Have you searched the Internet for projectors recently. If so, it’s a certainty that you’ve come across a slew of LED projectors priced at around $200, touting HD compatibility, 50,000 hour LED light source, and list brightness in “lux” instead of “lumens” but often “mistakenly” list the lux rating as a lumen rating.

Out of curiosity, I ordered a couple of these projectors—the Apeman LC650 and the Gzunelic M8s—to see what they offer the ultra-budget-conscious projector shopper. If a full hands-on review is TL;DR, here’s the scoop: These are toys.

UPDATE: Check out comment number 29 for a mini review of the Apeman LC650, which is the better of these two projectors.

Anyone looking for a quality home theater projection solution should take a hard pass on these projectors. By AVS Forum standards, the crux of it is this: For the money, you get a relatively dim 1080p projector with a plastic lens that won’t focus evenly (if one side is perfect, the other side is just a little blurred) and where the only adjustment provided to make the image fit on screen is electronic keystone correction and electronic zoom.

Anyone concerned with picture quality but shopping projectors should save a few extra bucks, and at the very minimum, take a look at an entry-level BenQ or Optoma instead.

The most important thing to understand is that a 6000 lux (Apeman) or 7000 lux (Gzunelic) projector is actually really dim projector. We’re talking perhaps 300-lumen class, if compared to name-brand projector specs. Unfortunately, tons of these projectors inaccurately swap lux for lumens in the product descriptions, which is highly deceptive. Furthermore, I’ve seen online reviews where the reviewer breathlessly states how bright a projector with that many lumens gets. Presumably, these are reviews from people who have never used a projector from a respected brand, have no clue about coloimetry, and quite possibly have never used the projector they are reviewing.

Whatever it is that causes the use of inaccurate specs, the point remains that you get what you pay for, and something’s gotta give when you go cheap. With these units, it’s brightness as well as the ability to focus that are compromised, which are two of the most important things.

Having said all that, I can still see use cases for these sort of projectors. Factoring in the price, at least the Apeman is “OK” as long as you understand its limitations. Let’s say you want to do a backyard movie night, or have kids and want to set them up with a way to play video games in the basement, or need a projector to use with an exercise bike, and your budget is around $200. As long as you keep the projected image size on the small side (let’s say around 60-80 inches), you do in fact get a projector that does a “good enough” job, runs fairly cool, and has a LED light source that will last a long time.

The one area where both projectors are “not half bad” is the surprisingly accurate color and decent motion rendering.

While both are “cheap” in the “you get what you pay for” sense, there were some very notable differences between the Apeman LC650 and Gzunelic M8s. Overall, the Apeman is the better projector and could be considered for select applications, while IMO the Gzunelic M8s should simply be avoided. Considering that I paid 30% less for the Apeman (with a coupon it cost $170 versus $235 for the Gzunelic), choosing between them is a no-brainer. The M8s is said to be a bit brighter, although I would argue you can’t really see the difference.


The Gzunelic M8s is rated as the brighter projector, but it was inferior to the Apeman due to its lens.

While both projectors have poorly performing lenses, the Apeman LC650 has the better lens of the two—by far, with relatively better focus uniformity across the screen. The Gzunelic I checked out has an utterly terrible lens and is impossible to focus properly.

The Apeman is also noticeably quieter and has a sealed design that’s dust resistant. By comparison, the Gzunelic’s lens started collecting dust on its inside surface within minutes of my turning it on, so it’s only a matter of time before blobs appear in the projected image.


Both projectors performed poorly when it comes to the lens, but the Apeman's was better.

Both projectors have basic menu systems that include some calibration controls, which wind up doing very little to improve things. The color you get out of the box is basically what you get, take it or leave it. I doubt anyone buys these projectors with the notion that they will calibrate them.

After my hands-on with each of them, I can’t say I recommend either of these projectors. But I also understand that this is what you get at this price point. The thing is, you can purchase a 43” 4K TV for a bit over $200 these days, which IMO is money better spent, especially if that’s all the budget you have for a display.

Anyone with home theater aspirations should take a hard pass on these projectors. Personally, I found them to be offputting, especially with the deceptive lumens ratings, but also how badly suited they are to any reasonable installation. Because beyond focusing issues, the projected image is not at all offset. In my living room, that means the optimal place for the projector is right on top of my head. Obviously, that's not going to happen.

Unfortunately, if you put one of these projectors on a table, or ceiling mount it, because of the lack of offset (which is what vertical lens shift adjusts), you’ll be using a ton of digital keystone correction, which reduces resolution and exacerbates the lens focus issue. So, unless you are a kid playing video games while sitting on the floor, finding a suitable spot to put this unit is a challenge.

Of course, I do wish that these two projectors were better performers, but reality is what it is. These are poorly-performing projectors with simplistic designs that make them only a good fit for select, casual usage scenarios, like the backyard movies I mentioned. It's a projector for a family that has kids and want to let the kids "have" the projector to play with.

These projectors are little more that plastic toys, and should be treated as such. But between the two, the Apeman is considerably better overall. Now, if I was a 13 year old kid again, I'd be super-duper thrilled to get one of these as a gift, be it for a birthday or Christmas. So there's that.


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