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The best cheap projectors for 2024, tested and reviewed

Get a great big-screen experience with the best budget projectors, tried and tested by us

You no longer need to spend a fortune to watch movies, sports and your favourite shows on a big screen in your home. Thanks to low-cost imaging chips, lenses and LED light sources from China and other parts of Southeast Asia, you can now pick up one of the best cheap projectors for under £500 – and often less.

Trawl through Amazon’s virtual shopping aisles and you’ll find dozens of cheap projectors, but it pays to be cautious. While some will give you decent picture quality, built-in streaming and even listenable sound, others will give you appalling images from a box that’s a nightmare to use. I’ve tested dozens of projectors over the last five years, including some of the best budget options out there.

Below you’ll find those which I’d be happy to use myself and actively recommend. And if you need detailed advice on what to look for (and avoid) in a cheap projector, don’t worry: you’ll find that in the buying guide below my recommendations.

Our expert picks

Best cheap portable projector

Anker Nebula Capsule

Price when reviewed: ~£230

“It’s not much larger than a soft drink can, yet this tiny portable projector puts out surprisingly good pictures and decent sound. With its low resolution, you won’t get a high-definition image, but it’s fine for casual movie watching, indoors or outdoors.”

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Best cheap projector for streaming

Epson CO-FH02: Best cheap projector for big-screen streaming

Epson CO-FH02

Price when reviewed: ~£499

“This affordable 1080p projector comes with everything you need except the screen. It has its own Android TV streaming stick that slots inside the casing, and you get a clear, bright image with natural colours. The built-in sound is weak, but otherwise it’s brilliant.”

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Best budget projector

XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro: Best cheap portable projector

XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro

Price when reviewed: ~£529

“This compact portable projector has home cinema aspirations, with a crisp 1080p picture, punchy but accurate colours and even a basic level of HDR support. It’s very easy to set up and the sound is fantastic, while the built-in streaming features are so solid that you might not need a separate streaming stick.”

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How we test projectors

We test all projectors by setting them up from scratch in a darkened room with an 80 – 100in screen. Where a projector has built-in streaming features, we install a range of Android apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Disney+. Where projectors lack such features, we plug in a Roku 4K Streaming Stick already set up with those apps. We then use the projector to watch a range of test material, including blockbuster movies, popular streaming series, and drama or documentary shows, to see how well the projector handles them. We’ll also use any built-in Chromecast features to cast 1080p or 4K video directly from a tablet or smartphone.

We test any built-in speakers at low, medium and high volume levels, and run the projector on battery power, where available, to see how long the battery lasts. Finally, we use a colorimeter mounted on a tripod, 30cm from the screen, to check the brightness and contrast levels, along with colour accuracy and colour depth.

READ NEXT: Best projectors

The best cheap projectors you can buy in 2024

1. Anker Nebula Capsule: Best cheap portable projector

Price when reviewed: £230 | Check price at Amazon

Anker Nebula Capsule: Best compact portable projector

  • Great for… taking anywhere, punchy SD pictures and powerful sound
  • Not so great for… low resolution, limited brightness

The Anker Nebula Capsule is a fantastically portable projector, with its tin-can shape and compact dimensions making it easy to cram into a bag or backpack. The resolution is a fairly low 854 x 480, so you’re not going to get the crisp HD or 4K images or detail that you’d see on your TV. The LED lamp has its limits when it comes to brightness too; with just 100 lumens to play with, it’s only usable after dark or with the curtains and blinds drawn.

With that in mind, though, I found the image quality pretty good. Colours are punchy rather than natural, but that helps movies and TV shows come alive, and the Capsule’s pictures were perfectly watchable for a few hours on a Saturday night. You also get a surprisingly beefy built-in speaker, so there’s no need to worry about an audio source, while the built-in battery takes care of power if you’re away from the mains. It lasts for around 90 minutes in standard mode or over two hours in eco mode with the brightness turned down slightly. Plug in a separate USB-C power bank, and you could easily pack in a double bill.

The Capsule has an HDMI input making it simple to connect a games console or streaming stick, and this is supplemented by a built-in Android media player, with the ability to install apps via the Aptoide marketplace, which means you can run Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer natively, though you might not get the latest versions of the apps.

