The Bigger Picture: Projectors
- — 18 January, 2011 22:00
Looking to supersize your home theatre experience? With projectors, you can get close to the drama of an HD movie or feel the spine-tingling tension as you take your opponents on in a game of hand-to-hand combat. Not all projectors are created equal, however, and with an enormous image, you’ll be less forgiving of skewed angles and ghosting. Here’s your guide to high-def heaven.
If you’re in the market for a projector one of the first questions you have to ask yourself is: “Am I more focused on business or pleasure?”. Although the divide between business and home theatre units is converging, for the ultimate in high definition video output and a mean gaming experience, you’re going to want the advanced technology and solid housing that comes with the home theatre option. With projectors the more you spend really does equate to better technology so invest in something that’s going to see you through the next few innovations.
The high definition experience
The higher the resolution, the sharper the picture and nowadays with 3D and HDTV set to dominate the lounges of the world, you really should be looking at a full HD 1080p projector (1,920 x 1,080). Almost all home projectors now have a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio for movie display.
The measure of brightness in projectors is defined as lumens. Home theatre projectors don’t require as much brightness if you can dim your living room and black out the windows. If you have to compromise, look for 2,000 lumens.
Choose a projector with connections that are compatible with your existing Blu-ray player, Freeview HD or Sky TV HDi decoder. Many projectors are also compatible with gaming consoles. An HDMI connection with HDCP compatibility is the ultimate for high-def as it is a digital to digital connection from the source to the projector. Component video can also carry high-def but is an analogue connection that requires conversion from digital to analogue and then back again, degrading image quality on the way.
If you don’t want to sit in your neighbour’s house to watch the movie in your lounge, work out the ‘throw’. A short throw can produce a big picture (100-inches is good) from even just a couple of metres away, ideal for a small room. If you want to mount your projector at the back of your living room pick a projector with a long throw.
Some projectors have proprietary mounts rather than the industry standard VESA mounts. If you have plans to permanently ceiling mount your projector check this to avoid having to shell out extra cash. While you’re at it, budget for a decent screen and if you’re going as far as installing an automatic drop-down screen, you’ll want your projector to have a 12V trigger output.
A petite lounge and wonky table stand make for a skewed pic. Keystone correction straightens the edges of a picture when the projector is not directly in front of the screen. However, as a digital process, keystone adds additional processing to the final image, which is not ideal. You can try to find a projector with optical image shifting - lenses you can physically move both vertically and horizontally to line up the image.
LCD vs DLP
LCD projectors use three LCD panels, each panel passing a primary colour that is then combined into a single image. DLP uses a single micro-mirror device to sequentially reflect each primary colour from a spinning colour wheel. There are various pros and cons with both LCD and DLP technology. For instance, while DLP projectors often have lower quoted contrast ratios than LCD projectors, they often produce better blacks.
DLP projectors have their own issues to look out for, though, most notably the rainbow effect, where the internal colour wheel can cause stripes of red, green and blue to appear over very bright parts of an image, or in your peripheral vision. Plus you can also sometimes see gentle dot crawl over black colours, and fizzing noise over fast-moving skin tones.
The Epson EH-450W features HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) connectivity, so you only require one cable to connect to most digital devices including Blu-ray Players and gaming consoles. The EH-TW450 also comes complete with a gaming specific colour mode which offers the best range of colours for today’s hottest games, just the way they were intended. Plus when operating in game mode, response speed is greatly increased so there is virtually no lag time.
You want an easy to use projector that’s not going to cost a fortune to maintain. Lamp life is estimated at up to 5,000 hours in ECO mode, making it one of the longest lasting lamps in this category. Epson also backs its lamps with a full 12-month, 750-hour lamp warranty.
More info: epson.co.nz
Built around Sony’s cinema quality SXRD panel technology, the VPLHW20 is designed for home theatre enthusiasts. It’s a full HD projector, giving you 1,920 x 1,080 pixels providing bright, vibrant, and detailed images for screens as large as 300-inches.
The VPLHW20 features an 80,000:1 contrast ratio with Advanced Iris 3, 1,300 lumens of brightness (so watch the curtains) and an ARC-F (All Range Crisp Focus) lens with 1.6x zoom. A 65% vertical and 25% horizontal lens shift will help combat a skewed image.
Two HDMI inputs will cover off devices, along with a component video input; S-video and composite video; and HD15 PC input. It also has a RS-232 control input with support for AMX and Control 4.
More info: sony.co.nz
Panasonic’s full-HD home theatre projector features a new red-rich lamp that’s supposed to add 150% brighter cinema picture modes compared to its predecessor, the PT-AE3000E. The newly engineered lamp compensates for the brightness previously lost due to the lack of red luminance. It has a respectable brightness of 1,600 lumens, a 100,000:1 contrast ratio and 2x optical power zoom.
Three HDMI ports and at least six other connections should make device hook-up easy and once you get there, the Smooth Screen technology is designed to give you the kind of smooth, vivid, and three-dimensional images you see in movie theatres.
More info: panasonic.co.nz
1. Bring your own. Whip out a favourite DVD and check out some fast-paced action scenes. Quick camera panning will show up motion blur or image judder, while dark, moody films are good for highlighting a model’s contrast ratio and how it reproduces the colour black.
2. Know your space. Measure your room and have an idea of where you want to place your projector before you buy. Do you want to move it around or have it fixed to the ceiling? How far away will it sit from your screen or wall? That’ll affect your throw distance. Is your room fitted out to be darker than a beast’s lair or do you have to compromise with bright, airy interior decor? For the latter you’ll need to up your lumens.
3. Running cost. The more you watch, the faster you’ll burn through those lamps so check how many hours the manufacturer says they’ll last and how much they’ll cost to replace. Many of the newer models feature energy efficient lamps which could impact on your power bill and future lamp replacement.