Home entertainment doesn't just stop at televisions, and while there's plenty of great TV options, nothing replicates that movie theatre experience quite like the larger viewing screen of a projector.
Projectors have come a long way in the last decade, and they're not just used in elementary classrooms anymore. With indoor and outdoor options, projectors are popular alternatives or supplements to traditional TV screens, and can provide crisp viewing on a much grander scale.
Also: The best outdoor projectors
Projectors help transform a space by bringing media to life -- turning a blank wall or side of the house into a personalized and intimate viewing set-up.
Whether you're looking to set-up movie night in your backyard, create a home theatre, or just catch the latest flick on a much larger display, ZDNET rounded up the best cheap projectors that will fit your needs without breaking the bank. Our top cheap projector choice? The Epson EX3280 projector for its vivid picture quality and easy connectivity. Read on to see how it compares against models from Xgimi, Nebula, and more based on features like sound, lumens, connectivity, price and more.
Also: What are the best projector screens and what size do you need?
The best cheap projectors of 2023
- Phenomenal imaging
- Built-in speaker
- Excellent connectivity
- Low aspect ratio
- Single HDMI port
Epson EX3280 tech specs: Brightness: 3,600 lumens | Resolution: 678p | Noise level: 37dB | Light source: Lamp
The Epson EX3280 offers a perfect balance between price and product, providing a crisp, traditional home-cinema experience with Energy Star certified design. It is 4K-compatible and offers simple connectivity, allowing you to stream from all of your favorite devices easily. The three-chip 3LCD technology and 3,600 lumens pack in spectacular color and brightness with a crisp XGA resolution. The compact build weighs only 5 pounds, making it easy to tote to and from home.
- Extra ports
- Large screen size
- Carrying case included
- Super budget-friendly
- Mediocre speakers
- Low resolution
Vankyo Leisure 3 tech specs: Brightness: 65 lumens | Resolution: 480p | Maximum screen size: 170 inches | Light source: LED
The Vankyo Leisure 3 boasts superior viewing with a projection size ranging up to 170 inches, which is the largest amongst cheap projectors on our list. This allows a larger picture projection that can stand up to even your largest walls or even the outside of your house. With two built-in speakers, it has plenty of power for an all-around solid viewing experience. However, you won't hear it work, thanks to its inner heat dispersion and cooling system with noise suppression technology. Plus for under $100, the Vankyo is an affordable investment in at-home fun.
- 1080p resolution
- Excellent brightness
- Rugged design
- Tricky to use Netflix
- Lacks 3D support
Benq GS50 tech specs: Maximum projection range: 110 inches | Brightness: 500 ANSI lumens | Resolution: 1080p | Aspect ratio: 16:9
Benq GS50 is rated for the outdoors, which means you can bring all the benefits of indoor screening on your next outdoor adventure. The projector offers 1080p full HD resolution and maximum brightness. And don't worry about sound quality outside, either -- Benq benefits from extra bass from the dual midrange tweeters and a 10W woofer for crisper sound, and picture is improved by Benq's CinematicColor for more vibrant, vivid hues. Easy HDMI connectivity gets you started, and there is an embedded Android TV for simpler use. You can also connect via AirPlay and Chromecast.
- Large imaging
- Excellent brightness
- Clear & Crisp pictures
- Lacks short-throw ability
- Larger design
Optoma UHD38x tech specs: | Connectivity: HDMI, VGA, USB | Display resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Dimensions: 10.6 x 12.4 x 4.6 inches
If you're on the hunt for a good gaming projector, the Optoma UHD38x home theater projector is your best bet for an outdoor gaming-compatible projector. Specifically designed to be used for gaming, it offers a brilliant picture in 4K Ultra HD with both HDR10 and HLG technologies to maximize your online experience.
The UltraDetail picture has more than eight million on-screen pixels, and features an Enhanced Gaming Mode to eliminate lags and enable interruption-free gaming. Optoma UHD38 offers multiple inputs for easy connectivity and the ability to stream via your computer or mobile device.
- 4K picture
- Powerful light
- Easy Netflix integration
- Easy setup
- Lacks optical zoom settings
- Boxy design
Anker Nebula Cosmos tech specs: Connectivity: HDMI | Display resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Dimensions: 10.35 x 6.5 x 8.66 inches
The Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K by Anker may be expensive, but at 2400 ISO lumens, this is an extremely powerful projector that allows you to watch whatever you'd like at any time -- even when the sun is shining bright. The 4K UHD visuals are crisp and supported by Anker's Intelligent Environment Adaptation (IEA) Technology.
