Remember the differences between home theater and home entertainment.
A good projector to drop into a home theater, not only has color optimized for movie viewing, but also should be able to produce very dark “blacks.” Those dark blacks are the key to dark scenes looking great. However, it is important to remember that most people expect to be watching more things than just movies at home, including HDTV, sports and there are a lot of folks using projectors for gaming. What you watch, as well as your room conditions, will be a key factor in selecting your projector.
The Epson Home Cinema 5030UB, a popular, low-cost LCD projector.
Today’s projectors targeting a home theater or “cave” start at under $500 dollars for 720p resolution, and as low as $700 for 1080p projectors. Just four years ago one could not buy 1080p resolution home theater projectors for much under $2000. Note please that the least expensive home projectors are “crossover” projectors, their design based as a business portable. Despite their “upbringing,” some of those can do an admirable job for the amount spent, but they are home entertainment.
Almost all dark room projectors are relatively modest in brightness. It’s a trade-off for better picture quality and especially, contrast and black levels. Most “home” projectors you will consider today offer 3000 lumens or less, with the brighter ones being capable of tackling brighter rooms, such as family rooms, living rooms or media centers. In fact some are really geared for that, while other bright projectors may be even more at home in a dedicated theater.
Brightness has increased in the past few years to support 3D. 3D home theater projectors now include almost every new projector geared for home use. Virtually all that have hit the market since 2012 has offered 3D. Not all come with 3D glasses, but they are otherwise ready to go. Active 3D for projectors is mostly a firmware thing, so not expensive to implement.
Each year we have had a chance to review the large majority of new home theater projectors announced at the annual CEDIA show, which is held in September or October. Most of the projectors announced at this event begin shipping between September and February. Since the bulk of each year’s newly announced projectors are 1080p, the report focuses on these higher resolution projectors, but now also includes those new 4K projectors.