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The Best Short-Throw Projectors of 2020

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Are you looking for a cinematic viewing experience, but don’t have the space for a traditional home theater projector? Maybe you live in a studio apartment or a dorm, and you don’t have the range necessary for a long-throw projector. Or maybe you need to do a presentation in class or at work and there are no projectors provided. In any of these circumstances, a short-throw projector is ideal. Short-throw projectors provide a clearer and larger image in smaller spaces compared to those with long throws.

As with any type of projector, short throws wildly vary in specifications and quality. Here we’ve compiled our recommendations for the best short throw projectors. If you are looking for a home theater experience, check out our picks for the best home theater projectors. If you need a projector on the go, we also compiled a list of the best portable projectors.

The best short throw projector overall: VAVA 4K UHD Laser TV Home Theater Projector

The brightest short throw projector: YABER Y30

Best budget 4K short throw projector: ViewSonic X10

The best portable short throw projector: Asus ZenBeam S2

The best gaming short throw projector: Optoma GT1080HDR

Best short throw projector for film buffs: Optoma CinemaX P1 4K

The best projector overall: VAVA 4K UHD Laser TV Home Theater Projector

Why you should buy this: 4K resolution, short throw distance, powerful audio

Who it’s for: People who want a no-compromise short-throw experience

Why we picked the VAVA 4K Projector:

There are a lot of great, high-end, short-throw projectors available, but when it comes to pure bang for the buck, this 4K HDR model from VAVA has all the others beat. The VAVA is a feature-packed all-in-one solution that offers zero compromises.

For one thing, the VAVA has one of the shortest throw distances available. With it you can get a 100-inch display on your wall from just 7.2 inches away. The VAVA also supports HDR 10, so blacks are deep and dark and colors are bright and accurate.

While many projectors have speakers, they are usually subpar and will require external speakers anyway. The VAVA has an integrated Harman Kardon soundbar with 60 watts of power. That means you can get a pretty impressive sound in a compact package. Yes, you’ll still get better sound from a more robust setup, but the VAVA can also competently do the job on its own.

The VAVA has seven ports on the back for you to connect hard drives, computers, and Blu-ray players. It doesn’t support any casting technology, but you can always hook up an Apple TV or Roku to get the same experience.

In our view, the VAVA offers everything you would want in a home theater experience — without the setup.

The brightest short-throw projector: YABERY30

Why you should buy this: insane brightness, solid keystone correction, accurate colors

Who this is for: Anyone wanting to use a projector in low-light settings without losing image quality.

Why we picked the YABER Y30:

Brightness can vary from projector to projector, but in general you will want to keep the room relatively dark for the best image quality. But even in a dark room, many projectors don’t emit enough light to get a great image. That leaves a lot of projected images looking muddy or muted. The brighter your projector, the better the image is going to look.

How bright is the YABER Y30 compared to the competition? Well, for context the average projector (short throw or otherwise) runs between 2,500 and 3,200 lumens. There’s no hard science to officially determine lumens, so the difference between 2,500 and 3,200 can be negligible based on the unit. There’s a distinction between those numbers and the YABER Y30’s 6,800 lumens, however. Images from the YABER Y30 pop because of its brightness alone.

It isn’t just brightness that makes the YABER Y30 a good buy, especially for the price. It has a 1080p resolution and robust keystone correction as well, so the image will look great no matter the setup.

For a bright and high-quality image, it is hard to beat the YABER Y30 at just $280.

Best budget 4K short-throw projector: ViewSonic X10

Why you should buy this: 4K at a low price, solid speakers, Google Assistant and Alexa support

Who this is for: People who want a 4K experience without the 4K price tag

Why we picked the ViewSonic X10:

Projectors are appealing because they save space and offer a cinema experience when at home. If you want vivid 4K images from a projector, you usually have to bite the bullet and spend a couple thousand bucks. This can be a barrier for a lot of people, especially when you can pick up a decent 4K TV for a few hundred.

That’s what makes the ViewSonic X10 so enticing. It’s a 4K short-throw projector, and at a retail price of $1,500, it’s a lot more reasonable for average consumers looking for a home theater experience. The projector is also decently future-proofed thanks to its LED light source and USB-C connectivity.

The integrated Harman Kardon speakers also gives the short-throw projector a decent audio experience, so users don’t have to worry about shelling out more money for an audio setup immediately after purchase.

The projector also looks great. While many simply have plastic shells to protect their internal hardware, the X10 is made with a mix of leather and metal, giving it a premium look and feel. It doesn’t contribute to the quality of the image, but it is also nice having a device that isn’t an eyesore in the room.

The best portable short-throw projector: Asus ZenBeam S2

Why you should buy this: impressive battery life, wireless streaming, USB-C connectivity

Who this is for: Anyone who needs a portable projector with decent battery life

Why we picked the ASUS ZenBeam S2:

If you’re on the road a lot for business trips, you will benefit from a portable projector. Whether it’s a sales pitch or a board meeting, images are key to getting a good message across. The ASUS ZenBeam S2 is an ideal portable projector, because it can cast a 40-inch image from just over 3 feet away (1 meter).

