Projection TV Guide - Video Projectors vs. BIG Screen TV
Updated: April 9, 2013

Video Projectors vs. Giant-size LED TVs
Which is better?

Do you want to go really big in home entertainment?
Forget about the latest massive 80-inch and 90-inch LED TVs!

We have seen massive 92-inch Mitsubishi DLP TVs selling under $3,000; but for many, these are old-fashioned big box TVs! Mitsubishi is no longer making DLP TVs but thanks to TV giant Sharp, 90-inch LED TVs have become a consumer reality. Do not expect these to come cheap; the Sharp LC-90LE745U 90-inch LED TV is selling at $9000! Unlike rear projection TVs from Mitsubishi, the Sharp LED TV is just 4.5-inch deep — relatively thin for such an ultra-big screen TV. It is this thin profile that makes massive LED TVs so appealing to the mass market.

Yet, if you want to go big, really big in home entertainment, nothing beats the video projection setup. The two-piece video projector / projection screen solution is capable of a bigger picture, better image quality, and more value for your money per unit screen size. Mind you, big screen LED TVs have their pros as well but...

In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of video projectors vs. the latest massive screen LED TVs to see where each fits best. You may also join our discussion by submitting your comments at the end of this page.

Sharp massive 90-inch LED TV vs. Panasonic PT-AE8000 video projector: Which is better?

Latest 90-inch Sharp LED TV vs. Panasonic Flagship PT-AE8000 video projector - Which is better?

Do not buy a big screen LED TV...
Video projection delivers more!

There is no doubt that a big screen draws you 'in' and makes you feel better immersed into the movie action, live sports event or whatever entertainment content you are watching. In particular, enjoying a 'huge' screen in the home theater makes all the difference between an ordinary viewing experience and one that feels more like being in the movie theater. And as expressed in our 3D viewing guide, if what you are watching is in 3D, a massive screen is a pre-requisite for a truly immersive 3D viewing experience.

It is for these reasons that the TV industry has been pushing massive TVs for the consumer market — a market that once was the sole domain of the video projector — in the hope of capturing that thin but extremely profitable market segment of big screen home entertainment. We had already seen huge 92-inch DLP TVs from Mitsubishi, which at under $3,000 represented an easy way to big screen TV entertainment for those who think that a front projection setup is too complicated to handle. Unfortunately, Mitsubishi was forced to discontinue their DLP rear projection TV line as for many, this is a technology whose days are over.

However, the real issue with rear projection TVs for the end consumer is not one of 'old' technology — many simply do not understand the technology — inasmuch as their 'BIG-BOX' aspect with their 25-inch depth. This contrasts heavily with the less than 5-inch overall depth (TV stand removed) for the latest massive 80-inch and 90-inch Sharp LED TVs. These sets have a big enough screen size to represent a real alternative option to big screen video projection in the home, but...

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Sharp Massive LED TVs: Nothing more than mid-range TVs with a big screen!

Earlier on this year, we reviewed the Sharp 2012 LED TV lineup; our concluding remark was that if you want an ultra-big yet relatively affordable LED TV with respect to present LED TV prices, Sharp delivers. However, do not expect some exceptional picture performance, or a superior feature set. Sharp's massive LED TVs are nothing more than step-up LED TVs with a huge TV screen.

Oh yes... Sharp massive LED TVs are relatively affordable, but only with respect to LED TV prices for their huge screen size. In absolute terms, these ultra-big screen LED TVs do not come cheap; at around $9,000 online for the 90-inch LC-90LE745U, this 90-inch Sharp LED TV is selling at more than three times the price of some of the best video projectors available today.

Just take our best video projector pick for 2012 featured in our video projector reviews page, the Panasonic PT-AE8000. This in our opinion is a video projector of exceptional value, capable of a superb picture with a film-like performance in both 2D and 3D. It does not come cheap, but at under $2,900, it is much, much cheaper than the Sharp 90-inch LED TV. Yet this Panasonic home theater projector is not limited to a 90-inch screen as instead is the Sharp TV. The Panasonic video projector can deliver bright, massive 100-inch to 120-inch image projections with a superb picture quality that lacks nothing in comparison to today's' premium yet much smaller plasma and LED TVs from major TV brands like Sony, Samsung  and Panasonic.

What are the pros and cons of the use of Video Projectors vs. Giant-size LED TVs?

At this point, it is important for one to understand the pros and cons of video protection versus giant-size LED TVs. Though we have already made our point that if you want to go really big, nothing beats a video projector — projection screen solution for home entertainment, there are a few instances when a front projection solution would simply not work.

Note what we are saying here... 'projection solution' because video projection is in effect a two piece setup, the video projector on one end and the projection screen on the other. The image quality of the end result is depended on both; in our words, the projection screen is as important as the projector and you have to match the screen with your ambient light conditions and the video projector for best results. No space science here; there is nothing complicated once you know what to do, but more on this in our projection screen guide.

Advantages of LED TVs 

If there is one thing in favor of LED TVs, it is that these are a massive piece of really bright screen. No video projector can beat a LED TV in this respect. If you have a brightly lit room and cannot dim the lights, or do not want to use shades/curtains to block natural light from entering the room during daytime viewing, forget all about this discussion as your only big screen TV option is a LED TV.

The use of a TV implies a simpler setup. Mind you, it is not that setting up a video projector is much more complex. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that in the eyes of many, a TV is the simplest way to go: no need for an extra screen, just connect an HDMI cable to your Blu-ray disc player and you are all set to start enjoying the show. In addition, with a TV, there is no need for an extra sound system if you do not already have one even though there are a few projectors today that come with built-in speakers. Mind you, this TV sound issue is no big deal... TV sound is awful, as is the sound of built-in speakers from video projectors.

