4k projector vs TV: Which is better?

Last updated on November 14th, 2019 at 02:49 pm

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4k Projector vs Tv: is it worth the jump?

4k projector vs TV: a modern day dispute in electrical goods.

The majority of customers purchasing a projector are migrating from the realm of TV. This step into the unknown is often difficult to take for a myriad of reasons. Understanding all the projector jargon when making the switch doesn’t make it any easier. Of course, we have a more detailed Projector guide that can talk you through every aspect of this in detail. But this aside, is it worth upgrading your TV for something less popular, understood and accessible? 

For those of us with modest budgets, this is especially confusing. But who does it better, budget TVs or projectors? Does this differ to those of us with higher budgets that crave the 4k definition we’ve become accustomed to? Let’s jump in. 

4k projector vs TV: inside of each other

Size

TVs in general come in standard sizes, ranging from 30” to 70”, all in 16:9 format. Projectors on the other hand offer a variety of image size, depending on the zoom and throw. Fancy watching Spongebob at 50 inches? Perhaps 100 inches suits you better? Well fortunately both are an option. Additionally, the aspect ratio of projectors is less constricting, coming in 4:3, 16:9 and 2.35:1. This allows you to select a projector that’s best suited to the content you’re likely to consume most, reducing masking and increasing immersion. 

It’s important to note, the larger the TV, the more expensive it becomes. The same could be argued for projectors, as the further the projector from the screen, the more light dispersed and the bigger the need for a higher number of lumens. However, in general on sheer size, projectors take the win. 

Comparison

TV average size (<$500) Projector average size (<$500)
49” inch (without compromising on quality)60” – 200” inches (without compromising on quality)
4k TV average size ($2000) 4k Projector average size ($2000)
55” – 65” inches60” – 300”

Size Summary:

Budget Winner: Projector

4k Winner: Projector 

TVs only come in 16:9 aspect ratio, with a rising correlation between size and price. Projectors offer various sizes and aspect ratios across both price points. 

Brightness:

Brightness is hard to measure simply because the units and techniques vary drastically from TV to projector. 

TV brightness is displayed in “Nits”, whereas projector brightness is based on the reflection from the projector screen and is measured in Lumens. Lumen measurement changes based on brightness in the room, the material the image is projected onto, and the scene being displayed. 

Tv vs projectors: brightness

TVs are undoubtedly more versatile to their surroundings than projectors because they’re backlit.  Projectors suffer more in uncontrolled environments, especially budget models. Ambient lighting and projected lighting cancel each other out, offering a washed out display. Fortunately though, there’s a positive correlation between projector Lumens and image clarity. Bring on the all power consuming projector lamps!

However, projector lamps have a tendency to overheat and need replacing after around 2.000 hours use (in budget models). Further to this, think power consumption. There are low power consuming, budget LED projectors available nowadays (perhaps something to bear in mind). However, in general the lamps in projectors use more power than in TVs. 

Because of these traits, when purchasing a projector it’s important to factor in the costs of light controlling accessories, such as good quality curtains or the cost of building an underground projector bunker. 

Comparison

TV average brightness (<$500) Projector average brightness (<$500)
1,500 nits
800 Lumens
4k TV average brightness ($2000) 4k Projector average brightness ($2000)
5, 000+ nits
3000+ Lumens

Brightness conclusion

Budget winner: TV

4k winner: TV

TV ultimately always will win for brightness as it isn’t a reflection of light. Although Nits and Lumens are difficult to compare, your TV will always be viewable in any light condition. Projectors on the other hand only thrive in low level or limited lighting conditions.

Contrast 

Contrast is the difference in the whitest white a device has to offer to the blackest black. For example a contrast ratio of 3000:1 means that the whitest white is 3000 times brighter than the darkest black. The larger the contrast ratio, the more shades show between black and white, meaning that there’s a larger scale of available grey shades. In turn, this means images have more detail and accuracy to them (especially darker scenes). 

