No matter what plans you have for your living room, a television is usually a no-brainer when choosing which large items you'll need to make space for. But what if that wasn't the case? Ultra short-throw projectors and laser TVs are now widely available and relatively affordable, and more and more people are realizing they could make the switch.
Taking up a fraction of the space, these devices are a less obvious way to have your favorite entertainment to hand and allow you to have a cinema-sized screen without leaving the house.
This article will dig into the technology that aims to replace TVs in ordinary living rooms, but for more on the difference between the two options, take a look at our guide to TVs vs projectors. And for our pick of the very best products out there, hop on over to our ranking of the best projectors.
Where do you want to use your projector?
First, decide where a projector might be most useful. Do you want it to replace your living room TV, be something for occasional viewing in the bedroom, or open up the opportunity to create an outdoor cinema space in your backyard? While outdoor TVs are certainly an option, the best outdoor projectors are cheaper, easier to move around, and can be taken with you anywhere.
However, unlike some of the projectors we talk about below, these portable models need to be placed further away from a wall or screen to achieve a large-enough image. They also tend to lack brightness, so they're best used at night or in dark conditions. Your choice here depends on how much you want to spend.
What is an ultra-short throw projector?
Your next option is an ultra-short throw projector, which works similarly to other projectors but with one key difference. Instead of needing to be placed at the back of the room, and thus necessitating a clear path to project onto a wall opposite, short-throw models can be placed on a TV unit or coffee table, casting upwards and outwards to create a movie theater-sized image.
This type of projector doesn't come cheap, but it's perfectly possible to get a 4K image, built-in smart assistants, and contrast ratios up to
2,000,000:1. However, brightness can still be a challenge and is the biggest aspect that keeps projectors from being a true alternative to LED, OLED, or other TV technology. For the best experience, opt for a laser projector.
On the other hand, if you want the biggest screen possible, projectors can give you an image up to 300", whereas even with the best 85 inch TV, you're limited to less than 100" at the very most.
What is a laser TV?
Laser TVs aren't a new idea, but they have seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years. They are similar to short throw laser projectors in many ways, with the differences really coming down to terminology. Like those discussed above, laser TVs can be placed very close to the surface you're viewing on, have better contrast ratio and brightness compared to cheaper, portable models, and can achieve a much larger image than a TV.
Because the term laser TV has gained more interest lately, many brands have brought out their own versions, and they do tend to have a few bonus features that other short throw projectors. These are often related to the idea - as this guide discusses - of replacing your TV with a smaller device. So you can expect better audio, a TV tuner, and all the smart home support that now comes with TVs as standard.
Can a laser projector replace your TV?
As with most technology aiming to oust the devices we've all used for decades, laser TVs and short throw projectors have their pros and cons. The technology arguably has some way to go before it can live up to claims that its a replacements, but it's certainly an alternative for certain households.
Buy a TV if... you want the very best image quality and the ability to watch in all light conditions, but don't need a massive screen.
Buy a projector if... you're on (more of) a budget, usually watch TV and movies at night time, and want a much bigger screen than what a television can offer.