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.

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Jarod's picture

I agree with your recommendations about the HDTV for casual viewing and a projector setup for movies. I have a Pioneer Kuro 5020 and 5.1 surround in my living room. I too am planning to turn my basement,into a modest home theater for mainly movies. I am wanting to spend $6000 or under on a projector, preferably a JVC, and an 80 inch screen. What models would you recommend?

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Jarrod, the JVC projectors are certainly among the best. Is $6000 your total budget for projector and screen? If so, you might be able to do it. The JVC DLA-HD350 lists for $4500 (I've seen it for $3750 online), and an 80-inch fixed (not motorized) Stewart screen is roughly $2000. If you want to save some money, Epson makes some of the best budget projectors I've seen, and the Home Cinema versions are in the $2000-$3000 range.

Seth's picture

I have a Samsung 67" LED DLP RPTV and I am quite happy with it. I would not have gone with a RPTV either, but Samsung makes a model that uses an LED lamp, solving the problem with lamp life. Plus it is really energy efficient and Energy Star rated, another big problem with normal RPTVs. DLP RPTVs have come a long way. The viewing angle is like 140 degrees, so I put mine in a corner and you can be standing against a wall and never get any distortion. For being 67" it's only 17" deep and only weighs 90 lbs. I went RPTV because I wanted the screen size for the money. To get something in a flat panel TV I would not have been able to get it for the under $2000 price tag I paid for my Samsung. I am not sure if they are still making it though, as RPTVs are a dying breed. I have been looking strongly at the Epson projectors for my home theater in my basement. I've heard a lot of good things about them.

Jarod's picture

Cool, thanks Scott. I appreciate it. I have heard great things about Epson projectors too. I really want a JVC though. May be I should devote the $6000 alone for a projector that way I don't have any buyers remorse. Thanks again!

Noah Katrz's picture

I suggest considering a Dalite Hipower screen. Besides its high gain, it doesn't hotspot (gain decreases off axis but its uniformity stays good, it has good rejection of ambient and re-reflected light, it doesn't show waves because of its retroreflectivity, and it's relatively inexpensive - I got a 133" 16x9 electric for about $1K. Many of us consider it a miracle screen.

Audio Dufus's picture

I think if you are about to retire, rather than upgrading your home theater, consider upgrading your couch and slippers. If you want to splurge-- buy a combination lcd/dvd player. Most retirees sit really close to a small tube TV set with local news and eat bran muffins with jam. Buy a cat, or borrow the neighbors one. Elsewise, damn the torpedos and go for 120 inches--no less. Don't spend a lot on the audio--- just make sure it plays real loud. You know, the bottom line is, you like to watch TV.

CJLA's picture

Hi Jim, You may also want to consider the Panasonic AE-4000. What makes this projector unique is that it has the ability to go from a 2.35 to 16.9 format with NO external anamorphic lens AND it still maintains a constant height image by having 2 memory presets... All for $2,000.00! After all, if you do more movie watching is your #1 priority, than you will want the 2.35 image to be the biggest image possible. Not the 16:9 image. The point is that w/the system you are considering, when you want to watch a movie (2.35 format) on a 16:9 screen, your system will put up an image that is SMALLER than the total height of of your 16:9 filmscreen. (Just like the black bars top & bottom that you see on a HDTV when watching a DVD.) Yes we can argue that the JVC has a more film-like image but like many modern day projectors the Panasonic is no slouch either. For filmscreens, Screen Research black diamond or VuTec's SilverStar match the light output of the Panasonic & do well in a room that's not totall

Rob's picture

I have an Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080p projector. It is the predecessor to the model Scott recommended. More 1200 hours of viewing still using the original lamp. My theater room is windowless and can be completely darkened. Therefore I run the projector in low brightness mode. The lamp should be good for 3000-4000 hours in that mode. I paid $2300. Prices are now close to $2000 or just under. Look around for deals which include an extra lamp. I did and that is worth at least $200. I recieved a $300 rebate as well! So real cost was $1800. Excellent projector with regard to color, black levels etc. I had two pull down/roll up models and both developed waves/ripples despite being rolled up when not in use as recommended by the manufacturers. Sold both of those and bought a fixed framed screen so that the screen stays flat. Much better!

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