Rear Projection TV Facts
Understanding the Pros and Cons of
Rear Projection TV Technology with respect to other large area
display technologies in common use today
For many, rear projection may be dead but for the home theater enthusiast with an open mind, one of the big questions when planning a new home theater is whether to invest in a big screen rear projection HDTV, a large flat-panel display, or a front projection set-up.
Each of these solutions has its pros and cons. In this article, we discuss the advantages and limitations of rear projection television systems as a big screen solution in the home theater vis-à-vis other large area display technologies available for the home entertainment market.
Editor's Note: On December 1, 2012, Mitsubishi announced it will be discontinuing its presently lineup of rear projection TVs to focus on B-to-B solutions and the home theater projector market. This was a bit of a disappointment for many as the Mitsubishi rear projection HDTV solution has continued to provide a valid large TV option capable of a solid picture at a significantly cheaper price than the latest massive LED TVs from Sharp. The whole issue is: Does it still make sense to opt for a rear projection TV within this changing environment?
We believe it is. Mitsubishi rear projection HDTVs are still readily available and will continue to be available for some time from major retail stores till the present stock lasts - possibly at higher discounts. In addition, Mitsubishi aftersales service is one of the best and they promised to continue support their HDTVs for parts and servicing.
Mitsubishi WD-82840 3D DLP TV
For less than a 65-inch LED TV, this 82-inch DLP HDTV features 3D, Internet-TV, is ISFccc-ready for professional calibration, and includes a 16-speaker soundbar for one of the best sound experiences you will enjoy direct from the TV speakers.
Rear Projection: An affordable big screen TV option for your home theater but...
For the 'open minded' home theater enthusiast, rear projection is more than just an affordable big screen TV option.
A great deal of consumer appeal for rear projection TV systems arise out of the shear simplicity rear projection HDTVs offer as an immediate solution to getting a really big TV.
No mess, no fuss... If you have the necessary floor space, either visit your local big screen retailer, or better still check at your favorite on-line electronics superstore to order your rear projection HDTV and get it delivered in just a few days. And once delivered to your doorstep, the only thing you have to do is to unpack and there you have a big screen TV in your living room ready for immediate use straight out of the box!
We used the term 'open minded'. At a time when all major TV makers are actively pushing massive size LED TVs for the home entertainment market, it is not easy to turn your eyes on a technology many consider dead even though this is not the case. Suffice to look at our latest 2012 rear projection TV review update to see that this technology is still alive and much in demand by those who want to go really big.
Rear Projection TV Facts
The only way to be able to take an objective approach to rear projection is to know the facts; more specifically, to know the advantages and limitations of this technology with respect the more common large screen display technologies in use today.
Price: A more affordable big screen TV option
As stated earlier on, rear projection offers a most immediate affordable solution to getting a bigger TV. Things are changing fast with the advent of flat-panel HDTVs in that these also provide an immediate solution to big screen entertainment and the latest drive in 2012 by all major TV makers is the push towards 'affordable' massive 70-inch+ LED TV for home entertainment. One such typical example is the 70" Sharp LC-70LE745U 3D LED TV, which is selling at a reduced price on amazon for under $2,700 - definitely inexpensive for such a massive size LED TV.
Yet despite that this Sharp is one of the cheapest 70-inch LED TVs, rear projection TVs still carry a price advantage at these massive screen sizes. For the same price of the Sharp, you will get a premium 82" Mitsubishi DLP 3D premium rear projection TV with Internet streaming - that's 40% more screen area for the same price. And if this is still expensive, well... the Mitsubishi mid-range series can deliver an 82" 3D TV equivalent with Internet TV for $1,000 less!
Worth taking note that the only TV screen sizes where the latest rear projection and flat-panel TV technologies collide within the HDTV home market is within the 70-inch to 80-inch category, with the only flat-panel TV technology being LED LCD TVs as plasmas top out at 65-inch. At this size range, LED TVs are still more expensive than their RPTV counterparts. The lower price tag of RPTVs should not be taken to equate to a lower picture quality as instead some sales representatives seem to imply. In particular, the latest DLP rear projection HDTVs can deliver solid picture quality, one that not only competes with that of the best LED TVs, but in certain areas of picture quality is even better.
