Home Theater

Glenn Reynolds has a discussion of projectors as an alternative to flat screen TVs.  I have been a projector owner through 10 years and 3 generations and am a big fan of them in certain applications.

I have an Epson 8500UB, which is close to the top of their line and can be bought under $2000 (which is amazing - the projector price drop in the last 10 years has been stunning).  It is a 1080p projector with great blacks and color.  I have it ceiling mounted with a 110-inch diagonal 16x9 Stewart screen.  I have one of the silver fabrics (I think the Firehawk) that enhances black levels over the white fabrics (there is a reason movies used to be shown on the "silver screen.")  The screen is acoustically perforated so the speakers (except for surrounds) are actually behind the screen (as in movie theaters).

In the evening, with the lights down and the projector adjusted correctly, the effects is awesome.  Not to be missed.  I have had to kick many visitors out of my house.  Sports are also amazing, particularly in HDTV.

As Glenn's commenters mention, you have to be careful with light.  I picked this Epson both because it is really about the best in its price range, but it also is very bright.  Unlike my last generation projector, it can overcome some ambient light.  I have to have blinds in my den, but with the blinds down but the room still lighted well I can watch sports on the bright setting quite well with this projector (you really don't want to watch a movie with this bright setting - movies are all about the blacks, and to get those looking great you need darkness).

Anything 60" and below, get an LCD.  But if you really want a ridiculously large screen for movies and sports, this is the only way to go and I highly recommend the Epson line -- they have projectors at many price points and they are mostly all very good.


  1. KTWO:

    Is there noticeable sound from cooling fans in the projector?

    I assume any such sound must be quite low since you clearly like your rig. The price fall has been startling but LCD costs seem to have fallen even faster.

    I was looking at projection costs three years ago and concluded a low-end arrangement wasn't desirable and the higher wouldn't be worth over ten grand to me.

  2. IgotBupkis:

    What is the price of a new bulb, and have they substantially improved the lifespan of these? Some years ago -- ca. early 2001 -- I obtained a projector for a business I worked for at the time. The bulb got notably dimmer during the course of a moderately short lifespan (IIRC, about 500 hours... not bad for business but not very long at all for home use), and, more critically, cost something like $500 (vs. a projector that cost $2000) to replace... clearly unacceptable for a home-use unit, unless you are one rich SOB.

    Have they substantially increased the lifespan of these and/or at least lowered their cost sufficiently that regular replacements aren't absurdly expensive?

  3. Craig:

    I have been very pleased with my Sanyo PLV-Z3000 for the last two years. I have my projector in a custom rear-projection setup - one mirror and a DNP 77-inch diagonal 16x9 screen. Over 13 years, I have upgraded the projector every three years or so as technology improves. I have had the benefit of a large wide-screen system for all these years. Only now are the LCD and plasma screens getting large enough to compete. With the rear projection system, I can watch all day without blacking out the room. Of course, it's still optimal at night.

  4. jhc:

    I built a similar system using one of Dell's early DLP projectors 5 or 6 years ago. At the time, the 3-CRT projectors (Barco et alia) still ruled the home theater market. I don't have a silver screen (mine's white) but my image size is > 100" (diagonal). Darks are still pretty good on the white screen. (For that matter, I started with a piece of foam board painted flat white -- and even that didn't look too bad.)

    I've been very pleased with the Dell, despite its being a little light on brightness. It won't compete with much sunlight. So I'm due to upgrade it to something in the 10K lumen range.

    I set the system up for my family. But the first time I saw Lord of the Rings on it, I was nailed by the image quality: glued to the chair. I watched all three movies in one long sitting.

    I'm still on the original bulb for my Dell. The trick is to turn it off when you're not watching it. I have friends who also bought projectors and lost bulbs by leaving them on continually. I swapped in my new spare recently to see if I'd lost brightness - but hadn't.

    There's a bit of fan noise but not enough to be a problem. The only maintenance has been to clean the dust out of the filters twice. When it gets too hot, it shuts down and you know it's time to clean it.

  5. Epson 8500UB Review:

    I have watched two movies thus far on this projector. First was the colorful Disney flick "UP", next was a dark horror movie called Shiver. I projected them against a plain semi-gloss white wall at midnight, where there was a slight cast of window frames , due to surrounding businesses lights (I live in a factory conversion). The image casted was 15' (diagonal, or 180"). The bottom of the image was about 4' from the floor. Read the most helpful reviews at Epson 8500UB Review