There’s nothing like watching your favorite films in a dark room on a massive screen. For that authentic movie theater experience, you’ll need a projector.
While some folks might be afraid to make the jump to projectors from big-screen TVs, due to a veritable cornucopia of misconceptions around them being hard to setup (they’re not) or difficult to maintain (they’re not), projectors are absolutely the best way to get the biggest picture for your cash.
To help you sort out which beamers are worth the bankroll, we’ve brought together the best projectors we’ve tested from across Optoma, BenQ, Anker, and more and compiled them into a handy list down below.
What to Look for in the projectors under $500?
There are four factors you should take into account when shopping around for a home projector. The first one is the maximum image size. Many options in this price range offer slightly smaller images than the industry standard. This may be worth avoiding if you are planning on devoting an entire room for the experience. On the other hand, if you live in an apartment, then forking out $100 extra for an extra-stretched image may not be worth it.
Second, you want to look at the contrast ratio and them lumens offered by the specific model. Both will play a major role in image quality and sharpness. Lumens will become extra important for people who will need to contend with some light around their movies.
Third, take a look at the number of accessories you can afford and have space for. External speakers provide a very noticeable difference in sound quality, so unless your budget is really tight or you need a portable option, you don’t want to rely on the projector’s own integrated sound card.
Finally, consider whether you will be getting a screen as well: two projectors may offer the same image quality on paper, but one of them may require a high quality screen in order to truly shine.
Key features of projectors under $500
We looked at tons of products before zeroing in on these 10 best projectors under $500. After trudging through a bunch of corporate speak, we selected these based on:
- Brightness: We tested them to check the brightness level of the projectors. The cheaper projectors of newer manufacturers rarely meet the claims on their specs.
- Resolution: To really see the details of any video, the projector should offer a good resolution. We picked the best projectors with resolution 480p or up. We must match the resolution of the projector with that of the video source played more often.
- Contrast: Use a sketchy projector and you will only follow half of the Game of Thrones. Contrast Ratio is what allows you to see shadow detail and deep black levels. Without a good contrast ratio you will never understand the significance of many scenes shot inside dark rooms or caves.
- Use: It’s important that the projectors are easy to operate. Or else you will have to fumble with the mount every time and end up watching the Forrest Gump cursing physical exertion. A usable remote that can control all of its features is very useful.
- Connectivity: For the best projectors under $500 to be compatible with all video players, they should have all popular options of connectivity.
- Lens Zoom: This becomes a concern if you are using a portable projector and screen. You might not always set them up at the same distance. With the lens zoom option, you need not adjust the distance of the system. You can simply zoom in to the video.
How we tested
We measured each projector using CalMAN software and $5,000 worth of test equipment, including a Klein K-10A and an i1Pro2 photospectrometer running patterns from a Murideo Six-G test pattern generator. We tested for light output, contrast ratio, color and color temperature accuracy, and more.
Additionally, since numbers don’t reveal the whole picture, we did qualitative comparison testing by placing projectors next to each other and sending them the same signal using an HDMI splitter. Viewing the same image side by side with identical screen sizes makes it easy to see differences in black level, contrast, and color.
5 best projectors under $500:
|BenQ MW535A||13.1 x 8.4 x 3.9 in||1280x800|
|ViewSonic PA503W||4.3 x 11.6 x 8.6 in||1080p|
|Nebula Capsule II||8.6 x 5.3 x 4.4 in||1080p|
|Nebula Capsule||3.1 x 3.1 x 5.9 in||1280 x 720|
|BenQ HT1070||13.6 x 8.5 x 4 in||1080p|
1. BenQ MW535A
When looking for a projector that suits a bright-ambient room, the BenQ MW535A Projector for home and office is a good choice for you. This one is also impressive for its high-brightness for small business and educational environments.
One more good thing about the product is that it promises ease of installation. This features a vertical keystone, 3 adjustable feet, and 1.2 times zoom for easy and convenient setup.
Enhanced flexibility is as promised by the MW535A that features retractable adjustment foot and easy setup functions.
