Projector People on CBS News

(CBS) If you’re thinking of getting a large screen high-definition TV to watch the Super Bowl, the Olympics or just regular TV shows and movies, consider your alternatives. In previous columns I’ve written about the plasma and LCD thin-panels as well as the less expensive rear-screen projection TVs, but this time I’m testing out devices that are smaller, often cheaper and at the same time bigger than any TV on the market.

A front screen projector can create a theater-like atmosphere in your home with screens just about any size you want. Even the least expensive projectors can give you the equivalent of a 50-, 60- or even a 70-inch screen, with high-definition units starting at just over $1,000. After trying out three projectors, I’m convinced that this is a viable option for some people, though not for everyone.

A projector is not a good choice as your only TV. If you plan to spend a half hour or so watching a sitcom or the news, you may be better off with a regular TV.

Projectors have to warm up and cool down. When you first push the power button a fan starts whirring to direct cool air over the lamp. The lamp itself doesn’t come on for at least a minute or two. When you’re done, the process reverses itself. The lamp goes dim but the fan stays on until it has cooled down. Failure to allow for a cool down results in the lamp burning out before it’s time.

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How much screen can you get for the cash you’ve got to spend? Click here for Larry Magid’s podcast interview of Jennifer Andrews of ProjectorPeople.com, who has tips on large screen options.

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Speaking of lamps, there is a usage cost on projectors. Lamps are generally rated for between about 2,000 and 5,000 hours and cost anywhere from $200 to $500 to replace, so if you plan to watch several hours of TV a day, you’re going to spend a lot of money on replacement lamps.

Ideally, a projector should be in a dimly lit room. Although some can handle a certain amount of ambient room light, you are not going to get as clear a picture in a lit room as you will with a TV whose light source is shining through the screen.

Even Jennifer Andrews who works for ProjectorPeople.com