Home Theater Buyers Guide

[ this is a reprint of our Projector People Post home theater tech story ]

Happy Snowfellow

Ho! Ho! Ho! The Holidays are here again! And the decade will end on a particularly joyous year for the home theater enthusiast on a budget. Why? Well, you could say it’s because our best selling new projectors are aggressively priced right out of the gate. Or you might also say it’s because there is so much wonderful HD content out there. Or maybe it’s just because the newest projectors produce the best looking video you’ve ever seen on a 120-inch screen. Whatever reason resonates, this is a great year for big screen, home theater projection. So, let’s move on to some of our usual holiday buyers guide. You’ll get some tips for saving money, and fast and easy tech information that’ll help you pick the best home theater projector for you.

Projector People : Savings Places

Before we get into our technical guide, here are a few pages that might lead to savings for you. Our demo projector inventory (usually very limited use projectors), rebates and promotions, Deal of the Day, and other specials we may featured are linked below.

SAVINGS TIP: Due to manufacturer regulations, authorized resellers have to be a little creative in order to offer you our best price. So add your projector to your cart to see the lowest prices on most projectors. Or, request a quick quote for a Sanyo product to see the lowest price. Packages are also a good way to find additional savings. Call for the most up to date pricing or to create a custom package.

Projector Brightness

As usual, we will start with brightness. Brightness is an important specification, but not much has changed over the past year. In general, dedicated home theaters (ceiling mounted projector in a room with controlled lighting) are still your best space for achieving a flawless image, even with a low lumen projector. Media rooms, backyard theaters, converted garages and basements will most likely require a projector with more brightness to get the best image. But really, about any new home theater projector is going to be bright enough in most environments. Still, we have put together a chart for brightness in general conditions. Call a Projector Expert if you have special considerations in your space.

Home Theater Projector Brightness Recommendations
Room Type Recommended Brightness
Small Theaters* 900 – 1500 lumens (or more)
Large Theaters** 1200 – 2000 lumens (or more)
Outdoor Theaters 1500 lumens (or more)
Media Rooms*** 2000 lumens (or more)

* Dedicated space with controlled lighting and a screen under 100-inches.
** Dedicated space with controlled lighting and a screen over 100-inches.
*** A media room as defined here is a space with windows that is used for multi-purpose entertaining.

SAVINGS TIP: If you see higher lumen ratings on a low priced projector, there is usually going to be a trade off for contrast, video processing and/or optics. When buying, ponder the importance of image quality versus image brightness. Do you want a flawless image in a dedicated space? Or a more flexible media room projector that will work with the lights on? The more expensive projectors will offer you both brightness and image quality, but may lack portability. Ask a Projector Expert for more about what is right for your viewing habits.

The Reigning Resolution

HDTV Logo

Last year we said ‘if you can afford 1080p HD, then get 1080p HD.’ This year, there are plenty of ‘budget’ 1080p options. So the question becomes, entry level (low priced) 1080p or high end (higher priced) 1080p projection? Our 720p category has all but disappeared, with just one or two strong products left on the market. So, the answer to which resolution is right for you, is in most cases 1080p. No chart needed for that. However, there are certainly more questions to be asked about the technical differences between high and low-end 1080p projectors. For that, I am going to share a few blog entries where we cover the details in depth.

Three Helpful Blog Entries

Compare Three $999 High Resolution Projectors
BenQ W1000, Optoma HD20, and Vivitek H1080FD featured in this article. Brightness, contrast, and more are explored. Click here to read »

Compare Three High End 1080p Projectors
Panasonic PT-AE4000U, Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, and BenQ W6000 discussed within. Brightness, contrast, and more are explored. Click here to read »

Compare Entry Level $999 1080p to High End HD Projectors
Video comparison and information about the differences between the two categories. Click here to read »

Price Breakthroughs This Year

This has been a breakthrough year for low prices in home theater projection. Projectors have broken two price barriers. Entry level true HD 1080p home theater now under $1000 (at $999) and high-end home theater for as low as $1999. That’s good news for buyers that have been watching and waiting for lower prices. For those who prefer suggested products mentioned directly, here’s a quick breakdown of products in the three home theater categories.

    Entry Level Home Theater : $999
Mid Level Home Theater : $1199 – $1499 High End Home Theater : $1999 – $2499 YouTube
Video of Home Theater Projectors

If you’d rather just see the projector in action, we’ve got some video for you. We have recently added the Panasonic PT-AE4000U, BenQ W6000, and Vivitek H1080FD to our Home Theater Showroom. We’ve also taken some video of the Vivitek H1080FD, Panasonic PT-AE4000U (low quality), and Optoma HD20. We will be adding more as soon as we have a chance to do some head-to-head shootouts.

For more video, visit us on YouTube or test new projectors in our Home Theater Demo Room.