Best Projectors under $1000

Bill Livolsi, November 13, 2014


BEST for HOME VIDEO:

Optoma HD26



The Optoma HD26 is a low-cost, high-performance projector for home video. Optoma's followup to the HD25 moves away from pitch-black home theater applications by adding a serious brightness boost and some family-friendly features that make it a great all-purpose video projector.

We like the Optoma HD26 for home video for four reasons:

Picture quality. With the lights on, the HD26's extreme brightness preserves the appearance of contrast. With the lights off, though, it produces a nuanced and subtle image in Cinema mode, with balanced color and good shadow detail. It cannot match the pitch-perfect color performance of the BenQ HT1075, so it's not our number one pick for home theater, but as a dual-purpose machine it really shines.

Super bright picture. In its brightest mode, the HD26 has the highest light output of any projector in the shootout. That's ideal when you need a brilliant image due to ambient light, and that's part of why the HD26 is a great choice for those rooms where ambient light can't be controlled. And in the projector's Cinema mode, it still produces over 1,000 lumens for a satisfying experience once the sun goes down.

Lamp life and cost. Even at full power, the HD26's 190-watt lamp is rated to last 5,000 hours, longer than any of its competitors. That jumps to 6,500 hours in Eco mode. When it finally comes time to replace the lamp, replacements are only $179.

Jack of all trades. The HD26 also includes MHL, a ten-watt speaker, low 33ms input lag, and a VESA 3D synchronization port. These features are not unique to the HD26, but no other projector has this particular combination. They allow the HD26 to be a powerful do-all projector in your living room, functioning well in whatever role you need it to perform.

Limitations of this projector

While its image is impressive, especially considering its low price, the HD26 cannot quite match the impeccable color performance of the BenQ HT1075. And though it is lighter than its predecessor, the HD26 is larger and heavier than our portable pick, the Viewsonic PJD7820HD.

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BenQ HT1075
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Epson PLHC 2030
Review Contents: Overview BenQ HT1075 Optoma HD26 Epson PLHC 2030
  Viewsonic PJD7820HD InFocus IN8606HD

Reader Comments(19 comments)

Posted May 1, 2015 8:39:17 AM

By Evan Powell

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Thomas, anytime you have a hard time finding information on a projector, it is likely a scam. The Minotti ads say it "SUPPORTS native 1920x1080 HD definition." That usually means it takes a 1080p signal, but it won't display it at 1080p because the native panels are much lower resolution. I've also seen it advertised at 7500 lumens. There is no way an LED projector will put out 7500 lumens. My guess it is total junk. If you are looking for a deal I suggest you buy a Panasonic AE8000, which is selling for around $1500 at the moment.

Posted May 1, 2015 8:10:41 AM

By Thomas Withers

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Thinking of buying the Minotti M-1000 3D projector, but I'm not able to get much information on it. The buyer is asking $2000 and will throw in the 72" screen. Can you proivde any insight/guidance. Projector to be used for watching movies and TV. Your suggestion is also welcomed.

Posted Mar 20, 2015 4:19:13 PM

By Trip

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Anyone know what the latest and greatest projector is for about $1500 I'm bout to buy one?

Posted Mar 14, 2015 4:06:40 PM

By Tracy Williams

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I have been borrowing projectors and they all seem to be finicky... I need something reliable. I do presentations to groups up to 20 and often on bright rooms. I want a nice clear picture with good color although fine detail is not important. I understand the features and that higher numbers are better but what do I really need without going overboardx?

Posted Feb 16, 2015 12:45:39 PM

By Douglas Rose

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I would like a recommendation for a small under 1k projector for my art work using mad mapper and 3D Sculptures. This will be used only for this purpose. Needs high end lighting for use during the day in installs I have in bars and public venues. Need to be portable so I can set up and take down in a one or two day install. Please let me know if there is a projector heads above the others for this exact purpose?

Thanks,

Posted Feb 9, 2015 8:07:59 PM

By Stacey

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I'm interested in purchasing a projector primarily for watching movies outdoors. Which of the projectors do you recommend for this? I'm plabeing on projecting it onto a 132" screen. Im new to this and appreciate the advice. Thanks Stacey

Posted Jan 21, 2015 4:05:46 AM

By Niklas

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First off, thank you for all the good reviews. They have helped me a lot! I purchased the BenQ Ht1085 (or 1070+ as it is called here in Europe), but I could not handle the audible noise. I had it turned on parallell to my old Panasonic PT-AE500 and the BenQ completely drowned the Panasonic (and myself) in noise. When I turned off the BenQ, leaving "the old dog" on, it was a relief - unfortunately.

