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How to Buy a Projector (2022): Throw Distance, Screen Size, Mounting, Long Cables

Depending on what you’re watching and your budget, a 1080p (“Full HD”) projector is still a great buy, since many shows and movies aren’t streaming in a super-high bitrate at 4K yet anyway. That said, many modern projectors offer 4K resolution, with the main benefit being the higher dynamic range of that content (better, brighter colors).

If you want to browse for projectors yourself, we recommend you stick to brands like Sony, LG, Optoma, BenQ, and Epson. Be sure to read up on any projector before you buy, and avoid generic electronics brands.

Silver Ticket Screen

Photograph: Silver Ticket

Ideally, your projector projects images onto a screen (usually made of polyvinyl chloride or some kind of fabric), very much like a movie theater. Strictly speaking, you don’t need a screen—you can project onto any surface—but screens really do improve the viewing experience. These screens range in size and quality but are designed to provide the flattest, most cinematic image you can get. If you’ve been using white walls, a screen will make a noticeable difference. 

A good place to start is a 100- or 120-inch screen (measured diagonally), depending on the size of your room and your ability to mount the projector far enough away. Typically, screens come in three varieties: roll-down, wall-mounted, or freestanding. I recommend a wall-mounted screen for all instances where you don’t need to hide a screen between uses. They’re typically lightweight and easy to assemble, and they hold tension better because they’re secured on four sides.

Outdoor screens with legs are awesome for occasional movie nights, but it’s annoying to have the legs in the way when you’re indoors. Roll-down screens like those you probably had in school are a decent option if you refuse to see your screen between viewing sessions, but be sure you get a high-quality one that won’t warp over time. We have indoor and outdoor recommendations in our Best Projectors guide.

There’s a myriad of professional mounting systems for projectors, and most of them work very well, but you’ll want to make sure you consult your manual or manufacturers’ website to ensure you get a mount that is rated to the correct weight and has the right type of screws included for the threads on the bottom of your projector. You can find decent mounts on Amazon, Walmart, or any other online retailer that sells projectors, but I recommend starting at the manufacturer’s website and seeing what they recommend.

They’re not as universal as VESA mounts for TVs and computer monitors, but these are pretty much plug-and-play solutions—here’s the one I use ($20) on my ceiling. It came with multiple types of screws and adjustable brackets for easily mounting different projectors. It’s fairly easy to determine which mounts are compatible with which projectors with a quick Google or YouTube search. Just make sure you also know the throw distance of your projector and the size of the screen you intend on filling (both will be included on the spec sheet), and make sure that you can mount the projector at that distance.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Photograph: Roku

Once you’ve decided on your projector, you’re going to want to decide how to get audio and video to and from it. Some projectors have smart-TV interfaces built in, which makes it easy to immediately stream your favorite shows and movies, but some require a streaming device. Our Best Streaming Sticks guide has several recommendations; all you need to do is plug them into your projector (and into a power outlet).


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