Projectors -- once the pursuit of the rich, now available for just over £1,000. If you've ever harboured a desire to turn your living room into a full-blown cinema, start by getting a projector.
Texas Instruments' DLP chipset, which acts as the engine in all the projectors below, has taken the home-cinema market by storm. Without the annoying 'chicken wire' effect of LCD chipsets, where each separate pixel is often noticeable, DLP has become the de facto standard of home projection.
These projectors are also very good with today's TV and DVD sources. None of them have high-definition chipsets, but they all offer good detail levels and can be used for both films and television.
Dell's 2300MP is the complete package: a small main unit, all the cables you need to set up your home cinema, and a sturdy carry case to hold it all. The downside to its budget price tag is a 4:3 chipset, which makes it almost redundant for film use, and a bad throw distance. As a first step it shows promise, but if you can spend a little more, you'll get something much better suited to home-cinema demands.
The InFocus ScreenPlay 5700 is the most expensive projector in our roundup, but it comes from a company that has had great success in the home market. True to form, the 5700's cinematic picture quality impresses us more than that of any other model here. Even if the picture needs more contrast, it offers the best price/performance ratio out there. The chassis isn't very compact, but it does have a carry handle that's been moulded from the main body, and it remains quiet enough to use for everyday television viewing.
NEC promises that the HT510 is a dedicated home cinema projector, and it has the goods to back this up. Longer than it is wide, the projector is designed to be situated wherever it's convenient, even on angled surfaces. It also features a widescreen chipset that's optimised for PAL material, meaning all the glorious detail is kept intact whether you're watching a DVD movie or an episode of Eastenders. It also has excellent connectivity and all the cables you need from the box.
Toshiba's TDP-S25 is a business/home cinema hybrid. On the home-cinema side, connectivity is lacklustre and the 4:3 resolution chipset isn't suited to films. On the PC side, things are better: it has two VGA inputs and the picture quality is great, making it a good candidate if you own a Media Center PC. It's also extraordinarily cheap, especially considering it's made by projection expert Toshiba, and it's compact and easy to set up.