Projectors vs TVs - which screen technology should you choose?

Whether you want something for everyday viewing or the occasional movie night, we help you decide between a TV and projector

Projector vs TV: PTOMA CinemaX P2 4K Ultra HD Home Cinema Projector; Samsung The Terrace
(Image credit: Optoma; Samsung)

If you've been thinking about upgrading your home cinema system - large screen for movies and sports (or just the latest series on Netflix) included - then you may be stuck on whether you should opt for a large TV or a projector. 

The question of a projector vs TV is anything but simple, whether that's because of the space available in your living room, your budget, and what you want from your new set-up. For example, is 4K resolution important to you? Do you want to be able to watch outside in the summer? Do you want the most giant screen possible?

Below we discuss all of these questions and more, hopefully making the decision a little bit easier. And if you want a more in-depth look at one side, take a look at our guide to the best TVs available right now.

LG 65QNED916PA 65" Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR QNED TV

(Image credit: LG)

Projector vs TV: logistics

The first thing to note about projectors, and probably one of the reasons you are reading this article, is that the potential screen size far exceeds what TVs can do. Put simply, if you're interested in imitating what can be done at your local movie theater, then a projector is what you want. It's what they use, after all.

While commercially available televisions reach around 85-inches these days, even the cheapest projectors will exceed 100-inches. This, however, depends heavily on where you place your technology around the home.

To get a large image from a projector (which generally goes up to 300-inches), you will need to place it quite far away from your projector screen. Broadly speaking, the further out your projector is set, the larger the possible image. This requires quite a bit of space.

Projectors also require more kit, from a mount or stand for the device to a screen (or blank white wall large enough). In addition, you need to consider where you will place your projector, as achieving a good experience at an angle is much harder than it is with a traditional TV.

In contrast, once set up, a television doesn't require much maintenance. Mount it to the wall, or pop it on a TV stand, and you're done. However, projectors may be easier to set up and put away for space savers, whereas TVs are more permanent. 

Verdict: TVs win (but only just)!

Samsung The Premiere LSP9T HDR 4K Ultra HD Smart Ultra Short Throw Triple Laser Projector

(Image credit: Samsung)

Projector vs TV: cost

When it comes to cost, projectors come in at a fraction of the cost of their TV counterparts. There are, of course, premium projectors that will set you back £($)1,000 or more, but a large 75-inch or 85-inch TV could be £($)5-10,000 if you want the most up-to-date specs and features.

Value for money is a slightly different question and comes down to what you want from your viewing experience.

One of the cheapest 4K projectors on offer right now is the Optoma HD28HDR 1080p Home Theater Projector, which comes in at $699. On the other hand, the Samsung The Premiere LSP9T HDR 4K Ultra HD Smart Ultra Short Throw Triple Laser Projector is one of the most expensive at $6,500 (and obviously has much more to justify the price tag!).

In contrast, the cheapest 4K Samsung TV with comparable screen size, the Samsung 82" TU7000 Smart 4K LED TV, costs $1,500, while the most expensive is the Sony 83" A90J Smart 4K OLED TV, at $8,000.

This assumes, of course, that you would want a screen size of more than 80-inches, which would stand to compete with the 100" plus that projectors can offer. If you're after 4K resolution, then you can save money by opting for a projector.

Verdict: projectors win!

NEBULA Mars II Pro Smart HD Ready Portable Projector

(Image credit: Nebula)

Projector vs TV: outdoor viewing

Choosing between a TV and projector for outdoor viewing is a whole different ball game, but many of the same questions apply.

Outdoor projectors are a great, affordable option for those who plan to host movie nights in the garden or throw up a screen when the big game is on. They also tend to be very portable, making it easy to transport your projector from room to room or from home to garden.

The trouble, of course, is that a sunny day requires a bright projector, and these will be more expensive. So ensure that you note the lumens provided by a projector before buying, or you might end up with something too dark to see in natural light.

Outdoor TVs are becoming more popular and bypass this issue with impressive brightness and clarity. Samsung's Terrace TVs, for example, offer a 4K image without a hint of glare (see image below). Able to see the set in the flesh, we were astounded by how good the picture looked even on a sunny evening. 

But you certainly pay for this privilege, with an outdoor TV costing in the £($)5-10,000 range. With more brands jumping on the bandwagon, prices could go down but, for now, outdoor projectors get the prize for accessibility alone. For more, take a look at our guide to the best outdoor projectors.

Verdict: projectors win (for now).

Samsung the Terrace TV captured on London rooftop in the evening

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung 75" Q900R Smart 8K QLED TV

(Image credit: Samsung)

Projector vs TV: image quality

As outlined in our price comparison above, projectors can now match the Ultra HD resolution of most TVs. Of course, you will be paying a bit more for a 4K projector, but it will still likely be cheaper than a 4K TV with all the features you want. Then again, upscaling capabilities could be slightly better on a TV, ensuring older content looks its best.

It's also true that 4K isn't the new kid of the block anymore, with 8K becoming increasingly popular as sets get slightly cheaper and compatible content gets more common. Unfortunately, along with the quality and richness of OLED panels, projectors can't really match this at the moment.

Verdict: TVs win!

Projector vs TV: verdict

It's a draw! While TVs win for logistics and image quality, those who want to watch what they wish to outside and the budget-conscious may be better off with a projector. These wins and losses won't apply across the board but should offer a general guide to what might suit you.

As outdoor televisions get better, the decision between them and an outdoor projector gets more complicated, but pricing will often still be the deciding factor here. But, of course, the same applies to the management of increasingly large televisions, and it won't be long before the relative convenience of projectors starts to win out.

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been part of the Real Homes ecommerce team in the UK since the start of 2021, after working for the last decade as a journalist across publications in technology, entertainment and more. In her spare time she's usually obsessing about space-saving and DIY hacks for small spaces, and how to affordably make a rental feel like a home.

SPONSORS