, so the only way to control the size of the image is to adjust the distance between the projector and the screen.

If you are looking for an ultra-portable way to show your presentations to smaller group of people and don’t want to carry a monitor, a pocket projectors could just what you have been looking for.

Multimedia Projectors

True all-rounders, multimedia projectors can handle ant type of presentation - slide shows at wedding and parties, business PowerPoint presentations and video clips. They are the most popular type of projector. Their brightness typically lies between 2,500-4,000 lumens, allowing them to be used in rooms with some ambient light.

Multimedia projectors usually have a zoom range between 1.2x and 1.5x, so it is important to check the projector is compatible with your screen size and throw distance. Home cinema projectors tend to have a larger zoom range (around 2.0x) and might be a better choice depending on your set-up.

Almost all multimedia projectors are considered portable and can be taken to meetings and presentations. While pocket projectors are lighter, multimedia projectors are heavier, weighing in at 3 pounds for a light model. They strike a good balance between portability and brightness to allow for a large and vibrant image.

Short Throw Projectors

A sub-category of multimedia projectors, short throw projectors are designed to be very close to the screen, making them ideal for classrooms and pairing with digital whiteboards. Their throw ratio is usually less than 1:1 with 0.5 being most common and going down to an ultra-short-throw ration of just 0.3:1.

Short throw projectors don’t have a zoom lens and it need to be placed within the recommended distance from the screen, which is usually 1.5-2 feet away. Placing a short throw projectors further back than their recommended throw distance in order to project a larger image usually results in severe keystoning of the image.

Home Cinema Projectors

Multimedia projectors are designed to give you the best image possible. They tend to use DLP or LCOS imaging technology and their brightness usually tops out at around 2,500 lumens. They zoom ratio tends to be larger than that of multimedia projectors, usually 2.0x or more.

Most home cinema projectors feature Full HD resolution with an increasing number of 4K models with a native resolution of 4096x2160 pixels becoming available, making them the most expensive type of projector.

To achieve the best picture quality, you need to be able to control the ambient light in your room, a room that is completely dark would be ideal. Home cinema projectors work well for screen sizes up to around 100 inches.

Projector noise can be very disturbing and home cinema projectors usually have more sophisticated cooling systems and quieter fans than their multimedia counterparts.

Throw Ratio

Understanding Screen Size and Throw Distance

One of the most important things to consider when buying a projector is the screen size and distance between the projector and the screen. If your projector set-up is flexible it is usually best to mount the projector as close to the screen as possible.The image will loose brightness the further back you move the projector and being closer to the screen will ensure the picture looks crisp and vibrant. If your set-up is more constrained it is important to work out the throw ratio as this will limit your choice of projector.

Working out the throw ratio:

  • Measure the distance between the projector and the screen. As an example, let’s assume a throw distance of 12 feet.
  • Now, measure the width of your screen. Let’s assume your screen is 8 feet wide.
  • Your throw ratio is therefore 12 feet / 8 feet = 1.5.

A projector with a throw ratio of 1.5:1, which is common for most multimedia projectors would meet your requirements perfectly.

If you have the flexibility the move the projector further back to 16 feet, you could also choose a home cinema projector with a throw ratio of 2:1. If you are unable to position the projector further back and your projector has a throw ration of 1.5:1, then the resulting image would be narrower and only be 6 feet wide.

If you don’t know what your throw ratio will be - maybe you are using the projector in a variety of settings to give business presentations, it is usually wise to go for a projector with a shorter throw, around the 1.3:1 or 1.5:1 mark. It is usually easier to place the projector closer to the screen than is is to place it further away.

Installation

Most home cinema and multimedia projectors can be ceiling-mounted or placed on a table or shelf. Ceiling mounting is the best option for a fixed installation. It will keep the projector out of the way and also give you the best picture quality.

Some home cinema projectors are quite bulky and cannot be installed inverted. Check the installation options and accessories that are available for your chosen projector as they differ between models.

Brightness

Making sure you pick a projector with sufficient brightness is essential to ensure the image is clear with deep and vibrant colours. Ambient light plays an important factor here. The more ambient light you have in the room, the brighter the projector needs to be. You can always turn down the brightness if you are using a projector capable of producing 5,000 lumens in a completely blacked out room but there is no easy solution if you discover the conference room you are about to present in does not even have blinds and your projector only outputs 2,000 lumen. The image will simply look flat and washed out.

For the best results use a projector in a completely dark room, ideally fitted with fully sealed blackout blinds. Even small amounts of ambient light will affect the darker tones and reduce their intensity.

Brightness is measured in ANSI lumens. The ideal projector brightness you need depends on the amount of ambient light in the room, the throw distance as well as the screen size. The easiest way to work it out is to use a projection calculator.

For completely dark rooms, a projector brightness of 1,300-2,000 lumens will be sufficient. Most home cinema projectors have a brightness of up to 2,500 lumens. For partially darkened rooms, such as classrooms, a brightness of around 3,000 lumens is required as the projector has to deal with a fair amount of ambient light.

