Nothing can up your gaming experience quite like moving to the big screen, in fact, it’s one of the main advantages of using a projector which I explored in my pros and cons article. The level of immersion for video games is already higher than just watching a video, because you’re doing something active. Using a big screen really ups the experience even further, but there are a few details you have to get right to pull off gaming on a projector.
When gaming on a projector, you may have a few details to figure out like making sure the refresh rate and input lag don’t affect your experience. You may need to figure out an external speaker solution as well.
The distance from your projector screen is also important, but by going through the list and considering all these details, you can make sure you’re getting the best gaming experience you can. Especially when using a projector, all the details matter.
Factors to Consider when Playing Games on a Projector
Playing games on a projector can be an amazing experience. Images are brighter, clearer, and on a ‘big’ screen, moreover, because of the larger projection, they tend to be much easier on your eyes which we explained in our other guide. As great as this sounds there are a few factors to consider, otherwise you’re bound to run into a few issues, including things like noise which can be an annoyance for some people (our walkthrough and solution).
You might be tempted to spend your money on a 4K projector. Yes, images will look amazing but it might not work extremely well with your gaming device. You should make sure that the projector has a refresh rate of 120 Hz or higher. If you try gaming on a projector that has a low refresh rate, your movements and actions in whatever game you are playing can feel delayed.
We’ll talk more about that below, but as you consider these details, be sure to keep in mind our other articles detailing the six best gaming projectors you can buy, and also a more detailed write-up on what sets gaming projectors apart from home theater projectors.
Brightness and Screen Quality
Brightness is another factor to think about. After all, you don’t want to miss any details on a game level. You might not always be using the projector at night, and sometimes the lights need to be on. This will affect how clearly you can see image details. If you prefer gaming in the dark or already have a home theater system set up to handle various lighting, a projector with 1,000 or higher lumens will be adequate.
If there is ambient lighting in the room, you want the projector to have at least 1,500 lumens. Brightly lit rooms will require 3,000 lumens or more unless you don’t mind missing important details in the game. For example, the BenQ HT2150ST 1080P Short Throw Projector (on Amazon) has a lumen spec of 2200, indicating it would be a great fit for a room with some ambient light, but may struggle during the day in a room with lots of windows.
You also want to consider the space you’ll be using the projector in. Do you have plenty of room or is space limited? This will help determine if you need a short-throw projector, which is ideal for smaller areas. Consider lighting, is it dark or well-lit in the room? Some projectors are designed to work perfectly in bright rooms without affecting picture quality, for example, laser projectors – which we’ve talked about before – are better for energy efficiency.
One other factor to consider is the projector screen. Not all screens work with every projector. Before you purchase one or the other, ensure that they are compatible. If they’re not, images may be distorted, blurred, or impossible to center.
Distance from the Projector Screen
When you’re using a tablet or laptop for gaming, you need to be up close to ensure you don’t miss any details. With a projector, you don’t need to be inches away. Sitting too close can damage your eyesight, cause headaches, neck strain, and other problems.
The distance from the projector to the screen will depend on room size. If you have a smaller area, look at short -throw projectors. These projectors are designed specifically for use in areas where space is limited. You can still enjoy your games on a 100” or even 120” screen, only the projector can be placed as close as 7 to 8 feet away.
When you’re trying to determine how far the projector needs to be away from the screen, there are a few steps to follow. First, you want to measure the room’s length and width. This will help you determine if you need a short-throw projector or one with a longer range. You can still measure the area, even if it has an irregular shape. Not all rooms are square or rectangular. Don’t forget to take into account any furniture. You don’t want to be stuck removing a couch just to install a home projector.
You also want to look at the projector’s model specifications, after you’ve measured the room. Check for the distance needed for the screen size you want. It’s usually stated as “screen size @ distance”. If the specifications are 100-inch @ 8-feet, you know that you need at least that amount of distance between the projector and the screen.
