When it comes to home cinema, sometimes bigger really is always better

i Richard Stevenson explains why an initial plan to upgrade his 1080p projector to a mega-size 4K TV has instead resulted in a larger projector screen...

Size matters when it comes to home cinema. That relates to the screen, the sound, the popcorn cup and even your seating of choice. (Move over Lay-Z-Boy, because a local company has started importing massive 35-point massage chairs with heating function, fully electronic adjustment, and padding so deep it looks like your chair is wearing 
a fat suit. I digress).

Not too long ago I was toying with the idea of potentially downsizing my screen. Based on the lowering cost of 4K TV acreage, I figured my next projector upgrade could well be a TV of around 80in, even though my PJ screen packs a good imperial foot more diagonal scale.

A TV would be much brighter, making it easier 
to faff with menus when the lights are on, and reducing the chance of knocking over my drink 
when they are not. They offer a better contrast ratio, greater colour volume and no fan noise to deal with, or at least drown out with heroic use of the AVR volume control. Then there are a TV’s built-in services like Netflix and Prime Video, saving on additional source components and cross-ceiling HDMI runs that you can measure in furlongs.

So, a bigscreen 4K TV makes more sense than 
a new 4K projector. Or does it?

Sizing up the competition
The cracks in my theory emerged when I looked 
at my budget for a 4K upgrade in the cinema room. While £3,000 is still a huge chunk of cash for a 4K TV, it doesn’t get you far up the performance ladder where 80in+ models are concerned. A trip to a retailer to view an 85in set in my price range revealed distinctly B-movie image quality. Local dimming issues made it look backlit by a bunch of boy scouts with torches, and scaling from HD to 4K didn't dazzle either, leaving even the curvaceous Fiona Bruce looking like a Minecraft character.

Back at home empty-handed, I considered reconfiguring the room but after 16 years of twiddling and tweaking, it’s not going to happen without planning permission and a JCB. To compound 
the issue, large floorstanding stereo speakers requiring plenty of space from the side walls for best performance limit any screen width to about 2.2m wide. That is about 92in diagonal, given a couple 
of inches of screen frame. Any larger and we get stereo tweeter pod shadows on screen.

Yet as the multichannel and music systems are separate, I realised I could put the stereo speakers on wheeled dollies and simply roll them out of the way for movie night. I will probably get excommunicated from the hi-fi club for using wheels rather than spikes, but it works. And doing this opened up 
the viewing angle to accommodate a much more ambitious projector screen. I settled on 110in diagonal.

Still using my old 1080p JVC D-ILA projector 
for the time being, this new screen is notably more engaging than the previous 92in model, and it soaks up more of my peripheral vision. In a fully darkened room my setup has all the punch, colour and contrast I could want from a home movie experience. 
If not resolution, obviously.

Cinema night has regained its magic at the Stevenson ranch. Huge-screen viewing in a dark environment with 7.2.4 audio makes for a special event in its own right, something to look forward to and an experience to savour. Had I gone for an 80in TV in the cinema room, would it have been such 
a different experience from simply watching the 65-incher in the lounge? I suspect not...

This column first appeared in HCC #316, December 2020.