Cheap Dave's Home Theater

Chosing a projector

I don't want to give a plug to any particular web page (unless maybe I can get an ad for them). But Projector Central is a great place to research your projector.

I don't want to give a plug to any particular web page (unless maybe I can get an ad for them). But Projector Central is a great place to research your projector.

Basically I watch the different price points and then see how they move.The main characteristic I am watching is the resolution versus the price. So right now a 800x600 resolution projector starts at about $800. Don't think that becasue this is the lowest point that these projectors can't be good enough to make a convincing home theater. My projector was 600x480 and was OK but I would have killed for a 800x600.

These different resolutions all have unique names. (related to computer monitors). Remember your fist VGA monitor? So 800x600 is SVGA. You don't need to become an expert at all of the different names just keep in mind that more is generally better but also there is a point where you may not be able to tell a differnce.

So SVGA is about $800 but the next one up XGA (1280x720) starts at about $1600. I have been watching that price point since it was well over $2000. You can definitely get away with a SVGA projector but if you can afford a XGA projector you will be happier with it for a longer period of time. It is kind of like buying a computer. You can buy the cheapest computer but it is going to be out of date sooner. Also XGA projectors can easily do HDTV. That is a big plus.

Now the next step above XGA is SXGA and this may be the point where you may not be able to see the ifference. Plus currently projectors in this resolution category are way outside of the "Cheap Dave" price range.

So right now lets just consider those two resolutions. The next big decision is DLP or LCD. I don't want to go into too much detail on this point, you can find articles discussing this at length. I think it is safe to say as of today'date (May 2006) there is no clear winner. Don't worry that if you buy LCD that in 6 months your friends will be laughing at you as if you had a Beta VCR. They both make good pictures and current models are much improved over projectors that were state of the art (and a lot of money) just a few years ago.

One of the big comparisons you will see in reviews is contrast ratio. Basically it is a measure of how dark a part of the picture can be versus the brightest part. DLPs have a certain advantage in contrast ratio but LCDs have improved greatly. Contrast raio is important in producing detailed shadow area and even in making good colors. But now you have projectors claiming contrast ratios of 5000:1 or more. This is another one of those measures that has gotten to the point of being meaningless. I think anything ove 500:1 is sufficient. It is like having an argument about whcih is better a Corvette or a Ferarri. The Corvette can go 175 MPH and the Ferarri can go 190 MPH. But the average driver will never approach those top speeds so they are nothing more than a number on a page.

One of the big things to consider is what size picture will a certain projector create in my room. The optics on different models varies greatly. So you can use Projector Centrals image size calculator to really compare
projectors. You may find the model you like can't throw a very big picture in your room. Or even if you have a very long room and want to put the projector at the back that you want one that makes a relatively small picture for that distance. So spend some time thinking about that.

I wanted a projector with a power zoom lens for this home theater. This way I can easily change my picture size and I use it to zoom in on super wide screen movies so they completely fill the screen. But to do this I have to let the picture get wider. So I controlled the height of my screen but not the width. (just like at the movie theater).

I have read articles recently that say get a smaller display and put more money into your sound system. I think there can be differences in opinion but my preference to create a theater experience is a larger picture.