The world of projectors is divided into two worlds: home entertainment and the office and classroom.

While the home entertainment world has all the glitz, glamour and high-end expensive models; it’s the small office and education market that really puts these devices to the test. Projectors are by their nature large and fragile devices and putting them in the hub of a busy work or class environment, often in the hands of non-technical users, places real demands on a hardware manufacturer.

These models will also be used in much lighter environments than home projectors: you can’t always draw the curtains in a meeting room. And they will often be used to display graphics and text, which must be crisp and clear. Using the right projector can make the difference between making a sale, or not: and students will quickly become bored if they cannot easily view your hard worked presentation.

There are lots of things to look out for in a good projector. Portability is a big deal, as you’ll often need to move it around: either from office to office, or even take it on the road. Pico technology has made projectors much more mobile. It works by compacting the entire mirror system used in projectors into a single small chip. Pico technology has made hand-held, projectors possible: but there is also a good selection of lightweight projectors that offer similar portability with much higher image quality.

Brightness is another factor to consider. Check the ANSI Lumens rating of a projector. Generally speaking a projector with 1,000 ANSI Lumens or greater is sufficient. Contrast delivers blacker blacks and whiter whites, and it’s the partner of brightness. A projector with 1,500:1 is good; 2,000:1 and up is excellent.

Pixel density is also important: projectors blow up an image, including the pixels, so the higher the pixel density the smoother the projected image. Another aspect is color perception, although this is generally a matter of personal taste on most projectors. The more expensive a projector is the more likely it is to have three LCD chips (one for red, green and blue). These offer higher color capacity but increase the weight, size, and price of the device: so they’re typically more suited to video projectors rather than office models.

Finally you should make sure it has the inputs that you need, and can support the devices you use. For this you may need to buy adaptors from Apple. These will adapt the Thunderbolt and Lightning connection on the newer Macs and iOS devices. If you have an older Mac or iOS device you will need compatible DisplayPort and Dock adaptors.

On top of all of this you may need to carry your projector with you to the office or classroom, so it has to be lightweight as well as sturdy and powerful. That’s a tall order but we found four of the very best office projectors on the market. In this group test we’re going to discover which is the right one to take into the office. 

Epson EB-1945W

The Epson EB-1945W is a powerful projector that easily has the best picture quality on test here. This is due to its stunning 4,200 ANSI lumen rating (it also has an economy mode that turns it down to a still respectable 2,910 lumen). [read more]

Philips Pico 2480

The Philips Pico is the smallest and lightest model on test here. At just 30 x 100 mm and weighing in at 300 grams it immediately claims the most portable model crown. It also has a built-in battery with a two-hour battery life, which means it can be pulled out for impromptu presentations. [read more]

Sony VPL-DX140

This Sony VPL-DX140 is another entry-level projector principally designed for the classroom, but also excellent value for office environments. [read more]

Mitsubishi EX321U-ST

The Mitsubishi EX321U-ST is a short throw projector, which means that it’s especially designed for small meeting rooms and smaller classrooms. The advantage of this model is that you can project a crisp 60in image onto a wall from less than 30in. [read more]

Macworld buying advice

There’s a good range of projectors on test here, and they all offer slightly unique features that appeal to the office worker or classroom teacher. The Epson EB1945W has the best image quality, thanks in no small part to its extremely high 4,200 ANSI lumens rating and 3,000:1 contrast ratio. But it’s also the most expensive model on test here, as well as being the largest and heaviest device to move around.

The Sony VPL-DX140 and Mitsubishi EX321U-ST are the closest in picture quality and price to each other. Both offer a good budget alternative to the Epson, with the Sony offering slightly higher picture quality in our opinion.  However, the Mitsubishi’s Short Throw stature is a much better option for small meeting rooms and we liked the Wall Screen Support mode.

Moving to the lower end of the scale the Philips Pico is the most interesting projector here. With its low 80 lumen rating, 1,000:1 contrast ratio and 854 x 480 specifications it’s unfair to compare on specs or picture quality: it has neither. But it’s far better than you imagine.  What it does offer is a perfectly functional media playback in a truly portable package and it’s great for showing off home photos from SD cards. If only it had better Mac and iOS compatibility out of the box..

But we keep being drawn back to the Epson EB1945W. The feature that really made the difference for us was its ability to deliver a great image quality by a person with little to no knowledge of how to use a projector. The test card system and Focus Help button strikes us as being well thought-out features that lift it up above the crowd: if only it were offered on a cheaper model. It’s a lot to ask for an extra £600 over the Sony VPL-DX140, which offers similar colour quality at a much lower price. The Sony’s Eco-Mode also ensures that it is cheaper to run, and it goes for 7,000 hours rather than 5,000 hours making it a better long-term investment.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Epson EB-1945W is the best model on test here, if you’re willing to pay for it. It’s the best classroom and corporate boardroom option. We think the Sony VPL-DX140 is the better budget option however, and it’s 2.5kilo weight and slim form factor will make it more suitable taking on the road.