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Using "Business" Projectors in the Home

By Art Feierman
Which Type of Projector to Buy? Thanks to several new excellent performing 16:9 dedicated (HT) Home Theater projectors, the need for people to buy a business projector for their home to keep costs down is vanishing. Low cost projectors like two of our award winners, the BenQ 5120 and the Mitsubishi HC-3, really provide superior home theater, for prices not much more than business projectors.

So, when should you consider a "crossover" business projector for home theater viewing? Here are a few possible situations.

  1. Absolute lowest price. The least expensive dedicated home theater projectors will cost you around $999 (as of this writing). You can save about $200 - $300 with an entry level business projector. There are some decent choices out there, like Epson's S1+ projector or perhaps better, BenQ's PB6100, another dlp multimedia projector.
  2. You prefer DLP projectors for its almost invisible pixels. There just aren't any dedicated 16:9 HT DLP's under $2000, that aren't low res, (in fact you're looking at over $3000 for the least expensive 1280x720 DLP projector). You can get an entry level XGA resolution DLP projector from around $1300.
  3. You need the projector for business use. That's the best reason for a crossover projector. You can focus on getting a great business solution, that also does good HT. Note, most home theater projectors are not built for portability, in fact most are over 10 pounds. A notable exception; the Panasonic AE700U an affordable LCD home theater projector (selling for around $2200, as of this writing, and weighing less than 8 pounds.
  4. You need a brighter projector. With a few very expensive exceptions, all HT projectors produce 1200 lumens or less, and most are 700 to 1000. For the same price as the 1000 lumen Epson Home-10, you can get a "crossover" projector with 1500 to 1800 lumens, and for $1500 - $1999 you can get DLP projectors with 2200 - 2500 lumens, you can choose from an array of 2000 lumen "crossover" projectors. Sports fans might choose to go "crossover" projector to have more lights on, but in the long haul, the future is 16:9 HDTV and movies, and while 4:3 projectors can do it, they aren't fully utilized in wide format.

For the reason's above, last year's most popular "crossover" projector, NEC's LT240K, which offers 2000 lumens, no longer has a big home theater following. Quite simply, higher resolution, less expensive and true 16:9 home theater projectors, like Sanyo Z3 projector, or Panasonic's AE700U home theater projector, for most, will be far better choices. That's not so say that the dedicated home theater projectors are, in every way, better, however, overall they do provide a much better home theater experience.
So this year, you can probably find a true home theater projector to light up your screen, in your price range. Good shopping!

When a Business Projector (at home) is Better

Now that cost differences are not significant, the big difference is in brightness. As mentioned, virtually all home theater projectors are designed to operate in really dark rooms (500 - 1200 lumens). This works fine for movie watchers, but, some folks want to watch sports with friends, or do some gaming, and don't want to be in a almost pitch black room!

Keep in mind, a 2000 or even 3000 lumen projector is much brighter than a 1000 lumen model, but the difference is not "night and day". In fact, if you have a fairly bright room, the dark scenes will be washed out even with the much brighter projector. Still, for sports, the extra "horsepower", will allow some reasonable lighting.

Be warned! If you are looking for that extra brightness, coming from a business projector, remember that business DLP projectors are not well known for color accuracy. In fact most perform poorly on reds and yellows, when at full power. Kick one of those business DLP into video mode, and voila', excellent color, but the brightness drops way down. My point: Don't expect a significant increase in brightness when watching video if you go from a 1000 lumen HT projector to a 2000 lumen DLP business projector. For the extra "horsepower" you are looking for, you'll do better with LCD, where colors are accurate - at full power.

To illustrate, in one of our reviews (NEC LT170), to get the accurate color you would demand for watching, the projector's output dropped over 50%, turning a 1500 lumen model into a 705 lumen model by the time it looked great.

If you want brighter in your home, you'll need lots of lumens, and probably LCD technology in your "home" business projector.

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