Defining Your Expectations Regarding Projectors
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.
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.
The Purist far more often than not, is an enthusiast, but by my definitiion, they go one step further. Not satisfied with just a great looking image, that would blow everyone elses minds away, they 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 a bit more natural, and, in the case of movies - more film-like. For them, really good skin tones, for example may be considered marginal. Exceptionally accurate ones are what they "insist upon". The same goes with almost any characteristic. They are seeking the projector that is closest to the "director's intent" (or what we believe it to be). In other words, they 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
There had to be some! The bad news is that most folks start out as "Typical Consumers". They are just looking for a great experience in their home. But many "typical consumers" get the bug, 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. It almost always exceeds their 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 make it even better. Bingo - instant enthusiast!
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.
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 that meets your initial needs, saving the bucks so that you can upgrade sooner. (Remember, prices keep falling, and performance keeps improving - don't you love "high tech"?)
Second guessing your 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."
So, choose wisely! -art