Are projection TVs making a comeback?

When you think of projection TVs, you probably think of the behemoth in the picture above. Projectors became popular in the 1970s and continued to be popular with enthusiasts until the 2000s. You might have noticed that recently, Solid Signal started offering projectors. So, is this technology roaring back, or is this just a “one-time thing?”

A little bit of history

For most of the history of TVs, it was almost impossibly expensive to create a direct-view TV larger than about 25 inches diagonal. That sounds tiny today, of course. Still, it was state of the art for its day. If you wanted to go larger, you needed a video projection system. The projectors of the day used three black-and-white televisions with colored filters, all focused on the same screen. No, I am not making that up.

Projectors of the day were dim and fuzzy but the screen sizes were pretty large. it wasn’t hard to find a 50″ TV which seemed huge back in those days.

In the 2000s, video projection systems had another “moment” with the coming of DLP technology. DLP technology uses a super-bright light source and a complex motorized mirror system to send a high-quality picture to a screen. You probably remember these projection cabinets as the first high-definition TV you could afford. They were great at first but early bulbs didn’t last very long. At the same time, LCD televisions started getting cheaper and cheaper. LCD TVs always looked better and people moved away from projection technology.

Projection never really went away

Projectors have never gone out of production. They’re used all the time in meetings to give giant screens of 16 feet or more. Today’s projectors are often stacked in banks of two or four for additional brightness. Improvements in lens technology mean it’s easier than ever to make sure the image is super-sharp.

For permanent installations, we’re seeing systems that use red, green, and blue lasers for images that are almost as sharp as direct-view systems. They also use fancy new lenses that allow the projector to be mere inches in front of the screen, setting just below it. This sort of lens would have been impossible to manufacture for any reasonable cost just a few years ago, but today this is a reasonable solution for businesses. It also allows camera tracking so you can interact with the screen as if it were a giant tablet.

The new category: “fun” projectors

Projection TV technology is very stable now, and that’s meant prices have come way down. The projectors we sell at Solid Signal are part of a new category. They’re designed for occasional use and they’re cheap enough that you might just want to pick one up. Imagine hosting a movie night in the backyard. Imagine having a pop-up gaming party. Even imagine taking your work team to a restaurant for a meeting. It’s all possible if you can bring a large video image with you. In many cases you don’t need a screen, just project on the wall.

These new low-priced projectors should still work for hundreds or thousands of hours and while the image isn’t as bright as a TV it works great in a room with the lights off. They’re a perfect addition to your home setup, and we’ll be featuring more items like this in the future.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.