Week 27, 2017: The awfulness of today’s LED/LCD televisions, Optoma HD142x projector review

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 27, 2017

Q. I need a big television for my gameroom, primarily to be used for movies with an existing sound system.  What would you recommend for under $1,000?

-K.C., Manchester, N.H.

A. I wish I had a great flat-panel TV recommendation for you. Unfortunately, from my sitting spot the market has taken a gigantic nose dive in terms of affordable quality. Today’s $1,000 LED-LCD sets are awful compared to what you could buy a few years ago, with their cartoonish color, unnatural motion rendition and fuzzy, soft detail. They can tout “4K Ultra HD” and play all the custom-made demo material they want, but if you connect the TV to the HDMI connection from a cable box or Blu-ray player the picture is not as accurate and pleasing as a 720p Samsung plasma from 2007.

If I had to buy a flat-panel TV for myself I would I only buy an OLED, no matter the expense. Unfortunately, there are no sub-$1,000 OLEDs, and there never may be. I suggest looking at Samsung and LG televisions, considering only the actual picture quality as you see it, and ignoring sales pitches and marketing buzzwords about scan rates (Hz) and video processing modes.  The TVs often look better with the extra processing turned off in the settings menu.  I’d avoid Vizio as many of their TVs are no longer actual TVs, but “displays” without tuners. If you do not have a tuner you can’t receive over-the-air broadcasts, cutting you off from lots of excellent free content. Over-the-air television also has the best picture quality available from the networks and provides a backup if your Internet, cable or satellite signal goes out. A tuner is extremely useful, and you should insist your TV include one.

Though I can’t get excited about any inexpensive flat panel TVs these days, there is something under $1,000 I can enthusiastically recommend. For $549, Optoma’s HD142x 1080p video projector is a great performer and a great buy.

I got to play with the Optoma HD142x in my own home for a month and absolutely loved it.  It is bright enough to use in a fairly bright room, and even in a well-lit room, projecting a 126-inch image on a white wall, the picture was fantastic. It has a preset picture setting that provides good color with natural flesh tones, and it displayed moving objects naturally and realistically. Combine these good qualities with the size of the depth of the image, and it really sucks you in. Network TV from DISH looked great, and Blu-ray was absolutely spectacular, especially with the lights out, when it provided a theater-like experience belying the price. Even DVDs were watchable and looked better than I thought they would, given they are not HD like Blu-ray. Lamps last 5,000 to 8,000 hours and are only $179 to replace.

Though you can project on a wall, for the best results you should use a screen. An excellent 120-inch fixed frame VApex screen from visualapex.com is only $249. Combine it with the $549 projector, and for $798 you have a combo that produces a huge, great-looking television image.

Finally, a tip of the hat to Al Griffin at Sound & Vision magazine, who discovered this combo before I did. As I researched a good, affordable screen to pair with the HD142x, I found an issue from last year where he praised the HD142x, with a follow-up article recommending the VApex screens. I have not tried the screens myself, but Al knows his stuff and I trust his word. soundandvisionmag.com