The brand new console generation is in full swing, and one of the best ways to get the best experience with the upgraded tech is to get a new display – and what better way to show off than on giant projector screen? Today, we’ll be taking a look at the best on the market to determine which is the best Xbox Series X Projector.
The Top-Rated Xbox Series X Projectors
Top Pick: Optoma UHD50X
Does just about everything you could ask a gaming projector to do
The Optoma UHD50X earns its top spot on the list of best Xbox Series X projectors by hitting pretty much all of the key notes we ask for in a modern gaming projector while also trimming some of the excessive features that tend to bloat prices more so than they improve user experiences. First and foremost amongst that list is the projector’s ability to run games at 4K 60Hz with a mere 26ms of input lag.
For pro gamers or those who simply prefer smoother graphics over extra detail, the Optoma UHD50X can also run 1080p at a blistering 240Hz with a mere input lag of only 16ms. Xbox Series X can’t exceed 120Hz, but it’s a nice touch that lends to a sense that this projector is providing a lot of value and will be a staple in your gaming room for many years to come.
Speaking of longevity, this product is rated for 15,000 hours of lamp life – the equivalent of four hours’ use per day for over a decade. Other marks of quality here include HDR10 certification, screen size of up to 120″ and the option to mount from a ceiling or sit on a table. We find the claims from Optoma of a 500,000:1 contrast ratio and brightness of 3400 ANSI lumens to be dubious, but we can confirm that the picture is gorgeous even in heavily-lit rooms and will be more than adequate for most gamers in most situations.
The Optoma UHD50X is an overall great standard-throw projector, and its reasonable price tag puts it right where it belongs at the top of our list of best gaming projectors on the market today.
Runner-Up: BenQ TK850
A better choice for more casual gamers
The BenQ TK850 goes head to head against the top pick in most of the ways that really matter, and distinguishes itself enough that it will ultimately be a better pick for some of our readers. First and foremost, we’ll say up front that this machine’s branding as “low input lag” is somewhat debatable as it can only go as low as ~50 with the right settings – a far cry from what we would expect from a dedicated gaming projector but nonetheless enough for more casual gamers who play experiential games rather than competitive titles that demand lighting-fast reaction times.
The big differentiating factor between the BenQ TK850 and most of the other UHD projectors in this price range is that it is actually outputting a true 4K image rather than using a technique known as “pixel shifting”. It should be said that when in motion, you’re not going to ever notice this in a game or movie – but still images look dramatically prettier on the BenQ TK850 than what you’ll see on most other projectors, and static elements of an image such as an in-game HUD or text will look extra crisp here.
The BenQ TK850 is capable of 4K 60Hz and 1080p 120Hz, has a 30,000:1 contrast ratio and a peak brightness of 3000 ANSI lumens. Needless to say, the images produced by this projector are fantastic and you’d be hard pressed to find a better unit to sling games on a screen.
One final note on the BenQ TK850 that further reinforces it’s place as a more casual gamer’s choice – the include bulb is rated for a lamp life of 4,000 hours. This is far from paltry, but equates to roughly three years’ use at a rate of four hours per day. These can always be replaced of course, but they aren’t especially cheap so it’s worth mentioning.
Luxury Pick: Epson Home Cinema 5050UB
An uncompromising home theater experience
The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is a bit on the pricey side – at nearly double the cost of our top pick and more than double that of the runner-up – but home theater enthusiasts who also want a great gaming projector will find that this standard-throw unit is a solid deal. With a flat refresh rate of 60Hz it can’t meet the speedy frame times offered by Optoma or BenQ, but the 30ms response time certainly keeps it in the conversation for gaming.
The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is all about quality of life features, the most innovative of which is the anti-rainbow effect display tech. Rainbow effect is a phenomena that occurs when a user moves their eyes while watching a projected image – it’s not usually a big deal, but the active viewing experience associated with gaming tends to cause rainbow effect to be exacerbated on some devices. It’s not often a deal breaker – after all, the effect looks a lot like chromatic aberration which some find visually appealing – but the ultra-sharp 4K HDR image provided by this projector looks as premium as you’d expect and this is a big part of that equation.
Those who can justify shelling out for this great product from Epson will find that the 1,000,00:1 contrast ratio may be marketing fluff – but the image is immaculate in any lighting thanks to the lamp’s honest to goodness 2600 ANSI lumens. The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB bulb is rated for 3500 hours which is less than we’d like, but replacement bulbs are mercifully rather inexpensive.
