Choosing Between a Projector and Flat Panel

I am trying to decide between a JVC DLA-X3 projector and a Sony XBR-55HX929 full-array LED-backlit LCD TV, both of which I have found for around $3500. This is about what my wife will let me spend. I like to watch movies, play video games, and watch sports and other TV shows. I'm not a 3D fan, so that doesn't matter to me. I am much more concerned with 2D performance. I like the idea of a projector because of the larger image, but I don't want to sacrifice the brightness, black level, or shadow detail of the Sony. Also, if I get the projector, I will need to get a quality screen, which will add to the cost.

Richard Gonzalez

When faced with such a decision, make a list of your priorities in order of importance. For example, which is more important to you, brightness or screen size? That will depend partly on whether or not you have complete control of ambient light. If you don't have complete control, brightness is probably more important, which favors a flat panel over a projector.

If your budget is $3500, and both units can be bought for that much, it seems to me that the Sony (reviewed here) is the way to go—as you suggest, a quality screen will add $500 to $2000 or more to the total cost. Also, consider how much ambient light you will have in the room—if you can't control it completely, or if you don't want to use it only in the dark, a projector won't work well. The Sony can be much brighter than any consumer-grade projector, which lets it stand up to ambient light.

On the other hand, last year's DLA-X3 (reviewed here) and the current-generation DLA-X30 (which lists for $3500, so you might find it for less; reviewed here) both exhibit the best blacks among projectors in their class and excellent 2D performance, and they don't suffer from off-axis image degradation like all LCD TVs, unless you use a high-gain screen. And as you say, they can produce a much larger image than the Sony. If you can completely control the ambient light in the room, and the walls and ceiling are painted a dark, neutral color, a projector provides a much more cinematic, immersive experience than a flat panel.

Monoprice offers matte white (gain 1.0) and gray (gain 0.8) fixed and motorized screens in various sizes for $500 or less. We haven't reviewed them, so I can't say how well they work, but that's a lot less than screens from most other companies. Because the JVCs' blacks are so good, I'd opt for a white screen—but again, this is viable only for a room with complete control of ambient light.

Another option would be a plasma TV, which is generally less expensive than a comparable LED-backlit LCD TV. For example, Panasonic's 65-inch flagship, the TC-P65VT50, lists for $3700 with a larger screen than the Sony and no off-axis performance issues. Tom Norton is just starting his review of this plasma, and early results are very positive. He recently reviewed the 55-inch TC-P55ST50 ($1700, or $3000 for the 65-inch version), which got Top Picks status, though neither plasma achieves the deep blacks of the Sony.

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Mister Leadfoot's picture

Keep in mind a projector, while awesome, will require swapping the light source every once in a while (sometimes not cheap). Just a cost to factor in.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
You're entirely correct; thanks for adding this important consideration.
ca1ore's picture

I tend to be of the opinion that a flat panel is the better choice for a multi-purpose, family room. Projectors will inevitably be more fussy and are just not that kid-friendly (if you have young'uns). For a dedicated room, however, the PJ cannot be beaten - both for size and for picture quality (and if you are really 'mad', a 2.35 setup). That's the way I went in my house.

true audio's picture

Dream Theater. No, not the band! Your home Theater. We all want a big room,killer projector,state of the art sound.We take Scott's and reader's advise. Most of use are in the same delemma.Condo,aptmnt or house that has issues for one or the other.
I would say that if you have the room for a projector,take your time and get the best projector and screen you can afford.My room is big enough for a projector,which I would love to have,but I put $6200.00 into a plasma and no projector in the near future. *%+##