When a big screen TV isn't big enough, the answer is a home theater projector. You can use the projector to create an image that measures 100 inches diagonally or more on the wall or on a projection screen.
Home theater projectors aren't cheap, but they have a lot of different use cases. Whether you're using it for a home theater room, a backyard movie night, or a business presentation, a projector does the job best.
We'll break down some of the important features in projectors to help you find the perfect model.
Considerations when choosing home theater projectors
Any discussion of a home theater projector will start with its lumens measurement. Lumens determine the maximum brightness level the projector can achieve. With a higher number of lumens available, you'll have more options for using the projector.
Up to 1,000 lumens: Using a home theater projector in a dedicated media room with no windows means your projector doesn't need a large number of lumens. Extremely dark rooms only need projectors with up to 1,000 lumens.
1,000 to 3,000 lumens: Mid-range projectors work nicely in primarily dark rooms. If the room has windows, you'll probably need shades to block as much ambient light as possible. In this situation, a projector with 1,000 to 3,000 lumens should be sufficient.
More than 3,000 lumens: If you'll be using the projector outdoors or in a room with windows that cannot be blocked, you need a projector with 3,000-plus lumens. These projectors can create extremely bright images.
Beyond lumens, projectors have a few other important factors you need to consider.
Aspect ratio: The aspect ratio measures the width and height of the projected image. An HD or 4K aspect ratio will be 16:9 (meaning it's almost twice as wide as it is tall).
Lamp life: Projector manufacturers will estimate the life of the bulb that ships with the projector. Anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 hours is a common lamp life number. A new lamp bulb can cost a few hundred dollars, so take that into consideration before purchasing a projector.
Resolution: Some projectors can only create an HD resolution image, while others can produce images up to a 4K resolution. With a higher resolution, you'll receive a sharper picture.
Price tags for home theater projectors vary quite a bit. For an entry-level projector, you can expect to pay $200 to $500, but they won't produce especially bright or sharp images. You also can find mini projectors for less than $200. But these units are not made for home theater setups, as the projected images are too dull and small.
A mid-level projector runs from $500 to $1,000, and it does a decent job producing HD images in a dark room. Expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for a top-notch projector that has a high lumens measurement and can sharply project 4K images.
Q. Why would I want to ceiling mount my projector?
A. By hanging the projector from the ceiling, it'll be out of the way, as will the power cords. If you have a dedicated area to watch video, a ceiling mount works nicely. However, if you want to move the projector to different areas, you won't want to ceiling mount it.
Q. How can I create a projection that's easier to see?
A. If you're disappointed in the brightness of the projection, you can try a few things to improve the image quality. Start with reducing the ambient light in the room by using window shades. Use a high quality projection screen to show the image instead of the wall. If you are using an older projector, it may need a new bulb, as older bulbs weaken over time.
Home theater projectors we recommend
Best of the best: Epson Home Cinema 5040UB
Our take: One of the most trusted projectors among both residential and business users.
What we like: Handles fast moving video nicely in the projection with no skips or lags. High contrast ratio provides deep blacks and pure whites for great image quality.
What we dislike: Has an above average price point, so it doesn't fit into every budget.
Best bang for your buck: BenQ DLP HD Projector HT2050
Our take: It's not the cheapest home theater projector on the market. But it still gives you a really nice value with its feature set.
What we like: Provides surprisingly good video quality versus similarly priced models. Recently underwent an upgrade to improve its gaming performance.
What we dislike: Interior bulb doesn't last as long as we'd like.
Our take: Very low price that makes it a smart choice for someone looking for a first projector.
What we like: Build quality is better than you'd expect at this price. Colors are accurate and vivid. Price point is great for beginners.
What we dislike: Not going to produce the sharpest image. Creates quite a bit of noise as it runs.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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