Best Projectors Under $500 For 2021- Top 3 Reviews & Buying guide

Answering a few questions can take you toward the best projector under 500 dollars. Since we are oblivious to the fact that there are so many projector buying factors, we end up buying unnecessary projectors. Let’s see what I mean by saying that.

author
James K. Brownlee
best projectors under $500

In this article, I have three best projectors under $500 of 2021. Therefore, I am targeting three types of users:

  1. First, those who are normal users. For example, If you want a projector for watching movies or any other favorite stuff at your home, congrats, you belong to this category. You should be looking at DLP and LCD types of projectors; both will work for you. 
  2. Second, those who are gamers. If you are a gamer, you should look at a projector that supports 4k and offers the lowest input lag and high refresh rate. 
  3. Third, those who want it for their business and professional meetings. If you are the type and want your presentations to stand out, you’ll need a projector that can produce the biggest images, offers a good number of lumens, and should be portable. 

Some Important Questions to ask yourself

Since your target is to buy the best projector under 500 dollars, you need to ask these questions yourself. 

1. What is your purpose for buying? 

It is one of the very common questions to ask yourself. Your purpose of buying can be anything, such as home, office, outdoor movies, indoor, camping, business, sports, home theater, gaming, presentations, and many others. Once you figure it out, read The Definitive Guide to projectors that includes all different types of projectors available on the market. 

2. Are you tech-savvy or Luddite? 

It is essential to understand your technical skills; otherwise, you won’t understand the technical terms of a projector. This type of person has to face many problems while choosing the perfect projector for his/her needs. Even though you belong to this type, you’ll be able to pick the best projector according to your requirements. How? You don’t need to do anything as I’ve prepared the list of three best $500 projectors for you. 

On the other hand, if you’re tech-savvy, then no one in the world can stop you from buying the perfect projector for your needs. However, you’ll need to consider these essential projector features in order to buy your desired projector. 

3. What is your budget? 

Even though you’re searching for the best projectors under 500 bucks, you’ll still need to pay attention to this question. Since most people get drawn into paying big bucks for features they don’t need, it is crucial to know your budget for a specific type of projector. Once you figure it out, check the following budget projectors. 

  1. Best Projectors under $100
  2. Top Projectors Under $200
  3. Best Projectors Under $300
  4. Top Projectors Under $400

Now, you know your type and purpose, it’s time to focus on my $500 projectors recommendation list and the projectors buying factors. Also, check the comparison table of these projectors. 

Top Projectors Under 500 Dollars 2021 

  1. BenQ TH585 – For Home Theater
  2. Optoma HD146X – For Movies & Gaming
  3. ViewSonic PA503W – For Business & Office

1. BenQ TH585 1080P – Home Entertainment Projector

BenQ TH585’s Highlights:

  1. 3500 ANSI Lumens
  2. 16ms Low Input Lag
  3. Native FullHD 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  4. Lamp Life up to 15,000 Hours
  5. 10 Watts Built-in Speaker
  6. 10,000:1 Contrast Ratio
  7. 3 Years of Warranty
  8. Suitable for Home Entertainment

Overview:

First Projector on my list is BenQ TH585. It is one of the best home theater projectors under 500 bucks on the market. With a full HD (1080p) native resolution (1920×1080), you can enjoy your favorite HD content on a large screen ranging from 100 inches to 200 inches. 

The TH585 works perfectly in a well-lit room because of its high brightness or 3500 ANSI lumens and 10,000:1 contrast ratio. Such specifications of a projector also determine the overall quality of gaming; therefore, gaming on BenQ TH585 is truly impressive. Moreover, 16ms low input lag (low latency) and microsecond DMD response make the projector ultrasmooth. 

While testing the projector over the maximum resolution (1920×1080), I found its image quality excellent while maintaining a fair 3-meter short throw distance to produce a 100-inch screen. Besides, its lamp will not leave your company before at least 15,000 hours of enjoyment, even in the highest settings. 

Pros & Cons:

What I like:

  1. Native FullHD resolution (1920×1080)
  2. 16ms low input lag and fast response for gaming 
  3. Short throw distance
  4. 15,000 hours lamp life 
  5. Its brightness even in well-lit rooms

What I don’t:

  1. I didn’t like its built-in 10 watts speaker; it could be better.

Verdict:

The BenQ TH585 is an ideal option for home entertainment under $500. It deserves this category because of its high brightness and contrast ratio. Moreover, its low latency for gaming is quite impressive for the price. 

