Setting up your own home cinema has never been as easy or affordable as it is now. However, projectors tend to be optimised either for PC use or for home cinema, and very few truly excel at both. So if you’re considering investing, it’s worth knowing what to look out for in a brilliant home cinema projector and not trying to make a seemingly well-specced professional projector do the job.
In this guide we’ve discussed the most important factors you need to consider when making your choice.
The most common resolution for home cinema projectors up to 2018 was 1080p (1920 horizontal pixels x 1080 vertical pixels). Since then this has been surpassed by 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) four times the resolution of 1080p.
Why would you want to? Well, the higher the resolution, the higher the number of pixels that are displayed and therefore the sharper the image. This is very important as the screen size gets larger and you compare pixels per inch. HD projectors are those that deliver 1080p, but the pinnacle of home cinema quality is 4K, where on most screen sizes the image will be smooth and you won’t see the individual pixels at all.
A higher resolution will also result in better picture quality from high definition sources such as Blu-Ray, Xbox One, PS4 and Sky HD and 4K UHD sources such as SKY Q, Netflix and Disney+. But is 4K resolution that much better than standard resolution? The simple answer is 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:
It’s also worth keeping in mind that what you are watching (your source material) will make a big difference to the quality of your projected image.
High quality sources are best viewed on projectors that do justice to high definition source material. Basically, if you’re investing in 4K content such as Blu-Ray or some streamed television content, then it’s worth considering an investment in a 4K home cinema projector to get the most out of what you’re paying for.
There a number of other factors to consider here, such as compression and upscaling. So take a look at our guide to resolution to get all the facts on exactly how projector resolution impacts the final image.
Projectorpoint offer a wide range of 1080p Full HD projectors and 4K projectors. As many home cinema projector reviews will confirm, these devices are ideal for displaying the latest cinematic content in your own home.
Take a look at our projectors to find a solution that’s right for you or give us a call if you have any questions or would like some advice on choosing the best home cinema projector on Freephone 0800 073 0833
So, resolution is the big one. But what else do you need to factor into your purchase decision?
How about contrast ratio? This is the ratio between the white and black areas 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 deliver. In practice, higher contrast ratios mean a better image with a greater degree of perceptible depth.
A contrast ratio of 1,000:1 would imply that the black level is 1,000 times darker than the white. You might wonder why black has any brightness at all. The answer lies in the fact that blacks from projectors are the absence of projected light, so they can only ever be as dark as the ambient room they’re in. Then there’s the added factor of light "leakage", which all projectors emit to some degree. A higher contrast ratio implies that there is less light leakage and a higher level of projected brightness, which means your image appears less faded.
Increasing standards and rapid evolutions in technology in recent years have seen home cinema projectors easily reach contrast ratios of over 200,000:1. Some of the best home cinema projectors even reach contrast ratios of an incredible 1,000,000:1, such as the native 4K resolution Sony VPL-VW790ES.
The one thing that really kills contrast ratio is ambient light. The ideal room for a home cinema is absolute pitch black with non-reflective fabrics. This is unlikely to be the scenario, which does bring into question the validity of contrast ratios as a spec point, which are measured in lab conditions.
Projector Brightness is not a huge issue for home cinema fans with a dedicated dark room, but it’s worth a mention for those scenarios where the room may be multi-purpose or suffer from ambient light leakage. Brightness is measured in lumens and for dedicated home cinema projectors it typically ranges from 1,000 – 2,500 lumens, with most products sitting between 1,800 and 2,400 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 focus on how you can reduce the amount of 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 in your home cinema room or you do not plan to have controlled lighting then you will need a higher lumen projector, while for low-level ambient light, up to 2,000 lumens should be more than sufficient. In a controlled environment (blackout blinds or heavy lined curtains and controlled lighting pointed away from the screen) anything from 1,000 lumens upwards will be more than adequate.
Sometimes, higher brightness projectors, with lower contrast ratios may produce a better picture in certain ambient conditions. If the room is bright, the projector is not determining the black level, so the brighter the image is then the bigger the perceived contrast.
Where you can make a real difference in your home cinema is with the addition of a projector screen. The best projector screen for your setup will be determined by the format and aspect ratio of the image your projector displays.
