Business-Class Projector for Home Theater? Deal or Terrible Decision?
Home theater can be an expensive hobby! Especially if you want to go whole hog and try for that cinema experience at home. Home theater projectors? They are pricey! But, while shopping, you’ve discovered a whole new class of projectors. There are projectors specifically for home theater, but others are marketed as “business-class” projectors. Some of these business-class projectors are much less expensive than the home theater ones. Should you buy one of these instead? Let’s discuss!
Can You? Yes! Should You? Probably Not!
You were looking at that price and thinking, “How much worse can the business-class projectors be compared to the home theater ones?” Would you even notice? I mean, you aren’t even an audiophile!
The answer is that you probably would notice. But before we get into all the downsides of the business-class projectors for home theater, let’s talk about what they do well. Other than the price (which can be much less than home theater projectors, business-class projectors are usually super bright and portable (which means small). They’ll sport lasers, 4k resolution, and insane stats. They’ll have included speakers, integrated streaming services, and loads of other “features” that home theater projectors never have. Surely that should be worth something…right?
Wrong. The speakers are useless (unless they are all you are using and then…well…still pretty useless), the last place you want your streaming service is in your projector (getting the audio out is problematic), and the stats are usually so manipulated as to be meaningless.
The Downsides of Business-Class Projectors for Home Theater
The best way to summarize the problems with business-class projectors is to identify how they are normally used. A home theater projector is used in a dark, quiet room where color accuracy is important. There will be lots of action on the screen and the placement of the projector is usually fixed. The home theater projector is usually connected to an AV receiver with a full surround sound system.
The business-class projector is usually used in a conference room with the lights on. They are primarily used to display static images with the occasional video. They are rarely mounted in one location (often taken to meetings) and are almost never part of a larger system. These very different usage scenarios means that business-class projectors will struggle in a home theater environment.
Poor Black Levels
Business-class projectors often brag about their brightness. Since they are used usually in rooms with the lights on, this is important. But this comes at the expense of black levels. They may claim great contrast, but they are usually comparing two different modes (if not completely making the numbers up). With a business-class projector, you’ll be lucky to get dark greys to go with those high brightness levels.
The last thing you want in your home theater is the extraneous noise of a fan from your business-class projector. Since business-class projectors are usually used in conference rooms during presentations, no one really cares about how loud they get. And they can get fairly loud. Not loud enough to disrupt a presentation, but loud enough to distract you during a quiet moment in a movie.
Poor Motion Performance
Again, business-class projectors don’t need to worry about smoothly displaying motion in a home theater setting. They are putting up PowerPoint presentations, not the latest Marvel movie. Read any posts about people using business-class projectors and you’ll find them complaining about motion stutter and/or motion blur.
Odd Native Resolutions
It is important to remember that any display can only put out an image in its native resolution. For nearly all home theater projectors, that’s going to be 16:9. But business-class projectors often have different native resolutions. That means that to display your 16:9 content, the projector will need to scale it. When you ask a projector (especially one that you bought because the price was low) to do anything other than put up a picture, you are asking for trouble. By having the projector scale your image, you risk exasperating any motion issues as well as introducing visual artifacts. Not a great idea.
A Lack of Many Features
How many times have you been in a presentation and the colors are off or the image doesn’t perfectly line up with the edges of the screen? Annoying at the time, but you knew that it was only for the length of the presentation. Home theater projectors will have such features as lens shift, lens memory, and custom calibration modes. Business-class projectors? Not so much. Business-class projectors are expected to be bright and portable. Everything else is secondary. All those convenience features you’d expect with a home theater projector will be absent on a business-class model.
Are we saying that you can’t use a business-class projector in your home theater? Absolutely not. If price is your primary concern, go ahead and grab one. But you need to know what you are getting into with your purchase. Sure, you might save some (or a lot) of money, but you are sacrificing a lot of performance. Is it worth it? We don’t think so. But if the option is no projector or business-class…well…we can see how you might make that choice.