Ever since I turned 18 and struck out on my own, I’ve lived without a television. Between a lack of space (hello, 400-square-foot casita in Santa Fe), lack of time (looking at you, freelance gigs), and lack of interest (who needs a TV when you have a phone and unlimited data?), it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve felt the need to turn on a regular flatscreen. So when it came to furnishing my new home, I knew I didn’t want a TV cluttering up my living room—but I had to upgrade from my 17-inch Macbook screen if I wanted to catch all of the Easter eggs in Russian Doll. My solution? Take a cue from elementary school days and invest in an old-school, stowable, pull-down screen and a projector.
I’ve found it to be a perfect modern, high-quality, fun way to watch my favorite shows, and it seems I’m not the only one. At CES (an annual tech and gadget trade show) in January, several brands debuted projectors that make the giant, heavy, unintuitive boxes of glass we call TVs look clumsy. The new generation of projectors can throw a high-resolution picture up to 300 inches diagonally. They’re lighter, smaller, more powerful, more versatile—whether you enjoy gaming, streaming, or watching good old-fashioned live TV.
For the projector-curious and TV-averse, these are the high-quality and simple-setup solutions I landed on (after lots of research) to make a movie theater in my own living room.
Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K Projector
The first time I streamed Netflix with my projector, I was shocked at the quality. Besides having better resolution capability than almost anything else on the market (especially for the price), this projector has Bluetooth-connect compatibility, so you can use whatever Bluetooth home speaker you like (whether it’s a soundbar or a Sonos system). Admittedly, I have the older (and, at $700, more affordable) version of this projector, which I adore. The new, 4K version features 3LCD technology that makes the picture vibrant and true-to-life, without any “rainbow effect” blurring that you might see in older or lower-quality projectors. It projects so brightly (3,000 lumens, five times the brightness of lightbulbs) so the picture won’t get washed out by the sun even if you’re watching in the daytime. One more feature that sold me on Epson: You can project from anywhere in the room and adjust the picture’s placement with an advanced Lens Shift feature—so you won’t have to put your projector on a stack of books to get the image lined up properly on your screen or wall.
Check out the Epson Home Cinema 3800 at Best Buy or B&H. ($1,700)
Elite Screens 100-Inch Pull-Down Projection Screen
The most difficult purchase I made while creating my home theater setup was the projector screen. It seems like there are a million different options out there with endless aspect ratios, diagonal measurements, and features. I found my first purchase, a 72-inch screen from Amazon too small (and it smelled like chemicals). Now I have the Elite Screens 100-inch pull-down screen, which can hang nearly anywhere and has an automatic slow-retract mechanism that quietly and slowly rolls the screen up with just a little tug. This helps preserve the life of the screen and generally helps you avoid any cartoonish moments. It’s the perfect size to enjoy movie-theater-style pictures in your own home, but most impressively, it comes with Greenguard certification for construction materials and indoor use—meaning the screen has met strict chemical emissions limits as set by the Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI) and testing protocol followed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—no weird smells here.
Check out the Elite Screen 100-inch projection screen at B&H. ($150)
Sonos Two Room Pro Set with Play:5
If you have the budget for high-quality speakers, I recommend the Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-equipped Sonos Two Room Pro Set. They’re equipped with three custom-designed woofers that eliminate reverb and echo, as well as hold the integrity of natural vocal frequencies. Grammy Award-winning record producer Giles Martin tuned these speakers, so they mean business when it comes to sound. Plus, they’re portable, so you can customize your surround sound when you’re watching a movie or gaming and have two home speakers for jamming out to music when you’re not. If you’re in the market for something more affordable, try the chic Rålis speaker from Urbanears. It has a 20-plus-hour battery life, intuitive and useful connectivity options, and only costs a cool $200 for a lot of quality.
Buy the Pro Set at Sonos ($950), or the Rålis at B&H ($180).
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