It’s quite fancy enough already to play movies or TV shows on your projector, right? When a flatscreen HDTV isn’t enough to house all those millions of pixels on your Ultra HD 4K video, then your projector will naturally come to save the day in order to give your movie-viewing experience a more cinematic feel. With that said, what’s the best projector for retro gaming? Should you go for one that works like an alternative HDTV but at the expense of plugging in extra things like an A/V to HDMI converter? Or should you go retro projector to coincide with your retro games?
What to Look for in Retro Gaming Projectors
What’s the way to go when it comes to searching for retro gaming projectors? The fewer the conversions and adapters the better. It’s all for the sake of fidelity, you see.
- 4:3 Aspect Ratio and SD Resolution: You specifically should look for a CRT-like A/V standard definition projector that can handle about 15.75 kHz native RGB. You can hunt around on the Internet, various forums, or directly on the Amazon site itself for such retro gaming projectors by paying attention to the specs.
There are still 4:3 projectors available used for business presentations, but those projectors require a respective VGA to A/V adapter. Even then, it’s not assured you can use them with your Genesis and Super Nintendo games. It’s best to get a CRT-compatible or A/V-compatible machine in the end.
- Should You Necessarily Have to Go Secondhand? You might have to get an old used projector to be able to play old used games on an old used console like the NES, SNES, Genesis, N64, Saturn, Dreamcast, Game Cube, PS1, or Xbox (and beyond). You might have to deal with a 480p or 320 x 220 type of low-res output as well that could handle such a smaller resolution.
Otherwise, you might end up with something that upscales and converts the image, which can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the results and the responsiveness of the resulting image to your controller inputs. Low-latency projectors are naturally a must-buy.
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- There Are Newer Projectors Available? There are newer projectors available like the one listed down in this article that can do smooth-as-silk retro-gaming action as though you’re playing your game on a CRT, with instantaneous responsiveness to boot. You don’t necessarily have to get an old, used projector in order to play your old games and old consoles on the so-called big screen or even directly on your wall.
Why do these projectors exist? Simply put, there’s still demand them. There are still machines, obsolete as they are, that require an S-video or composite input to its respective output, allowing for retro gaming goodness.
- The Modern Low-Resolution Projector Solution: A quality projector that covers vintage connections, as well as HD connections, should be able to project retro videogames as well as TV and movies through an analog S-video or composite A/V connection, sometimes even with a component video one that has the highest quality 480p resolution possible for analog era cables.
The compact projectors can project up to 60 inches in size and they’re quite small so that you can take it anywhere in your home or even outdoors when on the go and some such. These projectors can also work with more modern digital devices such as the iPod or MP3 players, DVD players, digicams, and more recent videogame consoles pre-HDMI.
- They Can Be Quite Cheap But Look for Cost-Effective Solutions: There are cheap, low-resolution projectors for A/V connections and retro games available known by names like Eye Drops or Eye Clops. The problem with them is that you get what you pay for. For only $30, you can have fun with a speaker-sized cube of a projector without feeling gypped.
Instead of being bulky and huge like the Sony projectors of the same era where the NES, SNES, and Genesis came about, these are new, modern projectors clearly marketed for kids since retro games and their simpler graphics tend to appeal to that age demographic.
- Requirements of Compact Retro Projectors: The requirements of compact projectors like the Eye Clops include connector cables of the RCA variety to connect with your various media sources that aren’t typically included in the box with the device. You might also need 4 D batteries that you use on radios.
They are also optional and not included with the product as well, since it can be run by being plugged into an electrical socket. If you’re a child, you’ll need adult supervision in order to replace the batteries. Otherwise, you’re good to go. You don’t need to be particularly tech-savvy in order to work with this unit.
- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Your main options for retro gaming are old used huge CRT-compatible A/V projectors, SVGA projectors for computers and laptops that will require a VGA-to-A/V converter to work with your vintage game consoles, and brand-new HD projectors with A/V connections. The last option makes it easy for children to make their own home theater and gaming center.
With mini projectors, because you’re dealing with low-resolution images, your viewing environment should be completely dark, like your typical cinema. You’ll have to draw the blinds or curtains closed to play. Old-timey huge projectors, on the other hand, necessitate advanced tech-savvy to be able to adjust the picture and whatnot. It’s best to go for the HD projectors with A/V ports for S-video or composite RCA.
The 5 Best Projectors for Retro Gaming
Without further ado, here are the Top 5 best projectors for retro gaming according to Amazon.com and its user review ratings.
This is a DLP type of projector, so expect the usual detriments of DLP (Digital Light Processor) projectors across the board like the rainbow effect and grayish-black levels. On the other hand, this is a brand-new, not-second-hand method for you to do retro gaming to your heart’s content. To be more specific, BenQ’s main claim to fame is its flexible connectivity, such that it’s capable of supporting most gaming consoles, media players, PCs, Macs, and so forth through A/V, USB, and HDMI ports.
