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What are the best cheap projectors, and do you actually need a screen?

Projectors aren't just for PowerPoint lectures in classrooms anymore. Maximize wall space with the best budget projectors that make your flat-screen TV look small.
Written by Josh Slate, Contributor and  Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Emery Wright

Shopping for a cheap projector to fit your budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice quality and features. There are plenty of affordable options out there for home projectors that have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for streaming movies, music, and shows as well as integrated batteries to make them great for entertainment on the go. 

As projectors have advanced over time, they've also shrunk from massive boxes to units that can fit in a pocket. Many budget-friendly projectors have lamps that are capable of 1080p resolution, excellent contrast, and vivid color on top of having incredibly long lifespans. With the size and capabilities of projectors continuing to improve, you can project your shows and movies on a bare wall, a drop-down screen, or even the side of your house on a nice summer day. 

There are plenty of projectors out on the market, but few have the top features and quality at under $1,000. That being said, we hand-picked the best cheap projectors based on throw distance, contrast ratio, lumens, and most importantly, price. 

Also: What are the best outdoor projectors, and how many lumens do you need?

Pros & Cons
  • Short throw distance
  • Excellent brightness
  • 8.4 ms response rate in 120Hz
  • No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity
  • Higher price for a budget option
More Details

Tech Specs: Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 3800 lumens | Throw distance: 4.3 feet | Screen size: 120-inches | Wi-Fi: No | Bluetooth: No

With the Optoma GT1080HDRx projector, you can view your favorite shows, movies, and games at any time of day. You don't need a theatre-sized room to use this projector, because it only needs 4.3 feet to project onto the large display. At 120 inches, the screen can automatically turn your living room into a movie theatre at just a fraction of the size. 

The projector's HDR10 technology and contrast ratio (50,000 to 1) enhance the viewing experience with brighter whites, deeper blacks, and a wider color array. Plus, gamers can level up with the 8.4ms response time while playing at 120Hz refresh rate.

With a vertical keystone correction of +/- 40-degrees, your projector will look like a mounted TV with straight edges. And much like a TV, it supports 4K and 1080 HDR input with HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 1.4 ports, along with audio in and out, as well as a USB-A port.

Pros & Cons
  • High brightness
  • HDMI and USB ports for Fire Stick and Roku support
  • Long throw distance
  • 6,000 hours of light source life
More Details

Tech Specs: Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 3600 lumens | Throw distance: 3-35 feet | Screen size: 33-365 inches | Wi-Fi: No | Bluetooth: No

The Epson EX3280 projector can display content even if ambient light is bright. While 3,600 lumens ensure brightness, the 3-Chip 3LCD technology displays vivid color without any "rainbowing' issues. Plus, a dynamic contrast ratio of 15,000 to 1 adds to the list of powerful specs.

The setup process couldn't be simpler. The projector features a built-in speaker and picture skew sensor so you'll get a squared image and 37-decibel sound to match the high-quality picture.

Although the throwing distance is long, the color accuracy and brightness is still impressive. From 10 feet away, you'll get a 100-inch screen, while at 29 feet you can view your shows at 300 inches.

Pros & Cons
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 2 HDMI ports
  • Screen mirroring
  • Requires darker environment
  • Long throw distance
More Details

Tech Specs: Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 250 lumens | Throw distance: 4.6-23 feet | Screen size: 40-200-inches | Wi-Fi: Yes | Bluetooth: No

At a fraction of the price of other projectors on the market, the Vankyo Performance V630W projector provides an excellent viewing experience for a variety of content. The projector allows you to connect two HDMI cords as well as wirelessly connect your phone to screen mirror your phone. 

Unlike other projectors in this list, its needs a little extra room to really show off. It can cast a minimum screen size of 40 inches from 4.6 feet away and a maximum size of 200 inches from 23 feet away.

When it comes to connectivity, this projector is unique due to the SD card reader and two HDMI ports located on the side -- features rarely seen in projectors at this price point. 

Pros & Cons
  • Plug-and-play for Windows and Mac
  • Bright lamp
  • Great color, contrast, and detail
  • No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
  • More expensive than other budget options
More Details

Tech Specs: Resolution: 1080p | Brightness: 3300 lumens | Throw distance: 3-27 feet | Screen size: 33-200 inches | Wi-Fi: No | Bluetooth: No

While the Epson Home Cinema 880 sits on the upper end of "affordable," it packs many great features for a reasonable price. It uses a special filter and mirror system to split the white light beam from the lamp into separate red, green, and blue beams that are then sent to individual LCD panels for mixing. The process creates sharp details, rich color, and deep contrast for a more lifelike image. 