The ASUS ZenBeam S2 isn’t super bright, but at 500 lumens it’s significantly brighter than other portable projectors, and it also has a solid 720p resolution.

The real selling point of the ZenBeam S2 is the battery. In most portable projectors, you can expect an internal battery to last around 2 hours. The Asus ZenBeam S2 lasts up to 3.5 hours — appealing if you have long meetings or want to watch a long movie while traveling.

The connectivity is also nice as well. The Asus ZenBeam S2 supports USB-C, which is largely unseen in the portable projector space. It also supports wireless streaming, so you can cast videos and images from a phone to the projector.

All of this combines to make a robust portable projector that will serve just about anyone well.

The best gaming short-throw projector: Optoma GT1080HDR

Why you should buy this: low response time, HDR compatibility, robust connectivity

Who this is for: People who want to play games on big screens without a lot of lag.

Why we picked the Optoma GT1080HDR:

Gaming on projectors has always been a miserable experience. Sure, having a huge image is awe-inspiring, especially in AAA titles. Projectors usually have dismal response times, however, even worse than TVs in some cases. That means projectors are a no-go for competitive gamers, or even gamers playing single-player games on harder difficulties where timing is critical.

The Optoma GT1080HDR stands out because of its impressive response time. At 8.4 milliseconds, it’s one of the only projectors to drop below 10ms, which is considered the necessary threshold for gaming. It still doesn’t compete with computer monitors and their sub-5ms response times, but it’s more than enough to enjoy the latest AAA title.

The GT1080HDR is also HDR10 compatible, which means players can get a great image with high contrast and color accuracy on a larger screen. It also has robust A/V inputs and outputs, so you can make the setup just what you need it to be.

The GT1080HDR’s response time alone makes it a worthwhile investment for gamers, and its connectivity options and impressive image are just icing on the cake.

Best short-throw projector for film buffs: Optoma CinemaX P1 4K

Why you should buy this:4K resolution, insane contrast ratio, sleek design

Who this is for: People who want the absolute best home theater projector experience

Why we picked the CinemaX P1:

Like the VAVA (our overall pick), the Optoma CinemaX P1 is a short-throw projector that provides nearly the whole home theater experience in one package. The VAVA edged the Optoma out as the overall winner because of its impressive built-in soundbar, while the Optoma CinemaX P1 doesn’t have any speakers at all.

The CinemaX P1 absolutely trumps the VAVA in terms of contrast ratio, however: 150,000:1 compared to the VAVA’s 3,000:1. That means if you want your blacks to be deep and whites bright, the CinemaX P1 is the projector for you. You’ll have to buy some speakers for it, but the overall quality of the image makes for the very best home theater experience in the short-throw scene.

The CinemaX P1 can cast an 85-inch display from just 1.3 feet away. That means you can keep it on a TV stand near the wall and get an image larger than any TV and more vivid that just about any projector on the market.

The CinemaX P1 is also compact. It’s less than 2 feet across and only 5 inches tall, so it can discreetly sit in the room without being an eyesore.

For the brightest and clearest image that won’t take up a lot of space, there isn’t really anything that beats the CinemaX P1.

How to choose the best short-throw projector for you

There are a few things you want to keep in mind when you’re choosing which short-throw projector is best for your needs. Here’s a break down of a few technical details to keep in mind while shopping.

Throw distance

Throw distance is the minimum/maximum distance the projector can be from a surface to cast a desirable image. Short-throw projectors are nice because they don’t need as much space to display a large image as standard projectors. The average throw distance for a short-throw projector is around 4 feet or 1 meter, though some of the best can cast large images at much shorter distances. Our overall pick, for instance, can cast an image from just over 7 inches away.

Lumens

Brightness is critical for projectors, determining how clear the image will be and how dark the room needs to be to properly see it. Brightness is measured in lumens, though ANSI lumens is a common measure in DLP (digital light processing) projectors.

There isn’t a hard and fast way to measure lumens, so the actual lumen rating can vary from model to model. Generally, the most common brightness for dedicated projectors is between 2,500 and 3,200 lumens. Portable projectors are usually significantly dimmer, but that’s largely because of the smaller lighting fixture in the compact form factor.

Resolution

Resolution naturally determines the clarity of the image. This is measured the same way it is on televisions and monitors. It’s important to read the fine print when shopping for projectors, however. Many will boast 4K or 1080p resolutions but are referring to the content the projector supports — different than the projector’s native resolution. Many cheaper projectors will promote HD resolutions, but only have a native resolution of 840 × 480 (DVD quality).

Any time you’re shopping, check the native resolution to get a clear idea of what the image will look like.

Connectivity

Projectors these days usually come with a healthy amount of ports to connect Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and streaming devices. These are usually critical, even if the projector has a built-in SmartTV interface. These interfaces are usually clunky and outdated, so you’ll always have a better experience connecting an external media device.

You will also want to make sure the projector has audio-out jacks. Projector speakers are usually weak, if they have speakers at all. To get the best experience, you’ll want to connect a soundbar or home theater system.

If you want to go wireless, some projectors do support AirPlay or Chromecast, though this is far from a universal feature. But you can make just about any projector cast video by connecting an AppleTV, Chromecast, or other streaming stick.

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