It also covers resolutions from 1080p to 480i and whatnot as well as video compatibility for SECAM, PAL, and NTSC. If you’re concerned about input lag, don’t fret. It’s ideal for gaming because it has low input lag. You don’t need to put a delay on the sound so that it can catch up with the lag of the video. You don’t have to plan your moves in advance either and use your twitch reflexes to make Mario jump over cliffs or Link zap the Moblins to smithereens.
As for the ViewSonic 1080p Projector PX700HD, it’s a highly bright DLP projector with 3,500 lumens. It has dual HDMI ports for low input lag gaming. You can also use it for Netflix streaming, but only with a dongle or adapter (not included with the package). This one is a pretty good retro game projector in our estimation due to its 3,500 lumens and its immersive, theater-like colors care of its SuperColor technology. It also has a long lamp life, a 3-year warranty on parts and labor, a 1-year warranty on the lamp, and phone access to a U.S.-based customer help desk.
Other projectors we’ve tried out tend to struggle in recreating the warm color palette of a traditional CRT, leading to a flat, unimpressive image that doesn’t quite mesh with childhood memories of playing the NES, SNES, or N64. What’s more, this A/V-compatible projector has flexible connectivity to many things aside from consoles like PCs, Macs, mobile devices, and media players. Its input latency brings about smooth images without delay, so your twitch reflexes will come in handy while retro-gaming with the unit. Just watch out for its long throw distance if your theater room is small.
Regarding the Epson Home Cinema 5050UBe, it’s a wireless Pro-Ultra HD, 3-chip projector with HDR (High Dynamic Range) to give you the fullest quality palette without gradation possible. It’s another modern solution that keeps you from resorting to buying used, secondhand devices. This 3-chip projector has advanced 3LCD tech that really pushes the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) projector type to its utmost limits in quality and color vibrancy without the rainbow effects of DLP or the expensiveness of LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) projectors.
Regarding its quality retro-gaming-wise, it cannot be questioned that Epson delivers quality digital image processing for A/V connections while giving you the “bonus” service of handling 4K content at 2,600 lumens. It’s also an LCD-type projector, which means it should be more compatible with analog technology since LCD projectors have handled A/V outputs for much longer than DLP. Obviously, the main detriments it has to do with the lower lumens, so you’ll have to draw those blinds down when playing Super Mario Bros. 1 to 3 or any N64 classics like Pilotwings or Ocarina of Time. Additionally, customers on Amazon have also complained about certain Epson units having their bulbs burn out.
When looking for the best projectors for retro gaming, it’s all about clarity of projection and responsiveness of the game. It is possible to use your HD projector to play your NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, PlayStation 1-3, Xbox and Xbox 360, and what-have-you. This is how Yaber made the cut among giants like Epson, ViewSonic, and BenQ. Even though it’s a “no name” type of projector, it delivers native 1080p projections that look gorgeous with upscaled 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, 64-bit, and beyond games.
It has A/V connections available for both modern and retro gaming, in fact. It can run the Sony PlayStation 4 as well as the first PlayStation or PSX. Ditto with Xbox and Xbox360. There’s also the Wii, Wii-U, Switch as well as the NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64. We’ve tried it all and it worked fine, plus the ratings are comparable to what we got from the likes of BenQ and the others. It even has an advanced cooling system and hi-fi stereo sound available. The cons for all these pros, naturally, involve a percentage of the units breaking down and complaints about it having poor construction when compared to the other retro-gaming projectors on this list.
Last but not least is the Optoma offering for retro gaming on a projector. Optoma is a midway popular projector type that projector cinemaphiles should recognize as one of the regularly available options for affordable projectors. It’s more popular than Yaber but falls short on the level of a projector from ViewSonic, BenQ, or Epson. It’s one of the brighter projectors on this list with it having 3,600 lumens of brightness. It also makes the list due to its enhanced gaming mode with 16ms response time.
Although it’s the lowest-rated projector of the bunch on Amazon, it makes the list regardless because it accomplishes retro gaming excellently with its cinematic picture quality that doesn’t sacrifice 8-bit or 64-bit fidelity, whether you’re dealing with sprites or polygons. Additionally, you can do lights-on viewing with this super-bright projector, making it outdo its more famous and more expensive counterparts like the highly-rated Epson and BenQ options. The fast response time for an HD projector is what we particularly love about this unit. Unfortunately, it has gotten quality-control complaints and breakdowns that lowered its otherwise superb score.
By our estimation, the best projector of this list is the one from BenQ, followed by the similarly rated (but less popular by review count) Epson, then ViewSonic, then Yaber, and then finally Optoma and its 16ms game mode.
A more modern projector can have A/V connections to allow it to connect with a vintage console, although you might have to deal with game lag such as a “game mode” or low latency features. A more vintage projector that can handle A/V connections usually has less lag, which is important when gaming and dealing with in-game obstacles that require twitch reflexes. Just remember that many of these old projectors are huge, bulky, and heavy. There are more compact alternatives, but they tend to be expensive, rare, or unavailable.