7 Quietest Projectors, Best for Home Theaters and Gaming
A few weeks ago, I finally decided to take a couple of paintings I didn’t like off my living room wall. Before I knew it, I realized that I had cleared away a patch of wall big enough to accommodate the home theater screen I’ve always wanted. So I set out to find the best — and quietest — home projector on the market.
Now, if you’re anything like me, the word projector probably just conjured up a memory of those old-timey machines that actually had to spin film. The repetitive and continuous motion used to make a whirring noise that sounded something like this. Needless to say, I didn’t want to bring something like that into my completely soundproof home, despite the fact that it could pass for white noise. When I’m watching movies or playing an intense game — I’d rather not also hear the sound of the projector whirring in the background.
Thankfully, we’ve moved past having to put up with noisy appliances — as I’ve proven time and again. So today, I’m going to show you the quietest projectors on the market right now. Before I get to my list, I’ll present a shopping guide that’ll be helpful whether or not you’re specifically looking for a quiet device. But if you’re not completely sold on getting a projector for your home in the first place — allow me to convince you.
Believe it or not, getting my family on board with the idea of getting a projector was no easy task. After all, we’re all so used to watching content on our flat-screen TVs — which admittedly do have certain advantages over projectors. The main one, in my opinion, is that the brightness and contrast you get with a TV is simply superior to anything a projector can achieve.
Still, there are plenty of advantages of using a projector instead of a TV for your home entertainment. For one:
- Projectors allow you to adjust your screen size. Depending on how large your room is, a projected image can be anywhere between 30 and 300 inches, diagonally. So a projector can basically be like a huge TV — except it’s typically less expensive, per inch.
- Looking at a projected image is much more comfortable than looking at a digital display. According to eye specialists, we ought to look away from our screens every once in a while to preserve our eyesight. Well, that’s simply not an issue with a projected image, since the most potentially damaging source of light is usually above or behind you and out of sight.
- Projectors are typically much smaller than TVs. Even if you have a setup that includes a projector screen, it can often be rolled up into a smaller space than the one a TV would take up. Moreover, doing away with your TV can make your room appear much more minimalistic — if that’s something you’re into.
- Lastly, because of most projectors’ small size, they’re also an awesome gadget to take with you. You can pretty much set them up anywhere you have a plug and your laptop.
Why Noise Levels Matter
As we’ve already established, most of us have a specific idea in mind when someone mentions projector noise. Usually, it makes us think of reels of film spinning. However, digital projectors don’t have the parts necessary to make that kind of noise. So why did I feel compelled to look for the quietest units on the market?
Well, although digital projectors don’t have spinning reels, they usually do have cooling fans. After all, the only way they’re able to project moving images is by having a powerful light source inside them. And where there is light — there is heat; so fans are kind of a necessary component. So if you do hear whirring noises coming from your projector, you can blame them on the fan.
Still, whether it’s the kind of fan or the acoustic quality of the projector box, some units are quieter than others. But how exactly do you find those? Let’s get to the bottom of the issue.
Features to Look out for When Shopping for Quiet Projectors
Every time I sit down to work on one of these articles, I start by doing a deep dive into the material. This time around, I took special care because I knew that one of the projectors I found was going to end up in my living room as well. Consequently, I now know more than I thought I would about projectors and the various features potential buyers ought to pay attention to. So let’s start with the noise — how can you determine the amount of noise a particular device makes?
Typically, I rely on the manufacturer’s product description to tell me which products to focus on in my reviews. However, only two out of the seven products on my list have any mention of fan noise in their descriptions. So I had to try a bit harder than usual to locate the quiet units.
Still, I believe that most of the projectors on my list only produce about 30 or 40 decibels of noise. That’s pretty much whisper-quiet. Add to that whichever audio that ends up playing over the projections, and you basically won’t hear a peep from your new projector.
If your silent projector does start making strange noises at some point, you can always open it up and check out the fan. Chances are that the fan is just a bit clogged, and the noise will disappear as soon as you get rid of the dust. If it works on your computer, it should work in this case, too.
