What Should I Look for when Buying a Projector?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by James Zos, Aug 21, 2002.

  1. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

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    I know next to nothing about this subject and am hoping the members of this forum can help educate me. (If my question more properly belongs in the beginner's forum then don't hesitate to move it).
    Several months from now I plan to buy a house and intend to set up a home theater in the basement. I do not think that light will be a problem, so I'm not worried about the projector's ability to work with low-level light conditions.
    I should have around $2000 to spend.
    I know I want a 16:9 projector (It will be used exclusively for DVDs and gaming on the Xbox) but beyond that, I'm not sure what to look for.
    What features should I look for? What features should I avoid? Any advice or links greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Chauncey_G

    Chauncey_G Second Unit

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    I'm pretty new at this projector thing as well, though I have decided that I'll be getting a Plus Avanti HE-3200. I'll let you know what I can while you're waiting for someone who really knows what they're doing to reply!
    Your budget is going to dictate a lot of the features that you'll get. I think the first question is, are you wanting a new or used projector?
    As far as new projectors go, a $2000 budget is pretty tight, from what I found in shopping around (I'm buying mine in about a month or so). The Plus Piano HE-3100 has been recognized as a great projector for the money and now that the 3200 has been released, the 3100 is priced at $2699, which is a good price for a brand new projector. You can find more info at the Plus website here.
    You also might want to check over at AVS Forum as they have quite a number of front projector folks hanging out on their forums.
    As you plan your budget, don't forget your screen (unless you're just planning on shooting onto a wall). Depending on what you get, they can be pricey. I just ordered an 82" Stewart Firehawk screen and it's going to run me about $900.
    You might be able to find yourself better deals going used, but I opted not to go that route, so hopefully someone else can fill you in on that.
    One important note, whichever way you go: audition as many units as you can. If you don't like what you see in your current budget, then wait and save some more and try again. Better to hold off the purchase until you can get something you'll be happy with than buy something quick and find yourself wishing you had something else.
    Hope some of this helped!
     
  3. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    For $2000, you can get something that is HD capable. The minimum resolution I would look for is 1024x768. The WXGA projectors (1366x768 & 1280x720) I think are all out of your price range unless you find one used or a real deal somewhere.
     
  4. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for your responses guys! I'm going to keep looking into this. I'm teetering between the idea of buying a projector, which is what I think I want, and an RPTV, which I think would be less expensive and less complicated.
     
  5. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    How about taking a look at some demo setups in the local b&m's in your area. It will give you a better idea of what to do. Believe me, it is not as complicated as you think and the results are worth it. All you need to do is make the decision when you are ready and everything alse will fall into place.
     
  6. Dave_Olds

    Dave_Olds Stunt Coordinator

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    Just about everything will do HD right now...Even the "lowly" AE100 will do HDTV....You may want to consider the AE100 or the 75U - both made by Panasonic....They are under $2000.00 and LCD technology which has many good points - great colors, etc....

    DLP is something you MUST audition as the headaches, rainbows and other side effects are serious and prevelent enough to drive many away form the current technology. The Plus Piano is DLP....

    Alot of factors must be taken into account in any projector situation:
    1. Control of ambient light in the room
    2. Seating distance from screen
    3. Desired Screen Size
    4. Video Source

    Once you determine the answers to these questions you can start laying out a gameplan for the technology and projectors that fall within these needs and budget. Only until you answer these will you be able to make an informed choice...These answers can either eliminate many options or include some that you might not of otherwise in other situations....

    NOTE: Screen is NOT necessary to start. The DIY solutions of Parklands Plastics & Blackout Cloth - both covered on AVS forum extensively will make a more than adequate screen for a starter system. The biggest drawback to these are the size limitations - About 54"High....But a 92"x 52"" Blackout Cloth screen would be a great starter 16:9 solution. The pros is the cost - about $40 to $75.....Pretty inexpensive way to "get going"into FP....
     
