Should you buy a cheap projector? I tested 10 budget friendly projectors.
Welcome to the world of sub $100 projectors, where the numbers on the product page are made up, and the prices don’t matter. Today on the hookup I bought the 10 best selling projectors on Amazon under $100, and I’m going to figure out which one is best, show you how to sift through the deceptive marketing, and hopefully help you decide if a cheap projector will work for what you need.
Thank you to Govee for sponsoring this video, their new immersion TV kit takes their ambient TV backlight one step farther by adding two RGB light bars to the experience. The govee kit comes with everything you need to for a clean and easy install, so there’s no extra expenses. Using the colorsense camera the immersion kit captures image from your TV or projector and expands it onto the surrounding wall for, you guessed it, and immersive experience. The Govee immersion kit can also be controlled with google home and amazon echo devices, so when you’re not watching TV you can easily select your favorite multicolor effect. Check out the Govee immersion TV kit using the link in the description.
This video was not in my plans, I went on amazon to get a cheap projector to use with my Halloween decorations, but when I saw all the crazy claims being made in these projector listings, I knew what had to be done. Even if you don’t buy one of the projectors in this video, after watching this you’ll hopefully feel better equipped to dodge all the inflated numbers and focus on the things that will actually get you a better performing projector. Other than the criteria of being under $100 I’m not going to talk much each projector’s individual price, because between price cuts, percentage based discounts, and amazon coupons prices fluctuate by as much as 40% every couple of days, and some of the projectors that I paid the most for are now the cheapest and vice versa.
Other than their sub $100 price tags, the other thing that all these projectors have in common is their projection technology. There are three main types of projectors: Incandescent bulb projectors are moderately priced and have high brightness with the tradeoff of needing to replace the bulb every couple thousand hours. Laser projectors are an expensive new technology that use different color lasers to project a bright image with an extremely long lifespan, and then all the cheap projectors like the ones I have today are LED projectors which use an LED light source projected through a transparent LCD screen, giving you a cost effective, long lifespan projector, with the tradeoff of significantly lower brightness. LED projectors are typically not a replacement for a TV, but they can be fun for the occasional outdoor movie, or for less traditional applications like Halloween projections decorations.
Even though we’ll spend a bit of time later talking about their extra features, to me, the two most important criteria of a projector in this price range are picture quality and brightness.
It would be nice to be able to just go to the amazon listing and buy the one with the highest brightness and resolution, but the listings for these projectors are incredibly deceptive. For instance, this listing claims 7,500 lumens of brightness, while my 2000 dollar Epson LS300 laser projector has less than half that at 3600 lumens, but when you display their images side by side looks like this. On the left is my 3600 *ANSI* lumen Epson LS300, and on the right is the so called 7,500 lumen LED projector. So why doesn’t amazon take down these clearly deceptive listings? Well, it’s because they’re technically not lying. The normal way to measure the brightness of a projector is at the screen using a specific light meter, which is called ANSI brightness. However, these projectors are instead listing the maximum brightness of their LED light source, and according to BenQ a good approximation to convert Light Source brightness to ANSI brightness is to multiply by 0.04, which means a 7,500 lumen light source is around 300 ANSI Lumens.
The other thing that these listings are less than truthful about is their resolution. Right in the listing title this projector says “1080p projector”, so that means it’s full HD, right? Wrong. By saying it’s a 1080p projector they only mean that the projectors can display a 1080p video source, but most of their screens have a native resolution of 720p, and if you aren’t paying attention you may get stuck with a resolution even lower than that. Even if you find the native resolution listed, it might not be correct, like this one that says it has 480p native resolution which should be 852×480, but instead it’s actually 480*272, which is half of 480p. And this projector says right in the title that it is Native 1080p, but if you look deeper in description you can see that it’s actually 1280×800, which is much closer to 720p than 1080p.
Basically what I’m saying is that these listings are at best misleading, and at worst a total lie. Unfortunately, you also can’t trust the reviews since some of these projectors include a small slip of paper inside the package offering an amazon gift card, or extra prizes in exchange for a positive review.
So, since you can’t trust the listings, and you can’t trust the reviews, hopefully you CAN trust this random guy on YouTube. I bought all these projectors with my own money, and I haven’t had any contact with their manufacturers, but I do make money through the Amazon affiliate program, so if this video helps you decide which projector to buy, I’d appreciate if you use the links it the description which allows me to earn a small portion of the sale at no cost to you, lets get started.
For testing purposes, I used my ambient light rejecting projector screen from Vividstorm, which is designed specifically for standard non short-throw projectors. I know most people will probably be projecting on to a wall or a sheet, but this screen provides a nice professional standardized surface for testing. I set up two projectors side by side with 50 inch screens and used the Dolby Atmos test footage at 1080p to judge their brightness and picture quality. For each matchup I picked the best of the two which stayed on for the next round and repeated that process until only the best projector remained. If two projectors were very close in performance, I also switched their locations to make sure that one side of the screen wasn’t performing better than the other.
Round 1 wasn’t much of a fight with the CiBest projector having significantly greater brightness overpowering the Goodee projector, which was barely watchable even in a dim room.
Round 2 was even less eventful with the wildly underperforming Meer portable pico. Of all the projectors that I tested, the Meer is the only one that I would consider to be complete e-waste, and I can’t think of a single worthwhile use case for it because it’s so dim and so low resolution.
