I’ve long had a “home cinema” setup with a fairly budget HTPC, a 50″ plasma TV, and a 4.1 surround system, but when I moved house a year ago I found I no longer had a place in the main family room to fit the 50″ TV, so had to revert back to the old Samsung 32″ 720p CRT that I bought in around 2006. The room has a large bay window with a little recess perfect for fitting a screen, so a plan was born for true home cinema
A 133 inch motorised and tab-tensioned screen was a mere £200 on amazon, and with the audio system already in place all I needed was a decent projector. After lots of research I settled on a BenQ W2000 for £800 from richer sounds as I was able to see it in action in store and was happy with the picture quality and the brightness. 4k projectors are currently far too expensive to contemplate, and whilst I could have gone for an even higher end projector, the increase in quality wasn’t worth the extra money which I will instead save towards a future 4k or 8k upgrade. I was offered cables and mounting brackets and screens but this is where Richer must make there money as the value was very poor compared to what I’d already researched online, so I left with just the projector and set it up on top of a spare filing cabinet to experiment with the optimal distance and position.
The projector automatically adjusted itself and turned on (or already had turned on) a small amount of keystone correction and lens shift — both of which I promptly restored to default to avoid problems with picture quality. Keystone correction had caused noticeable reduction in picture quality so turning it off was essential. Once I was happy with the arrangements I ordered a wall/ceiling mount from amazon and mounted the projector high up from the wall (the wall being solid load-bearing, whereas the ceiling is plaster with unknown strength behind it).
Finally I ordered a couple of long high quality white HDMI cables and a long white power cable. The whole system was up and ready in time for the start of the new BBC / David Attenborough series Blue Planet II which has been exceptional as a true cinematic experience. I have also watched a couple of movies which have also been fantastic — I can’t see myself going to the cinema very much in the future, the experience at home is actually superior for several reasons, and there is no ticket to pay for. The final part of the physical installation was some self-adhesive trunking from screwfix.
The “old” 50″ plasma screen was a good quality screen and plasma’s are well known for having better quality colours than most flat panels so the projector had a lot to live up to. Advice online about home cinema projectors says it’s best to have dark coloured walls, minimal lighting and no large windows. My lounge has 2 large bay windows, white walls, white ceiling, beige carpet and 12 lights, so it’s not exactly ticking the home cinema boxes. The screen does at least come down in front of the main west-facing bay window which blocks the light from that, but I was still concerned about how well it might work. I was delighted to find that the “scare stories” were nonsense. For a full cinema experience it is necessary to turn off lights and close curtains, but this was also necessary with the plasma TV. The projector can also be used just fine with curtains open during the day, or the lights on in the evening. The plasma TV, like most flat panels, was highly reflective, so any lights would inevitably reflect from it straight into any viewers eyes. The projector arrangement doesn’t suffer from this problem in the same way, the screen is matt so instead of a point reflection there is just a slight loss of contrast because blacks become distinctly grey. This may be a matter of preference, but for me the projector arrangement is hugely superior.
The final part of the puzzle was to upgrade the HTPC with an nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti which is capable of hardware decoding both 4k and 8k video, and also of running the madvr presenter which hugely improves upscaling of low resolution videos, which could otherwise look very disappointing on the 130″ screen. 4k videos downscaled actually look much sharper than native 1080p videos, which I attribute to the masking of compression defects — the 4k videos are typically around 10 times larger in data terms, and what compression artifacts that are present will be partially hidden by the downscaling. Combined with having HDR this means that although the projector is “only” 1080p, the picture quality is very close to the quality of a native 4k display, and far bigger than any TV available.
I will be writing about madvr settings in the near future, but they’re still a work in progress as there are so many options to get my head round with too little empirical evidence available from a google search. The video card did push the total cost up to around £1200 — a little bit above a grand, but it wasn’t strictly necessary. The projector, screen, and mount were within a few quid of £1000, comparable to a 60″ 4k TV and vastly more cinematic. A final bonus of the projector system is that it doesn’t dominate the room in the same way as a large TV would — when it is not in use the screen disappears back up to the ceiling and the room becomes a family space again. We still have the old 32″ CRT in the corner for day-to-day TV use.
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