4K Projector Buyer’s Guide Lifestyle Projectors

When UST projectors first came out and introduced laser light sources at prices well below what the home theater long throws offered, I wondered how long it would take before lifestyle long throw projectors that leveraged these light sources appeared.

It took a few years but now there's a healthy selection of comparatively compact cube-shaped projectors that output tremendously bright, vibrant, and sharp images. They're defined by a combination of portability and affordability. My primary living room display is a XGIMI Horizon Ultra.

Best 4K Lifestyle Projectors

XGIMI Horizon Ultra ($1,700)
This could well be the most exciting new projector of 2023. What it brings to the table for the money is simply astonishing. High brightness, excellent color accuracy, a sharp lens with a bit of optical zoom, and a polished user interface make it easy to recommend for anyone getting into projection.

I use one at home with a 150-inch screen that's simply painted on a wall. The screen cost me under $100 in supplies from Home Depot. To my eyes, with the lights out it looks like a giant TV with sports and games and shows, or else like a full-on movie theater screen with movies. I watch Eagles football games on it and marvel at the fidelity of today's 1080/60p broadcasts, which look good even at these huge screen sizes.

XGIMI uses a hybrid laser-LED light source that avoids laser speckles but is bright and vibrant. The on-screen image is practically free of any visible artifacts and unquestionably of cinematic quality. If this is your budget and you have room for one projector in your life, there's a strong argument to be made it should be this XGIMI.

Thanks to its portability all you need is a blank wall to enjoy a big screen viewing experience. If you're watching a movie, be sure to turn out the lights.

  • 4K resolution with Dolby Vision, 2300 ISO lumens, and Dual Light Technology for bright, accurate colors.
  • DLP display technology, 0.47” DMD chip, supports HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, and 3D content.
  • Intelligent Screen Adaption 3.0 with auto keystone correction, auto focus, and intelligent screen alignment.
  • Dual 12W Harman Kardon speakers, DTS Studio Sound.
  • Wifi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, with HDMI, USB, LAN, headphone, and optical ports.

BenQ X3100i ($2,400)
This projector relies on an LED light source to pump out up to 3300 ANSI lumens. That's super bright! But also appropriate to a projector that is sold as an "immersive open world gaming projector." And it is indeed optimized for gaming with the lowest input lag you're going to find in this selection and support for 240 Hz refresh rates in 1080p.

Of course you can use this projector for movies and TV as well as gaming. It is as adept at showing movies and TV shows as any of the other options here.

While it is the priciest of these compact long-throw options, what makes this projector special is it features both 1.3X zoom and vertical lens shift. These functions make it easier to position and match up to a screen. Combined with its incredible brightness you've got a projector that may well be worth considering for permanent installations and not just portable applications.

  • Immersive gaming with enhanced contrast, true-to-life colors, and 4K HDR.
  • 3D with BenQ’s CinematicSound technology.
  • 3300 ANSI lumen brightness, flexible installation with 40-60% vertical lens shift.
  • Throw ratio of 1.15-1.5, 1.3x zoom, and digital zoom for a 100” screen from 2.5m.
  • Customized game settings, 4.16ms low input lag, Auto Game Mode, and FPS Crosshair.

Formovie X5 ($1,500)
The value proposition of the Formovie X5 is extremely high thanks to its blend of high brightness, high contrast, color accuracy and sharp lens. It is a fixed lens, so for permanent installs you'll need to finesse the placement to get the most out of it, but the end result looks competitive with home theater projectors when the lights are out.

There is nary a trace of laser speckle, despite the rich, saturated colors it reproduces. So you might be wondering what's the catch? It's that this projector is not a U.S. specific model, meaning you have to be willing to deal with menus in Chinese. But it's really not that tough, there is an English language menu in there as well, and once you figure out how it works it's easy enough to use. Just know that it's not going to be as polished an user experience and the Hisense and BenQ options. As far as picture quality goes, when it comes to making movies look like they do in a commercial cinema (which also use DLP) I believe it's a toss-up between this projector and the Hisense C1, but they have different qualities to recommend them with the X5 doing best when called upon to deal with dark scenes.

  • Sleek design, 1.07 billion color gamut, 2,450 CVIA lumens for bright images, ideal for home theaters.
  • Includes Amazon Fire TV Stick 4k Max for enhanced user experience in the USA.
  • Hardware design by Denmark’s Kvadrat, enhancing home theater aesthetics.
  • Projection sizes from 60" to 1,000", offering cinema-like immersion.
  • ALPD laser display for a broad color range.
  • Auto-correction for perfectly aligned images in any room setup.
  • Ambient light adaptive technology for optimal image quality in varying light conditions.
  • Laser autofocus for hassle-free, sharp image projection.

Hisense Cube C1 ($1,500)
This projector is not as bright as the others and it is more laborious to set up. For example, it's not as fast or as good at automatically making the image fit to a screen. So why is it here? Because I have noticed that with the right content, the RGB triple-laser covers a wider color gamut than the other compact projectors and consequently produces a more vibrant image.

The Cube C1 does its best work under a relatively limited set of conditions, when the lights are out and with content that exploits its ability to create intense colors. Video games look amazing. So do live sports. Same goes for animation, also CGI explosions and such. It's the counterpoint to the Formovie's handling of shadows and black levels, the Hisense can't do starfields but it aces nature documentaries as well as fiery special effects.

With the C1, there is a hint of laser speckle projecting on a matte screen, but it is invisible from my couch and viewed from 13 feet away. In my judgment, the picture gains a lot from the extra vibrancy and the result is the projected image looks better than the 1600-lumen spec and modest contrast/black levels would suggest. In this case, seeing is believing.

  • 110% BT.2020 color space, TriChroma laser engine for over 1.07 billion color shades.
  • Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos certified.
  • Trichroma Laser Technology for ultravivid colors.
  • AutoMagic AI adjustment for easy setup and portable use in home theaters, gaming, and outdoors.

variablefolk's picture

4K is superior in terms of quality, drift hunters, details, sharpness and all other aspects you look for in creating your home cinema experience.

variablefolk's picture

For a home cinema projector in dark location that can still display a clear image despite some ambient light, dino game, you'll need a projector above 2000 lumens.

yidobet780's picture

Wordpress plugins is looking forward to exploring these options!