My last TV was a modest 32″, and I suppose what they called “flat screens” before TV’s were actually flat. Yet over the last 12 months I’ve lived with an 80″ projector installed in the living room. Truly, it’s changed my mind on having such a girthy spectacle. When faced with having to go back from 80″ to 32″ I decided to drop the cash on a projector of my own. What is the best projector? Which one should I buy? Below is what I learned.
Why should I choose a projector over a TV?: Simply put, it’s the smarter choice. There are 3 reasons that I base that upon. 1) Price. Projectors are less expensive by far. While an 80″ TV can cost an average of almost $3,000, a projector with similar capabilities averages less than $1,200. 2) More adaptable. Projectors can be changed from 60″ to 120″ depending on where it’s mounted. That’s nice when adapting to different spaces and makes it the much more flexible choice. 3) More portable. If you’re like me, you could move every 12-24 months. You tell me what’s easier: Awkwardly pulling down and maneuvering (and even safely packing away) an 80″x6″ rectangle into a large truck, or simply placing a 5 pound unit the size of a shoebox on your lap?
What are the downsides of a projector?: There are really only two: Brightness & Sound. Projectors, especially with a low lumen count, can be more difficult to view in bright rooms. This used to be a bigger problem, but today’s technology is improving enough that even particular outdoor viewing is a possibility. Sound is arguably not a downside, since most home theaters now have separate sound systems connected to the screen, though it’s important to note most projectors don’t provide quality sound on their own. At least 10w systems provide some sound. Watch out for 2w systems that give a hardly acceptable viewing experience. The only other downside I can think of is all your friend’s TVs will look downright puny.
What should I look for?
Lumen Count: This is that whole brightness issue. To me, this is the most important thing. Older/Cheaper units are around 1,000 lumens, which is fine in many situations but typically require dim lit spaces. Be ready to pull down the shades on a bright day. Average lumen count is around 2,000, which provides enough for most viewing areas. Higher on the spectrum brings you to 3,000+ lumens which all but removes the limitations you’d face otherwise.
Contrast Ratio: This relates to the clarity. You should stay at or above a 10,000:1 ratio. Preferably you want to search for a 15,000:1 to 20,000:1 ratio.
720p vs 1080p: This is essentially what resolution it can run. While both are technically “HD” in all actuality you should probably spend the extra dough and get a 1080p (or 1,920×1,080) resolution. That way you can enjoy all of the HD movies and video games the way they were meant to be enjoyed – and at 100″ the detail will truly be outstanding. 720p (1,280×720) is OK for most TV shows and DVDs but with the way media is going should be quite outdated within a few years.