Advertisement
Advertisement

Best cheap projector 2022: Get your big-screen thrills from £130

Advertisement

Enjoy big screen movies, TV shows and games on your wall without breaking the bank

Digital projectors used to be the preserve of wealthy home cinema enthusiasts but today you can beam your movies onto a nearby wall of your choice for a comparative pittance. The low cost of imaging chips and LED bulbs produced in China and other parts of Southeast Asia means you can now pick up a projector from considerably lower than £500 – with some projectors costing as little as £100.

Trawl down Amazon’s virtual aisles and you’ll find plenty of cheap projectors to choose from, but our advice is to be cautious: it’s easy to make a mistake and buy something you might regret later if you’re not careful. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you navigate the pitfalls and pick out the best projector for you.

READ NEXT: The best portable projectors money can buy


Best cheap projector: At a glance


How to choose the best cheap projector for you

How much should you spend?

The less you spend, the more compromises you’ll have to make. As a general rule, the very cheapest projectors have low native resolutions and aren’t bright enough to project big, watchable images.

What about all those projectors claiming 1080p and 4K support at improbably low prices? These are often misleading, and refer to input capability rather than the projected image. Delve through the longer descriptions and you‘ll find that cheaper machines are often limited to 480p and lower resolutions.

Spend around £200 and more, however, and you’ll quickly see resolution levels rise. We’d recommend a minimum of 720p for good image quality but you may want to sacrifice sharpness for more features, higher brightness or portability.

Either way, the best native resolution you’re going to get currently from a sub-£500 projector is 1080p. Alas, 4K technology has not yet reached the realms of cheap projectors. Expect to pay closer to £1,000 for one of those.

How bright does it need to be?

Brightness is as important as resolution in a cheap projector and is also a bit of a minefield. Typically measured in Lumens, you’re looking for as high a number as possible. Again watch out for overstated claims here.

Around 2,000 Lumens should provide a viewable image even without the curtains drawn but anything from 500 lumens or up provides acceptable brightness for use in a domestic setting with the lights dimmed right down. Many cheap projectors on Amazon quote brightness at much higher levels – 4,000 lumens and more – but these machines are highly unlikely to reach these levels in real-world use. In short, expect to dim the lights, unless you’re spending a bit more money.

What connectivity do you need?

It’s also worth thinking about how you intend to use your projector. Most will have an HDMI input, which is perfect for hooking up a games console, Blu-ray player or streaming stick. Many will also allow you to play video files stored on a USB thumb drive.

However, it’s also worth looking out for projectors with smart TV features and built-in apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. Some also allow you to cast video or screen mirror from a mobile device and send audio via Bluetooth to headphones or a speaker.

Portable or mains powered?

At lower price points, many projectors tend to be on the smaller side. Indeed, cheap often means portable or even battery powered. If you’re after the sharpest, brightest possible image for your money, avoid pocket-sized, battery-powered projectors and opt for a mains-powered machine.

A mains-powered projector is more likely to have a lamp that’s bright enough to produce big, bright images, and is the best choice for bedroom or living room movie watching if you don’t need to carry it around too much.

What other features should I look out for?

The core features are covered above but there are other features to take note that are worth having:

  • Auto-keystone and autofocus: Saves time in setting up the image because you don’t have to fiddle around with menu settings and focus wheels
  • Remote control: Most come with one of these but some do not and it’s a real pain if you don’t have one
  • Built-in speakers and audio output: Many models have built in speakers but most aren’t up to much so it’s worth making sure there’s either a 3.5mm audio output or Bluetooth facility so you can hook up an external speaker
  • Bluetooth: This isn’t used to transfer video – the technology doesn’t have enough bandwidth – but some products use it so the projector can double as a Bluetooth speaker
  • Throw ratio: It sounds technical but it’s an important specification and refers to the size of image the projector can create from a given distance. Short throw projectors can project large images from a position very close to a screen or wall. A throw ratio of 1.5 means that for every 1.5m the projector is away from your wall, an image width of 1m is created, at 3m distance, an image width of 2m is created and so on.

READ NEXT: The very best projectors to buy, regardless of budget

The best cheap projectors to buy in 2022

1. ViewSonic M1 Mini Plus: The best cheap portable projector

Price: £229 | Buy now from Amazon

The ViewSonic M1 Plus is absolutely tiny – a projector you can genuinely fit in your pocket. And yet, despite its compact dimensions and low weight, it still does a good job of beaming movies, games and TV shows onto your walls at screen sizes up to 100in.

Resolution is limited to 854 x 480 and brightness is a lowish 150 lumens so you need a dark room to enjoy the projected image but colour performance isn’t bad at all. Its built-in speaker does a decent job of providing emergency audio that isn’t too thin and tinny plus, if you want to boost audio output, you can hook up a Bluetooth speaker.

There’s an integrated battery with up to 1hr 30mins battery life so you can run it without connecting it the mains if you like. And there’s also a stack of features built-in aside from this with HDMI input, USB-A for local video file playback and Wi-Fi connectivity. Apps can be installed, too, via the Aptoide marketplace with many major streaming platforms supported, including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

All told, the M1 Mini Plus is a cracking little projector: it’s limited on resolution and brightness but image quality is good and it’s stacked with features.

Key specs – Resolution: 848 x 480; Brightness: 150 lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: HDMI, USB-A, USB-C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Battery: Yes; Built-in apps: Yes; Dimensions: 110 x 104 x 27; Weight: 280g


2. GooDee YG420: A well-connected, affordable HD projector

Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon

This mains-powered projector offers a range of connection options and native 720p resolution at an attractive price. You’ll likely hook it up to your console or set-top via the included HDMI cable but two USB-A ports along with AV and VGA inputs provide extra flexibility.

