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Home Projectors vs. Home Theater Projectors

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.

Evan Powell
Editor



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Reader Comments(21 comments)

Posted Jun 11, 2014 9:42:57 AM

By Brian

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In my opinion you need to upgrade the categories with this idea. I need an entertainment projector or home projector and it would be easier to find it.

Thank you though for the wonderful site and the help it has provided me so far in my adventure into the use of projectors.

Posted Aug 7, 2012 11:52:32 AM

By Chin

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Hi, any reviews for this latest Optoma Full HD projector? How’s the performance as compared to Panasonic PT-AR100U?

Posted Jul 30, 2012 2:29:16 PM

By Kenny Snowball

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Multipurpose Projector and Home Theater projector.

Posted Jul 29, 2012 6:21:11 PM

By DARRELL

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I'm not familiar with the terminology BUT as a consumer I'll call it any name. I WOULD LIKE A PROJECTOR that allows me to BE ABLE to watch with perfect resolution(TV,DVD'S=MOVIES)in the comforts of home with the perfect screen with easy application to connect to the BIG SCREEN O.K.

Posted Jul 28, 2012 10:58:26 PM

By hemanth

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its living room projector which is different from home theatre.. projector.. so living room projector would be the right word....

Posted Jul 24, 2012 5:34:13 PM

By Kasi Viswanath

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Multipurpose or Living Room projector and Videophile or Home Theatre projector should convey the message clearly I think,

Posted Jul 23, 2012 6:01:19 AM

By Jay

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Any of these labels would convey the message to me.

Home all purpose projector Home multipurpose projector Home general use projector Living room projector

Posted Jul 20, 2012 11:58:27 AM

By Fernando

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I believe the shorter the name, the better. Home Projector and Videophile Projector would suit me.

Posted Jul 16, 2012 2:19:11 PM

By james

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how about a simple TV projector tag

Posted Jul 11, 2012 10:33:02 AM

By William How

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How about "TV projector" for normal not demanding comsumer, and "Theatre projector" for the more demanding consumer who wants to have theatrical effects.

Posted Jul 10, 2012 2:11:21 PM

By Jay

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Extending on the idea of a media player, how about "general home media projector" for the general purpose market (photos, videos, games), and "videophile home theater projector" for videophiles (mostly cinema). Using the word "home" should suffice to distinguish it from business or classroom usage, ie, powerpoint, etc.

Posted Jul 8, 2012 1:49:34 PM

By SB-JSS

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I think this may prove harder than we might think. The two categories of consumers are not so distinct as the description would suggest. I have a very large screen and can (almost) completely darken the room. But I am content with my white ceiling and light colored walls and carpets. I probably do not qualify as a "videophile", but I certainly don't want a projector that you pull out of storage when company comes over to watch the game.

Perhaps a distinction that could work is between installations that are permanent and those that are not. Permanent installations are more likely to involve large installed screens, ceiling-mounted projectors, darkened rooms, quality audio, etc. Casual installations are more likely to involve projecting onto a wall or a fold-down screen, a projector that gets packed away when not in use, no special ambient light control, etc. Many situations will not fit perfectly into one or the other (Permanent or Casual), having some elements of each. But I don't think people will have too much trouble deciding which description, Permanent or Casual, better fits their situation.

Posted Jul 4, 2012 2:46:59 PM

By Charlie

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...Oh, and I should have added LCD (rather than DLP) to my list of desirable features as I understand LCD reproduces colours more faithfully - which is what I would want for photos.

Posted Jul 4, 2012 1:59:18 AM

By Charlie

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This is a useful distinction and I'm glad to see the market beginning to recognise the need for a 'home entertainment projector'. For me, the main use would be for showing still photos to family and friends, like the old 35mm slideshows (which interestingly you have not included in your list of uses above, although I would think this would be a common use - especially as widescreen TVs are hopeless for displaying portrait images). For me, a home entertainment projector needs to have:-

- 1080p resolution (this allows still images to be cropped to 1080px max in both directions - so that portrait and landscape images display at the same size - and just about avoids detectable pixelisation from a comfortable viewing distance on say a 4-foot square screen).

- lens shift - e.g. to allow coffee table setup

USB port which enables JPGs to be viewed without needing to hook up a laptop (i.e not just a control USB port).

All of these features are currently available on sub-£1000 projectors, but annoyingly, I've not yet seen them together in one projector. Come on manufacturers - who's going to be the first to produce a budget projector with all of the above?

Posted Jul 3, 2012 6:26:24 PM

By chris

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I prefer TVRD: TeleVision Replacement Devices. I eventually expect devices like my LG HW300T to be the norm. I sacrifice many features just to not worry about the lamp in my LED unit. I believe that the projector market will take off for the masses when Epson and company include small "Daytime" screens and let the user decide whether a wall or dedicated screen suits their needs for movie watching. I don't have light control and during the day I still enjoy my washed out (but long lasting) and dim image from my lw300t. One day the tech will advance. When it does I'll simply swap devices.

Posted Jul 3, 2012 2:06:35 PM

By Craig

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Our projector IS our TV. Plain and simple. The fact that we have 22 speakers, eight enclosures, and eight amplifiers...means that it's also used for Home Theater. Mostly, though, it is our TV. I think that less specialized (ours is 2600 lumens, so it can be used in the middle of the day with the shutters open) projectors could be thought of, if not referred to as, "SUPER-sized TV Projectors". That, or TV/Movie Projectors, because that's just what it is: a truly MASSIVE TV...on which we also watch our movies...

Posted Jul 2, 2012 11:13:36 PM

By Terry Jensen

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Why not Homevideo projector.

Posted Jul 2, 2012 8:57:01 PM

By manohar

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Videophile Hometheatre projecctor for serious image quality, low lumen, high contrast and deep black level projectors. General Hometheatre projector for high lumen projectors.

Posted Jul 2, 2012 2:46:43 PM

By James Small

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Multipurpose Projector vs Home Theatre Projector works well I think.

Posted Jul 2, 2012 2:42:13 PM

By Kabir

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In regards to my earlier post I should clarify that a true Cinema Projector should be called a Videophile Projector whereas anything else is just an entertainment or home theater product since families use the "home theater" for much more than high-quality movie projection these days.

Posted Jul 2, 2012 2:37:10 PM

By Kabir

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A Videophile Projector. Simple as that. In the Audio industry equipment made for music lovers serious about the quality/tonality of the music is called an Audiophile product. Why should video be any different for the discerning videophile who wants the blackest of black, the sweetest of textures and the richest of colors. :)

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