The big-screen matchup of projectors vs TVs has become a much closer battle, and a tougher decision to make in the last few years. Projectors used to be just for cinemas and those who could afford such a niche bit of tech, and TVs were the go-to choice for everybody. While the latter is still largely true, the gap between the best gaming TV and the best projector for gaming is closer than ever.
The size of the picture might be the only ‘real’ determining factor for some folks when it comes to projectors vs TVs, but there’s actually much more to it. From a gaming perspective, there are some extra technicalities that will prove important to factor in. The best projectors for PS5 and Xbox Series X do hold some benefits over the best TV for PS5 and Xbox Series X, so there are plenty of points of comparison between the two. We’re here to outline those major differences and help you drill down into the details, getting you well on your way to deciding between the two picture solutions.
The projector vs TV matchup could be worth looking into if you’re after something different from your screen, have specific needs or space limitations, or just want to ensure you’re not ruling out a whole area of tech before committing to one side.
It’s always helpful to keep budget, how and what you play, and some physical factors in mind as we go, but otherwise let’s dive into projectors vs TVs and see what’s best for you.
TL;DR: Projectors vs TVs compared
- Enormous pictures
- Various resolutions
- Removes need for TV furniture
- Great when space is at a premium
- Feature-filled models are very expensive
- Requires shelf or wall space, or ceiling mount
- Tried and tested image givers
- 4K resolutions are near-standard
- Great value for money
- Versatile with multiple ports
- Chock-full of features and specs
- Easy to setup
Projector vs TV: size
It’s no secret that, while you can get some awesome deals on massive 4K TVs nowadays, a projector throwing a large image onto an entire wall is hard to beat from a pure size perspective. Basically, if absolute screen size, corner to corner, is the most important thing – and so important that you’ll happily sacrifice quality – then there is only one winner.
But there’s the actual size of the units themselves to consider as well. A projector’s neat and tidy stance on a shelf or even hanging from the wall or ceiling does mean that you remove the need for TV furniture. That benefit does come with the headache of factoring in the positioning of your consoles and all the connections and cables you need. The idea of gaining all that extra space in a room does sound appealing when looking at projectors but, given we are all accustomed to the space a TV requires nowadays, it feels a bit of a jump to consider the convenience a must-have. That TV furniture is only a nuisance if you have a small living space to deal with.
You can get really small projectors too, like the best portable projectors, but then we get into very niche uses and desires, and not something that can fairly be stacked up against a TV.
Projector vs TV: features
Now, it’s true that modern projectors and TVs both have an array of modern, high-spec features at their disposal, but this is definitely an area of comparison where the TV starts to assert some dominance. So, some careful thought will be needed as this could be an area of compromise, particularly if siding with projectors.
Both will provide you with a good range of ports, but televisions just flat out offer more. Larger projectors can offer a decent handful of ports but nothing like a TV, and to get those decent numbers of sockets, you’re already looking at the much more expensive models. Similarly, it’s rare to find projectors that offer HDMI 2.1 ports, and not many can really offer the guaranteed new-gen gaming performance that the best 120Hz 4K TVs can.
On that note, true 4K resolution is rare and expensive in projectors. The best 4K projectors get really expensive, really quickly. So, while you will get a much larger picture size, it’ll take a hell of a budget to ensure it’s also UHD to keep up with that near-standard 4K resolution on TVs now – it’ll likely be 1080p in reality, or possibly even lower. And a projector that can match the best 8K TVs? Dream on.
In terms of sound, both aren’t great by default, but the speakers now found in the latest TVs are still better than those in projectors from a sheer quality point of view. Plus, they would have the benefit of coming from where the picture is presented to you, rather than behind you or above you from the point of projection. If you’re hooking up a sound system in either scenario, then this won’t be a problem, but it is an additional expense.
Lastly, a big factor for projectors particularly is latency or input lag. This is as good as its ever been on TVs, and you could almost not worry about it when purchasing a television. However, such is input lag’s importance in projectors is that it often can be a deciding factor between projector models themselves. In short, this is the time it takes for your actions to be represented on-screen in-game; the lower the better. It’s another factor that is improving with each cycle on both, but TVs being the instant picture-givers they are, do have the edge and can offer lower input lag speeds.
Projector vs TV: price
The good news is that both projectors and TVs are more affordable than ever. It’s as easy as it’s ever been to get a top-quality projector or TV and maximize your bang for buck value.
However, if you really want a projector that will go toe-to-toe with the top gaming TVs, then you are going to be looking at a big budget. A massive budget, really. Something like that demanded of the $6,000 / £6,000 Sony VPL-VW590ES – which you could buy several TVs with. True 4K resolution, low input lag, HDMI 2.1 ports, and excellent picture quality – as the core features – do not come cheap on projectors.
That’s where TVs win out – you can get all of the above for a much better value package. Yes, you’ll be tied to a certain screen size, but that screen will offer everything for gaming and more.
Who should buy a projector?
If you want to break the mould, desire the largest picture possible (to recreate a cinema effect, perhaps) and have a spare wall for a massive picture then a projector could be for you. There really isn’t much better than filling a wall with sports, entertainment, and gaming.
However, be aware that the latter is probably something you’ll have to compromise on a bit if you want to restrain that budget. If you’re OK with only HD (1080p) gaming, then this is a big first step, for example. Otherwise, think about the key specs that you need to bear in mind, and how they’ll work with your space and budget.
You should buy a projector if you:
- Have a big budget
- Value screen size over everything else
- Are extremely restricted on living space
- Have a spare wall to project onto or space for a screen
- Only have one gaming machine to hook up (maybe two)
- Have a separate sound system read to plug in
Who should buy a TV?
If you were only mildly thinking about a projector, a TV is probably still the safer bet. You’ll maximise your bang for buck value and ensure you get all the features and quality your budget can allow – and you’ll guarantee that 4K resolution (almost).
The traditional TV comes out as the more sensible option for gaming when considering all factors. You’ll get something that can house many devices including multiple new-gen consoles running at their highest frame rates, and also get decent sound to boot right out of the box. Yes, you won’t have the mega image size that a projector will offer, but you’ll make up for it in features and specs.
Grab a TV if you:
- Want the top gaming screen specs for consoles
- Have a smaller budget and want to maximise value
- Don’t mind the space of TV furniture
- Are a fan of the major TV brands’ quality
- Have multiple devices and gaming consoles
- Want the best gaming display
- Desire maximum image quality over size