Thanks to modern technology, it's easier than ever to transform a spare room into a home theater. All it takes are some comfortable seats, a good set of speakers, and a high-quality projector. But with so many options, how do you find the best projector for watching movies?
Here we’ll break down everything you need to know about how to choose the Right Projector for your ciewing needs.
Think About Your Budget
As with many of today's technology products, the price range of projectors is becoming wider as the technology continues to evolve and iterate. A decent projector can cost as little as $100, while a top-of-the-line projector can cost over $5,000.
Your budget will determine your needs. If you just want a simple machine that can project a clear image on a wall, then there may be no reason to spend more than $1,000. But if you prefer a cutting-edge model that can play video in stunning, vibrant colors at the highest possible resolution, be prepared to pay more.
What do you intend to use the projector for?
1. For Movie
If you spend most of your usage time watching movies, you should invest in a full HD projector that can reproduce all or most of the Rec 709 color gamut used for HDTV and home video distribution. Ideally, it includes a close-to-reference theater or movie mode, along with the controls you need to fine-tune the image for optimal performance. But if you want more movie quality, have a penchant for 4K Blu-ray players or other 4K sources, be prepared to spend more on a projector with 4K resolution and support for high dynamic range video
2. For Sports and Gaming
Refresh Rate and Low Latency are the ultimate factors. Ideally you should buy a projector with a refresh rate of at least 60 Hz or higher, which reduces motion blur in fast-moving images. And a projector with very low input lag means less time between when something happens in the game and when you see it on the screen. Many home entertainment projectors now include a game mode with low input lag. (A lag of 16 ms or less is recommended.)
What type of room will you use the projector in?
1. In Home Theater Room
Would you like to have a truly big-screen movie experience, seeing all the finest details in your favorite dark, moody thrillers? If so, it may be worth spending more money on a high-end home theater projector that delivers a truly deep black image with exceptionally high contrast and a richer, more engaging picture. These projectors often use higher-quality lens systems that allow for better contrast and crisper images, but they’re also bigger and heavier—so you’ll likely want to place them permanently in a projector mount attached to the wall or ceiling, as opposed to setting them on a table or shelf.
2. In Living Room
If you'll be using the projector in a brighter room, or if you're looking for a projector for your living room or den that can also show movies, TV shows, and sports during the day, then black level performance becomes less important and the brightness of the projector is more important.
You can choose from a good quality living room projector or a relatively inexpensive home theater projector that may not offer high levels of performance but still produce large, bright images with respectable color accuracy. These projectors are usually smaller and lighter than dedicated home theater projectors, so you can easily move them around.
What resolution do you need?
Projectors that support for 4K has become so common in these days. 4K resolution is one of the best ways to take advantage of the larger screens that projectors support, so it’s a great spec to look for. On the other hand, budget projectors are much more likely to cap at 720p or Full HD 1080p, which can cut the cost of the projector significantly. Our advice would be to buy the highest resolution (Native resolution to be precise) that your budget allows.
To better understand the distinctions between 4K, UHD, and 1080p resolutions, explore our informative guide on "What's The Difference Between 4K, UHD, and 1080p?" while considering the best native resolution that aligns with your budget.
What size projection screen do you need?
The first thing you need to know is that the larger the screen size, the more light output the projector needs to produce a well-saturated image.
A projector's brightness capabilities are often listed in ANSI lumens, but keep in mind that manufacturers' light specifications can be misleading; in actual use, projectors typically emit far less light, at least in the more accurate picture modes. We recommend at least 1,000 ANSI lumens for a 100-inch screen. (How to Convert LED Lumen and Light Source Lumen to ANSI?)
What special features do you want?
1. Special Features and Connectivity Options:
Discusses the need for special features and connectivity options in home entertainment projectors, including HDMI inputs for media players, cable/satellite DVRs, and gaming consoles. Suggests using streaming sticks like Roku or Amazon for content streaming and highlights the importance of checking for specific inputs like RGB, component, and composite connectors if required.
2. Power Supply and Automation:
Mentions the inclusion of powered USB ports in many projectors to supply power to connected devices like wireless HDMI receivers. Also, points out the presence of a 12-volt trigger in higher-end projectors, which enables automatic commands for motorized screens when the projector is turned on or off.
3. Audio Considerations:
Notes that dedicated home theater projectors typically lack built-in speakers and assume users will have a separate home-theater-worthy sound system. Discusses how many budget projectors have internal speakers with mediocre sound quality and suggests using external speakers. Mentions that while few traditional projectors have built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for wireless audio, most have a 3.5 mm audio output that can connect to tabletop speakers via cables or Bluetooth transmitters for a better sound system.
Are the Built-In Speakers Good Enough?
Most projectors come with built-in speakers. But that doesn't mean you don't have to buy a set of external speakers.
Built-in speakers are usually of low quality, producing weak and distorted sound. Plus, they'll also compete with any loud fan sound the projector produces.
Investing in a set of external speakers to play the sound is a much better idea, whether it's a single sound bar or an entire surround sound system, and is a huge step up from getting the full cinema experience. (Be sure to double check that any speakers you buy are compatible with your projector.)
Selecting the ideal projector involves a thoughtful assessment of budget, intended use, room environment, resolution, and special features. Understanding these factors ensures a well-informed decision that caters to individual preferences and delivers a satisfying projector viewing experience.