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Can you get a decent home theater projector for $500?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I have never owned a projector and to be honest, dont know that I have really ever even watched a movie on a projector in a person's home theater.

That being said, im in the process of converting the garage into a "man cave" and I already have a brand new 110" projector screen. So the kids (6 and 12) and I were thinking of getting a projector and some surround sound speakers and setting up a portion of the garage for watching movies.

We as a family, love our movie nights and I am a typical guy who loves to get new things and usually like to get the best I can afford in terms of quality. But even with that being said, right now I dont want to put alot of money into this project with other things going on right now as well. my theory is, put more money into the surround sound, which could last basically forever, then if this is a hit, we can always buy a new projector in the future when 3D, LED, etc prices come down.

So, id really like to stay somewhere around $500 if possible. So my options are to either find a cheaper projector or find a little better one, but used on ebay/craigslist, etc.

Im no expert, but i have been scouring reviews and forums for the last day or two and have come up with 2 options... please tell me your thoughts

option 1 - brand new at my local Frys is only $449 is the LG PA70G 1280x800 Resolution 700 Lumens DLP LED Projector... this is LED so wont have to worry about bulb running out and being scared to watch movies or kids leaving it turned on, etc. Bad new is, its only 720p. We watch alot of 720p movies on one of our 47" tvs inside the house and are usually just fine with that quality... how would 720p on a projector like this compare on a 110" screen?

option 2 - brand new LG HW300T at my local Frys is only $399... same as above, its LED and long hours, but only 720p

option 3 - might cost a little over $500, even used... Viewsonic Pro8200 1080p projector. iv read alot of reviews and this projector is very bright and has alot of good reviews for the price. i will not ever have to worry or think, i wonder what 1080p would look like, but then i would be constantly worrying when im going to have to buy a new $300 bulb

my garage does not have any windows, so i will be able to make it completely dark. again, not trying to setup a professional theater by any means. This will be our very first attempt, but id still like it to be enjoyable and at least as good of quality as we are used to now watching 720p on our 47" LCD (does have 1080p, but watch alot in 720p)
post #2 of 23
Thread Starter 
and of course, if you have any other suggestions better than these 3 models, im all ears!
Edited by 00bolt - 11/1/12 at 6:42am
post #3 of 23
I'm not sure about a 110" screen, but I used to have a 720p projector on a 85" screen and it looked pretty good. I'm sure there would have been some difference if it was a 1080p projector, but if you have a lot of 720 content then it should be alright, especially if you want to keep it under $500 since I don't see a lot of good home theatre projectors going for less than that.

You might want to also consider the Optoma HD66 (720p). I've seen it available refurbished for about $500. It's not LED though. I haven't really seen any home theatre projectors that are LED but others can correct me.

Good luck.
post #4 of 23
I used the 720p Optoma HD70 for years on a 110" screen and it looked great. I was sitting back about 12-14 feet though. I wouldn't sit much closer than that using a 720p projector on a screen of that size. You could get closer than that if you go with a 1080p projector like the Viewsonic. Personally if I were in your situation, the Viewsonic would be my choice. It is well reviewed, extremely bright, has a good warranty, minimal rainbow effect, and is 1080p. I don't think you will regret spending an extra $200 for a better projector but you may have slight regret spending $500 on a lesser one. Just my opinion.

From what I have read the LED projectors aren't typically as bright as traditional bulb projectors. Most bulbs are rated in the thousands of hours which is actually a long time unless the bulb prematurely fails. The Viewsonic is rated at 6000 hours in Eco mode. If you watched a two hour movie every night 5 days a week the bulb could last a decade. In reality the projector and/or bulb will likely fail long before that, but so would the LED one.
post #5 of 23
I'd stay away from LED.. too dim to work well in a casual environment. I'd also stay way from used as people want too much, no warranty, bulb life is unknown, and bulb replacement is almost the cost of the projector. refurbs are ok

