High-Def Projectors

Introduction

If you have movies and TV shows on your Mac you might be thinking about buying an Apple TV so you can watch the content on your television. An alternative, though more expensive option, is to invest in a projector. But is this really a viable option for the home, or are projectors more suited to PowerPoint presentations in darkened rooms?

Projectors were notorious for offering low resolutions packed into expensive and bulky plastic boxes. Today, though, prices and weights have come down dramatically. Convenience has improved in other ways too. Most cool-down times have standardised around 1-2 minutes, so there’s no need to wait before you move a unit. Bulb replacement remains an issue. You’ll need to wait 30-45 minutes if you don’t want to risk broken glass and mercury everywhere. And with prices from £150-£250, bulbs remain very expensive – although they should last up to a year and a half with daily business duties and 3-4 years with more occasional use.

Our test models split into two groups – business and home cinema. The big differences are cost and weight – the home cinema units from Epson and Panasonic weigh in at twice the price, and twice the kilos – and offer a different display technology that displays a native 16:9 resolution with very deep contrast for rich, dark blacks. But our tests found that you can use either type for either application. Although nominal resolutions are low compared to today’s monitors, all projectors offer interpolation. Most will work comfortably at 1280 x 1024. Beyond that, text at higher resolutions may become soft, bitty or distorted, but photo slideshows may still be possible. Note that only the home cinema units support the new HDMI video connector format for Blu-ray and high-resolution DVD output.

If you’re thinking of using a projector as a monitor replacement, try it first. Light output and contrast from any good monitor is much better than from any projector in our round-up. If you only work in a darkened room, you may not notice the difference, although it’s safe to say that a monitor will always be easier on the eyes for extended periods. But during daylight hours, the difference is obvious. Resolution matters too. Monitors win easily here, with 1600 x 1200 being the standard resolution at an equivalent price. So although the idea of a bigger physical image may seem tempting, we’re not convinced that projector technology is ready to replace a monitor yet. However, for business use and home cinema applications, prices are low enough to get good quality at reasonable cost. So which one of our models beats the rest? Read on to find out…

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