Millions of people head to the movie theater every year to watch new films and their favorite franchises. As technology advances, more consumers have turned to home theaters. That leaves many homeowners debating whether a projector or a monitor is best when setting up a home theater system.
While both are capable of producing vivid images with much depth, there are certainly striking differences between these screen types.
Which is better, you might ask? The answer isn’t as simple as it seems.
The pros and cons vary wildly between systems, and you have to consider your specific usage needs if you plan to game with these types of displays.
It might sound complicated, but rest assured! We’re here to give you the breakdown of the two options, so read on.
Projectors vs. Monitors: A Side-by-Side Comparison
|Digital Projectors||Monitor Displays|
|Year Introduced||1998||Late 1920s|
|Maximum Resolution||4K (3,842 x 2,160p)||8K (7,680 x 4,320p)|
|Maximum Screen Size (Diagonally)||300 inches||325 inches|
|Highest Refresh Rate||240Hz||500Hz|
|Pricing||$200 to $10,000+||$500 to $30,000+|
Projectors vs. Monitors: Three Must-Know Facts
- Projectors provide the largest picture for the best price.
- Monitors have a wider range of features than projectors.
- Projectors and monitors can both be used for gaming.
- The term monitor often refers to LED and OLED TVs along with PC monitors.
Projectors vs. Monitors: What’s the Difference?
The first step in choosing a monitor or projector for your home theater is understanding their capabilities along with their respective pros and cons.
What works best in one home may not be the best choice in another, so you’ll need to think about your viewing habits along with the features that are important to you, like lighting and audio.
What is a Monitor?
Technology has blurred the lines between traditional PC monitors and TVs.
Most modern LCD, LED, QLED, and OLED television sets are used as monitors, and are commonly referred to as such.
With that in mind, a traditional PC monitor has a better refresh rate, response time, and lower input lag than any television set. That includes those marketed as TV monitors. Competitive gamers will want one that’s more of a monitor than a TV, which limits the sizes available.
These displays are ideal for gamers, but are limited in size compared to a projector or television set with an HDMI or display port. A large TV provides the best of both worlds for certain types of games.
What is a Projector?
Projectors for home entertainment systems are smaller, more affordable versions of what you’ll find in movie theaters. In fact, many homes design entire rooms around a projector, which helps bring the theater-like experience to your home.
Projectors tend to be smaller than television sets or monitors and produce images in an entirely different way. They “project” images onto screens by using a light source and lenses to reproduce smaller images on a larger scale.
DLP, LED, LCD, and LCOS are the most popular types of technologies used in projectors. The style you choose has a significant impact on specs like the color gamut and resolution. People use projectors for gaming but are generally not a good choice because of latency when outputting higher resolutions.
Projectors vs. Monitors: Features and Specs Comparison
It’s easy to go straight for price or resolution when comparing a projector against a monitor in a home theater.
While those are two key considerations, you should also consider things like screen size, audio, and the installation process itself.
The size of the image a projector or monitor can produce is the biggest difference between these displays, aside from their overall designs. It’s also an area where projectors are a clear winner because of their versatility.
Even a small laser projector like the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 can produce a crisp image up to 150 inches diagonally. Projectors allow you to change the size of the screen to suit your needs. That means you can project a movie onto a small bedroom wall or on a large hanging screen designed for projectors.
You can find TV monitors ranging from 32 to over 80 inches available for sale, although the size of these TVs, of course, cannot be changed. The larger the size, the more expensive the monitor, but with a projector, you can simply adjust it to perfectly fit your wall or screen.
When you step into modern movie theaters, you may know that the content on the screen is presented in digital format, not from a classic movie projector with large spinning film reels. How crisp the picture is depends on the resolution, which is 2K, 4K, or even 8K in some formats.
Digital projectors designed for home theater systems can reproduce the same resolution found in theaters, except for 8K resolution.
There are budget-friendly models that can handle FHD and 2K content, while premium systems like the Sony HDR Home Theater Projector utilize the advanced technology for sharp 4K projections—like Sony’s X1 technology.
Monitors provide the same range of resolutions from 480p up to 4K. A handful of new computer monitors can take things a step further with 8K, although you won’t find anything larger than 32 inches in this class, currently.
