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Guide To Buying the Best Home Theater Projector for You

By Art Feierman
This guide was written in partnership with our 2013 Best Home Theater Projector Report. More user-centric than product-focused, we hope you'll find it a great resource when projector shopping.

About This Guide: Where to Start?

Guide to Buying the Best Home Theater Projector For YouIt’s time for your first (or second, or third?) projector for your home.  You can choose a projector sort of haphazardly, perhaps read a quick home theater projector review (or two), run to Best Buy, or go online, and take the plunge, or you can take the time to "choose wisely" by first and foremost, understanding what your (and your family’s) needs are when it comes to using a home theater projector, or home entertainment projector.

The purpose of this guide it to provide you just about all the understanding you could need to choose the right home theater projector.  Let me restate that:  Choose the best projector that your budget, your room conditions, viewing tastes, habits (when you view, whether you want some ambient light for some of that viewing), preferred screen size, and other factors help you determine.

In our attempt to create a pretty comprehensive guide to Buying the Right Home Theater Projector, you’ll find this is a rather long document.  We hope you’ll find it well organized, so that it’s easy to understand, and so that you can find the information you need, without necessarily reading the whole document.

The Terminology

Before we get started you may be asking yourself:  What’s the difference between Home Theater Projector and Home Entertainment Projector?  There really aren’t dictionary definitions.  These are two terms are often used, although Home Theater Projector is the catch all phrase encompassing both.  Many projectors that are pretty basic, that some "should" be called Home Entertainment Projectors, are most often referred to as "Home Theater Projectors.”

You might assume a Home Theater Projector is designed to be used in a dedicated theater or cave, and if you want a projector is a less perfect room, that’s a home entertainment projector.  If you did, you wouldn’t be quite right.

Remember that while some of you are seeking the best possible picture in your budget range, that’s not the driving goal for many.  A lot of you just want a really large screen and a really dazzling image, rather than a more perfect one.  Our goal is to help you figure out which camp you are in, and more importantly, which projector will work best for you, regardless of a home theater, projector  or home entertainment projector moniker.

Top Home Projectors

"Home Entertainment" Projectors

For our purposes, consider a “home entertainment” projectors, to mostly to be lower cost projectors, (certainly under $2000 in the US), that are  rather bright, (with most now offering 1200 to 2500+ lumens), but they will typically lack the great black level performance that requires a really good room to get the most out of.

The Home Entertainment designation would also include all-in-one projectors with speakers and even DVD players built in.  Many home entertainment projectors are similar to business projectors, and come from that background, aka "cross-over" projectors, where brightness tends to trump image quality.  Also these projectors will lack many of the advanced image processing features, and often lack the full set of controls allowing an accurate calibration and the excellent color accuracy and skin tones that a good calibration will deliver.

It’s not just about brightness.  There are now a number of very bright home theater projectors.  These home theater projectors will look better in a dedicated theater than in a basic media room or your unaltered family room, living room or den, because all home projectors will look better in an ideal room.

"Home Theater" Projectors

That notwithstanding, some of these home theater projectors are as bright, or brighter than most of the home entertainment projectors, and will look better in any room.  Some projectors though, really are dedicated home theater projectors.   They may be stellar performers in your cave or home theater, but just don’t have the horse power – the brightness – to perform well in less ideal rooms.  Typically those are projectors that measure 1000 lumens or less at their brightest.  Please note that I use the word measure, not claim.  There are often hundreds of lumens difference between what manufacturers claim, and what we find when we measure.

So, for all of that, in this guide we will refer to all home projectors typically as home theater, but on occasion I’ll specifically identify some projectors as home entertainment.

Let the games begin – or rather your hunt has started, so start by first taking a peek in your wallet.

Before We Begin...

On the next page, we'll take you through an initial checklist of everything you should consider before diving in, because you can’t make smart buying decisions until you’ve thought about these key things.

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