The Evolution of TV Displays
Televisions keep getting better; they are larger, brighter, higher resolution, and they now have expanded color capability. Combine all that and what do you get? An encounter that can take your breath away and bring a new experience to watching TV and movies. However, one of the downsides is that as TVs get slimmer, the sound generally suffers, and to get decent sound you need to supplement the TV with a soundbar or surround sound system in order to get audio that is even somewhat close to the quality of the pictures they offer. More on this later.
So how big should I get? That is a great question, and although everyone is a little different and has their own personal preferences, there are some guidelines that we can recommend. Obviously, budget may play into it, the size of the space you have where you want to put the TV, and the distance you will be viewing from.
Let me give a little background first. In the past, there have been some general guidelines for optimal viewing distance. For example, it was recommended to be back around 1-1/2 times the diagonal size of the screen/TV, or twice the width. However, most of those recommendations were based on older formats of displays and were in part due to the fact that sitting much closer would cause you to see the limitations of the display and or source material. Now that we have HD, 4K, and even 8K, in many cases you could realistically sit inches away from the display and not have issues with seeing pixels. To really appreciate and take advantage of the difference between a 1080p and a 4K source, you need to be sitting back around 2 times the height. So, if your TV is 30” tall, you need to be no further back than about 60”. You say “that’s great, but I don’t sit that close, does that mean I won’t see the difference in a 4K TV?” Well, not quite, but that is the optimal viewing distance.
One of the greatest picture improvements of our time has come along with 4K – HDR. HDR, or High Dynamic Range, allows cameras to record, and displays to reproduce, images that are closer to the way our eyes see with a wider difference between dark shadow areas and bright highlights. Now, couple that with a wider color gamut, that is also part of the 4K spec, which allows the recording of more colors than we have ever been able to capture. Watching 4K HDR on a display that can reproduce those additional colors will blow you away.
“Yeah, Yeah, get to the part about getting a 100” TV that won’t cost me a fortune!”
Ok, so by now, you’ve probably all seen some impressive, large displays at places like Costco, Sam’s Club, Best Buy, and many other retailers. While there are flat panel displays in excess of 100”, for the most part 85” or 86” is the point at which they can start to get crazy expensive. While you can find a decent 85” or 86” TV for under $3,000, some of them are upwards of $10,000. If you go above that size, well, then you start talking about $30-$100k! That just doesn’t make sense for most folks. What if I told you that for under $5,000 you could get a 100-120” image without putting a projector on your ceiling or doing a dedicated theater? It is true – there are a wide range of ultra short throw 4K projectors on the market now from many manufacturers, including the same ones that build the best TVS out there. That’s right, LG, Samsung, Sony, and others all have options for getting that large image, in a much easier to execute solution. This isn’t something most people are familiar with because you don’t see these everywhere.
“So what is an ultra short throw projector? I thought projectors needed to be in a dark room and that they lose brightness over time?”
Well let’s take a look, first, at what an ultra short throw projector is. You may have seen one in your kids’ classrooms, sticking out from the wall, hung above and projecting on a wall, screen, or whiteboard. For years these ultra short throw projectors have made projector installs much easier for classrooms and boardrooms, but they’ve had limitations such as brightness, color quality, contrast, etc. Historically, they have also been lamp-based, which means that over time, they lose brightness, tend to get dim, and produce a dull image until you replace the lamp. Now we have solid state (lasers/ LEDs) that are the light source for these new generation of projectors that don’t drop in brightness like the old lamp projectors did, and they have life expectancies of 20,000-30,000 hours – the same as your TV!
“But my TV has speakers built in, and I thought you needed a separate sound system for projectors as they usually have tiny laptop-like speakers built-in.”
Not anymore, remember earlier I mentioned that the sound in today’s TVs are generally not that great? Well, many of these new ultra short throw projectors have built-in, high quality audio similar to that found in many soundbars. Basically, they’ve thrown a soundbar on the front. Some even offer options to add additional wireless speakers.
“But don’t they look washed out?”
It is true that a projected image will always look better when you turn the lights down. Why? Because black can’t be created by the projector – it is simply the absence of light, so if you are projecting onto a white wall or screen and there is a lot of ambient light, well, you can’t really get “black” until the light is turned down. However, there are now screens to compensate for that: black or dark screens specifically designed to reject ambient light for ultra short throw projectors. When combined with these new projectors images produced can rival that of a good TV. It also depends on what you are watching; a lot of content, bright movies, TV, sporting events, etc. will look fantastic without turning the lights off, even on a white wall or regular screen. But if you are trying to watch a dark movie, like Lord of the rings, Batman, etc., it might look a little washed out unless you use one of the special HALR (high ambient light rejecting) screens, or simply turn the lights down.
As I mentioned before, one of the cool things about an ultra short throw projector is you can simply use a white wall – you don’t have to get a dedicated screen to make these projectors work (but as mentioned above, there are some benefits of doing so).
You can find some info on screens in this YouYube video. It gets a little boring, but If you start around 19:11, I talk about some of the HALR screen materials available. One of the cool things is some of these new screens make it look just like you’ve got a thin bezel TV on the wall.
In short, if you want a first class picture that is larger than 100″, take a look at some of the new ultra short throw projectors. And if you really want to rival the image of some of the best TVs out there (without controlling lighting), consider one of these projectors paired with an HALR screen. Like always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us, and speak to one of our specialists (It’s best to call us during business hours). Also stay tuned, as we will have upcoming videos and reviews on some of these new projectors soon.