If you’re anything like me, you’ve put in a lot of time and effort researching and finding the right projector for your room. You’ve got it narrowed down. It’s time to buy. But before you make your final decision, there are a couple of things that you need to think about first.
If you are setting up a home entertainment system, you might have high expectations for the power and quality of your movie experience. The latest technology in home cinemas has opened up a new world of opportunities for people to enjoy movies on a larger screen with better clarity and sound. The best part is that this newest invention is affordable, giving everyone an opportunity to experience cinematic brilliance in their homes without breaking the bank. However, choosing the right projector can be challenging thanks to the number of variables involved, such as screen size and resolution.
If you are planning on going all in on a home theater setup, you’re going to want to avoid the cheaply made, mass-produced projectors on Amazon. You will be endlessly frustrated and will have a hard time achieving a clear, bright picture. Trust me, I tried several and once you want an image that’s over 100″, they have a hard time focusing.
What resolution you end up going with has a lot to do with how much you can afford. You can get a decent Full HD 1080p projector for under $1,000 but you are going to sacrifice a lot if you want to purchase a 4K projector for less than $1,000. When considering the resolution of a potential purchase, you’ll want to decide a. how much you can afford and b. how much 4K content do you have?
A 4k projector will give you a sharper image, so if you are planning on sitting relatively close to the screen and hoping to have an image that’s over 120″, you’ll at least want to look at a few 4k projectors. If you’ve saved enough for a 4K projector, at this point, there is really no reason not to buy one.
There are a few more options for 4K content than there were a couple of years ago and that amount is increasing all the time. If you have a 4K Blu-ray collection or subscribe to the highest tier of Netflix, you won’t truly see the difference unless you opt for a 4K projector.
When it comes to a home theater projector, the amount of ambient light in the room is going play a big role in what you ultimately decide to buy. Even projectors over $1,000 are going to struggle if there is too much light filling the room during the day. If you have to set up your home theatre in a room with windows, purchasing some blackout blinds is highly recommended.
The risk of having too much light in the room is that you will wash out the picture and images just would look nearly as clear. If you think about a movie theatre, there are no windows and the walls are all dark. A room with no windows painted dark (black) is the optimal setup for any home theatre room.
The Projector Screen
Although most people will decide that a projector screen is going to be their best option, if you have really limited space or don’t quite have enough money yet, you can project an image onto almost any wall that’s large enough. I would recommend this method for most people but you can even buy special paint that’s supposed to help enhance your image. The reason I wouldn’t recommend this type of setup is that you will see any imperfections on the wall when you are watching something with bright scenes.
- The color of your projector screen is another option you have to make a choice about. The typical screen colors are white or gray, however, you can also find black screens. The darker the screen itself, the better contrast your picture will have (or at least appear to have).
Size & Ratio
- Can you have too big of a screen? Depending on how far back your seating area is and what type of a project your purchase, you will want to put in some thought about how big you want. This is one area that I regret not taking more time to consider before buying my own projector and screen. If I was to buy a new screen, I would buy one with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 as this is the ratio that a lot of movies are filmed. Ultimately, no matter what screen size you buy, you will end up with black bars at the top and bottom or left and right sides, depending on the content you are watching. If you’re planning on watching most TV and Video games, they are often at a ratio of 16:9 but if you enjoy movies, they are often at 2.35:1 or 1.85:1.
- If you go with a 2.35:1 size screen you can probably make the overall size taller than you would otherwise. You’ll also be able to install some black drapes, like they do at the movie theater, and pull them in when watching something that’s 16:9.
Fixed or Retractable Screen
There are some really nice fixed screens available that have a nice matte finish around the outsides, to absorb any light that spills over. The decision to go with a retractable screen will really come down to what else you have in the room. Do you have a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall behind your screen? Is your screen in the middle of the room and do you have it drop down just for special movie nights?
If you don’t have any reason to see behind your projector screen, there is really no reason to purchase a retractable screen. If you are, I would recommend a screen that is weighted, otherwise, you will see ripples. A fixed screen with tension is a great option, that will eliminate any creases on the screen.
Size and Layout of Room
The size and layout of your room will dictate which projector you buy. You have the option of getting an ultra short throw projector and placing it directly beneath your screen or a projector that you can either mount to your ceiling or place on a table similar to a coffee table. With any option you choose, you’ll want to download the manual ahead of time and check out the manufacturer’s recommendations for placement.
The manual for the projector should give you an idea of how far back you can place the projector to give you the size of image you want, as well as how high or low the projector can be placed, in relation to the screen. The one thing you want to avoid, as much as possible, is using the keystone adjustment. Using this to correct minor placement issues is normal, but if you have to use too much of it, it reduces the resolution of your image and creates what looks like a light spill on one side or the other of your screen.
When it comes to the layout of you room, you’ll also want to determine where the best place to put your components is. Most projectors don’t include built-in Wi-Fi or Smart TV functions. You will have to run at least 1 HDMI cable and a power cable to the back of your projector.
One final thought about choosing a projector. Unless you really don’t care about audio, there is no need to pay attention to the type of speaker in the projector. Chances are, if you are committing to installing a massive screen in your house, you’ll want to have equally impressive audio. This will help reduce the number of cables going to the projector as well as all of your audio / video components will plug into the receiver first and then out of the receiver into your projector.