If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that entertainment matters, and watching in style is important. Many people have finally taken the plunge and decided to design that home theater space they’ve always wanted, complete with a high-end sound system, comfy seating, and custom lighting. However, what’s a home theater without a way to watch your movies or TV shows? Sure, you can stick with that 4K conventional TV, but there’s a better option – a 4K projector.
Not sure what you’ll need to look for in a great projector? Don’t worry. We’ve done all the legwork and assembled a list of the top 10 best 4K projectors for 2021, so all you have to do is pick the one that’s right for you.
Our Picks for the 10 Best 4K Projectors in 2021
With an understanding of what you’ll need to get the most out of your projector, as well as a better idea of what goes into creating a good model, it’s time to turn our attention to the list of the 10 best 4K projectors.
JVC DLA-NX5 ⭐Best Overall
The top-rated 4K projector on our list is the JVC DLA-NX5. It takes top honors for several reasons, including its impressive contrast ratio (21,494:1). In addition, it offers outstanding brightness levels and produces the best HDR image. You’ll find that, unlike some other models on the market, this one offers true 4K (rather than image shifting technology). It also features an automated lens and requires very little in the way of image tweaking to get everything right during setup. Finally, it offers impressive upscaling of HD content into 4K definition, ensuring that even your older Blu-rays look like 4K productions.
- Very deep blacks that make whites and colors pop
- Handles HDR very well
- Outstanding control of color
- 3D viewing requires additional equipment (if 3D is your thing)
- SD does not upscale in full-screen (but HD does)
- Best for movies and TV shows, rather than gaming
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB ⭐Best Budget 4K Projector
Next up is the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB. You’ll notice several differences immediately here. First, this isn’t a true 4K model. It uses image shifting technology to bump up its 1080p image, but that’s not really a deal-breaker, as the image quality is still outstanding. The real benefit here is the near-true-4K capabilities with a budget price point. It’s also very capable of showing extra detail in HDR highlights and offers an outstanding color range. It’s simple to set up, and the automated lens control is a nice feature to have, particularly with such an affordable model.
- Low price point compared to other models
- Outstanding color production
- Automated lens control
- Not true 4K
- Lower contrast ratio of 4,400:1
Epson Home Cinema 3800
The second Epson model to make our list, the 3800 is the bigger, more expensive brother of the 5050UB. Like the previous model, this one is not true 4K and uses image shifting technology to deliver an upgraded viewing experience, but many viewers won’t notice that detail. It also offers a contrast ratio of 100,000:1, which gives it excellent picture quality. Unlike some other projectors on the market, this one also offers two HDMI 2.0 inputs and two USB 2.0 inputs.
- Great contrast ratio
- 4 inputs
- Good color reproduction
- Not true 4K
Sony takes fourth place in our list of the best 4K projectors on the market. This is a true 4K projector, and it delivers lots of benefits. One of those is the ability to hit a maximum image size of 300 inches (which is almost double what many other projectors are capable of). It also includes lots of connection options, including two HDMI 2.0 ports, a single USB 2.0, PC, and LAN connections. The contrast ratio is 350,000:1 so it’s not as good as our top pick, but very, very respectable. It’s also easy to set up.
- True 4K
- Fullscreen HD and SD upscaling
- Lots of connection options
Samsung The Premiere
The only Samsung model to make our list, The Premiere attempts to live up to its name in many ways. It’s one of the most capable 4K projectors on the market, for one. It also includes a 40W audio system out of the box, so you may not need a standalone option. This is also a true 4K projector capable of creating a 130-inch image. Finally, it uses Samsung’s HDR10+ format that allows you to calibrate the picture scene by scene (with compatible programming). However, the price point is one of the highest on our list (but not the highest on the market).
- True 4K
- Outstanding brightness
- Includes audio
- OS is sluggish
- Some rainbow effects may be noticed
LG CineBeam HU80KSW
Perhaps the most unique 4K projector on our list, the LG CineBeam HU80KSW is a rectangle, rather than a square. It also includes speakers and is a true 4K system. It offers a contrast ratio of 150,000:1 and has an impressive maximum image size of 150 inches.
- True 4K quality
- Portable system
- Lots of connectivity
- Speakers are only so-so
- Some motion judder
Anker Nebula Cosmos Max
Another portable projector, the Nebula Cosmos Max is an interesting combination of features and capabilities. It offers OTA connectivity (Chromecast, Airplay), but also has HDMI and USB connections. It runs on Android and is a fun option with its own built-in speakers. However, this is not a true 4K projector. With that being said, it’s capable of producing an image of 150 inches, and it’s battery-powered.
- Decent image quality
- Fun and easy to use
- Not true 4K
- Color reproduction is not the best
Vava 4K Laser Projector
Only available to buyers in the US, the Vava 4K laser projector is a minimalist option designed for short-throw needs. It brings a lot to the table, though, including 3 HDMI inputs (no USBs), and native 4K resolution.
- True 4K
- 150-inch image
- 8-bit HDR
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB
Another contender from Epson, the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is a great all-rounder that delivers good performance (image shifting), good brightness, and lots of connectivity options, including two USB ports, two HDMI ports, a LAN port, and a VGA port.
