How To Choose The Right Home Theater Projector

Home theater projectors have replaced televisions for home entertainment. They allow viewers to watch movies at home on a large screen. Users can play, pause, and rewind movies at their will while not having to suffer from disruptions due to ringing cellphones or talkative audience.

What is a Home Theater Projector?

A home theater projector is one that allows you to have a cinema-like movie experience at your home. It is primarily meant for watching movies and may be installed in the living area, den, or a dedicated room. Viewers can watch movies in high quality on a large screen. Home theater projectors are suitable for dark rooms with no or very low ambient light. It is because the black levels and contrast of the imagery will be the best in dark rooms. Home theater projectors are also optimized to prevent them from being excessively bright.

Home theater projectors have Full HD (1080p) or a higher resolution. Most of them support 3D movie playback for facilitating an immersive experience. As home theater projectors are designed to be used with an external surround sound system, they don’t have built-in speakers. They feature HDMI ports for connecting them to DVD players and streaming devices. These devices are not ideal for playing games, browsing the Internet, or being used in areas with high ambient light.

Factors To Consider When Buying a Projector for Home Theater

It can be quite confusing for the buyers to choose a home theater projector due to the extensive options available in the market. Here are a few factors that buyers must look for when buying a home theater projector.

Brightness

One of the main factors to consider when buying a projector for your home theater is its brightness rating. It will determine how well you can see the projected imagery and is expressed in  lumens. A projector can have a brightness rating varying from 200 lumens to 4,000 lumens or even higher. 

Optoma UHD50 True 4K Home Theater Projector with 2400-lumen Brightness

The ideal brightness rating for a home theater projector is 1,500 to 2,000  lumens. These devices are meant to be used in dark rooms where the ambient light can be controlled entirely. If the light in the room is not controllable, you may require a projector with 2,500 to 3,000 lumens brightness rating. A thing to note is that the imagery of projectors with a higher brightness rating will have lower contrast and black levels. It is best to control the ambient light in the room and opt for a projector with a lower brightness rating for a cinematic experience. 

Resolution – Resolution is the primary specification that determines the image quality of a projector. It is expressed in pixels and represents the number of pixels used to create an image. The higher the number of pixels, the better will be the image quality of the projector. Popular home theater projector resolutions include 1080p or Full HD (1920×1080), 4K UHD (3840×2160), and True 4K (4096×2160). For most people, a Full HD or 1080p projector is ideal. It is because most of the content available today is in Full HD resolution. Buyers who watch 4K Blu-Ray movies on DVDs or streaming services can consider a projector with 4K resolution.

10 Best Affordable 1080p Projectors Priced At Between $450 – $650

Projection Technology – Projectors make use of different technologies for projecting imagery. There are primarily three of them – DLP, LCD, and LCoS. DLP or Digital Light Processing technology uses an electro-mechanical array of mirrors for projecting imagery. LCD projectors make use of Liquid Crystal Displays for creating images. LCoS or Liquid Crystal on Silicon technology employs a hybrid approach. 

DLP projectors are the cheapest and will be suitable for most home theaters. However, a few people may find the rainbow effect of DLP projectors annoying. LCD projectors have better image quality, but their brightness ratings are lower. They also cost more but don’t suffer from the rainbow effect. LCoS projectors have the best image quality, but they are the most expensive. For a majority of people, DLP home theater projectors make perfect sense. LCD projectors may be suitable for dark rooms. Buyers who want the best and have the budget can consider LCoS projectors.

Contrast Ratio – People should also consider the contrast ratio of the projector models. It represents the whitest and blackest colors that the projector can produce. A contrast ratio of 1000:1 implies that the white image is 1000 times brighter than the black image. Projector manufacturers specify native and dynamic contrast ratios. Buyers must consider the native contrast ratio of the projector, and it should be at least 1000:1. Two projectors with the same contrast ratio rating may not necessarily have similar image quality. Shoppers should ask for demos of the projector models to compare their imagery before they commit to a purchase. 

