What kind of projector do I need?
December 13, 2015 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I've been thinking about getting a projector to hook up to my laptop to watch movies/sports sitting in bed. I'm overwhelmed by the price range-- how much money do I actually need to spend?

I'm getting sick of watching stuff on my laptop but I don't want a big TV so thought a projector might be a nice solution, with a screen at the foot of my bed. It would not be used for text at all, just movies and basketball. But I've seen projectors ranging from $50 to thousands-- what do I actually need to buy that would be a significant step up from a laptop? I'd be willing to consider options that only work at night, or both night/day, depending on the price.
posted by acidic to Technology (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The Wirecutter covers projectors. They have a section on ones in the $500 range that might fit your needs, and the article goes into what the higher cost projectors get you.
posted by bluecore at 2:56 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

My partner and I bought the Epson VS330 via Amazon a year or so ago for around $400 or $500, after looking at a ton of reviews. Having had a number of projectors in the past, I think that's the price point where you get the most bang for your buck. We love the projector. It's definitely bright enough for daytime use, and most importantly the bulbs are relatively inexpensive (something to consider when choosing a projector).
posted by lunalaguna at 3:14 PM on December 13, 2015

Projectors will have a minimum and maximum throw distance, so where you intend to put the projector will be a factor. Keep in mind most projectors have a fan that may add undesirable noise, especially if you're projecting from the head of the bed. Most have terrible speakers so don't forget to account for sound as well.
posted by Candleman at 3:55 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had a second-hand one for a while that would have cost thousands new, but I got it for like $200. But when the bulb died after a year or so, we discovered new bulbs cost several hundred dollars, which put it into "not worth it" range for us. So it's worth considering those ongoing costs as well. (Although this was about 8 or 9 years ago, so bulbs might be cheaper now.)
posted by lollusc at 6:12 PM on December 13, 2015

Best answer: I was going to recommend something about LED/laser-LED hybrid projectors because that's what i've been steering people too because fuckkkk replacing bulbs... but honestly go on craigslist and search "projector", then sort by price. Buy something with the inputs you want, low hours on the bulb, that's at least 1024x768(and preferably higher, like 1280xSomething or above).

When i was in college me and my friends happened upon a bunch of "broken" discarded office projectors from a school. Most of them worked with a little cleaning/fiddling/reseating of bulbs. When a bulb died, off to recycling heaven the whole unit went.

After that, i had a few like $50-100 craigslist projectors.

Honestly i'd buy a cheapo office projector. Get one with at least 2000 lumens, not some sub-1000 lumen junker(i survived on an 800 lumen one for a while and it honestly sucked). See if you actually like it, then consider something that costs over $200. In the area it says you're in on your profile page, you shouldn't have a hard time finding a glut of them.
posted by emptythought at 8:15 PM on December 13, 2015

Best answer: Yes, LCD projectors are cheap cheap on CL these days. Look at throw distance, as noted above, and also the type of connections the model has- VGA/HD/DVI?

A basic business-type projector with VGA input and 1024x768 resolution will have a medium throw but may not show a great frame as close as the foot of your bed. A standard 16:10 HD movie will have bars on the top & bottom of the projection area. Also look at how the sound is connected. Will you use headphones or can the sound be routed different from the video?
And yes, the bulbs can cost 3x the price of the projector.

so, totally doable and affordable, just pay attention to the options.
posted by TDIpod at 8:18 PM on December 13, 2015

Best answer: Especially if you're buying a used projector, pay careful attention to the Native Resolution vs. the endless list of Supported Resolutions. Many older projectors had low resolution (e.g. 1024x768) but supported 1080p (which would just be scaled down to the much less detailed native resolution of 1024x768. This leads to many listings for "1080p" projectors that are just not so.
posted by reeddavid at 9:13 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would recommend the Acer from bluecore's wirecutter link. For work, we bought an older, lower-resolution Acer (the X1261) and the picture quality is very good. It is quite bright, and you can run it in ECO mode where, for a small sacrifice in brightness, the bulb life is extended quite a bit. The specs say that the h5830bd's bulb life in ECO can last up to 10,000 hours, and the bulb is about $180. That is one movie a day for 13 years. So, while the bulb is pricey, you can get quite a lot of mileage out of it.

Edit: Also, a projector can't really sit on your bed terribly well- it needs a flat surface so that the fan can cool it properly.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 10:05 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

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