The best projector under 500 dollars is a matter of personal preferences, but there are certain aspects that should be considered when buying one.

The main thing is the size of the screen. If you want your movie nights to be more fun than ever and don’t mind watching in a dark room, then a small one will do just fine. On the other hand, if you want to use your projector for more than just watching movies and want to use it for presentations or lectures, then you need a bigger one with a larger viewing angle. Some people like to watch TV shows on their big screens at night, so they prefer projectors with better image quality and larger viewing angle.

Another important factor is how much light you need while watching movies at night or during dim days in the summertime. A bright enough light will ensure that your eyes won’t get tired easily while watching for long periods at once, which is why brightness should be taken into account when choosing a new model of projector under 500 dollars.

Portable or home projectors

While talking about the reputable projectors under $500, the choice usually boils down to 2 separate categories of products – full-sized and mini projectors. To understand what model suits you most, you need to understand their peculiarities.

First and foremost, full-sized projectors are generally larger than mini projectors. The size difference is due to the fact that they have more room for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which produce a brighter image. They also use larger lamps that require more power to operate, so they consume more energy.

Mini projectors on the other hand are smaller than full-sized ones as they lack all of these features. They only have enough space for one LED bulb which makes them less powerful than their counterparts with two LED bulbs or more. However, there are some great models which can produce better images with less light output than a full-sized model can achieve.

While choosing a projector for your home theater system, it is important to consider both size and image quality before making your final decision. If you want something cheap but still delivers good results then go ahead with a mini projector because it will not cost too much money but if you want something more advanced then go for a full one because it will cost more.

Full-sized Projectors

If you’ve decided on getting a full-sized projector, you need to choose from LCD, DLP, and LCoS devices. Different companies develop such projectors, so you can easily find a fitting model if you are after a particular brand.

However, 2 main things that can scare you off full-sized projectors. The first inconvenience is the size. Since a projector consists of multiple components needed for displaying images in high quality, the dimensions and the weight (from 16 to 25 pounds) get large. Of course, carrying such a device with you for some time is a nightmare. Another problem is the price.

Such projection systems appeal to buyers with remarkable image quality and high brightness. The resolution and contrast ratio is also on point, making them ideal options for dark environments and light-filled spaces. If you’ve decided on getting a full-sized projector, you need to choose from LCD, DLP, and LCoS devices. Different companies develop such projectors, so you can easily find a fitting model if you are after a particular brand.

Mini Projectors

If you are looking for a pocket-sized projector, you might be surprised to learn that there are many such devices on the market today.

One of the most popular mini projectors is the [product name]. This device boasts about its portable dimensions and weighs less than a pound. So, you can transport it in your pocket and take it anywhere with you! Another nice feature of this particular model is that it comes with an integrated rechargeable battery, so you don’t need to constantly worry about finding an outlet or power source. Besides, mini projectors are equipped with a long-lasting lamp, which is a real cost-saver in the long run. The highlight of miniature projectors is that they can fully satisfy the needs of people with limited funds.

Unfortunately, mini projectors lag behind their full-sized counterparts in terms of the possibility of projecting a bright picture. So, if you plan to use a pocket-sized projector, you need to create a completely dark environment.

Full-sized vs Portable Projectors

If you have a budget limit and need a projector to deliver presentations in perfectly dimmed rooms, choose a small-sized projector.

If you are interested in getting a high-res image and can spend as much as you want, a full-sized projector is a well-worth investment.

When picking out your new projector for home use, it is important to understand the difference between the two types of projectors. The first type of projector is the small-sized projector which has no more than 2″ diagonal screen size. They are best suited for rooms with less than 100 square feet of available space.

The second type of projector is the full-sized projector which has no less than 2″ diagonal screen size and can be used in larger rooms up to 200 square feet. It costs more than its smaller counterpart but delivers better quality images compared to its smaller cousin.

When looking at any type of home theater system, it is important to consider how much money you are willing to spend on it and how big your room is so that you can decide whether or not it will fit into your budget range.

