Tech News: The Joys of Low Priced Projectors

Recently a friend of mine mentioned that he needed an additional television set for gaming. He was looking for a 32-inch set to sit next to his larger projection TV. Naturally he asked me for advice, since I think about this stuff all the time. But in reality, I haven’t seriously shopped for a conventional CRT TV in a few years. As it turned out, a WVGA projector seemed to be his most cost efficient option. Here’s why:

Shopping for a Conventional TV

With the push towards flat screen technology, I figured he could get a 32-inch conventional TV for about a buck and a half, but this did not turn out to be the case. During a quick search of popular consumer electronics websites, I found a few TVs that I could actually recommend based on inputs, quality, and overall features. They ranged in price from $449 – $650. Each of these products were standard 4:3, and 480i resolution.

[ Photo: Movie displayed on WVGA Hitachi ED-PJ32 projector from progressive scan DVD player. ]

By comparison, the WVGA projector (Hitachi ED-PJ32) is native 480p resolution (or enhanced definition), which is generally considered superior to 480i (or standard definition). The projector also had component video inputs which were not available on all the CRT options, and of course, the projector can produce an image larger than 32-inches. It also weighs just 4.8 lbs. and has a footprint about the size of a large book so it can be easily put away when not in use. The portability element was cool for him as well, since it allows him to take his projector to friends’ houses for another night of gaming or watching movies.

WVGA Video Projector vs. Conventional TV

  • Competitively priced from $595 to $999.
  • Online purchases cheaper due to sales tax savings and reduced shipping.
  • 480p (progressive) superior to 480i (interlaced) signal for fewer video artifacts.
  • Native resolution same as progressive scan DVD players and game systems like the Xbox, for better quality images.
  • Flexible image sizes, including much larger (up to 92-inches for best results) than the fixed 32-inch conventional TV.
  • Weighs a lot less, so it is portable and can be easily put away when not in use.

Quick Tip: One potential drawback is the shorter life of the light mechanism (lamp) in the projector. However if it is used 8 hours or less a week, and is properly maintained (allowed to cool during shut down and filters kept clean) the current lamp should last up to five years. Lamp warranties are also available for $99 which allows for two lamp replacements in five years.

A portable or manual screen would be a great addition to his set up, but was not required as he as able to project onto the wall. He is contemplating making his own screen with material from a fabric store.

What’s a WVGA Projector Good For?

A WVGA projector will do a bang-up job of displaying movies from a progressive scan (480p) DVD player. A screen size up to 92-inches will give you the best looking images. Larger than 92-inches will not look as good, but if you aren’t particular, filling the entire garage door with an image is very impressive. When calibrated correctly with a software tool like AVIA, the WVGA projector will look better than a CRT television which, of course, cannot produce images as large as 92-inches.

[ Photo: Madden for Xbox displayed on WVGA Hitachi ED-PJ32 projector from progressive scan DVD player. ]

If This is You, Consider a WVGA Projector:

  • I want a big screen now, but I can’t afford much.
  • I will only be watching DVDs or playing games on the projector.
  • I want to wait until HD prices stabilize – Don’t want to upgrade to HD yet.
  • I just need something cheap for the kids/ game room/ to display vacation slides.
  • I want something cool for my dorm room.

When is a WVGA Not a Good Choice?

If you are planning on upgrading to high-definition in the near future, then a WVGA projector will not be a good choice for you. While a WVGA projector should be able to scale high resolution images, the quality will not match what a native high-definition display can do. With the prices as reasonable as they are today, it’s hard to think of another reason not to buy one.

Featured projector Hitachi ED-PJ32 »

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