Can a Projector Be Used as a TV?

Personal film-based projectors were mostly used for slideshows and presentations, particularly their slide projector and overhead projector counterparts. Meanwhile, commercial film projectors were mostly used for showcasing movies on the big screen.

Eventually, the digital projector came along, which led to them being the go-to projector for PC presentations using programs like Microsoft PowerPoint.

As technology marched on, this digital version of the projector went from being a business staple to a home entertainment appliance similar to TVs, media players, and game consoles. So can a projector be used as a TV? Yes, totally. Next question.

Can a Projector Be Used as a TV?

Because TVs are now mostly digital feeds rather than analog ones, you can totally connect your cable box or TV tuner to the projector like you would on your HDTV monitor. This way you can view things you won’t normally watch on DVD or online video, like live sports events and whatnot.

Broadcast or Terrestrial Television 

The TV tuner, also known as the ATSC tuner box or set-top box, is the terrestrial or broadcast (free) television version of the cable or satellite box. It might even come with its own TV antennas or you can hook it up to the TV antenna installed on your roof.

It turns your HDTV, HDMI monitor, or projector into a classic CRT TV with a bunny-ear antenna. Many retailers sell these to supplement the cable box or satellite box subscription boom, although more and more people are opting to instead

TV Tuner vs. Cable/Satellite Box 

You can turn your projector into a TV where you can watch live sports events like the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the World Series, WrestleMania, or something like it. A TV tuner turns the signals typically picked up from a CRT TV into something digital that a modern projector can read.

In contrast, a cable or satellite box gets the feed digitally already through fiber-optic cables delivering the cable/satellite TV channels from a given source, whether it’s from the cable provider’s cable feed installed through power lines or a satellite dish.

The Advantages of Going the Box Route

Some cable/satellite TV or TV tuner boxes allow you to record television shows. Otherwise, you can TiVo them instead. Back in the day, people used the VCR or VHS recorder to record shows for hours on end, including commercials.

Just remember that when it comes to projectors with HDMI connections, you’re required to send in digital signals. If you’re getting analog signals instead of a terrestrial TV signal, a converter is required to turn them into something digital and readable by your projector.

More About the TV Tuner Box

The TV tuner box is the free TV version of the cable box. Even back in the day, it’s better to have a TV tuner or set-top box capture the signals for projection purposes since they convert the signals to something digital.

Connects to the Roof Antenna

The TV tuner box directly connects the projector to the roof antenna, which is usually much more powerful than the bunny-ear antennas of many old-timey CRTs.

You should make sure the box has the correct HDMI input for your projector of choice.

Some have multiple inputs to allow older projectors with VGA connections to connect with it. The antenna usually connects to the box through a coaxial input.

How the TV Tuner Box Works 

The TV tuner box should be connected to your roof antenna in order to turn your projector into a CRT-like broadcast TV signal gatherer. You can change the channel through the box while your projector merely projects what’s before it like a computer monitor using the correct inputs.

Mediasonic ATSC Digital Converter Box with Recording / Media Player / TV Tuner Function (HW130STB)
Mediasonic ATSC Digital Converter Box with Recording / Media Player / TV Tuner Function (HW130STB)

 

The box scans over-the-air broadcast TV channels (yes, those still exist—long commercial breaks and all) for viewing, particularly big events like the Super Bowl and whatnot. It’s better than trying to mirror your CRT TV’s content with its use of a digital converter of analog broadcast signals

(Don’t) Connect a CRT TV to Your Projector

It wasn’t practical back in the 1990s or 2000s to connect your digital projector to your CRT TV in order to receive analog TV signals for projection. It’s the same nowadays. Instead of relying on the bunny-eared antenna of your CRT TV to get the signal, it’s better to go the set-top box route.

Besides this, a CRT TV and a projector are both display devices in need of a media source. Sure, you can connect an HDTV and mirror its content with the projector, but it’s better to just link the cable/satellite/TV tuner box to the projector directly.

Streaming vs. Cable/TV Tuner Boxes

Streaming media might soon replace TV viewing or even cable television by the looks of things. TV-tuners are for CRT-type broadcast TV. Cable/satellite boxes use cable or satellite TV feeds to work.