Projector NameThrow DistanceResolutionImage SizeWi-FiBuilt in Speaker
Epson EX3280 also a great choice2.4 – 32.8 ft1280 x 768 3LCD30″ – 350″NoYes
ViewSonic PA503X best overall3.2 – 32.8 ft1280 x 768 DLP30″ – 300″NoYes
Optoma HD243X best for gaming3.2 – 29.5 ft1920 x 1080 DLP28″ – 301″NoYes
Anker Nebula Capsule Max portable3.2 – 9.8 ft1280 x 720 DLP40″ – 100″NoYes

Best Home Projectors Under $500 Review

1.ViewSonic PA503W – best overall

Viewsonic Projector

This projector is perfect for movie-watching, but it can also be used for business purposes. It has a lot of features that make it easy to use and set up, such as its ability to connect wirelessly and its built-in speakers.

The projector has a high brightness (3600 lumens) and decent contrast ratio, so you can see all the details in any environment. The lamp’s life is rather long, but you can expand it even further by activating an Eco or Super Eco mode. I mainly used a Standard mode, and I have nothing to complain about.

What impresses me most about this projector is that you can level up your viewing experience by choosing from 5 different modes – Brightest, Presentation, Standard, Photo, and Movie. Thanks to DLP display technology and 3D support, you can fully immerse yourself in video content displayed on the screen—so I wouldn’t lie if I called this the best projector under $500!

A built-in audio system covers basic needs; if you want room-filling sound quality though, buy separate speakers. Lack of Wi-Fi connectivity is expected in this price segment; if that’s a huge problem for you though pay attention to Anker Nebula Capsule Max.

Key specs

  • Built-in speakers: yes
  • Display technology: DLP
  • Resolution, px: 1280 x 800
  • Brightness, lumens: 3600
  • Contrast: 22000:1
  • Throw distance, ft: 3.2 – 32.8
  • Image size, inch.: 30 – 300
  • Wi-Fi: no
  • Built-in speaker: yes

Pros

  • Has a port for DLP shutter glasses to watch Blu-ray 3D movies
  • Very clear picture even with small print on PowerPoint
  • Time management assistance
  • Intuitive menus and keystone settings

Cons

  • May appear reddish hue (noticeable in faces mostly)
  • No Wi-Fi
  • The sound is laughably low

2. Epson EX3280 – also a great choice

Epson Projector

The Epson EX3260 is a perfect fit for any home theater setup. It comes with a sleek design, a powerful processor, and a 3LCD display that’s sure to please even the pickiest of viewers.

Thanks to its high resolution and bright image quality, you’ll have no trouble enjoying your favorite movies or TV shows at home. The EX3260 also boasts an intuitive setup process that takes only minutes to complete.

While this projector doesn’t include Wi-Fi connectivity, you can easily add it yourself using an optional adapter. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for something that will work with your current devices (or if you want to be able to watch on multiple devices). The Epson EX3260 is also compatible with older televisions, which means you’ll be able to use this projector in more places than some other models on the market today.

The Epson EX3260 has been praised by many users as one of the best home theater projectors under 500 dollars on the market today! If you’re looking for something compact but still capable of delivering beautiful images in different environments—or if you just want something that’s easy to use and doesn’t take up too much space—then this may be exactly what you need.

Key specs

  • Built-in speakers: yes
  • Display technology: 3LCD
  • Resolution, px: 1024×768
  • Brightness, lumens: 3600
  • Throw distance, ft: 2.4 – 32.8
  • Image size, inch.: 30 – 350
  • Built-in speaker: yes

Pros

  • Can be mounted upside down
  • Freeze function
  • The auto-adjust aspect ratio & focus make it amazingly easy to set up
  • Straightforward navigation menu

Cons

  • No 3D capabilities
  • Low resolution (800×600)
  • No audio output

3. Optoma HD243X – best for gaming

optima for gaming projector

Optoma HD243X is a well-designed projector that has all the features you need. It supports Full HD 1080p resolution and works based on DLP technology. The manufacturer has also added ports for connecting game consoles, so this model deserves the title of the best gaming projector under 500 dollars.

I appreciate that a projector comes with a carrying case, so I managed to take it to different places to test it in variable lighting conditions. The declared brightness goes as far as 3600 lumens, and I saw vivid colors and nice images in well-lit environments and dimmed spaces.