Acer H5360 is bright, good bulb life, 3-D capable from a PC and throws an image a bit better than decent. Best part is it goes on sale for $420 at newegg or Amzn about once a month. Grab it, spend the rest on cables or 3-D glasses and sell it to your friend for 300 if you really feel you need 1080p next year. For a first projector, it's still impressive.
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
thanks for all the suggestions so far, a big part of me is really leaning towards the PRO8200, although the extra few hundred bucks could go toward another speaker or something for the surround sound, lol... at this point it all adds up when building the entire setup!

i have never really had much interest in 3D before, but the fact that some of these cheaper projectors are 3D capable intrigues me a little. I know the kids would probably LOVE that, even though Im not quite sure i like it yet or not.

when you say its 3D capable from a computer, does that mean it would work with a WDTV Hub? I have 2 of these WDTV Hubs in my house and use these for all my movie watching. I havent even began to research, but i just assume using this for a projector will not be an issue?

and lastly, how much will a "not as bright" projector be an issue when Im in a completely dark garage with no windows and I have 100% control over lighting of the room?
post #7 of 23
Here you go,, deciding in 18 hours could save you up to $120

the "3d ready" projectors need fed a 120hz signal, they are not HDMI 1.4a and can't decode the common 3D formats, that's why you need a pc. No streaming box will output 120hz that im aware of, tho a few will do 3D.

As for image brightness, the recomendation is at least 16fl/ft2.. but brighter projectors do better in less than ideal rooms. That LG LED would only be 8fl at 110" trust me, you wouldn't be happy. here's a calulator to help you

too bad you aren't in NE ohio, i would be happy to demo
Edited by DragonSixGolf - 11/2/12 at 2:40am
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
thanks for the heads up. im still undecided but i really like that $680 deal on the PRO8200.

another quick question about the 3D stuff. So with a projector you basically have to have a dedicated PC with a bluray player and have it connected with the VGA cable instead of HDMI?

so it this true for just 3D tvs? i thought there were 3D bluray players you just connected straight to the tv...

im so behind on this 3D thing, but I may have to catch up, because kids are really pushing for it. another question, a time or two when the kids have been in best buy, they will look at the 3D tvs on demo and we have all come to the conclusion that the 3D tvs that use the "cheap" glasses like in a theater look better than the tvs that use the $100 glasses... which style of 3D glasses do these projectors use?
post #9 of 23
it will still operate thru HDMI, but it's acting like a DVI cable at 120hz and just flipping complete L-R-L-R-L-R-L pages. there's not side-by-side, over under or other processing going on, which is part of the HDMI 1.4 spec that blurray players and TVs have built in. They do make projectors you could just run from bluray, PS3, etc but they are 1300+ These cheaper projectors leave out that hardware and are only "3D ready" which is really a bad name, cause they aren't. They are "3D capable, with specific sources" So yes on the PC with a recent video chipset and bluray drive. Hope I explained that ok, if not just google it.

3D is as complicated as projectors. LCD ones use active shutter glasses, driven by RF or IR signal, and are usually proprietary to the brand and 100. DLP projectors use generic glasses by using a white blanking signal which you don;t see with the glasses, but washes out the picture otherwise. You can't really mix and match glasses but decent DLP link glasses are on ebay for $30 so it's a cheaper option.

The $5 movie theater glasses are something else again, using polarization which isn't feasible for front projection unless you want to DIY a dual setup. Not recommended for a beginner.
post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
ok thanks... im wondering if i should hold out and splurge on a HD33 or something and get into the 3D world.... uggh decisions decisions, lol.
and i dont know if the glasses at BB were exactly same as the ones in the theater, but there were like 20 of them in a bin and seemed cheap like those, compared to the locked down $100 ones.... but to us, it just actually seemed like the cheap glasses/tv looked better than the $100 glasses/tv
post #11 of 23
Double $$ is 10% better picture. Unless you have a specific technical req like lens shift, or already have a player or PS3 you want to use, try to stick to your budget. All the accessories add up plus, no matter how much research you do, in a years time your experience will lead you to suitable upgrades, Lots of people are perfectly happy with these projectors, trouble with AVS is it's an enthusiast site with 100s of pages obsessing over every tiny detail. The info wil lcertainly help you make better decisions, it can also make you dissatisfied.

