Last updated on March 26th, 2019 at 04:15 pm
To say there are a variety of projectors to choose from would be something of an understatement.
Long gone are the days when we would categorize projectors according to weight — now things are a bit trickier.
Below you will find a few things you should take into consideration before selecting a projector that is right for your needs.
Best Projector Under $500: Portability
Models come in a variety of size and weight classes. There are projectors so huge that they are better suited for stationary use.
While there are others that you can keep in your pockets.
If it’s a case where you’ll need this projector in various locations for business meetings and presentations, you may want to consider purchasing the latter.
Keep in mind, if you won’t be super mobile with your projector this might not be necessary.
Let’s talk resolution
Consider the resolution you may be using most often, and try and make sure this matches your projector’s native resolution.
Sure, you can always scale up or down to adjust to whatever scenario, but if image quality is a priority for you (which I’m guessing it is) — you may want to save yourself the trouble.
Cut to the Chase
When it comes to finding a quality projector price may vary.
Luckily, it’s not like you have to burn holes into your pockets to get your hands on a projector that gets the job done.
The market is vast, and there are thousands of options available even if you are looking for products with low cost and high value. That’s why we went ahead and put this list together.
Here are three of the most efficient projectors on the market (in no particular order). None of which are going to break the bank.
Best Overall Projector Under $500: Celluon PicoPro
Weighing just 7 ounces (with batteries) this projector can easily fit in your shirt pocket.
Many devices that flaunt such high portability tend to fall short in other areas. The Celluon Picopro follows suit.
Unlike other pico projectors, the Celluon Picopro lacks the ability to show images stored in memory. But it’s not as if it doesn’t try and make up for it.
Interested in projecting images from your cell phone or tablet? Better yet, are you hoping to eliminate the need for focusing images? Look no further than the Celluon Picopro.
This projector embodies portability and efficiency, with a sleek design and an arsenal of solid features.
No matter the distance from the screen, there is no need to focus. You can connect this device via HDMI with MHL support. Or go wireless with DLNA or Miracast.
The Bad News
Users have to be careful of how they position the Celluon Picopro for fear of the bottom of the image being cut off. For instance, you will need to position the projector in a mount or at the front edge of whatever you are resting it on.
Celluon Picopro in a nutshell
Definitely the projector for those who are handling business presentations on the go; particularly people who find it useful to project images from their cellphones or tablets.
This device may cause a bit of inconvenience with regards to positioning to ensure full visibility, but we believe it more than makes up for it as an overall package.
Our 2nd Best Pick: The Epson EX3240 SVGA 3LCD Projector
Although the SVGA (800×600) resolution isn’t your best pick for displaying images with fine detail (such as architectural drawings for instance).
If you are trying to get into some powerpoint slides and video, the EX3240 has got you covered.
This projector produces images that will suffice in small to medium-sized rooms — whether data images or high-quality video (in terms of resolution). It’s even better when you consider that the Epson EX3240 is available for under $500.
While very similar to the EX3212 in many respects, like resolution and image quality, the EX3240’s 3200-lumen rating makes it more appropriate for larger screens. And this doesn’t cost it any points in portability.
Also, the EX3240 is accompanied by a soft carrying case; an accessory that is not included with your purchase of the EX3212.
Epson 3240 Specifications
- Projection system: 3LCD 3-chip technology
- Resolution: 800 x 600 (SVGA)
- Color brightness – 3200 lumens
- White brightness – 3200 lumens
- Carrying bag included
- Dimensions: 14.5 x 13.8 x 6.2 inches
The Epson EX3240’s 3200-lumen rating helps to set it apart from its cousin the EX3212. It manages to project high-quality images for both data and video. Also, this projector is capable of producing usable audio for smaller rooms.
The Bad News
The Epson EX3240 SVGA 3LCD projector is incapable of optical zoom. It also lacks Audio-out port.
Epson EX3240 in a nutshell
The Ex3240 is a great option for anyone in need of portability, and not at the expense of quality. Like its predecessor (the EX3212), this projector is built around three-chip LCD engines. That means there is good news as well as some bad to go with it.
With the LCD engine, you don’t have to worry about any rainbow effects like we talked about earlier. You also won’t have to be concerned with color images when it comes to brightness.
The bad news here is that they don’t offer 3D, while on DLP models that’s damn near the norm. At the same time it’s not like businesses are out here convulsing for 3D support for their presentations. So it’s not that big a loss.
A Truly Powerful Projector: Optoma ML550 WXGA 500
But it does dish out more power than its pocket sized rivals. Equipped with a 550 lumens lamp.
This projector allows you to present in rooms that are dimly lit.
The ML550 can handle a 90-inch test screen better than you might expect. However, users won’t be fond of the fact that a dongle must be purchased in order to access WIFI.
Pair that with the fact that the ML550 can’t be operated via smartphone or tablet and there’s no denying that those missing elements deliver a crushing blow to this product.
