Home Theatre Projector Buying Guide

Last Updated on November 4, 2022 by HR Editorial Team

When it comes buying a home theatre projector, all the options out there can be overwhelming. There are huge variations in the types of projectors available and the technology they utilise.

Buying a home theatre projector should be fun! Projectors are fast becoming a favourite viewing option over traditional TV’s because they allow you to turn your home into a cinema! You might have a projector in your living room, or you might have a designated media room. Either way, they provide a great way to view your favourite shows and movies, and spend time with your friends and family.

Projectors are also very versatile. You can adjust the size of the image, and even take your projector with you if you want to project something at a friends place, or at an event.

However, you might be wondering how you will know what features to look out for, and what is important to know when buying a projector? That is why we have put together this handy home theatre projector buying guide. So you can be equipped with all the information you need!

Lighting and lumens 101

Each projector will have a lumen measurement which dictates how much light output it has. As a general rule, we say that home theatre projectors should have at least 1000 lumens, or brighter. How many lumens you need will depend on how much light there is in the room where you are using your projector.

If you are in a completely dark room, 1000 lumens will be sufficient. However, if there is some ambient light, you should be looking for at least 1500 lumens. If you have a space with lots of ambient light filtering in, you’re going to need around 3000 lumens.

You should ask your projector expert whether the lumen value of the projector you are interested in is based on data output, or video output. The lumen output for video is not as high as it is for data, so if the figure is based on data output, you will need extra lumens to achieve the same quality when projecting video. If you need help deciding which projector is right for your room, our projector experts have seen all our models in operation in a range of settings, so can give you honest advice about what is going to work for you.

What about image quality?

There is more to image quality than just image brightness. When it comes to how good your images and videos look, the three most important factors are:
– native resolution
– the quality of your source material
– your projector’s contrast ratio.

So what does that all mean?

Projector Resolution:

At the moment most projectors come with HD native resolution (1920 x 1080) or 4K UHD native resolution (3840 x 2160). Your standard HD projector has about double the number of pixels as an older style XGA projector, while your 4K projectors have double the number of pixels as a HD projector. Basically, the more pixels you have, the sharper and clearer your image will be. It also means that your projector will be compatible with high-definition sources.

Source material:

The resolution of your source material will also play a part in how good your images and videos look. If you have a low quality signal, then your projection might look low quality without it being the fault of the projector itself. If you are watching old video, or are hooked up to an old laptop, you might notice significant drops in quality. If you want great quality every time, try to match what you are watching to the quality of your projector. Blu-ray players, PlayStations, Xboxes and newer models of laptop tend to produce 1080p signals, which are perfect for viewing in HD. Some are also capable of HDR/4K.

Contrast Ratio:

The contrast ratio of a projector is the difference between the lightest shade of white and the darkest shade of black in an image. For example, if a projector has a contrast ratio of 10,000:1 it means that the brightest white is 10,000 times brighter than the darkest black. However, along with a good contrast ratio, you should be looking for a projector that has efficient multi-colour processing technology so that you can adjust the display to your liking. Everyone’s eyes are different and it isn’t just important to have the highest contrast ratio, but also to be able to tweak all the shades in between.

Why aspect ratios matter

Projectors are known as fixed resolution display devices, and have a native aspect ratio, which means a chip inside the projector decides how the image coming out of it will look. Whether it will be a square, or in wide screen. Most projectors have aspect ratios of either 4:3, 16:10 or 16:9.

Most home theatre projectors have an aspect ratio of 16:9 because this is most compatible with widescreen movies, and HD television signals. Many users will specifically shop for this aspect ratio to enjoy a true cinema like experience. A 4:3 aspect ratio can also display a widescreen image; however there will be black boxes at the top and the bottom of the image (also known as letter-boxing).

The lowdown on lamp life

Just like any light globe, the lamp inside a projector won’t last forever. Usually a projector lamp has a life somewhere between 2000 and 4000 hours. This measurement is actually used to track the half-life of the lamp. So, the light will be half as bright after the designated number of hours as it was when the projector was brand new. The lamp will still work after this time, but it will continue to degrade, and won’t have the same image quality. A higher number of hour’s means the lamp will last longer.

When your lamp needs replacing it will cost around $200 to $400, so this should be considered if you are replacing your television with a home theatre projector. If you are only using your projector to watch movies occasionally, you won’t need to replace your lamp as soon. On average, a projector just used for movies and special occasions isn’t used more than 8 hours per week. If that is similar to your usage time, then your lamp will last almost 5 years.

Should you consider 3D?

3D movies in the cinema are a real novelty, especially for kids, and these days loads of blockbusters come out in 3D. Thanks to 3D projector technology, you can also have a 3D experience in your own home! Almost every home theatre manufacturer has a 3D model, so if this is something that is important to you, there are certainly options available.

Home Theatre Installation

When it comes time to install your home theatre projector, it is important to consider where you want to place your projector in your home. This is something you should think about before you buy, as different projectors are better suited to different options.

Some people choose to put their projector on a tabletop, which gives them the freedom to move their projector around. Most tabletop projectors are lightweight and portable so that you can literally take a big screen with you, wherever you want to go. You will need to set up your projector for each use, and you will need to make sure you find a place for it that has the right positioning for optimal image quality. If you decide to go with a tabletop projector, make sure to choose something with low fan noise, as fans tend to be louder when placed on a table. The projector will also be very visible, so choose something stylish to suit your décor.

Ceiling mounting is another popular choice when it comes to home theatre projectors. However, this means it is much harder to take your projector down and move it to another location. Ceiling mounted projectors look more visually pleasing and can achieve a great image because you can set the height just right. If you go for this option, you will need to know exactly what distance from the projection surface your projector needs to be. This is called the throw ratio or distance.

What else to consider?

These are the main factors that you really need to think about when it comes to choosing a projector, but there are also smaller factors to consider.

Things like picture-in-picture mode, and different cinema settings or presets can really change your viewing experience. As can something as simple as a backlit remote control for easy adjustments in your pitch-dark home theatre room.

When it comes time to talk to one of our projector experts make sure to let us know everything you dream about when it comes to your home theatre, and what your uses will be, so that we can find the perfect product for you.