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Trying to decide between a projector and a big screen TV is tough. For a lot of people, TVs are the default when it comes to watching their favorite movies and shows, while projectors are reserved for movie theaters (if they’re considered at all).
That’s a shame because good projectors are both affordable and accessible, and they really give TVs a run for their money. But which is better for your living room, home cinema, or media room? Let’s run through the features and compare the two so you can find the best technology for your entertainment.
TV projectors are much more cost-effective, at least in terms of screen size for your dollar. You can get a decent HD projector and 100-inch screen for under $500, whereas an 80-inch TV is going to cost you at least $1,500, if not much more. While screen size tends to be the starting point for most shoppers, other features quickly drive up the cost, like OLED technology in TVs and lasers in HD projectors.
For the most part, modern TVs are maintenance-free—the LEDs that power them have such a long lifespan that you’re more likely to replace the entire TV before having to worry about the backlights.
Projectors, on the other hand, tend to use lamps that eventually burn out. You also need to worry about dust getting inside the projector. For some, any maintenance requirement at all will be a total deal breaker, but if you’re willing to put in the work, you can find tons of replacement bulbs for projectors online.
4K is all the rage these days, and both large-screen TVs and projectors can handle it wonderfully. There’s more to the resolution story than just a number, though. With 4K, it can be hard to notice the difference it makes unless you’re watching on a huge screen. Cramming that many pixels into a regular TV size makes them inherently small and hard to distinguish.
HD projectors really shine here, since the screen is large enough to show the tremendous amount of detail that comes with 4K. With TVs getting bigger every year, this gap is closing, but you’re more likely to have a huge screen with a projector. So, if you’re watching 4K content, you’ll probably want to go that route to enjoy all 4K has to offer.
Brightness matters because the dimmer a screen is, the darker the room needs to be for the picture to stay clear. Most projectors require a dim room to produce a crisp picture—think a dedicated media room or home cinema. Projectors just don’t put out enough light to compete with a sunny, open living room—at least not while remaining affordable.
TVs, on the other hand, easily put out plenty of brightness, especially with more modern LED TVs. Now, brighter isn’t always better. If you’re watching in a dark room (like a dedicated home theater), the lower light of a projector might actually be easier on the eyes. But for general use, the convenience and multifunctionality of a TV is tough to beat.
This is an easy win for projectors, although as noted above, the gap is closing. Modern TVs tend to max out around 80 inches, although there are some that exceed 100 inches. While we’re expecting that number to continue to rise, there’s a practical limit to how big TVs can go, since generally someone has to get the thing to your home and mount it. Plus, jumbo-size TVs cost a fortune, which excludes all but the most serious home-cinema buffs.
While Projectors take a few more categories than TVs, this is still a close race. In the end, the one that’s better for you really comes down to personal preference and how you plan to use it.