Video projectors have been around for decades, but like all tech they’ve gotten better and more affordable as digital technology advances. A good projector means the difference between simple television and a thrilling home theater experience. Here are some tips on what to look for, and some of the best products available.
If you are going to be sitting right on top of the screen, you might as well stick with a standard flat TV. If you have a large room for the full home theater experience, you only have to decide which projector to go with. The old CRT types are still out there, but modern devices use LCD or DLP (digital light processing) imagery. Variants include LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), D-ILA (Digital Imaging Light Amplification), and SXRD (Silicon Crystal Reflective Display). When it comes time to set up, you’ll want to experiment with different placements to get the best viewing picture.
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Most models today weigh under 20 lbs so positioning shouldn’t be a problem. Brightness is the ANSI Lumens rating, and should be over 1,000; otherwise you might get a muddy picture, no matter how dark the room.
Contrast ratio tells you how bright the whites or how dark the colors get; the higher the better. If you’re watching Blu-ray or HDTV look for 1920 x 1080 resolutions or better; for DVD and standard TV broadcast, 1280 x 720 should do. That being said, here a few recommendations based on ratings from consumer reviews:
(1) Panasonic PT-AE4000U LCD Projector
The Panasonic PT-AE4000 LCD Home Theater Projector is a bit expensive, and its 600 lumens is a little low, but otherwise there isn’t much to complain about. It has excellent contrast and up to 59-feet throw-distance, suitable for an auditorium. It supports most pixel resolutions, as well as European and wide screen formats. It boasts a 100,000:1 contrast ratio and over 1 billion colors. The interface allows you to connect HDMI, S-video, VGA, RS-232c, and older Analog RGB and RCA A/V connectors.
Panasonic has excellent customer support and a 2-year warranty for registered products. Set-up is simple; connect the AC power cord. Plug in your play device to the appropriate connector and switch both units on; when the projector’s light turns green you’re good to go. Press play on the input device, grab the Panasonic remote, and use the INPUT SELECT button to select the proper input. Then it’s just a matter of exploring the menus to adjust to your tastes.
(2) Optoma HD20
The lumens ratings and contrast ratio could be higher, but at 6.5 pounds and an affordable price, Optoma HD20 Home Theater Projector may be right for you. Light weight and standard VGA, HDMI, and RCA connections mean you can easily take it along to a meeting or a friend’s house. There are optimized settings for Cinema, Photo, and User customization. The contrast ratio in this DLP unit is only 4,000:1, and it doesn’t support resolutions higher than 1080p. A 230-watt bulb doesn’t get as bright as expected, while color artifacting is noticeable in darker images.
Although it doesn’t quite measure up to more expensive models, it’s still better than other units in this price range. If you’re looking for portable and economical, you can’t do much better. Getting started is easy; connect your play device, then turn on both units. Use the SOURCE button on the unit or remote to select the input channel. It may take a moment, but once the Optoma warms up you’ll see the projected image and you’re ready to go.
(3) BenQ W1000
This is a lesser-known brand, but it will satisfy most users at a good price. The menu shows three presets (Dynamic, Standard and Cinema), but you can switch off all three and customize the picture to your liking. This uses the DLP 1080p technology, but includes a BrilliantColor feature. At 2000 lumens the lamp is bright, but is rated for only 500 hours of viewing with a throw distance of only 121″ max. It features HDMI, Component, S-Video, RS-232c and audio ports, as well as a built-in speaker. You’ll have trouble getting phone support after hours and on weekends (just when you’ll be needing it), but it comes with a good user manual and a 1-year warranty.
It’s a nice starter unit for those who want a good projector at a cheaper cost and minimal fuss. Just hook up your play device to the appropriate connector and power up both device and project; the light will turn orange and may take about 30 seconds to warm up. Hit Play on your device, and the projector’s Search function should determine the right input; if not, uses the SOURCE button on the remote to select it yourself.
(4) Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15 1080p SXRD
This is one of the pricier models, but brightness isn’t as strong as expected. Still, it’s great picture quality with a high 60,000:1 contrast ratio, as well as Sony’s terrific tech support. At 22 pounds it’s a little heavy to hang from the ceiling. The 200-watt lamp has only a 90-day warranty, but it still has a respectable 564″ throw distance. Three SXRD panels and Sony’s Bravia 2 engine produce very clean images, while the zoom is a nice feature. Interface has all the HDMI, Composite (RCA, A/V), Component, S-Video and RS-232c connections you expect.
While it’s the largest and most expensive model on the list, it provides great video experience and comes with Sony’s reliable 2-year warranty for the unit itself. Connecting this model is similar to the others, just use the Setup menu to select the play device. It may show a 60-second test signal when first powered up.
(5) Epson Home Cinema 5030UB 1080p 3D 3LCD
This is the only model certified to the THX standard for commercial theaters. Contrast ratio is a top-end 600,000:1 and it boasts three LCDs for better picture and colours. There are four modes to improve image quality. The dual-lumens lighting is plenty bright, but rated for 5,000 hours on the Eco setting. At 18 pounds and nearly two feet wide it’s one of the bigger home models. The price is also hefty at around $2000, plus you’ll have to provide your own speakers. If that doesn’t faze you, the 5030UB just might be your best bet.
Throw in included 3D glasses on top of the superior image quality and you can look forward to hours of theater-quality entertainment. It also has MHL wireless connection for projecting from a tablet or smartphone. You will need an MHL adapter or MHL cable along with a wireless transmitter, which don’t ship with the projector.
So, these are some of the best home theater projectors for home video projection and a enjoying home theater experience. If you found this article useful for you, feel free to share your view with us and let us know – Which home theater projector you are using for a long time?
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