I bought a R1,300 projector as part of a low-budget cinema experiment and was blown away by the value offered.
Many low-cost projectors make big claims about resolutions and brightness without delivering on the promises.
When buying a cheap projector, you must carefully consider your needs and verify the device specifications through independent reviews or your own investigation.
After our research, we bought a Videochars 1080p Native Projector from Amazon. The total cost, with shipping and taxes, was R1323.84.
It may seem like an exceptionally low price, but these projectors regularly go on sale, making it possible to get a great deal.
We found a $50 coupon that significantly reduced the price. Without the coupon, the projector would have cost R2100, including shipping, which is still a good deal.
The courier delivered the projector in less than two weeks. Amazon handled the customs duties, which were already included in the price at checkout.
When the projector arrived, we were immediately impressed by the package we received.
The projector comes in a fabric carry case with a 12V power adapter, an HDMI cable, an AV cable, and a remote.
The projector was smaller and lighter than we expected but was still well built considering the price.
We fired it up, pointing it at a nearby wall and were disappointed by how it handled the brightness of a room with open blinds in the late afternoon.
This projector, and most others in the price range, will not be bright enough for daylight use, but that is not their main purpose.
When we tried it again after dark, we had a much better experience. The performance was good, even on a light beige wall, which is not optimal.
When mounting the projector upside down, you can flip the image in four ways. It can also be used for rear projection, where the projector is hidden behind the screen.
The manual focus and vertical keystone adjustment work well to get a clear image, although the keystone dial is very sensitive.
We would have also liked some horizontal keystone adjustment, but we can’t be too picky at this price point.
It was easy to get a decent image at around 100-inches, with the 1080p resolution ensuring that the quality did not deteriorate significantly.
At 100-inches, the projector still had a fair amount of focus adjustment left both ways, making significantly larger and smaller displays possible.
However, for larger screens, brightness is the major limiting factor.
While some might argue that a 4K resolution is necessary for a good experience on a screen this size, many 2D cinemas have significantly larger screens, where the resolution is often not much higher than 1080p.
We mainly used a Xiaomi Mi Box S as an input device over HDMI and did not have problems streaming or watching locally stored content.
We also tried using a flash drive and a memory card with local content but discovered that the projector struggled to read a 128GB drive.
With smaller drives — around 4GB to 16GB — we did not have any problems.
The quality of the built-in speaker surprised us as we expected very little from it.
Built-in sound does not seem like an important part of a projector, but I used it more often than expected as I did not have another sound system set up.
For a full cinema experience, a separate sound system would be much better.
However, having built-in sound makes for a much more portable setup that can be used almost anywhere.
The picture quality improved slightly with a dedicated projector screen. However, it was not significant enough for us to set up a screen every time we wanted to use the projector.
The picture below shows the difference between a dedicated projector screen and a dark textured wall.
Using the projector on a wall allows you to watch a movie or series almost anywhere while lying on a couch or bed.
We also tested the projector outside, projecting the image onto a textured wall.
Even with a light on right next to the screen, the image looked decent and would make for a pleasant experience.
Considering that the projector is priced less than some of the smallest TVs on the market, it is a great addition for a more cinematic movie experience.