Tech News: The State of 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.

Who’s Using Home Theater Projectors?

Video gamers, movie buffs, sports fanatics, high-definition value hunters, you name it. Video projection is on a roll, and it may soon become ordinary to see a home theater in households in America and around the world. Growing segments include video gamers, entertainment establishments, and people who are really just looking for a great price for a high-definition display.

Shipley Home Theater for Gaming

Video Gaming

The draw for video gamers is two-fold. The extraordinary animation in today’s video games cries for high-definition display and the giant image helps to provide that immersive experience longed for since Star Trek introduced the Holodeck. The new Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 both offer high-definition output, including support up to 1080p – this year’s big thing. Both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 offer HD DVD (Xbox) Sony Blu-ray (PS3) support, though there is an additional purchase required for the Xbox.

(Photo: Shipley Home Theater)

The Nintendo Wii outputs only 480p resolution, and does not offer a DVD player, but it does offer an additional level to that immersive experience. There is one catch, however. For those who want to install all their components near the projector (several feet back from the screen), a third-party wireless module (around $30) will need to be purchased so that the LED sensor (the part that senses player motion) can be placed in front of the screen. The wireless module replaces the Nintendo sensor which has to be attached to the console to receive power.

High-Def Value Hunters

As our world turns toward high-definition, many buyers are simply looking for a low-priced option to bring them into the HD world. Video projectors offer great big images, much larger than LCD TVs and Plasma, and they cost significantly less. The bigger is better approach to television purchases led many of us to buy 50-inch TVs, and moving to a 32 or 37-inch flat panel TV feels a bit like a step down, even with the higher resolution. Costs for larger flat TVs also are a barrier to wide-spread adoption. Video projectors, however, can produce even bigger images than our old TVs and cost less money.

Price Comparison of LCD, Plasma and Projectors by Size
Resolution/Type Screen Size (inches) Estimated Street Price
720p LCD TV 37-inch screen $1,099 – $1,999*
720p Plasma TV 37-inch screen $999 – $1,999*
720p Home Theater Projector 100 to 200-inch $700 – $1,499**
* LCD and Plasma prices based on advertised prices on popular consumer electronics stores in March 2007. ** Based on Projector People prices in March 2007.

Sports Bars, Restaurants, and other Service Providers

Last year we mentioned that projector price decreases have also allowed for greater buying power to business owners in the service industry. We continue to see restaurants and sports bars employing big screen projectors as a way to entice visitors, and entertain them as they dine, drink, or dance. Major events such as the Super Bowl, Olympics, Oscars, and Title Fights are also big draws, which are a perfect pairing for a 200-inch big display. But lower prices on bright High-Definition widescreen (16×9) projectors and broader product options are the biggest drivers of sales in this segment.

Projectors and Photographers

Photographers continue to be a growing segment of 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. Widescreen (16×9) projectors are becoming more popular with photographers as well, as widescreen laptops have become the most common.

(Photo: Brian Adams Photographics)

New Standards in High Definition – The Ascent of 1080p

The Sweet Spot

Last year we reported the resolution ‘sweet spot’ to be WXGA-H which is 1280×720 pixels (aka 720p for 720 lines of video resolution with progressive scanning). That can still be said today, as the majority of projectors sold into home theater today are 720p. Prices have remained fairly stable, but manufacturer rebates and incentives have helped to drive street prices down. Brightness and contrast ratios are still the primary factors that differentiate the models and prices in the WXGA-H category. 480p products are still phasing out, but remain a great ultra-cheap option for first-time buyers.

Epson 1080p projector

1080p Has Arrived

The biggest buzz this year has been the emergence of affordable 1080p projectors. A year ago we predicted these projectors would hit with street prices around $5000, and we were very close. There are several options available at or around this price, including the new Epson ProCinema 1080. The makers of the Epson 1080 have had extra time to perfect their product, and have included popular features like a 2x zoom lens, impressive horizontal and vertical lens shift capabilities, HDMI 1.3 compatibility and an internal video processor/scaler for those who have multiple source resolutions (with support for 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p). They have also included a comprehensive 3-year exchange warranty which includes next business day replacement for the duration of the warranty.

Benefits of 1080p resolution products go beyond simply more lines of resolution. The video lines are still made up of pixels, and those additional pixels provide additional benefits.

  • Better color saturation (more pixels equal more color detail)
  • Better contrast (more pixels equals more light blocked on the screen)
  • Smoother and more detailed image (more pixels allow for more information passed to each pixel).

Quick Tip: It is sometimes reported that component video cannot support a 1080p signal. In reality it can, but some manufacturers will disable the option due to copy protection issues. The new Epson ProCinema 1080 can support the true high-definition 1080p resolution via component if you can find a source that outputs 1080p through component.

Price ranges by resolution
WVGA 480p (848 x 480) $599 – $999*
WXGA-H 720p (1280 x 720) $799 – $4,999
HD 1080p (1920 x 1080) $3,999 – $5,499
Contrast & brightness are biggest price differentiators after resolution. * Prices ranges as of March 2007 on ProjectorPeople.com.
Projector Popularity Contest

There is no king and queen crowned, and no dance, but anytime you want to know what our most popular home theater projectors are here at ProjectorPeople.com, you can take a look at our most popular projectors page. This page gives you a look at our most popular projectors from the last seven days of business.

Popular Home Theater Projectors

720p
  • Optoma Home Theater HD66
  • 1080p
  • Panasonic AE7000U HD
  • Epson 8350
  • Panasonic PT AR100U HD 1080p
  • Have more questions? Call a Projector Expert today for the best advice and the best price on projectors for work and home.

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