All-in-all, the Capsule makes a great entry-level portable projector. The newer Capsule III is even better, with a 1080p resolution and twice the brightness, but it’s also priced higher to match.

Key specs – Resolution: 848 x 480; Brightness: 100 lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: HDMI, MicroUSB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Battery: Yes; Built-in apps: Yes; Dimensions: 68 x 68 x 120mm; Weight: 898g

2. Emotn N1: Best low-cost 1080p projector

Price when reviewed: £259 | Check price at Amazon

best cheap projector Emotn N1 on a white background

  • Great for… good pictures and audio, official app support, value for money
  • Not so great for… no app store, limited brightness

On first impressions, the Emotn N1 looks like incredible value, giving you a 1080p projector with built-in audio and streaming for under £300. It comes in a rather stylish compact case and boasts the official Netflix Android app rather than the older versions and browser-based workarounds you’ll find on some cheap Chinese projectors. Well, for once the reality lives up to expectations. The N1 is easy to set up, the Netflix app works brilliantly, and both the pictures and the sound are pretty good.

There are some caveats. With just 500 lumens of brightness, the image doesn’t have the contrast, clarity and vibrant colour of more expensive projectors like the Epson CO-FH02 or XGIMI MoGo Pro 2. Still, colours look natural, there’s plenty of detail and motion is nice and smooth. And while the audio doesn’t match up to the XGIMI or the Anker Nebula Capsule 3, dialogue comes through clearly and there’s plenty of body and a decent stereo spread, though you have to sit behind the projector for the best results.

Emotn’s Android-based software comes without the Google Play Store, and the brand’s app store only has a few (mostly obscure) apps. That means you’re limited to the built-in selection of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube unless you plug a streaming stick into the HDMI port at the rear. Otherwise, with its smart auto-setup features and good all-round performance, this is a great way to spend £300.

Key specs – Resolution: 1,920 x1,080; Brightness: 500 lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI, 1 x USB-A, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio; Battery: No; Built-in apps: Yes; Dimensions: 282 x 282 x 251mm; Weight: 3.68kg

3. Epson CO-FH02: Best cheap projector for big-screen streaming

Price when reviewed: £499 | Check price at Amazon

Epson CO-FH02: Best cheap projector for big-screen streaming

  • Great for… integrated streaming, natural colours, full HD resolution
  • Not so great for… weedy built-in audio, connecting external sources

The Epson CO-FH02 is almost the perfect budget all-in-one streaming system, combining an excellent 1080p projector with an Android TV streaming stick, which fits neatly inside a designated compartment. Plenty of other projectors come with built-in streaming features but are often built around dodgy versions of Android with a poor user interface and woeful app support. Epson’s gives you a stock version of Android TV, along with access to the Google Play store and proper versions of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and more.

Better still, high brightness levels and a three LCD optical system mean you get a bright, clear image with smooth motion and a natural colour balance. Where some budget projectors try too hard to dish out high-contrast, punchy images, I found the Epson’s presentation more nuanced, and more what I’d expect from my local cinema. It’s great for bingeing Netflix or watching movies on Disney+, and it even handled gaming when I connected up my Xbox Series S, though the lack of an external HDMI port made doing so a pain.

The built-in sound is rather weak and disappointing, so it’s probably better to hook up to a Bluetooth speaker or soundbar. That aside, this is a fantastic all-round entertainer.

Read our full Epson CO-F02 review

Key specs – Resolution: 1,920 x1,080; Brightness: 3,000 lumens; Speaker: Yes; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI, 1 x USB-A; Battery: No; Built-in apps: Yes (through bundled streaming stick); Dimensions: 320 x 211 x 87mm; Weight: 2.6kg

4. XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro: Best cheap portable projector

Price when reviewed: £529 | Check price at Amazon

XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro: Best cheap portable projector

  • Great for… Easy set-up, great pictures, weighty sound
  • Not so great for… No battery

The XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro is more expensive than most projectors on this list, but it makes the extra spend worth your while. For a start, it’s incredibly easy to set up. Just stick it on a flat surface and point it at a screen or blank wall, and it will optimise the picture itself. If someone bumps the table, it will reconfigure itself almost instantly to get the picture back in shape. Combine that with its built-in speakers and streaming features, and you can have a home or outdoor cinema up and running in minutes, whenever you want. The only thing missing is a battery: on its own, I found the MoGo 2 Pro would happily run for a few hours from a 28,000mAh USB power bank, provided it supports 65W USB-PD.