It also has its vertical keystone enabling you to align the image properly. This is true when you need to hold a meeting immediately.
This projector is a good choice for it works great for its stunning performance. Its ease of installation and all other excellent features would make you realize that you won’t have regrets at it.
- Packed with more flexible features
- Easy to setup
- The tendency to get broken after a few months of use
ViewSonic PA503W is one of the best projectors in our list of the best projector under 500 dollars that you can enjoy bright images in certain environments with the ViewSonic PA503W 3600-Lumen WXGA DLP Projector.
This best projector 2020 has 3600 lumens of brightness and well adapted for presentation sites such as conference rooms and classrooms.
Its 1280 x 800 WXGA resolution is just perfect for displaying many files and document types.
It will accept video signals up to Full HD (1920 x 1080) for higher resolution sources.
The PA503W which is the best HDMI projector under $500 has HDMI input for connecting digital high-definition sources such as Blu-ray players and HD cable/satellite boxes.
View sonic have Analog audio input & output, and an onboard 2W speaker which ensures that audio accompanies your video.
The projector also includes a VGA cable and an IR remote control.
- Super Color for Enhanced Color Accuracy
- 3D Blu-ray Ready HDMI Input
- Quick Power Off
- Energy-efficient Super Eco mode
- Designed for reduced input latency
- Not very good sound quality
Some projector were meant to be portable – and few do it better than the Anker Nebula Capsule II Mini Projector.
About the size and shape of a can of Coca Cola, the tiny projector looks more like a battery pack for a piece of AV equipment than an all-out projector, but those looks are deceiving. The Capsule II is very capable for its size, offering a 720p (HD) resolution and strong audio output – and a noticeable improvement on 2018’s Anker Nebula Mars II – even if it can’t compete with the more premium 4K HDR models listed in this guide.
Given its size, we were pleasantly surprised to find a fully-sized HMDI port, too, rather than the mini-HDMI alternative – as well as a USB port and USB-C charging port, allowing you to power the projector while connecting to a streaming stick like the Roku Express or Amazon Fire TV Stick.
There’s also 3,600 apps to make use of, all pre-built into the Android TV smart platform. However, given some tricky certification issues around Netflix, you won’t get the biggest TV streaming service on there unless you connect and external device to do it for you.
- Android TV built-in
- Full-size HDMI port
- Could be brighter
- Netflix must be sideloaded
Don’t be put off by the star rating: this tiny, tin-shaped projector has a big picture and bigger ambitions.
It’s an ingenious piece of tech – a portable projector with built-in Android-esque app store. The Capsule can also be used as a dedicated Bluetooth speaker.
Whether streaming from Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube, the Capsule presents a decent picture that rivals other pico projectors.
It’s not perfect, but those looking for something a little bit different, portable and easy to use, and who don’t mind missing out in absolute picture quality terms, will enjoy it very much.
- Neat design
- Solid sound
- Passable pictures
- Doesn’t like dark scenes or lit rooms
- Needs fuller range of apps
- Short of connections
5. BenQ HT1070
If you are in the market for a very basic, yet still high-quality projector, then this might be a good choice for you.
It is a DLP projector, which makes it ideal for 3D, HD, and fast-moving media, such as video games. It can operate in multiple resolutions, which will allow you to find the one that works best with your setup.
Even though this is a DLP projector, it does not have a very wide contrast range. This might make it a bit difficult to find the right amount of contrast for the location you intend to utilize it in.
It is one of the dimmest projectors out there, with a maximum brightness of 2,000 lumens. While this would make it less than ideal for a well-lit room, it would be perfect for a darkened home theater, or a backyard cinema. It has a smaller throw range of 4-16.5 feet and can be used with screens ranging from 35-180 inches.
- Multiple resolutions
- Large screen range
- Smaller throw range
- Lower contrast range
Guys, It is time to wrap up this article “best projector under $500.” In this article, I tried to include projectors that can suit each and every type of person from home users to gamers.
Hopefully, this article was a big help to you in finding the perfect one for your needs. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!