The lamp emits up to 3300 lumens of brightness, so you can watch your favorite shows and movies any time of day. And with 1080p resolution, every scene will look its best. The projector features USB and HDMI plug-and-play connectivity for both Windows and Mac computers as well as an integrated speaker for crisp, clear audio. 

The screen size is adjustable from 33 to 200 inches, and the throw distance can be set between 3 and 27 feet -- so you don't need a huge room to get the best viewing experience for your friends and family.

Pros & Cons
  • Short throw distance
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable
  • USB-C and SD card reader
  • Great battery
  • Dim lamp
More Details

Tech Specs: Resolution: 480p/1080p | Brightness: 300 lumens | Throw distance: 40-inches | Screen size: 24-100 inches | Wi-Fi: Yes | Bluetooth: Sound only

You don't have to skimp out on quality if you're shopping for a projector on a budget. The ViewSonic M1+, like its cousin the M1 Mini+, is a compact projector that's great for setting up at home or bringing to a friend's house (or on a camping trip). 

The integrated battery offers 6 hours of use on a full charge, and the built-in stand makes it easy to adjust angles and throw distance. You'll get a 100-inch screen at just 40 inches of throwing distance, so no need to worry about your room not being big enough. 

It also features dual 3-watt Harman/Kardon speakers for incredible room-filling audio, so you don't need a separate speaker. The M1+ has a suite of pre-installed apps, including Netflix and Spotify. Plus, you can mirror your mobile device to share TikToks and YouTube videos with friends. 

What is the best cheap projector?

Our top pick for the best cheap projector is the Optoma GT1080HDRx -- but that doesn't mean other options on this list aren't worthy. I chose each of these these projectors based on resolution, brightness, throw distance, and more.

This table compares the five best cheap projectors:

Best cheap projector



Throw distance

Optoma GT1080HDRx


3800 lumens

4.3 feet

Epson EX3280 3LCD XGA


3600 lumens

3-35 feet

Vankyo Performance V630W


250 lumens 

4.6-23 feet

Epson Home Cinema 880


3300 lumens

3-27 feet

ViewSonic M1 Plus


300 lumens

40 inches

Which cheap projector is right for you?

Which projector to buy typically depends on room size and how big you can make the screen. For small rooms, a projector with a short throwing distance is preferable and the opposite for larger rooms.

Consider this chart when choosing the best cheap projector for your needs and budget.

Choose this cheap projector

If you want

Optoma GT1080HDRx

The best cheap projector overall

Epson EX3280 #LCD XGA

Our top-pick for less than $500

Vankyo Performance V630W

A high-quality projector without breaking the bank

Epson Home Cinema 880

A projector for high-quality picture in a bright room

ViewSonic M1 Plus

The best sound with your projector

How did we choose these projectors?

Aside from the price, I chose projectors with decent lamp brightness in both dark and bright rooms as well as plenty of connectivity options for playing movies, music, and shows. 

I also tried to be mindful of shoppers who may not have tons of space, adding projectors with short throw distances better suited for small spaces like dorm rooms, apartments, and bedrooms.

How many lumens do I need for a good projector image?

Lumens alone don't determine the quality of a projected image. You should consider lumens, picture resolution, color volume, and contrast ratio to get the best image for your space. Lumens are a unit of measurement for brightness, and brightness contributes to visibility of projected images (especially in bright rooms or during the day). 

If you want a projector strictly for nighttime or dark-room viewing, you can get away with as few as 300 lumens, since there will be little to no ambient light interference. 

But if you want to set up a projector in your main living room and watch content during the day, you'll need something with at least 1000 lumens -- I would recommend something more along the lines of 3300 lumens to be on the safe side.

Are mini projectors worth it?

A mini projector is a great option if you don't have a ton of space to set up a home theater, like an apartment or dorm room. Mini projectors are small, lightweight, and have much shorter throw distances than their full-size counterparts. This means they're easy to move around, and you won't have to worry about getting a bad image because your wall isn't big enough to accommodate the projected screen.

Also: The best mini projectors (and how they compare to full-sized ones)

Do I need a special screen for my projector?

Not usually. If you have a flat white wall, that will work just fine for projecting an image. Conversely, if your wall is textured or painted a different color, you can always hang up a plain, white bedsheet. Just make sure it's pulled taught, so wrinkles won't cast shadows or distort the image.

There are some very expensive, top-of-the-line laser projectors that do require a special screen. But many models come packaged with the screen, so you don't have to worry about spending extra money on top of an already steep price tag.

Are there alternative cheap projectors worth considering?

If you're on a strict budget when buying a projector for your home theatre, there are other options out there that cost less than $550. Here's a short list of other models that I thought were great:

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