Tech News: What’s Happening in Home Theater Projection?

Twice a year we at ProjectorPeople.com take a moment to share with you our perspective on what’s new in the projection industry. In this article we will look at some of the current trends, from features to pricing, in home theater video projection.

Home Theater front projection is more popular than ever before. Our business has grown significantly in this area, even in just one year. Most likely this can be attributed mostly to the consistent price erosion over the past two years, and an improvement in video display quality. As you would expect, cheaper and better usually gets attention.

A Brief History of Home Theater and Projectors.

Three or four years ago portable projectors were used primarily for business presenting. People liked the big images and eventually took them home on the weekends to watch video, even though the quality was far from ideal. Manufacturers started making business/home theater hybrids that were sometimes called “crossover” products. These portable units were thousands of dollars less than the home theater systems of the time, and those more complex systems also had to be installed by professionals and often required calibration maintenance after installation.

These were great for people who weren’t picky about their images, but there was definitely room for improvement. For one, high-definition compatibility is supposed to become government mandated by 2009. The standard requires a 16:9 aspect ratio and a minimum 480 lines of resolution with progressive scanning, called 480p, and up to as high as 1080p resolution. Crossover products were typically 4:3 aspect ratios, and did not specify video resolution. Contrast ratios were also lower on these products, since business presentations look just fine with as little contrast as 300:1.

High-Definition Resolution

Today’s resolution ‘sweet spot’ seems to be WXGA-H. You might see WXGA-H referred to as 1280 x 720 pixels, or 720p (for 720 lines with progressive scan rather than interlaced video). There are now a number of products in this category with very reasonable price points. Some start as low as $999.00 after rebates and incentives, but typically these projectors cost closer to $2,000. Brightness and contrast ratios are the primary factors that differentiate the models and prices in the WXGA-H category.

Feel the Need for More Resolution?

You can expect to see some 1080p projectors released by the end of the year, but it’s not clear what manufacturers will charge for these units. However, we suspect that they will be significantly more than (WXGA-H) 720p projectors. 480p products appear to be slowly phasing out, but remain today as a great ultra-cheap option for first-time buyers.

Sometimes it is Black and White.

One of the biggest “buzzwords” in home theater projection is contrast. Contrast is essentially the difference between the brightest white, and darkest black in an image. It’s measured as a ratio of one to the other (eg. 2000:1).

Last year the sweet spot for contrast ratio hovered somewhere between 1000:1 – 2000:1. But popular LCD products like the Panasonic AE900U and Sanyo PLV-Z4 have pushed that number closer to 5000:1 and higher. DLP

Mitsubishi HC3000U Home Theater projector

The Blansett family, Mitsubishi HC3000U owners since December 2005 say…

"I bought a non-HD big screen in 1999, knowing that in about five or six years HighDef TV would be a little more affordable. When I heard the Xbox-360 would support HighDef I knew it was time to buy. I choose the Mitsubishi HC3000U, mainly because of the new chip technology and…

Click here to view full showroom.

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Tech News: What’s New in Projection Technology?

Twice a year we at ProjectorPeople.com take a moment to share with you our perspective on what’s new in the projection industry. In this article we will look at some of the current trends, from features to pricing, in business front video projection.

Popular Markets – Where are Business Projectors Used?

Business projectors are as popular as ever in presentation applications, particularly in church, education, and business presentation environments. Churches in particular have found the price reductions in projectors gives them an opportunity that would have been previously out of their financial reach.

Other people have found video projectors a useful tool for selling and promoting their businesses to consumers. We see more restaurants and sports bars utilizing big screen front projection as a way to entertain visitors while enticing them to view major events (from the Super Bowl to the Olympics to the Oscars) on the big screen. Some clever restaurant owners have begun using front projection as a way to easily promote daily specials, or even their entire menu.

Photographers are also a growing segment or projector users, with more artists taking advantage of video projectors as a selling tool – either displaying slideshows to drive more photo sales, or as an extra for displaying real-time photos (or video) at special events such as weddings and bar mitzvahs. Projectors with additional available color selection control are popular choices for these users.

Specs and Prices

Projectors for business are getting incrementally brighter, with the lower prices affording more brightness to more users. The brightness benchmark for lights-on-presentations is now at approximately 1500 lumens. There are many affordable options in the 2000-2500 lumen range as well, for those who want a punchier image. Ultra-portable projectors still range within the 2-6 lbs. SXGA+ projectors are now more affordable, and offer increased resolution (1400×1050 pixels) for those with higher resolution laptops.

    Three Tiers of Portable Projectors (all under 6 lbs.)

  • Entry Level Portables
  • [1000 – 1999 lumens (SVGA)]
  • Good for audiences of 20 people or less
  • Price range* $595 – $1,049
  • Mid Range Portables
  • [2000 – 2500 lumens (XGA)]
  • Good for audiences of 50 people or less
  • Price range* $925 – $1,999
  • Example product: NEC LT180
  • High End Portables
  • [2500+ lumens (XGA)]
  • Any size audience up to 100+
  • Price range*: $1,399 and up
  • Example product: Casio XJ560

* Prices are approximations based on ProjectorPeople.com pricing on March 1, 2006

Quick Tip: Want more pricing information? Use our handy “Search by Feature” tool and break-it-down your way.

Projector Popularity Contest

At ProjectorPeople.com we have our very own Top Ten list. No it’s not a series of clever jokes about projectors, it’s actually our top models sold from our last seven days of business. So if you ever wonder what other people are buying, this handy reference might be just what you need. To check it out, click here.

On the Horizon

How can manufacturers improve on what is already highly advanced projection technology? The trend seems to be simply to continue making lower cost products, while adding value to these lower cost units. Watch for low-resolution (SVGA), lower-brightness projectors dipping into even lower price points over the next few months. As those low resolution projectors drop slightly in price, XGA projectors will likely remain steady in price, while adding features or brightness for added value. You may also see higher resolution projectors, that match those high-resolution laptops, entering the marketplace at affordable prices.

Our Wish List:

More options in affordable high-resolution widescreen projectors. PDAs and cell phones that can plug directly into a projector. Wireless full-motion video that works without producing artifacts. Wireless projectors that don’t require loading proprietary software on each laptop Presentation via .PPT file on a Zip drive (rather than converting to .JPG)

Share Your Opinion

Do you have a projection need that is currently going unfulfilled? Share your ideas with us and we will pass your thoughts along to our manufacturer contacts. Some great innovations have stemmed from our customer feedback!

What are the trends in home theater front projection?

Watch for our home theater tech news update on March 15th. Click here to see past tech articles on home theater and business projection.

Still have questions? Call a Projector Expert today for the best advice and the best price on projectors for work and home.

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