Budget Pick: Optoma HD146X
The top pick’s plucky little sibling
The Optoma HD146X is the best budget projector on our list by virtue of doing so much of what the top pick does right while rolling back some of the next-gen features in favor of saving consumers a bunch of cash. Most notably among the carryover from the top Optoma is the 3400 ANSI lumens lamp with its 15,000 hour bulb – an especially great value at this price range.
While this device only outputs at 1080p, it does so at a smooth 60Hz with a stellar 16ms response time. While this unit isn’t HDR-compatible, the 25,000:1 contrast ratio paired with that ultra-bright bulb ensure a colorful picture that is dramatically better than you might expect to find at this price point.
While the Optoma HD146X doesn’t quite do justice to the mind blowing graphics the Series X is capable of producing, it is nonetheless a stellar pick for those on a budget who simply want to play the new titles without dropping a ton of cash.
Best Ultra-Short Throw: ViewSonic PX800HD
For sleek, unobtrusive installation
The ViewSonic PX800HD is our favorite ultra-short throw projector for use with Xbox Series X due it its fantastic 16ms response time, 2000 ANSI lumens brightness and the ability to scale up to 150″ inches in screen size.
Ultra-short throw projectors are great for gamers who prefer not to sit by their projector or mount it from the ceiling and would prefer to simply place one of these little devices where on would typically expect to find a traditional TV. Ultra-short throw projectors also have the added benefit of keeping the heat and noise they generate much farther away from users.
This particular unit is especially conducive to great gaming experiences, and we recommend it to any of our readers who would be happy to sacrifice a bit of resolution in favor of the increased comfort and convenience. Note that the lamp life for this unit is rated for 3000 hours’ use – pretty weak – but the bulbs are relatively cheap and we think that’s a fair trade off.
What to Look for in an Xbox Series X Projector
While this has always been an important consideration for gaming displays, it has never been more important than right now – and is hardest to do with a projector. Due to the very nature of projector displays, the time it takes for your button presses to make their way to a screen and back to your eye is longer than on monitors and television sets. Perhaps no feature is more coveted on a projector for gamers, and this is reflected in the price tags of products that meet this need.
While it’s hard to say precisely how much input lag is “low input lag” in terms of projectors, we think it’s wise to consider what you’re used to and adjust your target accordingly. For example, if you’re a PC gamer with a low-latency monitor, you may well be used to gaming at 5ms input lag or even lower. Unfortunately if this applies to you, you’re going to have a lot of adjusting to do as no projectors on the market are going to produce a high resolution image at this speed – but things are getting much better.
A reasonable compromise between price and input lag will be found in the neighborhood of 16-24ms, and we think this is a good target for most gamers; casual gamers – who aren’t playing online games wherein reaction times are paramount to enjoyment or spoiled by high-spec gaming monitors tend to find that 40-50ms is fast enough to keep their head in the game. Bear in mind that short throw projectors by their very nature tend to have lower input lag (though there are tradeoffs such as screen size and brightness) and are becoming more readily available every day.
A final note is to consider that there is a natural link between input lag and refresh rate; that is to say that projectors with higher refresh rates will typically have less input lag. We’ll go into greater detail on refresh rates in a moment, but we’re bringing it up here just to further reinforce that you absolutely need to make sure you’re getting a projector with low input lag in order to have a great experience with your new console.
The most exciting upgrade this console generation has over the previous gen is the ability to render graphics at high and variable refresh rates. Whereas previous console generations have typically aimed for a target of 30fps and peaked at 60fps, Microsoft and Sony have both taken a cue from the PC gaming market and leaned very hard into high frame rates as a marquee feature – and both promise 4K gaming at 120Hz for their new machines.
While most games currently available will make users choose between 4K 60Hz or 120Hz at lower resolutions, some do offer 4K 120Hz and the overwhelmingly positive reception from gamers tends to suggest that more games will continue to aim for this target in the future. Whereas 8K resolution may be an aspirational feature (more on this below) 120Hz is absolutely here to stay.
Though not quite as important as the raw refresh rate number in most cases, variable refresh rate (VRR) is another great capability that has finally made the leap from PC to console gaming. VRR allows for displays to synchronize with the graphics card of the output device to display every frame as it is rendered rather than at set intervals (i.e. 120Hz). VRR does not allow the display to exceed the maximum refresh rate of either device, but it does create a smoother gaming experience. Virtually no projectors on the market currently support VRR, but we expect to see more and more high-end sets with this tech in the coming years.
While we firmly believe that high refresh rates will be the most important factor in getting the most out of your new console, resolution is extremely important as well. Whereas the previous console generation was able to create crisp, beautiful images at 4K UHD (ultra-high definition) – very few games actually ran very smooth at that resolution. The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are able to easily output 4K UHD at 60fps and both consoles will eventually support 8K.
