Although a big screen TV is enough for a home theater setup, using a home theater projector with a big display screen can take your movie experience to the next level. Projectors have been around for more than a century. But, their use was mostly limited to business and commercial applications. However, with the advancement of technology, they are rapidly replacing big screen TVs in home theater systems.
Projectors are also becoming affordable for the average household. In fact, you can get the best home theater models under $1000. When it comes to buying a projector for your home theater setup, you will come across a wide range of products with exceptional image quality and various other technical specifications. That’s why selecting the right projector can be a tough task.
Here are 5 tips that will make it easier to find the most suitable projector for your home theater.
1. Projection Technology
The visual display is the most important part of a sound movie theater setup. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the different types of technical specifications before buying a projector. There are two basic types of projectors, the DLP (Digital Light Processing) and the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). You need to consider the various benefits as well as drawbacks offered by both models when selecting the right projector.
1. DLP (Digital Light Processing) Projectors
DLP projectors use mirrors to project images. The digital micromirror device or DMD is the heart of every DLP video projector.
- They produce a smooth image.
- The projection is highly accurate with no shadows.
- They have a high contrast ratio.
- They are the most affordable home theater projectors out there.
- They have a limited number of pixels.
- They can produce a rainbow effect across the screen.
- They are not as bright as the LCD projectors.
2. LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) Projectors
LCD projectors use three specially designed LCD Chips (red, blue, or green) to create and project images on an external screen. There are three variants of LCD projectors LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), D-ILA (Digital Imaging Light Amplification) and SXRD (Silicon Crystal Reflective Display).
- They are extremely compact.
- They have high brightness capabilities.
- They have good color saturation.
- They may have dead pixels.
- They can lose image quality over time.
- They have lower color uniformity compared to the DLP projectors.
- They are expensive compared to the DLP projectors.
2. Aspect Ratio
Aspect ratio refers to the rectangular shape of the viewing area or the display image. There are two basic types of aspect ratios the 16:9 ratio and the 4:3 ratio. While a traditional (Non-High Definition) TV has a 4:3 ratio, an HD TV usually has a 16:9 aspect ratio. Though the 4:3 ratio works well for regular TV programs, the 16:9 aspect ratio is rapidly replacing this aspect ratio.
The 16:9 aspect ratio is the most widely used format in television and gaming because it can deliver a high definition performance. If your home theater space is large enough to accommodate at least two rows of recliners, you should choose the 16:9 aspect ratio for better viewing experience.
The typical brightness of projectors ranges between 800 and 3000 lumens. The projector brightness depends on the ambient room light and the size of the screen. Larger screens need more lumens for better image quality. On the other hand, projectors with lower lumens can work well in a dark room.
- Though projectors under 1000 lumens are the most affordable, they work well only in extremely dark rooms with small screens.
- If you have an average-sized display screen and a dimly-lit room, 1000 to 2000 lumens is the best range of projectors for your media room.
- The 2000-to-3000 lumens range can handle any screen size. It is the best choice for a room with substantial ambient lighting.
- Projectors with brightness over 3000 lumens are rarely placed in a dark room as they produce remarkably bright images.
4. Throw Distance
The throw distance is the distance between your projector lens and the screen divided by the width of the screen. You can see the throw ratio of your projector in the product specifications. So, if the throw ratio of your projector is 3 and the screen size is 5 feet, you need to place the projector at a distance of 15 feet from the screen. When it comes to the throw distance, there are two types of projectors: long throw distance and short throw distance.
Long throw distance projectors are ideal for a large home theater setup having considerable seating area such as three or more rows of recliners. On the other hand, if you are having only a couple of recliner seats in the media room, you should choose a short throw distance projector. However, they are costlier compared to their long throw distance counterparts.
Another key factor is the resolution or the pixel density. The rule of thumb is that the higher the resolution is, the clearer and sharper the picture will be. A native resolution of 1280 x 768 is sufficient for playing videos with 16:9 aspect ratio, particularly if you intend to connect the projector to a computer or a laptop.
However, 1280×720 resolution is required to play 720p HDTV videos. It is the most common and most affordable pixel density. Though slightly expensive, projectors having 1920 x 1080 resolution are the best option for high definition applications such as Blu-rays, HDTVs, and gaming systems.
Compared to a big screen TV, a home theater projector and a display screen can create a more satisfying movie-watching experience. Over the years, video projectors have become increasingly affordable. Plus, they are easy to install. However, choosing the right projector model can be a demanding process as you have to take into account several technical aspects such as projection systems, aspect ratios, resolutions, throw distances, and brightness. These tips will help you make an informed decision when buying a projector for your home theater.