monitor vs projector
June 27, 2008 10:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of replacing/supplementing my PC monitor with a projector, but I've never really used or shopped for one. Is it worth it, or should I just go for a couple of the biggest monitors I can afford?

I've long dreamed of a leaving my monitor behind and using a projector for gaming and video on my XP/Linux pc. The quality I'm looking for mostly is resolution... at least 1080. Recently I've found what seems to be a reasonably priced projector here.

Thing is, it says resolution=800x600 native, 1600x1200 resized, able to put out 1080p. On Newegg, however, it just mentions 800x600. Having had no experience with projectors, I'm fuzzy on whether they behave like monitors. Can you just change resolution with good results like a CRT, or do they have only one resolution they're good at like a LCD? Will the picture be true 1600x1200 or some crappy technical trickery for "virtual" 16x12 (or something)? Is there something that goes along with high resolution, like shorter lamp life or reduced brightness?

In addition, has anyone set up a projector for their main display? Is this advisable? Are there any things I might need to be aware of, like room size, darkness level, eye strain? I know I'm looking for a high lumen count and over 2000:1 contrast, but is there anything else in particular I need to watch out for?
posted by dozo to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Anecdotal but friends swear by multiple monitors over a projector. Projection maybe great for games, though. What do you use your pc for, mostly?
posted by anadem at 10:36 PM on June 27, 2008

Projectors tend to be blurry. They're really great for game graphics and movies and things like that, but tend to be painful to use for text. Perhaps using a projector in addition to a monitor might be good, but if you tried to use one exclusively I think you'd soon grow to hate it.
posted by Class Goat at 10:41 PM on June 27, 2008

Also, with projectors you'll have to replace the bulbs every once in a while, which can be expensive.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 PM on June 27, 2008

They are very cool and people will be impressed. They are pretty neat! But just quietly, the quality... meh.

Not so quietly - the bulbs are very fragile!! Bump the table it's sitting on when it's hot and.. tink! Moving your arm at the end of the movie just cost $1000. (Give or take?)

Buying one with a broken bulb, getting it replaced and then selling it to someone else so they can replace the bulb, when next it (shatters??), seems to be the way to go :)

You'll get it very cheap and avoid the horror of hearing that ping. Getting a quote (WTF!!)and then having to agonise over whether to take the shafting (with the realization of just how easy to replicate that is going to be) or to cut your losses, on your brand new projector. (... son-of-a-bitch!!)

Got a cat that likes to jump or a dog who likes to wag?? ..Or friends? :) Only let people with money be around this thing...
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 11:28 PM on June 27, 2008

Projectors are like LCDs in that they have a finite array of pixels in them, whereas CRTs just have phosphor dots and a shadow grille. You cannot run that projector at more than 800x600, if you do then the image will be scaled down to 800x600. So you can put 1080p video into it, and it will not come out as 1080p. If you want resolution, definitely don't buy that one.

Get the multiple monitors. Pair of 24" 1920x1200 should be $400-ish each. Each one is big enough that at normal viewing distance, you nearly need to turn your head, which means that any bigger doesn't make a huge amount of sense unless you want to keep multiple working contexts visible at once.
posted by polyglot at 12:31 AM on June 28, 2008

A couple of things. If you are looking for resolution as your primary criteria for your purchase, be advised that the cheapest I've ever seen a 1080p projector is in the $2000+ range. You will have issues with lighting and a whole raft of other things. That projector you reference in your link on Newegg will take a 1600x1200 signal and downscale it to 800x600. Any text will be pretty much a grey blur and unreadable. This is NOT what you want, I am thinking, based on what you want to do with it.

I see for what you desire you have a couple of options. One is a multimonitor setup, the other is bigass TV as a monitor.

Personally, I use multiple monitors and it is great for real estate. Currently I have a 22" and a 19" side by side, running in 1680x1050 and 1280x1024, so I get an effective desktop size of 2960 pixels wide. It works very well, but there is a small adjustment period.

If 1080p is enough resolution for your needs and you're wanting big impressive for games/movies, why not get a 42" 1080p TV as your monitor? People have been doing that for a couple of years now, and there are several that can be had for around $1000 - $1200, which is miles cheaper than anything 1080p in a projector, with none of the projector weaknesses. For example, a lot of people were doing the Westinghouse 42" as their monitor of choice for a while. The field's opened up now with Viewsonic, Sharp and Samsung in the same general price neighborhood.

I am actually thinking of replacing the 22" in my setup with a 42" 1080p TV, but cash is a bit tight right now, so I will probably hold off until the fall with this plan of mine.
posted by barc0001 at 1:01 AM on June 28, 2008

Are there any things I might need to be aware of, like room size, darkness level, eye strain? I know I'm looking for a high lumen count and over 2000:1 contrast, but is there anything else in particular I need to watch out for?

Even when using expensive high-power projectors you need to be able to dim the room's lights and block out bright sunlight if you want the best readability.
posted by Mike1024 at 4:30 AM on June 28, 2008

Look at it from an angle of view perspective- my little 14" screen on my laptop is larger in my field of view than the giant tv across the room. To get a projector that will give you similar or better resolution at a comfortable viewing distance will cost you $$$. Now if it's just a secondary monitor for watching video on, no big deal. And yes, the native resolution is the only resolution that really counts.
posted by gjc at 6:46 AM on June 28, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, thank you all very much for the responses. I understand now that resolutions up to 16x12 can be resized to 800x600. Emphatic no.

I usually use my PC for gaming, watching video, surfing the net, some web development/server maintenance and music recording/creation. I always pictured the projector as primary with a secondary LCD, but I can see the projector becoming more of a movie/game display only and the monitor being used for day-to-day things. Blurred text would bring me to madness.

I think I may just get a couple 24 inchers.
posted by dozo at 7:13 AM on June 28, 2008

Response by poster: BTW, best answers all around!! A million points and 4 gold stars for each of you!
posted by dozo at 7:15 AM on June 28, 2008

I own and love an Optoma 1024x768 DLP projector. It looks pretty great at its native 1024x768.

I'd never use it as my primary monitor, though.

I don't have it mounted and instead enjoy its portability; when I hook it up to watch a movie I often feel inclined to surf, use YouTube, etc after the movie in order to "get some mileage out of my big ass monitor!" But honestly it gets old pretty quickly and I find myself naturally gravitating to my laptop's 15.4" monitor instead.

Now I'm more interested in picking up a 47" LCD with true 1080p resolution and the projector is just a really sweet novelty for the weekends and especially on the occasional road trip / condo / hotel stay.
posted by lordaych at 4:48 PM on June 28, 2008

« Older Enjoying the Apostle Islands and Superior...   |   Blue Man, not the group. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.