How to Use a Projector as a TV

Watch your favorite shows and even live television on a projector

What to Know

  • You can use any projector as a TV, but you may need additional hardware.
  • If your projector has built-in apps, you may be able to use it as a TV right out of the box.
  • You can also connect a streaming device, cable box, or TV tuner to your projector.

This article explains how to use any projector as a television. Depending on your projector's capabilities, you may need additional hardware or adapters to use it as a TV.

Can You Use a Projector as a TV?

While a projector can easily stand in for television for most functions, they aren’t entirely interchangeable. The most significant difference is televisions have built-in TV tuners, which allow them to receive over-the-air broadcasts. So while you can easily use a projector instead of a TV to play video games, stream movies and shows, and other activities, the crucial act of watching broadcast television requires additional hardware.

Here are your options for using a projector as a TV:

  • Cable box: If you have a cable box, you can plug it into your projector via HDMI and use your projector just like you would use a traditional TV.
  • Streaming device: If you have a streaming device like a Roku or Fire Stick, you can connect it to your projector via HDMI and then watch TV using an app like YouTube TV or fuboTV that lets you stream live television.
  • Native apps: Some projectors are built on platforms like Android TV and run apps natively. If you have a projector like that, you may be able to run a television streaming app directly on the projector without needing a separate streaming device.
  • TV tuner: These devices replicate the missing functionality found in televisions but typically missing from projectors. The way they work is you connect an antenna to the tuner, connect the tuner to your projector, and then watch local broadcast television channels just like you would with your television.

How to Use a Projector as a TV

Before you can use a projector as a TV, you need to figure out which method you’re going to use. If you have a cable TV subscription, then a cable box is the best method, as it will give you access to the service for which you’re already paying.

If you opt for a streaming device, you’ll need to purchase one and then pay for a subscription to a television streaming service. If your projector supports native apps, then all you need to pay for is a subscription to the app of your choice. If you want to watch local channels, then a TV tuner and appropriate antenna are the best way to go.

Once you’ve decided which method to use, you’re ready to set up your projector to use as a TV:

  1. Set up the projector as you would normally.

    You’ll need a free HDMI input, so you may need to unplug an input device like a Blu-ray player or DVD player if your projector doesn’t have enough available inputs.

  2. Connect an HDMI cable to an input on your projector.

  3. Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to your cable box, streaming device, or TV tuner.

  4. Connect your projector to a sound bar, speakers, or home theater system.

  5. If you’re using a cable box or TV tuner, you may need to wait a while for the device to receive programming information from the cable company or search for available over the air channels.

  6. If you’re using a streaming device or native app, download and install a television streaming app.

  7. You’re ready to start watching TV using your projector.

Is It Okay to Use a Projector to Watch TV Every Day?

It’s perfectly safe to use your projector as a television using any of the methods outlined above. You may have bought your projector to achieve that in-home cinematic experience, but you’ll find it works just as well for everyday television viewing, from watching the news to catching up on your favorite sitcoms.

The only potential issue with using a projector for everyday TV viewing is we tend to interact with television differently than movies watched on a projector. For example, many people turn their television on for background noise, and some even leave it on all day.

If your projector uses a bulb with a relatively low lifespan, then you’ll need to take that into account when using the projector as a TV. For example, you could quickly burn out a 2,000-hour projector bulb in less than a year if you leave it on for prolonged periods every day.

If your projector has a long-life LED lamp that’s rated for tens of thousands of hours of use, then it’s much easier to use it like you would any other television without worrying about replacing the bulb every year. We still recommend turning off any projector you aren't actively using.

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