Home cinema projectors are swiftly rising in popularity. While there are many great options in the market for your dream home cinema setup, it's no secret that some are better than others.
But before we can reveal our pick of the best mini-movie projector, you must familiarize yourself with some key features. This will help you gauge things for yourself when we introduce our top choice.
And on that suspenseful note, let's get started.
Home Cinema Projectors Are Not the Same As Home Entertainment Projectors
First of all, the name gives a lot away; home cinema projectors, also known as home theatre projectors, are meant to recreate the public cinema experience in the comfort of your own home.
On the other hand, home entertainment projectors are more versatile and swiftly replacing the traditional television set. These are usually used in living rooms to stream videos, surf the internet, and play games.
Keep in mind that the home entertainment projectors need to compete with a lot of ambient lighting in your living room. That’s why they favor brightness at the expense of contrast and black level.
In contrast, home cinema projectors are optimized to play movies in a pitch-black room, so they don't really need to go overboard with brightness. Instead, they optimize contrast and black level.
Usually, people have separate rooms in their house dedicated to a home theatre system. They then install large, mostly mounted projectors in the room along with an extensive external sound system. Additionally, home cinema projectors have extensive connectivity.
On the other hand, home entertainment projectors are usually smaller, more portable, and have onboard audio.
Arguably, most entertainment projectors also have noticeably fewer connection options, although that doesn’t always have to be the case. But more on that later.
Last but not least, the image quality is comparable in both systems. Although home cinema projectors generally have superior quality with native 1920x1080 resolution, home entertainment projectors are also swiftly catching up.
Admittedly, we’ve made some sweeping claims about these differences. As you’ll see later on, the best modern home cinema projectors can give you the best of both worlds.
Portable Projectors Vs. Integration/Mounted Projectors
Most home theatre projectors are large, hefty, and are integrated into your room in one way or another. That’s why home cinema projectors are usually integration or mounted projectors that stay fixed in one room.
Conversely, home entertainment projectors are smaller and more portable. If you don’t have a dedicated
However, this is once again an overgeneralization for the sake of comparison. With the rapid advancement of entertainment technology, some home cinema projectors (add ref) have begun to adopt a more manageable and portable profile.
Boiling it down to the essentials, you should get a mounted projector if:
- You have a dedicated theatre room in your house.
- You won’t be traveling too much.
On the other hand, you should get a portable projector if:
- You don't have a dedicated theater room in your house.
- You do have a dedicated theatre room, but you like to be flexible. For example, you might want to set it up on your roof or any other part of your house.
- You travel around a lot and want to bring the cinema with you.
Image Quality-Resolution and Contrast Ratio
Image quality is arguably the most important thing to consider when purchasing a home cinema projector.
The problem is that most people don’t really know what to look out for in terms of image quality. They’ll try to max out on every feature expecting it to have a good output. Usually, this ends up looking terrible.
First of all, three things that make up for the image quality:
- Native resolution or the resolution of your projector
- Contrast ratio of your projector
- The native resolution of your source material
Realistically speaking, you will have to strike a good balance between these three factors. In most cases, you might be forced to optimize one for the sake of the other. Remember: it all depends on your context.
1080p resolution is pretty standard for all kinds of projectors- be it small, portable entertainment projectors, or large mounted home theatre projectors. We recommend that you keep this as your baseline.
The actual determining factor here is whether the native resolution of your source material matches that of your projector.
Consider this: if your source material plays at a 720p resolution, then there’s no possible way to augment that through a projector. Instead, a low-quality signal fed to your projector will output an even lower quality projection.
So, you seriously need to keep in mind the kind of source material you’ll be projecting for the most part. Typically, gaming consoles and Blu-Ray players will output a 1080p signal.
Unfortunately, since HDTV signals aren’t standardized, you’ll have to take an educated guess for your HDTV output signal.
Just remember: there is no point in getting a 4k projector if you won’t be streaming 4k content on it.
We’re now left with the contrast ratio. Basically, it’s the ratio between the darkest dark and the whitest white images that your projector can produce. The rule here is that the highest the contrast ratio, the better the image quality.
Think about it: if your image doesn’t have much of a contrast between its blacks and whites, then then it might appear almost blurry.
A high contrast ratio is critical for home cinema projectors. As you’ll see later on, DLP or smart projectors can boast a contrast ratio of up to 10,000:1, although they’ll typically be lower.
However, a high contrast ratio doesn’t necessarily mean a better image quality. This is because the contrast ratio doesn’t account for all the shades in between the blackest black and whitest white.
Instead, it would fare well if you have a wider range of control settings to make sure those colors don’t appear pixelated.
Brightness is a little tricky to get right, mostly because the right brightness rating depends upon your setting and real-world environment. So, let’s try to understand this a bit better.
Brightness is measured in lumens; the higher the lumens, the higher the brightness. However, to reiterate, more doesn’t always equal better.
The typical home cinema projector will boast lumens upwards of 1000. This could either be too much or too little, depending upon your environment.
For example, if your room has controlled lighting and no ambient lighting, then you could get away with low brightness. In fact, you’ll find that too much brightness will hurt your eyes and blur the image.
