1080p or 720p Home Theater Projectors - Which Makes The Most Sense For Your Use: Summary
To repeat from the first page, if you are just shopping for your first projector, you have three strategies available to you, in the choice of 720p or 1080p projectors:
1. Buy a 720p projector now and plan on keeping it for a long, long time.
2. Buy a 1080p projector now
3. Buy a 720p projector now, with the intention of upgrading to 1080p in 1-4 years.
Technically there is a 4th choice - don't buy anything now - wait until prices come down and stabilize.
While some might hold off a decision for some months, that last idea has a problem. Following that same philosophy, you still would be waiting to buy your first computer. Afterall, prices are still coming down and performance increasing.
So, let's address the three primary options.
Truth is, a 720p projector can produce one fine home theater, even most of the $100,000 plus home theaters out there among the rich, are still 720p. And their owners have always been thrilled. If you are coming from a 32" Sony Trinitron, or a 55" Mitsubishi RPTV (big screen TV), even the most basic 720p projector in a darkened room is like a revelation. Welcome to the "theater" (sorry everyone else, 65" 50" 40" solutions are basically Kitchen TV sets, compared to a nice 100" to 120" diagonal projector system in a properly set up room).
So, if the budget is tight, choose among the 720p projectors, decide what makes sense price wise, and move on it. You might decide that a basic $900 - $1500 projector works best for you, or you might spend twice that much for the best of the class, to get a slightly sharper image, better shadow detail and blacker blacks, etc.
If you really aren't that concerned about the budget, or, you are doing a full room setup, where the difference between a 720p projector and a 1080p projector is less than 20% of the total room budget, it would make sense to go 1080p now. Also, I suspect if you are working a budget like that, 2 months after it is finished, you'll probably be wondering why you didn't by the 1080p projector, since, relative to the whole budget, it was only a small amount more.
If you seek best technical performance, and are rarely ever fully satisfied, but are on a limited budget, or if you have requirements that none of the current crop of 1080p projectors can meet at a "reasonable" price, then you are probably served best by starting with a 720p projector. That's if your plan is to make the move to 1080p in that 1 to 4 year period, as the 1080p class gets brighter, further refined, and more affordable.
Depending on when you make that upgrade and when you buy your hi-def players for DVD, all will determine if the two step process costs you more or less than buying a 1080p today.
The image above was taken from the Optoma HD81 (1080p) DLP projector, you may click to enlarge. The detail is excellent.
Also note, if you are ceiling mounting or shelf mounting that 720p projector today, you could encounter significant additional expense in upgrading if you have to move the projector location - change or move cabling, reopen walls, drywall and touch up paint. In my own experience the cost was significant. My older projector was ceiling mounted about 6 feet from my back wall, and hung down about 6 feet (20 foot ceiling). My current projector (2/07) by comparison is now on a shelf on the back wall, about 12 feet up. To make the move, bingo - the installers were back (with scaffolding - high ceiling), pulled down the old mount, recut wholes in the ceiling and back wall, moved the wiring to the new back wall location, moving AC power to the new location, etc. After they did all this I had to have the dry waller back in to patch all the cuts and wholes (a few hundred $).
By the time it was all done, it cost me over $1000 in labor and minor materials, to replace the older projector with the new one in a new location! Finally the painting (on that I'm still waiting for one more upgrade, from my 720p BenQ 8720 to a new 1080p projector (still reviewing, and deciding). Then, finally, the major room painting (and finally my wife will be happy).
Last thoughts - What does one year delay on 1080p buy the consumer. As I indicated earlier, there will be lower prices, with entry level 1080p probably down to the $2500-$3000 range (I suspect something will be available online for $2500). There will certainly be a few brighter projectors - rivaling the brightness of the brighter 720p projectors. And finally, there will likely be more projectors to choose from, which means a better chance of finding exactly what you want and need, especially since, so far there aren't any 1080p affordable projectors with exceptional placement flexibility and above-average brightness.
All that said, myself, I'm tired of waiting. I've narrowed my choice, so far, to three possibles. One of which is my next review, the JVC RS-1. (On paper it looks perfect - if it's bright enough).
One Last Question For You, That May Help You Decide:
As yourself this: If I go out now and buy a 720p projector, is it in my nature, that within a month or two, I'll be second guessing myself, and just won't be happy until I have a 1080p projector.
No point on making yourself miserable, is there?
I hope this provides a bit of help to you, in figuring out your best choice. There's no rocket science in this article, just an attempt to organize the choices so that you can apply some common sense.