Home Cinema Projector Advice

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Setting up your very own state of the art home cinema has never been so easy or affordable to do. When choosing your home cinema projector there are a few points to bear in mind which we have covered below. Should you need further help our advisors have personally seen the vast majority of current home cinema projectors we sell and they are only a phone call away. Most projectors are capable of taking inputs from both a PC and video sources, such as a Games Console, DVD player or Set top box. However, most are also optimised either for PC use or for home cinema. Very few truly excel at both. Here are the areas to bear in mind when picking your first home cinema projector.

Resolution

The most common resolution for home cinema projectors at present is 1080p (1920 horizontal pixels x 1080 vertical pixels)

The higher the resolution the higher the number of pixels are displayed and therefore the sharper the image. Higher resolution will also result in better picture quality from high definition sources such as Blu-Ray, Xbox ONE, PS4, Sky HD.

So is High Definition 1080p resolution really that much better than my current standard resolution?

The simple answer...Yes! Below is a table showing common resolutions, remember the higher the total amount of pixels displayed the sharper and crisper the displayed image will be...

ResolutionPixels (Width x Height)Total pixels displayedNotes
Standard DVD 720 x 576 414,720 12% more pixels than 480p
1080p 1920 x 1080 2,073,600 125% more pixels than 720p
Ultra HD 4K 3840 x 2160 8,294,400 300% more pixels than 1080p,
very little 4K content and sources available at present
Native 4K DCi Standard 4096 x 2160 8,847,360

326% more pixels than 1080p,
very little 4K content and sources available at present















Figures are all well and good but how much improvement in the actual picture quality is there? The picture below should hopefully make it clear...

What you are watching (your source material) will make a big difference in the quality of your image. A low quality signal into your projector will most likely look like a low quality signal when projected, and on a larger screen may be even more noticeable.

Contrast Ratio

The contrast ratio is the ratio between the white and black parts in an image. The larger the contrast ratio of a projector, the greater the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks a projector can show and the better its ability to create an image with depth to it. A contrast rating of 1000:1 would imply that the black level is 1000 times darker than the white.

You might wonder why black has any brightness at all – this is just because all projectors emit light 'leakage' to some degree. A higher contrast ratio implies that there is less light leakage, which means your image appears less faded. Imagine Darth Vader looking like he’s wearing a grey outfit rather than a black one and you begin to understand how important this is.

Current standards are seeing home cinema projectors reaching contrast ratios of over 200,000 : 1 - now thats going to produce some seriously deep blacks on screen!

Brightness

Brightness is measured in lumens and for dedicated home cinema projectors, brightness typically ranges from 1000 - 2500 lumens, with most of them between 1000 and 2000 lumens. The important thing to remember here is that brightness is not king when it comes to home cinema - to get a real "cinema feel" you should really look at how you can reduce ambient light hitting the screen before you consider brightness as a criteria in your projector purchase.

If there is a high level of ambient light or you do not plan to have the lighting controlled with blinds and controlled lighting then you will need a higher lumen projector. For low level ambient light 1200-1600 lumens should be sufficient. In a controlled environment (blackout blinds or heavy lined curtains and controlled lighting not in the direction of the screen) then anything from 1000 lumens and upwards will be more than adequate.

Projector & Projection Screen Format

If you are new to home cinema or projectors in general, when we talk about 16:9 or 4:3 projectors or projection screen formats, we're talking about the rectangular shape of the image or screen, or what's more commonly known as its aspect ratio. The standard TV / TV signal that's been around since the 1950's has an aspect ratio of 4:3. In layman's terms that means the picture is 4 units wide for every 3 units of height. Meanwhile, the new HDTV standard is 16:9, which is 16 units of width for every 9 units of height. So HDTV's 16:9 is a rectangle that is, relatively speaking, horizontally wider than 4:3 which by comparison look almost square

The native aspect ratio of the home cinema projectors we sell are 16:9. So you have probably guessed that when buying a projection screen for it you will want to match it to a 16:9 format. You can of course use a home cinema projector with a 4:3 screen but the end result is approximately 25% of the screen will be unused.

