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Planning for Retirement

After years of waiting, I plan to purchase my home-theater dream system. I would like a screen in the 80-inch-and-larger range. I'd been looking exclusively at projectors, in particular something like the JVC DLA-RS25.

Then I saw the review of the Mitsubishi 82-inch rear-projection TV in Home Theater. I could get that TV for probably a bit over $4000, while the JVC option including a Stewart screen would most likely cost in excess of $8000. But I wonder how much I might be giving up in performance.

Movies are my number-one priority, then sports and a fair amount of TV. I'm not rich, but at age 54, I'm divorced and a lifelong media junkie, so watching movies and sports is my prime source of entertainment after a long day of work. This is a major investment for me that will carry me into my retirement years (that is, if I'm ever able to retire!), and I want to make the best decision I can.

Jim Hartill

Actually, Home Theater reviewed the 73-inch WD-73837, but that line includes a model with an 82-inch screen. Yes, it would cost less than a front-projection system, but RPTV is a dying breed, so I don't normally recommend it any more. Also, any RPTV will have uniformity issues (i.e., hot-spotting), and it's off-axis performance is likely to suffer because of the lenticular screen. Finally, if you love movies, there's no better way to experience them than with a front projector, as long as you have complete control of the light in the room (and the walls aren't painted white or other light color).

On the other hand, you might not want to watch casual TV or host a sports party in the dark, so here's another idea—you could get a flat panel for TV and sports gatherings and a front projector for movies and special broadcasts. If you're willing to spend $8000, you could start with a good 55-inch flat panel such as a Sony KDL-55V5100 LCD ($1800) or Panasonic TC-P54G10 plasma ($2000, pictured above—okay, so it's 54 inches). Home Theater has reviewed smaller models from both of these lines, and we found them to be excellent.

Next, consider a projector such as the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8500UB ($2500). Granted, it's not a JVC, and we haven't reviewed this particular model, but we've really liked all the Epsons we've reviewed recently for their excellent picture quality and superb value.

Finally, put the flat panel behind an 82-inch (diagonal) retractable screen, and you have the best of both worlds. A motorized Stewart screen of that size would be about $3600, putting you right around $8000 total. That's a lot of money, I know, but if you're investing in a long-term solution, I think it's well worth it.

One more thought about RPTVs and projectors—they both use lamps as illumination sources, and these lamps must be replaced every few thousand hours of use at a cost of at least $100. In my view, this is another reason to get a flat panel for casual viewing and a front projector for movies.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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