However, I would never recommend this projector for business presentations and PPTs. Plus, Its built-in speaker could be improved, which is the only drawback with the projector. 

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2. Optoma HD146X High-Performance – Best Projector for Movies & Gaming Under $500

Optoma HD146X’ Highlights:

  1. Native 1080p FullHD resolution (1920×1080)
  2. DLP display 
  3. 3,600 Lumens 
  4. Gaming Mode for fast response time
  5. 15,000 hours lamp life
  6. 3D-ready

Overview:

The Optoma HD146X is, without a doubt, one of the powerful projectors for day-to-day entertainment. It offers theater-like Cinematic picture quality with a native full high definition resolution. Moreover, its color wheel, an RYGCWP type, is perfect for color calibration and can be a great advantage for home cinema users who want everything crisp and clear. 

Optoma HD146x uses the latest technology for the display called DLP DMD, a single-chip design. It boasts 3600 lumens, enough for giving you a cinematic experience even in a well-lit room. When it comes to gaming, It offers lightning-fast response time and an enhanced gaming mode for boosting gaming performance. 

It has up to 15,000 hours of lamp life, meaning it will last up to 10+ years if you watch 4 hours of stuff every day. Additionally, it supports HDMI-CEC technology and HDMI-Link for controlling all the connected devices using a single remote. 

Pros & Cons:

What I like:

  1. Fantastic picture quality and native 1080p resolution
  2. RYGCWB, six segments color wheel 
  3. Brightness, 3600 lumens
  4. Superfast installation 
  5. Long lamp life up to 15,000 hours

I don’t like:

  1. When eco mode is disabled, its fan becomes a bit noisy and noticeable. 

Verdict:

For under $500, the Optoma HD146X worth the money. You’ll be amazed by its depth blacks to the image and the brightness in a room with ambient light. Without a doubt, you can use it for outdoor movie nights. Moreover, its 3D capability will take your viewing experience to the next level. 

If Truth be told, I didn’t find any drawback. It is simply an incredible projector for movies and gaming. 

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3. ViewSonic PA503W – Best for Home & Office

PA503W’s highlights:

  1. 3800 lumens, WXGA 
  2. 3D-ready HDMI input
  3. Low input latency
  4. 2W built-in speaker
  5. 22,000:1 contrast ratio
  6. 1.96 ~ 2.15 throw distance
  7. Screen size: 30 to 300 inches

Overview:

The ViewSonic PA503W is a very popular projector from PA503W. Why? It is because it has everything to offer, especially its incredible color accuracy. Compared to others, its color accuracy and image quality is impressive in both bright and dark places. 

One of the top features of the projector is its multiple modes for different usages, such as brightness mode, presentation mode, standard mode, photo mode, and movie mode. These are preset viewing modes or five different color modes for various purposes. 

Moreover, it supports 3D content as long as you connect any HDMI-enabled devices, such as 3D Blue-ray players, tablets, laptops, smartphones, and many others, to it. I like that its remote control can handle eight different codes for everything, from operation to configuration. 

Pros & Cons:

What I like:

  1. Its Keystone correction
  2. Different viewing modes for different usages
  3. Eco mode & SuperEco modem
  4. Auto power off and auto sleep timer functionality 
  5. Lamp life of up to 15,000 hours

I don’t like:

  1. built-in speaker 

Verdict:

The ViewSonic PA503W performance-wise is a fantastic projector. It is suitable for everyone, be it your small business or classroom. It’s all possible because of its different brightness modes for the best settings. Moreover, you can enjoy 3D content from various HDMI-enabled devices. However, its built-in speaker could be better. Other than that, it’s the perfect projector for under 500 bucks. 

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Buying Guide: What features and technologies to consider before spending $500 on a projector?

You can’t ignore these factors if you want to buy the perfect projector as per your needs. Don’t worry; you don’t have to spend much time reading them as it’s a quick overview of everything you need to know to find the best projector for under $500. 

1. Projector Type: What is the best projector type you can imagine under $500? 

You have two options: a DLP projector and an LCD projector. Both of the types have their advantages and disadvantages. Check some of the major pros and cons of each type below. 

Advantages of LCD Projectors

  1. The type is known for delivering high light capacity. 
  2. LCD type offers a high contrast ratio. 
  3. It doesn’t require any screen to buy as you can use any flat surface for viewing purposes. 

