Budget projector sweet spot: $100-200 projectors tested: 1080p, spend a little, get a lot.December 4, 2021
So how much do you need to spend to get a genuinely good projector? Today on the hookup I’ve got 8 of Amazon’s best selling projectors in the $100-$200 price range. I’m going to put them head to head against each other, a $700 projector from Benq, and the best projector from my sub $100 projector video to show you why these three projectors from Nexigo, VAABZZ and Yaber stand out from the rest, and help you pick the one that’s right for you.
In my last video I figured out that the listings for these cheap LED projectors are misleading at best, and at worst, a total lie. I was hoping that as the price point increased the Amazon listings would become more truthful and standardized, but unfortunately wasn’t the case. For that reason, the only spec I’m going to trust from the listings is the native resolution, which is 1080p for all the projectors in this video, and for the rest of the stats, I’m just going to test them myself so we can actually get some standardization between brands and listings.
In fact, I’m going to divide this video up into three sections: The first section will be everything that I can quantitatively measure like brightness, fan noise, input lag, and focus uniformity, and then the second section will be the more subjective where I’ll put each projector head to head with one another one in a single elimination showdown for things like color accuracy, contrast, vibrance, and overall viewing experience. After that, I’ll break down my three top picks, look at their software features and help you decide which one will be best for you. If you just want to see the conclusion, feel free to use the bookmarks to skip around.
Lets start out the measurements for brightness: All the projectors in this price range are LED projectors, meaning they use high power LEDs as their light source instead of a High Intensity Discharge bulb like you’d find in a more traditional projector. The upside of an LED light source is that it’s cheaper and should last tens of thousands of hours compared to 3-5 thousand hours of an HID bulb, but it comes with the tradeoff of significantly lower brightness.
The standard measurement for projector brightness is called the ANSI lumens, and to calculate it you project a pure white screen and divide it up into 9 sections. Using a lux meter you measure the light output in the center of each of those 9 sections, then average those numbers and multiply that by the screen size in square meters.
By my measurements, the Nexigo PJ20 was the brightest with 475 ANSI lumens which was 125 more than advertised, while the VAABZZ and Vivibright also did well with 417 and 383 ANSI lumens, which while decent was significantly lower than the 600 ANSI lumens advertised on their Amazon listing. From what I could tell it seemed like 300 ANSI lumens was a sweet spot for viewing in a mostly dark room, and anything less than that seemed too dim to be a real option.
One thing I never see advertised, but turns out to be pretty important is brightness uniformity. Every projector I tested had the highest brightness measurement in the exact middle of the screen, and the lowest brightness in one of the four corners. I called this difference their brightness deviation and I calculated it by taking the lux reading from the brightness section, subtracting the lux reading from the dimmest region and then dividing that number by the average lux. Lower numbers are better here and the Yaber V10 had the lowest deviation at 46% followed by the Nexigo with 51%. The worst performer was the Howwoo that had over 3 times less brightness in the upper right corner than it did in the center.
Tangentially related to brightness is the fan noise of these projectors. Generally speaking as a projector’s light source gets brighter the LED get hotter and therefore need more cooling. I used a decibel metering app to take a standard measurement from 18” away from the back of the projector and found that the DB Power and Howwoo projectors were the quietest in this lineup at 41 decibels…
A notable finisher in this test was the Nexigo PJ20, which was the brightest projector with the 2nd best uniformity, and also the 3rd quietest at 43 decibels…
So how do those measurements compare to an HID bulb projector from a big name brand?
I repeated all the tests with my $700 BENQ TH 671 ST, and expectedly it did significantly better in every category with 2568 ANSI Lumens, 47% brightness deviation, and it was the quietest of all the projectors at 39 decibels…
Again, the TX 671 ST costs around $700, so it’s not a direct competitor to these midrange LED projectors, but I did calculate a cost per lumen stat that seemed interesting to me which was just 27 cents per lumen for the BENQ, but 42 cents for the Nexigo, and 39 cents for the VAABZZ.
The next measurement I took was input lag, which is basically how long the projector takes to process an incoming video signal and then send it out to the LCD to be projected. If you’re planning on playing video games on your projector this is an extremely important stat because things like jumping and aiming are almost impossible to do with high input lag. To test this I sent a timecoded 60 frame per second video through an HDMI splitter and filmed it at 120 frames per second.
On the top is my LG C9 OLED TV set to gaming mode, which has a known and well tested input lag of 13.5 milliseconds. Since every signal sent out by the HDMI splitter is in sync we can measure input lag by figuring how many how many frames behind each projector is compared to the TV. The best performers were the Nexigo, Vivibright, DB Power, and Howwoo which were just one frame behind the TV. One frame equates to about 17 milliseconds meaning those projectors have about 30 milliseconds of total input lag, which is completely acceptable for playing video games.
