When I got my first projector, I lived in a small apartment. I was so excited that I forgot to read through the finer details in the catalogue. When I set it up later that day, I realized it wasn’t the right fit for me. Luckily, I was able to return it and get one that met my room’s demands.
You might not be as lucky as I was. That’s why I spent many hours poring through online reviews to find the top five short throw projectors under $500. We’ll go over what sets each apart from its competitors in this post and the factors you should consider when buying a short throw projector.
The Best Short Throw Projectors Under $500: My Top Picks
Here are the five short throw projectors I’ve shortlisted that you can buy on a budget of $500:
ViewSonic PA503X: Best Overall
I selected the ViewSonic PA503X as the best overall because it has a good balance of features. It fits for many uses including, gaming, meeting rooms and classrooms and watching movies.
Weighing under five pounds, it’s light enough to move into position during installation and travel with if need arises. It’s also reasonably sized and comes with +/-40 degrees vertical keystone correction for rectangular images and optical 1.1x zoom for easy setup. You’ll get an image size of 100 inches, 13 feet from the screen.
You can use this projector in daylight or lights-on environments without worrying about washout. That is thanks to its impressive 3800 ANSI lumens brightness and XGA resolution. In addition, the PA503X features ViewSonic’s exclusive Supercolor technology that enhances color accuracy.
This projector offers many connectivity options including HDMI, VGA, Micro USB and audio mini-jack. What I liked is that you can project 3D content from Blu-ray players or HDMI-enabled devices.
Something you may not like is that the ViewSonic PA503X has a single 2W speaker. The good news is that there’s an audio port to pair peripheral sound devices like soundbars for even better volume and quality.
Finally, you’ll get a 3-year warranty when you purchase this projector.
- Many connectivity options
- Long lamp lifespan
- Sufficient brightness for daytime and nighttime use
- Easy to install
- No Bluetooth
- Only has Micro-USB port
BenQ TH585: Best for Gaming
If you’re an avid gamer who plays competitively or casually, then the BenQ TH585 is the one you should buy. Not only does it offer a fast response rate, but also an excellent image quality. It produces HD pictures and utilizes 95% Rec.709, which implies accurate colors.
This projector has a lumen rating of 3,500 ANSI lumens which is sufficient for gaming with lights on or during the day.
Setting up the BenQ TH585 should be simple, thanks to its lightweight, size and features. After installing it, you will have access to manual zoom, vertical keystone correction and lens shift to align the images in the best possible way.
You can connect various devices to it through the available ports namely USB, HDMI, VGA and audio mini-jack. You can also project 3D content from HDMI sources or Blu-ray players.
Sound-wise, the TH585 comes with one 10W speaker that produce loud enough sound that you may forgo hooking up external speakers or headphones.
This projector has a warranty of 3 years, so you should be confident in your purchase.
- Low latency that is great for gamers
- HD resolution
- Simple installation
- 3D support
- Some users complained of white specs appearing in dark scenes after months of use
Epson EX3200: Best for Classrooms and Meeting Rooms
Classrooms and meeting room projectors don’t require as many features as their gaming and movie counterparts. In my experience the Epson EX3200 hits the mark when it comes to that.
You get images with SVGA (800 by 600 pixels) resolution and a brightness level of 2600 ANSI lumens that is just sufficient for projection in daylight or with lights on indoors.
Setup-wise, you can easily install it due to its low weight and small size. Getting it going is as straightforward as plugging it to a power source and sitting back. You’ll get pictures of 100 inches from less than 10 feet from the screen. If you wish to adjust the image, the vertical keystone correction and 1.35x powered zoom will come in handy.
When it comes to sound, the EX3200 has one 1W speaker that isn’t something to write home about. But it is loud enough for small audiences in a classroom or conference room.
Something else I didn’t like was the limited connectivity options. You only get USB and VGA ports, which don’t match today’s standards.
To cover you in case of anything, you’ll get a 1-year warranty when you buy the Epson EX3200.
- Bright enough for indoor use
- Easy to set up
- Free of rainbow artifacts
- Comes with a carrying case
- Limited connectivity options
Nebula Capsule II: Best Portable
Weighing just under two pounds Nebula Capsule II is the best portable pick. It measures 3 by 3 by 6 inches which makes it small enough to bring with you wherever you go without thinking about it. In the same regard, you’ll be able to set it up easily anywhere and align the images with the built-in keystone correction feature.
From just 9.4 feet away, you’ll get images measuring 100 inches diagonally.
The Capsule II comes with Android 9.0, which will enable you to download up to 5000 apps and is voice activated. That means you can issue commands with Google Assistant from the comfort of your seat.
Being a portable option, it has an internal battery that will last up to 2.5 hours before recharge is needed.
With a resolution of 720p, the picture quality will be good. What disappoints is the 200 ANSI lumens it comes with. That will limit you to low light environments for clear pictures that aren’t washed out.
One area the Capsule II excels at is sound. It has one 8W (270 degrees) built-in speaker that produces room filling sound.
It also offers a multitude of connectivity options including HDMI, USB, WI-FI and Bluetooth.
- Multitude of connectivity options
- Good quality sound from internal speakers
- Decent image quality
- Built-in battery
- Easy to install
- Low brightness
- You cannot screen mirror Netflix
ViewSonic PX700HD: Best for Watching Movies & Sports
First brought to the market in 2018, the ViewSonic PX700HD has built quite a big following. What you’ll find interesting about it is that it has a dedicated mode for watching sport events that makes them more realistic.
You’ll get image sizes of 100 inches from about 10 feet from the screen. Now these will be HD pictures with a decent contrast ratio of 12000:1.
Installing the PX700HD should be a walk in the park because its light, comes with a remote for navigation and powers on automatically when plugged to a power outlet. In addition, it allows optical zoom and vertical keystone correction.
The lamp is bright enough (3500 ANSI lumens) to project in well-lit places without compromising image quality.
When it comes to connectivity, there are several options: HDMI, USB, VGA and Audio mini jack. You can also display 3D content from Blu-ray players and HDMI sources.
The PX700HD has an onboard speaker, but you’re not guaranteed great sound quality. Luckily, you can pair it with an external headphone, soundbar or speaker if you don’t like what you hear.
When you purchase this projector, you get a 3-year warranty, which will cover you in case of any eventuality.
- High brightness sufficient for almost any light environment
- Supports 3D content
- Easy to set up
- Dedicated sports mode
- Many connectivity options
- Prone to rainbow artifacts
Choosing the Best Short Throw Projectors Under $500: Buying Guide
Here are the factors you should consider when selecting the best short throw projectors on a budget of $500:
The standard unit of measuring brightness is ANSI lumens. The lumen rating determines whether the projected images will maintain quality in environments with different levels of light.
If you intend to use the projector in daylight or with the lights on both indoors and outdoors, look for one with a lumen rating of at least 2500. For other cases, anything above 100 ANSI lumens will be fine.
The clarity of the displayed images will depend on the contrast ratio and resolution of the projector. The standard projectors project HD images, but in my experience anything above 480 pixels is good enough.
If you pay attention to the connectivity options of projectors in the current market, you’ll realize that they are not all created equally. Some have multiple, whereas others have a few. Depending on the devices you wish to hook up, choose the projector that best fits them.
Use or Purpose
Most short throw projectors will perform well for movies and videos. But when it comes to gaming, some will be excellent, while others will have too long of a lag. The best short projectors for gaming will have an input lag of less than 20 milliseconds. That will ensure smooth transition between scenes, especially in competitive gaming.