Fact No. 1: A Cheaper Price per Unit Screen Size
If you want an out-of-the-box big screen TV solution that is larger than 70-inch and still affordable, rear projection is the only present TV display technology that delivers. In other words, there is still a segment of the HDTV market which is not yet catered for by flat-panel TV technology; the few 80" LED TVs available start at $4,500 for a 2D TV while the only 3D 80-inch LED TV is selling at $5,500.
Some may argue that a front projection set-up can deliver an even bigger picture at possibly a cheaper price. This is true and if you are planning to go really big, then today's high quality home cinema video projectors and affordable home theater screens may very well represent a most suitable alternative but... Technically speaking, a front projection setup is not a TV solution.
Front vs. Rear Projection TV Technology
At this point, we have to expand further on the issue of front projection, or more specifically, the two-piece projection screen, video projector set-up.
Front projection gives you the biggest screen for your money, and if you want the best cinema-like image, there is nothing better than front projection. Unfortunately, this option is often discarded by many starting in home theater. It is true that front projection requires more effort but probably, the real 'culprit' behind the lack of popularity of front projection systems arise out of a twofold argument brought about by sales reps in most retail stores.
First, there is the present trend that flat-panel is the way to go; this is more than understandable as from a sales perspective, plasmas and LED LCD HDTVs bring about higher profit margins.
Secondly, there is also the issue that large area display retailers give the impression that today's massive screen (73-inch and 92-inch) rear projection TVs always provide a cheaper solution to a front projection set-up. This may or may not be true, depending mainly on the buying option you go for; shopping online generally gives a price advantage, and though it carries its risks but these can be easily mitigated as further detailed in our shopping-online guide.
As things stand today, you can easily get a basic 100-inch front projection set-up using a 1080p home theater projector, motorized projection screen and appropriate ceiling mount for the price of a premium 82-inch rear projection TV or a 65-inch premium LED LCD TV. Therefore, do not base your decision on the misconception that the box-type rear projection TV is always the cheaper way to go for big screen home entertainment. At times, the two-piece projection screen home theater projector set-up represent an equally valid option that while requiring more effort to set-up, it has the potential to deliver a more cinema-like experience than a rear projection TV.
Clearly there is a market for both. The primary factor should be your room size. If you don't have a large enough viewing area, anything up to 80-inch screen would probably suffice, rendering a rear projection TV the most straightforward and affordable solution - as long as it fits in the available space.
Power Consumption: More eco-friendly than any other TV display technology!
An issue that is becoming a major concern among consumers is the power consumption of the various appliances as a result of the higher energy bills.
All 2012 Mitsubishi DLP rear projection TVs - 92-inch models, are rated at 213W and have an FTC estimated yearly energy consumption guide of just $43; this falls within the lower end of the power consumption scale for 69-inch and up HDTVs.
In addition, the latest 75-inch Mitsubishi LaserVue L75A944pictured (pictured here) is the most eco HDTVs around.
This new 75-inch HDTV qualifies as Energy Star 5.3 compliant and comes with a reduced power consumption of just 75 Watts in Home mode and an FTC energy guide of $20 in yearly consumption; the latter is practically the same as the 60-inch UN60ES8000 Samsung LED TVs, the most energy efficient 60-inch LED TV presently available on the market! And 65-inch LED TVs consume even more; the LG 65-inch LM6200 carries an FTC energy label of $28!
Fact No. 2: More energy efficient
Rear projection TV sets consume less energy than any other display system per unit screen size.
Picture Quality and 3D Imaging
Picture Quality: The latest DLP rear projection HDTVs support superb overall picture performance, with a bright picture that exhibits very good black level performance, deep saturated colors, excellent overall image uniformity, and an image that is more film-like than LCD and plasma TVs thanks to the DLP chip wobulation process.
As expressed elsewhere on our site, DLP rear projection TVs use a 960 x 1080 micro-mirrors Texas Instrument DMD chip; the full 1080p image is generated through wobulation. A small optical actuator offsets (wobulate) the 960 x 1080 pixel image by ½ pixel 120 times a second to create the full 1080p 60Hz image. This ½-pixel displacement helps soften the pixel edges for a seamless more film-like image with no visible pixel structure as instead is the case with plasma and LCD TVs.
