Sound baby, sound!
While the image on the screen is the key, don't skimp too much on the audio. Typically a $499 "Home Theater in a Box" may provide decent sound, and play loud enough, but, boy is it great to have some really good sound. (I'm an old audiophile, and my system is ridiculous, but boy does it make for amazing sound.) Room size and speaker placement come into play in your selection. You don't have to spend a ton of money - a nice $300 - $500 AV receiver can handle your source switching for the projector (cable/satellite box, Blu-ray/DVD player, computer, even a game machine like the PS3). Then pick out a good set of 5.1 (or 7.1) set of speakers/subwoofer. If you are planning a major room changeover, you may well want to have your speakers "in-wall" instead of free standing.
Portable Audio? Many of the less expensive projectors, including BenQ, Viewsonic, Epson and others, have some decent (not awesome) speakers in their lower cost projectors. That's most helpful for "portable use", such as carting the projector outside at night to show Cars 2, on your garage door, or perhaps X-Men First Class, on an inflatable screen in your back yard. Some even have an audio output, making it easy to add a small powered sub-woofer so that your sound has some real punch.
Only as good as the weakest link - Go Blu-Ray (or download HD)
I get so many emails about, "do I really need to get a Blu-ray player" Personally, I always recommend it. The difference betweens standard DVD and Blu-Ray of the same movie is often startling. It's not just the higher resolution and therefore significantly sharper image, but also the production qualities. Almost all Blu-Ray discs have been remastered to deliver a superior picture in terms of color fidelity, dynamics, and everything else. The best source material on standard DVD - such as Lord of the Rings, barely comes close to the most average Blu-ray disc. With players to be found for under $60, go for it. Or, as most people do, buy a Sony PS3 and have a great Blu-Ray player, and a top of the line game machine. The final word - get a Blu-ray player. Sure, suffer your old DVD's but most projectors will do fine on DVD, and it will never look as good as Blu-ray, so we focus on hi-res!
Enough. It is not my goal to intimidate you. You will do what you can to get the best viewing experience. If you can't do everything - that's fine - even I can't, and this is how I make my living. Still, even a pretty basic setup, with compromises, is, basically jaw-dropping!
Photos Found In This Projector Report
The vast majority of images in this 2012 report, can be clicked on, to open a much larger version in a new window, for closer inspection.
Please! As point out several times in this report, and once in every review:
Take these images "with a grain of salt". While many images give you a good relative idea of projector performance, especially those about black levels and shadow detail, they should not be used to determine which projector, for example, has the best color or film-like qualities. There is so much loss in getting the picture off the screen through my old Olympus E510 (dSLR), and now my Canon 60D, through resizing and format converting (we start with RAW format - roughly 9 megabytes per image, and end up with about 100K (for the large images) jpgs when done).
Color depth, dynamic range, and more gets compromised. Then there is other software related aspects, your browser, and, rather significantly, your monitor, which on its best day, isn't remotely capable of faithfully reproducing the full original, even if we could get it to you.
The images are there to support my commentary, to educate you, to give you very useful comparisons (such as black level performance where the images are good guides), and finally, to entertain you. Hey, it's fun looking at many of these images, from major movies, etc.
OK, that's more than enough info to get you started. Have a blast!