Cheapest 4K Projectors of 2018/19
What was the pinnacle in projector technology just a few years ago is now trickling down into more affordable projectors in 2018 and into 2019, and that is 4K HDR. Many 4K projectors today can now be found for under $1500, and in this guide we will navigate you through the best options if you’re looking for a decent, capable and cheap 4k projector.
1. Optoma UHD50
When asking the projector community about their favorite budget 4K projector options, one model time and time again we hear great things about is the Optoma UHD50. This short throw 4K projector, priced at just $1499, provides excellent value for its features that you typically see in far more expensive 4K options. Standout features include HDR, an impressively small short throw ratio - where with just 10.5 feet of clearance it is possible to project up to a 120” picture - when compared to the next two models mentioned (PX727-4K and HT2550) require a few more feet to reach the same 120” diagonal screen. The Optoma UHD50 has 2400 lumens of brightness that is a high out-of-the-box number, impressive contrast ratios providing great blacks and also performs very silent under load (thanks to its 0.47” DKP chip) when compared to its other budget 4K projector competitors. It’s important to note to take the Optomas lumen rating with a pinch of salt, as they have been known in the past to exaggerate this number the most compared to other manufacturers.
4K enhancement is available on this projector to upscale any 1080p picture sources to project in 4K resolution, which is great since not all video will be available in native 4K. A few things we would wish to see better from this cheap 4K projector is a better onboard audio, lack of 3D capabilities (found on similar priced 4K projectors) and only a one year included warranty - which seems quite stingy since most top projector manufacturers offer a 3-year standard warranty as a minimum on their 4K projectors.
All in all, the Optoma UHD50 happens to be one of the cheapest 4K projector options available in 2019, but also one of the best on the features it offers. A win-win combination if you ask me.
2. ViewSonic PX747-4K
Our second recommended budget 4K projector is the ViewSonic PX747-4K, which provides a great combination of price and performance priced at $1299. Sporting the Texas Instruments 0.47” 4K chip, this projector is capable for up to 4K resolution with HDR enabled. Contrast ratio is fantastic and HDR content looks great on the up to 300 inch projection size.
One standout feature of the PX747-4K is the staggering 3500 lumens, which is more than enough for any use, it will be hard to effectively use this level of brightness - and makes this a great candidate for using the projector in light conditions such as presentations or similar. It could be too bright for its own good.
One nag about the PX747-4K is that input lag is not great at 43ms, certainly not a problem for those looking to use this solely for watching movies, but for those looking for a 4k gaming projector then perhaps the Optoma GT1080 will be a better fit, or expect to pay alot more for a 4K projector with a far smaller input lag range.
Overall, the PX747-4K is a great option for those looking for a 4K projector but can’t afford a truly native 4K projector. Usually priced at north of $4000, this option at just $1299 makes this budget 4k projector seem like a bargain!
3. BenQ HT2550
Also built on the latest 0.47” DLP chip, the BenQ HT2550 is another great option for those looking for a 4K projector under $1500, and this is a great option for those who want 3D picture, which many of the other recommendations do not feature.
Much smaller than the PX747-4K, this projector is remarkable portable and makes it robust for many different uses. With 2200 lumens onboard, this has a impressively bright image, as well as great colors with HDR picture quality.
Just like the PX747-4K, input lag is not fantastic with 50ms delay time recorded - that is not awful but certainly not ideal for those looking to be gaming on a 4K projector. 3 years of warranty is standard with the HT2550, something we would expect on any new projector sold today, and think Optoma should provide since they offer only a 1 year limited warranty on their budget 4k projector, the UHD50.
4. Optoma UHD51A
Another budget 4K short throw projector option from Optoma is the UHD51A, a 4K and HDR enabled projector priced at $1699, slightly more expensive than the other options on our list. This premium price gives you features such as Amazon Alexa, which is becoming more and more popular and useful especially in a home theater setup. For example, it is possible with the UHD51A to use Alexa to adjust volume or turn on or off the projector with just the power of your voice!
Standout features in this relatively cheap 4K projector is full 3D support, USB media player and play media from your mobile device wirelessly (optional dongle required). 2400 lumens is advertised, although ProjectorCentral measured this value to be just short of 1700 lumens in real world testing - which is plenty enough to provide a rich picture even in a ambient-lit room.
The Optoma UHD51A is HDR10 compatible, can play video in 4K resolution and unlike the other budget options we mentioned this projector has surprisingly good on-board audio thanks to its two 5-watt speakers. One downside of this budget 4K projector is that it has the worst performing input lag, recorded at almost 70ms. This feature alone wouldn’t make this projector suitable for any sort of competitive gaming as it would put you instantly at a disadvantage. For movies and general media use, this projector would be a great cheap 4K projector option for 2018/19.
