Big screen battle

Could a super-sized TV really be financially preferable to a projector in a home cinema?

The avalanche of super-sized TVs hitting the market this Summer has got me thinking about that lynch-pin of serious home cinema, the projector. These thoughts go along the lines of, ‘how long before projectors are redundant in most installs?’

Let’s face it, projectors are not exactly the perfect way to view a movie in the home. Not only are they expensive if you want a decent one, the quality of the projection screen and the ambient light in the room significantly affect picture performance. Want to enjoy Mamma Mia on a hot summer evening? Well, you better have the curtains closed or you won’t see a great deal. Want to enjoy movies at low volume and hear the smallest of details? Shame about that projector fan noise. Then there is the relatively short life expectancy of expensive bulbs, high electricity bills, light overspill onto the ceiling and, in my installation at least, picture wobble if your hoofing great Labrador is walking around upstairs.

Not one of those issues would be a problem with a super-sized TV on the wall. Yet the stumbling block has been one of cost. Massive TVs have boasted prices that limit their appeal to Premiership footballers, making projectors the only affordable way of getting an 80in+ picture. But the key mid-price for projectors, around £4,000 plus a decent screen, is well and truly under threat by 70in and 80in LED screens coming onto the market.

In my room, a JVC DLA-X30 projects onto a 110in fixed frame screen. To be honest I have never been totally impressed with the JVC’s picture, even after calibration. My old Marantz VP15-S2, with its DLP technology, was smoother and offered far more natural colours, even though the fan was beginning to sound like a hair dryer with dodgy bearings. I also needed 3D for testing purposes, so had to ‘upgrade’. 

The £5,000 I spent on the JVC and screen last year would today get me some very serious LED TV real estate. How about Sharp’s 80in LC-80LE646, which is on offer for under £4,000, even though it’s admittedly not 3D? Or, if you could live with dropping to a paltry 65in screen size, there are lots of very fine TVs available, most with 3D and Smart features and some with 4K. And, if you wanted the full monty and could spend a few dollars more, Samsung’s über-lush 75in 9000 series ticks all the technology and style boxes and can be yours for under £7,000.

Room to breathe

Now I realise that 75in would be stepping down nearly three foot of screen acreage in my setup. Yet that might actually have some advantages in my living room. I could move the speakers a little further away from the side walls to let them breathe, and fullscreen action sequences would not require tennis-match like head movements from my 4m viewing distance. The screen could be watched any time of the day and would not dim over time.

Okay, with a large room and a large budget the projector route makes sense. Panasonic’s 103in plasma is the same price as a basic Porsche 911 and spending a quarter of that on a high-end projector will get you an awesome picture up to several metres wide. But what will the PJ-versus-TV game of trumps look like in two year’s time? Projectors and good screens won’t be falling in price any time soon as they simply don’t have the sales volume. Against that, chances are that 80+ inches of 3D Smart TV, possibly even with a native 4K panel, might be on offer for no more than about £7,000. So my next projector upgrade will almost certainly be a TV.

Would an 80in screen be big enough for you?
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