  7. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

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    Thanks Neal and Dave for the continued responses!

    Neal, I live in Ukiah, redneckville Northern California. Nowhere to demo projectors around here that I know of (I don't even know what a b&m is.)
    BUT - in a few months I will be moving to Portland, Oregon, eventually to buy a house, and there I might have better luck. Thanks for the note of optimism about the difficulty of the whole thing. It is sort of intimidating!

    Dave - I want to take a stab at answering some of the questions you posed ...

    1. Control of ambient light in the room
    We plan to construct a hometheater in our basement once we buy the house, so I believe we should have complete control of the lighting - in other words, total darkness if that is what we need.
    2. Seating distance from screen/3. Desired Screen Size
    Here you got me. I don't know the seating distance or the desired screen size. I guess that will depend on the space. I don't even know a good rule of thumb for these things.
    4. Video Source
    That's easy. Strictly DVDs (mostly anamorphic, I hope) and Xbox games, period. That is all I care about.

    If either of you have any further advice based on those answers, let me hear it.
    Here is a question to show how ignorant I am. What is the difference between LCD and DLP? From your post Dave it sounds like LCD might be the way for me to go ...
     
  8. Dave_Olds

    Dave_Olds Stunt Coordinator

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    Further Clarification....

    For 2 & 3 - Might be better off to research some more at places like projectorcentral.com ... Your room size will determine much of this - so might be worth it to design the room dimensions first....After that decide which wall should house the screen - that will give you the screen possible sizes....

    The reason its important is mostly ergonomics. Can you see the whole thing without strain, etc....But it also can determine which projectors will work within the framework...
    Say you decide the screen to be 8ft wide - then your seating would be between 12ft and 16 ft from the screen (on average, you can do more/less). The things like screendoor (pixel grid of a projector) will be less noticeable the further you sit away....etc, etc...

    Number 4 - Its a bit more complicated than that. Would you be using a HTPC or a progressive scan DVD player....With some PJs, you can go direct via component and be fine, but some require a transcoder (converting component to RGBHV - DB15 computer monitor plug). In almost every case, the PJ is better served with computer monitor (RGB) hookup. They are very similar to computer monitors these days (the digital ones especially) and in order to keep cost down, the scalers are not very good.....These things - HTPC & transcoders - take care of that....

    So you have to ask yourself if you would consider going with a Home Theater Computer (do you feel comfortable with computers? Cuz they are not the easiest thing to work with) or like the plug n play of a DVD player....The tradeoff is the BEST possible picture and power VS ease of use....
     
