Top 5 Home Entertainment Projectors for Your Bright Room

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One of the most commonly asked questions we get here at Projector Reviews is, “What projector should I get for my bright room?” While the answer will ultimately depend on your needs beyond brightness, we have compiled a list of five home entertainment projectors at varying price points that will blow ambient light out of the water, for 2018. But first – what is “ambient light”?

Ambient light is a term that refers to the light hitting your screen that comes from sources within your viewing space. That can be overhead lights, such as recessed lighting or ceiling light, a lamp on your side table, or light spilling in from another room or through the sides of your blinds or curtains. There are a few ways to combat ambient light, which we will get into in the next section.

How to Combat Ambient Light

When light hits your screen, it causes the projected image to become less saturated, dimmer, and overall, more difficult to see. In the worst cases, dark scenes become impossible to watch, while brighter scenes lack the luster that they would normally have in a completely dark room. No good! Luckily, there are plenty of ways around this.

The first and most obvious way to overcome the effects of ambient light, perhaps, is to get a super bright projector. In most cases, 1,500 to 2,500 lumens would be enough for your bright room if you have at least moderate control over ambient light – that is, the ability to draw curtains or blinds and shut off your lights.

I have the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB in my living room, and Bright Cinema, which measures about 1,115 lumens, is what I typically use for daytime viewing. I have blackout curtains that mostly block out all of the ambient light, save for what spills out of the sides. There is some light coming in from the closed blinds of the small kitchen window, but this home theater projector is quite viewable with this setup.

The higher the lumens, however, the brighter the projector, and the easier it will be able to cut through ambient light. In some cases, you wouldn’t even have to install blackout curtains. They’re super affordable on Amazon, though, if you want to go that route. I personally love them and I purchased them so that I would be able to review all of the projectors that come through my house during the morning hours, when I am most productive. That’s the second way to combat ambient light.

The third technique is arguably the most expensive of the three, save for buying a new projector, and that is to install an ALR screen. ALR refers to Ambient Light Rejecting, and it works like a charm. I reviewed Elite Screen’s CineGrey 3D material back when I first started reviewing projectors, and found it to be quite effective. I would still have that material up if it played nice with ultra short throw projectors, which are the most common type that I review here – alas, it does not. There are other ALR screens specifically designed for UST projectors, if you’ve got one.

An ALR screen paired with a truly bright home entertainment projector would be fantastic for rooms with a lot of uncontrollable ambient light. Art has such a room in his home – the living room has these great glass doors and windows facing the ocean, so for a good portion of the day, the room is horrendously bright for projectors. He does a good job of combatting that ambient light with a similar setup to the one I just described – a bright projector and an ALR screen. That said, let’s take a look at five home entertainment projectors that Art and I agree would be up to the task.

BenQ TK800

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The new trend in projectors is 4K capable and 4K UHD projectors. Unfortunately, most of these would not fare well in the face of ambient light, as they are specifically designed for the dark environments of designated home theaters or media rooms. Do not fret, however – if that high resolution is important to you to have in your bright room, you need not look further than the BenQ TK800, a $1,499 DLP projector with an RGBW color wheel.

The BenQ TK800 is the bright room sibling to the BenQ HT2550 that we reviewed earlier this year. Both projectors performed admirably, with the TK800 sporting 800 lumens more than the HT2550, with a manufacturer claim of 3,000 lumens. It measured at 2,850 in its brightest mode, with one of the better looking bright modes, VividTV, coming in at 2,128 lumens, and Sports/Football modes clocking in a 2,142 each. Art says in his review that “the TK800 definitely succeeded” in cutting through ambient light.

Acer VL7860

Acer projector VL7860

Another 4K UHD projector to consider is the Acer VL7860, a $3,999 DLP projector with a laser light engine. Art notes in his review that this 4K UHD projector has “superior color” – that’s high praise coming from him! Not only does he give his approval of the VL7860’s color, but he says the Acer is superior to all other 4K UHD projectors using the TI 4K UHD DLP chip that currently on the market in terms of black levels – when all the lights are turned off at night, none compare. Those words do not come easily from the man, so you can assume that they are well-deserved.

