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Convert your room into a home cinema for less than $400

Convert your room into a home cinema for less than $400
PHOTO: Unsplash

Nothing beats the authentic movie theatre experience of viewing a movie in a dark room, projected on a massive screen, completed with a bag of popcorn or chips.

Since we are spending more time at home due to the pandemic, and the technology advancements have made the home-based projectors much more affordable and easier to set up, we have decided to bring that experience right into our abode.

In addition, we also challenged ourselves with a near impossible task, which is to convert one of our rooms into a home theatre cinema, that will earn thumbs up from any Cinemaphile, with a tiny budget of less than $400!

Striking a balance between performance and value is important, especially since the coronavirus pandemic reminds us that we should be prudent.

As $400 is roughly the annual amount an average couple will spend on movies, which is around 10 to 12 visits to the cinema. Therefore, it is a reasonable budget to work on.

Do you know?
Home projectors offer many advantages over the typical flat screen TV; they are cheaper, more compact, portable and are suitable for homes where the walls are unsuitable for mounting TV monitors.

Before we deep dive into the specifics of the projector, you should consider the following 3 factors first, to gauge whether if your home is suitable to setup a home theatre cinema.

Considerations for setting up a home theatre cinema

#1. Optimal room size

Aside from finding a light-coloured wall (or a blank white screen), we need to find a reasonable space in between the projector and the wall too. The distance between the projector and the wall determines the size of the image; too small the distance will mean a smaller than desirable projected image.

As the image size can also vary, depending on the zoom factor, aspect ratio, and other host of projector settings, we need to find an appropriate room where it supports a minimal distance of around 2.5m for an optimal home theatre experience.

Tip: The greater the distance between the projector and the wall, the larger the image to be projected. Short-throw projection generally operates at a distance between 3 to 8 feet away from the projector to the wall. Ultra-short throw projection operates at a distance between 0 to 4 feet away from the projector to the wall.

Remember to avoid using textured wall treatments since the unevenness will show up in the projection. You can consider setting up a motorized projection screen if you could not find a suitable wall to project on. 

#2. Suitable room configuration

Typically, projectors need to be placed perpendicular to the horizontal centreline of the wall, where the image is projected so that the output image is not skewed.

However, this is usually not possible for most home-based settings and therefore, it is often necessary for a projector to be placed in a position outside the line perpendicular to the screen.

Although, this can be addressed by using projectors with the ability to correct the image distortion (this feature used to be only available on larger or expensive professional level projectors), also known as keystone correction, the more keystone correction applied to the image, the lower quality it will be.

Tip: For best quality picture image, apply no or as little correction as possible. This is because the keystone correction technology is performed digitally, and this reduces the number of individual pixels used, and lowers the resolution and the quality of the image projected.

You should request your home renovation professionals to install an electrical outlet near the spot, where the projector is mounted in a position nearest to the line perpendicular to the screen.

#3. Optimal environment for home theatre viewing experience

Aside from the room size and configuration considerations, recreating the home cinema experience at home will need to take into the account to ensure that the projection does not look faded and washed out when it is projected on the wall during the daylight.

This means that if the projection wall is right next to a balcony or a row of windows, black-out curtains have to be installed to keep the room dark and the projection crisp and bright.

Tip: To ensure that the images are bright, the projector must minimally have 3,000 Lumens, the measurement of brightness that a projector gives out for a decent projection.

Aside from this, the projection will need to be high-resolution, otherwise it will not look crisp and sharp when it is projected on the wall. Hence, a minimum of 1080p HD or 4K Ultra High Definition (HD) resolution is required to match a near crystal-clarity output of the HD TV.

Disrupting the projector industry with high quality low cost solution

LUMOS AURO Home Cinema Short Throw Projector

Kindly note that this is not a sponsored post.

Our relentless search ends up with LUMOS AURO, an extremely affordable projector made by the local company, LUMOS, which focus on offering high specification projectors at pocket-friendly prices.

The average cost of a projector (with similar specifications) used to be around a thousand and more, but LUMOS is offering its projectors at a price between $299 to $398.

It is noteworthy that increasingly vendors such as LUMOS (which do not have a physical storefront and ship directly from the production house), are able to leverage on the direct-to-consumer business model and pass their savings directly to consumers. As a result, we are able to enjoy a well-built projector at a pocket-friendly price!

We order the Lumos AURO through their website and the experience is quite smooth. Our order arrived approximately 2 weeks later.

The space taken up by the Lumos AURO measures around 32cm (Length) by 24cm (Width) by 13cm (Height, when adjusted to the tallest). The actual footprint taken up will be slightly bigger, around 35 cm (Length) and 35 cm (Width) when 11 cm is set aside behind for hot air ventilation.

The package comes with a remote control, RCA connector, power code and an HDMI cable.

The SD card slot and HDMI ports are found on the right side of the projector.

The rest of the ports are found behind.

