How to choose a home theater projector


We live in the wrong time to go to the movies. How­ev­er, the cin­e­ma expe­ri­ence can be recre­at­ed at home. A TV, no mat­ter how big and high-qual­i­ty it is, will not give you the desired sen­sa­tions. Anoth­er thing is the pro­jec­tor.

Over the past few years, pro­jec­tors have got­ten notice­ably bet­ter. This is espe­cial­ly true for devices designed for short dis­tances (ultra short throw). Such pro­jec­tors can be placed very close to the wall, so they do not need spe­cial fas­ten­ers or tripods. The rise in pop­u­lar­i­ty of ultra-short throw pro­jec­tors is dri­ven by falling prices for laser back­light tech­nol­o­gy. Lasers are much bet­ter than lamps because they shine brighter and last longer — up to 30 thou­sand hours instead of 6 thou­sand. This is the equiv­a­lent of ten years of con­tin­u­ous oper­a­tion.

Also, the pro­jec­tors become brighter and clear­er. But most impor­tant­ly, they are sig­nif­i­cant­ly cheap­er. Today, for about a thou­sand dol­lars, you can get a pro­jec­tor that can project a 4K image onto a 150-inch diag­o­nal. For the same mon­ey, you can buy a 65-inch TV, but the image on it will be half the size.

Here are a few key para­me­ters to con­sid­er when choos­ing a pro­jec­tor

LCD and DLP technologies

Pro­jec­tors gen­er­al­ly use two types of tech­nol­o­gy: LCD and DLP. These are fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent sys­tems, with their own advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages.

Most pro­jec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers today use the tech­nol­o­gy DLP (Dig­i­tal Light Pro­cess­ing). They use dig­i­tal light pro­cess­ing units made almost exclu­sive­ly by Texas Instru­ments (TI).

The heart of a DLP pro­jec­tor is an opti­cal semi­con­duc­tor chip called a “dig­i­tal micromir­ror device” (DMD) that con­tains mil­lions of alu­minum mir­rors. Each such mir­ror cor­re­sponds to one pix­el of the cre­at­ed image. The micromir­rors are mov­ably fixed on the matrix sub­strate and can almost instant­ly devi­ate into one of two posi­tions — towards the light source (on) or away from it (off). Mir­rors can change posi­tion up to 5000 times per sec­ond.

Most bud­get pro­jec­tors like the BenQ HT3550i use a 0.47″ DMD chip, while high­er end mod­els like the Sam­sung Pre­mi­um LSP9T use a 0.66″ chip. Both use mir­rors that tilt +12 and ‑12 degrees for white and black, but TI recent­ly intro­duced a new 0.47-inch 4K DMD chip with +/-17 degrees of tilt, which should improve pic­ture bright­ness and con­trast.

DLP pro­jec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers include Optoma, LG, BenQ, and Pana­son­ic. The advan­tages of DLP tech­nol­o­gy are porta­bil­i­ty, high con­trast ratio, less fring­ing and low­er cost of pro­jec­tors, espe­cial­ly in the 4K and short range seg­ments.

The biggest dis­ad­van­tage of DLP tech­nol­o­gy is the rain­bow effect. These are bright red/blue/green arti­facts that some­times appear in an image and affect some view­ers more than oth­ers.

In pro­jec­tors based on tech­nol­o­gy LCD, a prism is used to sep­a­rate the light source into red, green, and blue beams. These beams pass through LCD dis­plays with an image, and then are com­bined into one stream through a sec­ond prism.

The main man­u­fac­tur­er of LCD pro­jec­tors is Epson, along with Sony, Sanyo and oth­ers. LCD pro­jec­tors offer bet­ter sharp­ness and more accu­rate col­or repro­duc­tion, but have low­er con­trast ratios and may expe­ri­ence degra­da­tion in image qual­i­ty over time. They also cost sig­nif­i­cant­ly more than DLP pro­jec­tors.

Features of ultra short throw projectors

In the last cou­ple of years, ultra-short throw pro­jec­tors have become very pop­u­lar. Main­ly because of the ease of han­dling. You can place the pro­jec­tor on a bed­side table at a dis­tance of 20 to 50 cm from the wall, and get an image with a diag­o­nal of up to 120 inch­es on the same wall. This is much eas­i­er to do than mount­ing an old-fash­ioned long-throw pro­jec­tor under the ceil­ing.

Ultra short throw pro­jec­tors use very durable lasers that do not need to be replaced. Final­ly, the laser beam does not need to be focused, so the pic­ture is clear imme­di­ate­ly and with­out any adjust­ment.

But there are also nuances that are impor­tant to know in advance. First, the screen on which the image is pro­ject­ed must be absolute­ly flat. Since the pro­jec­tor directs the laser beams almost par­al­lel to the wall, any bumps or rough­ness will intro­duce severe dis­tor­tion into the pic­ture. For the same rea­son, you can­not use the usu­al roll screens — they inevitably have a small “wave” on the sur­face.

For best results, espe­cial­ly when there is a lot of ambi­ent light, it is rec­om­mend­ed to use an Ambi­ent Light Reject­ing (ALR) screen. ALR screens have micro­scop­ic “flakes” that reflect pro­jec­tor light to your eyes but absorb ambi­ent light. Some pro­jec­tors, includ­ing mod­els from Epson and HiSense, come with ALR screens. But if you decide to buy such a screen sep­a­rate­ly, it will cost you an addi­tion­al $500.

