Display Technologies…an Update

An article released today in hometheatereview.com was rather misleadingly titled “Plasma vs. LCD vs. OLED: Which Is Right for You?” Why misleading? Two significant points.

First, there are no OLED TVs! That’s right, though LG has one listed, it’s a ways from being a real product. The reason is that the technology is difficult to make, and most of the units that come off the line are rejected. Hang in there, we’ll have OLED some day, and it will be expensive at first, then cheaper. But right now we’re at the $2500 for an 11″ display level, so…yes, hang in there.

The second missing point: there are many more people in the world that could benefit from a projection system than realize it. It, and not OLED, is the “Third Technology” to consider.  Today, projectors provide the largest, and most economical picture available by a long way. A decent projector that can fill an 85″ screen is well under $2000. The thing that keeps people away from projectors is the need for a darkened room. But guess what? You need that with the other display technologies too, if you’re going to realize the best possible picture. The HTR article expounds on the differences in black levels between technologies, but to see even part of that, you need to be in the dark.  I’m talking the “developing film” kind of dark.

A bright projector with a moderate gain screen will startle you. It turns out what is most involving in a picture isn’t the blacks at all, it’s the size. Bigger is better and in our seven years of business, nobody has ever come to us and said, “Man, I wish I had a smaller screen!” The next most important image quality is brightness. You can hit that with any of the display types, and yes LCD/LED wins. But an 85″ LCD is a beast, and a burden, both on you and your bank account. Again, just a little light control and a good screen puts both big and bright into your home at a very affordable price.

Black levels do impress, but they are actually third in line behind big and bright. The point to remember is, today’s projectors have contrast ratios that far exceed the average home theater’s ability to display. That 100,000:1 contrast ratio would require walls, ceilings and floors and seating to be covered with black velvet, and the viewers would have to wear black velvet jumpsuits with black velvet ski masks, or the light that reflects of of any part of those things kick the contrast ratio back below 5000:1. A guy with a white t-shirt in the room brings it down to 2000:1.

But, let’s be practical. The same applies to LCDs, though not quite as much. And most importantly, though the numbers may look unimpressive, contrast ratios over 2000:1 are impressive to look at. You really have to watch those numbers, they can confuse you. The difference between 50,000:1 and 100,000:1 is measurable in a lab, never achieved in a home…not ever. Not even close.

Projectors offer many options flat-screen TVs don’t. The size of the screen is the first and foremost. What size would you like? There’s a lot of flexibility here, and a custom size is not really a problem. What shape? How about that CinemaScope 2.40:1 wide screen? You can’t get that with a TV. How about a screen that appears and vanishes at the touch of an iPad control button? How about one that changes its shape to match the image? How about no screen at all, but a wall painted with a special screen paint?

Yes, there will always be more TVs of all types sold than projection systems. But its worth considering a projector, even if the room you have may not be perfect for it. The benefits are…well…HUGE!