Q: I have space in my home for a movie room with a screen as big as 160 inches. Do you think I am better off with a projector with a large screen, or an 82-inch flat panel? I like the idea of a projector, but I have not seen a real good one, unless it is extremely expensive. When I think of home projection, I tend to think of the dim, fuzzy image you might see on a projection setup in a dive bar. Do you have any recommendations and how much a good projector would cost?
A: I don't have to think too long or hard about that one. While large 4K flat panels certainly have their appeal, if you have a large enough room and can dim the lights, nothing can compare to the immersive and cinematic quality of a projected image 120 inches or larger. Get the projector.
As you will see when you try it yourself, they have come a long way, and it doesn't have to cost a lot. In November, I wrote about a backyard theater that a friend and I created over the summer. At that time, I discussed the 120-inch Visual Apex indoor/outdoor screen with stand. It also comes in a 144-inch version, the 144HD, for $259.99 (visualapex.com).
Panasonic's UltraHD 4K Blu-ray players are undoubtedly the best on the market. Their video processing brings out the very best in 1080p and 4K Blu-ray discs, DVDs and streaming sources. The Panasonic DP-UB820 is $499, and though that's a bit more than some competitors', it's well worth it. It's terrific when hooked up to a television, but with a projector throwing a big image, it really shines (shop.panasonic.com).
Projectors with native — rather than simulated — 4K resolution are still very expensive. (Every projector has a micro-display; it could be a DLP, LCD or LCOS. The number of pixels in this panel/chip is called the native resolution of a projector.) My favorites come from JVC. The DLA-NX5 native 4K projector is $6,000. Given that over time the price of these projectors undoubtedly will go down and quality probably will go up, you may want to start with something that is more modestly priced. You can always upgrade to a native 4K projector later.
I think the best way to go is the $579 Optoma HD27HDR 1080p projector. Although it is a 1080p projector, you get some of the benefits from 4K television technology in that it can also display HDR (high dynamic range) information. HDR provides better, deeper color. If you feed it a 4K HDR signal, it will project the image in 1080p, but with HDR. Many 4K streaming sources as well as UltraHD 4K Blu-ray Discs contain this HDR information.
The images from the HD27HDR look incredibly good, especially from 4K Blu-ray. Even 1080p Blu-ray without HDR looks spectacularly smooth, sharp and colorful. If you, like the letter writer, think of affordable projection as something fuzzy and dim, trust me when I tell you that it is a whole new world (optoma.com).
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.