Projector Reviews

Defining Your Expectations Regarding Projectors and Your Final Theater Experience

In general terms, I believe there are three types of people who buy home theater projectors:

The Typical Consumer

Many people setting up a home theater in their homes, or even just putting a projector in a common room, such as a family room or den, are just looking for an enjoyable viewing experience. They may willing to pay more for better quality, but for them, they just want it to look great. They aren’t overly critical, and are not bothered by the most minor of imperfections. Once it’s all set up, they want to just kick back and enjoy the content, and the overall experience.

A couple of Hobbits from LOTR, projected using the pricey Runco LS10d projector

Click Image to Enlarge

The Enthusiast

The Enthusiasts are folks that not only enjoy the content, but essentially have turned home theater, and home theater equipment into a hobby. These folks tend to want to tweak their equipment, often changing it out regularly (as budgets allow), seeking better and better performance. The enthusiast in some cases, I believe spends as much effort admiring, or being critical of the equipment and projected image, as they do enjoying the movie, TV program or sporting event they are watching. As a group, they love their hobby. I notice a large percentage of these folks are engineers, computer/creative folks, such as graphics designers, etc., but anyone can be an enthusiast.

Right, the same image (ok, they are a few frames apart), the first on the $27K Runco, the second on the $2700 Epson.  Interesting (the Epson is a touch brighter in terms of exposure, but they are similar enough for me to point out, that seeing these images isn’t the same as seeing these projectors in action.)


The Purist

The Purist, more often than not, is an enthusiast, but by my definition, they go one step further. Not satisfied with just a great looking image, that would blow everyone elses minds away, Purists seek image perfection. Looking magnificent, isn’t their goal. They are into it looking exactly as it should be! Most people, for example might find a projector that exhibits what I refer to as, a lot of “pop and wow” factor to be far more fun to watch than one that has less “wow” factor (a little dull, by comparison), but is technically more accurate.

Click Image to Enlarge

The Purist seeks the projector that can reproduce content that is most faithful to the original, rather than just a great looking image.

The purist, for example, may prefer a projector who’s black levels are a touch less great than another, but accomplish their blacks, without a dynamic iris – naturally, over a projector that can beat it in black performance, but only with an iris hard at work.

They are seeking the projector that is closest to the “director’s intent” (or what we believe it to be). In other words, Purists want a system that is as close to what the movie director would say is “perfect”, whereas many of us prefer a little more color saturation, or perhaps a touch of oversharpening to make the picture look (but not be) sharper. You get the idea.

The Bad News: Home Theater Projector Addiction

There had to be some bad – or less than great news as you embark on your first projector quest! The bad news is simply:

Most of you folks start out as “Typical Consumers”, just looking for a great experience in your home. But many “typical consumers” get the bug, addicted, and find themselves as “Enthusiasts”. When a “typical consumer” (you?) brings that first projector home, and gets it properly set up, they are generally amazed.

A projector purchase will almost always exceeds your expectations. The problem is, many get so enthralled with how good it looks, that the next thing they know, they are looking into how to buy an even better one to further improve the experience.  . Bingo – instant Enthusiast!

And you never, know, that Enthusiast might even become a Purist!

The Bottom Line

You might just want to think about where you are right now, of these three types, and whether it is your nature to stay that way. The temptation to become an enthusiast is definitely there for many. Few become true purists.

If you have a good understanding of how this might play out for you, it can help you tremendously, in making the right purchasing and setup decisions.

Consider: Let’s say your budget for a projector is $1500 – $2500. As a typical consumer, most of the projectors in this range will provide you with a great experience. Most likely you’ll pick one out that fits the budget, and is best at the things you consider most important (a brighter one, if you want a larger screen), one with great black levels because you are really into sci-fi, and horror flicks (tons of dark scenes), and has other features you consider important.

On the other hand, if you think, “yup, this is going to be fun, and yup, I’ll probably be hooked, and want to improve my system every couple/few years as prices fall, and quality further improves,” then it probably should affect your purchase decision. You might decide, for example, that, “you know what, I suspect Projector B will do a perfectly fine job, but I can see where what I really want is projector D, to be truly happy, but it’s out of my budget.” In a case like that, you might decide to start with one of the least expensive home theater projectors that meets your initial needs. This would allow you to save some bucks so that you can upgrade sooner.

Remember, prices keep falling, and performance keeps improving – don’t you love “high tech”?

Second guessing your projector purchase decision.

I rarely hear from anyone who says – “I bought this projector, and it’s great, but, you know, I probably should have bought that less expensive one, I could have been happy with that one too.”

What I do hear a lot of is the opposite: “I was looking at Projector A – a lower cost/lower performance, and Projector D – more money, but a step up in performance. I bought Projector A, and months later, I’m still thinking I made a mistake – I should have gotten the one I really wanted.”

Know yourself! – Where do you see yourself, in this quest, a year from now, three years, five years? Still on your first projector, or…

The other big question comes up when making a final choice between two good projectors at different price points:

Six months from now, will I be unhappy that I didn’t spend a bit more money to get the projector I liked better, but didn’t really “need”?

and conversely:

Six months from now, will I be sorry I didn’t save money, instead of buying the more expensive projector. 

I’ll bet you know which scenario is more likely the way you think!  If you ask your self these questions, it should help you to “choose wisely!”  -art