Before I move on, I ought to introduce you to the most basic terminology of the world of projectors. If you go looking for the perfect home theater projector for your living room, you may notice a few acronyms floating around. But don’t let all those DLPs, 3LCDs, and LCoS confuse you. These are just the three main categories of projectors on the market:
- DLP stands for “digital light processing” projectors, which use mirrors to reflect light through color wheels and create the image. This kind of product is by far the most popular, so much so that they’re even used at movie theaters. However, cheaper ones can produce flashes of rainbow colors across the screen, though the effect isn’t always noticeable to everyone.
- 3LCD projectors use 3 liquid crystal display panels in RGB colors to create an image on the screen. These units offer better color reproduction than DLP can achieve, though the contrast is generally worse. Even though they’re generally quieter than DLP projectors, they usually require more maintenance.
- Lastly, LCoS stands for “liquid crystal on silicon” projection. This kind is by far the most expensive. However, it offers the best contrast, resolution, and colors than the other types.
Most of the items on my list are DLP projectors, simply because they’re the most accessible. However, I have also included several LED projectors, which are a fairly new category of products. These kinds of projectors generally last longer, and they consume less power than the other ones I’ve mentioned. They’re also smaller and don’t run as hot as the others, which means that they don’t need cooling fans.
The room size is perhaps the first thing you should consider when shopping for your home projector. You see, most projectors include the minimum and maximum distances you’ll need between the device and the projection surface. These measurements are often connected to the screen size each product is capable of achieving without losing image quality.
Most manufacturers call this distance between the projector and the screen a projector’s “throw.” For example, the product description will say that a machine has an 8-foot throw if you want a 70-inch screen, and a 12-foot throw for a 110-inch screen.
Some projectors have a short throw, so they can manage to create a 100-inch image from only a few feet away. Even more impressive is the fact that projectors with an ultra-short throw can do that from inches away. However, these kinds of units are usually significantly pricier, and the image quality is a bit fuzzier.
If you’re shopping for an office projector, there’s no need to stress about the resolution. However, it is an absolute must for the home theater. If you expect to be able to see awesome action scenes in movies or games, you ought to stick to a resolution of 1920x1080p and higher. So there will be 1920 pixels, or dots, going horizontally across the screen, and 1080 vertical pixels, which is fairly standard.
Brightness is another factor you ought to consider, especially if you’re going to set up your projector in a room where you won’t have control over all the lights. That’s why office projectors need to be especially bright. After all, they’re usually competing with natural light coming in through the windows or strong fluorescent lights from above.
However, we usually have a greater amount of control over the conditions at home. You probably have curtains or blinds — and if you don’t, most soundproof curtains or room divider curtains will completely block any light.
So how do you know if a projector is bright enough? Well, that particular feature is always listed in the product description or even in the name of the product. Usually, the brightness is expressed in lumens, which are a measure of the quantity of light.
Some manufacturers also use the unit “lux” — though, as far as I can tell, these two are pretty much the same thing. Basically, the higher the number, the brighter the projector. Of those different projector types, LED projectors are probably the weakest in this regard. However, you don’t really need to get a super bright projector if you have complete control over the conditions of the room.
Finally, the contrast ratio is the most important feature to look out for when shopping for a home theater projector. So many movies and shows nowadays have these drawn-out night scenes. They make it impossible to see anything — unless you have a great contrast ratio on your screen. In the final season of Game of Thrones, the main complaint about the final showdown with the Wights was that it was too dark to see!
Well, if you had a great projector with a high contrast ratio, you would be able to enjoy all the fantastic battles, interstellar wars, and intense horror scenes you wanted to. Some projectors even distort the original colors and contrast of the content you’re watching to make it more distinguishable on screen. However, since that feature can annoy some people, I’ll make sure to mention if a product changes the color calibration of the content it’s streaming.
