Advice on DLP projectors
August 6, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

What is the best type of DLP projector to get for home movie watching?

I want to get a DLP projector for watching movies at home, usually in the evening. I don't know much about projector brands or other considerations, so please tell me what to look out for.

I also don't know where is the best place to buy one. With something like this am I better going to a brick and mortar store rather than online, lest a part malfunctions? Are there recommended projector retailers?

I live in the Boston area. Thanks for your advice!
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Apart from brands, look for some way to calculate lens-to-screen measurements so that you can actually place a projector in your home in a desired location.

Use a projection calculator (example) which lets you adjust lens-to-screen distance and focus level, so that you can calculate the screen size you need, for the brand and model you're interested in.

That calculator also does a rough measurement of brightness for the given throw distance. You will want a brighter projector and brighter image, all else being equal.

If you have a narrow-depth room, you can sometimes use a short lens to get around the distance limitations. Short lenses, however, often cost as much or more than the projector itself.

If you're watching HD movies, you want a projector with a DVI and/or HDMI input, which supports HD resolutions. This can be 720p/1080i (1280x720) or 1080p (1920x1080).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:36 AM on August 6, 2010

A good place to start is Projector Central, as they've got a ton of advice and reviews. Of course, unless you've been keeping up with home theater developments on your end, buying a new display is almost never the last step.

Here's some major non-price considerations:

* Resolution: Most projectors are 1080p, and personally I wouldn't bother with any 720p or 1080i projectors unless you're seriously cash-strapped.

* Seating distance: As Blazecock Pileon, pointed out, figure out how far away you will be sitting to know how big the screen will be.

* Screens: Do you want to buy a pre-made one? Build one yourself? Use a bare wall? Screens can cost a couple hundred on their own, but can also give your theater a more, well, theatrical feel.

* Connections: I wouldn't buy anything without HDMI, the latest version you can find. If you're going 3D, I think 1.4 is mandatory. If you plan on watching DVDs, only HDMI will permit "upconverting" to a pseudo-HDTV resolution. The wires themselves should be cheap, no more than $2/ft for anything under 25' and no more than $1/ft for 25' or longer. Monoprice, Blue Jeans, or Acoustic Research are some good names. Avoid Monster Cable and expensive "boutique" wires like the plague.

* 3D: I don't care about 3D personally, but if you want it, make sure the projector and the player both support it.

* Player and/or Receiver: If you don't already have one, a Blu-ray player is near-essential, and is necessary for 3D playback. If you don't care about 3D, look for models that support BD-Live and at least one of the streaming services (i.e. Netflix). As for receivers, if you don't have one, you should get one with at least HDMI pass-through, but switching is better (and again, I think 1.4 is mandatory for 3D).
posted by zombieflanders at 11:59 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

The suggestions on screen size/throw distance, resolution, wiring etc are all good. If you can't put the projector fairly close to the screen you may also want to look at 3LCD models, as those generally have a wider zoom range and more flexibility for placement. They will be slightly more expensive (on average) than the DLP models. I'll second Projector Central as a good place to start.

I have the Epson 8100 and I'm very happy with it. For a screen I have the motorized 108" 16:9 model from Monoprice, mentioned above as a source for cables. The screen's great and much cheaper ($250ish) than what you'd get at Best Buy/etc.

If you're in the mood to wade through a projector discussion forum to get more user reviews/comments, AVS Forum might be of interest.
posted by ethand at 12:20 PM on August 6, 2010

I also have an Epson 8100. I love it. Xbox on a ~200 inch screen? Come on.

The reason I'd recommend Epson is this. I got my first Epson about two years ago. I don't remember now if it was a 6100 or some older version of the 8100 (this one is "x.v.Color HDMI," whatever that means. The older one wasn't), but it started to get discolored bands at the top and bottom. I called Epson, they asked a few questions and overnighted me a new projector. I sent them the malfunctioning one and that was it. A while later the new one started to do the same thing, so I called again. The guy talks to his manager or whoever and they decide, without any prodding from me at all, that they're very sorry I got two projectors with the same problem and they're, again, overnighting me the newest version in my line of projectors. Instant customer.

Screens: Spend money on one. My Da-Lite screen supposedly has little glass spheres in it that are supposed to up the apparent brightness in ambient light. Whatever it does it looks a hell of a lot better than the big roller blind I used to have.
posted by cmoj at 2:36 PM on August 7, 2010

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