Home theatre projectors, a good idea for a Gamer? (How I chose mine)
In a few weeks I’ll need to replace my TV with something “new”, for various reasons. I currently have a 37” TV that cost us $1000 (don’t laugh. That was 5 years ago, and electronics are super expensive in Japan, despite popular belief).
A few weeks ago I went to a friend’s place and we played video games (we played the OUYA, as a follow up to the great afternoon I had playing with the same friends a few months ago). The guy had a video projector, with 2 HDMI inputs, surprisingly good brightness. It gave us the impression that we were playing on a 100” TV. And he had bought it for less than $1000. I was basically impressed, and quite envious.
As I’m facing the upcoming purchase, I started looking into projectors, and what matters when people buy one. I’ll share my findings with you below, from the point of view of a gamer.
It’s the holiday season and Amazon have an ongoing sale with many projectors sold at 30% off or more. I’m trying to decide if those are a better deal than a TV, to plug in my PS4 and potentially my computer. The prices of the Amazon sale range from $275 to $5000, but obviously I’m not going to go that far. I’ll limit myself to $1000 or less.
The pros and cons of a projector
First, to dive into the generic stuff: for an equivalent perceived size (think 70 to 100 inches!), projectors are way, way cheaper than an LCD TV, even if you factor in the fact that lamps have to be changed once in a while. They also have a better picture quality overall, and a much better viewing angle. On the cons side, they might require an external audio system (although some of them come with reasonable audio – at least comparable to what TVs can offer), and will require a darker room.
The amount of light in your room when you play or watch movies is going to be the main decision factor between a TV and a projector basically. In a room full of windows, assuming you don’t like curtains or you like to play in daylight (???), a TV will be the most reasonable choice. I think for movies the issue is less obvious, because most people like to watch movies in a darker atmosphere.
People who own a projector told me the main issue of owning a projector, is that everybody else’s TV now just seems way too small 🙂
What to get? Don’t forget you’re a gamer
I’m now going to filter down my selection, between price and expected features. There are a few important things to consider when buying a projector, in particular if you’re a gamer.
First of all, as we mentioned above, the brightness of the device is an essential factor. It is even more important for a gamer, to avoid eye fatigue, and to be able to clearly see important details. 1500 Lumens seems to be a minimum, but 3000 Lumens are recommended if you plan on playing in a room with ambient light. I’ll aim for 2’000 Lumens
Professionals also mention that a high refresh rate (the rate at which the project processes the input, not the rate at which it displays it!) is essential for gaming. You shouldn’t go under 120Hz, and they recommend 480Hz for people who can afford it. Unfortunately, most manufacturers do not provide that information, so this leaves us with reading customer reviews to get information about “lag” or global responsiveness of the projector when playing games.
Contrast is another essential selection filter for gamers. a contrast ratio of 5’000:1 is the mimimum requirement for gamers, although numbers in the range of 20’000:1 or even 100’000:1 are recommended for people who can afford it. These will help perceive details in shadows, etc… which is essential for many games.
Last but not least, we expect support for HDMI, and High Resolution output (which is known as UXGA or WUXGA for projectors). Be careful here, some projectors are “1080p compatible”, which means they accept HD input, but not necessarily that they will output in full HD.
Ok, so let’s summarize: 2’000 Lumens, contrast ratio of above 5’000:1, and big refresh rate. I’d also like to stay under $1000, and I’ll only keep things that are getting 4 stars or more on average in customer reviews.
With my search criteria, first, let me announce that it is not possible to have a true 1080p experience under the $500 range. For a result equivalent to a 100 inch TV, anything below $1000 is still a great deal (a 90” TV costs more than $5000 today).
Sacrificing a bit of quality, to go to 720p instead of 1080p for example, leaves some room for cheaper prices, but I want some quality time, not a cheap device that I won’t use.
It also appears that in my price range, the 3 leading brands are BenQ, Optoma, and ViewSonic. I have owned a viewSonic screen monitor for more than a year now and am very happy with it. It was cheap and is of great quality. BenQ are a reputed brand, and Optoma have the best deal (by far) in my selection… I’ll get to it soon :). As a reminder, all the projectors I found below are getting great customer reviews (more than 4 stars on Amazon on average).
Various projectors meet the criteria of the gamer that I’ve defined above:
In the $700~800 range, BenQ has the W1070. Optoma have the GT1080, directly aimed at PS4/Xbox One gamers, and the HD25-LV (3500 Lumen!). Viewsonic sell the PRO8200 (2000 Lumens) and the PRO8300 (3000 Lumens)
In general, the difference in pricing comes from additional inputs (e.g. 2 HDMI instead of 1), better brightness (higher Lumens) , or additional features. Short Throw projectors for example (such as the HT1085ST above) allow for a big projection size even if you have space constraints and need the projector to be close to the projected surface.
My Number 1
But to me, the best choice of all is Optoma’s HD141X. Currently for sale at $599, this one is a best seller on pretty much every electronics store right now, and is getting terrific reviews. It does not stop here, until November 30th, Amazon have a promotion where people buying this projector receive a $50 gift card, making its actual cost $549! 3’000 Lumens, contrast ratio of 20’000:1, integrated audio (although I’ll probably hook it up to my Hifi), terrific reviews, and incredibly cheap price: This is the projector I’ll be getting 🙂
Below is a picture of what it feels to play on that projector (from an actual review on Amazon). As a matter of comparison, they put a 42” TV at the bottom of the screen… *drools*
Next step: figuring out if I want a projector screen to go with it, or if the wall will be enough…
How about you? Do you have a projector or a TV for your gaming needs? Are you happy with your choice? Any recommendation?
Disclaimer: the links in this article are affiliate links. If you purchase through my links, you don’t pay anything more, but I get a percentage of the sale. Independently, the research and recommendations here are totally genuine.