Cheap, decent movie projector?
September 29, 2010 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Cheap projector question for probably the millionth time on the green: Can somebody recommend a sub-$450 projector for watching movies at home?

Having recently received a very generous wedding gift from the estate of a relative who I've never met, my wife and I are looking for a fun way to spend it.

Currently, we have no TV and we don't really like the idea of having a tv set up full time in our tiny place anyway. That said, we do watch a lot of TV and movies on a laptop [that we found in the recycling!]. This is not a bad state of things, but I think it would be fun to hook the laptop up to a giant screen to pretend that we're so fancy.

Most reviews of projectors that I have found have a... tendency to focus on the higher end. We have $500 and a list of smaller fun things that would be awesome too.

I like the idea of LED lamps, and I don't really spend any time srutinizing images for quality. Most of the movies we have are ripped to the 1-2 gig level of quality [except for awesome nature documentaries, but even that is still just DVD, not blu-ray or what-have-you]. It would be nice if the thing could fit in a pannier for movie-watching at other locations, but it will likely sit 99% of the time in a little box next to the couch.

Relevant detail things [I think]:
-pretty much exclusively hooked up to a laptop
-we've got about 11 feet between walls
-two windows in the living room, but pretty good drapes
-we could probably use the backside of an old pull-down world map to project on
-[the import thing that you can't believe I forgot to tell you]

We're in Canada [Alberta], and that budget is in Canadian dollars. I only ask because somebody here probably just knows this off the top of their head and I really don't know what's what in the world of projection.

In the neighbouring stores, there's a benq 'joybee'(?) and a epson ex51 both going for around $380.
posted by Acari to Shopping (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I bought the Vivitek D825MS 2600 Lumen SVGA DLP Projector from ( for $350 after a relatively quick search. It's worked pretty well for me. I hook up my laptop's VGA output to it. The projector has a speaker but it's not very powerful, so I just use computer speakers. It fills up a 100-inch screen at a distance of 15 feet. This is all American dollars and shipment (and units), so you'd have to convert for Canada. In any case, I'd recommend looking on Amazon even if you end up buying from a local store; they have a large variety of offerings for comparison with a lot of user reviews.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 9:08 AM on September 29, 2010

When I bought a projector a year and a half ago, the advice I remember was: DLP is cheaper, and contrast ratio is more important than lumens.

Also, ebay. My friend and I both bought projectors at the same time and spent the same amount of money ($450), but I bought $1200 worth of projector - and man you can TELL. This is still a sore spot.
posted by ke rose ne at 10:48 AM on September 29, 2010

Honestly, any projector that you will get for less than $1,000 is going to be pretty crappy, and my guess is you'll get frustrated with it before you've gotten your $500 out of it. So I'd say either buy an expensive, high quality projector, or buy a large monitor for much, much less. I bought a projector for a similar reason - I don't watch lots of TV and I don't want a TV set, but I want something nice. So I committed myself to sinking about $1,100 into a project and have been very, very happy in the 3 years since I bought it. I've gotten lots of use out of it in many different apartments and I haven't even looked at a new TV set since.

If you're already pretty happy watching TV on a laptop monitor, and just want to enlarge it a little, Newegg has 23" monitors for $150 US dollars. You'll save plenty of money and won't be disappointed by sinking all of your cash into a so-so projector that you get tired of in 6 months. Your experience will be similar to your current situation, but that's the point: don't blow $$$ on a halfhearted solution, just spend a little to improve your current state.

But if you really want a great experience (HD quality, nice large picture, 16:9 aspect ratio, greater contrast ratio), it'll set you back $900 USD. But you'll get an excellent picture that really enhances what you watch rather than just throwing the image on a wall with the wrong aspect ratio.
posted by Tehhund at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2010

Correcting myself: any projector that you get for less than $900 USD, not less than $1,000. Prices have dropped since I last looked.
posted by Tehhund at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2010

I bought a refurbished epson moviemate from epson store online. It was <>
I LOVE my projector. For outdoor films we do hook up some cheap speakers but indoor I use the built in audio.

Initially I did some research on all in ones and asked around to the more video/audio geeky among my friends who talked lumens and pixels and aspect ratios and screens. I did not want a complicated setup or a screen in my house so, generally, I ignored them entirely and made an impulse buy. Everyone loves it and I would absolutely purchase again.
posted by countrymod at 11:33 AM on September 30, 2010

that should read... it was LESS than $400
posted by countrymod at 11:34 AM on September 30, 2010

Man I'm having a mefi malfuction day. Huge apologies.

I also meant to say: I use my projector exclusively for projecting dvds and have used it both indoors on my living room wall (no fancy screen) and outdoors on a very large and impressive outdoor movie screen.
posted by countrymod at 11:37 AM on September 30, 2010

Fully in the spirit of countrymod, though after checking ebay in my inexpert manner, I went into a local store and found one that was the second-cheapest, and got it. It was $380.

It's a benq mp615p or has at least most of those letters/numbers in some configuration. So fun! So impressive! Even with all of the lights on in the living room, it isn't washed out at all.

I can only vaguely imagine where more money would have gotten something better. I think the inputs are pretty limited [but it has *two* of the only port I need, so], and maybe a fancier one makes black look blacker or whatever, but this is certainly way more than sufficient.

We're so fancy now!

We're using a sheet to project onto, but we might get one of those retractable ikea blinds if we get lazy about folding/rehanging the sheet.

And now, to get the most out of it we are practically *obliged* to cuddle on the couch more.

posted by Acari at 11:28 AM on October 1, 2010


The word on screens is that white lycra (you know, stretchy sort of swimsuit material) makes the best DIY screens. You can mount four hooks to the wall -- get a wad of lycra and stretch it flat between the hooks.
posted by countrymod at 5:03 PM on October 6, 2010

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