An abridged version of this feature appears in Complex's June/July 2011 issue.
If you go to a store today, you can cop a 42'' LCD TV for the price of an iPad 2. We get that. But if you plan on dropping less than $1,000 on a TV, you might want to consider ditching the whole TV- as-living-room-centerpiece paradigm and look into getting a home-theater projector. One of our favorite models, the Epson MovieMate 85HD (seen above), is about the size of the original Xbox 360, but can project a screen image up to 318 inches.
Purchasing a home projector is a bit different from buying a TV. Instead of going for the biggest size you can afford, you need to keep three key factors in mind: resolution, contrast, and brightness. Of course, 1080p is the ultimate, but you’ll be paying a premium for that level of resolution. For our money, we recommend saving a couple Gs and going with 720p. Your eyes won’t know the difference. But they will know the difference between contrast ratios: the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of the video. Set your sights toward models with ratios of 2,000:1 and up.
With its handle and built-in DVD player, projectors like the MovieMate get props for being portable: It gives you the movie theater experience while you kick it in the summer heat. And thanks to its 2,500 lumens of light (you want to aim for 2,000 lumens and up), it’s more than bright enough to project outside. It also has an HDMI input, USB slot, and component and composite connections in case you want to connect an iPad or mobile phone to the projector. When you’re done, bring it back to your apartment and enjoy all the space your TV used to occupy.
Need more options? We got you. Keep reading to see the 5 Best HD Projectors Under $1,000