Projectors, Flat Screens and More(page 1 of 3)

Get tips on choosing the perfect screen and visual equipment for your home theater.

RX-MR6A_6715_s4x3 © 2011 CEDIA. Used with permission.

The most important element in a home theater is the screen and because it's also likely to be the most expensive component, choose wisely. Until recently, most home theaters would use a projector and screen. The main reason: screen size. Projectors can fill a wall, and the large screen size and quality of the projected image creates a very theater-like experience.

Flat panel TVs are now large enough for many home theaters and offer the sharpest, brightest and most dazzling images. They are simple to mount, allow for lower ceiling heights and produce little heat.

When choosing between LED/LCD/plasma TVs and projection TVs, there are a few things to consider. LED/LCD/plasmas offer exceptional picture quality with vivid colors, sharp resolution, and adequate brightness in all lighting conditions—all for a relatively low cost. However, screen sizes are limited (ultra-large screens can be very expensive), and some screens have a glossy surface that can reflect lights in the room.

Projection TVs, on the other hand, offer flexible positioning with a large, variable-size screen that provides a theater-like viewing experience. However, these systems often require a costly, complex installation with mounting on the ceiling, rear walls or a pedestal. They need to be centered in the room, which limits mounting location options. They require a projection screen, and the fan noise and heat can detract from the viewing experience.

If you want the largest screen size possible, and you have the right room configuration, projection systems are the best choice. If you have a smaller room and can work with a smaller screen size, flat panel TVs are a great choice.

Be sure screen size is matched to seating distances. There are simple guidelines that work for either a flat panel TV or a projection screen.

One of the benefits of a projector is that it will have a zoom lens that allows the screen size to be adjusted. Projectors can project a screen size as large as 300" diagonally so they are the primary choice for any large room.

Display Aspect Ratio and HDTV Standards

There are two primary aspect ratios for televisions: 4:3 and 16:9. The first number is the width, the second the height. Standard definition television (analog TV from the '50s through 2009) was 4:3. Analog TV has been replaced by the digital age standard of 16:9. All TV broadcasts over the air, by federal regulation, are now digital signals in the 16:9 aspect ratio.

HDTV is an industry standard for television, and most all video sources (Blu-ray discs, DVDs, Internet video and gaming devices) use the HDTV standard and the 16:9 format. Any TV you buy with rare exception will use the 16:9 format.

New TVs play 4:3 video centered with black boxes on each side. Most have settings that allow you to stretch and zoom 4:3 format video if desired. They work with all format ratios. When playing movies made using other ratios, the video is centered to optimize it for the 16:9 ratio without cropping any of the video.

Rear projection TVs (RPTV) combine a projector and screen in a single unit. The screen size is fixed and not much larger than many of newest super-sized LED/LCD/Plasma TVs. RPTVs have viewing angle limitations and screen reflection issues so you need to consider a RPTV carefully as a home theater display.

Plasma TVs produce stunning screen images and are in the same class as LED/LCD TVs. Caution is required since many plasma TVs have glossy screens. Even ambient light will reflect on a glossy screen, so be sure that a reflective screen doesn't spoil the show.

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