By Don Lindich
Week 52, 2019
Q. I have space in my home for a movie room with a screen over 100 inches in size, perhaps 150-160 inches. Do you think I am better off with a projector with a large screen, or an 82-inch flat panel? I like the idea of a projector but I have not seen a real good one, unless it is extremely expensive. When I think of home projection I tend to think of the dim, fuzzy image you might see on a projection setup in a dive bar. Do you have any recommendations and how much would it cost?
-N.L., Eden Prairie, MN
A. I don’t have to think too long or hard about that one. While large 4K flat panels certainly have their appeal, if you have a large enough room and can dim the lights nothing can compare to the immersive and cinematic quality of a projected image 120 inches or larger. Get the projector. As you will see when you try it yourself, they have come a long way and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Below I will detail a $1,300 system that can be used indoors or outdoors.
When I wrote about the backyard drive-in and I discussed the 120-inch Visual Apex indoor/outdoor screen with stand. It also comes in a 144 inch version, the 144HD, for $259.99.
Panasonic’s UltraHD 4K Blu-ray players are undoubtedly the best on the market, and their seemingly magical video processing brings out the very best in 1080p and 4K Blu-ray discs, DVDs and streaming sources. The Panasonic DP-UB820 is $499 and though it may cost a bit more than some competitors, believe me, you need this player! It is an asset to any television but with a projector throwing a big image, it should be mandatory.
Projectors with native (not simulated) 4K resolution are still very expensive. My favorites come from JVC and their DLA-NX5 native 4K projector is $6,000. Given that over time the price of these projectors will go down and quality will probably go up, you may want to start with something that is excellent but much more modestly priced. You can always upgrade to a native 4K projector later.
I think the best way to go is the $579 Optoma HD27HDR 1080p projector. Though it is a 1080p projector and not a 4K projector, you actually get some of the benefits from 4K television technology. The biggest improvement from UltraHD 4K over 1080p is actually the high dynamic range (HDR) and not the extra resolution over 1080p. High dynamic range provides better, deeper color as well as brighter whites and blacker blacks. The HD27HDR is a 1080p projector that can also display HDR information. If you feed it a 4K HDR signal it will project the image in 1080p, but with high dynamic range for a difference that can be plainly seen immediately. Many 4K streaming sources as well as UltraHD 4K Blu-ray Discs contain this HDR information.
I have tested this projector personally and the images from the HD27HDR look incredibly good, especially from 4K Blu-ray. Even 1080p Blu-ray without HDR looks spectacularly smooth, sharp and colorful. Trust me when I tell you that it is a whole new world from what you expect, especially if you think of affordable projection as something fuzzy and dim.
You will need a sound system for the theater, but that will have to wait for another column. Happy New Year, everyone and I have some great things in store for you for 2020!