One tip to remember when you’re setting up your gaming projector is that the best place is usually between the two walls in the room that are furthest apart. Most projectors, as we explained here, will also allow you to install them at an angle, which is helpful in cramped spaces. To center the image on the screen, use the keystone correction on the projector.
Projector Refresh Rate
There is nothing worse when you in the middle of a road race or fighting a level’s top boss only to lose because the images were blurry or lag time was slow. For serious gamers, almost nothing is more important that refresh rate and lag time. Refresh rate refers to how fast the projector can process the images from your gaming device.
With a fast refresh rate, images are crisp and clear. Graphics are smoother and seamless, which helps to improve your gaming experience. The gaming projector you choose should have a refresh rate of 120hz or higher, like the Optoma GT1080HDR Short Throw Gaming Projector (on Amazon).
Input lag is the amount of time it takes for your projector to create the image sent from the connected gaming device. Slow lag times can mean that you’re missing out on some of the game’s action. For example, if you have a slow lag time, your character could’ve have died in combat before the image is on the screen.
Lag times are measured in milliseconds, and even casual gamers want to look for a projector with an input lag around 50ms. Some projectors even come with a gaming mode feature that can also improve lag times. However, these models often come with a higher price tag.
Using External Speakers
Projectors typically aren’t known for their great built-in speakers. Most projector speakers are not that different sounding than the ones on your laptop. For many gamers, it’s not a problem that the game voices sound faint or ‘tinny’. You can find some home theater projectors with advertised ‘cinematic quality audio’, but be careful. It still doesn’t mean that the built-in speakers will have amazing sound quality.
If audio is an important feature, you will either have to invest in new speakers or a soundbar if you don’t already have one connected to your home entertainment system. Purchasing speakers can be expensive, and soundbars are often priced the same, you can also have problems with refresh rates and lag times.
Refresh rates and input lag times are almost always faster when the gaming console is connected directly to the projector. When you connect a soundbar or speakers to the projector (our guide on how to do that) and the gaming console to the home entertainment system, there will be a decrease in lag time and the image refresh rate.
This is due to the signal from the gaming console having to pass through the entertainment system before being received by the projector. If the projector’s primary job is to display game images on the screen, not watching movies, adding external speakers might not be necessary.
Projector Heat and Noise
Home theater projectors might be relatively compact, and typically weigh between 20 – 30 pounds, but they can still emit plenty of heat and noise. The noise is usually from the fan designed to keep the projector from overheating. There are a few things you do to minimize fan noise and reduce heat. If you reduce the heat, the noise from the fan will decrease.
The first step is to make sure that the vents on the projector aren’t blocked. The vents improve airflow and need to be kept clear. This means being careful where the projector is set up, along with any items you might have laying around nearby. You want there to be at least 50 cm of space between the vents and any obstructions.
Hard surfaces are the best place to set up your projector. Softer surfaces like rugs, carpet, and sofas can block cooling vents. You also want to clean the vents regularly to prevent dust build-up. You also don’t want to black the vents on the bottom. The feet on the bottom of the projector are designed to allow air to flow to the small vents.
Where you have the projector set up can also affect heat and fan noise. You don’t want to install it in a sunny spot or directly under a lamp. Look for a dark place in the room where the sun won’t directly hit the projector, this will dramatically decrease the amount of time the fan needs to run to prevent overheating.
What you don’t want to do is place cold packs on the projector to keep it cool. It will invalidate your warranty and potentially run the projector if water seeps in. Using an external fan to cool the projector can also affect warranty agreement terms.
There’s nothing like gaming on a projector. Your game is on a 100” screen. You feel almost like you are in the middle of the action, and details are sharp and clear. While this sounds amazing, it only lives up to your expectations if you remember a few important factors.
You want to choose a projector with a fast refresh rate and minimal lag time. It’s also important to pay attention to the size of your space. If you have a small area, you’ll need a projector that can accommodate shorter distances without distorting the images. With a little bit of research, comparing various product specs, you can experience the thrill of gaming on the ‘big screen’.