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How to Set Up a Projector to Watch TV?


So you set up your new projector to watch all the greatest movies on the big screen. But what if you want to watch your favorite TV shows as well? Is that possible? Of course it is! However, there are a few steps you need to take to make sure you get everything set up properly first.

Let’s take a look at exactly what you need to do to get the most out of your projector when you get the urge to turn away from the movies and more into your favorite sports teams or television programs.

Can I use a projector for everyday TV watching?

Yep, you most certainly can. There really isn’t much difference between watching TV shows on your projector versus your normal flatscreen. That is the good news, but there are some things you simply won’t be able to do with your projector that a television can.

The main difference between a projector and TV is the lack of a TV tuner built into a projector. So don’t expect to pick up local stations over-the-air with your projector. If you are a cord cutter and rely on this feature with your TV, you will have to continue watching it on your television and leave the projector for everything else.

So what are your options for watching TV shows on your projector? Let’s see:

options for watching TV shows on your projector

  1. Cable Provider: If you have a cable box from your local cable company, simply plugging that in via an HDMI port on your projector will allow you to use the two together seamlessly.
  2. Streaming Devices: Do you own a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, or other streaming devices? If so, plugging them into the HDMI input on your projector will allow you to use them just like you would on your television. 
  3. Built-in Apps: Some projectors, like smart TVs, have built in apps available to you. This means you won’t have to plug in any outside accessory to access apps such as Netflix or YouTube.

How do I play TV through my projector?

It really is a very easy process to connect your devices to the projector. Here we have laid it out in five simple steps to help you understand exactly what you need to do to watch your favorite shows right from your home theater projector.

You will need:

  • Projector
  • HDMI cable
  • Power cable
  • Speakers (if you aren’t using the built in speaker on the projector)
  • Streaming Device or Cable Box

1. Set Up Projector According to User Manual

Every projector is different, so to give a generic answer on how to “set it up” wouldn’t do you any good. No matter if you choose an Epson, BenQ, Sony, or any other projector brand, simply follow the instructions included with the projector to set it up.

2. Plug In a HDMI Cable to an HDMI Input on the Projector

plugging in HDMI into a projector

All new projectors will have an HDMI input on them, so find it and plug in a nice long HDMI cable. You will be using this cable for the next step, so make sure it is plugged in securely and long enough to reach your desired area.

3. Connect the Other End of the HDMI Cable to Your Device (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, Cable box, etc)

HDMI cable connected to a TV

Any device that is HDMI compatible will work here, so just use the streaming device of your choice. You can also connect your cable box from the cable company here as well. Whatever your choice, they should all work as long as they are HDMI compatible.

4. Connect Your Speakers to the Projector

If your projector has a built in speaker, then you can skip this step (if you plan on using that speaker). However, if you plan on using a surround sound system or sound bar for your audio, you will need to connect that to your audio out from the projector now.

5. Sit Back and Enjoy the Show!

Scroll through Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, or whatever streaming service you choose and pick your favorite show. You should see both the video and audio working correctly as long as you have connected your wires in the appropriate slots.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Using a Projector for Everyday TV Watching

There are pros and cons to every decision in life, and choosing between watching your shows on a television versus a projector is no different. Each system has its own positives and negatives, and to be honest, one is not inherently better than the other. Let’s see what makes a projector a good choice, and where exactly it falls short.

Projector Advantages

There are many advantages to using a projector over a television, but there are four main ones that we think you should consider when trying to decide where to watch TV shows. Each one here will give you a distinct advantage over traditional televisions, and will give you an overall better viewing experience.

1. Large Screen Size

The biggest, pun intended, draw to using a projector over a television is the mammoth size of screen you can have. You can easily project on a screen of 120-inches with a projector. Try finding a television that size….good luck.

2. Movie Theater Feel

a home theater with projector

The second real draw to using a projector is that movie theater feel you get from the image and screen. If you love going to the theater, sitting in the comfy chairs chomping on popcorn, why not bring that experience right into your own home? You can definitely do that if you choose a projector over a standard television.

3. Easier on Your Eyes

Televisions emit light, which can cause eye strain and fatigue if watched for long times. Projectors work by reflecting light off of a screen or wall, which is much easier on your eyes from both a fatigue and strain standpoint. For eye health, it is a no-brainer.

4. Portable

Anker Nebula Capsule, Smart Wi-Fi Mini Projector, Black, 100 ANSI Lumen Portable Projector, 360° Speaker, Movie Projector, 100 Inch Picture, 4-Hour Video Playtime, Neat Projector, Home Entertainment
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It is not very easy to unhook a television, move it to another place, set it back up, and play a movie. This is not the case with a projector. They are extremely portable in comparison, giving you the ability to move one from an office, classroom, home, or even back yard to watch movies or presentations wherever it is needed.

Projector Disadvantages

The thought of owning and using a projector is a dream for many. However, it is not all rainbows and butterflies. There are many drawbacks when it comes to using a projector versus using your normal flat screen television today. 

Let’s take a look at some of those disadvantages, so you can make an informed decision on whether you want to watch your TV shows on a projector or stick with your television.

1. Contrast Ratio

comparison between projector and TV screen

While top end projectors are extremely good in this regard, the normal home theater projector simply can not compete with a television. Especially if you happen to have an OLED display. You are going to get insanely great black levels with OLED, whereas all projectors will have a slight disadvantage here due to the reflective nature of the medium.

2. Sharpness

image displayed in pixel

High-end projectors that have 4k resolution are very sharp. However, their television counterparts still have an upperhand. As you are actually seeing the pixels on a television, versus the reflected image of projected pixels. 

The fundamental differences between the two technologies will put the projector at a slight disadvantage here, no matter how expensive or high-end your projector is.

3. Ambient Light

While ambient light is a huge problem for projectors, televisions are not plagued by this issue nearly as much. While a television may produce a glare, ambient light can alter the image of a projector much more drastically by washing it out and making the entire image hard to see.

If you are in a dedicated theater room, the ambient light won’t be as noticeable. However, in normal everyday use, a projector is at a disadvantage here.

4. Noise

noise from a projector cooling fan

One thing you need to understand about projectors, they get very hot. To combat how warm they get due to the lamp and power inside, manufacturers include fans to keep them cool. These fans are often very loud and can be a disturbance when trying to watch movies. 

This is not something you have to worry about on a television, and something you should consider as a possible distraction to your viewing enjoyment. A decent surround sound system will mask this noise, but it will always be present.

Is it safe to use a projector to watch TV everyday?

a man watching movies using a projector

There is a longstanding myth that if you leave your projector on for an extended amount of time that it will cause damage to the unit. This simply isn’t true for a decent name brand projector. They will have adequate cooling that will allow for hours of uninterrupted use at a time.

The one thing that you will need to consider is that the bulbs in projectors have an average life span, and will weaken and eventually die over time. So, the more you use a bulb, the more quickly you will need to replace it. However, most modern projectors that aren’t extremely cheap will have bulbs that last for thousands and thousands of hours.

Given this, don’t fret about falling asleep with your projector on. When you wake up hours later nothing will be damaged.


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