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What to Look For When Buying the Best Projector for your Home
What you'll find in this article...
- What to Look For When Buying the Best Projector for your Home
- Choosing a Projector for the Perfect Home Theater
- Best Video Projector Under $1000
- Pros and Cons of Home Theater Projectors
- DR. J Professional Projector Review
- Sony VPL VW95ES
- Dell S500WI
- Sony VPL HW30ES
- Optoma HD33
Looking for a projector for your personal home theater can often be a daunting and time consuming experience. There are many variables in what type of projector you should purchase including the level of brightness, resolution, and cost. In this post I’ve put together a guide for choosing a projector and also listed some of the best rated new projectors we could review for you.
If you already know what you’re looking for, then use the contents at a glance section below to skip straight to my home theater projector picks.
Choosing a Projector for the Perfect Home Theater
Projector Screen Fit How Many Lumens do You Need?
Your projector’s light output is measured in lumens. The amount of output/lumens that you want should be determined by the location(s) of where you plan on putting the projector. Home theaters with no ambient light should be equipped with a projector with at the very least 1300 lumens.
If you like to keep your windows open or a light on while you watch a movie, then I’d recommend going with a projector above 2000 lumens. The projector screen you use can also affect the amount of light which is reflected. If you don’t plan on using a projector screen, then you’ll need to compensate by having a projector with additional lumens.
Projector Resolution – 1080p vs. 720p
Resolution is measured in horizontal by vertical pixels with 1920 x 1080p being considered at this point in time full high definition. The source you plan on feeding into your projector will determine whether this is utilized or not. For example, most programming and even some video games these days comes in 720p alone, blu-ray discs; however, can take advantage of 1080p.
Because programming is likely to be widely available in 1080p in the future you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the extra cash to go with 1080p now or upgrade in the future.
Contrast Ratio – Important for Your Home Theater
For home theater movie projectors a high contrast ratio is perhaps the most important measurement to look at. Contrast measures the darkest black versus the whitest white that a projector can produce. Projectors with low contrast ratios often project grays that make your picture appear less detailed and washed out.
In order to optimize your projector’s contrast be sure to locate it in a room with little to no ambient light which can often make colors from projectors with high contrast ratios look gray.
4:3 vs. 16:9 Aspect Ratio
If you’re going to use your projector strictly for own personal home theater, then I highly recommend that you go with a 16:9 projector. The advantages are very similar to why you’d want a widescreen television, so you can see the entire movie or program as it was made.
That being said there are still many people who prefer the boxier 4:3 aspect ratio which can be more appealing for business presentations.
How Big of a Projector Screen do You need and How Far Back Should Your Projector Sit?
Manufacturers give recommendations for where your projector should sit in order to achieve a certain screen size. I highly recommend you use this projection calculator for measurements with your room and projector screen.
Best Video Projector Under $1000
Rarely have I run into a projector that gives me more than what I expect as my expectations for picture quality and versatility are usually very high. The Epson 8350 does just that.
It has all the specifications that most top rated video projectors under $1000 have including 1080p, a 50,000:1 contrast ratio, 3LCD technology and 2,000 lumens, but beyond this it has several design features that make installation and setup easier.
The 8350 uses a state-of-the-art Fujinon lens with a 2.1x zoom ratio and vertical and horizontal shift which makes installation a lot easier than previous models I’ve tried.
This is a huge plus for those of you who lack space or don’t want to have to spend big money on installation. It even comes with Bluetooth transmitter.
Overall this is my pick for the best video projector under $1000. It’s not super new; however, because of this the price has come down substantially and you get considerably more features for the money. Add the best headphones for watching TV and you can enjoy your huge movies anytime!
The 8350 combines a brilliant picture from its 1920 x 1080p full high definition resolution and 50,000:1 resolution with affordability for the average consumer. It has 2,000 lumens so you can see the picture well whether it’s in the day or the dark of night.
Pros and Cons of Home Theater Projectors
The ultimate home-cinema system probably still is based on a projected image rather than an LCD or Plasma screen, but it does depend on the size of the room and viewing distance and the lighting conditions available. If you have a dark enough room and a big white wall or screen on which to project the results can be spectacular. You don’t need full black-out, but the darker the room the better.
Alternatively a large flat screen (LCD or plasma) placed close enough to give a similar viewing angle can also be a big improvement on televisions of just a few years ago, especially now with Full HD screens (1080p resolution)
- Bigger screen size
- Screen can be folded away when not in use
- A real cinema experience
- Need partial black-out especially for darker movies
- Colors can look washed-out in daylight conditions
- Reduced contrast
- Some fan-noise
- Short bulb life and expensive to replace
- Time taken to set up (If you don’t have it set up permanently
- Takes a minute or so for the picture to “warm up”
- Some reliability issues
- Difficult to arrange a room around (projector must be opposite screen)
DR. J Professional Projector Review
I have been using the Dr. J as my main TV for just over a year now. I paid around $100 for it then, but the price has dropped and even the improved Dr. J can now be bought for less than a hundred.