The VAABZZ was slightly more than that at 47 milliseconds, or 2 frames behind the TV, while the Yaber V10 was a staggering 7 frames behind the TV, which equates to 130 milliseconds of input lag… which is way too much to play most video games.
For reference, the $700 BENQ TH 671 ST consistently showed the same frame as the LG OLED, which matches its 16ms advertised input lag, and its branding as a gaming projector.
The last measurement, which I guess is somewhat subjective is focus uniformity. Cheap lenses sometimes struggle to keep the whole image in focus, so when the middle is in focus the corners are blurry and vice versa. To test this I made a video with identical text in the middle each corner, then adjusted the focus for a crisp image in the middle, and gave each of the four corners a score from 1 to 10, 1 being completely out of focus and 10 being the same clarity as the middle text.
The Yaber V10 did the best in this catagory with an average score of 9.25, but the VAABZZ and EZCast also did well. As a comparison the focus uniformity on $700 Benq was almost perfect with a 9.75 average score.
At this point I had collected a bunch of data and the Nexigo PJ20 seemed to be the front runner, but I hadn’t actually watched any video on the projectors yet, so I set up each projector using my 120” vividstorm ambient light rejecting screen, shut the blinds and turned off the lights. I didn’t want a completely dark room since that’s not realistic for most people, but it was definitely dim enough to watch a movie. I filmed the screen using my Sony A6600 on manual mode so each projector’s relative brightness could still be seen.
What you’re about to see is a head to head comparison between these projectors with a reference video on the bottom. To determine the winner of each round I evaluated things like color accuracy, contrast, vibrance, and overall viewing experience
Starting with the least expensive projectors I put the $58 victsing from my previous video up against the $119 Howwoo, and even though the Howwoo had a 1080p native resolution and higher brightness it really lacked contrast and I ultimately thought the victsing delivered a slightly better overall experience.
Next the $58 victsing went up against the $135 EZCast H3, and this round was slightly more difficult to judge since the EZCast failed to play back the video correctly. Because of the glitching and dropped frames, the EZCast ended up speeding up the video by roughly 5% meaning I couldn’t easily do a side by side comparison of each scene. However, from what I could tell, the EZCast wasn’t quite as good as the victsing, and definitely lost points for not being able to properly playback a 1080p mp4 file, so the victsing moved on again.
In the next round the $58 victsing was up against the $149 DB Power, and it was no contest. The DB Power was the first of these midrange projectors that actually felt like it was in a different league. The higher brightness and better color accuracy made it the clear pick between the two, which probably makes sense considering it costs almost 3 times as much.
On to the next round where the DB Power faced the $159 Vivibright. This matchup was the first round when I started to consider that these projectors could be a legitimate option for a home theater on a budget. Not only was the Vivibright nice and bright, but it had pretty good color accuracy, vibrance and contrast and it easily moved on to the next round to face the VAABZZ.
I wasn’t exactly sure where to put the VAABZZ in this competition since it’s listed for $299, but with a $30 discount and 40% off coupon it is only $161.40 as of this video release. On the outside The Vivibright and the VAABZZ look almost identical, and upon further investigation I found out they are actually made by the same parent company. The VAABZZ seems like it might just be an upgraded version of the Vivibright, and that came through in the testing. All the things that made the Vivibright the winner in the previously round like brightness, vibrance, and color accuracy were improved in the VAABZZ, and the VAABZZ easily won this round.
Next the VAABZZ was up against the $189 WimiUS W1, and while I thought the WimiUS did decently, it wasn’t nearly as bright or crisp as the VAABZZ and was a little too blue across the board. The WimiUS W1 definitely wasn’t a bad projector, and if you didn’t have anything else to compare it to you’d probably be happy with its performance but compared side by side with the VAABZZ it didn’t stand a chance and the VAABZZ moved on again.
Next to go, was the Nexigo which based on my earlier testing seemed like it was going to be the best projector. For $199 you get a quiet fan, motorized focus, and high brightness, but as you can see, the image just isn’t quite as good as the VAABZZ. The Nexigo is a little bit too blue and lacks contrast compared to the VAABZZ. Interestingly, the part of the video with the white dot in the middle looks a little bit brighter on the VAABZZ even though the Nexigo’s center region brightness was 497lux compared to 456 on the VAABZZ. I probably watched this round 30 times, but in the end I have to give the win to the VAABZZ.
