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Home Theatre Projector Buyers Guide

Choosing a Home Theatre Projector.

What brightness level do I require?
How much do I need to know about image quality?
What is native aspect ratio?
Should I ceiling mount my projector?
What projectors do you recommend for home theatre?

What brightness level do I require?
Brightness with all digital projectors is universally measured in ANSI Lumens. Traditionally the brightness level for dedicated home theatre projectors ranges from 800 to 2000 ANSI Lumens. Your viewing environment will be a major factor in determining how bright your projector must be. In a dedicated home theatre (ie... dark rooms for cinema-like experience), a high brightness level is not required nor recommended. Most dedicated projectors do not go higher than 1100 Lumens. A higher brightness level in a cinema-style room will result in an overpowering display and decreased colour reproduction/quality. Though some new models have come out recently offering high brightness this is generally a mode on the projector and it would still offer a darker mode like cinema mode.

For many, home theatre applications is just one of the uses they have purchased the projector for. In these cases we recommend the Multi-Use or Multi-Purpose projector ranges offered by brands such as BenQ and Mitsubishi. Multi-use projectors are designed for data projection,

TV projection (ie watching the football in a lit room), and home theatre. These projectors are generally cheaper, offer a higher level of brightness, however overall image quality is lower compared to the more expensive dedicated home theatre projectors offered by brands such as Panasonic and Sony.

How much do I need to know about image quality? [top]
For a dedicated home theatre room, there are 2 main quality factors to consider before making your purchase. These are:
Native Resolution
Contrast Ratio

A Native Resolution is essentially a measurement for the number of pixels being projected. The most common measurements are
SVGA - 800x600
XGA - 1024x768
WVGA - 854x480 (480p) Standard definition
WXGA - 1024x576 (576p) Standard definition
WXGA - 1280x720 (720p) High definition
WUXGA - 1920x1080 (1080p) Full High definition

The most common resolution for home theatre applications is WXGA. This resolution will result in a widescreen high detail image. In some circumstances a widescreen image is not possible and therefore a projector with a standard native resolution of XGA is recommended.

Contrast Ratio is another important feature of a home theatre projector. Contrast defines how far the whitest whites are from the blackest blacks. If the peak white value is significantly different than the peak black value the signal is said to have high contrast resulting in well defined sharp colour's. A contrast of 400:1 means that the blackest black on the image will be 400 times darker than the whitest white.

For a dedicated home theatre projector, that will be used in a darkened room, a high contrast ratio greater than 2000:1 is required. For data projectors and some multi-use projectors a high contrast is not required as ambient light in the room reduces any ill-effect that a low contrast may cause. If you plan to use your projector mainly in a lit or even semi-lit room, the contrast ratio is not of vital significance.

High Contrast Low Contrast


What is native aspect ratio? [top]
The most common aspect ratio's are 4:3 and 16:9. For home theatre use it is recommended that a projector with a native 16:9 aspect ratio be used. This is because the vast majority of DVD's and HDTV is encoded in the 16:9 format. Some projectors with a native 4:3 aspect ratio have the option to change to 16:9, however these projectors will simply crop the image to size resulting in a smaller image.

Should I ceiling mount my projector? [top]
Before you begin the search for your home theatre projector, make the choice whether you would like to mount your projector to the ceiling or place it on a shelf or tabletop. Most projectors can easily be attached to the ceiling using a universal projector mount and cabling can be inbuilt into the ceiling by a qualified electrician.

Placing your projector on the ceiling will reduce the change of damage and creates a more 'classy' look. Before purchasing, we ask that you please contact our sales staff to make sure the projector you want is ceiling mountable. There are a few projectors that cannot be mounted traditionally using direct mounting holes and therefore may require a bracket or basket style holder.

If you wish to place your projector on a table or on shelving it will allow you to move the projector around easily and even take it with you to friends/family homes. Obviously once in operation please ensure the unit is clear from dust and that the projector cannot be easily knocked. The projector should never be moved once in operation or within 10 minutes of shut down. During this period the lamp is extremely hot and even slight movements can weaken it. Lamps are not covered under standard warranties and must be taken care of.

What projectors do you recommend for home theatre? [top]
There are two main categories for home theatre, the first is Dedicated Home Theatre and the second is Home Movies (or multi-use). Dedicated home theatre projectors are those designed for optimal performance in a 'cinema' style room. They are traditionally fixed in the one room and rarely moved.
The second category of home movies (or multi-use) projectors are designed for both movies and data presentations. These projectors are great for watching the movies, sporting events, games consoles and even business presentations. They usually offer a higher level of brightness so are quite good for day time viewing or when the lights can't be turned down.

We have included our recommended units in the "Top 5" which you can view by clicking through to the different categories:



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