Projector for Home Theater Tips and Tricks
If you are thinking about purchasing a Projector for Home Theater and first encountered this type of technology, then you will surely get the classic “choice problem”. In this article, which contains information relevant to the end of 2019, we will help you navigate the list of characteristics and choose the best home projector with support for Full HD or 4K UHD resolution. Epson, JVC, LG, Optoma, Panasonic, Sony, ViewSonic, and others – all of them produce excellent devices and the choice is often not tied to the brand
Projector vs TV
When they recall the “projector for the home”, in the vast majority of cases they mean a large diagonal of the image – 80+ inches. Even 2 years ago, this was the main advantage of the projector as a means of display, but now the dimensions of LED and OLED panels are growing due to the introduction of 4K / 8K and mass TVs have reached 100 inches. Nevertheless, their competitors from the projection camp are not standing still and offer ever new solutions that reduce the cost of technology and make the image quality better. And with a large diagonal of the picture, projectors significantly benefit in price in comparison with TVs (if any exist in the right size). As of the end of 2019, a 4K projector is comparable in value to an OLED TV but can create a picture that is larger than the size of any mass TV.
Only an ancient myth – “projectors do not provide high-quality images in a bright room” can become a conditional stop signal for buying a projector. This is far from the case and the result depends on many factors. Ideally, to create a complete system with a home projector, you should allocate a separate room, or even a basement, where the light does not get. In a brightened room, the advantages of this device are reduced, since the image on the screen will look somewhat dimmer than from modern TVs, where the panels themselves are a light source. But you can always compensate for this factor by choosing a projector model with high brightness and investing in a high-quality reflective screen to work even in fully lit rooms.
There is another factor in the battle of TV vs projector. A modern smart TV has everything important out of the box, but a projector usually needs an external signal source (PC, media player, television, or game console).
Home theater projectors are recommended for watching movies, cartoons, and TV shows in HD / 3D / 4K, sports on the big screen, photo slide shows, and video games. By the way, if you are going to find a projector for games by connecting it to a game console or PC, the response time will be an important aspect – the game will be comfortable on everything below 30-40 ms.
Projector for Home Theater installation
Although the installation will follow the purchase of the projector, it is better to be concerned about placement issues first. The nuances of the room under the recreation center, such as the distance to the screen and mounting options, are too important. Sometimes conditions of use become a key factor.
Each projector has a key parameter, throw ratio. This is the ratio of the distance from the projector to the screen to the width of the screen itself. Knowing the “projection relationship” solves the issue of where to position the screen and projector.
Depending on the value of throw ratio, all projectors are divided into three groups: long-focus, short-focus, ultra-short-focus. In addition, the so-called installation projectors can have interchangeable optics – just by purchasing a lens, you will get a long-focus or short-focus model.
Long-focus models have a high projection ratio and are demanding on the dimensions of the room. For example, the classic 2.0: 1 ratio implies that you get an image 2 meters wide from a distance of 4 meters.
Short throw projectors have a small projection ratio. Major manufacturers consider the upper threshold of 1.5: 1, and the lower 0.55: 1. At the same time, typical numbers are 0.8-1.3: 1. And finally, in the class of ultrashort-focus projectors, models with a projection ratio of 0.18-0.4: 1 are assembled, which allows you to install the best devices at a distance of only 10 cm from the screen. True, such devices are more suitable for presentations than for watching movies of the maximum quality.
In the simplest situation, the projector is installed in the “desktop version”. Formally, it can be installed each time in the right place (especially if it is a portable model), but at home, there is no need to constantly drag the projector. Here, for convenience and obtaining high-quality images, you will need to install the projector on a wall or ceiling using a fixed amount. You do not have to adjust it or adjust the angle every time.
Portable projectors are lightweight (up to a kilogram), they can be carried even in a backpack (or even in a pocket), some of them are equipped with sound speakers. The image quality of most of them is not enough stars from the sky, but for a simple home option from them, more is not required.
Types of projectors. What is the difference between DLP, 3LCD, and LCOS?
According to the technology used, projectors can be divided into the following types: DLP, 3LCD, and LCOS. Let us consider in detail their features and advantages.
The essence of DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology is that the image is formed by a matrix of micromirrors. The main disadvantage of such projectors is the rainbow effect observed by many viewers when superfluous movements in the picture show extra colors.
But at the same time, DLP has a lot of advantages. This technology allows you to create a lightweight and compact projector (pay attention to the so-called Pico models with built-in media player) and gives a movie-like picture with Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray. DLP also has a smooth motion for fast scenes, high contrast, and very deep black. Premium models use a three-chip DLP, where even higher image quality is achieved.
LCD / 3LCD
The projector on the LCD / 3LCD (Liquid Crystals Display) filters the lamp light into three basic colors for each pixel, and all this is collected in the lens into a picture. Such devices are capable of producing a good picture with impressive brightness, without the effect of a rainbow. Highly recommended for use in well-lit rooms and in addition a little quieter and more energy-efficient than DLP projectors. But the minus of such models is that a grid of pixels is noticeable in their picture. Another important disadvantage of 3LCD is that the optical unit is used without protection and therefore it is recommended to keep it away from dust and cigarette smoke.
LCOS (Liquid Crystals On Silicon) or D-ILA, SXRD is a hybrid of two previous technologies, usually available only on high-end models. It has all the advantages of DLP and LCD. So far, with only one drawback – their cost is several times higher. They have no rainbow effect and pixel grid, they have smooth video, high contrast, and excellent color reproduction.