Some 8K television sets double as monitors, but there are no 8K projectors available for the average consumer. Monitors do have the advantage for this reason, even if most movies are geared for 4K displays.
If you’ve ever seen a film where the black levels are almost unnatural, that means the projector or monitor has a high contrast ratio. These specs tell you the ratio between the brightest white and darkest black a screen can produce.
The best projectors and monitors have excellent contrast ratios and features that will enhance fine details on the screen. HDR and Dolby Vision are both popular technologies that you can find on either type of display.
OLED monitors or televisions are the best options if you appreciate deep blacks. The LG OLED 48 is a prime example of this, as it can turn off individual pixels for inky blacks in dark rooms. LCD, LED, and even QLED panels can’t match that.
The premium Sony 4K projector with a contrast ratio of 350,000:1 is comparable to an OLED TV. That is impressive, although ambient light issues with projectors give monitors an advantage with contrast ratio.
Most people have installed a monitor whether it was a bulky CRT system for a desktop PC or a thin, light smart TV. While newer models require some extra time to install, it isn’t too complicated.
Routing cables and finding the right angle for the best viewing experience can be challenging in some rooms. For larger TVs, you can opt to pay for a professional installation if you prefer. You can also mount a monitor to the wall to save space.
If you want to set up a projector, things aren’t quite as simple. Consider ambient light along with seating due to the size of the screen. That may be an issue unless you simply plan to project images onto a living room wall.
Motorized screens are an option but can be expensive, while fixed screens can take up a considerable amount of space.
Given the number of variables, monitors are a winner in this area of our projector vs. monitor debate simply given their somewhat easier installation process and considerations.
We’ve spent most of our projector vs. monitor comparison discussing features and specs that involve picture quality. For a true home theater experience, audio is just as important. It’s also an area that causes consumers confusion, considering many believe projectors don’t have speakers or advanced audio features.
Built-in speakers can’t replace a surround sound system designed for a home theater, but they are a starting point. Every TV monitor has speakers along with a wealth of ports used for audio. They won’t necessarily shake the room, but some high-end TVs have crystal clear audio and solid bass.
Projectors with speakers are not as common. Most have a design geared for use with external audio components. There are a few exceptions, however, like the LG Laser Cinebeam Projector which projects video from the rear and audio from the front.
Projectors and monitors both allow you to use other audio components, from sound bars to surround sound systems. While you’ll find better stock systems on television sets, audio is best considered a tie as you don’t rely on built-in speakers for a home theater.
This is another area that could be considered a toss-up depending on your budget.
Projectors and monitors have a wide array of price points, so there’s something for everyone. That includes consumers interested in an affordable starter system along with those who have no cap on budgets.
The larger the monitor, the more expensive it is, but the same rule doesn’t apply to projectors. The price is based on the style, technologies used, brand name, and features. Those same factors all come into play with TV monitors as well.
A high-end 4K projector can run between $3,000 to $10,000, which may seem like a wide range until you look at 4K monitors. There are large 60-inch 4K panels that go for a fraction of that cost, alongside OLED TVs with display ports that cost more than a premium projector.
You can also find panels comparable to projectors in size, like the LG Direct View LED, which tops out at 325 inches diagonally with prices starting at $70,000. There are options for budget-conscious consumers with both types of displays.
Projectors vs. Monitors: Which One is Better For Your Home Theater?
For a true home theater experience, nothing beats a 4K projector with a great sound system in a dark room. A well-designed home theater system can replicate the feel of a movie theater, and provide a unique experience for anyone in your home.
It’s not necessarily perfectly accessible to everyone, however, as it largely depends on your budget and the room where you want to install a home theater system.
Monitors continue to drop in price, so you can find models close to the 125 inches a projector can provide. The viewing angles and blacks on monitors are better in rooms where ambient light is an issue, and you don’t have to install special screens or black-out curtains.
Both monitors and projectors work well in home theater rooms but are only one piece of the overall package.
Once you decide on a display technology, be sure to consider connectivity and additional components like UHD Blu-ray players, cable boxes, or gaming consoles before you start setting up.