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Your 2017 Holiday Guide to Six Great Home Theater Projectors Under $2000

By Art Feierman
Your 2017 Holiday Guide to Six Great Home Theater Projectors Under

Cozy nights by the fire, hot cocoa with marshmallows, peppermint and holiday movies… these are staples of the holiday season. And what better way to experience those beloved films than with a new home theater or home entertainment projector? Whether you’re looking forward to watching movies on the big screen, or entertaining family and friends when the Super Bowl comes around, the projector experience always has that “wow factor” you crave for home entertainment.

This year’s guide features six great home theater projectors under $2000 and other helpful information. These are our top picks for affordable home entertainment, with useful commentary!

Also check out: Your 2017 Holiday Guide to Four Great Home Theater Projectors Over $2000

And, if you're into Smart Home Automation: 2017 Holiday Guide to Affordable Smart Home Automation Gifts

Besides the obvious perks of a giant screen and a beautiful image, what makes a projector a smarter choice than an LCD TV? Price. For under $2,000, you can get a great home theater or home entertainment projector and a 100” screen. For a 90” LCD TV, you’d be hard-pressed to find one for under $5000, with the median price seeming to be around $6K. Ouch.

There are entry level home entertainment projectors starting at below $500, and once you near the $2,000 range, you’ll be enjoying a fully immersive home entertainment experience that you may even prefer to going out to the movies. With the right projector and screen, even ambient light (in-room lighting) can be a non-issue, debunking the myth that an LCD TV is the only way to go when viewing content in your bright room.

If you’ve got a family, a projector setup can save you lots of money in the long run. Figure, for a family of four, it costs roughly $50 just for tickets, then add the absurdly priced concessions ($5 for a soda? Not cool), you’re looking at a running cost of around $100 per visit. Instead, you can bring the cinema to your home, whether that’s in a dedicated home theater, living room, media room, family room, etc., and save tons.

Sure, you still may enjoy a night out at the movies (I can’t stop myself from seeing every new Star Wars as they come out), but overall, your home cinema experience will be more enjoyable. No annoying seat-neighbors texting through the whole film – unless, perhaps, you’ve got yourself a teenager. Good luck with that.

The experience of a night in with friends and family, watching your favorite movies on the big screen, is worth far more than the money you’ll save. Even the least bright of these projectors is capable of projecting a 86” image in a fully darkened room, while the others can accomplish this effortlessly, and then some. Before we introduce the first of our six recommendations, let’s talk about what you’ll need for your new home entertainment setup, shall we?

You’ll need:

  • A projector
  • A screen (or near-white, smooth wall to project onto)
  • Source material (Blu-ray/DVD content, satellite/cable/HDTV, streaming content such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.)
  • Cables (HDMI typically, audio cable if you’ve got an external sound system)
  • An external sound system (these under $2000 projectors will have built-in speakers, but you can’t really beat the sound of external speakers – you may even already have these)

Projectors can be categorized in two basic ways:

  1. Home Entertainment: These projectors do well in bright rooms – normal rooms like living rooms and family rooms – as they are designed with these types of rooms and their typical lighting conditions in mind. They tend come with built-in speakers and, though less sophisticated than home theater projectors, will offer a better, larger image than normal 60” LCD TV viewing.
  2. Home Theater: These projectors are designed for rooms with good to great lighting control, such as a dedicated home theater or “cave,” but any room that can be darkened (blackout curtains/shades do nicely during the day) will usually work with these types of projectors. The main difference between Home Theater and Home Entertainment projects is that Home Theater projectors tend to have superior picture quality and a few extras.

Five out of the six projectors included in this guide fall under the umbrella of “home entertainment,” with only the Epson HC4000 really qualifying as “home theater.” If you’ve got the budget for projectors $2,500+, check out our other guide that includes four great home theater projectors for over $2,500.

Now, without further adieu, let’s meet this year’s recommendations for our Under $2000 Holiday Guide.

Epson Home Cinema 2150 – Impressive Color and Loaded with Features


Meet the Epson Home Cinema 2150, the replacement for one of Epson’s best-selling projectors, the Home Cinema 2045. This projector goes for the same price as its predecessor – $849 – but comes with some upgrades. This 2500-lumen home entertainment projector measured above its claim in its brightest mode, with its best modes coming in at around 2000 lumens.

What does that mean? The Epson Home Cinema 2150 will work well in darkened rooms, and also living rooms and family rooms where there is at least some control over ambient light. Keeping the curtains open, I could still watch most content, but dark films, such as the later Harry Potter movies, required the curtains to be drawn. Still, I’d say this projector is plenty bright for most room scenarios, save for the brightest of rooms.

