Home entertainment has become a big business. In the USA, for example, home entertainment is reported to be the fastest-growing segment of the consumer electronic market.
The fact is that 2011 is a great year to be a media nut because display technologies have matured at a rapid pace, hardware prices have plummeted and there is so much to choose from in the form of TV shows, movies and games.
THX, the sound standard developed by famous director George Lucas, has, for example, set the standard for surround sound and is widely supported by the majority of equipment manufacturers for life-like surround sound.
All of a sudden, the idea of a home cinema becomes much more of a reality and, let’s not kid ourselves, that’s something people all wished they had when they were kids (unless their parents were big Hollywood stars or other equally over-paid celebrities).
The biggest challenge consumers are going to face when setting up a home cinema will be selecting a screen, because naturally it’s all about the screen. Do users want to go the whole hog with a wide screen projector or will they settle for a large LED TV?
There are benefits and pitfalls to both, as with anything in the world. But one thing is for sure, the technology chosen to view favourite TV shows or movies must be the absolute best that users can afford.
LED (or light emitting diode) back lit televisions seem to be all the rage at the moment. They’re quickly replacing traditional back lit LCD TVs as the display of choice for lounges and TV rooms worldwide.
There is a very common misconception amongst consumers – and manufacturers are partly to blame for this – that LED TVs are vastly different from the LCD TVs that they are quickly replacing on store shelves.
LED TVs are essentially LCD TVs that use a different type of back light (made up of hundreds of LED lights), as opposed to traditional LCD TVs, which use a type of fluorescent lamp.
LED TVs are therefore able to give users a brighter image, a higher contrast ratio (up to 500,000:1) and are thinner and lighter than LCD TVs.
While the colours on an LED TV might appear brighter, and blacks will be truly black, as opposed to dark grey, the actual picture quality difference is minimal compared to a mid-to-high-end LCD TV.
The down side to LED TVs is that they are still relatively expensive in relation to LCD TVs, and often cheaper LED TV models lack features such as faster refresh rates, which often places them below equivalent LCD TVs.
A picture on a 100Hz LCD TV, for argument’s sake, will have much smoother motion than a 60Hz LED TV. This will be made very apparent when there’s a lot of action on the screen or when watching sports matches – consumers will notice “ghosting”, or a delayed shadow as a character moves quickly from one point on the screen to another.
But the technology is improving. LED TVs are great all-rounders for sport, movies, normal TV and gaming. The only limitation is the size of the screen.
Also, don’t be fooled about thinner LED TVs that cost less. They are, in all likelihood, TVs that are only edge illuminated meaning that the LED back lights are only placed on the outer edge of the panel.
The more expensive and higher quality units will have total back panel LED illumination making them brighter, clearer and producing an all round better picture.
When users buy a 42” LED TV and unbox it, they’ll be amazed at just how big the screen is, and will probably second-guess themselves for having purchased such a big TV.
However, looks can be deceiving, particularly if they mount the LED TV on a large wall in a TV room. That 42” TV will quickly “shrink” when there’s a large area around it, which brings up the very valid question: how big is big enough?
The general rule of thumb is that users measure screen size by the distance between where it will be situated and where they sit. One school of thought would suggest screen size should be ten inches per metre.
So, if viewers sit three metres from the screen, they should look at a 30” – 37” screen. Four metres equals 40” – 42” and so on.
Lucasfilm’s THX, on the other hand, would suggest that users should be able to fill their peripheral vision with screen when focussing on the centre point of the screen from the seated position.
The bottom line is that the bigger the TV room is, the more expensive it’s going to be to get the full experience of having a great home theatre if looking at LED TVs.
Users can have the best sound system in the world, but if they’re watching a screen that’s lost on an enormous wall, it’s really pointless isn’t it?
Enter the 3LCD projector
Imagine being able to have all the benefits of an LED TV and never having to worry about screen size. That’s the value of investing in a home cinema projector, with the ability to project high definition content onto a surface of anywhere from 30” right up to 300”.
3LCD technology is the most popular projector technology available on the market making up more than 69% of all projectors sold worldwide.
3LCD projectors pass light through LCDs, about the size of a R5 coin, and then use the projector’s lens to expand the smaller detail in an image projected onto a screen or treated wall. This gives 3LCD projectors the ability to project a clear image, showing more detail and allowing for smoother motion on-screen.
3LCD technology takes colour differentiation to another level, resulting in a faithful reproduction of subtle colour changes in a projected image. These projectors are less likely to encounter “dither noise”, or an unnatural gradient of colour change brought on by a limited colour palette, which presents much more natural-looking images on-screen.
So, amazing visuals, great picture quality and a variable screen size of up to 300”? What’s the catch? This solution probably costs a fortune right? It can, but it doesn’t have to.
A high-end brand name 55” LED TV can easily cost consumers anywhere from R25,000 to R75,000 for the latest models.
But they’re still only limited to 55” side illuminated TV. Anything bigger, and users are looking at spending hundreds of thousands of rands for a TV, and they’ll still be going to be going to the movies.
By contrast, Epson’s EH-DM3 projector, an all-in-one portable HD-Ready home entertainment projector that delivers great picture quality – comparable with a high-end LED TV – starts at around R6,999.00 and gives users the ability to have up to a 300” screen.
If users are more serious about their home cinema, they can also invest in a Full HD projector (the Epson EH-TW5500 for example), which offers the best possible home theatre experience, with the possibility of turning an entire wall into a cinema screen.
And it’ll cost the same as buying a high-end 55” LED TV, but users will get a much bigger screen.
Projector technology has come a long way in the last couple of years and companies such as Epson are continually pouring millions of dollars into research and development, not only in their own products, but also into the 3LCD technology that is an important component in producing high quality images.
Gone are the days of having to create a dark room to use a projector. The latest innovations have made it possible to use a projector day or night, lights on or lights off.
Projector bulb technology is also improving, with many more hours of viewing pleasure now possible per bulb. At high altitude globe life may be shortened due to air pressure (in other words, less dense air equals less air required to cool, which means reduced life), but the clever people at Epson have included a high altitude setting to make sure that they squeeze as much as they can out of each globe.
Replacement globes are now also far cheaper than they used to be and very affordable.
Long warranties that cover both the projector and the bulb mean that it’s also becoming extremely cost effective to own a home cinema projector – and is much more than any LED TV manufacturer is willing to give.
With a TV, when the warranty is over and something goes wrong, the owner may as well throw it away. With projectors it’s a very different story, as every single component in a projector is repairable or replaceable.
So, if users are considering a home cinema and they want to make sure they have the best possible experience lined up for their friends and family, make sure to explore all the options.
LED TVs might be an attractive option for smaller rooms, but if users truly want that cinema experience, excellent quality picture and the ability to dictate the desired screen size, buying a quality projector is the logical choice.