Replace Your TV With A 4k Projector

Big screen TVs have come down in price the last couple years, but are they the right choice to clutter the walls of your precious home? I say “no,” and here’s why.

When I moved back to Nashville from New York, I left my 77” TV behind. At the time, that was considered an absolutely huge TV, and I didn’t want to deal with trying to pack it up and move it 1000 miles to our temporary apartment until we found our next home.

That TV seemed like it was tailor-made for my NY home. There was a big, black, central “pillar” on the first floor that created what little separation of rooms could be found on my otherwise wide-open floor plan. It was just the right size (and color) for the TV to nestle in without being a major eyesore when not in use. 

Considerations For My New Home Theater

Since I left my old TV behind in NY, I had to start from scratch with my new house in Nashville – but I found that it was much more difficult to find that perfect option this time around. I had a new set of variables (challenges?) to consider down here:

  • My kids were getting older and tall enough to want to touch and pull on whatever TV I mounted
  • My Nashville living room was literally 2x the size of my NY living room at ~20’x20’, and my ceiling is relatively tall at 12’ high
  • The lack of windows in my much more traditional Nashville house made a black wall a lot less doable than my heavily-windowed contemporary NY house

My first thought was to go for another big TV. I got a 75”, figuring it would be about as good as the 77” I left behind. When I set it up, I was shocked at how tiny it looked from the couch 20’ away at the other side of the room. Even if the couch was moved up to a more appropriate viewing distance, the wall was so big compared to the TV, it just looked ridiculous. 

I got online and started scouting around for bigger options. The biggest I could find for anywhere near a reasonable price was an 86” TV for over $2k (this was 4 years ago). This time, I did the smart thing and mapped out the dimensions with painter’s tape on the wall before ordering. It still looked like a TV for ants compared to my wall. Even if it didn’t look too small for the wall, there were two other issues to tackle as well: 

  • having a huge TV that could potentially crush one of my kids if it fell off the wall
  • Having a shiny, rectangular, black hole on the otherwise pristine, white wall. 

I personally could overlook the contrasts of the black plastic box against the white wall (my wife sure couldn’t), but I was a bit concerned with the kid smashing aspect. 

What was I supposed to do? Not watch TV and movies in my own house? Come on! I knew that wouldn’t fly, so I came up with a new plan: a 4k projector. 

Benefits of a 4K Projector

Why ditch the TV for a projector? The primary factor: flexibility. 

Here’s a quick, incomplete list of the pros:

  • Small and portable – you’re usually looking at a footprint between 16-24” on all sides. No more leaving your “TV” behind for a move across state lines!
  • Much more affordable price-to-screen-size ratio
  • No need for a permanently-installed big, black box on your wall (you don’t need a permanent screen at all)
  • Less risk of child crushing
  • More immersive, “cinematic” experience than your average big screen TV (assuming you have the wall space to accommodate a large projected image)
  • Relatively cheap & easy replacement bulbs

After realizing a TV just wasn’t a viable option for me, I went on the hunt for a projector and settled on a Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K PRO-UHD. I got mine for $1,500 at Best Buy – more expensive than the 75” TVs, but well below the cost of the 86-inchers at the time.

I connected it to my AppleTV and fired it up: magic. I was able to expand the screen all the way up to 150” without any issue, and it looked surprisingly good despite projecting directly onto my white, semi-gloss wall. I knew I was better off projecting onto a dedicated screen, so started checking out my options on Amazon. 

I quickly settled on a 125” edge-free, fixed-frame screen that was on sale for $200. This was a game changer. As good as movies looked projected onto my bare wall, they jumped into a whole new stratosphere when shone against my screen. And here’s the best part: when not in use, it looks like an extremely minimalist art piece hanging on my wall. In fact, I’ve had a number of compliments from guests who actually thought it was hung as a work of art – it was almost like the emperor’s new clothes in real life. 

This combo was the exact answer I was looking for. My living room had been transformed into the best TV viewing experience I’ve ever had, without the obvious blight of a traditional hunk of black plastic hanging on the wall. To paraphrase George Eastman: my work was done. 

Cons of a 4k Projector

Now, while ditching a TV for a projector was 100% the right move for ME, I feel it would be wrong not to mention a handful of considerations that come with the territory:

More Setup Steps

Projectors are not exactly the easiest out-of-the-box solution. You really want a screen, a soundbar, and some kind of streaming or other video device to watch anything. You’re not going to be pulling the projector out of the box, hooking up to over-the-air signals, and having a good time.

Perceived Technical Complexity

People will act like it’s too complicated for them to operate compared to a TV (it’s not). If you have a TV with a soundbar and something like an AppleTV or Roku box, you already know exactly what to do. Turn the thing on, and start watching. 

Sound and Fury

As bad as most on-board TV speakers sound, on-board projector speakers are usually even worse. Some projectors don’t even have speakers, so a decent soundbar should be seen as a minimum requirement. I’ve always used Vizio soundbars and have generally been happy with the results. 

Beyond the sound of whatever you’re watching, projectors also tend to produce a lot more operating sounds than TVs. The fans can be relatively loud/annoying if you’re doing something silent like screencasting photos from your phone or computer. 

Shield Your Eyes

The picture on the screen looks phenomenal, but don’t you dare look into the projection bulb. Looking directly in there is like looking at the face of the sun and then getting pepper sprayed for good measure. 

Movie Theaters Will Never Be The Same

Unless you’re willing to do IMAX exclusively, prepare to be disappointed when you go to a movie theater. Once you cross the 100” mark in the comfort of your own home, it’s really hard to feel impressed by standard theater experiences. 

Conclusion: Dump The TV

To me, the projector pros easily outweigh the cons, and make TVs feel obsolete and obnoxious. But  maybe I’m just projecting based on my own experience.

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