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I’ll never forget my first visit to an actual home theater. It wasn’t some grandiose affair you might expect to find in the mansion of a Hollywood mogul – it was simply a small projector mounted on the ceiling, similar to the conference rooms in many offices. Nevertheless, we were still able to experience a kind of “movie magic” that’s absent from the harsh light of even the finest flat-screen television.
That first experience was so memorable, I soon began to convert an unused room in my basement into my own home theater. What I discovered was that projectors offered a far greater value than a television. For example, a 50-inch (diagonal) TV currently starts around $700. For that price, you can purchase a high-definition projector that will easily display a picture of 100 inches and beyond!
Advantages of a projector over a TV
- Screen size per dollar. Once you go beyond 50 inches, there’s simply no way that televisions can compete with projectors in price.
- Ambiance. If a movie theater were able to install a gigantic flat screen, would you want to go? The soft glow of a projector is just far more soothing to the eyes than a flat-screen TV.
- Portability. A projector arrives in a small box, whereas the delivery and installation of a big-screen television can be quite a chore.
- Great for outdoor use. Another side benefit of owning a projector is that you can use it in your driveway or your backyard on a nice evening for an outdoor movie night.
Drawbacks of projectors
- You still need accessories. By itself, a projector is fairly useless – you’ll need to provide a screen or at least a smooth wall to project the picture onto. Although high-end screens can be pricey, a fine 120-inch model costs about $200. You’ll also need a sound system, since they typically don’t come with speakers. They also don’t come with a tuner for over-the-air television, so you’ll need to buy one – or just use a DVD player or cable/satellite box to input the signal.
- Projectors hate light. These devices are best suited to a basement or a room where you can draw the curtains. You won’t enjoy the washed-out picture that’s produced when using a projector in a room with ambient lighting.
- Installation requirements. Beyond just providing a dark room, you’ll also need to find a place to mount your projector. While they can be placed on a coffee table, the preferred installation is on the ceiling. This will require managing the cables. If you plan to snake them through the ceiling, that’s best left to the pros.
- Projector bulb replacement. Televisions and projectors both have sources of illumination that can wear out. With a projector, its bulb is easily replaced, while a television must undergo a costly repair that may not be justified. Unfortunately, however, projector bulbs can cost hundreds of dollars. With a lifespan of 3,000 to 5,000 hours, your bulb will last a decade or more if used a few hours a week. Use it several hours each day, and you will wear it out in a few years.
Projectors clearly aren’t going to replace flat-screen TVs any time soon. But if you’re looking for an incredible alternative to an expensive big-screen purchase, explore the possibility of a projector instead.
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