I know that flat screen Plasma and LCD TV's are very popular right now, especially as prices are falling. They provide a good platform for viewing HDTV and widescreen DVDs. As a longtime fan of widescreen, even before DVD's and HDTV, I understand the attraction well (and yes, you could get widescreen format movies on VHS and Laserdisc, but it was a pain in the butt and DVD is great).
If you are looking at a plasma TV for your main viewing or home theater room, I would like to encourage you to look at front projection before you make a purchase. No, I don't have any financial interest in the technology, and no, it is not right for everyone. For some applications, though, front projection can offer a dramatically better movie experience than plasma for the same money. Why? Two words: 110" Diagonal (OK, thats sort of more than two words when you say it rather than write it, but you get the idea).
A projection system can be almost as big as you have space for. You have never, never experienced the Superbowl until you have seen it on a 95" wide widescreen in HDTV. If you get one, do not tell the neighbors unless you want them in your house every Sunday. We almost never go to theaters any more - we have a great experience in our own house. I have practically paid for this installation just from birthday party savings, as my kids now prefer to have movie parties at home.
The installation in the picture above is my 95" wide 16x9 screen, and I took the photo so you could also see the projector hanging on the ceiling (the photo overemphasises the projector - it is actually not so prominent). The screen is actually a special acoustically perforated kind, and the speakers are behind it (this is more expensive and hides the speakers but is not at all required).
OK, there are some downsides to this installation, which is why you do not see them everywhere:
- The wiring is tougher, since the projector usually is a long way from your video equipment - I had to get an electrician to run some wires for me
- The room has to be dark -- either with few windows or, in my case, with blackout shades on all the windows -- to be able to watch during the day. If you look carefully in the picture above you can see the shade above the windows.
- They are harder to find -- Best Buy type stores do not sell these systems
- They are different esthetically than you are used to. They take up less space than a big box rear-projection, but more space than a plasma. Yes, you can put in mechanisms to roll up the screen into the ceiling or even pull the projector up out of site when not being used, but these add a lot to the cost.
- Good systems are not at all cheap, and cost about as much as a good plasma - about $4000 for the projector and $1000 for the screen. Really good systems go for crazy amounts of money - as much as $60,000 and more. Don't be scared off - there are many good inexpensive projectors made today.
We have loved this system and have gotten more prolonged enjoyment out of it than anything else in our house. It is not for everyone, and I don't expect everyone to choose to do the same thing I did, but I do think it is worth your time to take a peak at one when you are out shopping for that plasma TV.