You can use your projector as a media player display quite easily. With it, you can play on DVD or Blu-ray Disc player certain film classics like “The Wizard of Oz” or “The Godfather” with nary a problem, even on repeat. You can also marathon episodes of “Friends” or “Arrested Development” as well.
So can a projector replace tv? Now that projectors have become more affordable to the average consumer, many are wondering whether or not it’s viable to use them as television substitutes.
Further reading: Can a Projector Be Used as a TV?
But Really, Can the Projector Replace the TV?
Back in the days of Standard Definition (SD) television on Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT) TVs, it gets a little hairy. You can hook up a projector to the TV, but more for the sake of daisy-chaining it with a VHS player or VCR as well as Betamax and LaserDisc Player.
Around the late 1990s, it became possible to directly connect these media players to the projector to enjoy various digital videos, movies, and show compilations. However, as far as turning the projector into a TV, it’s instead about hooking it up to a TV tuner.
In the 21st Century, where the current standards are High Definition (HD), digital, and HDMI, it’s absolutely possible to turn your projector into an extra-big TV set. A modern 2010 to 2020 projector can easily link up to TVs and mirror them without depending on a TV tuner.
Furthermore, fewer and fewer people are watching broadcast TV in favor of cable or satellite TV. Aside from that, Millennials and Gen Z instead prefer watching streaming video like Netflix and Hulu over even cable TV themselves, which a digital projector can access on its own or with a “TV stick”.
The Pros and Cons of Replacing Your TV with the Projector
Can you substitute a projector for an HDTV? Yeah, kind of. Actually, it’s very much possible. There’s currently nothing an HDTV can do that a projector can’t.
It can play movies on media players using HDMI, A/V, or VGA connections for one thing. For another thing, TV tuners exist, so you can turn your projector into a broadcast TV type of TV without needing to mirror or connect to an HDTV.
With that said, a projector is different from a TV, even an HDTV. It’s much bigger, shadows can block the projection, you can only use it for so long in a day (you can only marathon about 1-3 movies or 3-4 hours’ worth of 30-minute TV shows).
A TV is something that you can leave on for longer periods of time. A projector tends to overheat if allowed to run consecutively. Then again, the main appeal of going for the projector instead of the HDTV is that it can produce a much larger image for less investment on your part.
How Projectors Compare in Price Terms
A projector capable of a 120-inch projection or image typically costs $800. It’s pricey, but an 80-inch HDTV costs $4,000 or 5 times the cost of a projector with a much bigger image (screen not included). Alas, unlike HDTVs, projectors wash out or fade against ambient light even at high lumen levels.
You can also avail of a screen to prevent ambient light washouts. However, super-reflective screens will add to your expenses for sure. No, it’s probably still going to cost you less than a huge 4K Ultra HD HDTV. We recommend getting a $190 100-inch screen.
As for ambient light issues, you can further safeguard your investment buy purchasing $50 or so worth of blackout curtains. Blinds still let light through a bit. Otherwise, invest in a projector with high brightness and lumens (3,000 lumens and above).
Save Money by Using the Wall
Some people will just use their wall instead of buying a screen. The problem with that is the resulting image isn’t really that good. It’s like trying to view a CRT TV by covering it with a white blanket and making do with the blurry (if large) image.
You can improve the quality of the projector image by smoothening out the wall with a sander and then applying reflective projector screen paint on it. The paint can cost you $100 upwards depending on how much of the wall you need to paint over.
You can then afterwards put away the projector in the closet or something after use provided that you have a tabletop or countertop type of projector. You’ll also have to pay extra to mount the projector and have it directly face the wall or the screen perfectly.
On one hand, you can save space and money with a projector and a painted wall-screen compared to a huge HDTV hogging all the space of your living room, especially when you don’t bother with the screen paint. On the other hand, the image quality will suffer.
Space and Placement Considerations
You can’t just place your projector where your TV formerly was since it requires a separate screen to work. It also won’t replace an HDTV in all occasions or situations. Sometimes, a TV is better for marathon binging of shows, especially daytime soap operas or the morning news.
Furthermore, most projectors tend to fall short in terms of contrast ratio compared to a ready-to-view HDTV every time unless you have a dark room or home theater specifically set up for the appliance. You can also get a decent contrast ratio for projectors priced $2,000 and above.
Simply put, a home digital projector is best used the same way you’d see a cinema projector at your local theater is used—inside a room with no ambient light. Even the faintest and washed out of lights will look strong and bright amidst pitch-blackness.
The darkness will provide the blacks for your projector’s contrast ratio, in other words. You can avoid spending $2,000 on your projector needs and accessories (including a wall or ceiling mount), but you’re sacrificing utility and image quality by doing so.
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Things to Consider
You’re probably wondering about which projector best serves as a substitute for a television set. It mostly depends on what you watch, how you watch, and how much money you’re willing to spend on a projector.
If you don’t watch daytime programs like morning shows and soap operas and instead usually watch streaming videos and movies, then the projector can substitute as your TV in the most cost-effective way possible. Just remember to invest in light-blocking blackout curtains.
- Damon Darlin and Chris Heinonen, “How a Projector Can Substitute for a Television Set“, NYTimes.com, May 17, 2017