Round 3 was more of a battle, and although the Cibest was brighter than the Waygoal projector, one thing that that had been bothering me in the previous rounds was how poorly the Cibest handled the text in the test video, you can see that as the text zooms in there are all kinds of jagged edges and choppy transitions probably due to the Cibest’s low native resolution. It’s also worth noting that the Cibest’s amazon listing says it has an SD card slot, but it definitely doesn’t. The Waygoal wasn’t perfect but overall the picture quality was good enough to edge out a victory over the Cibest even with lower brightness.
In round 4 the Waygoal went up against the the Goodee wifi mini projector, and even though I thought both looked pretty good, the the Goodee had slightly higher brightness and slightly higher resolution. It did take me an additional test and I switched each projectors position in the rematch, but ultimately the Goodee ended up winning this round.
Round 5 put the Goodee WiFi mini projector up against the highest resolution projector so far, the Wimius, which is the one that claimed to be native 1080p in the title but actually only has 1280×800 native resolution. For me though, it wasn’t the resolution that stuck out to me, but the contrast of the Wimius that made the biggest difference and although you can see that the Goodee was brighter than the Wimius in some scenes it accomplished that at the expense of being blown out compared to the crisp contrast of the Wimius projector.
In round 6 the Wimius went up against the Vamvo movie projector which was definitely one of the most unique images of any of the projectors. The LED light source of the Vamvo must have been a cool white LED because although the whites were nice and bright, they also had a noticable blue tint to them, which didn’t look bad, but it definitely wasn’t the color intended in the Atmos test video. Even though I could clearly tell the colors were off, it still took me a rematch and my wife’s added opinion to make the final call, but in the end the Wimius took this one.
Round 7 was good versus evil. The Wimius projector, which was by far the most deceptive amazon listing up against the VideoChars projector which in addition to being the only native 1080p projector that I was able to find under $100, was also the only listing to use real ANSI lumens for it’s brightness, which it rated at 100 ANSI Lumens, but unfortunately that only translates to around 2500 light source lumens which was pretty apparent. This clearly isn’t a Disney movie, because evil did triumph over good when the brightness and contrast of the Wimius projector were just too much for the VideoChars, so even though I was hoping for a different result, the Wimius pretty clearly won this round.
In Round 8 the Wimius took on a projector that I’ve seen in a few YouTube videos the Yaber V3. On paper the Yaber and Wimius have very similar stats, and that came though in the test. However, this was an easy round for me to judge because the Yaber V3 had serious issues blending between different levels of brightness, and a few scenes looked especially bad with noticeable bands of brightness instead of a gradient. I played with the settings on the Yaber V3 to try to fix this issue, but everything I tried either made the rest of the image significantly worse, or caused even more brightness banding.
So the last and final round has the Wimius projector up against a projector that didn’t have any brand name listed in the Amazon title, but when it arrived it seems to be by a company called Victsing, and I swear I didn’t plan this for the last round, but the Victsing projector is an absolute powerhouse, especially considering it was one of the cheapest projectors I tested. With the Victsing on the right side the competition felt close, but I still felt like it had the slight advantage. However when I switched sides and put the Victsing on the left for the rematch it clearly had better color, better contrast, and better clarity. Even though the Victsing only claims 3800:1 contrast ratio, it had noticeably better contrast than the Wimius which claimed an absurd 7000:1 contrast ratio, which goes along with the rest of the questionable claims made on the Wimius’s Amazon listing… I also heard that the Wimius dad could beat up your dad.
Anyways, after all nine rounds and some additional head to head testing to battle it out for spots other than first, these were the final rankings… Which is honestly not great news. I was hoping to find a simple metric that could be used to compare different projectors without actually buying them, but when I sort them by rank, nothing pops out as being especially important.
However, it does seem like if you take all of the stats combined you can make a decent prediction of their performance. That means when you are searching through the amazon listing you need to find the Native resolution, which I usually found by searching in the questions section of the listing. You need to find the brightness, which is probably going to be listed in light source lumens, so you can convert to ANSI lumens by multiplying by 0.04, or dividing by 0.04 to convert between ANSI and light source.
And last, see if you can find the contrast ratio which ended up being the best predictor of performance, except for the Victsing which had great contrast performance despite its low contrast listing. Still, in general higher contrast ratios seemed to correspond with better performance.
Out of these specific 10 projectors my favorite was definitely the #1 ranking Victsing projector which was not only inexpensive, and high performing, but also includes a pretty impressive feature set. It can play video from USB drives, SD cards, through its HDMI port, traditional RCA inputs, and it can do screen mirroring for iphone and android wirelessly, or on iOS you can also do wired screen mirroring. It’s worth noting that with all the screen mirroring options apps with copyright protection like Netflix, or Disney plus won’t work, and you’ll need to use the HDMI port with a streaming stick instead for those services. I found that realistically the Victsing projctor can produce about an 80in screen in a moderately dim room and provide a pretty good viewing experience. The Victsing is also my recommendation for projected window decorations as long as the projector will be inside.
For outside where I’ll be projecting some faces onto pumpkins, I’ll be using the #5 ranked VideoChars projector because unlike most of the other projectors in this test it uses a 12V power adapter instead of having the power circuit inside the projector. This is important for me because I feel more comfortable running 12V out to a projector than 120V AC, and even though none of these projectors are waterproof, 12V power is a lot less dangerous than 120V when water is nearby. The VideoChars doesn’t have mirroring like the Victsing, but it can play from an SD card which is all you really need for decorations.
As I said, links to all the projectors I tested are down in the description, and if you have additional questions, 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.