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Home Theater How-To Part 1: Picking the Right Projector

Choosing the Best Projector for Your Home Theater in Marietta

A home theater is certainly a luxury we’d all love to have in our homes, especially in a post-COVID world where staying home was the name of the game. There are many important things to consider when designing your home theater, which is why we’ve created this three-part series highlighting some of the biggest (and most important!) considerations.

For the perfect home theater, you'll need a great projector, solid projector screen, and home theater speakers. For home theater audio installation near you, choose Sound Sensations in Marietta, Georgia.

If you're looking for the best representation of the movie theater experience in your home, you'll need a projector. While TVs are certainly larger now, they cannot mimic a projection that fills your peripheral vision.

The three major components in a home theater project are the light source, imaging chip, and lens. In this article, we'll look at how to choose the right projector for your home theater needs by first focusing on these elements.

Choosing a home theater projector light source

There are three main types of light sources you can choose from in a home theater projector.


Lamps are the dominant light source in home theater projectors as they're inexpensive and can offer punchy, bright pictures when they’re new. One of the downsides of lamps is their relatively short life. As they are used, lamps lose color balance and brightness. Most lamps will last 4,000 hours before meeting their half-life, which is when the lamp is 50% as bright as its original brightness.


High-end projectors are increasingly moving to solid-state lasers as their light source. Laser light engines have a lifespan of over 20,000 hours and require little maintenance.

However, they often can't match the best lamps for color accuracy, gamut, and contrast. 4K Ultra Short Throw (UST) is the major exception. These projectors are placed close to the screen and can compete with LCD TVs for picture quality.


LED (light-emitting diode) projectors have the advantage of a much more compact light source, so we see many portable or pocket-friendly LED projectors on the market. Unfortunately, they don't have the punch of a lamp projector in most cases. Even though LEDs can be perceived as brighter than lamps, the wide-light spread means most LED projectors fall behind lamps.

But like solid-state laser projectors, there are good and bad LED projectors, so it's required to check the reviews on every model before you buy.

Choosing a home theater projector display technology

The lens of the projector affects the sharpness. High-quality glass delivers better sharpness, and better lenses come in multiple groups with individual elements. Choosing between lenses comes down to testing the projectors.

Digital light projection (DLP)

The most popular display technology used in projectors, digital light projection, presents an array of mirrors to the light source that are independently pivoted to direct a light point (or discard it for black).

DLP projectors usually have a single chip for the processing of color. This can sometimes result in rainbow color banding or unequal colors. For most viewers, this isn't noticeable but should be noted.

Liquid-crystal display (LCD)

Instead of using mirrors, LCD projectors shine the light source through translucent LCD panels with pixels that can be individually opened or closed to make them darker and lighter. Most LCD projectors will have three processors for color.

Liquid-crystal-on-silicon (LCoS)

LCoS is similar to LCD, but it's more expensive. The critical difference is you can get a lower native black level and higher contrast.

Determine screen placement

The architecture of your room will be the most significant restriction on the screen placement and type of projector you use.

Ceiling-mounted projectors should be far behind or in front of the primary seating to avoid the fan's noise. You should consider keeping the projector as closely aligned with an imaginary vertical line taken from the center of the projector screen.

Once you've decided on the projector's location, measure the expected throw distance from the screen to the projector. This is an important metric you'll need for understanding whether a particular projector is suitable for your needs.

Determine screen size

The perfect viewing angle from the center of the projector screen is between 30 and 36 degrees. You can use an online calculator to calculate what screen size you'll need based on your viewing distance. But, ultimately, these are only recommendations, and the perfect setup for your tastes can differ.

Determine screen brightness

Projector brightness is measured in lumens. There are two measurement techniques —ANSI and ISO 21118, though they're almost equivalent. These give you an idea of how bright each projector is compared to the other.

The amount of brightness you see depends on how far you are from the screen and the amount of ambient light in the room. If you plan on using the projector in bright sunlight, you'll need a higher fl-L (foot-Lamberts) measurement than if you were only going to use the projector in the dark.

A dark-room projector may be 2,000 ANSI lumens, whereas a bright-room projector may be 3,500 lumens or more.

Professional home theater installation

These are the most important considerations for home theater projectors. However, there are many more things you can compare between models, such as brightness, contrast ratio, resolution, color gamut, color depth, zoom, lag, noise, lens shift, and HDR compatibility.

For our expert opinion on the best setup for your home, get in touch with Sound Sensations today.

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