Image quality is decent and fairly bright but, as with most projectors, definitely benefits from having the lights dimmed or the blinds drawn. It’s a doddle to set up, too: focus is adjusted using a paddle located behind the lens and there’s another for adjusting keystone correction. For best results, though, you’ll want to ensure the YG420 is level with the surface you’re projecting onto. 

The projector has a range of between 1.5m and 4.6m, with the sharpest image found at around 1.8m. At that distance, the projection measures 66in diagonally from corner-to-corner, which is ample for most situations. The in-built speaker’s sound quality isn’t too shabby either but if you’re after a truly satisfying audio experience we’d recommend connecting an external speaker via the 3.5mm AUX jack. 

Physical buttons housed on the top of the YG420 allow you to control your media and access the device’s multimedia menu but it’s far easier to use the remote control that comes in the box. Also included is a handy carrying case, which completes an impressive value-for-money projector package. 

Key specs – Resolution: 1,280 x 720; Brightness: not stated; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: HDMI, 2 x USB-A, 3.5mm audio jack, AV, VGA; Battery: No; Built-in apps: No; Dimensions: 245 x 166 x 82mm; Weight: 1.25kg


3. Anker Nebula Capsule: A budget projector with great sound quality

Price: £270 | Buy now from Amazon

The Anker Nebula Capsule is another fantastically portable projector. It isn’t quite as small as the ViewSonic M1 Mini Plus but its tin-can shape and compact dimensions means it’s just as easy to sling in a bag or suitcase.

Resolution is a fairly low 854 x 480 so images aren’t as crisp as on native 720p devices. Its LED lamp is limited when it comes to brightness, too, kicking out only 100 lumens, which means it’s only usable with the curtains or blinds drawn.

You do get a decent quality built-in speaker, though, and the projector also has a battery so you don’t have to worry about finding a power source when watching or trailing mains cables all over the place.

As expected, the Capsule has an HDMI input making it simple to connect a games console or streaming stick. And this is supplemented by a built-in media player running on Android plus the ability to install apps via the Aptoide marketplace, which means you can run Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer natively.

In terms of picture quality, the Anker is fine. Colours aren’t as good as some, but in isolation it’s very watchable in dark conditions. And it’s also worth noting that it has now been superseded by the Capsule II, which has more impressive specifications, albeit at a far higher price.

All-in-all, though, at a price of lower than £300, the Capsule makes a decent purchase for fans of battery-powered projectors.

Key specs – Resolution: 848 x 480; Brightness: 100 lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: HDMI, MicroUSB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Battery: Yes; Built-in apps: Yes; Dimensions: 68 x 68 x 120mm; Weight: 898g


4. ViewSonic M1: A portable projector with a brighter image

Price: £275 | Buy now from Amazon

If you want a little more brightness than the M1 Mini Plus, Viewsonic’s other compact projectors have you covered, in particular the M1. It looks similar to the Mini Plus and has the same handy stand, which allows simple image height adjustment and doubles as a lens cover when folded away.

Connectivity is just as good, too, with HDMI 1.4, USB Type-A and USB Type-C. The biggest downside is the lack of Bluetooth audio output, although unlike the Mini there is a 3.5mm jack for connecting headphones or speakers. It also lacks the smart features of the M1 Mini Plus.

Picture-wise, the M1 is a major improvement over most bargain-basement projectors. While you’re limited to 480p resolution, it’s bright at 250 lumens and colours look vibrant, too, although you’ll still have to dim or turn off the lights for the best image quality.

What’s more, the integrated Harmon-Kardon speakers sound impressive, with plenty of depth and a surprisingly wide soundstage. They won’t beat a soundbar or decent Bluetooth speaker but are more than good enough for watching TV or sports events.

There’s also a built-in battery for up to six hours playback time, making this an excellent option if portability, decent image and sound quality are all on your wish list.

Key specs – Native resolution: 854 x 480; Brightness: 250 ANSI Lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: MicroSD, USB Type-C, USB Type-A, HDMI 1.4, 3.5mm headphone/audio; Battery: Yes; Dimensions: 126 x 148 x 40mm; Weight: 689g


5. LG CineBeam PH50KS: The best budget projector for overall image quality

Price: £500 | Buy now from Amazon

 

The LG PF50KS is at the upper end of the price spectrum in this category but it's still, in our view, still cheap as far as projectors go. And, for the money, it's a pretty handy little thing as well. It's about the size of a thick hardback, has a built-in battery that will keep things going for up to 2hrs 30mins and, to cap it all, it's a highly capable projector.

Image quality is excellent: the resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 keeps things looking nice and sharp, brightness is decent and colour rendition is superb. Pick the Dark Cinema preset and, as long as you keep the lights dim, you'll be rewarded with accurate, balanced colours - perfect for a night in watching movies with a big bowl of popcorn.

That's not all the LG PF50KS is good at, though. It's also packed with features. It has Netflix and YouTube apps built-in, plus you can install apps from the LG store, although this lacks Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and Now TV. There's also screen mirroring via USB-C and Wi-Fi and it has built-in speakers, although you're best off connecting a pair of headphones or speakers for the best audio experience.

Overall, this is a brilliant budget projector and very easy to use thanks to its WebOS interface.

Key specs – Resolution: 1920 x 1080; Brightness: 600 lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: HDMI x 2, USB-A, USB-C, Wi-Fi; Battery: Yes; Built-in apps: Yes; Dimensions: 174 x 109.5 x 44 (WDH); Weight: 650g

Read more

Best Buys