There are two common misconceptions regarding projectors. First is the notion that a projector cannot produce an image that is as bright and clear as a TV. This is just not the case. These days Projection technology has advanced to the point that home theater projectors can produce an image equal in quality to any TV. Projectors can produce a full 1080p (High Definition) image that is as bright as any flat screen TV. Projectors, however, demand one consideration that TV’s do not…ambient light control. It’s easy to spoil a bright crisp image by not choosing proper window treatments or in some other way simply not getting the room dark enough. If you’ve ever seen a projection theater that is washed out by too much light, you know exactly what we mean.
The second misconception is that one has to be wealthy to own a projection theater. While this might have been true earlier in the evolution of projection technology, this, too, is no longer the case. Yes, not too long ago buying a nice home theater projector would set you back as much as five figures! These days, as technology rapidly advances, the cost has come WAY down.
Projectors offer other advantages and limitations as well.
Largest possible picture. Front projectors generate the largest possible image size. You can use them to create the very large screen experience of a commercial movie theater in your own home. In theory, actual image size can go up to 300″ (diagonal) or even more. But in reality the size of any given projector’s image is limited by its light output. Nevertheless, most projectors produce optimal images at sizes of 90″ to 120″ diagonal, which is far larger than anything you can get with flatscreen TVs.
You can fit four 50″ television screens (16×9) in an HD 100″ screen.
Smaller images are a great option also. Perhaps you don’t want a huge image, or maybe you don’t have space for one. If this is the case, a projector can be used to throw a smaller image, say about 60″ diagonal. So it can serve as an inexpensive substitute for a 60″ plasma TV. At this image size the picture is usually very bright, and can be used with some of the room lights on. Given the low cost of many entry level projectors, this can be the least expensive way to get a 60″ picture on your wall.
Space saving. A small projector that is mounted in a soffit, a rear shelf or bookcase, or mounted on a ceiling, takes up no floorspace in the room. When not operating, it is largely invisible. Using a projector gets rid of the big box television that is always sitting on the wall.
We have lots of unique and creative ways that we can hide your projector!
Dark room required. Front projectors look their best in a darkened room, just like a movie theater. When you view in a dark room you get maximum contrast and sparkle in the picture. Whether you need a dark room or not depends in part on how bright your projector is, and in part on how picky you are about maintaining maximum image quality. If you are trying to create the “movie theater” experience, this is not really a disadvantage since you want a dark room anyway. However, if you plan to have a lot of family or social gatherings around your screen, a darkened room may not be desired. So your intended usage needs to be considered before selecting a front projector.
Maintenance required. Most projectors require maintenance attention that flatscreen and regular televisions do not. All projectors operate on lamps that need to be replaced periodically, and lamps can cost $200 to $400. The frequency of lamp replacement depends on the model and on your usage, but most projector users replace lamps (on average) every two to three years.
In addition to lamp replacement, most projectors have air filters that need to be cleaned or replaced every couple of months. Cleaning this filter is similar to cleaning the filter in your clothes Dryer. Failure to keep filters clean can reduce lamp life and increase the chances of dust getting into the unit and creating fuzzy spots on the projected image. Once this happens, a projector usually must be returned to the dealer or manufacturer for cleaning.
Installation can be more involved. As noted above, the ease of installation varies based upon how you want to set it up. If you plan to ceiling mount it, you may need to run power and signal cables through the walls. Furthermore, if you are using a projection screen as well, then hooking a fixed screen to the wall, or installing an electric retractable screen in or on the ceiling adds further steps to the installation process. If the projector does not have physical lens shift capability, the job of ceiling mounting to fit a screen must be done with exacting care. “Lens shift” is a feature that lets you move the lens up, down, and sideways, in order to adjust the location of the projected image without physically moving the entire projector. This feature is available in professional home cinema projectors from Epson and JVC.
Separate audio system required. Most projectors have no internal speakers. So most people who opt for a projector are also setting up a separate audio system to go with it. (Big pictures look better with big sound!) If budgeting the whole system is too much of a stretch, you can always get the projector today and use your current two-channel stereo as a good audio solution until you have the cash and time to get into the world of multi-channel surround sound.
A big part of the decision to use a projectior or not depends on what you intend to do with it. If the screening of widescreen movies is your primary interest, projectors do this in a much bigger format than any other solution. But if you plan to watch a lot of television and news, although you can do this on a projector, most people find that flatscreens televisions are the better answer. Be mindful of lamp replacements costs–if you like to run your TV most of the day as background noise, you will not want to use a projector in this manner.
As technology rapidly advances, home entertainment components move in and out of practical viability. This is particularly true of home theater projectors. Once large, expensive, and impractical for most, projectors have become smaller, affordable, and very much a practical option for many. With some consideration towards how you want to use your media space, many would do well reconsider projection as an option.