Since the model is advertised as a gaming projector, I was curious about its sound. An integrated speaker copes with the task well. What I also like are ISP modes and dynamic black technology. Thus, a picture acquires depth, and colors become more vibrant.

Full 3D support comes as a welcome bonus, and I tested it with various 3D sources, game consoles included. Though there is no Wi-Fi, I hope the manufacturer will fix this in the future. If that is a huge problem for you.

Key specs

  • Built-in speakers: yes
  • Display technology: DLP
  • Resolution, px: 1920 x 1080
  • Brightness, lumens: 3600
  • Contrast: 25000:1
  • Throw distance, ft: 3.2 – 29.5
  • Image size, inch.: 28 – 301
  • Built-in speaker: yes

Pros

  • The blacks are black, and the whites are white
  • Quiet cooling system
  • Unobtrusive flickering
  • Doesn’t produce a rainbow effect

Cons

  • Jittery video when using Miracast mirroring
  • Zoom position and focus position degrades after several weeks
  • Gets hot near the bulb area

4. BenQ MW535A

BenQ Projector

BenQ MW535A is a good choice if you need to show presentations to a small number of people in dark rooms. However, I decided to give this product a hard time and check how well it performs in varying lighting conditions.

The brightness of this model reaches 3,600 lumens, which is higher than that of the Epson EX3260, and I like such a mode of the manufacturer.

Another highlight of BenQ MW535A is a longer lamp life thanks to the possibility of switching between modes – from Normal to Eco and even to Smart Eco. I didn’t waste time hopping from one mode to another, but I believe you won’t need to replace the original lamp in the nearest future.

The entire setup process was swift. I even tried to mount this TV projector on a tabletop and a ceiling to create a genuinely convenient working environment.

Key specs

  • Built-in speakers: yes
  • Display technology: DLP
  • Resolution, px: 1280 x 800
  • Brightness, lumens: 3600
  • Contrast: 15000:1
  • Throw distance, ft: 3.2 – 32.8
  • Image size, inch.: 30 – 300
  • Built-in speaker: no

Pros

  • The Aspect key for quick aspect ratio adjustment
  • Has variable audio outputs
  • Noiseless fan
  • Lens shift feature for quick image size changing
  • The projector compensates wall color

Cons

  • No protective lens caps
  • Colors distortion when watching dark scenes
  • May appear bluish tint while displaying photos

Best Portable Projectors Under $500 in 2023

1. Anker Nebula Capsule Max – best portable

If you’re looking for a projector that you can bring with you wherever you go and still be able to work comfortably, this cutie is bound to interest you.

DLP technology wasn’t a big surprise for me, but when I switched off the lighting in my studio and saw a detailed 720p image with nice colors, my doubts about whether 200lm brightness was sufficient were confirmed. I hesitated a lot about whether such a brightness level was sufficient, but when I switched off the lighting in my studio—as well as in other areas of my home—I saw an impressive picture with vivid colors. Just keep in mind that this device is meant to be used in scarcely lit places, as sunlight can negatively affect a projected picture.

Thanks to autofocus correction and keystoning, I got a sharp image even at the most extreme angles. Since this model is fitted with an 8W speaker, it took me several minutes to transform my studio into a cinema-like space.

The projector has undergone some nice upgrades in terms of the operating system: It runs on Android 8.1, while its direct rival Nebula Apollo relies on Android 7.1. This is terrific news as you get a dedicated app for streamlined adjustment and management: I used the app for altering.

Portable Projector

Key specs

  • Built-in speakers: yes
  • Display technology: DLP
  • Resolution, px: 1280 x 720
  • Brightness, lumens: 200 ANSI lumens
  • Throw distance, ft: 3.2 – 9.8
  • Image size, inch.: 40 – 100
  • Wi-Fi: yes
  • Built-in speaker: yes

Pros

  • Quick recharging (2.5 hours)
  • Can be mounted on a ceiling
  • Space-saving design
  • Works perfectly in a variety of lighting conditions and surface angles
  • X and Y direction keystroke correction

Cons

  • No way to screen mirror with Prime, iTunes, etc.
  • Apps may crash
  • Too distracting flickering
  • 200lm brightness only

2. ViewSonic M1

We’ve all been there: you’re waiting for your favorite movie to come on and you need something to entertain your kids. But it’s sooo hard to pick a tiny projector that can deliver detailed images, especially if you can’t afford to buy high-end products. Fortunately, ViewSonic has released the M1 model, which fully meets regular demands and even copes with more demanding tasks I threw at it!