Top 7 Quietest Projectors for Home Theaters
As I have just explained, the contrast ratio is really the most important thing you ought to consider before buying a home theater projector. That’s why I’ve decided to list the products I’ve found going from the highest contrast ratio to the lowest. So if you want to see those deep blacks and sharp whites — stick to the top of the list. But make sure to read to the end of the list, you may find some real gems there!
1. Optoma HD143X 3D DLP Home Theater Projector
Optoma makes some of the best home theater projectors on the market, so I actually had to think hard about which one of their products I wanted to feature. In the end, I settled on the fan-favorite, HD143X DLP projector.
The box is about 12 by 9 inches deep and wide, and 4 inches tall. Furthermore, the unit is capable of projecting a wonderfully crisp and bright image, with its 24000:1 contrast ratio. You can choose between 1920x1080p or 1920x1200p resolutions, and the device even offers 3D support, thanks to a dedicated 3D sync port. In addition to that port, the unit also has a 3.5mm audio jack, 2 HDMI inputs, and a USB port that can connect to various streaming devices and gaming consoles.
Speaking of gaming, this projector doesn’t lag much, so it’s ideal for fast-paced activities or movies. The unit also has some image correction, so you can adjust the angle of the image to make it perfectly rectangular. Also, depending on the throw, you can get a screen size of 28–301 inches.
Now, I can’t end this review without mentioning one of the company’s many other amazing projectors. For example, the Optoma UHL55 is a smart LED projector with a true 4K HD image reproduction, with a contrast ratio of 250000:1. So if you want to enjoy a truly luxurious projector — that’s the way to go.
2. ViewSonic High Brightness Projector for Home and Office (PA503S)
The ViewSonic PA503S projector is one of the only devices that acknowledged the noise level it makes. According to the manufacturer, this projector makes less than 27 decibels of noise.
The box itself is a rectangle just over 11 by 8 inches in size, and about 4 inches tall. From 15 feet and 8 inches away, it can project a screen of 120 inches.
However, if you move it around, you’ll see that it can project images between 30 and 300 inches without losing image quality. In fact, you can even adjust the zoom and the focus manually, using the dials on the box. Moreover, you can also choose the resolution you want between 640x480p and the Full HD 1920×1080 pixels.
There are plenty of input and connectivity options to choose from. There are VGA and HDMI ports (those are 3D compatible), and the device can pair with PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. As with the previous product, this one has very low input latency. Basically, you’ll be able to game to your heart’s content on it, especially considering the stellar contrast ratio.
3. BenQ HT2050A 1080P Home Theater Projector
Like Optoma, BenQ consistently comes out with amazing home theater projectors — including but not limited to the HT2050A model. This particular unit has a normal throw, which allows it to project images between 100 and 300 inches in 1080p, starting from 8 feet away. How’s that for a big screen?
The normal throw version comes with better color accuracy, courtesy of the high lumens count and high contrast ratio. However, there’s also a short-throw version of the device which can either come with color correction or a higher lumens count. As it is, the normal throw model has a lumens count of 2200, which is nothing to scoff at, as well as a contrast ratio of 15000:1.
The device is compatible with various media players, gaming consoles, computer operating systems, and mobile devices. It also has all the usual ports, between the HDMI and USB inputs. Your gaming experience will be practically perfect thanks to the low input lag of the device.
However, it’s a bit larger than the other devices I’ve listed, at 5 inches tall and 15 by 11 inches wide. Like the previous devices I’ve reviewed, this one features dials that help you manually adjust the zoom, focus, and the lens angle.
Since this is another one of the most popular brands on the market, I wanted to recommend an alternative here as well. The BenQ MH535FHD 2019 model is supposed to be slightly brighter and more long-lasting unit of the two. So if that’s something that interests you, you might want to check it out.
4. VANKYO Leisure 510 HD Projector
The Vankyo Leisure 510 projector is one of the best entry-level projectors you can get. Unlike the other devices on my list, this one is an LED unit, which means that it should pretty much be completely silent.
With a throw of 5–18 feet, it can clearly project an image that’s between 44 and 230 inches onto a wall or screen of your choice. However, according to the manufacturer, the best viewing distance is achieved at about 10 feet, where you get a 98-inch screen. With a brightness of 4200 lux — or lumens, this product is certainly the most powerful one we’ve seen so far.
