How to Get the Best Home Cinema Projector
The kids are asleep, the popcorn has been opened and you can finally settle down to enjoy your favourite movie. Watching a film is the ultimate way to unwind and a home cinema projector brings the big screen experience to you. But to get it right, you need to consider all the important buying factors.
Remember to think about the different types of projector available, along with contrast ratios and screen resolutions. To help you make the right decision, here’s our guide to getting the best home cinema projector.
The Different Types of Projector
First off, let's take a look at the different types of projectors which are on offer – smartphone and 3D home cinema projectors.
A smartphone projector, like its name suggests, is essentially a device that turns your smartphone into a projector. These are usually seen as a cheaper option, as you don’t need to buy an expensive smart TV or laptop to connect to your Wi-Fi and Netflix account. Simply insert your smartphone, press play and you’re good to go. What’s more, these products are compatible with both iPhone and Android devices.
Despite the portability and convenience smartphone projectors offer, we’d really recommend investing in a home cinema projector or even a 3D cinema projector for the ultimate viewing experience.
3D home cinema projectors have become increasingly popular and there are lots of good models on the market. Some TV channels have even started offering 3D content, making for a more immersive viewing experience. As prices drop, features improve and content becomes more common, cinema and TV fans alike will soon be enjoying 3D technology from the comfort of their living rooms.
2D home cinema projectors, also known as a home cinema projector, are far more common than smartphone or 3D projectors. While you may not get an immersive viewing experience as you would with 3D projectors, 2D projectors are perfect for families looking for a more relaxing home cinema experience. Generally, 2D projectors are available with either DLP or LCD technology.
The difference between DLP and LCD comes down to how they create the images. DLP projectors produce images by a complicated process that involves bouncing light off internal mirrors, which provides an image quality comparable to 30 or 70 mm film. However, images made using a DLP projector may have high contrasts, a limited number of pixels, or lack the same level of brightness as LCD projectors. As a result, cheaper home projectors often use DLP technology.
Unlike DLP projectors, LCD projectors create pictures by transmitting light through different coloured panels which ultimately produces an image with a broad colour spectrum. Most people prefer this type of projector due to their compact size, ability to create images with high colour saturation, and overall picture brightness. Be aware that image quality generally decreases over time with LCD projectors.
How to Choose a Home Cinema Projector
Once you’ve decided on a format, here’s what to consider when looking for a home cinema projector.
Brightness: How bright you want your projector to be will largely depend on the lighting in your home cinema room. Projector brightness is typically measured in ANSI lumens and home cinema projectors range from 1,000 lumens to over 2,500 lumens. If you have a room dedicated to watching movies (such as a dark room with controlled lighting and no ambient light), you’ll want a projector with 1,000 lumens or more. On the other hand, if the room you use for watching movies is quite bright, you’ll need a projector closer to 4,000 lumens.
Screen Resolution: When considering screen resolution, most home projectors are available in either Wide XGA (1280 pixels x 800 pixels) or HD (1920 pixels x 1080 pixels). Generally speaking, a Wide XGA projector offers only about half of the pixels of an HD projector. It’s always good to get a model with more pixels, as a higher pixel count means a sharper looking image and better compatibility with high-definition sources. On the whole, we’d definitely recommend choosing an HD cinema projector.
Contrast Ratio: With projectors, a contrast ratio is literally the difference between the blackest and whitest part of the image. You’ll want to choose a projector where you can control the settings and how it processes colour. Some low-end projectors struggle to project shades of grey and these areas appear “blown out” and pixellated. The best results will come from experimenting with the settings until you achieve the perfect image.
Home Cinema Projector Recommendations:
When you’re shopping for a home cinema projector, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each option to determine which model would be the best fit for your home. If you prefer convenience and portability, then a smartphone projector is the ideal choice. If you’d rather have an immersive viewing experience and already have a 5.1 surround sound speaker system, then a 3D projector might be your best bet. On the other hand, if you want a more conventional movie theatre experience, then go for the 2D home cinema projector. We’ve chosen some of our favourite projectors from each category.
Resembling an old-fashioned projector this cardboard device will allow you to project movies from your smartphone onto almost any surface. It’s easy to assemble and extremely portable. Plus, this is one projector that won’t break the bank and is one of the cheapest options for an at-home movie experience.
Voted one of the best 3D projectors on the market, the Optoma provides a high-quality 3D experience for a relatively low price point (less than £500). With a 1080p resolution, 3000 lumens of brightness, and 23000:1 high contrast ratio, you’re guaranteed to have images that are so crisp and clear you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the movie. The Optoma HD142X also boasts an impressive lamp life, which manufacturers claim can support roughly two films a day for ten years.
With a price tag of almost £5000, the Epson EH-LS10000 truly delivers an outstanding viewing experience. It uses 3LCD laser technology to produce superior full HD images with an impressive colour spectrum and powerful black levels. However, you’ll need plenty of room in your home cinema as this is one large projector. Nonetheless, we think it offers one of the best home movie experiences of any projector on the market.
The Optoma HD39Darbee projector, with its 1920x1080 resolution and 3500 lumens, produces fantastic images –perfect for playing your favourite computer game, watching the latest movie, or cheering on your sports team. The only downside is that images can sometimes seem overly vivid as it uses picture enhancements to boost image brightness, edge emphasis, and colour saturation.