Equipped with Dolby Audio and a 3D soundscape, this Nebula Cosmos projector allows for top-tier audio to match the stunning visuals. Its tabletop design allows for easy set-up and portability, making it a great companion for outdoor entertainment.
- Built-in Android TV
- HDR support
- Dimmer picture
- Average imaging
Nebula Solar Portable tech specs: Maximum projection range: 120 inches | Brightness: 1100 lumens | Resolution: 1080p
The Nebula Solar Portable is a 4K-supported projector that is designed to go where you go. With 1,100 lumens and a 1080p resolution, you can expand your viewing area up to 120 inches wherever you like. There is no need to worry about volume, either, with dual 3W speakers and Double Digital Plus integration. The built-in battery allows for three hours of video playtime, giving you enough time to catch a movie or game, and it even comes with its own built-in stand for easy portability.
- Fantastic connectivity
- Chromecast available built-in
- Simple set-up
- Few instructions
- Missing SD card
Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro tech specs: Maximum projection range: 100 inches | Brightness: 300 ANSI lumens | Resolution: 1080p
The Xgimi MoGo 2 Pro is designed to travel. Offering two hours of viewing with easy Bluetooth connectivity, the Xgimi easily allows you to stream entertainment via apps downloaded from the Google Play store. The 1080p resolution comes with 300 ANSI lumens on a picture that expands as much as 100 inches for your viewing pleasure, making this portable option plenty big enough for wherever you take it. In addition to wireless and Bluetooth listening, enjoy dual 8W speakers with Dolby Audio built into the projector for excellent sound.
The Epson EX3280 offers a crisp viewing experience with 1080p resolution at a fairly moderate price, perfect for a home theatre setup. To see how it stacks up against our other picks, here is an overview of the best cheap projectors.
|Best cheap projector||Cost||Screen size||Resolution|
|Epson EX3280||$500||100"||1920 x 1080|
|Vankyo Leisure 3||$91||170"||800 x 480|
|Benq GS50||$630||110"||1920 x 1080|
|Optoma UHD38x||$1,115||300"||3840 x 2160|
|Nebula Cosmos 2K||$2,000||120"||3840 x 2160|
|Nebula Solar Portable||$500||120"||1920 x 1080|
|XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro||$599||100"||1920 x 1080|
To help you find the best cheap projector, consider our expert recommendations based on our research.
|Choose this best cheap projector...||If you want...|
|Epson EX3280||An all-around solid projector perfect for all your home, office, and school needs.|
|Vankyo Leisure 3||Affordability without sacrificing decent quality or features.|
|Benq GS50||Durability above all else.|
|Optoma UHD38x||A projector designed specifically for gaming.|
|Nebula Cosmos 2K||A high-quality projector at a splurge cost.|
|Nebula Solar Portable||A mini projector to take with you on the go.|
|XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro||A sound projector for regular travel and use.|
When searching for the best cheap projectors, we used several specific criteria, including these factors here.
Screen size: The best cheap projectors cover a variety of different-sized spaces. Be sure to measure the area where you plan to use your projector so you can be sure that the specifications match your intended space.
Resolution: Most of the best cheap projectors offer a full HD resolution measuring 1920 x 1080 for a superior image.
Lumens: The number of lumens that a projector has will speak to its brightness. The higher the lumen count, the brighter you can expect your projector to be.
Audio: We look to see what speakers are incorporated and what kind of sound output is generated.
Price: Not all projectors are wildly expensive, so when searching for the best cheap projectors, we looked for projectors priced under $800, while also including a few splurge selections for those interested in weighing their options.
Of course, the value of what a cheap projector is relative to every unique buyer, and projectors can significantly range in cost, quickly climbing into the thousands as you add more features. But many quality projector offerings can be found under $1,000. These best budget projectors range anywhere in cost from less than $100 to over $2,000 depending on the model you choose to best fit your needs.
For other options, consider these runner-ups for the best cheap projectors and more.
BEST CHEAP SHORT THROW
Benq HT2150ST - Best cheap short-throw projector
If you're looking for a projector with a short-throw, the Benq HT2150ST allows powerful and bright imagery to shine, making it perfect for gaming and other entertainment needs.
BEST CHEAP MINI
Nebula Capsule II - Best cheap mini projector
Mini projectors can pack a punch, and this soda-can-sized Nebula Capsule brings crips visuals to the forefront in a compact design.
BEST CHEAP ULTRA PORTABLE
Kodak Luma - Best cheap ultra-portable projector
This pocket-sized projector allows for easy transport of an on-the-go entertainment system.