Find the right room, the right HD projector and the right audio components, and your family and friends will enjoy at-home entertainment like never before. There are plenty of big TVs for sale out there, but what if you want to go much bigger?
Today's best projectors are super bright and super sharp. Even when creating an image that’s eight feet wide, their high definition rivals the best TVs. Just connect a Blu-ray HD disc player and a serious audio system, supply the bucket-size sodas, and you’re on your way to competing with the local multiplex.
Be sure to choose a large room in which ambient light can be minimized for optimal viewing. Once you know the "throw ratio" of your projector—the ratio of the distance from the screen to the size of the image—you can calculate how far away from the screen it should be to create the image size you want. The closer the projector is to the screen, the smaller the image will be.
Most projectors can be placed on a table or shelf, or professionally mounted on the ceiling. Keep in mind that if the projector remains portable, you can carry it to a friend's house or host outdoor movie nights in your own backyard.
As for the screen, you can simply project onto a blank white wall, but the most devoted home theater lovers will want to install a large retractable screen for a more genuine cinematic experience, with the sharpest possible image.
Finding the perfect projector means becoming familiar with certain features and specifications. Most important is choosing the correct basic technology. A projector built on DLP technology offers an all-digital, crystal-clear picture at full state-of-the-art 1080p high-definition resolution, which brings out the best in TV shows, Blu-ray discs, and games. With six-color processing, rather than traditional RGB three-color processing, the images are startlingly life-like—and with excellent pixel response time, DLP is ideal for fast-moving TV sports action and game play.
Look for a projector with a contrast ratio of at least 3000:1. The higher the ratio, the better. Contrast ratio compares the brightest color (white) to the darkest color (black), and helps determine how rich the picture will be.
Make sure the projector has a lamp of at least 170 watts, and it should emit at least 1,000 lumens. (A lumen is a measure of perceived brightness.)
Find a projector that delivers wide-screen 16:9 cinema and HD-style projection, as well as traditional 4:3 TV-style projection, with the option to select the right mode for the right content.
Ensure that you’ve got the right mix of inputs—including at least two HDMI-capable inputs—for all the gaming consoles and gadgets you might want to connect.
Judge with your ears as well as your eyes. Seek out a model whose fan noise never exceeds 30dB.
Don't skimp on your sound system. The gorgeous picture you're now enjoying demands a five- to seven-channel surround-style audio setup, with speakers deployed around the room for theater-quality sound. For the easiest setup, seek out wireless rear speakers, and consider buying a complete home-theater audio system that includes a Blu-ray disc player if you don't already have one.
Hook everything up, then start passing around the popcorn.