Advantages of DLP projectors

  1. Its image projection is more smooth. 
  2. It lets you replace its light source, meaning a longer life. 
  3. DLP projectors are 3D-ready. 

Verdict: 

LCD will be the better option if you want a compact and highly portable projector for day-to-day tasks, such as watching movies and slideshows. Moreover, if you’re a hobbyist and loves DIY, still LCD type will be suitable for you. 

On the contrary, you can choose DLP if you want active and passive 3D support. DLP is a very common type among pico projectors, mobile display projection, and other front projection devices. DLPs are expensive compared to LCDs; however, they are considered virtually maintenance-free projectors. 

2. Screen Size: What is the maximum projection size for a $500 projector? 

Most cheap/budget projectors can produce screen sizes from 100 inches to 200 inches while maintaining the optimal distances from 2.5m to 4m, respectively. 

Remember, each projector comes with optimal and fixed distances and screen sizes for maximum viewing experience. So don’t make the mistake of picking the maximum screen size to expect a better viewing experience. 

Rather, you should figure out the size of your intended projection surface and the distance between your projector and the screen/surface. Once you know the measurement, choose the projector accordingly. 

3. Brightness: How bright should my $500 projector be? 

The brightness of a projector determines the overall quality of an image. However, projector brightness requirement entirely depends on the location. You will have to figure out how bright the location is, and a place where you’ll be setting up your projector is getting any direct sunlight.

As the brightness of a projector is measured in ANSI lumens, I’ll let you know how many lumens you’ll need for the ultimate viewing experience. 

After testing and trying different types of projectors, I can recommend the following lumens outputs. 

  1. If it is a dedicated home theater, you’ll need at least 1500 lumens. 
  2. If it is a room or any other space with ambient light around, you’ll need at least 2,000 lumens. 
  3. Any room or space that has high ambient light, it’ll need at least 2,500 to 3000 lumens, depending on the lighting. 

Note: Watching content on high brightness settings may result in headaches and have a negative impact on the projector’s lamp life. 

Contrast Ratio

The contrast ratio of a projector is one of the top essential factors to consider; moreover, it is expressed by a number. For example, 100,000:1, 200,000:1, 500,000:1, etc. 

Please pay attention to the numbers; it is nothing but the difference between light and dark on an image. You can calculate your projector’s contrast ratio by comparing the luminosity of the brightest whites and the darkest black. 

So if you want your picture quality to be crystal-clear and detailed, you should look at a high contrast ratio. Furthermore, it is more important for home theater projector or places with ambient light. 

Resolution: The best resolution for your $500 projector?

Like Contrast ratio, your projector’s resolution should be high. The better it is, the better the picture quality your projector will produce. However, the only thing you should be looking at is its broad range of fixed resolutions; otherwise, you’ll end up watching contents on a set amount of resolution. So your goal is to look for a wide range of fixed resolutions offered by your projector in order to enjoy the best quality of images. 

If any $500 projector cannot fulfill your needs, you should spend some more money, or look at my other articles – the best projectors under $1000, the best projectors under $2000

Throw Distance: Can I expect an Ultra-short Throw distance from any $500 projector? 

The throw distance of a projector is the distance between a projected screen and a projector. Most projectors on the market can be extended up to 20 feet, while the shortest can be a few feet. 

On the other hand, expensive projectors can give you more extensions up to 35 feet. Therefore, you should buy a projector that fits your needs. 

Bulb Life: There is no life without Bulb Life – An ideal number of hours for your $500 projector?

It is one of the components, to be more precise, expensive components of your projectors. Also, the most challenging part to repair and switch out. 

However, it self-explanatory that one should buy a projector with long bulb life. If your projector offers more than 10,000 hours of bulb life, you can go for it. 

Now your question, an ideal number of hours for a $500 projector should be at least 15,000 hours. If it is higher, then it would be better. 

Extra Features: What other additional features should I look for in a $500 projector? 

Additionally, you can check the connectivity and compatiblity options before purchasing a projector. 

Conclusion

I could have added more factors to the guide, but I stuck to the only important ones so that your journey of finding the best projector under $500 can become easier and less confusing. 

Therefore, I am pretty much sure that you will find the perfect projector for your needs. If so, don’t forget to leave a comment below in the comment section. Still, there is something to ask; I’d love to answer your questions as soon as my fingers touch the keyboard. 

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