Projection TVs: Pros and cons

Most rear-projection TVs offer great bang for the buck -- providing more screen size for less money than any other technology. However the tradeoffs in picture quality along with other issues might not make them the best choice for every buyer. For example, black levels, while good, don't quite measure up to the best from other technologies, especially plasma. In addition, viewing angles are generally very limited -- you need to be sitting directly in front of your TV to see the best image quality. Although HD programming generally looks very good, standard definition images -- not the best on any HD set -- can appear worse when blown up to 82 or 92 inches.

Here are some other things to consider when shopping for a rear-projection TV:

  • The biggest HDTVs are rear-projection models. If you want a TV bigger than 70 inches and don't want the hassles of setting up a projector, screen and sound system, an RPTV is the way to go.
  • Watch out for the rainbow effect. A very small percentage of people can see this DLP artifact. If you are among them, it can lessen the viewing experience at the minimum and make your TV unwatchable in the extreme. If you are not sure whether you are affected, spend some time with a DLP projector in a showroom before you buy.
  • You'll need to replace the lamp about every two years. Conventional projection TVs require lamp replacement at about $150 every couple of years, depending on usage. Mitsubishi's LaserVue TV, however, doesn't need lamp replacement.
  • You won't be able to hang it on a wall. Although rear-projection TVs are thinner than they used to be, they can't be wall-mounted.
  • Shop around for the best price. In our research, we often found large price differences from retailer to retailer, so it pays to look around. Note that the lowest prices sometimes come from unauthorized dealers, which, depending on the manufacturer, can cause problems if something goes wrong.

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