Rear projection TVs may not have the sleek, hip styling of flat-screen plasma or LCD TVs, but they deliver a better picture and can cost thousands less than a similar-sized flat panel. If sports and action movies are your entertainment, then a rear projection TV is right for you. Not sure which one to buy? Let Pronto’s Rear Projection TV Buying Guide show you the way (see also HDTV Buying Guide, HDTV Front Projector Buying Guide, LCD TV Buying Guide, Plasma TV Buying Guide).
Rear projection TVs offer a sharper picture for hundreds of dollars less than flat-panel LCD or plasma TVs.
CRT sets require periodic adjustment and can suffer from image burn. DLP, LCD, and LCoS rear projection TVs are immune to image burn and have lamps that need to be replaced periodically.
The built-in speakers on some rear projection TVs rival the sound of component systems. You may be able to use the rear projection TV as your receiver and reduce the number of components and separate speakers in your home-theater setup.
If you want the best HD picture available, have the money and a high definition DVD player, choose a rear projection TV with 1080p resolution. Most viewers will be happy with 1080i resolution, and there are no current plans for 1080p broadcasts.
To get the right size rear projection TV for your home, divide the distance from the front of the TV to your seat by 2.5.
The highest resolution of high definition programming available on a rear projection TV. It has 1,080 lines of horizontal resolution, progressively scanned, so every frame of the image is displayed.
A built-in tuner that allows a rear projection TV to receive high definition programming.
The difference in light intensity between the brightest white and the darkest black on a rear projection TV. A higher contrast ratio delivers a sharper picture.
Cathode ray tube. This technology was used to power direct-view and rear projection TVs until the late 1990s.
Digital Light Projection. This rear projection TV technology projects the image onto a chip coated with millions of tiny mirrors. Newer rear projection TVs can have up to three DLP chips, one each for red, green, and blue.
A rear projection TV that creates the image by shining a light through tiny red, blue, and green liquid crystal displays.
Similar to LCD but with a more vivid picture, these rear projection TVs shine the light through the LCD displays, off a mirror, then back through the displays and onto the screen.
The number of pixels that make up the display area. When buying, look for the second number, either 720 or 1080, in the pixel dimensions to determine the resolution.
A built-in tuner that allows a rear projection TV to receive standard analog programming.
A built-in tuner that can decode encrypted cable signals. This won’t give you free cable, but it may let you control cable channels with the rear projection TVs remote.
If you owned one of the early rear projection HDTVs, you might think you need a ton of floor space and the time to fiddle with the settings to make it work. Not anymore. Rear projection TVs utilizing DLP or LCD technology average a depth of about 18 inches for screen sizes up to 73 inches diagonal, and they don’t require convergence adjustments.
The viewing angle on a rear projection TV is still more limited than that of flat-panel sets. Rear projection TVs look their best from a chair or sofa straight ahead of the screen. The horizontal viewing angle of rear projection TVs is typically less than 130 degrees. Vertical viewing angles vary between rear projection TV models, but you’ll get the best picture while seated.
Rear projection TVs are heavier than plasma or LCD flat panels, weighing up to 200 pounds for the largest floor models. Even a 50” rear projection TV can weigh 40-60 pounds, so you’ll need a sturdy stand.
All rear projection TVs are self-contained units that shine an image on the inside of a plastic screen. These screens are fragile, and a scratch can distort the image, so it’s a good idea to keep pets and children away. There are four types of rear projection TVs, each with strengths and weaknesses.
CRT - Cathode Ray Tube rear projection TVs are still being made, but the technology is less common today. These sets use red, blue, and green picture tubes to create the image. CRT rear projection TVs are heavier and have more front-to-back depth than other technologies. They also require periodic convergence tuning and are very susceptible to image burn.
DLP - Digital Light Processing comes in two forms: single chip, which uses a spinning color wheel to add the color information, and three-chip, which has a separate chip for red, green, and blue. In both of these rear projection technologies, a tiny image is bounced off a chip coated in millions of tiny mirrors. These rear projection TVs deliver a sharper picture and excellent black levels. A small percentage of viewers are sensitive to the color wheel used in these rear projection TVs and experience an effect called “rainbowing.”
LCD - These rear projection TVs have three tiny liquid crystal displays (one red, one blue, one green) that a lamp shines through to create the image. Because the source image is so small, an LCD rear projection television has fewer problems with image blur or ghosting than a full-screen LCD flat panel. Noted for their vivid colors, some LCD rear projection TVs suffer from the “screen door” effect, where the grid that separates the pixels appears on the screen. As with rainbowing, some viewers are more sensitive than others.
LCoS - Combining elements of LCD and DLP, these rear projection TVs shine a light through the LCD chips, off a mirror, then back through the chips to the screen. The resulting image has more vivid color, but advances in standard LCD technology are making LCoS less common in rear projection TV.
Lamp life and replacement cost should be weighed for any rear projection television. Lamps can cost in excess of $300, and the average life ranges from 3,000 hours at the low end to 20,000 hours at most. Rear projection TV manufacturers are experimenting with light emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers to eliminate the lamps, but these technologies are a few years off.
If you’ll be playing video games, avoid CRT rear projection TVs. Their tubes are easily burned by static images, leaving a ghost of the image permanently etched on everything you watch.
One big plus on rear projection TVs is their superior sound systems. While it’s seldom worth paying for sound on flat screens, some rear projection TVs can match the performance of higher-end sound systems and double as your home theater receiver.
Look for a rear projection TV with a high contrast ratio. This number, typically expressed in a thousands to one format (6000:1, for example), tells you the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black. A rear projection TV with a higher contrast ratio always delivers a sharper picture.
2007 saw the introduction of rear projection TVs supporting 1080p. Useful if you’re a videophile with a Blu-Ray or HD DVD player, 1080p is not currently in use for television, so it may not be worth the extra money. Let your eye be your guide—most viewers are happy with 1080i or 720p resolution.
To get the most HDTV out of your rear projection set, look for one with multiple HDMI and Composite Video inputs. It’s always worth it to have more than you think you need.
At a minimum, choose an HDTV with an ATSC digital tuner that can receive HD broadcasts, and an NTSC tuner that receives standard analog broadcasts. You can get by with an HD-ready rear projection TV if you know the set will always be hooked up to a cable box, but you might miss out on local HDTV programming. Rear projection TVs with QAM tuners can decode encrypted cable signals. You won’t get free cable, but you might be able to control cable channels with the rear projection TV’s remote, cutting down on the side-table clutter.
Rear projection TVs offer superb image quality at larger sizes, but don’t buy more set than you need. A good rule of thumb is to measure the distance from the front of the set to where you’ll be sitting and divide by 2.5 to get the screen size.