TV or Projector?
Breaking down the pros and cons of a flat-panel TV vs. a projector and a screen.
There are two basic options for a video display; a TV or a Projector (and screen). Each has advantages and disadvantages. The key considerations are the screen size you want (need!), and your budget.
Once you have determined your preferred screen size, the next question is whether any company makes a TV that you can afford in this size range. If your room really needs a screen of over 100 inches diagonal, you’re going to want a projector. If you have a smaller room, and you’re comfortably able to sit closer to the screen, a TV may be the best choice. The good news is that very large screen TVs have come a long way in recent years. Where a 65” TV was considered to be a large screen a few years ago, today 75” and 85” TVs are relatively affordable, and higher-end models offer outstanding picture quality. Sony makes a fantastic 100” diagonal LED backlit LCD TV, and LG recently announced a 97” OLED TV which will ship in 2022.
In addition to your desired screen size and budget, there are a few other factors to consider.
In a room with a lot of ambient light, a TV will be easier to watch. The peak brightness (measured in candelas per square meter, or “nits”) of a TV is generally much higher than what a projector will provide. If you’re going to use a projector, you’ll want to make sure you have good window curtains or shades to darken the room when you want to use your system during daylight hours.
To compare the maximum brightness rating of a projector with a TV’s peak brightness rating, use the following formula:
Projector Lumens needed to match TV brightness = TV brightness (nits) x Screen Area (square meters) x Pi
or, to convert a projector’s brightness into the equivalent TV brightness:
Projector Lumens / (Area in square meters x Pi) = Brightness in nits
You will almost certainly want to mount a TV to the wall. This secures it, while eliminating the need for a table or a stand. Good TV wall mounts can also let you extend the TV off the wall to some degree, and rotate or tilt the screen to face viewers more directly.
A projector must also be mounted in a fixed position, so it can be focused and adjusted to fit your screen. You will also need a good projector screen (although a very flat, smooth white wall can work in a pinch), and this must have a fixed position when the projector is in use. While most projectors are mounted on the ceiling of the room, there are newer Ultra Short Throw Projectors that sit directly in front of the screen, aimed upwards. These are great options for people who would have a hard time mounting a projector on the ceiling.
While TVs are silent, projectors use lamps that require fans. Be sure to check the noise specifications of any projector you are considering, and consider how this might affect your home theater experience.
Native Resolution vs. Supported Resolution
Virtually all 4K TVs have a native pixel resolution that is true 4K (3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels high). Some lower-end 4K projectors actually output a pixel resolution that is less than 3840x2160. While they can decode a 4K signal, they render and display it at a lower resolution. Before buying a projector, check the specifications to ensure that you understand the native resolution of the device.
High Dynamic Range
Projectors are generally not capable of delivering anywhere near the peak brightness levels of modern HDR televisions. Although many modern projectors will claim that they are HDR compatible, meaning that they accept and will display an HDR video signal, the resulting picture will generally not have as much contrast as a modern HDR TV can provide.