Yeah 3D is questionable. Limited sources, technical hassles, expense, eyestrain and some concern for kids vision BUT it is simply cool. i had the mits 60" dlp tv so i got the glasses to try with a few games and movies and.. it was cool. got the acer h5360, dealt with the setup issues and it was cooler 10' wide but.. i've only watched a few movies all the way thru and i have about 20. i just demo scenes once in a while. Journey 2 , IMAX under the sea and Avatar have great 3D effect. The rest i prefer 2D. I don't regret it because I had to see for myself.
You know for less than the 8200, you could get the 5360 4 glasses, cables, drive, software and a few movies. If down the road you change your mind, better projectors will be even cheaper and you should have little trouble reselling it. Or keep for a backup/travel/outdoor. Maybe someone else will have a different opinion.
Edited by DragonSixGolf - 11/2/12 at 6:27am
post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 
thats good advice... me personally, id rather have really good quality 2D like 1080p for the 95% of movies than a not so good quality 3D... i think im just going to go the original route with the PRO8200 unless i can come across something just as good at a great deal... but right now, thats my front runner.
post #13 of 23
Originally Posted by 00bolt View Post

ok thanks... im wondering if i should hold out and splurge on a HD33 or something and get into the 3D world.... uggh decisions decisions, lol.
and i dont know if the glasses at BB were exactly same as the ones in the theater, but there were like 20 of them in a bin and seemed cheap like those, compared to the locked down $100 ones.... but to us, it just actually seemed like the cheap glasses/tv looked better than the $100 glasses/tv

When it comes to active shutter glasses, there is a big range in quality. I saw a demo 3DTV in Best Buy and the quality wasn't very good at all. Lots of ghosting and it was hard to focus. I wasn't impressed with the 3D. I got an HD33 (supposed to have great 2D, with good 3D too) recently and was shopping around for glasses. The consensus seemed to be that the quality of your experience will depend on the quality of your glasses. Many a pair had issues with ghosting, reflections, tint/contrast etc, but ultimately I came to the conclusion that the Optoma ZD201s were the best (without any of the aforementioned problems), so I ordered a pair and am waiting for them to come. They're not cheap though, running at about $120/pair after tax & shipping. You can get some cheap eBay glasses from China for about $30 including shipping, but I don't know how good the experience will with them. I've read some threads that say that they're actually pretty decent, so I might get a pair as a cheap alternative for guests. Seeing as how you have kids, maybe those would be a good option for them.

You can find the HD33 for about $1200 if you get the refurbished model (which should be just as good as a new one - mine was refurbished and it looked like brand new when I opened the box, down to the plastic protective wrap on the unit). The seems a bit out of your range, but it all depends on what you wan to get out of your unit. You can get full 1080p 3D out of the HD33, so it should be good for a while to come.
post #14 of 23
I have the Viewsonic pro8200. That price is great! I've had mine since a week before the superbowl (9 months now?). I have 5 kids. They watch it a ton. Too much, probably smile.gif

But still only 800 hours, and going strong.

The only other projector I considered was the GT750, which is a short throw, 720p projector, aimed at the gaming community.

I'm very happy with my viewsonic.
post #15 of 23
If you are thinking of getting a NEW viewsonic pro8200. Today is the day. smile.gif

Newegg is selling it for 679 dollars. On the page is the code to use, bringing it down to that price. smile.gif

post #16 of 23
If you're on a budget, you won't regret the Viewsonic 8200, especially on sale. It's a great home entertainment projector.
At $1000 there are other choices to consider, depending on what you're trying to do. You can do 720, but expect to sit farther away from the screen so you don't see individual pixels.

Because the 8200 is bright, you can use it as a tv with the lights on. I was concerned about rainbow effect, but it hasn't been a problem (moved over from a LCD).

In a dark room, it will be bright, but you can add a nd filter inexpensively. Bonus is you can take it outside in the summer and show an incredibly big screen movie.
post #17 of 23
Get a Optoma gt750.