  9. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    If you have total control over lighting, and it sounds like you should, then brightness is, in todays projector world, unimportant.
    I have near total control over spill lighting. I'm using a Panny PT-LC75u, in low brightness mode. The screen, I estimate, has a 'gain' of .6 (yes, that is less than unity.) In some scenes, the image is still too bright. It is, by the by, a 60" wide screen.
    Having now had a projector to play with, I would say that there are two critical measurements from the spec-sheet. To me, their relative importance is... ambiguous.
    Criteria 1: Resolution. Obviously, for anamorphic DVD, you need at least 852x480. A decent XGA projector looks pretty good. Given the price differences between the AE100 and the LC75, (WVGA and XGA, respectively,) its something of a toss-up for DVD alone. For computer graphics - say, Need for Speed - Porche Unleased - well, the XGA is quite nice.
    Criteria 2: Contrast Ratio. Most manufacturers list the full on/off contrast ratio. Few actually list the ANSI contrast ratio. A rule of thumb is to get ANSI contrast, divide the full on/off ratio by half. Thus, a 400:1 contrast ratio is probably close to a 200:1 ANSI contrast. The LC75 has a roughly 400:1 regular contrast ratio. In my opinion, that is the bare minimum acceptable. 400:1 ANSI contrast would be much better. For reference, numerous people in the Digital Cinema world consider 1000:1 ANSI contrast to be the absolute minimum contrast ratio.
    What is CR? In essence, it is a measurement telling you how black black is. The higher the number, the blacker the black.
    Something of less importance, but still important none the less: noise. How loud is the fan? Will you hear it in the loud scenes? Will you hear it in the quiet scenes? Your milage may vary. Either of the Pannys - AE100 and LC75 seem quiet enough. They could be better, but they are far from a problem.
    Less of an issue now adays, is lamp life and cost. If it's a 2000 hour lamp, $400/bulb isn't too hideous. If it's a 1000 hour lamp, $1000/bulb is pretty traumatic.
    In still longer range planning, consider the heat loading and your theater airconditioning. My theater is serviced by a casement-window airconditioning unit. The AC can not run if you want to hear anything other than the AC itself. My LC75 is dumping an additional 170w of heat into the room. This one is difficult to get a handle on... just make sure that you can at least get the air to move quietly. Chilling and heating can come later. Circulation is important.
    Now, something that I've never seen anyone talk about is, if you get a 4:3 projector, and you feed it an anamorphic video signal, how does it get the 16:9 picture? My biggest disappointment with the PT-LC75 is that the projector discards horizontal lines, just like the DVD player would do. If you use a PC, then most PC dvd players will do a real stretch for you, rather than a distortion. Or, you can just get a cheap little anamorphic adapter for your projector... what, about $500? Hmm...
    Good luck, James... don't let us discourage you.
    Pictures of my installation at LCD Theater
    Leo Kerr
    [email protected]
     
  10. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    James, I simply won't be satisfied until you get the complete solution to your HT dilemma. If you are setting up in a basement then chances are 99% likely you can have enough desired space for the FPTV setup that you desire. Just to give you a framework/idea to work with, one solution would be (for a $2000) budget, a 1024x768 native resolution projector that can do HD. You could, depending on the space of course, look at around an 84-100" screen with seating 10-15 ft away from the screen. With the light control available to you, you should have few problems with contrast ratio if you also select an a screen with appropriate gain for the projector you choose. So you see, it can be quite easy.....

    1- budget determines range of projectors
    2- Room. You have good light control and space available to you in basement which determines size of screen you can accomodate.
    3- Once you select projector, select a screen with appropriate gain in room with good ambient light control
     
  11. ChristopherT

    ChristopherT Agent

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    James,
    I own the AE100. My wife and I are very happy with our purchase.
    Maybe I am missing something but your first thread said you wanted 16:9 PJ. Since PT-LC75u can only do 4:3 it would not meet your desire for 16:9 format [​IMG].
    The Panasonic TH-AE100 can be purchased direct from www.pricejapan.com for approx $1400 USD. You will have to pay for freight and any other charges that apply. Many have purchased it this way. As mentioned before, go on www.avsforum.com and do a search on this. There is lots of info to digest. The one major factor it warranty. If you purchase direct from Japan, you would have to pay to get it there and back. I have read recently that this PJ can also be had on ebay for between $1500 to $1800.
    As mentioned before, DIY screens are inexpensive. I am currently displaying mine on a white wall. The image if great! Here are a couple of DIY links to consider...Dan Hanson DIY Screen
    Parkland Plastics
    I use the Panasonic RP-56 as my source for the AE100. The component cables connect directly to the back of the PJ. The picture is impressive. As mentioned previously, you can purchase a transcoder. I own the AA Model # 9A62. Copperbox sells these for $179.00 each. You will then have to purchase VGA cable to run from the transcoder to the PJ. This can be done fairly cheap. I have recently purchase a 25' VGA cable from PCCables . This only cost me $14.55, plus S&H.
    The AE100 should meet your budget of $2000. As you can see above you have a few different ways to get there.
    Here are a few links I found helpful for projector and seating distances...
    Projector Central
    Snaggs
    Collin's Cinema
    Screen Height .
    Hope this helps a little.
    Cheers [​IMG]
     
  12. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

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    Wow. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with these great, DETAILED responses! A lot to chew on, that's for sure.
    I'm going to read over what's been written here, digest it, and come up with some follow up questions (I have more than a few).
    Thanks again for responding so diligently, everyone!
     
