Projector Buying for Beginners: How I Chose My Projector and What I’d Do Differently

Projector Buying for Beginners

During the process of selecting a home entertainment projector, I knew very little about projector specifications. As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t know projectors were an affordable option for the non-AV-enthusiast consumer and that they could connect to your smartphone and computer.

How I Became a Projector Owner

My husband and I decided to purchase a projector for our bedroom. We made this decision because a projector and screen would take up little space in our small bedroom, it would be less expensive than purchasing a second TV of the same quality and we didn’t need access to cable in our bedroom, since we preferred to watch Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

To be honest, I didn’t do much research into projectors and what specs to consider. I briefly googled “best home projectors,” but the results were significantly outside of our budget. The projectors referenced on most websites are intended for projector purists and people hoping to create a true home theater. I knew that less expensive projectors existed, as I had seen one mentioned on the blog where I first discovered projectors that could hook up to your smartphone, so I turned to Amazon. A quick search led me to hundreds of home projectors at various price points, ranging from $31 for a basic smartphone only projector to $45,000.

Overwhelmed with the immense number of options highlighting different aspects of a projector, I narrowed my search by price and by stars earned in customer reviews. Because I didn’t know a lot about projectors, and I wasn’t completely convinced that a projector could replace a TV, I wasn’t looking to invest in an expensive projector. I was hoping to spend less than $200 on a projector that would serve our basic needs and was geared toward non-AV enthusiasts like myself.

How I Chose my Projector

With these filters, I narrowed my choices to about 10 projectors. At this point, I was looking to ensure the projector could stream from my computer and smartphone, and that it had numerous positive reviews. The majority of the reviews for the projector I purchased were written by individuals using the projector similar to how we hoped to use it – in their home to watch movies and shows – without any fancy bells and whistles. Our projector is no longer available on Amazon, but cost $78.99. While our projector serves our purposes, the image quality and brightness could be better and I wish I had done a little more research before making my purchase.

Had I done more research, I would have learned that it’s the combination of lumens (brightness), contrast ratio, and number of pixels that make a significant difference in the quality of the image. If I’d been willing to spend $400-$600, I would have ended up with a higher quality, longer lasting projector with a significantly better viewing experience.

What I Would do Differently

If I was currently looking to purchase a home entertainment projector, the elements I would consider include:

Lumens: The number of lumens that a projector emits, equates the brightness of the picture. In deciding on brightness, it’s important to consider the ambient light in the room where you plan on using your projector. If there is little ambient light, or you have the same incredible blackout shades that we do, 1,000-1,200 lumens works great. If you plan on using your projector in many different locations, lumens closer to 2,000 or higher will allow for a clear picture in varying conditions. The projector we purchased emits 1,200 lumens and we’re perfectly happy with the brightness of the picture.

Contrast Ratio: While contrast ratio isn’t the element that most impacts quality, it’s generally agreed that to get a good image with solid color differentiation, a projector should have a contrast ratio of at least 1000:1. Feel free to go for a higher ratio, but avoid any lower.

Pixels/Resolution: While 4K is all the rage right now in home projectors, and seems to provide amazing picture quality, it isn’t necessary for our current home entertainment purposes. I didn’t consider resolution much when searching for our projector and as a result, we ended up with low image quality. I knew that 1080p was considered to be good but I didn’t know what that meant. When considering resolution, be sure to look at the native resolution of a projector and not the support resolution. The native resolution is the actual resolution of the projector image – any input with a higher resolution will be compressed into the native resolution.

Many projectors claim to have 1080p or Full HD resolution, but upon closer examination, 1080p is referencing the support resolution and the actual resolution is much lower. That’s what happened to me. At a quick glance, it looks like the projector I purchased is 1080p but if you read the specs, you’ll see that the native resolution is 800×480 pixels. This is much lower than what most TVs, computers and other screens are so the image quality of our projector is noticeably inferior to the other screens we’re exposed to daily.

If I was shopping for a projector now, I would go for Full HD resolution, sometimes described as 1080X1920 or 1080p which is the highest resolution available besides the newer and more expensive 4K. To a get a 1080p projector, I’d have to spend somewhere between $300 and $600.

Source of Connection: Most projectors can connect through HDMI but some don’t, so it’s important to double check before making your purchase. For true convenience, look for a projector with Wi-Fi capability so you can connect without chords.

The hardest part of purchasing a projector when you aren’t an expert is understanding what each specification means and which ones are most important to you, so be sure to take the time to educate yourselves and read the detailed reviews on projectorreviews.com. There are tons of great articles and reviews that will aid you in your buying decision and help you make the choice that is best for you.

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