Ive had it for 7 months now, they honored the warranty when my bulb went out prematurely.

No need to have a laptop for 3d, already decodes.

Its short throw, which means its brighter, and can be watched during the day.

Im not sensitive to rainbow effect, never seen it.

720p but crystal clear, deep blacks, amazing. Bought it 699 shipped through ebay.

yes its aimed towards the gaming community, but doesn't really matter.
post #18 of 23
The 750 is an option that should have been mentioned but.
the 2x color wheel would have me puking in minutes.. consider yourself lucky if you don;t see them
Two reviews said the 750 was broken out of the box.. bad luck i know, i'm sure most are fine.
I couldn't find ANY mention of black levels being "deep" or even good.

it is VERY bright, short throw, low lag and one of the cheapest options for full 3D if those fit your requirements

google gt750 vs pro8200

art's review

avs thread

gamer blog

great guide to projectors by coderguy
post #19 of 23
blacks are good, they are decent for what you pay for. i had the rainbow effect for the first couple of weeks, than i was fine, cant see them.

But a great freaken projector.
post #20 of 23
I just bought a BenQ MX518 projector for $418, including shipping. I wanted something for the occasional movie night and perhaps Halloween or Christmas projections. I wasn't looking for anything fancy or for a permanent, dedicated home theatre room install. I must say that I'm incredibly impressed with this projector. Right out of the box, the Cinema mode, Brilliant Color On, Color Temperature Warm, and a few tweaks to brightness and contrast is giving me a picture that is acceptably close to my ISF-calibrated Panasonic plasma. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good for the price. I bought an Elite Screens 120" pull down screen for $88 and built a $45 free-standing frame for it. This combination has really blown me away for what I've invested in it. The projector is suprisingly bright, too. It will be great for my intended purpose. As a bonus, the projector can do 3D over HDMI. I'm thinking of buying some cheap DLP Link glasses just to see what it can do. I don't use the 3D on my Panasonic plasma much, so I'm hesitant to invest in more 3D glasses.
post #21 of 23
The MX518 is 1024x768, how do you find that compares to 1280x720? I'm happy with 720p, even for my 100 inch screen, but I have always hesitated to even consider any 1024x768 projectors, even with the $200 price drop.
post #22 of 23
To be honest, I've not compared it with a 1280X720 projector. I am very impressed with what is a pretty high definition appearing image. The only negative, I suppose, is there are some slightly light bars at the top and bottom of the image (those extra 48 lines, I suppose), but it's not too annoying for my purposes. I mainly wanted a projector for occasional use (movie nights, Halloween, etc.). This is a great projector for that. Since I last posted, I've picked up some SainSonic 3D glasses for about $31 each. They were really the cheapest I could find that looked decent. I watched a 3D demo Blu-Ray last night (Panasonic 3D Blu-Ray Player connnected to the projector through my Denon receiver by a long HDMI cable), and I was really blown away. I had a 120" diagonal 3D movie in my house. I really didn't expect much, but this was quite impressive, especially since I had less than $500 invested in the projector and glasses. I know that a 1080p fancy projector and better glasses would absolutely blow this away, and I may get that one day, but for such a small investment, I feel that I'm getting a huge return.
post #23 of 23
In regards to 720p on a 110" screen, have you measured what your expected seating distance will be? Check out this chart and you can get an idea of the expected benefit of 1080p vs. 720p given your seating distance and screen size (based on 20/20 vision). With a 110" screen you should see the full benefit of 1080p at around 14'. I currently have a 720p LCD projector at around 14' (right in the red zone for 1080p benefit) and still find it to be a very good image... I do a tiny defocus to hide Screen Door Effect, but this won't be a concern with a DLP projector. If you're at 15' or more and plan on casual mixed family use more than frequent dedicated movie viewing, I'd go with 720p the first time around. 1080p projector prices keep falling and by the time you're ready for your first bulb replacement, it might make more sense to upgrade to a 1080p model then.

In regards to your WDTV Hub and 3D, you might be able to output Half SBS files through something like the Monoprice 3D Creator, but I can't confirm that.
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