The picture quality is extremely good in a dark room and quite watchable during the day even with the curtains open for all but the darkest movies. In bright conditions the colors can become a little washed-out although there are various viewing options on the remote control to compensate a little. For some very dark films however you should wait until the room can be blacked out completely. The lens is large and of very high quality with a wide ranging zoom.
Many home cinema projectors have just a wide angle lens with a small amount of zoom for fine adjustment, to allow big pictures from a short distance, but are less flexible, especially in big rooms where you may want the projector a long way from the screen.
I used a 72″ screen at a distance of about 18′, but I could have used a far bigger screen or projected from much closer.
The projector is “HD Ready” (i.e. 720p resolution), which is good, but not as high resolution as “Full HD” (1080p) although this would only become apparent with a full HD source such as blu-ray. With lower-resolution inputs such as DVD or Freeview the built-in upscaling does a very good job of creating very high-quality images.
The fan-noise is very low even when the bulb is not switched to low-power mode, although I suspect this is partly because the body is so big with huge vents to allow air-flow over the hot bulb.
Unfortunately after 2300 hours of use it has started switching to stand-by mode every few minutes, requiring a restart which makes it unusable. This problem is a known fault which will apparently be fixed free of charge.
This is a good projector, although there are higher resolution projectors available now and they get cheaper and cheaper even faster than LCD TVs. Using a projector instead of a normal telly is great because when not in use there is no ugly TV in the lounge and the experience is so much more like going to the cinema.
Other things to consider when buying
When buying a projector it is important to make sure the projector will work in your room. Will the projector be able to project the image you require from the location you hope to put the projector?
Many projectors actually have just a short zoom range, for fine adjustment, so you may not be able to put the screen or projector in the locations you planned. Some projectors are short-throw, intended to create a big image from a short distance (e.g. from a coffee table) while others are intended to be mounted at the back of the room.
The image sizes and zoom ranges are usually published in the product details e.g. on Amazon.
Sony VPL VW95ES
Sony Vpl-vw95es Full Hd 3d Home Cinema Projector with 150,000:1 Contrast Ratio – Supplied with 2 Pairs of Glasses Sony VPL VW95ES have excellent set up flexibility and an accomplished 2D and 3D performance.
You can play games on this projector as well.
This projector emphasizes picture quality. It has powered adjustments, a motion enhancer, and picture position.
It has high definition and high contrast performance.
Sony Vpl-vw95es Full Hd 3d Home Cinema Projector 2 Pairs of Glasses
It has a contrast ratio of 150,000:1 for crisp clear images. This projector weighs about three pounds. The 3D is built in the transmitter and has motion flow.
This home theater projector has a dynamic lamp control technology and is packed with innovative features that are not only easy to use, but easy to control. Sony brings movies to a high quality performance through vivid and vibrant imagery, bringing movies to life.
Dell S500wi Interactive Ultra Short Throw Projector Dell S500WI is a 3D projector with good quality images and a good HD projector with great close range performance. It has versatile interactive features. The maximum projecting distance is 26.4 inches. It has ultra short throw for big images from a few inches where you do not have to worry about shadows. It does not need calibration which is one of its major strengths.
The Dell’s native resolution is 1280X800 and it has fast interactive response time, for smooth movies. It has 720p and weighs about 23 pounds. Its projection method is front, rear and ceiling. The normal lamp life mode is 2500 hours and the economy lamp life mode is 3000 hours.
This movie porjector has excellent audio and a maximum lens aperture of F/2.7 with one HDMI port. This projector starts out at $200 all the way up to around $2,200 with the more features it acquires for one of the best projectors on the market.
This Sony has 1080p resolution for both 2D and 3D images. It offers good all around picture quality and shows up to 300 inches of an image. This projector is best in home theaters and family rooms. It is one of the best projector for the money on the market today.
It costs a little less than $3,000. It offers great stereo sound and has international capabilities.
This Sony projector is an improved version for the same amount of money and is one of the least expensive 3D 1080 projectors. Its motor is extremely quiet and it can display 1080p, 1080p and 720p high definition images.
It has a voltage of 120 to 240 and a power supply of 50/60hz.
Its dynamic contract ratio is 70,000 to 1 and has a 240 hz panel drive that improves the 3D picture, making it jump out at you. This Sony has 1300 ANSI Lumens.
If you decide to register your PC’s IP address with the projector you will be able to project images anywhere and is perfect for teleconferences and online applications.
This projector is another great projector for the money. It is sold for no more than $2,000, being one of the first 3D projectors that were sold for less than $3,000. It received 4 stars from almost 100 Amazon reviewers. And even if it is a little outdated, it still has amazing value.
This quality projector offers gorgeous 2D and 3D images with sharp quality. It has 3D features that are easy to use and also provides those that purchase this device comfortable 3D glasses to wear while watching a 3D movie or image.
This top-rated projector is also 3D capable for gaming consoles and blu-ray.
It produces a 300 inch screen size for images that make it great for large groups watching the movie. But be sure to add a home theater receiver and speaker package to really enjoy the sound too.
The projection unit’s pure motion image processing ensures smooth display of images with no jittery motions. The Optoma contrast ratio is 4000 to 1. With all of the features that this Optoma equipment offers makes this projector a great deal.