What to know before you buy a laser projector
Less maintenance than LCD and DLP projectors
One chief advantage of laser projector design is that there’s no expensive bulb that needs replacing every year or two. Unlike the high-pressure lamps that the two popular bulb-based projector types use, laser diodes don’t burn out and never need to be replaced.
Related to that is the fact that laser projectors don’t get nearly as hot, even during extended use. The end result is an electronic device that, while expensive, should last through years of heavy use without needing any major parts replaced.
They’re remarkably bright
From a pure performance standpoint, most premium laser projectors have higher sustained and peak brightness levels than DLP or LCD projectors. The most obvious benefit here is that laser projectors work surprisingly well even in moderately lit rooms.
To further improve performance when there’s ambient light in the equation, you’ll need to look for a quality Ambient Light Rejecting or ALR projection screen, which can significantly enhance the image quality of nearly any projector.
Overall image quality dwarfs the competition
Aside from just the brightness levels, laser projectors (especially the best ones) make powerful use of their advanced technology to deliver wide color gamuts and impressive contrast levels. Some are even equipped with dedicated high dynamic range decoding tools. All of these features combine to give laser projectors just about the best HDR performance possible from an ultra-large-format display.
What to look for in a quality laser projector
Peak brightness rating
A good laser projector should at least approach a rating of 3,000 ANSI lumens. Keep in mind that lumens and ANSI lumens are very different things; simple lumens are essentially made to measure the brightness of a single light bulb, while the ANSI lumens rating specifies a consistent method for measuring the output of consumer electronics like projectors. Pay close attention to this rating when researching projectors. While projectors that don’t list their ANSI lumen rating aren’t necessarily bad, the ANSI figure does provide a much more reliable benchmark for real-world usage.
Color gamut coverage
The range of colors that any display can produce is called the color gamut. When looking at everyday computer monitors, you’ll usually run into the sRGB gamut, while commercial-grade art displays often reference the Adobe RGB color space. TVs and projectors are a bit different. Much of today’s best cinematic content is mastered based on the DCI-P3 gamut, and that’s a good benchmark to keep in mind when selecting the best laser projector for your needs. More is generally better when it comes to color gamut coverage but look for a projector with a DCI-P3 coverage of 90% or better if you want to get the most out of your film collection.
How much you can expect to spend on a laser projector
It’s not worth skimping out on a laser projector, so expect the low-end cost to be around $800. While you can spend $20,000 or more for a theater-quality Sony projector, some of the best for home use is actually in the $3,000-$4,000 range.
Laser projector FAQ
Q. Are laser projectors good for gaming?
A. They’re not bad for gaming, but if gaming is the number one thing you’ll be using it for, we would recommend a bulb-based projector that’s optimized for gaming. While some laser projectors, including our top pick, have low enough input lag for a fun gaming session, anybody looking for high refresh rates will need a DLP projector. On the other hand, if you’re planning on mixed-use — including lots of movies, some TV shows and casual (or at least relatively non-competitive) games — a laser projector can easily get the job done.
Q. What is a short-throw projector and do I need one?
A. A projector’s throw simply refers to how far the unit needs to produce an image wide enough to fill the screen. If you’re building a home theater from the ground up, it might be worth setting the room up to use a standard throw projector mounted to the ceiling near the back of the room, behind the viewers. Alternatively, suppose you’re retrofitting your living room with a large-format projector screen and don’t have enough space for a standard throw setup. In that case, a short-throw projector can deliver essentially the same image quality from just a few feet away from the projector screen.
What’s the best laser projector to buy
Top laser projector
What you need to know: It’s about as good as you can get without spending an absolute fortune.
What you’ll love: This premium offering from electronics and TV giant LG delivers 97% DCI-P3 gamut coverage, which rivals some of the best 4K TVs on the market. Its 2700 ANSI lumen rating ensures peak performance in nearly any environment. It boasts LG’s popular webOS interface, which is considerably more versatile and easy to use than most smart features built into other projectors. Its 4K UHD resolution and high brightness allow it to claim effectiveness up to screen sizes around 300 inches.
What you should consider: It’s not exactly cheap, and competitive gamers will be disappointed by its merely average input latency.
Where to buy: Amazon
Top laser projector for the money
What you need to know: It delivers a quality laser projector experience in just about the smallest and most affordable package possible.
What you’ll love: To be clear, it’s not exactly cheap, but no good laser projectors are. While it doesn’t exactly boast the most impressive specs, it does provide laser-grade image quality and a wide color gamut that even some more costly DLP projectors can’t replicate.
What you should consider: Rated to only 1000 ANSI lumens, it can’t quite cut it when placed in a well-lit room. Also, it’s unfortunately limited to 1080p output, but most modern content is still in 1080p, so most users won’t find that to be a major disadvantage.
Where to buy: Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This one could be one of the most polished 4K laser projectors yet released.
What you’ll love: Performance aside, this top-of-the-line Optoma is designed for consistently streamlined operation with as few headaches as possible. Sure, the 3000 ANSI lumen rating and 6-segment color wheel make for bright and bold colors. Still, almost as helpful are the Alexa and Google Assistant integration plus the surprisingly effective integrated soundbar. It also boasts HDR decoding and claims a remarkable 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.
What you should consider: It works considerably better in dark rooms than in light-filled rooms, although fine-tuning the colors and black levels can help overcome this somewhat.
Where to buy: Amazon
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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