Aspect Ratio – Aspect ratio of a projector may play a role in determining the perfect model for you. It represents the ratio of the width to the height of the imagery projected by the device. Most modern projectors have an aspect ratio of 16:9 (1.78:1), which is ideal for home theaters. DVDs, streaming services, Blu-Ray discs, and HDTV broadcasting all use 16:9 aspect ratio. 

A few modern projectors may also support the CinemaScope (2.35:1) aspect ratio, which is wider as compared to 16:9. People who want a cinematic experience and have access to media or streaming services with CinemaScope aspect ratio content can consider a compatible projector. A few high-end projectors may support both 16:9 and CinemaScope aspect ratios. 

Image Correction Features

When buying a home theater projector, consider the image correction features that it supports. The two popular image correction features are keystone correction and lens shift. Keystone correction processes the image digitally for making it proportional. It may lower the quality of the imagery. Cheaper projector models may have vertical as well as horizontal keystone correction. Lens shift moves the projector’s lens assembly for orienting the projected imagery properly. Good-quality projectors may have lens shift feature, but they are more expensive. When buying a home theater projector, prefer one that has lens shift over keystone correction. 

3D Projection Capability

People who are buying a home theater projector may like to watch 3D movies and videos. Nowadays, most movie media support 3D playback. Therefore, purchasing a projector that is capable of playing 3D movies is a better choice. It facilitates an immersive experience for the viewers. For watching movies with a 3D-capable projector, you will have to purchase DLP link active 3D glasses separately as they are not included in the package.

Installation Options

Buyers may require different installation options for home theater projectors. They may want to mount it on a ceiling, use it with a stand, or keep it on a table. When buying a projector, you must ensure that the projector supports the required installation options. Most projectors support tabletop and ceiling installation methods. 

Lamp Life

Lamp life rating is another crucial specification to pay attention to when buying a home theater projector. Replacing a projector lamp can be quite expensive, as it may account for a significant portion of the projector’s price. It can be important for people who use their projectors for several hours every day. 

LG HU80KA 4K Laser Home Theater Projector

Lamp life depends on the type of light source used in a projector. The most popular light sources used in a projector are HID or UHP lamps, LEDs, and lasers. Each of them has a different lifespan represented in hours. HID or UHP lamps may have a lifespan ranging from 3,000 hours to 7,000 hours, depending on the projection mode (Bright, Normal, or ECO). LED and laser light sources may last from 10,000 to 30,000 hours. Users who will use their home theater projectors occasionally for a couple of hours can consider lamp projectors. Viewers who will be watching movies for several hours almost every day should consider projectors with LEDs or lasers.

Frame Interpolation

Frame Interpolation is another feature to look for in a home theater projector. A majority of movies are shot at 24 frames per second (24p) while there are movies and TV shows that may be recorded at 30p or even 60p (such as HDTV). When viewing content on a large screen, especially with projectors, the frame speed may be slow, and the imagery might appear blurred. 

Frame Interpolation is a technique that is used to smoothen such blurry images. It analyses frames and inserts new frames in between original frames in realtime. The newly generated frame will present objects at a location that is in between the two original frames. The movie or video will appear smoother to the viewers due to the additional generated frames. Buyers who watch 24p content, especially older movies, should consider a projector that supports frame interpolation.

Summarizing Home Theater Projectors

Nowadays, movie lovers and casual viewers alike are considering home theater projectors over televisions. It allows them to watch their favorite movies at home while having an experience similar to cinemas. Despite the extensive range of available options, choosing the right home theater projector does not have to be confusing. 

Buyers can consider projector models that meet a few minimum specifications. Firstly, the projector should have a brightness rating of around 1,500 to 2,000  lumens. If it is any lower, the imagery will not be adequately bright, and if it is significantly higher, the black levels and contrast will be impacted. Secondly, consider a projector that has at least Full HD resolution. The majority of content is available in this resolution. Therefore it will be fine for most home theater setups. The third thing is the lamp life rating. It will depend on your budget and the number of hours the projector will run daily. 

Also, buy a projector that is primarily meant for watching movies, i.e., it is a home theater projector. Projectors that are designed for additional purposes, such as playing games, won’t be as great for a home theater setup. These are the main specifications that you should look for in a home theater projector. The other factors are not necessary, but it is always handy to have them.

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