8K is a long, long way from ubiquity – if you don’t believe us, consider how long 4K displays have been on the market and how few of the people you know likely have one in their home – and very few projectors output 8K. The majority of 8K projectors have one or more fatal flaws that prevent use for gaming; high latency and low refresh rates being the most common. An 8K projector that also checks all of the other boxes needed for a great gaming experience will not be an affordable product at any point in the remotely near future, and we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath for such a thing to happen.
This goes without considering that these consoles are very unlikely to support 8K at refresh rates over 60Hz, and most games probably won’t go over 30Hz refresh rates. If the previous gen is anything to go by, we suspect that “pro” models of these consoles will likely drop at a few years from now with the promise of high refresh 8K gaming – but we’d bet our bottom dollar that this will happen no sooner than 2024.
To reiterate, 8K is absolutely not worth the money right now as you can’t do much with it – and will likely be dramatically more affordable by the time it is actually worthwhile as a feature. Get a 4K projector for your new console!
High dynamic range (HDR) is a feature that’s been around for quite a while now, and was a signature feature of the upgraded Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro. The new consoles do of course bring HDR along and while the vast majority of 4K displays will already have the feature by default we think it is important to re-emphasize that you should ensure that your gaming projector bears the mark.
HDR is, for all intents and purposes, a dramatically increased color palette – effectively allowing content creators to reproduce their visions in a more accurate manner. HDR is most noticeable at high brightness settings and most profoundly impacts the darkest and lightest parts of a picture.
There are various HDR standards and accompanying certifications. Though some are naturally higher-quality than others, we don’t recommend spending too much time worrying about which your gaming projector has – not because it doesn’t matter, but because great displays have great HDR implementations in virtually all cases. HDR10, Dolby Vision and others are fully compatible with each other, so don’t be concerned about potential issues in that regard.
Though many game developers add HDR in post that effectively does little aside from certifying HDR compatibility, the vast majority of big-budget titles are designed from the ground up to support the tech – and you simply aren’t getting the full experience from these games if your display isn’t up to snuff.
Contrast goes hand in hand with HDR; after all, an increased color palette is irrelevant if the display can’t accurately reproduce the increased range of colors. In order to be HDR certified, a display must have a bare-minimum contrast ratio of 400:1 which is quite low.
As a general rule, there’s no such thing as too much contrast ratio – something that some display manufacturers are well aware of and use sneaky tactics in order to claim their screens have higher ratios than they actually do. That said, we’ve taken care to ensure any product we recommend is either honest in its marketing or great despite implementation of disingenuous tactics.
A contrast ratio of 700:1 is enough to reproduce a great HDR image at peak brightness, but most true 4K gaming projector products on the market will hit 10,000:1 or more. In short, a gaming projector with HDR and high brightness is going to have a solid contrast ratio in most cases.
The last big consideration with regards to picture quality is brightness. Intuitively, it is easy to understand that we would want extremely bright displays – after all, we can always turn them down if needed. While our recommendations for brightness will vary based on screen size (more on this below), the biggest consideration is to determine where you intend to use your gaming projector.
With regard to gaming projectors, brightness is typically measured in ANSI lumens as opposed to the standard touted by other display types (lumens) as a way of representing the effective brightness rather than the output brightness. Long story short, make sure you’re aiming for a bare-minimum of 200 ANSI lumens if you plan on gaming only in small, dark room. If you expect to have considerable ambient light, you’ll want to aim for 400+ ANSI lumens. If your gaming projector is going to be used in a huge and/or very bright room you may want to aim as high as 2000+ ANSI lumens.
As you might imagine, price scales pretty closely with ANSI lumens, so don’t aim for a dramatically higher brightness level than you expect to really need in order to project a great 4K HDR image.
The reason most people go down the gaming projector path is a desire for a massive screen. While there are certainly other benefits to consider, the greatest strength of a gaming projector is its ability to scale its image from really huge to really really huge.
As with other display types, you should determine the screen size you’re shopping for based on the distance between the screen’s location and that of the viewers. You’ll want to make sure the screen’s diagonal length is no more than half the distance between the screen and the nearest viewer. For example, if the nearest viewer is going to be someone sitting on the middle section of your couch, you’ll want to measure the distance from where the viewer’s head will be to the screen itself; if that measure is 10 feet, you’ll want a screen that is no more than 60″ diagonal.
There is also a maximum distance consideration if you intend to move around or host large groups of viewers. The ratio here is 5:1, so if the farthest-back seat in your viewing area is 25 feet away, they should still be able to comfortable view a screen that’s at least 60″ across.
Last Updated on January 31, 2021