On a negative note, RPTVs tend to lose brightness and picture fidelity when seen from off-angle; mind you, they are not worst than LCDs, rather they are better off in this respect than the latest and more expensive LED TVs. Many also associate RPTVs with picture geometry errors and brightness uniformity issues, but these are mainly issues with older generation rear projection TVs than the latest DLP TVs; geometry errors when present, are detectable only through the use of special test pattern while brightness uniformity with rear projection TVs is no worse than what you get with the best premium LCD TVs!
3D TV: This wobulation technology also renders itself ideal for the use of 3D checkerboard technology in DLP HDTVs. This delivers superior 3D images that are virtually free from 3D image crosstalk and closer to what one enjoys in 3D movie theaters. Despite that the resultant 3D DLP image is at half the resolution of active 3D 1080p displays—the same as you would enjoy with passive 3D glasses TV systems—the DLP TV 3D picture performance is better.
In addition, if 3D is for you, rest assured that the bigger screen size afforded by rear projection TVs makes for a more immersive 3D viewing experience in the home, one closer to the 3D experience at the cinema than that possible with smaller size TV screens. (More on 3D TV viewing can be found in our 3D TV guide here.)
Fact No. 3: Picture Quality and 3D
Picture quality of today's DLP rear projection TV sets is no worse than that of today's best edge-lit LED TVs; rather in many areas of picture quality, rear projection delivers better.
3D picture performance of DLP HDTVs is also very good and often superior to that of the best LED LCD TVs - with a 3D image that is closer to that enjoyed in movie theaters even though from a very close distance, the DLP 3D TV image may appear a bit soft in comparison to full 1080p active 3D shutter glasses TV systems.
Rear Projection TV Limitations
So far, we have mainly discussed the main advantages of rear projection TVs. However, prior to committing yourself to a rear projection solution, you should also be aware of a few limitations associated with rear projection TV systems - limited screen size, limited viewing angle, glare, poor aspect ratio management, and poor use of floor-space. We explain each of these limitations in further detail below.
Rear projection TV systems come in screen sizes ranging from around 73-inch up to a maximum of 92-inch.
This may not necessarily be a limitation in that the screen size should be dimensioned to suit your room size (see our TV Viewing Distance guide). If your room size does not support bigger projections than these, than rear projection is probably the best way to go even in cases where rear projection TV sizes collide with those for LED TVs.
Rear projection TV systems used to have a rather limited viewing angle - with the optimum viewing position being one directly in front of and eye-level with the unit. Move away to the side and color, contrast, and brightness will degrade substantially. A narrow viewing angle will limit the number of people who can watch the set due the lowering in picture quality at the extreme viewing angles.
Most of the latest rear projection TV systems support viewing angles in excess of 160 degrees - similar to what you get with the best LCD TVs. This is more than adequate for normal home theater use. In particular, at the larger screen sizes, this viewing angle becomes less of an issue.
It is normal for any light source at a complementary angle to your viewing angle, to result in glare - in particular if the unit makes use of a 'screen-saver' (a clear protective shield that covers the fragile projection screen itself).
Glare can seriously degrade the overall picture quality. Usually, removing this clear protective shield will improve the situation. If this option is supported by your TV, then you will find the necessary instructions in the user manual. Otherwise, be aware that this may void your warranty. In either case, keep in mind that an unprotected screen is fragile and expensive to replace if damaged.
A more appropriate move is to the use drapes to block light coming in from any offending windows and doors, as well as through proper placement of any room lighting.
Size, TV Depth, and Floor Space Requirements
Any rear projection TV is literally a large box. Up to a few years ago, these HDTVs did come with a relatively large footprint. Things have changed drastically in this respect and while TV makers have moved away from the super slim designs we saw in 2007 due to non-uniformity issues with the resultant image, today DLP TVs are significantly more compact. You cannot really hang these on a wall but...
With most of today's large flat-panel TVs mounted on the provided table-top stand, the slimness advantage of LED TVs soon fades away. At 15-inches deep, the 75-inch Mitsubishi LaserVue is not deeper than a 65" LED TV mounted on the provided table-top stand. And while the more affordable Mitsubishi lamp-based DLP TVs are somewhat deeper—18" for 73" DLPs, going up to 25" for 92" sets—keep in mind that here we are dealing with massive screen size TVs that would still require a suitable base support of comparable depth for stability purposes.