When we talk about 16:9 or 16:10 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" signal that's been around since the 1950s has an aspect ratio of 4:3, which in layman's terms means the picture is four units wide for every three units of height. Meanwhile, the new HDTV standard is 16:9, which is 16 units of width for every nine units of height.
Typically the native aspect ratio of the home cinema projectors we sell is 16:9 or 16:10, so when buying a projection screen you will want to match it to a 16:9 or 16:10 format. However, it is worth noting that you can still watch 4:3 content on 16:9 or 16:10 home cinema projector screen, all that happens is you’ll see some small black bars alongside the image as a consequence.
So you know which format projector screen you want but what about the size? Keep 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. Large screens and over-bright projectors can also cause eye strain.
To find the ideal screen size for the projector you have selected refer to the handy screen size calculator on the page of the projector you are interested in. As long as you know your available throw distance (the distance between the front of the projector and the area you are projecting on to) the tool will do the rest for you, providing you with your unique screen dimensions.
In smaller rooms, you may wish to consider choosing a short throw home cinema projector to allow you to use a larger screen without sacrificing space in your room. Call us to discuss your options.
The types of input connections that your projector has determines the quality of your image, how easy it is to set up and how neat your final set-up will look. All home cinema projectors will have an input for standard definition sources (composite video). If you have high definition sources such as a PlayStation 5, a 4K UHD Blu-Ray player or Sky Q then look for home cinema projectors that have an HDMI input as this is the one you will need.
However, if you want to use numerous sources, the best way to connect everything up 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.
Of course, it is possible to purchase projectors that feature in-built wireless technology, Epson do some particularly great products. If you’re unable (or unwilling!) to go through the hassle of channelling out the space or running trunking or underfloor cabling to cater to the wiring requirements of your home cinema setup, wireless is a good option.
But for most people, once a home cinema system is in place, there’s little need to change the layout and arrangement so a more permanent wired solution is well worth the effort.
So you’ve got your projector and screen all set up, but what about the sound? The vast majority of dedicated home cinema projectors have no onboard projector speakers, and the ones that do are very low power and poor sound reproduction. To be honest, if you’re buying a projector for home cinema use, onboard speakers simply won’t do your films justice, you need to look at a dedicated sound system and speakers.
To hook everything up, the first step is to route the sound output of your source (such as a PlayStation 5, Xbox One X, SKY Q or 4K UHD Blu-Ray DVD player) to a separate sound system. This can be a simple as a soundbar or a one-box home theatre system or as complex as a Dolby ATOMOS multi-channel AV Receiver (AVR).
When connecting your source up to a projector and an AVR, it's important to understand that one HDMI cable carries the vision and sound from the source to the AVR. The AVR is then connected by a second HDMI cable to your projector to handle the visual data, while your speakers connect directly to the AVR to handle the sound. Many AV receivers now have 2 HDMI outputs which make them perfect for the multi purpose room with a TV and home cinema projector. Bear in mind if you want to watch 4K content from say your Sky Q box, then the whole chain needs to be 4K compliant from sources to HDMI cables to AVR and ofcourse the projector itself. If you are unsure of the correct setup, simply give us a call or drop us an email and one of our specialist sales team members we will be happy
Finally, don’t forget to consider the ongoing maintenance and cost requirements of your new home cinema system. Most projectors typically have a lamp life of between 2,000 and 5,000 hours. Some high performance professional devices have significantly more than this, but at a home cinema level this is what we’re playing with.
This specification is actually referring to the "half-life" of the lamp, in other words, the point at which the lamp is half as bright as it was when it was new. Longer lamp life means lower maintenance costs as you shouldn’t need to replace the projector lamp as frequently.
If you are looking for a TV projector to use quite often and rack up the TV viewing hours, or even replace your current television, lamp replacement costs should be factored into your purchase as you will have a higher level of usage than say an occasional film watcher. Replacement lamps cost approximately £100 to £250 depending on the manufacturer and remember that regular cleaning of any filters can help to improve the life of a lamp, as will proper operation by powering the projector down rather than just switching off at the power source.
If you purchase a spare lamp with your projector, then our experts 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 four to 10 hours of operation so test it out straight away.
However, if you’d rather avoid the cost and maintenance involved in lamp replacement completely, laser projectors are an increasingly popular alternative championed for their cost efficiency and high quality images.