 

We do get a lot of people saying to us they want to get a home cinema projector (which has a native 16:9 format) but have a lot of old movie collections (which are in 4:3 format) what screen do they get? The simple answer is this. Most people are opting for a 16:9 screen since it is a good compromise that fits a lot of movie formats without too much letterboxing (black bars left and right of the image where there is unused projection screen), not to mention it fits all HDTV programming and high definition sources perfectly.

Screen size

So you know which format projector screen you want - what about the size?

Bear in mind that bigger does not necessarily mean better. If you have ever sat in the front row of a cinema and walked out with a stiff neck, you'll know what we mean! To find the ideal screen size for the projector you have selected - launch the screen size calculator tool (this can be found on the page of the projector you have selected)

As long as you know your available throw distance (the distance between the front of the projector and the area you are projecting onto) the tool will do the rest for you and return the results providing you with your screen dimensions

Connectivity

The types of connection that your projector is capable of accepting determines the quality of your image, how easy it is to set up and how neat your set-up will look. All home cinema projectors will have an input for standard definition sources (composite or component video inputs). If you have high definition sources such as PlayStation 3, Blu Ray DVD Player or Sky HD then look for home cinema projectors that have a HDMI input as this is the one you will need.

Sound

So you have got your projector and screen all set up - what about the sound? None of the dedicated home cinema projectors we sell have onboard speakers. You need to route the sound output of your source ( such as a Playstation 3, XBOX 360, set top box or DVD player) to a separate sound system. This can be a simple as an stereo amplifier and a pair of speakers or as complex as a multi channel AV receiver.

Below we have a basic setup diagram of how to connect a set top box to a projector and sound system. As you can see one cable carries the vision from the set top box to the projector whilst a separate cable carries the sound to a sound system - its as simple as that!

Lamp Life

Most projectors typically have a lamp life between 2000-4000 hours. This specification is actually referring to the 'half-life' of the lamp at which point the lamp is half as bright as it was when it was new. Longer lamp life normally means lower costs replacing the lamp in your projector.

If you are planning to use your projector to replace your current television, lamp replacement cost should be factored into your purchase as you will have a higher level of usage; replacement lamps cost approximately £100-£250 depending on the manufacturer. Through regular cleaning of the filters you may improve the life of a lamp, as will proper operation by powering the projector down rather than just removing power.

If you purchase a spare lamp with your projector, we’d advise that you run it in your projector for a few hours first and then store it somewhere cool and dark where it won’t get knocked or dropped. Lamp warranties begin from the day of purchase, not from the day of use. If a lamp is faulty, it will generally fail within the first 4 to 10 hours of operation.

LCD or DLP?

There's been a long running battle between LCD (liquid crystal display) and DLP (digital light processing) technologies. Both have merits for home cinema. Here's a brief summary.

LCDDLP
No rainbow effect Rainbow effect experienced by small proportion of users. Virtually eliminated if the projector features a 4 x speed or greater colour wheel.
More saturated "truer" colours Less saturated colours, but improving significantly, especially with the introduction of 8 segment colour wheels
Contrast ratios over 200000:1 Contrast ratios up to 60000:1
Small gap between pixels, resulting in minute 'screen door' or 'chicken wire' effect. Much smaller gap between pixels, resulting in smoother overall image
Small possibility of 'dead' pixels on projected image Dead pixels virtually non-existent

Both LCD and DLP have evolved rapidly over the past few years, and we have now reached a point where the immense gap between the two technologies is relatively narrow. Projectors from the likes of Epson and Sony now strongly challenge their DLP rivals in terms of quality and brightness at similar prices.

Still confused?

If you need help, we're here to deliver it. Just give us a call for expert advice on choosing a home cinema projector that's right for you.

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