And if the Nexigo couldn’t take out the VAABZZ, I didn’t have high hopes for the $199 Yaber V10 and while there were a few parts of the video that I thought the Yaber did well with, like the contrast in the bubbles on the all black screen, I thought the Yaber was overall too blue compared to the reference video and in the scenes with a bunch of colors the Yaber was washed out compared to the vibrant colors on the VAABZZ. Even though their performance was relatively close, the VAABZZ was just a little better in every aspect, giving it an easy win.
And just for reference while I put up the final rankings for this category that I called viewing experience, here’s the #1 VAABZZ vs my $700 BENQ projector. The horizontal lines on the BENQ are just from filming and aren’t visible in person, but you can tell just how much brighter the BENQ is than the VAABZZ. However, if you look at color accuracy the VAABZZ is significantly closer to the reference video than the BENQ.
Okay, so all said and done I have three recommendations, and all of them are pretty good, but none of them are perfect. Starting with the most obvious: At $161 the VAABZZ is inexpensive, has great picture quality, low input lag and decent brightness. It has a built in retractable foot for positioning the image and manual tilt keystoning, which basically means this dial on the back physically tilts a lens inside the projector to change the vertical keystone of the image.
The VAABZZ has two main weaknesses: First, the software on it kind of sucks and reminds me of the cheap interface on the sub $100 projectors. iOS mirroring works, but you have to connect to the projector’s hot spot to enable it, which means you will have to stream whatever media you are playing over the cellular network. The VAABZZ also had the least compatibility for file types when using a USB drive, and wasn’t able to decode the audio on some of the dolby test clips I was using. However, If you’re planning on using the VAABZZ with it’s HDMI ports then the software doesn’t matter.
The second and biggest weakness is the fan, which is obnoxiously loud. If I were going to use this projector I’d want it as far away from me as possible, which is hard to do since the distance from the projector to the screen is about the same distance that most people would sit to watch a 100” screen. You could ceiling mount it, which should be easy enough using the mounting holes on the bottom, but you might also want to build some kind of an enclosure to block out some of the noise. I’d originally thought about trying to replace the fan with something quieter, but when I took it apart it’s not a standard size or shape, so I don’t think that’s an option.
Again, If you’re planning on hooking your projector up to a fire stick, or game console and fan noise isn’t a deal breaker than the VAABZZ is definitely my top recommendation as far as brightness and picture quality.
If the noise IS going to ruin your viewing experience the Nexigo is the next best option. Not only does it have quiet fans, high brightness and low input lag, but motorized focus on the remote is a nice touch. The software is slightly more polished than the VAABZZ with the ability to join your WiFi network for direct casting to the device from windows, ios, or android. USB playback of videos also works great and it was one of only a few projectors that could decode dolby surround sound audio. While you probably still want to hook up some external speakers to the audio out port for the best viewing experience, the Nexigo’s internal speakers do get very loud.
Overall the Nexigo is the projector that I would recommend to most people. The image quality isn’t quite as good as the VAABZZ but it’s still very good, and the better software and much quieter fan make my pick for an all around good projector that can handle almost anything that you throw at it.
And my last recommendation is the Yaber V10, which isn’t the brightest, doesn’t have the best picture, and has horrendous input lag, but it has a few key features that set it apart from the rest. First, and most importantly it has 4 point keystoning, which is something typically only found on much more expensive projectors. This allows you to place your projector offset from your screen and then adjust the picture to fit perfectly on the screen without distortion. Lots of people in the comments of my last video asked which projector they should buy for projecting art onto the walls for painting, and the Yaber V10 is perfect for that application due to its advanced software keystoning. In addition to that the Yaber can view a ton of different file types for images and video, and even has support for viewing power point presentations, word documents and excel spreadsheets directly from a USB drive. It also has the best interface for streaming video from phones, and just the best and most responsive software in general.
You shouldn’t get the Yaber V10 for playing video games because of the terrible input lag, but for any other situation where keystoning might be necessary the Yaber is by far the best option. One other limitation you should about for the Yaber V10 is that for some reason they didn’t include any mounting holes or adjustments for the feet, so in my tests I always had to prop it up with some legos or a book. I would have loved to see at least a tripod mount on the bottom, which would have made it even better option for artists.
Links to all the projectors I tested are down in the description and if you appreciate the time, effort, and money that I put into a review like this this consider using those links because I get a small portion of the sale at no cost to you. If you have additional questions about projectors, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it as best as I can. Thank you so much to all of my patrons over at patreon for your continued support of my channel, and if you’re interested in supporting my channel please check out the links in the description. If you enjoyed this video please hit that thumbs up button and consider subscribing, and as always, thanks for watching the hookup.