Spend around £200 and more, however, and you’ll quickly see resolution levels rise. We’d recommend a minimum of 720p for good image quality but you may want to sacrifice sharpness for more features, higher brightness or portability.
Either way, the best native resolution you’re going to get currently from a sub-£500 projector is 1080p. Alas, 4K technology has not yet reached the realms of cheap projectors. Expect to pay closer to £1,000 for one of those.
How bright does it need to be?
The biggest factor that determines a projector’s brightness is the light source that it uses. Many budget projectors use an LED source, and the upside of the relatively low brightness level is that the light source lasts for ages; often up to 20,000 hours or more. Traditional lamps will often give you higher brightness levels, but the bulb might last for only 4,000 to 6,000 hours, so it might need replacing after three or four years if used a lot. Bear in mind, though, that some budget projectors aren’t designed to be used that heavily over such long periods, and might collapse long before the lamp does, as heat and dust take their toll on the optical system and the moving parts.
READ NEXT: Best portable projectors money can buy
What connectivity do you need?
It’s also worth thinking about how you intend to use your projector. Most will have an HDMI input, which is perfect for hooking up a games console, Blu-ray player or streaming stick. Many will also allow you to play video files stored on a USB thumb drive.
However, it’s also worth looking out for projectors with smart TV features and built-in apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. Some also allow you to cast video or screen mirror from a mobile device and send audio via Bluetooth to headphones or a speaker.
Portable or mains powered?
At lower price points, many projectors tend to be on the smaller side. Indeed, cheap often means portable or even battery powered. If you’re after the sharpest, brightest possible image for your money, avoid pocket-sized, battery-powered projectors and opt for a mains-powered machine.
A mains-powered projector is more likely to have a lamp that’s bright enough to produce big, bright images, and is the best choice for bedroom or living room movie watching if you don’t need to carry it around too much.
What other features should I look out for?
The core features are covered above but there are other features to take note that are worth having:
- Auto-keystone and autofocus: Saves time in setting up the image because you don’t have to fiddle around with menu settings and focus wheels
- Remote control: Most come with one of these but some do not and it’s a real pain if you don’t have one
- Built-in speakers and audio output: Many models have built in speakers but most aren’t up to much so it’s worth making sure there’s either a 3.5mm audio output or Bluetooth facility so you can hook up an external speaker
- Bluetooth: This isn’t used to transfer video – the technology doesn’t have enough bandwidth – but some products use it so the projector can double as a Bluetooth speaker
- Throw ratio: It sounds technical but it’s an important specification and refers to the size of image the projector can create from a given distance. Short throw projectors can project large images from a position very close to a screen or wall. A throw ratio of 1.5 means that for every 1.5m the projector is away from your wall, an image width of 1m is created, at 3m distance, an image width of 2m is created and so on.