He does note that the Acer VL7860 has a slow color wheel. DLP projectors get their color from a wheel rather than mirrors or LED lights, and that wheel spins at varying speeds, depending on the manufacturer, model of projector, etc. In the case of this Acer, it spins slowly. Why does this matter? It won’t, it most. When a color wheel turns slowly, it can produce what is called the Rainbow Effect, where some motions in the projected image will be accompanied by rainbow colors.

This only affects about 5% of the population (that’s a rough estimate – no one knows) so it’s not likely that you will be affected, but not impossible. I, for one, had never seen rainbows when viewing any projector until one. I can’t remember the specific projector, but I barely believed the Rainbow Effect was real until I experienced it myself. Since then, I haven’t had the experience again. Art is Rainbow Sensitive, however, so I’ll take his word on this one.

Epson Home Cinema 3700

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The Epson Home Cinema 3700 is another contender on our list of bright-room capable projectors, with all of its modes coming in over 2,000 lumens. That is – all of its modes will be enough to combat ambient light. This 1080p projector is a mere $1,499. It is a 3LCD projector, so it has as many color lumens and it does white ones. This is a characteristic of 3LCDs not shared by DLPs. What does that mean? A 3LCD projector will inherently have more vibrant colors than a DLP, which typically will have more white lumens than it has color lumens.

One of the awesome things about this projector is that it has great placement flexibility. A 1.6:1 zoom lens combined with a healthy amount of vertical and horizontal lens shift means you have a lot of choices when it comes to mounting the Epson HC3700. This Epson has really great color, right out of the box, making it rather plug-and-play – a major plus for those who don’t want to fuss around with their projector and just want it to work well immediately.

Epson Home Cinema 2150

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This is one of my favorite sub-$1000 projectors on the market. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Epson Home Cinema 2150 last year, and it is the projector I will be getting for my mother when she is ready to get her home entertainment system set up (she’s fallen in love with the big screen experience). I found it to have excellent color and be bright enough to tackle ambient light. I preferred to have the shades drawn to watch, but it is capable of handling moderate ambient light, such as what one would have with normal blinds rather than blackout curtains – its best bright mode measured at 1,763 lumens.

At the time of writing this, the Epson HC2150 is going for $799 on Epson’s website, down from its $899 list. Epson is constantly offering deals like this, but it’s difficult to know exactly when they will and how much of a discount will be offered. Just a few weeks ago, I wrote another blog post including the HC2150, and it was down to around $749. You just never know. Alternatively, there is the HC2100, which is essentially the same projector, save for three differences: contrast, wireless, and price. The 2100 has less contrast, no wireless, and has a list price of $849 – currently $699. Like I said, always changing. Both projectors are discussed in the review link above.

That blog post mentions the Home Cinema 2100 and 2150 as being excellent choices for using at an outdoor movie night. The main things to think about with backyard movie night projectors are brightness, portability, and sound – the HC2100 and HC2150 have them all. The 10-watt speaker is loud enough to use outside, even when your street has a bit of traffic. If you want to read that blog post, you can do so here.

Epson LS100

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The Epson LS100 is the most unique and brightest projector of the bunch – one to be considered if your ambient light situation is particularly heinous. This $2,999 1080p laser projector claims a whopping 6,000 lumens, with all modes measuring at least 5,000 lumens pre-calibration! Now, that will cut through any ambient light you have. This is an ultra short throw projector, too, so it has the added benefit of being able to be mounted on a low table or cadenza, within feet from the screen.

As mentioned, if you get an ultra short throw projector and want an ALR screen, you’ll need to get one that is specifically designed for UST projectors. This is because a standard ALR screen will mistake the projector’s light as ambient light. ALR screens reject (or rather, absorb) ambient light coming from above and below (and in some cases, the sides), so that UST projector mounted below will have a difficult time with a standard ALR. So, if you do decide to get that type of screen, get one for USTs, but it is likely that you will not need one at all with the LS100.

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