Home Theater Projectors are Dying

When you say the words “home theater,” most people immediately picture a large screen and a projector. They don’t think of speakers, they certainly don’t think of subwoofers. A big picture and a bunch of seats. You may have the same vision. But I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Projectors are soon to be a relic of the past. I currently have a projector, but I’ll never own another one. Why? Because home theater projectors are dying.

It’s Not About Size, It is About Viewing Angles

When you think of a big screen, you aren’t actually thinking of a specific size. Do you want an IMAX screen in your home? Of course not. They are like 30 feet tall. Where would you put it? The reality is that you want a screen that gives you the same experience as you get when you are at an IMAX theater. And that isn’t about absolution size, it is about viewing angles.

Picking the right screen size is a personal choice. It has to do with what will physically fit in your room, but more so where you sit in relation to that screen. What that really means is that you can have nearly any size screen and still have that “cinematic” experience by simply sitting closer. Sure, it is impressive to walk into a room and see a huge projection screen on the wall. When the lights go out and the image is on the screen, it doesn’t matter the size of the screen. An image half the size will look the same as your massive screen if you sit close enough.

Flat Panel Displays are Getting Bigger

The traditional argument is that projectors are better because you can get more size for less money. That is becoming less true every year. Flat-panel displays are getting bigger and their prices are coming down. It wasn’t that long ago that $2500 got you a 50″ plasma. Today, that gets you an 85″ Vizio on sale. You can find massive self-emissive displays that are nearly as large as most projection screens for the same price or less than the projector alone.

There was a time when flat panel displays were incredibly expensive for anything over 50″. Those days are long gone. Displays have just gotten bigger and less expensive. The new argument is why buy a projector and a screen when you get a flat panel display and sit a foot or so closer for the same experience? Why update to a new projector with you can get a flat panel that is not only cheaper, but better?

Flat Panel Displays Are Just Better

As much as I love my home theater projector, the reality is that flat panel displays are just better. They are brighter and can be used in multiple lighting conditions. They sport all the latest display technologies at lower prices. You can pick up a 4k, HDR display for a couple of hundred dollars. Getting true 4k in a projector means you are buying the top-of-the-line models that cost a premium. And HDR? While some projectors can do it, none of them can get as bright as some of the cheapest flat panel displays. And Dolby Vision? Projectors can’t do it at all.

What projectors had that self-emissive displays did not, was size. They could get very large without having to buy a new display. While that is still true, you are now not just giving up size (or distance to the screen). You are actually paying more for a system that underperforms most flat-panel displays at the same price point. Yes, you’ll have to sit a little closer, but is that really such an issue? Does that sound like the sound of home theater projectors dying cough to you? It does to us.

MicroLED Displays are Coming

We are very close to a revolution in display technologies. MicroLED displays are already on the market but they are mostly for professional use (unless you want to pay many, many thousands of dollars). But the writing is on the wall. MicroLED displays are the future. As home theater projectors die, MircoLED will be the one reading a eulogy. If you aren’t familiar, MicroLED displays are exactly as they sound. Displays that are made up of very small LED lights. While the technology is still maturing and will take some time to come down in price, the writing is on the wall.

MicroLED displays will be the answer to the very large projection screen/projector combination. Rather than buy a single device, you’ll buy a number of MicroLED panels that can be used in conjunction to create a single large image. Think of how people put four displays together to create one larger screen. But these MicroLED panels will blend seamlessly together. Want a 110″ screen? They’ll have a solution for that. Want a 125″ screen? That too. And while home theater projectors max out at about 135″ before they start to lose too much brightness, the MicroLED screen will have no such limitations. Because it isn’t relying on reflected light.

On top of that, MicroLED displays don’t have to all have the same resolution. If you are sitting 15 feet away, you could get one that was less expensive with fewer lights. The perceived resolution would be no different from your seat. While we don’t know if this will be an option, it certainly is a possibility.

We are oversimplifying a bit. There are, for sure, technological hurdles that still need to be overcome with MicroLED displays. But that was also the case with LCD, Plasma, and OLED displays. Given enough time and financial incentive and companies will find a way to make it work.

So, do you own a projector? Do you see yourself buying another one in the future or switching to a flat panel display? Let us know in the comments!

3 Comments on Home Theater Projectors are Dying

  1. R Davis

    I thought this was a very eye-opening article. I might still buy one more projector in the near future (the current one I’m using is from 2013!) but indeed that might be the last one for me. I assume this move to MicroLED will also impact the screen manufacturing companies.

  2. jack

    Another great article Tom,

    You forgot to mention sound though… the main advantage you’ll lose going to emissive solutions is the option to put the speakers behind the screen. This isn’t as important for smaller viewing angle TV viewing, but folks that like a large screen/viewing angle start to make significant compromise with speaker placement, especially the center. You can go phantom center as you always point out, unless you have a wider seating arrangement. That will be the area that keeps me in a projector setup for a while…

  3. Nicco

    Couldn’t agree more. When redesigning my space, I went with an 83” A90J after debating the pros and cons, and it really came down to what you highlighted above: compromise pq, and display tech, all for the sake of viewing a foot further… yeah not worth it.

    I switched from a 120” pj setup and will never go back. These large self emissive displays add another lever to the experience with HDR/Dolby Vision too.

    My friend just replaced his pj with the 100” Sony x92j.

    You’re absolutely correct…pjs are a relic and are really hard to justify now

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