Optoma ML550 Specifications
- Projection system – DLP
- Resolution – 1280 x 800
- Brightness – 500 lumens
- Contrast Ratio – 10000:1
- Video Inputs – USB, microSD, HDMI, VGA
- Dimensions – 105 x 106 x 39mm
The Optoma ML550 stands out in the brightness department, and the lengths at which the manufacturers went to create a versatile product.
It also gets a thumbs up for its portability, design and the fact that it seamlessly accommodates the use of a flash drive.
The Bad News
The praises mentioned above are slightly hampered down by a few setbacks. For one, it’s great that you can use a flash drive with the ML550 (or rather this should be a given).
But the fact that there is no Wifi is a bit alarming. Also, some users may not like the idea of having to purchase a dongle separately in order to integrate with other devices like smartphones and tablets.
Optoma ML550 in a nutshell
A good product at a great price, the ML550 is likely to surprise users at the amount of image quality they get for their money.
This projector is impressively versatile considering the insignificant price tag and it does manage to do well in the brightness department.
The Optoma does fall short however when we consider the lack of Wifi and the need to purchase a dongle separately for tablet and smartphone integration.
Best Bang for Your Buck: Digital Galaxy DG-737
Sure there are far more expensive models that can give you higher quality and more versatility, but the DG-737 gives you tons of value for the price.
If you are on a budget and need to get your hands on a projector that will give you adequate brightness and decent portability, consider going with the DG-737.
This projector has been subject to a lot of polarizing comments. In one review you’ll find that people love it — at other times it will be the total opposite.
The DG-737 is by no means a high end projector, but the differences in opinions do land it in a unique position.
One thing that a lot of users agree on is that the DG-737 delivers more quality than one would expect.
When projecting on a 100” diagonal screen, however, images may become a bit pixelated. The sweet spot would be around 80” — as users find the images are at their sharpest.
Digital Galaxy DG-737 Specifications
- Projection system – RGB LCD
- Resolution – 800 x 400 pixels
- Brightness – 1500 lumens
- Contrast ratio: 600:1
- Lamp – 50 W
Even with sometimes polarizing reviews, many users still find themselves expressing shock at the image quality produced by the DG-73. Don’t expect it to knock your socks off, but you won’t be disappointed either.
Its 1500 lumens aren’t particularly impressive when compared to the Epson 3240’s 3200. But depending on what you need, either product could work out fine.
The Bad News
One of the biggest gripes with this product is unsurprisingly the source of its polarizing reviews. The words “digital” and “galaxy” send a message to consumers that this projector is top of the line or high end.
The DG-73 is a solid device, but it’s neither of those things. The name could be considered a ‘clever’ marketing move, or the source of some of the issues users have with this model.
Being that if you were to make a rushed decision and purchase this projector you may not be quite sure what you are in store for.
Digital Galaxy DG-73 in a nutshell
The DG-737 is ideal for anyone in need of an affordable projector without compromising too much on quality.
If you are liable to be working in larger rooms, you may be better off with another item on this list more suited to the task.
Overall the Digital Galaxy DG-737 is a good deal, save for the misleading name the manufacturers chose to run with.
Best Projector Under $500 for Business: Final Things to Consider
How many lumens?
Lumens are a means of measuring light. So, how many lumens do you actually need? Naturally, this comes down to context.
For a home theater setting, 2000 lumens would be a bit much. But seeing as your projector will be used in places that are well-lit for the most part (unless your office happens to be in a cave) 2000 – 3000 lumens should work out just fine.
If you are presenting at larger conferences (in larger rooms) you may need a bit more juice.
The Ideal Technology?
Basically there are four imaging technologies to choose from:
- Digital light processing (DLP)
- Liquid crystal display (LCD)
- Liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS)
- And laser raster (Not to be confused with projectors that use lasers as a light source for another imaging technology — such as a DLP or LCOS chip)
If you are considering going with an inexpensive DLP projector, keep in mind that both data and video models project primary colors sequentially.
It’s the same for low cost LCOS based pico projectors. In some cases when people shift their gaze they may become privy to some sort of rainbow effect — which isn’t very professional to put it lightly.
LCD projectors will spare you such inconveniences. On the downside they are bigger and a bit heftier.
Laser raster projectors are pretty rare. But one thing’s for sure is that they actually draw images with the use of lasers and these images don’t require focusing. Whatever technology you go with should be aligned with your own needs and preferences.
If you know anything about projectors and audio capabilities — they’re not great. Especially when it comes to highly portable devices. If the sound is important to your presentations ensure that the built in audio is of appropriate volume and quality.
Or you can go ahead and use a separate sound system such as external speakers.
If we are going to talk about things to consider prior to purchasing the ideal projector, it would take us all day (literally).
Aside from everything mentioned above, you can look into how you plan on connecting your projector, whether you need 3D support.
Or big images in small rooms, among a plethora of other circumstances. Ultimately, you are going for the projector best suited to you.
If you are hoping for a top of the line projector that offers the highest quality and versatility, the products on this list aren’t for you. In fact, any product (no matter the price) is going to have its shortcomings.
Best Projector: Our Final Review
For those who are in need of a projector that won’t cost them an arm and a leg (and won’t go haywire in the middle of a presentation) feel free to take to take your pick.