8 things you should know about the Lumos AURO projector

#1. Suitable for compact rooms; requires a short throw distance of 1.5m only

The short-throw projection distance of 1.3:1 allows you to enjoy your movies that comes with an amazing size. For us, we are able to achieve an amazing 110” to 120″ display with only 2.9m distance in our bedroom! Technically, Lumos AURO is able to reach up to 300″ display.

#2. Different versions (and prices) to cater to different types of usage

Regular version – Retailing at $299, the basic version requires connections to facilitate external inputs from sources like laptops/USB/Media/TV box/consoles in order to work and display content.

Smart version – Retailing at #398, the advanced version has the same functionality as the regular version, but runs on its own operating system (Android OS). It supports Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Connectivity and comes with preinstalled Netflix, YouTube, casting Android applications.

Although it comes with the Android PlayStore, this is pretty useless since the additional apps (such as Toggle, MeWatch, KissAsian) are not fully compatible and supported. The smart version is supportable with the Airplay and Mcast once it is connected to the same Wifi. Image correction feature such as Digital Zoom, is only available on the Smart version.

Due to our lifestyle needs, we have opted for the Smart version.

#3. Almost plug and play, comes with HDMI, AV cables and remote control

Available out of the box, you do not need to purchase the HDMI, AV cables and remote control, all you need to do is to plug and play the device!

Unfortunately, the Lumos AURO projector does not come equipped with a wireless mouse for easy navigation through the various menus. This is a pity, considering that wireless mouse retailing online is selling for as cheap as $6.

ALSO READ: Top 5 wireless sound system for the ultimate home theatre setup

#4. Side projection possible with the keystone correction and digital zoom capabilities

Lumos AURO is able to adapt to the various awkward positions in our room due to its keystone correction (up to +-50 degree) and zoom capabilities. As a result, the projection still appears horizontal despite the awkward angle. We have placed the Lumos AURO at one corner of our bedroom. Do note that the more correction you made to the side, the less crisp the projection at these ends.

#5. Rich moving graphics for an immersive cinematic experience

At 6000 Lumens (on average, most are on 4000 to 6000 Lumens), we are able to enjoy vibrant, rich graphics, especially when the projection is done in a darkened room.

With an HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, suited for playing high quality Blu-Ray discs or HD streaming. In addition, Lumos AURO supports both 16:9 and 4:3 ratio, so that the content is able to be displayed properly without distortion.

Lumos AURO also offers high contrast ratio of 4000:1 (the minimal contrast of 1500:1 is needed for a decent projection) which allows deeper colours to show through. This certainly helps us to immerse in a truly cinematic experience.

#6. Indulge in the best of audio quality with Dolby audio AC-3 supported

The crisp and cinematic rich surround sound makes the moving watching experience more superior. AC-3 is also aka Dolby Digital, an audio standard, which guarantees you an amazing movie experience, If you wish to upgrade the audio experience further, try connecting the  LUMOS AURO projector with a wireless Bose speaker!

#7. Customise the height and angle with a professional adjustable stand

A professional adjustable stand is recommended if you need to negotiate tricky and awkward corners. The stand, which retails at $55 (bundled price) is highly recommendable since it is able to adjust to any desired height (from Extends from 60cm to 120cm) and rotate to any degree for all positional needs.

Kindly note that there are also other cheaper projector stands available, which retails from $25 to $35. Nevertheless, it is a pity that we decided to skip this option when we are purchasing our unit as we over estimated our ability in adjusting the height and degree of our projector.

#8. Comes with 1 year local warranty and a dedicated customer support

Fret not, if you worry about the durability of the product; Lumos AURO comes with a full 1 year local warranty and a dedicated customer support available too.

Test driving Lumos AURO

Here are a couple of videos to illustrate the quality and the fun things we did with the Lumos AURO projector.

For the test run, we have used the movie, Pacific Rim (featured in Netflix) to test the quality of the project and its sound effects. This was done without using the Bluetooth BOSE speaker. We also tried to take a close up view (with iPhone 7) of the subtitles to see if they are pixelated.


We also tried to convert our bedroom into the Ocean Suites at Resorts World Sentosa, by doing a 120″ projection video of the fish aquarium onto the wall.


Our verdict

As of today, we have test driven the home projector for almost 1 month. Except for one glitch, which was easily resolved by rebooting the home projector, Lumos AURO has performed exceedingly well.

It was almost surreal to be able to enjoy the cinematic experience right from the comfort of our home. Furthermore, it is done at such a pocket-friendly price of less than $400!

ALSO READ: Ask the experts: Setting up a home theatre system in your HDB flat

Therefore, we are strongly urging homeowners to consider converting one of their rooms as home theatre, especially since the cost of conversion is not expensive. It is fortunate that our experience with Lumos AURO so far has been a good one.

Nevertheless, with the rapid the technology advancements, we will not be surprised that there will be new products out there which are retailing home-based projectors at a higher specification and at a similar price. Therefore, always do your due diligence in the research before committing into one.

This article was first published in Renonation.

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