What’s more, the picture and sound are excellent. There isn’t enough brightness for use during daylight hours, but at night I could get a crisp 1080p picture with plenty of contrast, vibrant colours and even a hint of HDR. The DLP chip inside covers 79% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, which is better than some full-sized projectors. Meanwhile, the sound is the best I’ve heard from a compact projector, with plenty of weight at the low end and crystal-clear highs. More conventional home cinema projectors like the Epson CO-FH02 beat it on brightness, but the MoGo 2 Pro gives you a balance between picture quality, portability and convenience that cheaper alternatives can’t match.

Read our full XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro review

Key specs – Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Brightness: 400 ISO lumens; Speakers: 2 x 8W stereo speakers; Connectivity: USB-C, HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio; Battery: No; Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0; Dimensions: 119 x 108 x 161mm; Weight: 1.1kg

How to choose the best cheap projector for you

How much should you spend?

The less you spend, the more compromises you’ll have to make. As a general rule, the very cheapest projectors have low native resolutions and aren’t bright enough to project big, watchable images.

What about all those projectors claiming 1080p and 4K support at improbably low prices? These are often misleading, and refer to input capability rather than the projected image. Delve through the longer descriptions and you‘ll find that cheaper machines are often limited to 480p and lower resolutions.

Spend around £200 and more, however, and you’ll quickly see resolution levels rise. We’d recommend a minimum of 720p for good image quality but you may want to sacrifice sharpness for more features, higher brightness or portability.

Either way, the best native resolution you’re going to get currently from a sub-£500 projector is 1080p. Alas, 4K technology has not yet reached the realms of cheap projectors. Expect to pay closer to £1,000 for one of those.

How bright does it need to be?

The biggest factor that determines a projector’s brightness is the light source that it uses. Many budget projectors use an LED source, and the upside of the relatively low brightness level is that the light source lasts for ages; often up to 20,000 hours or more. Traditional lamps will often give you higher brightness levels, but the bulb might last for only 4,000 to 6,000 hours, so it might need replacing after three or four years if used a lot. Bear in mind, though, that some budget projectors aren’t designed to be used that heavily over such long periods, and might collapse long before the lamp does, as heat and dust take their toll on the optical system and the moving parts.

READ NEXT: Best portable projectors

What connectivity do you need?

It’s also worth thinking about how you intend to use your projector. Most will have an HDMI input, which is perfect for hooking up a games console, Blu-ray player or streaming stick. Many will also allow you to play video files stored on a USB thumb drive.

However, it’s also worth looking out for projectors with smart TV features and built-in apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. Some also allow you to cast video or screen mirror from a mobile device and send audio via Bluetooth to headphones or a speaker.

Portable or mains powered?

At lower price points, many projectors tend to be on the smaller side. Indeed, cheap often means portable or even battery powered. If you’re after the sharpest, brightest possible image for your money, avoid pocket-sized, battery-powered projectors and opt for a mains-powered machine.

A mains-powered projector is more likely to have a lamp that’s bright enough to produce big, bright images, and is the best choice for bedroom or living room movie watching if you don’t need to carry it around too much.

What other features should I look out for?

The core features are covered above but there are other features to take note that are worth having:

  • Auto-keystone and autofocus: Saves time in setting up the image because you don’t have to fiddle around with menu settings and focus wheels
  • Remote control: Most come with one of these but some do not and it’s a real pain if you don’t have one
  • Built-in speakers and audio output: Many models have built in speakers but most aren’t up to much so it’s worth making sure there’s either a 3.5mm audio output or Bluetooth facility so you can hook up an external speaker
  • Bluetooth: This isn’t used to transfer video – the technology doesn’t have enough bandwidth – but some products use it so the projector can double as a Bluetooth speaker
  • Throw ratio: It sounds technical but it’s an important specification and refers to the size of image the projector can create from a given distance. Short throw projectors can project large images from a position very close to a screen or wall. A throw ratio of 1.5 means that for every 1.5m the projector is away from your wall, an image width of 1m is created, at 3m distance, an image width of 2m is created and so on.

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