Undeniable Price Advantage over Large Television Options

Off of Amazon, the largest, best-selling HDTV is the LG 86UM8070PUA 86″ 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV at the time of this writing. It’s worth a whopping $2,000 (more or less, aside from regional discounts). Nobody has $2,000 off of the bat unless you’re super-rich.

In terms of image quality, performance, and size of the screen, this television set should blow your socks off and then some, right? Well, for a much smaller price and a 100-inch projector screen, you can watch your TV shows on the big screen with an XGIMI H2 4K Smart Projector for way cheaper at $1,000 (price will vary).

Mostly Bigger Is Better 

The most expensive and biggest HDTVs can’t match the size and quality of a projector that can even go for 200-inch screens. If screen bigness is your goal, there’s little to no doubt that projectors are the way to go when push comes to shove.

Furthermore, if your goal is bigness then projectors have the edge compared to even the biggest HDTVs. There are many projectors out there you can try out of the LCD, DLP, or LCoS variety. Each has its own respective pros and cons.

Related: How to Connect Projector to TV Antenna

It May be Hard to Actually Get TV onto Your Projector

It might be difficult to get TV channels onto your projector depending on the type of projector you have. It’s easier to get streaming services that run apps on streaming sticks and whatnot. 21st Century projectors are also designed to work with cable/satellite boxes.

Whatever type of box you’re using to run your setups, such as an Xbox or PC, you can almost always download Hulu or Netflix on them in order to stream TV channels with your projector.

Why Do You Want to Watch TV with a Projector?

The big projector screen makes video viewing of TV shows or movies much more compelling. It’s cinematic.  A projector can fulfill some of your TV needs traditionally but not all of it. It can even enhance the experience somewhat.

Why Do You Want to Watch TV with a Projector
Why Do You Want to Watch TV with a Projector

Traditional TV Needs

In the 21st Century, your traditional TV needs are fulfilled by the cable company. You have several hoops and hurdles to jump through when push comes to shove. If your cable box is connected to the wall where it can access the cable jack or Ethernet cable, placement of the projector might be difficult.

You might have to do some cable extensions to make things work. You can also use a wireless dongle to allow your projector to connect to the cable box without so many cabling issues to concern yourself with

A User Experience That Leaves an Impression

When watching films, you’ll feel like you have your own personal theater. When watching TV programs, it’s more a concern about hooking up your projector to a TV tuner or cable box. The huge screen works with sitcoms, news, sports, and so forth.

It’s amazing how all this TV content seems more immersive and interesting when seen on the biggest screen you can afford. It somehow elevates the experience of watching TV to a theatrical degree.

Cons of Using a Projector for Everyday Viewing

A projector might be best used for TV viewing on an occasional basis rather than on an everyday basis because these devices have higher operating costs based on their bulb life. Even LED bulbs don’t last forever. The best ones with thousands of operating hours last 10 years overall.

A normal TV lasts much longer, whether it’s a CRT that persists to this day or the newfangled HDTVs. If you want your TV show running in the background while you prepare in the morning, it’s better to use a regular TV instead of a projector.

Conclusion

Modern digital projectors are not just for presentations and slideshows for businesses any longer. You can now use them to watch TV shows and movies as well as to play videogames. In particular, you can use them to watch free TV channels broadcasted on terrestrial TV.

Don’t connect your bunny-ear antenna CRT TV to a projector because they’re both display devices. Instead, use a TV tuner box and connect it to the projector to catch signals for broadcast TV. Otherwise, use a cable or satellite box to get cable or satellite TV.

Then there’s the option of online streaming via Roku or the Amazon Fire TV Stick to get Netflix or Amazon Prime. Online streaming is technically the new TV. Cable/satellite TV still exists and their boxes are connectible to your projector, but limit them to occasional viewing to not burn out those LED bulbs quickly.  

References:

  1. Jonah Matthes, “Can You Use a Projector for Everyday TV Watching?“, Home Theater DIY, Retrieved February 23, 2021
  2. Nick Davis, “How to Connect Epson Projectors to Cable or an Antenna“, AZCentral.com, Retrieved February 3, 2021
  3. Antenna to Projector?“, Reddit.com, September 9, 2018
James Core
I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right projector.

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