Tech Review: Budget HD Projector worth your money?

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There was a time, not very long ago, when an HD projector easily costs $1,500 and up. That has changed. Now, a quick search on Amazon reveals a long list of 720p or 1080p projectors that come in at $300 or less. The question is, how can these compete with more expensive options and are they worth your money? I took the Dr. J Professional budget HD projector for a test in my home to find out.

First impressions out of the box

Out of the box the Dr J. projector seemed like a good size albeit a little “plasticy” and lightweight. I suppose this is a good thing if you don’t want to haul around a heavy projector. On the one hand it defaintely has a bigger footprint than those tiny little pico projectors but doesn’t have the heft of a more expensive $1,000+ HD projector. You have your standard navigation and power buttons on the top and two dials (physical adjustments) to tweak the focus and the keystone of the projected image. On the back you’ll find the expected inputs including VGA, HDMI, USB, SD card, composite input and a headphone jack. You should have no problem connecting whatever streaming stick, video game system or computer you want to project. Out of the box, it’s a pretty standard projector with the right buttons, ports and options in the right places.

Oh wait, there’s more

A nice included bonus was a 100″ fabric screen. This isn’t the most expensive screen in the world but it’s a nice fabric screen with grommets to quickly hang it in your home or backyard. It’s a $20-$40 screen that will do the job. It’s a nice bonus that makes this projector an even better bargain.

Let’s power this thing up!

Setting up the Dr. J projector was simple, plugged in the power, flipped the power switch on the back and pushed the power button on the top. Since this projector doesn’t have any built-in smart TV functionality aside from casting (from Apple or Android devices) I used the HDMI port to connect an Android TV set-top box (Nvidia Shield). Within a minute the projector was lit up and shooting the image onto my screen. Simple enough!

How does the picture look?

The picture is bright, the company claims 7500 lumens. I’m not sure how that’s measured because I have seen more expensive 3,000 lumen projectors that seem brighter. None the less, the Dr. J projector seemed bright enough and out shined many of the smaller pico projectors I have tested in the past. The picture was good even with normal ambient light coming in from the room next door.

What you will notice is that the focus and keystone dials are 100% manual. When you spin these dials you are adjusting physical pieces. The adjustments didn’t feel super smooth in my testing compared to more expensive projectors. Some of the higher-end pico projectors on the market will actually auto-focus and auto adjust the keystone. Problem is, those features cost money and those projectors often cost $500+. I don’t mind adjusting those settings manually if I can save a few hundred dollars.

The picture itself was really pretty impressive once you got the settings just right. In my testing, I noticed that you really need to get the projector directly in front of the screen (90 degree angle) and closest to straight shot as you can. In other words, the more you have to tilt the projector up or down the harder it seemed to get a clear image. The sides would be slight soft and out of focus. Once I got the angle and conditions just right, I was able to adjust the focus and keystone to get a really good image. The 1080p image was large, bright and pretty clear.

What would I change?

I want to preface this by first saying that this projector is currently under $200 on Amazon right now. That is an insane price for a 1080p projector and should be considered despite some criticism. With that said, there are some things that could be improved. The focus and keystone rings do the job but don’t feel smooth. You also need to really nail down the perfect height and angle in order to get a clear image. It’s manageable but something to know before you buy. The system does support built-in casting from Android and Apple devices but there is no “smart” TV capabilities. You’ll need to add an SD card with video files or an HDMI streaming stick if you want to watch your Netflix or Disney Plus apps.

Worth your money?

Considering how ridiculously affordable this projector is… yes, I think it’s worth it. You’re not getting a super high-end projector. You’re getting a super affordable projector that, with the right conditions and tweaking, will give you an very impressive 1080p image. This is a great option for movie night in the loft, game night on the back patio or creating an inexpensive home theater in the basement.

The Dr. J HD Projector is available on Amazon for $180 right now (with the built-in coupon on Feb 2nd, 2021).

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