What is the difference between a projector for the home, and a home theater projector, and what should we call them?
There are two different types of projectors for home consumer use. One is the classic "home theater projector." This is traditionally for very large screen use (as large a screen as you can manage in your viewing room), and it is for viewing in the dark, like a movie theater. People often go to great lengths to optimize the viewing conditions of the room, blocking out all ambient light and darkening the walls, floors, ceilings, and so on. For those of us who like to see video and film at its most pristine, it is simply understood that these viewing room refinements are required and we do it gladly in quest of the perfect picture.
But there are millions of folks who love the idea of a projector and big screen image and yet don't want to go to the trouble and expense to chase visual perfection. They want a multi-purpose big picture for movies, television, sports programming, gaming, and Internet. They want to run with a bit of light in the room, and they are plenty happy with their light colored walls, carpets and white ceilings. They want a fun, bright picture to watch without worrying themselves silly about black levels and dynamic range. And for many of these folks, even the phrase "home theater" sounds like stuffy nonsense for the wacky videophile crowd.
These two different types of consumers represent two completely different markets for home projectors. We've not done enough to distinguish them formally, for different types of projectors are required for each. Classic home theater projectors maximize contrast at the expense of lumen output. These days they are pretty much all 1080p resolution, and none of them have audio on board since the home theater videophile will always have a surround sound system.
Meanwhile, a product like the new Epson Home Cinema 710 HD is targeted entirely at the non-home theater market. It is 2800 lumens, widescreen format 1280x720, and dirt cheap at $600 and change. It is meant to be used as a multi-purpose home projector by people who don't want to spend the time and money to outfit a formal home theater. In Bill's latest review of the Epson 710 HD, he makes the point that this is not a home theater projector by referring to it as a home entertainment projector. And that may be the best description for it, except that it is a mouthful.
Regardless of what we call it, the "non-home theater" home entertainment projector is an emerging market being targeted by several projector manufacturers, and most aggressively by Epson, Panasonic and Optoma. So we need to distinguish them as a separate group of products with their own Top Ten lists and their own editorial focus. We might call them home projectors, or home entertainment projectors, or multi-purpose consumer projectors....or what? If you've got a suggestion as to what we should call projectors built for the mass consumer home market, drop us a note or comment below.
Meanwhile, we will put our minds to creating a separate category on ProjectorCentral so those of you who are specifically interested in this type of projector will be able to find them more easily.