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Can you really get a good home theater projector for $499? That's the promise of the BoxTV Home Theater Projector, a 640x480 LCD unit that we've seen advertised in some places on the Web for $349. Hey, that's cheaper than a replacement bulb on most other home theater projectors. Plus, to change the bulb on this baby will only cost you $30. Sounds great. The very idea of buying a home theater projector for such a low price piqued our curiosity. Is this even possible? Come on over to the next page, and find out.

The Box TV projector is available in either gray or black, and the company sent us a black one for a review. Taking it out of the box, it was heavier than we expected, a full 9 pounds, and larger than it really needed to be. We noticed that its lens felt loose and jiggly, and overall it felt really flimsy and cheap. Still with completely open minds, we were eager to plug it in and see what wonders it held in store for us.

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As soon as we fired it up, there was the show-stopper. It had absolutely the loudest projector fan we've ever heard. No kidding—it sounded as loud as a vacuum cleaner. It was so noisy that it was hard to hear the audio, even when our Dolby 5.1 home theater system was cranked up to a respectable volume level.

With that serious fault alone, we decided this projector was not worthy of even the humblest of home theaters. Even so, we pressed on. Next we started running our DisplayMate obstacle course on this unit, projecting finely detailed charts, color bars, black level charts and such. It became immediately apparent that the "screen door effect" for which LCD displays were once loathed back in the old days was still alive and kicking in this BoxTV. The latticework of the single 640x480 LCD chip was immediately visible, even from 12 feet away.

In fact, this was a veritable clinic, demonstrating the inherent problems of LCD projectors. The blacks were nowhere near black; they were just a muddy shade of washed-out dark gray. The projector's makers admit the contrast ratio is only 350:1, and we think that lowly quote is an optimistic overstatement. Then there's the matter of the resolution of this projector, which is nowhere near HD. Its native resolution is 640x480, but it tries to interpolate video up to 1024x768. However, that video doesn't look very good at all. It is by no means capable of displaying anything near HDTV.

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Summing up, would it be a good idea to save some money and spring for this BoxTV projector? At $349, what do you have to lose? Well, the company says any returns are subject to a 15% restocking fee, so if you pay the $499 retail price for this product, you could be out $75 plus shipping as soon as you decide you can't stand the noise of a vacuum cleaner next to your head as you watch a movie. So let's revisit that question we asked at the beginning: Can you really get a good home theater projector for $499? No.

Product Page [BoxTV]