The Home Cinema 2150 has built-in, 10-watt mono speaker with respectable sound. We always suggest using a separate sound system – two stereo speakers will do (no need to spend loads of money on it) – the internal speakers will be loud enough for home entertainment purposes. As an audiophile, I cannot fathom using the built-in speakers. I used a pair of M-Audio AV 40 Studio Monitors ($149) with the HC2150, and the sound is quite impressive (not to mention affordable). So, shop around – you’ll be able to find a decent set of speakers within your budget.

Epson dominates the home projector market in North America, claiming 50% of the market in North America. With far more projectors in their home lineup than any of their dozens of competitors, it’s no surprise that they take the cake, so to speak. As a replacement for Epson’s primary “entry level” full HD projector, it does not disappoint. Great performance, awesome price point, and loaded with features, the Home Cinema 2150 is one of my personal favorite home entertainment projectors.

The HC2150 has a lot of placement flexibility, with a 1.6:1 manual zoom lens, Keystone Correction, and a generous amount of lens shift – up to 60% vertical. It features 3LCD technology, which means it has as many color lumens as it has white ones, giving it an advantage against ambient light. It has plenty of inputs and connectors for home entertainment – two HDMIs, one for MHL so you can plug in a streaming stick like Roku, Amazon, Google, etc. The HC2150 has support for 3D, including Blu-ray 3D, and the brightness to make it count.

Other key features include Frame Interpolation, which is great for sports viewing, and Miracast. Miracast allows you to wirelessly project your screen from a smartphone or tablet. Furthermore, it has a great warranty – two year limited warranty on the projector with Extra Care HomeService, Epson PrivateLine dedicated toll-free support, and 90 days on the lamp. Most sub-$1000 projectors come with a one year warranty, so consider this projector’s warranty to be one worth writing home about. However, it’s the projector’s color that’s perhaps its greatest feature.

The Epson Home Cinema 2150 has excellent color in most modes, right out of the box. Even the brightest of its best modes, Bright Cinema, does great on skin tones and has overall good color. Rich, vibrant colors, and truly a joy to watch. For the price, it’s quite excellent. Speaking of the price, one can’t really expect anything but “entry level” black level performance, but compared to some similarly priced projectors, it’s not half bad. Blacks look nearly black, and in some cases, I have been fooled into thinking they were completely black. It was only by casting a shadow over the projected image that I could see blacks were “almost, but not quite.” Overall, I was truly impressed with the HC2150.

For the $849 investment (as low as $699 online), I believe you are getting your money’s worth. And, think about this – if you’ve got a family of four and take them to the movies, getting popcorn and drinks, within ten trips, you’ve paid for your new home entertainment system. Use that math if your spouse needs convincing!

Sound for your Home Entertainment/Theater System

This is one of my favorite topics! Being a filmmaker and audio professional, I am a big advocator for pairing your projector with a good sound system. Why? Sound designers, whether in film or TV, put a lot of thought and work into creating soundscapes that influence the way you experience the film. Did you know that most every sound you hear in a film – footsteps, a door opening, the sound of clothing rustling as an actor walks – is all created in a studio, and not on set?

This is called foley. I did this for a feature film several years ago. Foley artists create the sounds you hear. Heels walking on concrete, the creak of a hardwood floor, or horrific sounds like a sword stabbing in Game of Thrones – that’s all created by foley artists. They do this in creative ways, like, in the case of the stab wound, putting a knife or sword through a cantaloupe. What they do is an art form, and listening to that art through on-board speakers should be a crime.

Most of you know that good sound is a must, and don’t need any convincing. For that small percentage that’s left, hopefully you’re feeling jazzed about getting a good sound system. Many home entertainment projectors come with built-in sound, but don’t let this deter you from getting the sound you deserve. With proper speakers, you can “feel the bass” in explosions and epic fight scenes, like in Spiderman Homecoming, just as you can in the movie theater. This is an awesome feeling you should not deprive yourself of!

I mentioned in the previous section that I used a pair of M-Audio AV 40 Studio Monitors with the Epson Home Cinema 2150. Those are studio monitors for mixing and mastering – audio post production work – and are capable of producing excellent sound for a low price ($149 new, though I found them for as low as $65 on eBay). There are lower cost speakers and there are more expensive speakers.

Art talks about the $199-399 Home Theater in a Box several times a year, which will have everything you need for excellent sound and then some. It usually comes with surround sound speakers, a subwoofer, a “receiver” and either a DVD or Blu-ray player. You can get this online, at Target, Best Buy, Walmart – pretty much anywhere you buy electronics. Personally, I’m a fan of Amazon Prime. Whatever you go with, your external speakers will complete your home theater experience beautifully.

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