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How SPY Chose the Best Projector of 2022: Our Testing Process
Why Trust SPY When Shopping for the Best Projector
In this review, SPY counts down the very best projectors of 2022. After a rigorous testing process spanning months, we compared the top projectors in every category and price point from brands such as Samsung, LG, Nebula by Anker, Epson and ViewSonic. Keep reading to find out which product was named the best projector of the year.
This summer, we’ve made it our mission to identify the best projector for every purpose, and we’re excited to finally share our guide to the best overall options.
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SPY has been bringing you the best portable projectors and iPhone projectors so you can create a home theater no matter where you are in 2022. We’ve shown you the true versatility of the home projector, from heavyweight short-throw projectors to pocket-sized mites that you can easily take on the go, with so many good options in between.
Now it’s time to boil those lists down to the 10 must-have projectors of 2022. The prices run the gamut from thousands of dollars to mere hundreds, the sizes from large to palm-sized. We’ve tested them all — see below for more information on our in-depth product testing process — and we’re confident there is something here for truly everybody, whether you’re looking to replace your giant flat-screen TV or just looking for a fun gadget.
Without further ado, here are the 10 best projectors of 2022.
1. Samsung The Premiere LSP7T 4K
Best For: Transforming any room with a big blank wall into an epic entertainment center. Truly, this is the best projector for sale in 2022, full stop.
Why We Chose It: As we said in our full review, this is the “Holy Grail” of wall-filling ultra-short-throw 4K projectors. The Samsung The Premiere LSP7T 4K made all kinds of chest-beating claims upon its late-2020 release — three lasers, the first HDR10+ projector, all game-changing stuff. But when we got our hands on a review unit and put it through our testing regimen, we found it delivered on its promises, and then some.
Full review: Samsung The Premiere LSP7T 4K
If you have a big blank wall in your home and space on a credenza or shelf or even on the floor, a few grand burning a hole in your pocket, and the desire to create the ultimate home-theater and gaming space, you need this projector. Our 11-foot wall was instantly transformed into a massive, super-bright screen of sharp, vivid colors, all thanks to the amazingly easy setup of The Premiere. The Premiere handled streamed content, live TV and gaming with equal awesomeness, including a 2.2 channel audio system that filled the room and was never challenged by the whisper-quiet operation of the projector itself.
Do we have any discouraging words? Maybe just the remote control, which is billed as being “universal” but was unable to control our Roku Streaming Stick or Apple TV. And yes, that’s nitpicky. Sometimes choosing a Best Overall is hard. This was not one of those times.
Truly superb picture and sound across a massive screen size
Filmmaker Mode for movies and Game Enhancer mode for gaming
Fine-tuning of picture size is easy to do
Low-profile size, attractive whether placed on shelf or floor
“Universal” remote isn’t quite universal
Far friendlier to Android mobile devices than iOS ones
Resolution: 4K UHD
Lumens: 2200 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 2,000,000:1
Size and weight: 5 x 21.7 x 14.4 inches, 20.1 lb.
2-3. LG CineBeam HU915QE and LG HU85LA 4K UHD Laser Projectors
Best For: Anyone wanting a true luxury entertainment experience from an elite ultra-short-throw projector. A strong contender for the best home theater projectors ever made.
Why We Chose (Them): LG’s entrants into the ultra-short-throw projector field sit firmly in the luxury category, with the same wall-filling promise of the Samsung The Premiere. These super-high-end UST projectors have become a viable option for replacing flat-screen TVs with super-large pictures of nearly equal quality.
LG’s CineBeam HU85LA was one of the very first luxury UST projectors to hit the market, and it still holds up today as a top-line home theater device. We gave it a whirl at the same time as its upgraded big brother, the HU915QE. The units look nearly identical, right down to the dimensions and weight. Performance-wise, the HU915QE’s improvements are apparent: 1000 more lumens to bring the total to a spectacular 3700, and a bigger sound from its 40W 2.2-channel speaker as compared to the two 5W stereo speakers of the older model.
Did LG upgrade an already great projector with its newer iteration? Yes, unquestionably. But is there a $2000 difference between the two? No, we can’t say there is. So we rated these two as a draw, leaving it up to you if you would rather spend the extra money for the difference between great and greater. You really can’t go wrong with either.
