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Pros and Cons: Flat-Screen TV vs. Projection TV

February 24, 2015 | Comments

Your aging TV has served you well, but it's time for an upgrade - a serious upgrade. Although you haven't decided what kind of TV to buy, you know you want a killer picture and a really big screen. You've even wondered if a video projection system might be something to consider.

Projection TV is most definitely worth a look, especially if you watch a lot of movies and like the idea of having a theater-like experience at home, but it's a very different animal from a TV. So, before you can even start your shopping adventure, you have to answer Question No. 1: Should I shop for a flat-screen TV or a video projector?

The only way to make an informed decision is to weigh the pros and cons of each approach, so let's get started.

Price

Setting up a good quality video-projection system is more expensive than simply buying a flat-screen TV, and depending on the projector and screen you choose and whether or not you hire a professional to install your video projection system, it can be quite a bit more expensive.

Setup

With a TV, setup is typically a slam-dunk affair: You plug it in, hook up your cable or satellite box and audio gear, and you're good to go. This, of course, assumes you're not planning to mount the TV on the wall, which will incur additional expense in terms of mounting hardware and - unless you're an experienced do-it-yourselfer - professional installation.

With video projection, setup is more complicated (and costly) because you're dealing with a light source (the projector) and a screen on the opposite side of the room. Projection systems are often professionally installed, which typically involves mounting the projector on the ceiling, snaking wires through walls, and affixing a retractable (or motorized) screen to the wall or ceiling. If you're contemplating a dedicated home theater or media room, hiring a pro is the way to go.

A less expensive alternative would be to simply place the projector on a shelf or table and beam images onto a blank wall, but you have to be willing to accept some loss in picture quality and, ultimately, a less-than-permanent TV setup.

Screen Size

When it comes to diagonal screen size, projectors have it hands down, offering a movie-theater-like presentation with screens starting at 100 inches (more than seven feet wide!). TVs, on the other hand, top out at around 70 or so inches, with screens between 46 and 65 inches being most common. You can go a little bigger, but you have to be willing to spend money on a 4K Ultra HD TV with an 85-inch screen. There are also TVs with screens that top 100 inches, but they're built-to-order and even higher in price.

Location

You can put a TV pretty much anywhere, although available space can become an issue once you move beyond 60 or so inches in screen size. With a video projection setup, there's no two ways about it: you need a decent-sized room with plenty of wall space so you can project a movie-theater-like image. Otherwise, what's the point?

You also need to consider ambient light - unless you're setting up in a basement. Projected images aren't as bright as a TV screen, so rooms with exposure to sunlight aren't the best choice for a video projector.

So Which Will It Be?

In the end, budget and available space will be key factors in your decision - and if you get a projector, you have to be willing to go the extra mile to ensure proper setup. But there's no denying the excitement of watching movies on a screen that's 10 feet wide in the comfort of your home.

To learn more about TV and video projection options, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.