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Big, Bright, and Not All Business:
Using A Commercial Projector in Your Family Room-Part 2

M. David Stone, February 13, 2019
Review Contents


All this gives some definitive answers to the questions we started with. First and foremost, high brightness business projectors can indeed handle home theater and similar high-ambient light applications quite nicely, though with some modest caveats to keep in mind.

First, they may not come with the fine-tuned video-accurate color modes that we see out-of-the-box with many home theater projectors—of any brightness. But some might, and some might be closer then others. And all three projectors that we tested provided the tools to make them look right. If you puchase a business projector like this for home use for more than $2,000, consider professional calibration.

Second, these super-blasters don't necessarily translate well to a full-dark theater environment at more common screen sizes, where they may be too bright to avoid long-term fatigue in the absence of a good low-brightness mode. On the other hand if you're looking at this kind of high lumen count for a dedicated dark-room home theater, you're likely planning to a light up a rather large screen, in which case this won't be an issue.

Another key conclusion is that ALR screens, or at least the SI Slate model we tested, live up to their promise by boosting image quality in any ambient light—and in the dark—by noticeably improving black level and contrast. And for daylight use in bright rooms with windows, our conclusion is that an ALR screen is a necessity.

We test a lot of commercial projectors at ProjectorCentral, and we expect to review several new models in this 5,000-7,000 lumen class in 2019, many of them laser driven, some of them 4K resolution, and some of those compatible with HDR. Armed with our new knowledge from this study, not to mention our new resident ALR screen, we plan to give home theater applications a little more attention in these reviews going forward. These projectors may not give you the fancy video processing features or impressive black levels and contrast that equally bright home theater projectors deliver. But some, at least, can do a more-than-credible job...and for a lot less money.

Previous Page
Contrast and Black Level
Review Contents: Color Performance Contrast and Black Level Conclusion

Reader Comments(3 comments)

Posted Feb 14, 2019 7:25 AM PST


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Very disappointed in the black and contrast level testing for the Optoma DLP laser projector. With the Optoma ZH500T, 920 lumens is too bright for dark screen viewing? On your home theater dlp lamped based reviews, where most "Movie modes" are a 1000 lumens, that has never been mention as a problem.

Also the ZH500T has a "ExtremeBlack" feature that modulates the laser for better blacks levels and contrast. Why wasn't that mentioned? Was it tested? Why no actual report on how good or bad the black levels are? Are they more dark gray than black or are the better than lamped based projectors when the lumen brightness are matched?

Posted Feb 22, 2019 8:11 AM PST

By bob osterman

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I don't think the article says that 920 lumens is too bright for dark screen viewing. I read it as saying that for a 110 inch screen, 920 lumens gives a brighter image than the 22 foot lamberts that SMPTE recommends as a maximum. All that means is that you need a bigger screen than 110 inches.

Posted Feb 22, 2019 8:41 AM PST

By Rob Sabin, Editor

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Bob's more literal interpretation is the correct way to read this, as the reference here is to the SMPTE recommendation for dark-room viewing. And yes, a larger screen would obviously reduce the brightness.

To Michael's point, though, the comment is perhaps not properly placing this in full context of our overall experience. In reality, we typically measure something between, say, 600 and 950 lumens of brightness on a Cinema or Film mode, the variance being the difference between the least bright and most bright lamp mode. So maybe this 920 lumens referenced would be acceptable, but without any ability on a "typical" 110-inch screen to reduce the light output to something more comfortable than what a high lamp mode would generate. That simply may be too bright and fatiguing for some people.

But I think there's a more subjective debate to be had here about how bright is too bright in terms of a peak-white reading OFF the screen these days (lumen measurements are taken facing the lens). Our columnist Terry Paullin, who has built home theaters for 30 some-odd years, recently wrote that he recommends a projector with enough output to generate a minimum of 25 ft-L coming off the screen and personally likes it up around 40 ft-L for his own viewing. (See his article here.) That 25 to 30 ft-L is a nice target for an HDR viewing mode on a 4K projector in actual use, but may be too bright for long-term viewing in a dark theater with SDR content for some people. But it won't be for others. I also lean toward a brighter pictures, and may end up with a measured 35 or so ft-L off the screen in SDR for a 100 IRE, 18% window (not full frame). For the HDR mode, it can be as high as 50 or more ft-L if the projector accommodates. Of course, you're viewing those 100% peaks very infrequently and the average picture level of most content is well below 50%.

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