Projection screens come in virtually any size, and affordable solutions are available that exceed 100 inches diagonal. And even though much marketing hype continues to push flat-panel LED and OLED technology, here are five reasons why a front projector still makes the most sense for home theater.
1. Dollars Per Inch
Would I love a 150-inch Panasonic plasma? Sure. Do I have the 6 figures to plunk down on it? Hardly. Over the past few years, projection technology has advanced while pricing has dropped. Flagship models with the highest light output from some manufacturers can still fetch well over $10,000, but entry-level 1080p projectors capable of filling a 100-inch screen can also be found for under $1,000. When you consider that a 90-inch Sharp LCD costs around $10,000 and a 103-inch Panasonic plasma still pushes $50,000, it’s easy to see that projection is the more affordable option.
2. Cinema Wide
Roughly half of the movies available on Blu-ray have an ultrawide 2.35:1 (or greater) aspect ratio, meaning that when they’re viewed on a 16x9 HDTV, roughly 25% of the screen is taken up with black letterbox bars. The result is that blockbusters like Star Wars look smaller and less impressive than regular high-def TV shows or movies like Jack and Jill that have a more standard, HDTV-like 1.85:1 aspect ratio. With a projection system, you can view these films on a 2.35:1 aspect ratio screen and enjoy them exactly as they were shown in the theater, with no black bars. Also, many new projectors include a Lens Memory feature that stores multiple zoom, focus, and alignment adjustments so you can switch between 16x9 and 2.35:1 content without having to use an expensive anamorphic lens attachment.
3. Discreet Viewing
Even if giant flat-panel TVs didn’t come with equally giant price tags, they would still have another issue: size. A 90-inch or larger TV mounted on the wall is going to dominate a room. That might be fine for a dedicated theater, but it could prove challenging to decorate around in a living room. Further, a TV like Panasonic’s 103-inch plasma weighs in at more than 440 pounds. An average projector, on the other hand, is a little larger than a phone book and light enough to be held with one hand. And when a motorized, retractable screen is used, a projection system can virtually disappear in a room when not in use.
Projectors have traditionally required a dedicated room that can be made completely dark in order to achieve a picture with an acceptable black level. But newer projectors are significantly brighter than past models — bright enough to compete with some ambient light. This means that projectors are moving out of dedicated rooms and into multi-use spaces. When paired with new screen materials like Screen Innovations’ Black Diamond, which does an incredible job of rejecting ambient room light, a projection system can be installed in practically any room.
More Than Movies
Moving beyond movies, a giant projection screen is the ultimate way to enjoy an event like the Super Bowl or World Series. The party will always be at your house when guests can catch every bit of the action with practically life-size athletes. And gamers will be blown away when they get to experience every nuance and detail of Halo 4 or Need for Speed on a 100-inch screen. Also, 3D is more immersive and frequently less eye-fatiguing on a big screen, and many projectors — even lower-priced ones — are now 3D-capable.