Should I Get a TV or a Projector?

When we are helping a customer design their home theater or media room, there is one question that comes up as often as any other -- “Should I get a big TV or a projector?”

Twenty years ago, eons in the technology world, this question was much easier to answer. At that time, most projectors had a hard time outputting large amounts of light. They simply didn’t look very good in rooms that couldn’t be made almost pitch black. The cost of projectors at that time was also exorbitant as compared to TVs.

Fast forward to 2019 and both front projectors as well as flat panel TVs are getting better and less expensive every year! We can all probably agree that as long as the picture remains clear, sharp, and with natural colors, bigger is usually better. There is nothing like a life-size image to make you feel like you are on the field with your favorite athletes or living alongside the characters in the story a film is telling. Front projectors are even available in 4K at reasonable prices today, blurring the lines between the two technologies.

While we could provide a comprehensive list of pros and cons of each technology, its easy to find these types of lists elsewhere on the Internet and most of them are outdated. Today, choosing between a projector and a TV mostly comes down to the environment and how you plan to use the room. Let's discuss two of the most common environments for TV and movie watching today, family rooms (or media rooms) and dedicated home theater rooms and which technology we recommend for different applications.

Family Room / Media Room

The modern family room (or media room as we often call it) is a gathering space for family and friends. Often featuring oversized couches, a coffee table, and sometimes even a fireplace, it’s a great place to spend time with loved ones. Choosing between a TV and a front projector in this type of room depends on a number of factors.

You can find reasonably priced TV’s today as large as 85” diagonally. This means that it is possible to put a fairly large flat-screen TV in your family room or media room. TVs will give you a very bright picture which can overcome most light spilling into the room from windows or other rooms. Controlling the light will still help, and you may want to use curtains or shades to black sunlight if it’s shining directly on your TV, but in most cases, a TV is a good solution for these types of rooms.


Media room with TV

If you watch a lot of movies, television shows, or sports in the family room and want something bigger than 85”, however, you may want to consider a projector. It’s now possible to get a front projector that can produce a picture 130” or even larger!

While front projectors are still more susceptible to light than TVs, over the last few years, new screen materials have been released that do a great job blocking ambient light in the room. This means having that washed out picture you are used to seeing in sports bars is much less of an issue with new projectors. We do recommend you consider curtains or motorized shades if you go with a projector, as they will help greatly, but it’s really amazing how well the combination of new screen materials and brighter projectors work together.

Of course, this raises the issue of what to do with the projector and screen when they’re not in use. While we are tech geeks and love our gear, we can understand how they might be an eyesore out in the open in the middle of a family room at all times.

The good news is that there are new ways to hide the screen when it’s not in use! You can actually hide your screen in a pocket in your ceiling or in a decorative wall mount. By integrating with a home control system like Control4, Crestron, or Savant, you can make it simple to set up and put away your entire system with the push of a button!

Screen Innovations Zero G Flush

You still have the issue of hiding the projector itself if you don’t want it hanging down from the ceiling. You typically want the projector to be mounted 10-20 feet back from the screen, though some newer projectors work well from further back or have the option of adding a lens that enables you to set the projector further back in the room. Many of our customers have cabinets built in the back of the room that can hide the projector, or even mounted behind a false wall with a small hole cut out for the lens to stick through.

In most cases, a TV is great for a family room, but if you decide you want a front projector, we strongly recommend that you work with experts in home theater design & installation that can help you figure it all out.

Home Theater Rooms

Next, let’s discuss choosing between a television and a front projector in a custom home theater room. These are spaces in the home that are dedicated to movie, TV, or sports watching. Rather than being in the middle of the house or in high-traffic areas, most home theaters are usually tucked away and are often constructed in bonus rooms, spare bedrooms, or in a finished basement or attic.

Rooms like this are usually designed to maximize the viewing experience, and often look like a shrunken down version of a theater you might visit on the weekend to check out the latest Hollywood blockbuster. This can include everything from acoustic treatments, to home theater furniture with stadium seating, and even a popcorn machine for good measure! Perhaps one of the most important aspects of a theater room is the ability to completely control the light. As you can guess, there is a reason theaters don’t have windows. If you are going through the expense of creating a dedicated room for these types of experiences, making sure you can control the lighting in the room is imperative.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but at Audio Advice, we highly recommend a front projection system for custom home theater rooms. For the price of an 85” flat panel TV, you can get a pretty decent 120+” screen. With a bigger budget, you can get a stunning setup!


home theater with projector

The goal of a theater room is to immerse you completely in the experience. There is just something special about the way the light bounces off the screen from a front projection system. It feels more natural and lifelike as compared to an overly bright TV, and it’s the closest thing you can get at home to the way you experience the latest Oscar-winning film at a commercial cinema.

Of course, some people may want to use their theater room for sports, and you probably want to have your lights on while you watch the big game with your friends. Luckily, the latest projection technology and a little planning make this totally doable!

If you are in the Raleigh or Charlotte, North Carolina area and haven’t seen what a new, high-quality projector looks like, we invite you to come by for a visit and take a look for yourself. If you design your room in a way that allows you to individually turn off any lights that shine directly on the screen, you can have a good amount of light in the room and still get a huge, fantastic picture!

The days of being forced to sit in the dark in order to have a bright picture are all but over. With a good screen and a new, bright projector, you will get a picture with most of the lights on in the room that is far superior to what you could have had 10 years ago sitting in a completely dark room!

Another reason to choose a front projector in a theater room is the widescreen experience. Have you ever watched a movie on your flat panel and noticed the black bars at the top and bottom of the picture? Flat-panel TV’s are mostly all in the HDTV ratio of 16:9. Blockbuster movies, however, are shot in ratios that are typically much wider than they are tall.

Widescreen front projectors used to cost as much as a decent compact car, but once again, technology has marched forward quickly and you can now buy projectors capable of widescreen for less than that 85” TV. These new projectors have the ability to zoom in and out to change the picture size from HDTV to widescreen with the push of one button, allowing you to make the most of your screens real estate, no matter what you’re watching.

We’re Here to Help!

While our recommendations here cover most of the considerations you need to make when choosing between a TV and a projector, we understand that every application and every customer is different.

You may have some specific questions or circumstances that change the equation. If you have read through this article and still feel like you could use some assistance deciding between a TV and a projector for your home, contact us or chat us and we’ll be happy to help!

If you’re in Raleigh or Charlotte, North Carolina, and surrounding areas, we can even help you design your entire room from scratch. We’ll help you choose the equipment, lay out the room, and get everything installed and calibrated. If you’re not located near us and don’t have a lot of experience with home theater design, we strongly recommend you get a professional involved. They can make all the difference between a room full of nice equipment and a fully-immersive home theater experience!