  13. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    Front projection is a dangerous bug... once bitten, it's hard to get clear of this condition.
    And even once you get into it, there are serious complications of upgrade-itus. For me, for example, I want to rebuild my mount so that I can lower the projector some more and eliminate the use of the digital keystone correction.
    (Granted, a lot of my desired upgrades are fairly minor, compared to the people putting in risored seats, bass-shakers, and strobe lights rigged to gunshot detectors.)
    Actually, that brings up a somewhat perverse question. How hard would it be to set up some sort of photocell detector to read 'bright flashes' from the screen and set it to trigger a strobe to suppliment them? I'm thinking sort of like the thunderstorm suppliment system that DTS and General Cinemas was working on in Jurassic Park II... except, obviously, they wouldn't be reading the control track from the DVD. Not, of course, that I'd actually plan to do anything like this....
    Leo
     
  14. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    James, there is one question I want you to clarify for us. You say you want a 16x9 projector. I hope by that, you are not referring to a native 16x9 projector (of which there are a handful) and they (as far as I know) are above the $2000 pricepoint you quoted. They are nice in that they use all of the LCD panel to project a 1.78:1 widescreen image whereas a native 4x3 projector (which constitutes the majority of pj's out there) use only part of the 4x3 panel to project a 16x9 image. (1024x768 being typical of a pj in your price bracket).

    The Sony VPL-VW11HT is a typical native 16x9 pj with a 1366x768 resolution.
     
  15. Dave_Olds

    Dave_Olds Stunt Coordinator

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    Its not as complicated as it sounds....There is some research to be done - but it all comes together very quickly. The biggest difference is that the room is more important with FP than other systems. Not just because of light, but because of the sheer size and scope of the picture.....But believe me, its worth it....Its jaw dropping and any of the PJ's available will blow you away..and your friends [​IMG] - The biggest thing is trying to get the best setup for the money....
    The AE100 does work well....I have tried not to push it, but Christopher is right - it will just flat out amaze you. And Leo comment about never going back is very accurate. I dont see any way I watch a movie on my direct view sets...
     
  16. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

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    Okay, I'm still not done digesting, but thought I'd better offer a few responses anyway for the time being.

    Neil, by 16:9 projector, what I meant was something that projects in 16:9, and (hopefully) can take advantage of the compressed resolution offered by anamorphic DVDs ... I don't know how those things translate from the world of tubes to the world of projectors however. Maybe you could help clarify that for me? What is the difference for instance, between a non-native 16:9 projector, and a native one? If those options are beyond my price range, I'll just have to lower my sights a bit.

    I'm intrigued by the AE100 and its price ... BUT ... there have been several posts and threads from users on the AVS forum complaining about defective AE100s that they then have to pay (round trip) to ship back to Japan. It is not clear how many people have this problem, what is behind it, and if it is ongoing as far as I can tell, which makes me a little nervous. With the language difference, buying from Japan can get a little tricky too ... for instance, the Pricejapan website carries this message:

    "* We have started Zero DEAD(or stuck) Pixel Policy about Panasonic TH-AE100 and all of Sharp projectors.
    We will replace (within 1-2 week) your AE100 with a dead or stuck pixel with new units.
    In that case, shipping cost of item's round trip will be your burden. No other cost will be needed.
    This policy will be applied only to custmers who bought Panasonic or Sharp projectors from May 01, 2002.
    Its replacement of defective unit is valid for 30 days from item's arrival on you.
    It does not mean that other projectors or previous purchasers cannot deserve replacement of defective projectors.
    In latter case, it may need longer time and negotiations with makers and our dealers for replacement, rarely unsucessful."

