Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Home of the Hawkeyes
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You haven't shared a floor plan or photos of the space so we can only speculate about the ambient light issue, but I suspect curtains+paint+inexpensive motorized screen will be less than the SI solution.
Three criteria of projector selection many folks find significant are light output level, usually expressed in lumens, lamp life and fan noise. There are two basic types of projectors in your price range: home theater and business. Business projectors will offer more light output for the dollar, but at a cost of contrast levels. Your home theater projector will feature higher contrast levels and things like multiple HDMI inputs, nicer remote, 3D compatibility. Within both categories you will find projectors utilizing Texas Instruments DLP technology, which requires a spinning "color wheel" to provide the full spectrum of colors. (unless you are willing to make a serious investment in a 3-DLP model) Some people perceive a moire effect (rainbow) from this type of projector. personal experience shows the effect has a lot to do with the specific projector, screen, viewer combination, especially if using an acoustically transparent screen with some sort of perforation or weave. There are some very nice looking DLP projectors in the introductory price range, so don't rule them out on the off chance of problems. All the more reason to buy from someone with good exchange policy.
The other imaging technology is LCD. Usually an array of three, red, green, blue, so no other mechanical devices needed to render all colors. Solid reliable, can be susceptible to shortened life if subjected to extreme long term uninterrupted use. (10 hr continuous or more, not as big a problem as before with the introduction of "organic" LCDs) Viewing distance can reveal "screen door effect" caused by the eye being able to see individual pixels of the LCD panel.
Third imaging tech is LCOS, featured by JVC and Sony. To quote CNET , it's a hybrid of the two. May cost a bit of a premium, but usually looks very nice in a light controlled room.
Lamp life is rarely as good as the manufacturer's claim. The other sad fact is the output level of modern projector lamp is a steep downward curve when plotted against hours of use, meaning it doesn't burn pretty much full strength until death, it is constantly getting weaker and weaker until it fails or you realize that you can't see any detail in dark scenes. or light scenes.
Fan noise is a given. How loud it has to be has a lot to do with where it is in relation to your ears and the ambient noise level of the room.
If you're wearing headphones, it's not an issue. So simple, isn't it.
If you haven't already, spend some time reading up on models you're interested in on the projector forum pages. More real world input from people that already made their buying decision.