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Home Cinema Projector Guide.

Setting up your own 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, BluRay 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..
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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..

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Resolution
Standard DVD
1080p
Ultra HD 4K
Native True 4K
Pixels (Width x Height)
720 x 576
1920 x 1080
3840 x 2160
4096 x 2160
Total pixels displayed
414,720
2,073,600
8,294,400
8,847,360
Notes

125% more pixels than 720p
300% more pixels than 1080p,
326% more pixels than 1080p,
Figures are all well and good but how much improvement in the actual picture quality is there? The picture on the right should hopefully make it clear.

Bear in mind, what you are watching (your source material) will make a big difference in the quality of your projected image. A low quality signal / resolution into your projector will most likely look like a low quality image when projected, and on a larger screen may be even more noticeable.
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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.
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Projector 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 - Refer to the the screen size calculator 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 4, 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.If you have numerous sources, the best way to connect the to your projector would be via an AV Receiver (AVR). All sources would connect to the AVR then a single HDMI cable connects the AVR to the projector. To switch sources, simply use the AVR remote control.

Sound.

So you have got your projector and screen all set up - what about the sound? The vast majority of the dedicated home cinema projectors we sell have no onboard speakers, the ones that do are very low power and will not do your movie any justice. You need to route the sound output of your source ( such as a Playstation 4, XBOX ONE, SKY HD or BluRay 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.

On the right we have a basic setup diagram of how to connect a SKY HD box to a projector and AV Receiver. As you can see one HDMI cable carries the vision and sound from the SKY HD box to the AV Receiver (AVR). Speakers are connected to the AVR and the AVR handles the sound from your connected source(s). The AVR is connected by one HDMI cable to your projector. The AVR handles the sound and then passes the vision on to your projector.
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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.

Still Confused?

We hope the above Home Cinema projector guide has given you a clear understanding of the basics in what to look out for. We understand there is a lot to take in and a lot of choice so if you still need help we're only a phone call or email away.

Ready to choose your projector? View our range of dedicated home cinema projectors.