Quick disclaimer before we dive into this topic. This will not be a technical post at all. This is just a very basic answer to a very common question. With that in mind, lets answer the question.
Usually with ‘Which is Better’ posts, we talk about Application, Budget and User experience. We’re going to depart a bit from that format for this topic. Application and budget certainly apply, but it’s really about the user experience.
First, A Little Back Story
When we first got into the space, I told everyone to go TV over projection. I just couldn’t get excited about projection, but I really hadn’t had much experience with projection.
Then I went to an industry convention and sat through a presentation from Epson on projection. I’ve never been the same since. I LOVE projection, and think every home needs at least one room of projection.
When you watch a movie, you want the experience to be immersive. Meaning you want the movie to draw you in, help you forget about everything else that’s happening in your life, and just enjoy the movie.
With Projection, the larger screens reach all the way out to your peripheral vision, and really draw your eyes into the movie. Combine that with a good surround experience and you really get lost in the movie.
We experience this at the Cinema and don’t think any thing of it. The first time you experience it in your home, you’ll never want to go back. So for me, if you are big movie watchers, you have to have projection.
Look, this is an emotional thing. It’s about the experience. It’s about sharing a moment with family and friends. Screaming when your team wins the big game, or huddling together to watch the new scary movie. Yes the 80″ flatscreen is probably going to be a sharper picture, but the 150″ projection screen is going to give you the experience you want.
Sports and Live TV
If you’re plan is to watch sports, and live television, than the flatscreen may be a good fit for you. I still like projection for major events like the Super Bowl, or the Masters. On a 150″ screen, Michael Phelps starts to look life size swimming to his next gold medal. But… under most circumstances you’re going to be watching sports and live tv in your game room, a multi purpose room, or your Great Room.
In these locations it makes sense to have a flat screen TV. One of our favorite installs was a remodel in Eagle, Idaho. The Client didn’t have a dedicate theater, and his preferred media room was the great room. He elected to go with an 90″ Sharp Flatscreen TV. It looks amazing, and he loves it. He also has a banging Surround sound in that room, but projection just didn’t make sense for the application.
We’re seeing a huge trend right now for open themed theaters. Clients always wonder if it’s better to use a flat screen because of the ambient lighting. I still prefer a projector and screen. Today you can do a lot to counter the ambient light in the room. There’s window treatments you can use, special screens with ambient light rejecting capabilities, and projectors with higher light out put to counter the ambient light. Yes, this means the color won’t be as sharp as a flatscreen. Unless you have a well trained eye, it’s doubtful you’ll notice too much. It’s the Costco effect, which we’ll discuss here in a second.
Hybrid Media Rooms
Less common, but still popular are the hybrid setups. On occasion clients will install projection for the 150″ screen, and then hang flat screen TV’s on either side of the screen for gaming, or live tv events.
A similar application is with open room theater concepts. Clients will often have a TV just outside the theater. This surprises clients at first, but it’s common to have kiddos watching a movie in the theater, while you’re watching live TV in the adjacent room.
This can also be great for parties, and live events like the Super Bowl. You have the theater where the diehard fans can get lost in the game. Then folks who are just there for social activities can sit and chat, but keep an eye on the flatscreen for highlights.
The Costco Effect
My brother Greg, and mentor in the space, shared this analogy with me when I was new. When you’re at Costco looking at TVs side by side, you notice that one TV looks better than the other. When you get the TV setup at home, you won’t know the difference.
If I play a projector side by side with a flatscreen TV, you’ll likely notice the TV screen is sharper. But in your home, you’re not going to have the projector running right next to the TV. And it’s going to look pretty darn amazing.
So, Which is Better?
Lets be real. If you compare a flatscreen side by side with a projector, the TV is going to look sharper. I just don’t think there’s any getting around that. I’m happy for someone to show me I’m wrong, but I think that’s the reality.
But it’s not about that. It really isn’t. It’s about the experience. When the Patriots defeated the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, I was sitting in a home theater. We had guest on the main floor watching the game a second or two ahead. I can still remember them screaming and yelling, and anxiously waiting for our game to catch up so I could see.
Moments later, twenty plus adults ran around that little theater room jumping and screaming. I couldn’t care less about the out come of the game, but I remember the crazy group of us screaming and cheering about the game. That’s what it’s all about. In my mind, a flatscreen just can’t compete with the experience I get form projection.
In 5 years I haven’t had a single Client tell me they regretted buying a projector, and I doubt you’ll say that either. Projection done right is too good to pass. If there’s a place in your home where you can justify it, do it!
Matt is a co-founder and lead systems designer for TYM LLC. His smart home and audio/visual designs have won three “Home of the Year Awards” from Electronic House & CE Pro magazine, and two awards from the Consumer Technology Association, including "Home Theater of the Year", and "Custom Smart Home of the Year".
Matt is a golden State fan.