    I wonder what "Zero DEAD" means? If the policy only applies to units from (after?) May 2002, it seems like it is an ongoing/current issue ... and that "rarely unsucessful" bit at the end doesn't exactly inspire the utmost confidence.

    Don't get me wrong though - This is a projector I'm definitely interested in and I appreciate it and all other suggestions made to me here!
    Dave and Christopher - did you buy your AE100s from Japan?
     
  17. Ron Boster

    Ron Boster Screenwriter

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    James:

    Another option is to pay up for the US version (about 300-400 more)of AE100. I'd find out what the cost is to ship back and say to yourself-Hassle + cost="X" to me, divided by the $300/$400.

    As far as a newbie, I feel your pain and confusion. Once you immerse yourself in the process it becomes painless...
    and the idea of looking at a 106" diag. screen now brings you into the realm of "real" home theater.

    I just purchased a Cinema 13HD and da-lite high contrast screen...which I'll set-up this weekend. I can't wait! It almost makes the Springsteen concert in St Louis this Friday seem like a non-event (just kidding). It's a good week.
     
  18. Dave_Olds

    Dave_Olds Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, I bought mine from PriceJapan....

    A few Issues there:
    1. The AE100 had a definite defect in the original power supply. This has been corrected with all shipped units.

    2. ZERO dead pixel warranty is an exception and a GOOD ONE. Most companies & distributors will NOT replace/repair projector with aone or a few dead/stuck pixels. They have a manufacturing defect "limit" that must be surpassed. So this is a VERY good thing. It actually is a vote of confidence by them on Sharp & Panny units. Their other manufactured units wont be convered by such an extreme policy.....If they thought the Panny & Sharp were badly manufactured, they couldnt afford to do this....

    3. The US AE100 has come down signficantly in price and is competitive with the PriceJapan unit.

    4. A warranty is only as good as the people behind it and Price Japan is unparalled in their "after the sale" support. I did have a problem with my unit - they replaced it no questions asked...In fact, I didnt request them to do it, they offered....It was likely a problem not covered by other distributors as my unit was operational, just had a few imperfect pixels....

    I would HIGHLY recommend the AE100 for picture and price. Its amazing. I would now consider a US version depending on the reputation of the supplier. I would *definitely* buy from Price Japan again based on my experience and their willingness to go the extra mile in service after the sale. I would also highly recommend looking at the Panasonic 75U. It has more resolution and is a just a bit more. Its 4:3 but can view 16:9 material pretty effectively.
     
  19. Michael Caicedo

    Michael Caicedo Second Unit

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    I bought an AE100 from Japan. The zero dead pixel policy applies to units that are bought after May 1, 2002. That means you would be covered. Dead pixels is an occasional problem with LCD technology, but it is _generally_ a manufacturing defect, which means you would see the problem right away. This zero dead policy(it is a vendor policy that PJ worked out with his suppliers) is very nice IMO as manufacturers usually have a threshold for manufacturing "defects" i.e. five dead pixels before they replace the unit.
    It is really hard to even guess what percentage of people have had problems and had to return their pjs to Japan, as pricejapan has sold hundreds(maybe thousands by now) of these units.
    I, like others here(including some very prominent members of this forum), am very happy with my purchase and I agree on the "never go back" statements [​IMG]
    On the 16:9 issue. My viewing habits are overwhelmengly tilted toward DVD movies, so I really like having a 16:9 native projector. James, a 16:9 native projector just means that it's full resolution (projected image) is in the 16:9 format, much like a 16:9 RPTV. A 4:3 native projector in contrast, projects a 4:3 image and letterboxes 16:9 material. The opposite is true of 4:3 material. A native 16:9 pj windowboxes 4:3 material(black bars on each side).
    Clear as mud? [​IMG]
    Actually, it really isn't that complicated once it starts clicking and can become quite intoxicating. I was in your position just a few months ago with front projection.
     
  20. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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