The Bigger Picture: Projectors or TVs?

The Bigger Picture: Projectors vs. TVs

When it comes time to upgrade your home entertainment system (new year, new you!), something I’d urge you to consider is whether you might actually prefer the picture on a new television or a full-size projector and screen.

Each is a great option, and the truth is you really can’t go wrong.  Over the past few years, projectors have gotten brighter and more affordable.  Simultaneously, TVs have gotten bigger than ever before and the advent of 4K Ultra HD resolution has further invigorated the industry.

The goal of this post is to help you decide which of the two options will work best for your personal home theater in terms of screen size, price, and picture quality.

Size

It might seem obvious that size will be the biggest factor in shaping your display choice. It’s really the whole reason to go with projection in the first place.  Conventional wisdom says that TVs are the clear loser in the size contest, but the gap is closing each and every year. 80-inch TVs aren’t uncommon anymore, if expensive. Alternatively, a merely affordable projector screen will start at around 100-120 inches.

At that size, and bigger, an entire wall of your abode becomes your theater screen.  For movies and sporting events, it’s hard to argue with the value of a life-size image.

Important to note: that’s not just a life-size image, either. Even midrange projectors nowadays will shoot a life-size image in crispy 1080p.  If you remember my post on TV resolution, clarity and detail of image are largely dependent on viewing distance…and…wait for it…screen size!

At the average living room viewing distance of 9 feet, looking at a 60-inch TV, most people are just barely able to make out the difference between 720p and 1080p resolution.  Ramp up to a 120-inch projector screen at a comparable viewing distance, and you could be basking in full 4K Ultra HD.  (That is, if you’re willing to shell out the cash for a 4K projector.  Last Fall Sony released a model with a tidy $5,000 price tag.)

Ehem…

Price

With a few important caveats, a 1080p projector setup will be cheaper than buying the biggest 4K TV with HDR you can lay your paws on.

Caveat 1: Level of install.  If you’re wanting a motorized screen (or projector) that descends majestically from the heavens, your overall project cost will jump up considerably.  Though, realistically, if you’re entertaining these types of bells and whistles, you’re probably a ‘money is no object’ consumer (congratulations on your new 4K projector, by the way).

Even going with a basic projection set up, you’ll want to mount the projector and the screen and more than likely need to invest in making your room darker.  Even the brightest projectors on the market struggle with washout from ambient light.  A heavy duty set of blackout curtains will ease most ambient light problems but that’s an additional expense to factor in.

Caveat 2: Lamps.  Practically all projectors utilize a UHP lamp to create light.  These typically last a few thousand hours, with replacement averaging every one or two years depending on the frequency of their use.  You can expect to drop a hundred bucks or two for the replacement lamps.

Picture Quality:

Murky waters here, friends.

As I type this, the line between projector and TV resolution specs is blurring.  Both Sony and Samsung have developed massive LED TV screen modules that can be combined to create a cinema sized 4K video wall.  Naturally, they are anything but affordable, but the technology is here.

As I mentioned earlier, prohibitively priced projectors are also available in 4K resolution.  But even a moderately priced 1080p projector on a moderately priced screen will have noticeably better resolution (due to its bigger size) than a moderately priced 1080p Television.

My Advice:

There’s no way around it, we live in a great time for media consumption.  To me, a projector versus TV debate really comes down to what flavor of picture experience you’re looking for in a home entertainment system.

If you’re a die-hard sports fan or a cinephile, the benefits of a projector set up will become evident upon your first viewing.  You’ll be getting a crisp, life-size image to lose yourself in.  Just be prepared for a little more work on the planning, setup, and maintenance side of things.

Casual viewers will be more than pleased with a large (> 55”) 1080p LCD TV with High Dynamic Range capability and a 120Hz refresh rate.

If you’re still unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Pro Presenters.  Our staff is ready and dedicated to bringing you the best in home entertainment experience possible.