19/10/2020

Why view the big game on a dinky 65-inch TV? The latest projectors are affordable, deliver massive images in 4K—and no longer require a tricky installation

DURING THE EIGHT YEARS Ive lived in my Brooklyn apartment, Ive obsessively upgraded the living room three times. Each makeover came with a new high-tech TV: first a 42-inch set, then a 50-inch, now a 65-inch with glorious 4K UHD resolution. Still, Ive always dreamed of installing a projector, complete with massive movie-theater-style screen that lowers from the ceiling. But each time I do back-of-the-envelope math, the high costs and heavy installation lift quickly scare me off.As we approach this years Super Bowlthe first to be broadcast in 4Kprojector TVs have evolved temptingly. You no longer have to ratchet them into ceilings, or spring for blackout curtains because they require total darkness. Gone too are the days of spending way more than you would for a traditional TV setup (though competitive perfectionists still can). So if youre looking to casually impress friends and family come kickoff, read on.
Whats Changed
You can position them more flexibly
While most projectors are still hot heavy boxes that need to be placed across the room to beam their incandescent images, Ultimate Short Throw projectors are changing the way this technology is used and installed. Meant to sit on a console, UST projectors project onto a wall thats right in front of them. No more running a cable across a room to a complex installation spot.
The VAVA 4K Ultra Short Throw Laser Projector ($3,499, vava.com) will fire up a 150-inch, 6,000 lumens, 4K image while sitting just a few inches from the wall. Plus, it has three fans for temperature control and offers
Netflix
and other streaming apps for download.
The latest UST projectors also sound good. Most ceiling-mounted projectors need to be wired for sound, but the VAVA (situated in front of you, not behind) doubles as a soundbar, blasting the games play-by-play back at you with acoustics designed by Harman Kardon.
Theyre no longer dim bulbs
Youre not constrained to projecting shows in pitch darkness anymore. Many projectors now use lasers and digital light projection tech that creates flat-screen-like images, delivering enough brightness and contrast to let you watch a game on a sunny afternoon. Pair a cutting-edge projector with a good screen (see sidebar, Game On) and youll be adequately set up for less than youd think.
While not at all cheap, LGs Laser Smart Home Theater CineBeam Projector ($5,600, lg.com) projects a 120-inch, 4K image bright enough to be seen even with the blinds open. Its built-in Google Assistant lets you connect it to smart home devices.
Prices have plunged
According to data analysis company Thinknum, which tracks retail prices across dozens of online retailers, the average price of projectors sold at
Best Buy
has dropped from an average of $1,300 in 2018 to just $800 today.
Prices of higher-end projectors have dipped too. For $2,000, you can pick up the Xiaomi Mi Laser Ultra-Short-Throw Projector (mi.com), which has smart TV tech built in and can produce a 5,000 lumen, high-def image that scales up to 150 inches.
What Hasnt
You still get a disappearing TV
While these devices project bigger and brighter images, one of their key advantages remains intact: Your TV vanishes as soon as you kill the power. No more 65-inch black rectangles dominating your otherwise chic living room, no more arbitrary yule logs or music videos unfolding on that box just so the light isnt sucked out of your party. Now that you dont have to mount the projectors, they can be hidden away too.
Theyre still compatible with most tech
A bit more good news: Projectors come complete with HDMI ports and HDR imaging and can connect to Wi-Fi, smartphones and Bluetooth headphones (should loved ones be asleep). And fret not, gamers: The latest PS4 Pro will plug right in without a hassle. Its no longer a project to own a projector.
GAME ON / THE BEST SURFACES FOR BEAMING IMAGES
Plain Old Pain
No need for a screen if you have a big, empty wall, matte white paint and a confident brush stroke. Uniformity and flatness are key when rolling on coats of
Sherwin Williamss
ProClassic Extra White. From $78 per gallon, sherwin-williams.com
Portable Pull-Down
Beyond delivering a giant image, a projectors other selling point is its portability. Want to take the party outside? Unroll this 75-inch Insignia screen, which sits atop a lightweight tripod, and youre good to go. $120, bestbuy.com
Fixed-Frame Favorite
Serious about image quality? Get a serious fixed-frame screen that reflects the most light and provides a flat and even viewing surface. This 120-inch Monoprice option gives UHD content the respect it deserves. $649, monoprice.com
Motorized Movie Theater
Not only will this 120-inch Monoprice screen give you a great viewing surface for a season of games, it disappears into its casing with the click of a remote, turning the living room back into a library. $906, monoprice.com
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