5. Optoma UHD60
Our final selection in this guide is the impressive Optoma UHD60, which is the most expensive option in our guide but it is warranted due to it using the 0.66” DLP chipset rather than the 0.47” DLP chip by Texas Instruments. This greater chip size means that there are less pixel shifts to 4K resolution, and also means in general a greater light output and contrast ratios - with the Optoma UHD60 having a lumen rating of 3000 and advertised contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 - although take this advertised specifications with a pinch of salt.
The picture quality of the UHD60 is fantastic, even out of the box, thanks to its HDR picture and impressive color performance. This projector is very quiet, too, with a noise rating of only 28 dB - far lower than any of the other budget 4k projectors on this list.
Unfortunately, even priced at just under $2000, there is no 3D mode on this short throw 4K projector, and this projector doesn’t have the smallest form factor - which doesn’t make it a suitable option for anyone looking to transport their UHD projector often.
Overall, despite the UHD60 being our most expensive ‘budget’ 4K projector in this list, we still think it provides excellent value with its features and great 0.66” DLP chip onboard.
Budget 4K Projector Buyer's Guide
In this section of the article we will try to answer the most commonly asked questions when buying a budget 4K projector.
I’ve seen cheaper 4K projectors, why haven’t they been mentioned in this list?
There are other cheap 4K projectors that are available, but we only want to recommend the ones that are worth purchasing, taking into consideration user reviews, expert reviews as well as other specifications other than resolution which are just as important in making a good 4K projector.
What exactly is a 4K projector?
When 4K is mentioned anywhere, it actually refers to two different (but similar) screen resolutions - 3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160 - also known as Ultra HD (UHD) or True 4K (a guide here explains well the differences between these terms). The resolution is the number of horizontal x vertical pixels that fit into a display. UHD in 2018/19 is the more popular 4K option from panel and projector manufacturers.
What is true 4K? What is 4K enhancement?
True 4K is a projector that can natively project images or videos of 3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160 resolution without any upscaling. True 4K is different to projectors that can upscale resolution in that it doesn't stretch or zoom the less-than-4k image to fit the 4K resolution - also known as 4K enhancement.
What is Epson 4K Enhancement Technology?
Epsons 4K Enhancement Technology is their version of upscaling - where it can take a 1080p image for example and stretch this picture to be outputted in 4K resolution - resulting in a better than 1080p picture but not as good as a true 4K projector.
Is 4K better than 1080p?
In general yes, 4K is noticeable better than 1080p. Of course this actually depends on the size of the screen being used, for example the larger the screen size the greater this differences between 4K and 1080p resolutions will be noticed.
The improvements from 4K and 1080p are also dependent on how far away you are viewing the projector from. If you are viewing the projectors from very far away you may not notice a difference at all, but the closer you get the more clear and defined the 4K picture will be relative to 1080p resolution.
A useful guide weighing the benefits of playing 1080p content on a 1080p or 4k projector here.
Do I need a 4K HDMI cable with a 4K projector?
You necessarily don't need to purchase new HDMI cables if you buy a new budget 4K projector. If you have HDMI2.0 they should be capable of passing 4K resolution at 60Hz, although if you have a HDMI1.4 cable they can only in theory output 4K at 24Hz - and in that instance you should upgrade HDMI cables to get the most of out of your 4K projector.
What is the best contrast ratio for a projector?
As a general rule of thumb you want to go for a projector with a higher (native) contrast ratio - resulting in better blacks and less light bleed. 4K projectors with a low contrast ratio end up bleeding light when the picture is meant to be black, and instead results in a greyer picture. 4K projectors with a high contrast ratio (ignore dynamic figures) will show blacker blacks and bleed less light.
Can 4K projectors do HDR?
Some projectors are capable of HDR - which stands for high-dynamic range. This feature in projectors can really improve the picture quality and viewing experience as it can boost your projectors contrast ratio, resulting in greater blacks and richer colors. Native 4K HDR projectors are right now the pinnacle of projector technology, and warrant a high price tag. If you’re looking to buy a cheap native 4K projector, don’t expect it to have HDR enabled at least for a few more years.
However, with the release of the new Texas Instruments 0.47” DLP chip this has meant there are a number of affordable 4K projectors (not native) that use pixel shift technology to output at 4K resolution, and this chip enables for HDR picture. Most of our recommendations in this article feature this great DLP chip as it provides a great combination of performance and value.