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TV vs Projector for Eyes: Which One Causes Less Eye Strain?

Do you suffer from eye issues? Like thousands of Americans, I do. In fact, my semi-annual eye appointment serves as a constant reminder that I need to take better care of my eyes. Over the past few years, however, I have started trying to do just that. We have all heard about the damaging effects of starting at a screen all day. However, did you know the experts were not just talking about your computer monitor? Your home theater may also be affecting your eye health too. In fact, if you suffer from eye issues or just want to take care of your vision now, the choice between a projector and TV is actually more important than you think.

So are projector screens better than TVs for your eyes? Yes, projector screens actually are better for your eyes. Projectors are able to produce much larger images, which put less strain on your eyes. In addition to this, projectors reflect light while TVs emit it. Reflected light is easier on your eyes, keeping your eyes comfortable without the added strain created by emitted light.

Projectors and televisions both have plenty of pros and cons. In fact, I have written plenty of article about the merits of both. Below, however, I look at these products in regards to your eye health. After all, if you love your home theater as much as I do, you will be spending a lot of time in front of the screen. Why not protect your eye health while doing so?

Projector Screen vs TV: Visual Enhancements or Degraders?

TV vs Projector: Which is better for the eyes?

When it comes to investing in your home theater, there are tons of factors you will want to consider. For projectors, and their corresponding screens, specifications, such as ambient light, lumens, and contrast ratios, are just a few of the criteria you will want to evaluate.

While I have talked about these specs extensively – the impacts of these factors should be considered as well. And, if you’re interested, we have a more detailed guide on comparing TVs and Projectors.

Image Resolution & Scalability

TV vs Projector Resolution

Televisions certainly come in an array of sizes, each with various resolutions to choose from. High Definition televisions (HDTVs) are currently considered some of the best TVs on the market today and are a popular choice for home theaters.

With 1080p technology built into each HDTV, it is no wonder why many believe a television may be easier on the eyes.

However, this is not quite true. While that 1080p 50-inch TV you picked up provides a clear image, it is rather limited. That is because TVs have a fixed resolution and screen size. Projectors, on the other hand, allow you the freedom to adjust and scale your image to a size that feels more comfortable for you.

In fact, thanks to technological advances, some higher end projectors can actually exceed the 1080p resolution. The resolution potential, as well as the ability to scale your images over 100-inches, means your eyes can focus on the screen without suffering the same strain they might on a TV.

Reflected vs Emitted Light

When a TV receives an incoming signal, it goes through a cathode-ray tube (CRT) process. The result of the CRT is a picture that is emitted, using electrons and light, through your TV screen. In this sense, your TV emits an image towards you.

The majority of modern TVs are significantly brighter than older models. In fact, Sony demonstrated a prototype at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that claims to be 10 to 15 times brighter than the TV you currently own.

TV manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to increase their products’ brightness. Why? Because brightness often makes for a more crisp and realistic image.

That being said, there are limits to how much brightness your eyes can handle. Have you ever suffered from headaches or tired eyes after staring at your computer screen or TV screen for long hours?

The brightness may be a factor – especially if this happens while you watch your screen in the dark. Because everyone is different, brightness is a personal factor. However, what may be fine today may become harder to handle as you age or your eyes grow more tired.

Projector screens do not emit light. In fact, these screens reflect the image directed towards them from the projector.

This helps to greatly reduce the level of light being captured by your eyes and, therefore, reduces stress levels on your optic nerve. For many, this makes viewing an image or movie much more comfortable.

The Trade Off

The projector screen is better for your eyes. However, there are some tradeoffs that you should keep in mind as well.

Ambient Light

Home theater projectors can appear less crisp when ambient light is present. While they do make projectors that work well in ambient light, these models are typically much more expensive than your standard HDTV.

Most experts recommend at least 2,000 ANSI lumens for rooms that have some ambient light. For rooms with a lot of ambient light, however, you should look for a model that had 3,000 ANSI lumens, if not more, to combat image dilution.

Not everyone is bothered by this, but it is something you should consider if you are going to invest in a projector for your home theater or business (more on the differences in our guide). If you are unsure about the measurement of lumens, then check out our in-depth article all about lumens.

Bulb Lifespan

Projectors use specially designed lightbulbs to throw the image from the device to the screen. While this light is better for your eyes than that of a TV, it comes at an expense.

Depending on the type of projector you decide to buy, the bulb may have a limited lifespan. Some last only a few thousand hours.

These bulbs can be expensive, so make sure you look into the bulb replacement cost before investing in a projector.

Room Size

Projectors are great because you can scale them to almost any size screen. Some are even made to go anywhere with you.

However, the size of your room may affect which projectors will work best for you, for instance, some people – including me – say that laser projectors are better for being energy efficient, so different types are worth looking into.

It may also limit your ability to view your images on a larger screen. (That being said – the reflected light from the projector still makes the projector the healthier choice for your eyes.) We have a great article all about home theater room sizes that is extremely helpful!