Incredible brightness — the HU915QE’s 3700 lumens rank among the highest available
Outstanding color accuracy
Low input lag for gamers — only 53.3 ms for the HU915QE
Price points for the two units make the older model an equally appealing buy as the upgrade
Unnecessarily complex remote control
Resolution: 4K UHD (both)
Lumens: 3700 (HU915QE); 2700 (HU85LA)
Contrast Ratio: 2,000,000:1 (both)
Size and weight: 26.8 x 13.7 x 5 inches, 26.9 lb (both)
4. Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 Home Projector
Best For: Anyone wanting big-projector performance from a portable unit.
Why We Chose It: Our quest for the best portable projectors led us to this compact marvel, which blew away the field of great small projectors for outdoor movie nights and other fun activities.
We nearly missed the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 because we were fixated on the palm-sized portables, and we would still be kicking ourselves had we let that happen. As smaller portable projectors go, the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 was far and away the winner. Unlike most portables, the EF12 performs great in rooms with light interference, thanks to its 1000-lumens power. The image area goes up to 150 inches, but we recommend a more modest 6 to 8 feet for peak performance. That sweet spot is where you really notice the 200000:1 contrast ratio, which delivers a super crisp and clean image. The sound quality is top-notch, not requiring an external speaker hookup as many portables do. Make no mistake, this is the best on-the-go projector out there.
Superior brightness and contrast not often found in portables
Loud, clear sound
Comprehensive connectivity for streaming sticks, gaming consoles, and more
High price point for a portable (but so worth it!)
Lumens: 1000 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 200000:1
Size and weight: 5.3 x 6.9 x 6.9 inches, 4.7 lb
5. Nebula by Anker Capsule Max
BEST BUDGET PORTABLE
Best For: Anyone wanting a cool portable projector and a conversation piece in one.
Why We Chose It: The cool cylindrical design and compact size made this an intriguing portable option, and Anker’s rep for small electronics is beyond solid.
It’s impossible to look at the Nebula by Anker Capsule Max and not want to pick it up and play with it. Something about that tall-boy-sized cylindrical design is just inviting, and when you accept the invitation, it lives up to the appeal. It’s a remarkably easy and intuitive device to set up and enjoy right out of the box, which in the ever-evolving tech world is a definite bonus. The Android TV 9.0 interface is a true champ, with every app we ever wanted or needed at the ready. The sound overperforms the unit’s modest size, and the interface is a breeze to navigate.
Will you get that four-figure-lumens brightness? No, it’s more like 200 lumens, and thus this is not a projector for a partially lit room. But portable projectors seldom are, and in a dark room or on a dark night outdoors, the Capsule Max will not let you down in the least, especially outdoors where the 2.5-hour battery life comes prominently into play.
Easy setup and connection to external devices; excellent interface
Autofocus and keystone adjustment paired with sharp 720p resolution
Cylindrical design and size make it easily portable
Even at 200 lumens struggled in a dimly lit room
Lumens: 200 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 600:1
Size and weight: 3.15 x 3.15 x 5.91 inches, 1.5 lb
6. Nebula by Anker Mars Pro II
PORTABLE WORTH CONSIDERING
Best For: Anyone who enjoys outdoor movie or gaming nights.
Why We Chose It: The Capsule Max’s bigger, brighter sibling is well deserving of consideration among the best home projectors.
The extra $80 in the price of the Nebula by Anker Mars II Pro over its Capsule Max linemate is enough to push it out of the “budget” category, but certainly not enough to remove it from the list of best overall projectors. In fact, considering that you’re buying an extra 300 lumens of brightness at the same sharp 720p resolution with that $80, it’s quite possibly a better deal.
It is, however, an older model than the Capsule Max, as evidenced by its Android 7.1 interface as compared to the Android 9.0 of the Capsule, and also lacks the punched-up sound of the Capsule. But this is an exceptionally solid portable projector, with the handle practically begging you to take it on the go or set it up outside. The plug-and-play capabilities with streaming sticks and gaming consoles are vast, and you can even use it as a mirroring device for your Windows or Android phone via Miracast.
Bright, clear picture
Ample 3-hour battery life
Solid construction, can take a jostling on the go
Older unit (2020), older version of Android interface
Speakers pale in comparison to Capsule Max
Lumens: 500 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 1000:1
Size and weight: 7.01 x 5.24 x 4.8 inches, 3.95 lb
7. Kodak Luma 350 Portable Projector
Best For: Anyone who wants their entertainment to be truly on the go.
