is a 1080p projector worth it right now?
February 28, 2008 4:35 AM   Subscribe

i'm getting a new projector to replace my existing one. my current macbook only has a 720p native resolution (1280x800) so i'm leaning towards buying a projector with 720p resolution. but thinking forward, with blu-ray players etc, will i have problems playing 1080p movies in 720p? and how will they look? is there a big difference?

also, 1080p projectors seem to be much costlier than 720p. for instance, boxlight make a projector called broadview which has 1280x768 resolution and only costs about $1400 (i've been happy with my current projector which is also a boxlight). however, it seems 1080p projectors only start at about $3,000. is this true?
posted by Silky Slim to Technology (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You won't have any problems playing 1080p media on 720p equipment: somewhere, something will do a conversion (either the projector or the disk player).

In terms of appearance, seeing a difference between 1080p and 720p depends on the size of the image, how far away you're sitting, etc. With projectors, you also have to take into account the screen you're using, how much light output you have, ambient light, and so on. You might see differences in ideal conditions. You might see some difference in less than ideal conditions. Are those differences worth the extra cost of the 1080p projector? That's up to you.

I would probably skip on the higher resolution, and spend extra money on projector brightness and screen quality. Those differences will probably be more noticeable.
posted by chengjih at 4:53 AM on February 28, 2008

Hold on a minute -- just because your MacBook's native display is 1280x800 doesn't mean it can't output 1080p from its DVI/VGA output. Here's how you would get 1080p natively out of a Macbook.
posted by neustile at 5:34 AM on February 28, 2008

We have an Optoma HD70, which is 720p. It's hooked up to an HD-DVD player (yes, yes I know). It looks fantastic. We thought it looked great just hooked up to a regular DVD player, too (close-ups looked a lot better than wide shots, though).

We have it projected to be about 110". The resolution at 720p looks great. Better than some movie theater digital projectors I've seen.
posted by starman at 5:35 AM on February 28, 2008

To extend chengjih's argument, in a typical home theater setting (screen size 190x110 cm2), the difference in resolution is really a difference in pixels 1mm, or 1.3 mm squared.
I would not spend any money on more brightness. In a fully darkened home theater, 1500 lumen is more than enough. For daylight viewing, 3000 lumen is sufficient. So get yourself a 720p projector with the highest contrast ratio, it will be a dazzling experience!
Alternatively, get a CRT projector, and enjoy all of the above for $1400 in a huge cabinet. please check with your SO
Check out the various AV forums for more advice
posted by Psychnic at 5:56 AM on February 28, 2008

I have been very satisfied with my Epson 720p playing from a Toshiba HD-A3. On the Toshiba you select 720p as the definition of your image and it upconverts or I suppose downconverts to that level automatically. You can definitely tell what's HD versus SD.
posted by tonci at 7:46 AM on February 28, 2008

The human eye is pretty poor at judging images. Untrained/inexperienced observers will often indicate that a larger, brighter, over saturated or 'sharper' picture is actually the higher resolution one.

Personally I've got a Mitsubishi HD1000 which is a 720p DLP projector with just about 1000 lumens. I can get total blackout in the room it's in and with native 720p content it looks fabulous. I've seen 1080p screens at stores next to 720p and while I can tell the difference it's nowhere near worth the price differential at the moment. Do look at DLP projectors in person, some people's eyes see color fringing because of the nature of the projector. I can only see it with very, very high contrast scenes, and then only if I move my eyes, but some people find it extremely distracting.

Also it takes a surprising amount of computer horsepower to output HD video perfectly. My aging Athlon XP stutters with some 720p content.
posted by Skorgu at 7:52 AM on February 28, 2008

BTW - that HD1000, which I also have and love, has an extra color wheel (or maybe a bigger color wheel, or something) specifically to reduce the color fringing found on other DLP projectors.
posted by Caviar at 9:21 AM on February 28, 2008

Easy for me to say (not my money) but I think eventually you will regret not getting the higher resolution. It may be true that today most people can't tell the difference, but I suspect that is evidence of what Benoit Mandelbrot referred to (in a talk at Siggraph '84, I think) as the "Edison Effect," referring to the fact that when Edison first produced recorded sound, people could not tell the difference between his phonograph and a live opera singer. I always found that fascinating, having read Bernard Berenson's claim that Giotto's contemporaries thought his images were more real than life.

Anyway, just something to think about. If it were me, I would probably stay with cheaper, obsolete equipment, because if I'm not going to like it in a couple of years, at least it was cheap. :-)
posted by thomas144 at 10:49 AM on February 28, 2008

Projector technology is improving and prices are coming down rapidly. Unless you have a compelling reason to use 1080p today, it's not worth the cost for future proofing - what you can get by the time you'll want it is likely to be less than what you're saving now by not getting it.

One of the few good reasons to get a 1080p one now is that you can hook a computer up to it and run at 1920x1080 (1080p) vs. 1280x720 (720p). The flicker in interlaced mode makes those modes completely unusable for computer output. If you make heavy use of the computer on the projector, that may make a big difference for you, but I find that 720 is completely usable for email, video, and web browsing, which is 95% of what I do on that machine anyway.
posted by Caviar at 6:00 PM on February 28, 2008

Response by poster: thanks a lot for the input, everyone.
i finally decided to go with my original choice of the boxllight broadview, the 720p projector. some of the comments here convinced me that 720p is plenty good enough for now, plus the projector has many other nice specs: 2000:1 contrast ratio, 2500 lumens, and it's tiny and very portable.
also, the kicker as far as i'm concerned: it came with a free replacement bulb; in other words, 2000 more hours of use...
in case anyone cares, apparently you can get a 1080p projector for less than $2000 nowadays; from mitsubishi, for instance.
posted by Silky Slim at 12:12 AM on March 8, 2008

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