So my question is, would you recommend HD26, HD141X, HD36 or HD151X instead? It seems as though BenQ projectors are too noisy for me, a new Panasonic would be expensive, and Epson seem louder on paper. How are Epson projectors concerning audible noise in real life?

Posted Jan 20, 2015 11:00:41 AM

By Bill Livolsi

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Tony - If you can swing it, your environment sounds perfect for an Epson 5030UB or a Sony HW40ES. If you're looking for something more affordable, the BenQ HT1075 is our budget pick for dedicated home theater use.

Posted Jan 20, 2015 10:15:30 AM

By Tony Thibault

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Evan, Thank you for your quick response and thank you for setting me straight. As I stated, I have no reference to compare to. It gets very confusing reading all the information your wonderful site provides. I am looking for a relatively good theater quality picture. However, where does that price range start? I have a dedicated room for theater use no windows, dark walls and floor. Unfortunately, a white ceiling.

Posted Jan 19, 2015 3:10:19 PM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Tony, you've raised a point that is a key for me. There is no way that a projector will look like your 60" LCD TV. And I would not want it to. If you are buying a projector, you want it to look like the picture in a well-constructed commercial movie theater. When you see a film in a professional theater, it does not have the saturation or the extreme contrast or the glare that a TV has, and that is a good thing since the picture is so big that the light would be blinding. If you want a relatively small 60" high contrast, high glare TV picture that looks great in your living room with the lights on, then stay with the TV products. Projectors are made for the replication of the professional dark room movie theater experience on very large screens.

Posted Jan 19, 2015 12:40:00 PM

By Tony Thibault

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I am having trouble finding somewhere or someone that has a 1080p native resolution projector for me to see. Before I make an investment in a home theater. Will the the quality of the picture with a 100"screen in a dark room and no ambient light have the same quality picture as my 60" LCD television? I love all the tech advice but, i just want a good picture. The BenQ 1075 is what I am interested in purchasing.

Posted Jan 18, 2015 12:35:44 AM

By Sean

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Just wanted to say thanks Bill for the advice. I've been enjoying the HECK out of my Epson 2030 for the last few weeks. The picture is great, and I like not having to worry about the bulb costs (at only $99) with the amount I'm using it, which is A LOT. There's a few nitpicks; a lighted remote would be nice, and gaming on fast mode doesn't look very good - BUT movies and tv shows look fantastic, the 3D is bright with no cross-talk, and regular gaming is a hoot. Thanks again!, I'm never going back to panel TV's that's for sure :)

Posted Jan 1, 2015 7:27:20 PM

By daniel

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I coming off a total bamboozling!!!!!! From buying a platinum projector it's the worst pos ever!! They should be sued for the junk they call hd. I couldn't even get a reply from company in any form of communication. Sorry I had to vent!! I'm looking for a projector for gaming and movies/sports in a room the size of a 2 car garage. Pleaselead me in the right direction!!!!

Posted Dec 19, 2014 6:00:22 PM

By Rao

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Bill,

Thank you for the insights in your article and your responses; this is extremely helpful. I am deciding to go with the BenQ 1075 over the Epson 2030 based on these reasons; 1) I intend to use it as a home theater projector, 2) practically no gaming and 3) I use Epson projectors at work every day and I feel they get too noisy at times (at 37db) that it drowns the meetings sometimes.

The one potential concern I have with BenQ 1075 is the Rainbow effect - Not sure if I should be concerned. How noticeable is this? - any thoughts on what could be done to minimize the Rainbow effect.

Thanks and appreciate your response.

Regards S.Rao

Posted Dec 11, 2014 4:58:06 PM

By Bill Livolsi

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Sean, in your case I’d probably go with the Epson 2030. Ceiling mounting won’t be too difficult, especially if you can mount the projector before you mount the screen.

Posted Dec 10, 2014 8:42:55 PM

By Sean

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Great article!