Brightness and Contrast

Home the­ater pro­jec­tors typ­i­cal­ly have 2,000 to 4,000 lumens of bright­ness, but claims should be tak­en with a grain of salt. Some mod­els can actu­al­ly put out 3000 lumens or more, but this is not good for lamp life. Also, some man­u­fac­tur­ers tend to exag­ger­ate the max­i­mum bright­ness.

One way or anoth­er, when buy­ing a pro­jec­tor, you must under­stand that the image will be less bright than that of a TV. For exam­ple, a bright TV screen can deliv­er 1000 nits of bright­ness. But the bright­est pro­jec­tor will only deliv­er 100 to 150 nits of screen bright­ness. This is because pro­jec­tors are by default designed for use in dark or at least slight­ly dark­ened rooms.

The con­trast on the pro­jec­tors is also sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent from the tele­vi­sion. Unlike OLED TVs, pro­jec­tors are not able to pro­duce a zero light lev­el in a par­tic­u­lar area of ​​the image due to ambi­ent light and reflec­tions. So even on the most con­trast­ing pro­jec­tor, the black col­or will be more like “con­di­tion­al black”, as we see it on LCD dis­plays of TVs and mon­i­tors.

Some pro­jec­tors try to com­pen­sate for the lack of con­trast by dynam­i­cal­ly adjust­ing the image. To empha­size the dark areas of the pic­ture, they high­light the light ones. But after such a “pump­ing”, scenes with mod­er­ate con­trast may seem fad­ed, which is why not all users like this fea­ture.

Short con­clu­sion — count on using the pro­jec­tor in the dark, no mat­ter how bright it is.

Mounting and noise level

An impor­tant advan­tage of clas­sic long throw pro­jec­tors is that you can mount the pro­jec­tor on the ceil­ing with lit­tle to no space in the room. If you decide to go down this path, then along with the pro­jec­tor, buy the appro­pri­ate hard­ware, and also think in advance how you will bring the nec­es­sary cables to the nec­es­sary cables.

Keep in mind that a light­weight pro­jec­tor is eas­i­er to mount. DLP mod­els tend to be lighter than LCD mod­els.

Mon­i­tors and TVs do not make noise. But the pro­jec­tor can be quite noisy as it has an active cool­ing sys­tem. The brighter it is, the stronger the lamps glow. And, accord­ing­ly, the more inten­sive­ly the cool­ing fans spin.

HDR and resolution

Not every 4K pro­jec­tor has a true 4K sen­sor. There are many rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive DLP pro­jec­tors that sim­u­late 4K res­o­lu­tion using a pix­el shift sys­tem. This sys­tem emits each pix­el four times, mov­ing it to adja­cent posi­tions to cre­ate a 4K image. The shift occurs in less than 1/60 of a sec­ond. Thus, the same num­ber of pix­els appear on the screen as in the case of an “hon­est” 4K res­o­lu­tion. At the same time, visu­al­ly, the pic­tures are almost indis­tin­guish­able.

Epson LCD pro­jec­tors with “4K enhanced” tech­nol­o­gy also have native 1080p res­o­lu­tion, but the pix­els are shift­ed twice.

If you real­ly want to get “hon­est” 4K, you have to pay for it. Some of the cheap­est pro­jec­tors with full 4K chips are Sony’s VPL-VW295ES and JVC’s DLA-NX5. Both start at $5,000.

HDR also works very dif­fer­ent­ly on pro­jec­tors than it does on TVs. As already men­tioned, pro­jec­tors can­not pro­vide the desired bright­ness on the dis­play. There­fore, they use a tech­nique called “tone map­ping”. To do this, the entire HDR gamut is shift­ed to a low­er bright­ness range.

For this rea­son, almost all pro­jec­tors only sup­port HDR10. None of them sup­port Dol­by Vision and only a few mod­els work with Sam­sung’s HDR10+.


When installing a short throw or long throw pro­jec­tor at a dis­tance of one and a half to eight meters from the screen, it is impor­tant to take care of the lens shift func­tion. This will pro­vide a decent zoom range and make it eas­i­er to posi­tion the pro­jec­tor in the right place with the right screen size.

Lens shift also helps when the pro­jec­tor is mount­ed high­er or low­er than the man­u­fac­tur­er’s rec­om­mend­ed dis­tance from the screen (or any hor­i­zon­tal dis­tance from the cen­ter). In this case, the image will be trape­zoidal, but the lens shift will allow you to opti­cal­ly cor­rect it.

Oth­er­wise, dig­i­tal cor­rec­tion may be required. It dig­i­tal­ly stretch­es or com­press­es part of the image, but this leads to notice­able dis­tor­tion or pix­el arti­facts. So lens shift is much prefer­able.


Final­ly, if you want to use the pro­jec­tor for gam­ing, pay atten­tion to the refresh rate and input lag fig­ures. Some new­er pro­jec­tors from View­son­ic, Optoma, and oth­ers deliv­er up to 240Hz and laten­cies as low as 4 or 5 mil­lisec­onds.

Keep in mind that many pop­u­lar home the­ater pro­jec­tors are not suit­able for gam­ing due to high laten­cy and low fre­quen­cy.







Добавить комментарий