About two weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that my 32″ TV just isn’t cutting it anymore. That almost seems laughably small these days, but it worked just fine back when I had it in the corner of the bedroom. Now that it’s ten feet away from the couch in the living room? Not so much.

I have no need for for 50″+ monstrosity, but some sort of upgrade seems appropriate. After poking around and seeing as how I could conceivably get a 42″ for $280, I started wondering “isn’t that about the price for a projector?” Yes, yes it is.

And thus began a descent into the madness that is projector shopping.

The basic gist is that you have to be absurdly careful. If you go to Amazon and just type in “projector 1080p,” all the projectors will show up. That is because A) they’re liars and thieves, and B) Amazon and most other sites are complicit with the deception. See, they’re “compatible” with 1080p signal, even though the projector will downscale your Blu-ray to its native 640×480 resolution. If you’re reading this on a PC, right-click on the Desktop and go to your resolution options and switch to… hell, my monitor doesn’t even go below 800×600. Nevermind. Point being, not only is that a resolution from a decade ago, it will also letterbox pretty much any media you would ever play through it.

The other end of the spectrum is legit, native 1080p projectors. Which will cost about $600+ on sale.

I’ll be honest here: I have spent entirely too much time looking at projectors in lieu of, you know, playing videogames. So here is what I’ve got, data-wise:

Projector Price Resolution Bulb life Lumen Zoom Throw Ratio
Vivitek XGA $299 1024×768 4500 3000 ? 1.6 – 1.92
VVME v61 $289 1280×720 20,000 2800 No ?
FAVI RioHD-LED-4T $279 1280×800 20,000 500 ANSI ? 1.6
iDGLAX DG-757 $234 1280×768 20,000 2800 ? ?
EUG 800 $299 1280×720 50,000 2600 1.2 ?

The first thing to note is that top item: it is an example of a tricky Best Buy “deal.” Marked down by nearly $250, everything looks good… up until you realize that it is not native 720p. You might also note how all the other projectors I have listed there have LED bulbs which should last well past 6 years, assuming you run the thing 8 hours every day all year around.

Still, everything feels like a minefield. How loud are the fans? How vibrant are the colors? Why doesn’t anyone list their goddamn throw ratios or the fact they have (or likely don’t have) zoom features? How does 500 ANSI lumen stack up to 2800 bullshit lumen? It’s a mess. How am I supposed to min-max this?!

So once again, dear reader(s), I am open to advice. I’m working with a 12-foot space that’s extremely light-controlled. I’m really just looking for something I can stick on a shelf behind the couch and hit that ~81″ of bare wall next to my computer. If I move my furniture around, I could probably get a little bigger projector space going. I’d love to hit the $300 price-point; if it’s anywhere close to $400, it better be far and away better than the ones I’m already looking at. Not looking to become a home theater enthusiast, I just want a bigger screen.

Posted on January 20, 2015, in Miscellany and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Projectorcentral (Google it) has an awesome site for this exact problem, with plenty of reviews. All the data you need. I’ve used it to buy 3 so far and never been disappointed. Now, I’ve also gone mid-high end, so take it with a grain of salt.

    Things to note:
    HDMI cables on ebay are great, get one longer than you need. I got a 50 foot cable for 5$. Digital signals rules

    You want a manual zoom and shift. Like physical knobs. The digital ones tend to distort the image.

    Basement or living room type of lighting makes a difference in what you can live with. Lumens are all lies and contrast is even worse. That part sucks. Playing in the dark is fun just hard to do with other people too.

    I made a wall mount screen, 120″, for $40. Ebay for the actual screen, 1×4 for the mounting and some cheap velvet from a fabric store. You can buy a pull down on ebay for cheap too.

    All projectors have input lag, at least the ones I’ve ever seen. Gaming works most times as you get used to it. Twitch gaming (say a QTE for example) is hard to time when you’re off 1/10 to 1/4 of a second.

    Alright, too much text! Good luck


    • Yeah, I came across Projector Central in my combing of the internet. Unfortunately, as an “enthusiast” site, they did not offer any reviews on projectors in my price-range.

      I will keep that eBay information in mind, though.


  2. For this budget there seems to be nothing with correct Image Quality. I think you will have far better IQ with TV than projector.

    The best I found from Digital Versus for your price range is :

    But the correct price seems to be 700$ !


    • For the record, I am fine with 720p considering my most advanced console is a PS3 and most of my movies are regular DVDs. Not looking for the equivalent of an 81″ LED TV or whatever. Contrast ratios are indeed a concern though. Hmm.


  3. I really don’t see the appeal of a projector. I’d rather have a good high resolution / high frequency LCD than any projector.

    On top of their usually poor image quality, projectors are just too inconvenient in pretty much any way possible.


    • The appeal in my case is mainly that I’m not sure how much of a difference going from 32″ –> 40″ is really going to make from a couch 9 feet away. I did see a deal from Tiger Direct that is offering a 50″ for $350 after rebate and that is probably the best that I could possibly do. And it is tempting – 50″ in firmly in the “made a difference” size category.

      On the other hand… a projector sorta becomes its own shtick. And that’s worth X amount. I’m gaming on a PS3 and watching Netflix, so 1080p content isn’t even possible. I haven’t had cable in years. It also appeals to me that when I move again in six months, I’m not lugging around a 30lb TV and making a scene in whatever apartment complex I find myself in.


    • I had a projector about 5 years ago and it was sooo badass. 200″ screen for Xbox 360 and HD TV. Amazing. Sure it cost a nice penny but totally worth it. Once you go projector, anything smaller than 60″ is laughable. I’d totally recommend a projector. The setup is more, but in the end man you’ll be the king of the town. Anyone you know will always want to come over to play the latest game or watch the big game!

      One thing, if you plan to use a PC on it, check the reviews. My projector did not work great with a PC but again, that was 5 years ago.

      Also, don’t sweat the fan noise. Can’t really hear it if its mounted up high.


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