Why We Chose It: The pocket-sized projector field grows by the day, so we went with Kodak’s longstanding reputation for quality. The Luma 350 is at the upper end of Kodak’s line of pocked-sized projectors, ahead of the 75 and 150 but behind the 450.
Kodak recently launched a new line of small portable projectors, and they’re excellent options that don’t cost too much. We recommend pushing through a complicated setup because the Kodak Luma has a lot to offer, even when compared to the formidable alternatives featured above. But if you’re looking for the best projectors of 2022 under $300, this is a fantastic option to consider.
The Kodak Luma 350 put us through a few trials and tribulations before earning a spot in our pocket and on this list of best projectors because the setup of this mighty mite was anything but seamless. There is so much great quality to get to beyond the setup, however, so we stuck with it. Keep that in mind as you wrestle with the laggy interface and awkward WiFi setup.
Now, onto the good parts — this is a really good short-throw palmtop projector. At 150 lumens it’s going to need to be placed close to your wall or screen, but when properly positioned (inside of four feet) you will get a super-crisp image and exceptional sound for such a teeny device. Unlike many other palm-sized projectors, this one feels sturdy, so you can plop it into your backpack or even your pocket without worrying about busting it. Stick it out through the setup, the result is worth it.
Small size, weighs under a pound
200-lumens brightness from a tiny unit
Lumens: 200 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 3500:1
Size and weight: 1.1 x 4.4 x 4.4 inches, 0.8 lb.
8 Epson Home Cinema LS11000 4K PRO-UHD Projector
Best For: Anyone with an old-school entertainment room setup complete with projector mount and AV system who is looking to upgrade their projector.
Why We Chose It: Not all of the big luxe projector models are UST. Epson’s LS11000 long-throw projector is a 4K ultra-HD laser powerhouse that especially shines for gaming.
In a list populated by the newest ultra-short-throw projectors and palm-sized mini models, the Epson LS11000 long-throw projector may seem like an anachronism. But this is an ultra-modern, top-of-the-line beast that can hang with those floor-hugging UST models. The 2500 lumens of brightness are augmented by Epson’s proprietary 4K PRO-UHD resolution to bring you an awesome image that, while maybe not as massive as the UHDs, is still more than big enough for movies, live TV, gaming or anything else.
Of all the 14 projectors we tested, this was the best for gaming, probably for the sub-20ms lag time combined with the great picture. But, there’s a big buyer-be-aware note attached to the LS11000: It has no speaker. You need to connect it to an A/V system or other external speakers via the HDMI ARC port in the back. (No, not Bluetooth, there isn’t any.) So in that regard, the technology has some catching up to do. It’s also a huge machine that begs to be permanently installed in a ceiling or wall via projector mount. But for a little extra wiring and elbow grease, you have yourself a serious projector.
Low lag rate makes for an outstanding big-screen gaming experience
No built-in speakers
Could use more input jacks, especially with one needing to be devoted to a speaker system
Lumens: 2500 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 1200000:1
Size and weight: 7.6 x 20.5 x 17.6 inches, 28 lb.
9. XGIMI Elfin Smart Projector
BEST PORTABLE LONG-THROW
Best For: Anyone wanting a good long-throw projector that doesn’t need mounting hardware.
Why We Chose It: The XGIMI Elfin is a portable long-throw projector at a great price. It won’t replace your flat-screen, but it’ll do everything but.
Like the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12, the XGIMI Elfin Smart Projector sneaks into the portable category despite its (relatively) large size. It’s not huge by any means at just under 2 pounds and 7.6 x 7.6 x 1.9 inches, and it’s not going into your pocket, but unlike the Epson, it still fits easily into a messenger bag, and at a hair under 2 pounds it is half the weight of the Epson.
If you’re looking for a long-throw projector that doesn’t require a ceiling or wall mount and costs a fraction of what those big fellas would run you, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for a portable projector that delivers a bright image (800 lumens) that doesn’t require pitch blackness to be seen, you’re still in the right place. Add the autofocus and auto keystone correction to its portability and plug-and-play capability and, while there really isn’t a mid-range category for projectors, this would be the top dog if there were.
