The Big Picture

What a difference a year makes. In early 2023, I was thinking about ultra-short-throw (UST) projectors in the living room, but saw evidence that TVs would compete in the 100-inch size category. Now it’s a year later, and 100-inch TVs are multiplying like rabbits while prices continue to drop. That’s not to say that UST projectors haven’t seen significant progress from new model releases, but what I find fascinating is how giant screen TV prices quickly became competitive with the cost of a UST projector.

Naturally, this resulted in a dimming of my enthusiasm for the UST category, reinforced by the real-world experience at CES 2024 of comparing various USTs with TV’s like TCL’s 98-inch QM8 (which as of this writing is being promoting with a 50% discount in the lead-up to Super Bowl Sunday) or Hisense’s 100-inch U76N. The fact is, with projectors you always need to dim the lights to get a picture with perceived contrast that is somewhat equivalent to a TV.

Still, the real surprise of 2024 came from the projection category. It’s the new breed of compact cube-shaped lifestyle projectors that utilize LED or laser light sources, including triple-laser RGB, for the ultimate in color rendition.

Examples of this fresh crop of projectors tend to forego the complex lens mechanisms used in dedicated home theater projectors, and they depend on DLP projection technology and achieve 4K with pixel-shift, as opposed to the specialized home theater models that are native 4K and use a variant of liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) technology. Home theater projectors do have higher contrast and greater flexibility in positioning, but at considerably higher cost.

Our 4K Projector Buyer’s Guide covers all three of these categories and is based on hands-on experiences with all the included projectors.

Sounds Great
Looking back at last year’s reviews, one experience stood out above all. It was transitioning from a 9.4.4-channel Arendal 1961 speaker system — featuring nine tower speakers — and comparing the overall satisfaction of that experience with listening to a 5.4-channel system assembled around the Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series S3 tower speaker.

Of course, it’s not possible to do an A-B comparison of the complete speaker systems, but the Bowers & Wilkins system review immediately followed the Arendal review and, in my opinion, money is genuinely better spent on fewer, better speakers. This is, of course, just my opinion.

But what I found is that it all starts with that front stage. Superior left, right, and center-channel speakers are going to have the greatest impact on the overall fidelity of a system. And adding a pair of surrounds that are able to keep up with that front stage is the key to creating enveloping surround sound. Yes, it’s “just” five channels, but with quality speakers and proper setup, you get the benefit of a holographic soundstage and imaging, which is like having an infinite number of speakers surround you. As long as you are hearing clearly defined sounds floating through the air as opposed to bouncing from speaker to speaker, the illusion of immersion has been achieved.

When you are optimizing a system for a smaller seating area, such as a sofa in a living room, you can fine-tune a system with fewer speakers to really focus on that main listening position with hugely satisfying results.


Sound & Vision CES 2024 Editor’s Picks

State of TV: CES 2024 Hot Take

4K Projector Buyer’s Guide Lifestyle Projectors

Billy's picture

You can get a fairly good 86 inch 4K for under a grand, not even on sale. Those TVs will out perform, all but the most expensive projector. Plus, a no brainer set up, and no screen to buy and hang. If you can get those screen sizes physically into your viewing area, you are set to go. Tech progress and competition is a wonderful thing. Too bad there isn't as much competition in other areas where we need to purchase things.

Ehto's picture

I also would not have expected 100 inch TVs to become available so fast. It’s incredible the rate at which technology is moving these days. We might even get one for our office setup at Gutter Cleaning Cost.