Finding the right home theater projector for you can often feel overwhelming with all of the technical jargon and measurements commonly used to depict the quality of the product. The good news is that when thinking about how to choose a home theater projector, as long as you are familiar with the key aspects, you do not need to know everything.
We will discuss all of those, but before we get started, it’s important to have a rough understanding of the different systems commonly available and how they work.
The first type of projector is the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) or 3LCD. The difference to note between LCD and 3LCD is the number of crystal displays used during light transmission. The 3LCD model uses a separate crystal display for red, green, and blue, and these colors then meet in a central prism before being thrown to the screen or wall.
Working similarly to LCD projectors, LED (Light Emitting Diode) or LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) units replaced the traditional lamp with red, green, and blue LED’s that shine directly through the DMD or Digital Micromirror Device chip.
On the contrary, DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors use a series of millions of micromirrors that can be individually angled to reflect light from the lamp. This light then passes through a red, green, and blue color wheel before being thrown to the screen.
When the time comes for you to do away with your conventional TV and enter the world of projected imagery, there are a few factors that you may wish to consider. As promised, below, you’ll find a guide of potential influencers when choosing a home theater projector.
Chances are, if you’re buying a projector, you would like to be able to move it around to various locations, whether in your own home or to the office. Due to their lack of moving parts, LCD projectors are more often than not the thinnest projectors available. This also makes them incredibly lightweight, which is perfect if you’re looking to mount it to a ceiling.
For the more budget conscious among us, LCD projectors are often the more affordable option. This doesn’t inherently mean they are inferior to LCOS or DLP projectors. LCD units typically produce both the brightest and sharpest images around.
This being said, you do get what you pay for, and even with LCD projectors, it’s the single-chip units that are at entry-level pricing. There are many different types of projectors around, so it’s important to know what features most appeal to you and be willing to compromise if you wish to stay on budget.
To produce bright and clear images, projectors need a sufficient light source. This is displayed in the measurement of lumens; the higher the lumen rating, the brighter the image will appear. We typically find that a lumen rating of 1000 to 1200 will deliver a good image, but remember, if the image is too bright, it may become hard to look at for long periods of time.
Complementing brightness, contrast is the ratio between black and white pixels in the image. The higher the contrast ratio, the deeper the tones of the colors of the image. With that in mind, 1500:1 is a good ratio to aim for, but a ratio of 2000:1 and above will deliver the best results.
When a lamp comes to the end of its life, images can start to look faded and produce a ghosting effect. This will inevitably happen to all lamps and will simply need to be replaced in time.
DLP lamps often run the shortest lives, commonly lasting between 2000 and 5000 hours as opposed to LED’s that can last anywhere over 20,000 hours. Again, this is all dependent upon your budget since the expensive, higher-end models are those that typically contain longer-lasting light sources.
The aspect ratio is actually the shape of the displayed image. Technically speaking, a ratio of 4:3 will show a squarer image whereas 16:9 will produce more rectangular images. Most projectors nowadays use the 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the international standard for full-HD displays.
This will heavily influence the image quality displayed on the screen or wall. Resolution refers to the number of pixels shown on the display, so the higher the number, the greater the image quality will be. The right resolution for you is completely dependent upon your needs, but when it comes to a home theater system, you’ll want the best image possible.
An HD-quality resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels and is relatively common, but for those looking for the best images around, you’ll want 4K. Although 4K is more expensive, it is by far the highest resolution currently available at 4096 x 2160. This level of image clarity will surely change the way you watch home entertainment.
The throw ratio of projectors refers to the distance the projector is required to be from the wall or screen to provide the best quality image. This is important with regards to the layout of the room you intend to have the projector in as well as if its ceiling mounted or not. For example, if you need a screen to be 10 feet wide and 15 feet away, the throw ratio would be 1.5:1.
Buying a projector for a home theater system will most likely mean you’ll want to watch Blu-ray or HD movies, so you’ll need to make sure it has HDMI ports available. Most projectors include standard VGA or DVI inputs for computers also.
The rule on how to choose a home theater projector is to ignore your budget initially and do a bit of research about the varying types of projector available so that you can find what will best meet your requirements. Once you have a good idea of what’s out there, you can gauge what kind of budget you are likely to be looking at and can select the best features for you from the models available. It’s important that you’re willing to compromise as you won’t want to pay for features that don’t appeal to you or miss out on those you deem necessary.
When it comes to overall performance, we’ve found that higher-end DLP projectors typically return the best image quality. On the other hand, when it comes to entry-level or mid-tier units, LCD projectors deliver a greater value for money and often match higher priced DLP counterparts.