Projectors produce the biggest pictures
While flat-panel LCD and plasma TVs are perfectly fine for those perfectly satisfied with "small-screen" entertainment (say up to 65 inches or so before prices start to skyrocket), if you want a jaw-dropping TV image of 100 inches or more, a home theater projector is your first and best choice.
The great news is that projector prices have fallen over the past few years. Sure, videophile-grade home-theater projectors can still cost $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 or more. However video projectors -- including 3D projectors -- with very, very good picture quality now cost not much more than mainstream LCD TVs and plasma TVs of the same picture quality -- and that's before you factor in the much larger screen sizes those home theater projectors can produce.
In addition to falling costs, home theater projectors have become much easier to use. The cheapest projectors can still be a challenge to place in a room that's used for other purposes -- such as a living room -- but most offer enough flexibility to make placement a snap. Brightness levels have gotten to the point where pitch blackness is not a must -- in fact, many can deal with even moderate ambient light and still look pretty good. While any home theater projector can benefit from professional set up, many now look near-perfect out of the box and/or come with easier to use controls that make tweaking things near child's play.
That's not to say that home theater projectors are for everyone. Certainly, look to LCD or plasma TVs if you have no interest in watching a 100-inch or larger TV picture, and we have separate reports that cover LCD TVs and plasma TVs in detail.
You also need to supply more of what makes a TV a TV. For starters, home theater projectors rarely have TV tuners. That means you'll need a programming source. Options include a cable or satellite TV set-top box or a Blu-ray player. Many projectors have some type of built-in sound, but in most cases you'll want to pair your projector with an outboard home-theater sound system to get audio on a scale that does the big picture justice. Finally, you'll need something to project that big image onto. Yes, a white or light-colored wall can do, but for best results, that means a projection screen.
This report focuses on video projectors, including 3D projectors, with enough resolution to display high-definition signals from a cable box, satellite receiver or Blu-ray Disc player. Lower-resolution projectors are also available. These are best for business presentations or watching the occasional DVD because their resolution is too low to do justice to HDTV or Blu-ray discs. Those projectors are covered in our separate report on portable digital projectors. That report also includes coverage of very small pico or pocket projectors; these handheld projectors are ideal for watching content from mobile devices on something other than their typically tiny built-in screen.
To find the best projectors, we consult projector reviews from well-respected experts, such as ProjectorCentral.com and ProjectorReviews.com, among others, as well as user-written user reviews at Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and elsewhere. We look for projector reviews, ratings and opinions that reflect how well a home theater projector performs, but also how easy it is to set up and use, how well its features (such as 3D in the case of a 3D projector) perform, and if it provides good value for your dollar. Analyzing that data, we've selected the projectors that we think our standouts in their categories.