This is but one installment of 37 Things a Man's Gotta Do This Summer, our annual compendium of everything worth seeing, doing, eating, drinking and generally making time for in your neck of the woods between now and September. Stay tuned all month for more.
Welcome to Buy Choice, in which we pick one everyday item, cut out all the noise, and present you with nothing but the best options on the market.
It’s tough to live large in a converted studio.
One solution? Ditch your TV and get a home projector.
Advantages: Larger screen. Smaller footprint. Eminently portable.
Disadvantage? It’s a lot harder to find what works for you. With that in mind, we present our eight favorite home projectors, each one targeting a different viewing need and/or budget.
Best overall: BenQ HT2050
There’s no shortage of quality mid-range projectors, and any search should bring you across Wirecutter’s recommendation of best projectors under $1,000. We followed through with the rec, and can wholeheartedly say the BenQ HT2050 is a worthy projector that’ll suit the majority of your needs: easy setup, great 1080p picture, serviceable speakers and two HDMI ports for connecting your streaming gadget of choice (we use Chromecast, and it’s seamless).
Best value: Nebula Capsule
Anker’s soda can-sized projector has big dreams: it can display a picture up to 100 inches. Utilizing Android 7.0 and doubling as a 360-degree Bluetooth speaker, the Nebula has a 2.5-hour battery life (you can also charge while you play) and promises a bright and vivid picture. It’s not going to replace your 4K TV, but it could be great for content on the road or at big parties. And at $310, this is $90 cheaper than it’s ever been (at least since its Indiegogo days).
Best cheap (speculative) 4K projector: N-Tech
Given that most not-quite-real-4K projectors start at around $1,500, getting one that’ll fit in your backpack and costs just $600 seems like a steal. This Indiegogo project is a circular, stackable unit that spins 360 degrees — yes, you can watch things on the ceiling — and features four built-in speakers. It’ll supposedly ship in August, but this is a crowdfunding project we’re talking about. Buyer beware.
Most versatile: LG HU80KA
A CES Best of Innovation Award winner this year for good reason: the portable, upright unit (it looks like a small trash bin with a handle) is the company’s first 4K UHD model, and it projects a sharp image up to 150 inches wide at 2,500 lumens. You can mount the projector on the wall, place on a floor or hang from the ceiling. And LG claims it’s about half the size of other 4K projectors. Available starting June 4th, but preorders are up now.
Best gaming projector: Epson Home Cinema 2040
The 2,200 lumens of brightness and 35,000:1 contrast ratio mean your games will appear sharp and colorful in average lighting. Plus, you’ll get multiple connective ports and a decided lack of the dreaded “rainbow effect” (aka flashes of color that haunt some low-quality projectors during scenes with bright objects on dark backgrounds).
Most portable: PoFun Mini Projector
At just .58 lbs., this (deep)pocket-sized, aluminum-shelled projector will hook up to your laptop or mirror your smartphone and deliver a 34”x120” picture. Granted, it’s not that bright (100 lumens) and the resolution leaves a bit to be desired, but think of this as your road/office buddy.
For the kids: Cinemood
This 3” theater doesn’t even need an outside connection — it’s preloaded with 120+ hours of kid-friendly/Disney videos, cartoons and bedtime stories. When you do connect (via wifi or Bluetooth), you can stream Neftflix, YouTube and Amazon (or just download your favorite videos: the projector features 32GB of memory). Bonus: no blue light, so less eye strain, and it’ll run five hours on a charge.
When money is no object: Sony 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector
You’re not taking this anywhere. Sony’s aluminum projection unit on its own is three-and-a-half feet wide and, together with the cabinet and speaker, weighs 113 lbs. You’ll be setting it inches from your wall. But you’re getting 4096 x 2160 resolution and 3D content (remember that?) upscaled to 4K, 360-degree sound and the ability to watch better-than-HD content in any light conditions. Totally worth $50K, right?