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Projectors in the past have been noisy, clunky, and sacrificed picture quality, with an internal lamp that’s expensive to replace once it burns out.
But things have drastically changed for the better. The best projectors now offer so much more, including improved 4K picture, sharper graphics, reduced fan noise, and Bluetooth capability. The best smart projectors are also compatible with voice command programs like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, letting you do everything from powering the unit on and off, to adjusting volume, changing inputs, and controlling playback all using just your voice.
What Are the Best Smart Projectors?
The best smart projectors take an image from a video source and beam it onto a larger screen or wall, with voice-activated controls and easy pairing from any device.
Projector vs. TV: So why choose a projector over just a TV? First off, the best projectors are capable of stretching your screen to a much, much larger surface – usually over 100 inches. If you’ve got the wall space, this can really give you the full cinematic feel, especially in a room with dimmable lighting. Same goes for gamers too, as a projector can provide an immersive experience like no other.
Screen Size: This is the biggest draw to getting a projector, and screen size can range from 50 inches all the way up to 300 – recreating a real theater right in your house. A “short-throw” projector is great if space is limited, as you can put this within centimeters of the screening wall and it’ll still beam up a full picture. Long-throw projectors require placement some distance away from the screen, usually about a meter or more, but these are only recommended if you’ve got a large amount of room. Some units also may offer the feature of horizontal and vertical lens shift, which lets you adjust and move the projected picture without having to physically move the projector.
Picture: The brightness of a projector is measured in “lumens”, and the higher the lumens count, the brighter the picture will be. Brighter rooms require a higher lumen count (around 2500 and up) to project a clear image, while darker rooms fair better at about 1000-1200.
Noise: A loud projector can be distracting while watching a movie. This is mostly from the cooling fans that kick in when the unit starts to get hot. Different projectors deal with this in various ways, and some of the newest projectors don’t even have fans at all.
Temperature: The last thing you want is for your projector to overheat. Check the listed operating temperature before you go all-in: -41 to 104°F (5 – 40°C) is the usual range, with about 85% max humidity.
Resolution: Same deal here as shopping for a TV: 1080p is full HD, and 4K is Ultra HD. All of the picks on our list support 4K resolution.
Modes: Depending on what you’re watching (or games you’re playing), various modes can greatly enhance the experience. For example a “Natural” mode might work well for a movie, as it gives vivid colors and accurate flesh tones, but for a classic film, a “Black and White” setting will help bring it into a sharper focus.
Sound: Some projectors offer built-in speakers, but the quality varies. If it’s within your budget, a set of external speakers can really expand the sound.
Ports: When it comes to connecting all your devices, ports are important. You may not need them all now, but consider what you might be connecting in the future as technology evolves. At the very least, it should have HDMI, USB, and AV inputs for you to connect a media source or device.
Remote Capability: Having to get up on a chair and mess with the projector unit can be a pain, especially when you’ve got guests waiting to watch something. While voice command can handle a good amount of tasks, the rest relies on the remote. Some even feature backlit buttons for easy use during a darkened movie screening.
1. LG 4K Smart Home Theater CineBeam
There’s a lot to unpack in this LG smart projector that truly lives up to its name.
Their CineBeam tech inside gives you precise pictures on every frame, and a screen up to 140 inches from about 12 to 13 feet away. The light output is solid, at 1500 lumens, and works best in a dim room.
Ports are plentiful here: There’s an Optical Digital Audio Out, LAN/Ethernet, Antenna/Cable In, USB, HDMI and even a headphone jack, just to name a few.
Pairing it with other devices is fast and simple too. Thanks to MiraCast, you can quickly project content onto the screen from mobile phones and tablets, and pair it with Bluetooth audio as well. LG also offers their webOS Lite service for consolidating all your content streaming platforms into one practical place, and it can be controlled with LG’s AI ThinQ platform (which comes with Alexa and Google Assistant installed). If you prefer to keep your voice down, the LG “Magic Remote” with motion control can navigate through everything as well.
2. ViewSonic True 4K Portable Smart Projector
ViewSonic’s UltraHD projector is capable of displaying more than eight million pixels, and is ready to receive voice commands with Alexa and Google Assistant.
There’s no lamp in here, and no mercury or filters used either. Just solid-state LED technology that consumes way less power than an LCD TV.
Another plus is that it’s portable – a convenient carry-handle lets you easily pack it up and set it up anywhere, while the short throw-lens provides big-screen, professional projection up to 120 inches in 2400 lumens.
Speakers are included here too, with powerful dual Bluetooth Harman Kardon sets adding fully immersive audio to the crisp and lifelike colors.
3. Optoma UHD 50X Smart Projector
With 8.3 million distinct addressable on-screen pixels, the resolution here is absolutely stunning, and gives four times more detail than full HD.
The vertical lens shift gives you a nice choice of wide screen size options, and if you’ve got the right media and glasses, 3D videos look beautifully realistic.
Motion blur is kept to a minimum here, while providing peak picture quality. This is also fully compatible with HDR video – the brighter elements give extremely crisp detail.
There are built-in speakers as well, plus the remote is compact and especially simple to use (and features backlit keys for easy use in the dark).
Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, use your voice to power on and off, adjust volume and settings, change inputs and more.
4. XGIMI Elfin Mini Projector, Ultra Compact 1080P Portable Projector 4K
If you don’t already have speakers, the sound truly shines on this one: Premium 6W Harman Kardon speakers, with DTS and DOLBY compatibility, crank out crisp and clear audio whether you’re watching movies or gaming. It also looks great, with 1080p FHD resolution and full support for 4K, plus XGIMI’s Intelligent Screen Adaption technology which automatically takes care of focusing, screen adjustment, and obstacle avoidance.
Powered by the X-VUE 2.0 Image engine, this is bright enough to enjoy with some background lighting, at 800 ANSI Lumens, and stretches to 150 inches in dark conditions or about 60-80 inches in natural light. The 60Hz refresh rate handles any lag and latency with ease, and it’s also integrated with Android Tv 10.0, which gives you access to over 5000 apps, including the most popular ones like Disney +, HBO Max, Prime Video, Peacock, and more.
The entire unit weighs just under five pounds, and is designed to be portable, so go ahead and take it with you to the office, to parties, or a weekend vacation rental.