TVs in general would win on contrast ratio were you to factor in environments. The fact is that TVs (for the time being) are more versatile to ambient lighting conditions.

Projectors vs TV: contrast
Low vs High contrast

Budget TVs are more likely to win in contrast, especially when combined with their brightness capabilities. This is simply because they are backlit and would fare better in a variety of different lighting conditions.

However, 4k projectors offer contrast ratios that 4k TVs cannot even begin to compete with (20,000:1). Contrast ratio is definitely is a point of contention that selects its winner based on budget. If you can have full control over lighting conditions, projectors would be a clear winner. 

But we aren’t vampires who shy away from natural light our whole lives, so it’s best to be realistic about viewing conditions. Contrast is another one of those points that selects its winner based on available budget.

Comparison

TV average contrast (<$500) Projector average contrast (<$500)
4,500:13000:1
4k TV average contrast ($2000) 4k Projector average contrast ($2000)
100,000:1
250,000:1

Contrast summary:

Budget winner: TV

4K winner: Projector

The Contrast of a device gives greater depth to an image. For budget devices, TV wins hands down. However, with the 4k option, projectors offer such high contrast ratios (20,000:1) that TV cannot begin to compete. 

Resolution

In the world of 4k TV, ultra HD sits at 3840 x 2160 pixels. Anything below this amount is not a 4k TV and will not be labeled as such. Any content with HDR woven into it will be designed correctly to scale to your 4k TV. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? The package offers exactly what it states. 

In the world of 4k projection however, this is not the case (yet). In order to fully understand this we need to glance into the past. Back in the day, the native resolution of a projector (stated on the chip) would mirror the quality of the image displayed. As such, it was really easy to glance at an image and correctly guess the projector’s native resolution. 

High resolution vs low resolution: 4k projector vs tv
high resolution vs low resolution

However, nowadays there is no correlation between native resolution and that which you see on the screen. The chips physical resolution is now completely redundant. Due to pixel shifting technology, 4k can be replicated without matching the chip of the projector. 

Technically it’s not “real” 4k and is often branded in a bad light. However, it makes 4k much more accessible and cheaper. At the end of the day, having native 4k in projectors is extremely rare and highly expensive. 

Resolution Summary: 

Budget winner: Draw

4k winner: Draw

Both 4k and budget models of projectors and TV offer the same resolution. However, in 4k projectors they aren’t natively 4k. This means that the projector uses pixel shifting technology to make the images look 4k, however it doesn’t impact quality.

Audio

TV systems come with inbuilt audio which saves money, effort and time. Does it deliver the highest quality audio? Perhaps not. If you’re on a budget, of course having inbuilt audio is going to be a necessity. The fact is, if you want a projector on a budget, you’re going to have to sacrifice on quality in order to include the cost of audio setup. 

Tv vs projector: Audio

On the other hand, if you’re purchasing a 4k TV or projector, do you want inbuilt audio? Maybe not. It makes sense to mirror the image quality with the audio quality of an expensive setup. However, purchasing both of these at the same time does magnify the cost quite substantially. It is important to note that upgrading audio systems is not limited to only projectors, and using it as a point of validation for them would be odd.  

Furthermore, some projectors do have inbuilt audio capabilities. However, from an audio perspective, it’s a pretty interesting concept. With a TV, having the sound come outwards towards you, makes sense. However, a lot of the time projectors hang from the mount on a ceiling or shelf, meaning the sound comes from behind or above you. Does this impact audio quality or perception? We’re no experts, but we would imagine so. 

TV audio (<$500) Projector audio (<$500)
InbuiltNot included
4k TV audio ($2000) 4k Projector audio ($2000)
InbuiltNot included

Audio Summary:

Budget winner: TV

4k winner: TV

Audio comes inbuilt in both budget and 4k TVs. Only some projectors have audio capabilities. The option to upgrade/have audio should be a choice not a forced cost. As a result TV comes out on top in both categories. 

Viewer immersion 

Viewer immersion could be described as a somewhat subjective topic. As a site solely based on reviewing projectors, we’ll try to keep it as objective as possible. 