Portable projectors realistically can not have such high lumens. Generally, less than 100 lumens are pretty typical for small, portable projectors. In fact, most of these will max out at 40 lumens. As always, though, there are exceptions.
Projection Size and Keystone Correction
Let’s talk about some of the more technical aspects of projecting an image onto a surface.
The projection size is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, it refers to how small or large your projected image is.
Usually, people consider the diagonal size of the projection. So, a projection size of 100 inches means that the diagonal length of the projection is 100 inches.
When it comes to projection size, you might think that bigger is always equal to better. But that’s far from the case.
In most cases, a larger projection size can compromise on brightness, resolution, and overall image clarity of your projection.
Additionally, a large projection size may not be the best for smaller rooms. Unless you can sit at the very back end of your room, you probably won’t be able to view the whole image, especially if it’s projected at a weird angle. This brings us to keystoning.
Keystone correction, also known as keystoning, refers to how a projector adjusts for the weird angles and distorted images. If either your projector or projection surface is angled, keystone correction is extremely important to create perfectly proportioned projections.
Smart Projectors- Are They Worth the Price?
Smart projectors are a little new to the game of home entertainment systems. Basically, smart projectors are a modern display technology that integrates smart functionality. This means that they are compatible with your mobile devices, streaming platforms, and home networks.
Doesn’t sound too exciting? Just give it a minute.
First of all, most smart projectors are often portable. This means that they have a form factor that is comparable to your smartphone, so you can take it wherever you go.
But there’s more to it than just the small and lightweight profile.
Smart projectors open up a world of possibilities for your streaming experiences. With WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, you won’t have to rely on flimsy wired connections. Instead, you can just stream media directly from streaming services such as YouTube or Netflix.
Additionally, the latest smart projectors come with DLP technology. This does wonders for the image quality and overall durability of your projector.
If you ask us, smart projectors are definitely the smarter option.
So, with everything said, what is the best home cinema projector you can buy in 2021?
Prima Projector- The Best Home Cinema Projector to Buy in 2021
Our top pick is the Prima 1080p Portable Projector. At a discounted price of $399, this portable smart projector is the pinnacle of portable and smart home cinema projector for its value.
What’s more, it’s the perfect blend of home theatre projectors and home cinema projectors, offering you a lot of flexibility in how you use it.
Prima is a relatively new contender to the myriads of portable projectors available to the market. However, this novelty is what gives it an advantage over its competitors. Let’s take a look at why that is.
- 200 lumens
- Both 1080 and 640x480 video
- Maintains 1080p with projection size up to 200 inches.
Don’t let the small size of this pocket-sized projector fool you; it packs quite the punch in terms of image quality.
Prima delivers an outstanding 1080p HD image, which is atypical for most small-sized projectors. The optimal projection size is somewhere around 200 inches diagonally, with an aspect ratio of 16:9, without compromising on image quality.
Reflecting back on our earlier discussion about projection size, this is effortlessly on par with large, heavy-duty home theatre projectors.
Another thing we discussed was the inconsistency between native projector resolution and image source resolution.
Prima circumvents this problem by providing an option between 1080 and 640x480 video outputs. This way, the output resolution adjusts to keep the original resolution.
When it comes to brightness, Prima easily blows its competition out of the water. At 200 lumens, this is the highest brightness rating you can find for portable smart projectors.
Granted, you’ll have to block out some ambient lighting during the day, but 200 lumens more than enough for a casual movie night.
- Two USB Ports Version 2.0
- HDMI port
- TF card slot
- 3mm audio jack
- Bluetooth 4.1
Prima leaves little to be desired when it comes to connection options. With such a huge range of both wired and wireless connections, you can virtually connect anything to your projector.
For example, the USB ports allow you to playback media through USB sticks. You can also simultaneously connect other input devices such as a keyboard and mouse for easier navigation.
Additionally, the HDMI port means that you can connect to any HDMI device such as laptops or gaming consoles.
But the real star of the show here is the built-in WiFi and Bluetooth functionality. Above anything, this opens up a world of streaming possibilities.
For example, you can use native apps such as YouTube and Netflix to stream media. Moreover, you can even enable screen sharing to stream directly from your phone.
Additionally, the Bluetooth functionality, along with the audio jack, allows you to set up an extensive external sound system.
Another fun feature about the Prima projector is that it doubles as a mobile hotspot for other devices. You’ll find this especially useful when you’re on the road.
- Form factor comparable to iPhone 11
- Extremely portable and lightweight
- Easy to set up
Prima’s portability and small form factor is definitely the cherry on top. With a net weight of 188g and dimensions measuring 146mmx76mmx18mm, it’s one of the smallest smart projectors available in the market.
As we have seen, however, the small size reveals nothing about its impressive specs.
Trust us; with integrated smart technology, high image quality, a plethora of connection options, and overall versatility, this is the best pocket-sized home cinema projector you can buy.
Now that you know our top pick, we hope the build-up was worth it. Honestly, how can it not be?
Prima’s portable smart projector has all the markings of a modern smart gadget. It’s small, sleek, has Bluetooth and WiFi, and you can set it up wherever you want.
Seriously, what more could you want?