I'm torn between the Epson 2030 and the Benq HT1075. It seems the Epson might be a little better in my case, given that 1. I'm a gamer so need lower lag, 2. the bulbs are cheaper, and 3. no rainbow effects, BUT given I'll be ceiling mounting it to a fixed screen I understand the Benq with it's vertical shift would be much easier to position well - and I've read that the fan is quieter. I understand the Benq is rated VERY highly by most everyone in this price range - but I think the rainbow effects would bother me.

My room is a fairly dark room - not dedicated but there's only one corner window (floor to ceiling) that has black out blinds. I'll be viewing it on a 100" screen from about 10' away.

Given my parameters would the 2030 be a better projector?

Posted Dec 8, 2014 1:01:48 PM

By Bill Livolsi

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Rob,

The Sony HW40ES has everything you've asked for except a VESA port. It might be worth looking into.

Posted Dec 8, 2014 12:06:29 PM

By Rob (CaptainTaco)

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I have to add my input here. I picked up both the Optoma HD26 and the BenQ HT1075. I also have an Optoma EH500. Do not be swayed into picking up the Optoma HD26... It was a terrible terrible projector. The contrast was abysmal, the sharpness was non-existant, the colors were nothing short of dull and impossible to calibrate, and I, who am not susceptible to rainbow effect under normal circumstances, could do nothing but see them on this projector. Even the video played on it was choppy and stuttering on this projector, unlike on the BenQ. As far as I am concerned, the BenQ HT1075 should be the pick for both "Home Theater" and "Video in a brightly lit room". The Optoma HD26 should not even be a consideration in this shootout.

The BenQ had significantly brighter colors than the HD26, to be expected of course with the RGB/RGB wheel. And though it doesn't have a white segment (a good thing for color accuracy, but usually a bad thing for sheer "I don't care, just show me really bright football"edness... The BenQ managed to be just about as bright in its cinema mode as the HD26 was in its terrible color but bright as can be mode. At least visually. Part of this was likely due to the contrast the BenQ had over the HD26.

The last thing I have to point out is the sharpness. The HD26 was just one big blur when compared to the BenQ (and for that matter, when compared to my EH500 by Optoma). The absolute only thing the HD26 had going for it was the input lag, which while better than than BenQ, was the same as almost any other optoma projector I have tested, 30ms. To be fair, the BenQ did indeed test to exactly 50ms in my setup, same as the BenQ review on here.

All this said, my Optoma EH500, which is a DC2 chip meant for the office, had better sharpness, better contrast, better color (oddly enough, considering the DC2 chip) than the HD26. I truly expected the HD26 to be a less bright version of the EH500, and was significantly disappointed. That said, the BenQ managed to crank out more color lumens than the EH500, have more accurate color than the EH500 (even just comparing the primary colors at full fill) and was not lacking in brightness.

Unfortunately I could not keep the BenQ due to its 50ms input lag, which is enough to be distracting for me with PC games, and that is one of my primary projectors main purposes. The only other complaint was its lack of a VESA port. On Optoma projector I don't care if I have to use DLP link because it does not affect the brightness of them, due to the white segment. On an RGB/RGB wheel such as the BenQ however, DLP link reduces brightness output by almost a full 35%, which is then reduced even more once you put the glasses on. This is due to the DLP link signal being presented without a white segment to compensate on brightness (again, colors=white segment bad, but certain other things it can be good for, DLP link being one of them). Of course, this brightness loss could have been avoided by not having a DLP Link signal, aka, VESA jack and RF glasses... So alas, I am still in search of a projector that can do all I am looking for. The EH500 is still my best tested contender.

My room is set up for just about everything, and no projector has been able to do this perfectly yet, though the EH500 was close, if it just had better color accuracy.

I use it for PC gaming (need low, 30ms or less, input lag), bright picture for 3D (dim 3D drives me nuts) and living room conditions, decent enough contrast and color for theater conditions, excellent sharpness (the BenQ and EH500 excel at this), and preferably a VESA jack. To date I have yet to find a projector capable of satisfying all things better than the EH500, even in the under $4k range. At least not without destroying picture quality (such as the Epsons and their "fast mode" to reduce input lag. The BenQ was very close to being this projector, if only the input lag was 20ms better and they included a VESA jack. I would even pay twice what they charge for the HT1075 for the same projector with those features added.

Posted Nov 15, 2014 9:04:07 PM

By andrew

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Any chance for a review of Optoma HD161X? I think it would be appreciated by many readers. Thanks

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