On the other hand, it has the worst contrast ratio of all the projectors we’ve seen. Still, most customers are incredibly happy with this purchase. The projector also lets you adjust the angle and the focus of the image. Even though the native resolution of the device is 1280x768p, it does support 1080p.
There are also plenty of connectivity options at the back of the device, including dual HDMI and USB ports, VGA and AV ports, and a MicroSD slot. The unit also has two built-in stereo speakers — though I recommend hooking up speakers to your projector, whether it has them or not.
5. Artlii Full HD 1080P Home Theater Projector
Like the previous product on this list, this Artlii unit is an LED projector. It actually shares a few more features with the Vankyo projector. Namely, they’re both 1080p projectors with 4000 lumens and a 3000:1 contrast ratio. This product can also project images of around 44–200 inches with an aspect ratio of 16:9, and it does support a resolution of 1920x1080p.
In comparison to the first few products on my list, these two may seem subpar. But trust me. They’re the perfect items to go for if you’re just starting to play with the idea of setting up a home theater. Furthermore, these specs are all you need if you want to spend days upon days watching movies and gaming.
Like some other models, this Artlii projector has two built-in speakers and all the ports you can wish for. Also, like the previous projector I talked about, this one has two HDMI and USB ports, VGA and AV ports, and a MicroSD slot.
6. VANKYO LEISURE 3 Mini Projector
Even though we’ve already seen one Vankyo product on this list, I thought this one deserved a separate mention. Measuring in at just under 8 by 6 inches, and at about 3 inches tall, this is the portable projector of your dreams. It also comes with its own bag — and you can also get a tripod to go with it. With this little guy, you can set up your home theater anywhere you want it to be.
Like the previous two products, this is an LED projector with a native resolution of 800×480 pixels, though it can support the usual 1920x1080p one. As I have already mentioned, LED devices do tend to make less noise in general. However, Vankyo also claims that their fan noise suppression system is to thank for cutting the amount of noise in half.
Since this device is on the smaller side, it’s only natural that the specifications are going to reflect that. The screen can be between 33 and 170 inches diagonally, which is bigger than most TVs. Additionally, the model has 2400 lumens, which is still pretty bright in my book, and it has a contrast ratio of 2000:1. While this may not be groundbreaking, it’s still going to be good enough for both movies and gaming.
7. APEMAN Projector Mini Portable Video DLP Pocket Projector for Home and Outdoors Entertainment
Lastly, I wanted to mention this tiny portable projector from APEMAN, which will take up less than a 4×4 square in your bag. Even more surprising than its diminutive size is the fact that this thing is actually a DLP projector.
With only 100 lumens, it isn’t going to be terribly bright, but it’s perfect for projecting videos against the side of your house at night with your friends. You can also aim it upwards to project soothing videos against your bedroom ceiling as you fall asleep. There are plenty of uses for this gizmo!
Similarly to the brightness, the contrast ratio isn’t exactly great, but it’ll do in the right surroundings. You can take it everywhere you go, thanks to its built-in 3400mAh battery. As an added bonus, the mini projector even comes with a sturdy little tripod. However, keep in mind that a single charge only lasts for about 2 hours.
Then, you’ll need to plug it into the MicroUSB charger again. In addition to that port, the device also has an HDMI connection. So you can connect it to laptops, TV boxes, DVDs, tablets, cameras, and PS3 or PS4 consoles.
Final Thoughts on Getting a Quiet Projector
Ultimately, I’d say that my search for the best quiet projector for movies and video games has been fruitful. Now, all I need to do is get a proper screen. For the time being, though, I’ll keep projecting onto the wall I have freed up. So now it’s your turn.
Has any of the products on my list managed to catch your eye? Or are you going to use this information to find a better option for your home? Whichever way you decide to go, I’m sure it’ll be a good decision. As far as I’m concerned, you’re already ahead of the curve for simply considering setting up a home theater!