What Projector Should I Use With a Small Screen?

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Q I want to install a projector. Due to my room’s layout, screen width would be limited to 72 inches, and the projector would need to be mounted 16 feet away from it. I've messed with screen calculators for several projector brands and have concluded that I'm out of luck: a projector mounted at that distance would require a much larger screen. Do you know of any projectors that would work in my situation? —Stan Silverman

A It’s true that many projectors would require a fairly large screen at a 16-foot throw distance — a 100-inch diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio screen would be a better fit. Since there’s no flexibility in your situation when it comes to screen size or throw distance, I’d recommend looking into an ultra-short-throw (UST) projector.

UST projectors are designed for placement just inches out from a screen and typically get mounted on a low table or credenza below the screen’s bottom edge. Certain models can accommodate screen sizes ranging from around 70 inches to 130 inches diagonal. While the main application for UST projectors has been classroom environments, a number of new models cater to the home theater enthusiast. Sound & Vision has reviewed two such models in recent months: Epson’s LS100 ($2,999 — watch for our review, which is available in the current February/March 2018 print edition) and Sony's VPL-VZ1000ES, which is far more expensive at $25,000.

You can use a regular white screen with a UST projector, but manufacturers like Screen Innovations, Elite Screens, and others have developed special ambient light-rejecting materials specifically for UST installs. This type of screen has an optical component that reflects only light beamed at an angle from beneath the screen (where the projector is located), while filtering out illumination from other directions. When paired with an ambient light-rejecting screen, a UST projector can work as an alternative to a large flat-panel TV in a regular living room, and it can also be used for home theater applications where there’s greater control over ambient light. (See How Do Light Rejecting Screens Work to delve deeper into the subject of ALR screens.)

Other alternatives? Since a 72-inch-wide, 16:9 screen would have a diagonal measure of around 82 inches, you could instead buy a large flat-panel Ultra HDTV like Samsung’s UN82MU8000 and mount it on the wall. At $3,299, the TV is priced right for a set with an 82-inch screen, and it would fit your available wall space.

Ovation123's picture

My Epson 5030 can do 72” wide 16:9 from 16 feet out (with another foot to spare), so I imagine the current 5040 should also manage it. Worth looking into as an option.

ihopnavajo's picture

Projector central has the option to find projectors based on such criteria (http://www.projectorcentral.com/projectors.cfm). The Epson 5040UB meets that criteria.

Rich67's picture

There are many 75" TV that will be way less troublesome and less expensive than a projector/screen solution. They will perform better with HDR content and suffer much less picture degradation in a room that cannot be light controlled. Hang it on the wall and adjust the color. You're done.