Larger screens around 10 feet wide such as used in meetings or at weddings would require a brightness of around 5,000 lumens.

Connectivity

Make sure the projector you are looking to buy can be connected directly to your computer, set-top box or Blu-ray player. This should not be a problem for newer devices and projectors, but you might need an adaptor for older models. Here are the most common connection options:

HDMI

The current standard for connecting high definition devices. HDMI also transmits digital audio through the same cable.

Wireless

If your projector has a wireless connection, you can transmit images easily without needing a cable. There are different ways to connect a computer to a projector wirelessly including software, wireless USB keys as well as iOS and Android apps for smart phones and tablets.

You can also connect using Display Port or USB. A USB port also allows you to plug a digital camera or USB stick directly into the projector to show photos and videos to friends instantly.

Screen

Do you need a screen? That depends…

You can beam the image directly on to a flat, white wall. The picture quality will depend on the smoothness of the wall and you could consider using reflective paint to achieve a good picture quality.

If you don’t have a flat surface available you are buy a projection screen, which will give you the best picture quality. There are different types available - some have tripods while others are wall mounted.

Electric screens automatically open and close with a click on the remote control. Mobile projection screens are compact and lighter and ideal if you are planning to take your projector to meetings.

Replacement Bulbs

Projector bulbs (‘lamps’) have an average lifetime of around 1,500 hours. Although this may sound a lot, the average projector lamp will only last for about a year when used for 4 hours a day. You will notice when the projector bulb needs replacing as the picture will become significantly dimmer.

A replacement bulb can be rather expensive so it is worth checking the cost of lamps before buying a projector and factoring the addition maintenance cost into your decision.

There are ways to increase the life of projector lamps: allowing the projector to cool down after use, changing dust filters regularly and using special operating (economy) modes aimed at prolonging bulb life. Eventually, though, a new lamp is the only way to ensure a high image quality.

Noise

Powerful projector lamps generate a lot of heat. A built-in fan is constantly running while the projector is switched on in order to maintain a safe temperature. It is also important the make sure the projector is set up correctly to allow plenty of air flowing around the projector.

Projector fans can be noisy, particularly on cheaper models, so it is important the check a projector’s noise level and compare it to other models before buying.

The adverse effect of projector noise will be particularly important in a home cinema setting. A slightly higher noise level might be acceptable in meetings where there will be more ambient sound in general.

The Rainbow Effect

Some people can experience the rainbow effect when using certain types of DLP projectors. DPL projectors break each fame down into its red, green and blue parts. Light is shone through a fast spinning colour wheel inside the projector, displaying each colour in turn.

In older projectors, the colour wheel sometimes did not spinning fast enough to keep up with fast moving scenes and bright objects appeared to have a tail consisting of multiple colours following them. The colour wheel in newer projectors spins so fast that each colour is displayed up to 10 times per frame to avoid the rainbow effect.

Keystone Correction & Lens Shift

Keystoning occurs when the central axis of the projector is not positioned directly perpendicular to the wall. In vertical keystoning, the top and bottom edges of the pictures need to be aligned, while in horizontal keystoning the left and right edges appear distorted. Most projectors can detect keystoning and correct it automatically.

In projectors with lens shift, the lens can physically move inside the projector to correct distortions and ensure a consistent focus of the image. Lens shift has the advantage that the image does not need to be altered and highest possible image quality is retained. This allows for more flexibility in the installation of the projector and guarantees a perfectly straight-edged image.

Zoom

An optical zoom allows you to enlarge the image without having to move the projector closer of further away from the screen. An optical zoom maintains the quality of the image and avoids unwanted distortion.

A digital zoom enlarges a portion of the image without changing the overall image displayed.

Lamp Technologies

LED Projectors

Mostly used in pocket and pico projectors, LED lamps usually produce no more than 1,000 lumens. This is not a lot but sufficient for a small image. The advantage is that projectors with LED lamps are relatively cheap and the lamps do not need to be replaced.

DLP Projectors

Great picture quality
Sharpest and most detailed picture during fast moving scenes
Often larger than other projector types
Tend to be noisier
Expensive bulbs have a shorter lifespan
Single chip DLP projectors can suffer from the rainbow effect
High-end DLP projectors are more expensive but avoid the rainbow effect buy using three separate chips, one for each colour

LCD Projectors

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology tended to be used for cheaper projector models but has improved significantly in the last few years and picture quality is now similar to DLP projectors.

Cheap
Compact
High picture quality
Handles ambient light well
Colour saturation is better than DLP projectors
Replacement lamps cheaper than DLP lamps
Short lifespan of lamps
Not great at displaying black areas
Pixel structure visible in picture

LCOS Projectors

LCOS is a hybrid between DLP and LCD projectors and most LCOS projectors are made by Sony, JVC and Hitachi. Here is how they compare to both DLP and LCD projectors:

Higher resolution
Better contrast ratio
Deeper black levels
Not as bright
Very expensive

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