Disadvantages of LED TVs

We have already pointed out the negatives earlier on in this discussion; here is a summary:

Very expensive in comparison to the video projectors; even after you add the price of the projection screen, you still end up spending close to three times as much for a 90-inch Sharp LED TV.

Sharp massive LED TVs are nothing more than step-up LED TVs with an ultra-big screen; what you get is an inferior picture quality to that of video projectors.

Directly associated with the TV picture is that these giant-size LED TVs come with a rather extremely restricted viewing angle. Move just one seat away from the seat spot and picture quality start deteriorating fast due to a drastic lowering in contrast. Even when using a high gain projection screen, a projection setup still supports a much wider viewing angle than even the best LED TVs available today.

Advantages of Video Projectors

Unlike a fixed size TV, the video projector solution is not subject to a fixed size screen, or a fixed aspect-ratio; just size your projection screen according to your room size and projected content aspect ratio. The majority of today's video projectors can easily project bright 100-inch to 120-inch projections - even in 3D - despite the latter requires a brighter image for best result to make up for the loss of image brightness due to the active glasses.

A front projection setup can easily disappear completely from view when not in use. A remotely operate video projector lift mechanism and an electric screen will easily make the whole projection setup disappear in the ceiling when the show is over. Instead, I cannot see how you can hide a 90-inch LED TV that weighs more than 140 lbs. (without the stand) when not in use!

Picture quality is generally much better. When matched with the appropriate screen, a flagship projector like the Panasonic PT-AE8000 referred to earlier on in this article, can deliver superb picture quality, one that is a far cry from the mediocre picture of the latest massive Sharp LED TVs.

Yet the most important key advantage of a projection solution is that in terms of price, it provides a much better value per unit screen size, delivering the largest screen size for your money.

Disadvantages of Video Projectors

Nothing is perfect! Video projectors have their cons as well. Apart from requiring a more complex setup - especially if you want to hide your projection solution out of view when not in use, the real drawback of a front projection setup is their lower image brightness in comparison to a TV picture.

Do not misinterpret us; today's 2000+ ANSI Lumens video projectors can deliver a bright image even in 3D. The Panasonic PT-AE8000 can produce over 1600 lumens in Cinema 2 mode; this is not the Panasonic brightest mode but it is our preferred picture mode due to its highly accurate color and relatively bright picture setting. On a 100-inch screen, it can produce over 50 foot-Lamberts of image brightness while still maintaining inky blacks. Rest assured that this is a huge bright image, too bright to view in a totally darkened room. Yet it is still nowhere close to the 80 to 85 foot-lamberts possible with big screen LED TVs when set in their brightest mode. The only issue here with LED TVs is that at this high level of brightness, the black level on most LED TVs — including the Sharp 80-inch and 90-inch TVs — would appear dark gray at best.

However... More than having a bright image, the real major disadvantage with front projection is that the presence of ambient light will lead to a drastic fall in image contrast. It is true that being a two-piece setup, a video projection solution gives you the possibility to fine-tune the end picture result by using a suitable projection surface that rejects the ambient light falling on the screen, thus minimizing interference with the projected image light path. But even top high-tech projection screens will not be able to reject as much ambient light as manufacturers claim.

In the case of direct view systems like plasma and LED TVs, the presence of on-screen filters will help block more of the ambient light present in the room from entering the display and thus, from interfering with the image. Bright light in the room would still impact negatively the TV image but not to the same extend as in the case of front projection.

As further explained in our contrast ratio article, with an increase in ambient light falling onto a projected image, there follows a drastic fall in image contrast - one that may even lead to a washed out image.

So what is the bottom line?

We do not think that the presence of ambient light should be an issue, or rather that it should constitute a problem to dim the lights or make use of shades and curtains to block external light from entering the room; after all, big screen entertainment is made to be enjoyed in a darkened room, and that is the way it is in movie theaters.

Nor we think that a projection setup is much more complex to setup than a TV — it requires more setup effort but nothing complicated.

In other words, we cannot see any reason why one has to spend three times more on a 90-inch LED TV instead of opting for a much less expensive projection solution based on a premium video projector. With the money you spend on a 90-inch Sharp LED TV today, you can buy a...

Flagship projector like the Panasonic PT-AE8000, a motorized 100-inch electric screen, motorized shades and programmable light dimmers — remotely controlled via your universal remote control — all set to close the drapes, gradually dim the lights to the desired level, and open the curtain in front of your projection screen to start the show!

And probably, you will still have some money left to get a few of your favorite movie posters as detailed in our movie poster guide to decorate the walls of your room for that unique home theater ambience, a good calibration disc to enjoy the best picture as further explained in our calibration disc guide here, and a couple of Blu-ray discs of your favorite movies to enjoy on your big screen!

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Projection TV Systems
Guides and Reviews

List of articles appearing under this section:

Technology Guides:

How-it-Works: Video Projection Technology

Introduction to Front Projection Systems

Buyer's Guide to Video Projectors

Multi-media vs. Home Theater Projectors

Guide to Rear Projection

Rear Projection Facts

DIY Front Projection: Design Principles and Limitations

Miscellaneous Guide:

TV Contrast Ratio

Guide to HDTV Formats

TV Viewing Distance

In-home 4K Explained

Smart TV Guide


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Would you like to get the best out of your Projector?

Invest in a set-up DVD!

Disney World-of-Wonder HD Home Theater Set-up Disc: More information in our HT Set-Up DVDs review page

For reviews of video calibration discs, please click here.

For more information, on the use of setup discs, please check our Set-Up DVD Guide