Should I Get a Video Projector or a Television for my Home Theater?

A home theatre with a projection screen
Nan Palmero / Flickr / Creative Commons

Let me start off by saying that any modern television can be used with a home theater system. If you already own a good, working, television that has at least standard audio and video connections, in addition to a cable or antenna connection, you have at least a basic way of viewing television and DVD images. The question is whether you need to upgrade to a more advanced television, or, in home theater lingo, a video display device.

Don't Get Bogged Down With The Techie Stuff

Here is where consumers get bogged down with the terminology and potential choices. Where once there was only the good, old-fashioned 27-inch tube TV, now consumers have the choice of not only a dozen sizes from 26-inches to 90-inches, but also have to choose between LCD, OLED, and video projection. Note: Plasma TVs were discontinued at the end of 2014.

The size of the television or video display device you get really depends on the size of the room environment you will be using it in and how close you will be sitting from the screen.

However, the decision as to what type of television you get is a little more complex. No matter what type of television or video display device you purchase these days, make sure it is at least an HDTV, and is able receive high definition programming, either over-the-air, cable, and/or satellite sources, and/or can display HD content from connected sources, such as upscaling DVD players, Blu-ray Disc players, and/or media streamers.

Also, keep in might that not all TVs provide built-in Tuners - one example is that most Vizio TVs made from 2016 going forward do not have built-in tuners. To receiver over-the-air TV programming you need to add an external tuner. However, if you have a cable/satellite box, you can use the box's HDMI output to connect to the TV.

With specific reference as to whether one should get a television-type video display vs a video projector, the main factor you have to take into consideration is whether you intend to watch a lot of television programs vs Blu-ray Disc and/or DVD movies.

Also, with the introduction of 4K, although there are no TV broadcasts in 4K yet, Ultra HD TVs are becoming a better option as 4K programming is becoming increasingly available via streaming, as well as by Ultra HD Blu-ray disc.

TVs vs Video Projectors: Factors To Take Into Consideration

Important factors to take note of when considering a video projector vs a television-type video display include:

  • Video projectors typically do not have RF cable or antenna connections, like a television has - the only exception are some of the Smart Projectors available from LG. However, if your cable or satellite box has either composite, S-Video, component, and/or DVI, or HDMI connections you would be able to hook them up to a video projector.
  • Video projectors that use lamps as their light source have a limited bulb life. In other words, if you are watching TV on your video projector about four or more hours every day, you might need to replace the light source bulb about every 2 years or so at about 200-400 dollars (or more) a pop. On the other hand it is important to note that LED and Laser-based light sources are starting to filter into the video projection environment, which, in the long term, promises to eliminate the lifespan problems associated with light bulbs, but the amount light output is still an issue with these alternatives. However, progress is being made.
  • Due to the very large screen sizes used in video projection, standard TV or satellite do not look as good as they do on standard large screen television. In addition, VHS looks very poor, due to its low resolution.. If you have HDTV-cable or HDTV-satellite, you would get much better results.
  • Ideally, video projection is really best suited for viewing DVD, 2D/3D Blu-ray, HD-DVD (if you still have an HD-DVD player) movies and for big events, such as the Super Bowl, or, if viewing a TV program, limit it to that season-ending cliff hanger. It is really a waste to watch news programming, soap operas, game, and reality TV shows on a video projector. If you desire longer bulb life, limit your viewing to about 12 hours a week and your projection bulb might last several years.

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for a replacement for total nightly TV watching, it would be more cost effective to buy a large screen LCD or OLED set rather than a video projector, although the gap is closing. The best option would be to have both - a TV for watching your daily programming, and a video projector with screen for watching those movies and major events. Let the guidelines outlined in this article guide your decision.