Lighting the way: how to buy a projector

When it comes to selecting a projector for home theatre work, the options are myriad. Thomas Bartlett explains the choices.

If you look in the box below, you will find we have listed one ‘good’ point for front projectors, against three ‘less good’ points. So why do many still prefer to use a projector over all the alternatives?

Because the one strength is a doozy! There is no other way of getting true cinema-sized video in your home. You can get a 60 inch plasma TV (152 cm) for somewhere north of $10,000, but for just $3,000 you can get a decent LCD projector and with it produce a high quality 100 inch (254 cm) picture. Okay, so you have to close the curtains. And yes, you have to switch on your home theatre receiver and fire up the DTV receiver whenever you want to watch TV. But those are mere trifles.

Anyway, why not buy a modestly priced 26 inch (66 cm) LCD TV for the same room? You can use this for catching the news and for the kids’ afternoon TV viewing, but still have the full cinema experience (minus the crunching chip-packets) for your nighttime movie viewing.

The good The less good
  • Big enough to be just like the cinema
  • Need to darken the room
  • Projectors make noise from cooling fan
  • Must have a separate sound system
    and TV tuner

Home theatre projectors vs data projectors

When it comes to projection, the options can be complicated. There are three main technologies in use (we will ignore the older cathode ray tube projector, because these are quite expensive, bulky and very difficult to set up). And within those technologies, even more options.

Your first decision should be self-evident. You do not want a data projector. These are designed for business presentations and usually deliver a 4:3 aspect ratio picture. You want a projector designed for home theatre. That means it will have a 16:9 widescreen ratio. And it should support high resolution images, but beware.