If you're in the market for a new screen, you may have wondered if you should get a projector instead of another TV. Perhaps you're interested in a more authentic home theatre experience, and you've heard that projectors are the only way to go. Or, you just think projectors are neat, and you have images of a giant projection spanning the entire wall in your mind. That must be a cheaper way to get to the big screen, right?
Well, although using a projector is technically a more authentic way to enjoy a home theatre, with the technological advancements in HDTVs that we have today, a TV can offer just as high quality of a movie experience, and projectors aren't always the cheaper option. Additionally, TV screens tend to be more versatile, whereas a projector requires specific environmental conditions to produce a great quality picture. So, whether a projector is right for you depends on your individual needs, budget, and home entertainment setup.
It's important to understand that there are a variety of projector models designed for different uses, but they all fall into one of these three categories:
LCD: An LCD projector uses a technology similar to LCD TVs involving a liquid-crystal display. Known as budget projectors, LCD technology has improved greatly in recent years, so LCD projectors nowadays offer fantastic picture quality.
DLP: Most actual cinema projectors use DLP technology, or digital light processing. This type of projection involves a matrix of microscopic mirrors laid out on a semiconductor chip, in which each mirror represents one or a few pixels. The more mirrors a DLP projector has, the higher resolution it is able to achieve. In general, the contrast ratios of DLP projectors are inferior to other types, but they tend to have better motion resolution.
LCOS: A newer projector technology, LCOS, or liquid-crystal on silicon, uses a technology similar to DLP but with liquid crystals rather than mirrors. LCOS projectors tend to be more expensive and offer the highest resolutions and contrast ratios.
Here are some common reasons why people choose projectors over a standard TV:
Screen size: Typically, people choose a projector over a TV for the ability to project onto a massive screen. While large HDTVs have become more affordable in the last decade, when it comes to screen sizes of 70 inches or greater, projectors remain king. People with a dedicated home theatre room often need projectors to achieve their desired screen size. If you're looking to truly achieve a realistic cinema experience in your home, you might want to opt for a projector.
Adjustable resolution: Unlike HDTVs, which have a fixed resolution, you have the ability to adjust the resolution of a projector image by changing the distance of the projector from the screen. While the maximum resolution is fixed, high quality projectors can actually achieve resolutions well above 1080p.
Lightweight: Some people opt for projectors because they are lightweight and portable compared to a TV. While more dedicated home theatre setups typically have permanent projector installations, if you have a more casual home entertainment setup, it can be easy to move or put away your projector when you're not using it. This may save space or allow you to use your projector in different rooms in the house. Keep in mind that a projector requires a specific, consistent environment to produce the best quality image.
While there are many benefits to projectors, there are many situations when a projector shouldn't be used or when a TV is the better option. These are some of the cons and limitations of projectors:
Ambient light: The biggest limitation of projectors compared to TVs is the sensitivity to ambient light. While TVs are better equipped to accommodate brighter environments, any light in the room will degrade the image contrast of a projector. Even projectors designed for high light spaces can't produce high contrast in such environments. So, if you're going to use a projector, it's imperative that you have control over the light levels in the room.
Screen: While you might think that you'll be able to simply project a movie directly onto the wall, there will likely be a noticeable texture visible on the image. If you want a high quality movie experience, you'll need to get a projector screen. These can be large and costly, especially if you want an installation that allows you to hide the screen when it's not in use.
Cables: Although TVs also require a lot of cabling to set up, projector cables can be more difficult to organize and hide since the projector needs to be positioned behind the screen.
Lifespan: Due to the powerful lamps used in projectors, they typically have to be replaced every 1-2 years with regular use. Depending on the type of projector, lamps can cost upwards of a few hundred dollars, so be sure to factor that into your budget when shopping for a projector.