- Affordable price point
- Good overall performance
- Large unit/heavy
- Only has HDMI audio out
Stylish and modern, the BenQ TK850 delivers an outstanding picture with true 4K resolution, and all the brightness you could want. It also provides very good HDR handling and delivers motion-smoothing technology for sports.
- Native 4K resolution
- Good brightness
- The fan is noisy during operation
- Not the best blacks (video noise)
Epson Home Cinema 1060
Our final option comes, yet again, from Epson. Like its siblings on the list, it is not native 4K but does offer image shifting capabilities to deliver a 4K experience. It’s also affordable, includes both HDMI and USB ports, and has a contrast ratio of 15,000:1. Note that it is not 3D compatible, though.
- Good brightness
- Decent picture quality
- Image stability
Our Criteria for Choosing the Best 4K Projectors for 2021
We based our criteria on some pretty specific criteria. For instance, does the projector display true 4K resolution? Does it accurately display HDR video? Is it capable of reproducing Ultra HD’s wider color range? Are the inputs full-range HDMI 2.0b?
Note that most of the projectors we reviewed didn’t tick all of those boxes, which isn’t surprising. However, it did give us a good range of comparison, and helped us separate the good from the decent and those that should be avoided.
What to Look for in a Good 4K Projector
New to this whole projector thing? You’re not alone. A lot of American families have found themselves facing the question of what to look for in a good 4K projector and there’s really no easy, cut-and-dried answer. A lot of it is pretty subjective, too. However, we’ve outlined a brief list of what goes into making a great 4K projector to help guide your buying decision.
- HDR capabilities (ultra-high contrast ratio), as contrast ratio affects image quality and helps you avoid a washed-out image.
- Higher brightness capabilities, as brightness determines not just picture quality, but also the size of the screen you can use.
- Color accuracy, as this affects the quality of the image and the fidelity of the colors reproduced on the screen.
- Color range (also called gamut), as this affects the number of colors the projector will reproduce on the screen.
In addition to those considerations, you’ll also need to think about a few other things. For instance, do you need a short-throw projector to fit a smaller room or a room with limited customization options that mean you cannot mount the projector permanently to the ceiling? Do you have an AV receiver so you can switch between sources? Do you want a projector that includes apps or will you use apps through another device, such as a Blu-ray player?
Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. One projector might be great for you, while it is a poor fit for someone else. The best advice is this: know what you need, and then compare your options to find the 4K projector that addresses as many of those as possible. Only then should you start looking at “nice to have” features.
Why Switch to a 4K Projector?
Before we dive into the list of the best 4K projectors on the market, we should probably take a little time to discuss why a projector is the right choice in the first place. There are a few reasons, but the most common reason to go this route is size. If your home’s TV tops out at 60 or 70 inches, you’re not getting a true theater experience. With a 4K projector, you can take that picture all the way up to around 130 inches, which is almost double the size of the average TV these days.
There are other reasons you might want to make the switch, too. For instance, with some of the best 4K projectors on the market, you get the blackest blacks and the whitest whites possible (the best contrast ratio). Simply put, it’s the only way to recreate the cinema experience at home. However, there are a few things you should know before you jump into a purchase of this nature.
You’ll Likely Need Sound
One thing that surprises many people is that most of the high-end 4K projectors today are just that – projectors. They don’t come with sound. Yes, there are a handful of models that include speakers, but it’s generally better to pair a great projector with a great sound system.
You’ll Likely Need to Spend on a Good Screen
With prices of several thousand dollars for a 4K projector, many buyers hope to save a little money when it comes to the screen. There are tons of budget white and gray screens out there, and some people assume they can just use the wall of the room as the screen. Yes, you can go cheap here, or you can even skip a screen altogether, but here’s the thing: without a high-quality screen, you sacrifice picture quality.
In fact, even with our top-rated 4K projector, you’ll sacrifice between 50% and 70% of the picture quality if you use the wall. You also lose most of your HDR benefits with a low-end screen or wall. So, invest in a good screen, preferably one with positive gain.
You’ll Need Excellent Light Control
All 4K projectors are meant to be used in rooms where you have complete control over ambient light. Ideally, you’ll set up your home theater in a room with no windows. However, if you have windows, you’ll need light-blocking curtains. If you can’t control the light completely, you’ll notice that the image washes out badly.
A Permanent Point of Installation
Finally, most of the 4K projectors out there today worth your money are big – too big to put on a stool or chair. That means you’re going to need a permanent place to put it. For some, that means installing it to the ceiling. Some models offer short-throw technology, though, so they can work on a low entertainment center just a few inches away from the screen. Either way, you’re not going to be setting this up old school in the middle of the room and then putting it away when you’re done.
Up Your Theater Game!
With the list of the 10 best 4K projectors on the market, you should be ready to create the home theater of your dreams. Whether you’re looking for true 4K resolution, want to save money with a model that offers image shifting technology, or prefer something portable, there’s an option on our list for everyone.