Bright, crisp picture, even with some light interference
Auto keystone correction and focus
Unit runs quietly compared to other smaller projectors
Harmon Kardon built-in speakers underwhelming
Resolution: 1080p; supports 2K
Lumens: 800 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 1000:1
Size and weight: 7.6 x 7.6 x 1.9 inches, 1.98 lb
10. Samsung Freestyle
Best For: Early adopters and gadget lovers. Samsung loyalists who appreciate an innovative new gadget.
Why We Chose It: In our review, we called it the “Swiss Army Knife of Digital Smart Projectors”, and easily the most versatile and creatively designed one we’ve seen.
Full review: Samsung Freestyle Review
Unveiled at CES 2022, the Samsung Freestyle’s unique spotlight-like design immediately drew in the curious. What they found was a veritable Swiss Army knife — part HD projector, part speaker, part display, part light, all smart. But is it truly great at any of them? We’d go with “very good,” which when combined with the fact that it is a jack of so many diverse trades, earns it a spot on the list for serious consideration.
The Freestyle runs the same Tizen-based software as Samsung’s high-quality smart TVs, so the best streaming services are instantly available. It projects at 550 lumens, so it’s not a long-throw, but put it in its sweet spot in a dimly-lit or dark room and the 1080p resolution delivers on a screen size up to 100 inches. The automatic adjustments of the white balance and keystone aid the image significantly. The sound, considering the small size of the unit, is acceptable.
Integrated Alexa & Bixby voice assistants
All the popular streaming services are available
Vibrant color reproduction
Plastic screws damage easily
Sluggish UI performance
Thin audio performance
Lumens: 550 ANSI
Contrast ratio: 100,000:1
Size: 4 x 6.8 x 3.7 inches, 0.80 lbs
How SPY Chose the Best Projector of 2022: Our Testing Process
This summer, SPY has been hard at work testing the world’s best projectors, and we’ve used different criteria based on the category: short throw projectors, portable projectors, and the best iPhone projectors. For portable projectors, we looked at factors such as brightness, smart features and connectivity, color clarity and overall picture quality. In addition, we made sure to test it with a variety of media types.
To find the best projectors of 2022, we compared the top products side by side. Each of the products was scored according to the criteria below.
Resolution and streaming: We played YouTube videos, streamed live TV, and streamed movies on each unit, in both daylight and nighttime conditions, to assess the clarity and sharpness of each unit.
Sound: We tested each unit without external speakers, sitting both nearby and 5 to 10 feet away from the unit, to assess volume and clarity of sound and also to see how well it could be heard over each unit’s internal fan.
Ease of setting up: We connected each unit to an iPhone 13, a Roku 4K Streaming Stick, and a PlayStation 5, both hardwired and (where applicable) via Bluetooth. All units with WiFi were connected to the same home WiFi system. We tested for ease of setup and speed of connection.
Ease of use: Beyond the initial setup, we tested each unit’s interface, apps (where applicable), built-in control buttons and remote control (where applicable). We looked for ease of basic commands like play/pause/stop, volume, switching between inputs, and others.
The room we tested these projectors in has two east-facing windows and a wide glass doorway. When testing these portable projectors, the brightest of which threw 1000 lumens, we covered the glass doorway with a blanket to block the light.
Our target wall is 12 feet wide by 8 feet tall, perfect for projector tests. The units were tested during daylight (for partial light distortion) and nighttime hours.
Why Trust SPY When Shopping for the Best Projector
SPY is always on the lookout for the latest and best tech products, and this year we have tested dozens of projectors. We’ve ranked the best home theater projectors, short-throw projectors and iPhone projectors, in addition to reviewing larger projectors like the Samsung The Premiere LSP9T 4K. When testing products, we’re always honest about both the pros and cons, and we’ve been on a mission to find the best projector of 2022 for every budget. We never recommend a product we wouldn’t buy ourselves, and all of the products featured in this review have been thoroughly vetted by SPY’s product testers.
About the Author: Mike Fazioli
Mike Fazioli is an experienced freelance author, editor, and product tester for Backbone One iPhone Gaming Controller and the Nursal 24-Mode TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator. Before working with SPY.com, Mike was the managing editor for big magazine brands from Men’s Health to Car and Driver and Road & Track.. He indulges his inner nerd by testing and reviewing tech gadgets and gear, like the Lomi and other electric composters, the
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