The projector uses DLP technology and has 854×480 resolution, which is the smallest value in this review. The brightness tops at 250 lumens, so I didn’t even try to locate it in a well-lit room.

I was curious about its audio system, as the projector is tiny. However, the manufacturer managed to insert dual Harman Kardon speakers that filled my room with a deep and loud sound.

Thanks to a capacious battery, I was able to test ViewSonic M1 for up to 6 hours without recharging. While moving the projector from one room to another and locating it outdoors, I felt its weight and thought that some users may want a more lightweight device. While ViewSonic M1 weighs 1.5lbs, ViewSonic M1+ Mini impresses with 0.6 pounds only.

ViewSonic Portable Projector

Key specs

  • Display technology: DLP
  • Resolution, px: 854 x 480
  • Brightness, lumens: 250 LED lumens
  • Throw distance, ft: 3.2
  • Image size, inch.: 24 – 100
  • Wi-Fi: no
  • Built-in speaker: yes

Pros

  • Generous port selection
  • 16GB internal storage
  • Auto keystone adjustment
  • Speakers produce powerful sound

Cons

  • Remote control fails to work if you aren’t in front of the projector
  • No wireless connection
  • Frequently falls out of focus

What brightness of the projector do you need

The brightness of a projector is measured in lumens. To understand how bright a projector you need, you should consider the throw distance, image width, the amount of ambient light available in a room, and the type of content displayed. Once you know all these values, you can use a special projector calculator to define an ideal brightness automatically. Most brands have such calculators on their websites.

Most projectors are designed for use in entirely dark spaces, but creating such conditions in real life is almost impossible. There is always a portion of ambient light penetrating the darkness, which results in cloudy blacks and washed-out colors.

The brightness can be adjusted with the help of an external light source or an inverter that converts AC current from power outlets into DC current for video cameras and computer monitors (see below).

I have conducted rough measurements for you to understand better what brightness is needed for your space:

  • A room with controllable lights – 1500-2000lm
  • A conference hall or similar large rooms with dimmable lights –3000lm as a minimum
  • A huge venue, a church, or another well-lit environment – 4500lm
  • A large open space – 20,000lm

Lens zoom explained

Chances are high you’ll relocate your projector depending on your current needs, and it is fantastic to have the possibility to adjust the image size without physically moving a device. This is possible thanks to the lens zoom.

An image becomes larger if you increase the zoom ratio. For instance, a 1.2x zoom makes a picture 20% bigger compared to the minimum size. A 2.0x zoom enlarges the image twice. The bad news here is that not all projectors have a lens zoom, so keep this in mind while making a choice.

But what if you don’t know how much magnification should your projector offer? That’s why we created this list of the top 10 best lens zoom projectors in 2019 with ratings from real users!

What connectivity do you need

  • HDMI
  • DVI
  • COMPOSITE
  • RCA
  • 3.5 MM
  • OPTICAL
  • WI-FI

What are keystone corrections and lens shift

When you want to project a perfectly square picture, you can take advantage of keystone correction. This nifty feature allows you to adjust the angle of the projector in vertical and horizontal directions. It fully preserves the resolution of an output picture, unlike lens shift.

Lens shift comes to the rescue when you need to alter the angle of the lens by moving it in vertical and horizontal directions. The strong point of lens shift is that it fully preserves the resolution of an output picture, unlike keystoning. That’s the main reason why lens shift is so popular.

Keystone is a standard feature of all projecting systems, as it serves as a fast and intuitive way of adjusting an image. Lens shift is available in top-tier devices, while low-priced products may come without it. Anyway, I believe that getting a projector with such a handy function will pay off in the long run.