Fancy enjoying an immersive PC and entertainment experience like no other? Here are some tips for getting the most out of your projector.
A ceiling mount is the preferred way of mounting your projector, but these can be costly to both purchase and install. The cheapskate’s method is almost as attractive, and a heck of a lot easier; simply mount a deep shelf high on the rear wall of your theatre room/gaming den, centred opposite the projection screen. Even a deep bookshelf will do the job if you’re buying a smaller projector. Note that unless you hide the power and HDMI cables they’re going to be visible… unless you’ve got more shelves beneath it, holding the rest of your PC and AV gear.
While this author used a plain white wall for the first few years of life as a projector owner, a dedicated screen will make a huge difference to the image quality, especially brightness. Screens start at $400, but don’t buy a ridiculously expensive screen if you’re pairing it with an entry-level projector. If you’re really into your DIY you can paint your own screen on any flat wall using special paint known as Screen Goo, for just a fraction of the cost of a dedicated material screen.
Many projectors include a lens shift feature, which allows the image to be move vertically and horizontally, so it doesn’t need to be perfectly centred. Bear in mind that using lens shift can see brightness drop off – it’s always best to perfectly centre your projector if possible. If your projector comes armed with a short-throw lens it can be placed at extremely close range to the screen; we’ve seen excellent home theatres made from small second bedrooms using a short throw lens. If it’s not a short thrower, you’ll need to check the specs about how far away the projector needs to be placed from the screen; unfortunately every projector lens is different, so there’s no equation that works for all models.
With projectors plummeting in price and offering a beautiful picture quality that many find superior to plasma or LCD, they offer an immersive PC experience like no other. They might need a slightly more specific room than other displays, but once you’ve watched a movie or played a game with a picture the size of a wall, you’ll soon realise that buying a projector is one of the most satisfying PC purchases possible.
Gaming projector tips
Some projectors can introduce a small amount of latency between the time you click your mouse and when your in-game AK47 fires onscreen. So if you’re going to be doing plenty of gaming on your new projector, we highly recommend buying one that mentions low latency or a 'gaming' mode in the tech specs. If it doesn’t, it’s still possible to minimise latency by switching off frame interpolation and noise reduction while gaming. Also, if you want to game in 3D on your projector, you’re going to be limited to 1,280 x 720 at 60fps. Crank up the resolution to 1,920 x 1080p and you’ll only get 24fps; fine for 3D Blu-ray, but terrible for games. With the Radeon HD 7970 including a Fast HDMI output that can do 1080p 3D gaming at 60fps, we’re expecting matching projectors in the near future.
Worried about how you’re going to control the big-screen action from the comfort of the couch? If you only want your projector to spew out giant movies, there are dozens of wireless media controllers that will do the job, many of which include a tiny keyboard. Gaming is slightly more complicated; while many of today’s console-ports are perfectly playable with an Xbox 360 controller and wireless PC dongle, FPS users demand the accuracy of a mouse and keyboard combo. The solution is a bit of DIY handiwork; simply glue a hard, large mousepad to a notebook lap desk with slide-out mousepad. Plonk this on your lap with a wireless keyboard and mouse combo and you’re good to go.