TVs in general, are pretty immersive. They have clearly defined black borders that offer focus to your viewing experience. If you have a larger model, it’s certainly fair to assume you will have no issues with immersion. Keeping it budget for larger TVs whilst not compromising on quality is a bit of a stickler. However, TVs have been the go to viewing device for almost 100 years, so clearly they’re doing something right. Does that make them future proof? Absolutely not. However, it also doesn’t suggest that projection is way forward. 

Projectors when used with a screen, also offer black borders that increases immersion. When a projector is used against a wall, it definitely loses points in this category. However, the size definitely overcompensates for all lost. It’s difficult to compete with a big screen, a dark room and not feeling like you’re right in their with the plot. 

Viewer immersion Summary:

Budget winner: Projector

4k winner: Projector 

A large projected image is difficult to argue with. Were your projector to not be used alongside a screen and a dark room, TV might take the draw. 

Installation 

Installation is a point that has to be noted. When you take a product home, it’s near impossible to not dive into using it straight away. As such, it’s important that the process from box to fully functional is smooth, easy and accessible to all. 

TVs really only have two stages: in the box and out of the box, plugged into the wall. Other than playing about with colour and brightness settings, you’re good to go. The only issue with TVs being that they’re a little heavy to lift if you have a mobility problem. However, this wouldn’t cause you to hire someone, just merely ask a friend for some help.

installing projectors

Projectors are undoubtedly complex to set up, especially if you’ve never done it before. I think it can sometimes be overwhelming when faced with throw, lens help, zoom and the type of mount you’ll want to use. Throw in added audio hookup and setting up the source for projected images, it becomes a lengthy state of affairs. If you have a mobility problem setting up a ceiling mount, projector screen and lifting the projector will definitely call for you to hire someone.  

Installation Summary:

Winner: TV

Television doesn’t require many steps from being boxed to fully functional. Projectors on other hand require pre-planning and additional purchases (screen, mounts and audio).

Accessories 

Accessories for your device, at least in this comparison, are objects you have or are recommended to buy alongside your purchase. That is not to say that your device is not functional without them, but viewing experience without them is definitely reduced.  

There’s really not much you buy alongside a TV. It comes with a remote, usually batteries and cables – so everything you would need to run it. Something that is usually recommended to buy alongside your TV would be a stand or mount. So really, other investment is pretty minimal and only a suggestion.

Projectors can’t function without some accessories. Using a projector without a shelf or mount is doable. Realistically though, stacking your projector onto something is unsafe and a hinderance. Further to this, a projector screen needs to be used in order to maximise the quality of display. This is an unavoidable truth. You can use a projector without, but when you’re spending so much, it’s illogical to compromise on something that is relatively cheap. In addition, as not all projectors come with audio inbuilt, this can become a huge additional financial burden. 

Accessories Summary:

Winner: TV

Projectors need a mount, screen and sometimes speakers to begin watching content. TVs are only recommended to be used alongside a mount or stand, but it is not a hazard to decide against purchasing one of these. 

4k projector vs TV: The winner

If you break it down factor by factor, in the case of budget option, TV stacks up more points. It ultimately is the winner of the modern age. Whether that’s a byproduct of it being the most popular option is a point of discussion. Within the 4k options, projectors and TVs draw the same number of points. 

At the end of the day, It really boils down to personal preference. I think the immersion projectors offer counters the benefits TV has. However, that’s completely subjective and there is definitely room to encourage projectors to become more accessible to buy and install with minimal additional cost. 

This guide is not meant to discourage you from purchasing a projector, just merely make you aware of all the facts. As the popularity of projectors grow it will be interesting to see how these facts change (if they do). 


Budget TVBudget projector 4k TV 4k Projector
Size



Brightness



Contrast



Resolution



Audio



Viewer immersion



Installation 



Accessories



TOTAL6355

If you’re interested in progressing with your journey into the world of projection, check out the following articles:

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