Take this into your calculations when planning your home theater as these two feet or so, will have to be deducted from your available viewing distance.
Rear Projection TV Speakers
Generally, we say forget all about them even though the Mitsubishi premium series comes with a 16-speaker soundbar arrangement that is capable of relatively one of the best sound experience you will ever enjoy straight from the TV speakers.
So... Do not give any weighting to the speaker system coming with the rear projection unit even though these support a much better sound than that supported by today's super-slim LED TVs. You would not be using them as you will surely want to replace these with your dedicated home theater surround receiver speaker system.
Do not even think of using the built-in speakers of your rear television set as a center channel replacement especially if this option is not supported by your TV. And even if your HDTV allows for this, it is still not recommended as in most cases, the TV speakers would not provide a good match to the tonality of your surround sound speaker setup. More important therefore is the supported connectivity between the RPTV and your AV receiver.
All of the limitations referred to above with respect to rear projection are just minor issues. The real limitation with any fixed aspect ratio display—RPTV, plasma, LCD, and the old CRT TV—is aspect ratio management.
Aspect ratio refers to the ratio of the screen width with respect to the height of the image. Standard television used to come only in 4:3 format; now we find more stations using the wider 16:9 format in a similar manner to HDTV.
At the same time, most modern films come in one of the many widescreen formats, the most common being the 2.35, which in itself is not compatible with any of the fixed aspect ratio TV systems.
Up to not so long ago, this used to be the trickiest of all decisions since once you choose your format, you had to live with it. With the advent of today's high definition rear projection TVs, you no longer have a choice - the 16:9 widescreen format is standard. But then there arise the issue of how are you going to display non-16:9 content.
There are various ways to deal with this, including:
Image stretching to fill the available screen
Use black or gray bars, either on top and bottom of a 4:3 screen to show 16:9 content (letter-boxing), or on either side of a 16:9 screen when viewing 4:3 program content (pillar-boxing), to view the program content in its correct aspect ratio. In either case however, the effective film or program content will not be making use of the full screen area; hence you will be effectively displaying a smaller image.
Pan and scan editing where only the most important portion of each frame is shown with the rest being discarded.
All of these methods have their drawbacks. Image stretching and horizontal/vertical bars can be irritating while in the 'pan and scan' you are giving up film information to have a full screen view. Worst of all, prolonged use of horizontal bars—especially black bars—may lead to ghosting issues in plasma TVs.
With a front projection set-up, aspect ratio is less of a problem. Mind you, digital video projectors still come with a fixed native aspect ratio. However, a front projection setup makes it possible to use a masking system to suit the image source aspect ratio (more on this in our projection screen section).
But for best results, you still need to match the projector native resolution with that of the incoming video signal. This will help you present the full image content without losing any picture detail as a result of the necessary rescaling when adjusting the image aspect ratio.
If you think that the rear projection TV option represents a possible solution to your needs, we suggest taking a look at our rear projection TV reviews update for 2012. For a better understanding of the DLP technology behind rear projection TV used on today's RPTVs, please refer to our Guide to Rear Projection Technology. This guide also discusses other rear projection display technologies that were still in use up to a few years ago as well as the pros and cons of each;
this information has been included for reference purpose. Amazon
offers a most complete range of RPTVs, often at significantly reduced prices. While at amazon... Check the customer feedback to see what others had to say following their purchase with respect to quality, functionality, customer support, etc.
Making the Choice
Buying Options for DLP Rear Projection 3D HDTVs
If you think that the rear projection TV option represents a possible solution to your needs, we suggest taking a look at our rear projection TV reviews update for 2012.
For a better understanding of the DLP technology behind rear projection TV used on today's RPTVs, please refer to our Guide to Rear Projection Technology. This guide also discusses other rear projection display technologies that were still in use up to a few years ago as well as the pros and cons of each; this information has been included for reference purpose.
Amazon offers a most complete range of RPTVs, often at significantly reduced prices. While at amazon...
Check the customer feedback to see what others had to say following their purchase with respect to quality, functionality, customer support, etc.