Hey TVs, I want you to know that I’ve really enjoyed our time together. Your dazzling HDR-enhanced image has been a source of light in the dark; your high refresh rates have made our journey together smoother than I could have hoped; and your many-thousand-pixel displays have provided me clarity at crucial moments – but I’ve come to realize you’re not the one for me.
I hate to do this over article – especially during the holidays – but I can’t go on pretending anymore. It’s not you, it’s me; many of the best TVs have splendid features but I’m looking for something else, something that only the best projectors can provide.
At first glance, projectors and TVs don't look that different. Both allow you to watch content from across the best streaming services, both can be paired with an Xbox Series X or PS5 to enjoy next-gen gaming, and both can produce high-quality HD or 4K images that can rely on a suite of HDR codecs to bring life to colorful scenes.
But there are several nuances to projectors that give them the edge in terms of what I want from an entertainment system.
The first is the environment that you need for a projector to thrive. To get the most from the gadget you need to use a projector in a dark (if not pitch-black) room – you need to switch the lights off and close the curtains to block any external light that could ruin the projected image. In the darkness all other distractions are obscured, so the projector’s moving image attracts all of your attention.
In a more brightly lit room with a TV it’s much easier to get distracted by something; before you know it you’ve been doom scrolling on social media for ten minutes and when you look up you have no clue what’s happening onscreen. You can try and remedy your error by rewinding or asking someone what you missed, but the experience will still wind up sub-par.
Additionally, projectors boast massive screen sizes – it’s not uncommon to find budget-friendly options that offer 100-inch or larger displays. Not only that, projectors that are capable of producing this gigantic image are typically much more portable than even a 42-inch TV like the LG C2 OLED. This means you can take your private cinema with you wherever you go – be it to a friend's house or into the wilderness on a camping trip (just remember to take a portable power source and a screen) – and everyone that you gather for the show will have a good seat as you won’t all need to crowd around a tiny TV.
Not quite picture-perfect
Admittedly, there are some flaws with projectors including one of the biggest drawbacks: price.
Right now in the UK, you can pick up Samsung’s The Freestyle projector for £499 from John Lewis – around $599 / AU$899. In our four-and-a-half-star review we commended this projector’s portability, easy setup process, and handy smart features that made getting the most out of the device a breeze – but it only offers a full-HD (1080p) image, and only has one HDMI port, meaning you can’t connect many devices to it at a time.
For the same price, you could head over to Argos, spend only £399, and get a 4K TV from Samsung that was new in 2021. Sure it’s only 50 inches (making it a quarter of the size of the 100-inch The Freestyle) but it boasts a crisper image, HDR10+ support, and three HDMI ports. Those of you looking for a similarly reliable 4K projector can expect to pay at least £1,000 – around $1,200 / AU$1,800 – if not a fair amount more.
Projectors also suffer from typically higher input lag and slower response times compared to their TV equivalents, which will serve as a massive handicap to gamers looking to take on fast-paced competitive multiplayer games. That being said I’ve found projectors to be more than fine for single-player adventures. If I was able to defeat Malenia and later claim my place as Elden Lord in Elden Ring then I’m sure I take on any challenge with my projector, though I still don’t expect to become an esports pro using one of these.
Then there’s the issue of finding a large enough white wall to take full advantage of your projector’s capabilities.
Yet despite these problems, I’m falling in love with projectors. At first, I was put off by their idiosyncrasies but as I’ve had the opportunity to use and review several projectors in 2022, I’ve come to appreciate their differences rather than bemoan them.
Projectors won’t suit everyone, but I know they’re the gadget for me. So in 2023 I’m dumping my TV – or at least retiring it from its prime spot in my home entertainment setup – and picking up a projector to take its place.
Looking to get more from your home entertainment system? Whether you have a TV or a projector, check out our best soundbar list to give your audio a boost.
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Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.