What Is a Rear Projection TV?

Learn how they work—and whether or not one is right for your home

A rear projection TV is a type of display technology featuring a CRT, LCD, or digital light processing (DLP) projector inside the chassis which projects an image on to the front-mounted screen. It was popular during the early days of now-traditional LCD TVs, where LCD technology was prohibitively expensive. Rear projection technology also allowed for much larger TVs than traditional CRTs, which would typically reach a maximum size of around 40-inches.

Rear projection TVs were at their peak of production and popularity in the early-to-mid-2000s, dropping off substantially in 2008, when most manufacturers halted production over lacklustre sales due to the reduced cost and increased popularity, of LCD TVs. The last rear projection TVs were released in 2012 by Mitsubishi.

What Does a Rear Projection TV Look Like?

Rear projection TVs don't look too dissimilar to CRT TVs of their era, although they are often a little more compact, with considerably less depth—especially at larger sizes. They could enjoy flat screens, although they are still far deeper than even their contemporary LCD counterparts, and especially so when compared to modern TVs.

Early rear projection TVs based on CRT technology were too big to wall mount, unless a specific cavity was built into the wall. They were also extremely heavy, with large TVs weighing hundreds of pounds. Later LCD and DLP rear projection TVs were slimmer and considerably lighter, but would still be considered bulky by modern standards.

Are Rear Projection TVs Any Good?

Rear projection TVs don't look terrible, especially the larger and more capable ones which can display 1080p resolution. They are, however, extremely limited by modern standards.

Their physical size and weight, especially at larger sizes, make them very difficult, if not impossible, to wall mount, and very hard to manouevre. Modern digital TVs based on newer LCD and OLED technology look substantially better, allowing for higher resolutions, increased refresh rate, better contrast ratio, and increased brightness.

Not only that, but rear projection TVs lack support for all manner of more contemporary display standards and connectors. They lack newer generation HDMI ports, Wi-Fi technology, and smart features.

If you have an old rear projection screen lying around, it can work fine as a secondary screen, but you may struggle to connect modern devices to it. If you're looking to buy a new TV for any reason, you are far better off spending your money on a newer design—even a second hand model from the past few years will far surpass even the best rear projection TVs.

Do They Still Make Rear Projection TVs?

No. Although some specialist shops may repair them and you may be able to buy them secondhand from flea markets or auction sites, there are no rear projection TVs being made today.

How Long Does a Rear Projection TV Last?

Early CRT rear projection TVs have a strong shelf life, and can last years or even over a decade without trouble if they're well cared for. However, later DLP projectors use projector bulbs, which burn out after a few thousand hours. It depends how you use them, and the brightness you set the TV at, but there were reports of some DLP TVs requiring bulb replacements every year, while some could go five years without replacing them.

The downside to that is while those bulbs used to be relatively inexpensive, today they're far harder to find and much more expensive because of it, making rear projection TVs only something worth maintaining for hobbyist collectors.

  • What can I do with an old rear projection TV?

    Aside from recycling or donating your old TV, you can disassemble it and sell the internal parts, then repurpose the outer shell as a new nightstand, ottoman, or terrarium.

  • Where can I recycle my rear projection TV?

    Visit the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company website and enter your location to find out where you can recycle your old TV. Recycling old electronics is important because the metals and chemicals they contain can contaminate the environment.

  • How do I repair a rear projection TV?

    Since rear projection TVs are no longer widely used, you may have trouble finding a repair shop that will fix them for a reasonable fee, so your best option is to do it yourself. Research your model online to see if the manufacturer has any troubleshooting tips.

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