DLP matrices are used in models from BenQ, JVC, LG, Optoma, ViewSonic, and others. LCDs are popular in devices from Epson, Panasonic, Sony. Well, the third type is found in JVC (D-ILA) and Sony (LCoS and SXRD).
Basic selection criteria for projectors selection
The projector forms an image using a light source, optics, a “modulator” and control electronics (it also compensates for optical distortions of the picture). What is important to know when choosing a projector based on your needs and preferences ?! Consider the most important parameters.
Another important parameter is the resolution. This is the number of dots (pixels) used to display the image. For office and other projectors, it’s enough to take devices that can give a resolution of 1024×768 or 1280×800. But projectors for home theater have an aspect ratio of 16: 9 (rarely 16:10) for HDTV and Blu-ray, and the picture resolution should be at least FullHD (1920 × 1080).
Since 2018 ( 4K UHD Blu-ray output ), content in 4K format (4096 × 2160 and 3840 × 2160) has become relevant. It will not be out of place to clarify whether a native 4K-matrix is used in the projector or whether 4K-content is displayed using a Full HD-matrix (the so-called 4K Enhancement or analogs).
Brightness (Luminous Flux)
Image brightness depends on a lot of factors, not on the projector itself. Therefore, it is pointless to specify it in the specifications and the most important parameter is the luminous flux. Immediately emphasize that if you are going to take a cheap device from China or a laptop with Aliexpress. Then the specified characteristics of the luminous flux should be divided into two, or even three.
A home theater projector, unlike a presentation, is not required to have excessive luminous flux values. After all, you will most likely watch a movie in a dark room. Therefore there will be plenty of luminous flux values of 2500-3000 Lm in any situation. As a rule, 1200-1500 lumens will be enough in complete darkness.
In the case of a projector for a home theater (especially for a darkened one). The most important parameter is the native contrast. The higher it is, the deeper the black color. High contrast provides a more detailed image projection.
Do not confuse it with dynamic contrast, which is often indicated to impress a potential buyer. It is important to note that in the case of brightly lit rooms. The contrast of the image depends solely on the brightness of the projector.
The light source and its resource
Projectors are powered by one of three light sources: a standard lamp, a laser (Laser), or a light-emitting diode (LED).
The most popular and cheapest light source in projectors is a halogen (mercury) lamp. They are cheap and capable of delivering high brightness. Every 2000-4000 hours of travel, such a lamp needs to be taken into service or replaced. Since within the indicated period it loses half its brightness. They are also very hot, so they need cooling, which with their noise can reduce viewing comfort.
Therefore, mercury lamps are looking for alternatives. One of them is an LED lamp that consumes much less energy and is extremely popular in pico projectors. It is quieter in operation. It fades less often, and its service life is up to 20 thousand hours. Its “dark side” – provides not so good color rendition.
Laser projectors, where laser diodes are the light source. Also outperform mercury lamps with a service life of 20 thousand hours or more. Such projectors are more simple and unpretentious in operation. In addition, they are much brighter, they have better contrast, and a wider color gamut than standard lamps.
LED and laser projectors are much more expensive than lamp projectors. But, given the longer life of the light source and energy consumption, they are cheaper to operate. Of course, there are hybrid types of lamps that combine LED and laser, which makes the model more expensive.
Additional functions of Projector for Home Theater
Additional projector settings are available only on certain models. Some may find important functions such as quick warm-up or automatic image correction. But we will focus on larger ones.
The projector lens can enlarge the image without distortion. Typically, optical magnification is indicated as zoom — for example, 1.3x or 1.6x.
A modern projector for a recreation center has several connection types. HDMI (a media player or Blu-ray player or game console). AUSB port (connection to a computer or a USB flash drive), old DVI or VGA interfaces. Standard HDMI and VGA interfaces allow you to easily receive signals up to 1080p. To display Blu-ray 3D, you will need HDMI version 1.4 or higher. For 4K HDR, pay attention to the availability of HDMI 2.0b.
Mid- and high-priced models, as well as installation projectors, use the Ethernet interface (usually for management tasks, not content transfer). Some projectors use a Wi-Fi wireless connection to transfer images from a computer or smartphone to the screen. And pico projectors, which are becoming popular in the budget segment. It can be connected using Wi-Fi (up to 802.11ac 2×2 MiMo) and Bluetooth.
Need to transfer sound to the projector? You can do this either together with video via HDMI, or separately using the Audio In connector.
Some models have built-in speakers. Usually, their power does not exceed 8-10 watts. But for a recreation center, it is better to have indicators of 15 watts. However, this option can only be considered as a backup, and to obtain high-quality sound. It is recommended to use an external speaker system that will complement your viewing experience on the big screen.
How much does a Projector for Home Theater cost?
Just note that the gradation is approximate. A good home theater projector costs a lot, but buying it is a feasible task. To replace the TV you will need an ultrashort-focus projector based on LED or laser and with a brightness of 1000 lm. And if you need to get an image with a width of 200+ cm (from 90 “) for a reasonable price. Then there is simply no alternative to a high-quality projector.
If you are not interested in pico projectors from China. Then the price tag for a normal home solution starts at $ 800. For 1200 you can already talk about a good tube or LED device with Full HD resolution. The best projectors with Full HD resolution and high-quality color settings. As well as younger models with 4K fit in the range of $ 1500-3000.
And starting at $ 3,000, the price tag for 4K projectors for home cinema starts. If you have a decent budget, you will get the perfect color, deep blacks, and smooth movement on the screen with a diagonal of 120 “.