Projector Buyers Guide
There are many options to consider when purchasing a projection system. The right projector for you will depend on the operating environment. This guide will begin by explaining some of the more common terms used when discussing projectors.
Once we have explained the basic terminology we will then provide some general guidance for the more common projector applications including:
DLP® vs. LCD
DLP® and LCD are the two main technology types for projectors today. Both DLP and LCD technologies have advantages and disadvantages. While the gaps have been bridged significantly through the years there are still some basic fundamental differences.
DLP® - DLP (digital light processing) is a proprietary technology developed by Texas Instruments. Most DLP models will come with a single DLP chip that is made up of tiny mirrors. Each mirror accounts for 1 pixel, or single point of light, in the image. Light from the projector’s lamp is reflected off of the mirrors which either wobble “on” to direct the light towards the lens or “off” directing the light away. Single chip DLP projectors use a color wheel to modulate the color of the image. This wheel spins in the light path between the lamp and the DLP chip and the filters determine the color of the light hitting the chip. Some very high end home theater models utilize three separate DLP chips, negating the need for a color wheel.
Pros: Single chip models can be made much lighter and smaller than 3 chip LCD projectors. DLP models typically have much higher contrast ratios which make for deeper black and better video quality. DLP projectors also have a very small distance between each pixel, or “inter-pixel gap”, when compared to most LCD projectors.
Cons: Historically, some DLP projectors have had problems with color accuracy (i.e. for example, reds appear more maroon and yellows have an orange tint). BrilliantColor™ is a recent advancement in DLP technology that has helped provide more accurate, vibrant colors. If you are puchasing a DLP projector and color accuracy is important make sure you are purchasing a DLP model with BrilliantColor™. A second, historic drawback has been the “rainbow effect”. The rainbow effect is an artifact (i.e. best described as a multi-color shimmer) that typically appears in the viewer's peripheral vision. Some people are more sensitive to it than others. Newer machines with faster rotating color wheels, and / or additional color filters have made this less of a concern. Most newer models have a wheel that is 4x speed or faster which reduces the rainbow effects. Check the specifications of the color wheel for the model you’re considering.
LCD - LCD (liquid crystal display) projectors place three LCD glass panels in the projector, one for red, one for green, and one for blue. Light passes through the panels and individual pixels open or close to produce the image.
Pros: LCD projectors typically appear brighter and have better color accuracy. This leads to an image that seems more sharp and vivid overall. The rainbow effect, caused by some DLP color wheels does not occur in LCD projectors. LCD projection is an older and, therefore, less expensive digital projector technology.
Cons: Pixilation can be more noticeable with an LCD projector than a DLP projector. This is noticable when you are close to the screen or when the size of your image is large. The result can be "screendoor" effect, which is caused by the inter-pixel gap. Business grade LCD projectors typically have lower contrast than DLP projectors. Having a high contrast ratio is more important for video projection but less important when you’re displaying Powerpoint presentations or data in a meeting room.
Brightness is measured in ANSI lumens. To determine the brightness that’s right for your application, you must first consider your circumstances. Take into consideration how large the room is, how large the projected image must be in order for the audience to see it clearly, and if you want your audience to be able to take notes or refer to written material.
The resolution of your projector will be the main factor that determines how sharp and clear your picture will be. In general, the higher the resolution the better the quality of picture will be. You will see more detail and it will be less grainy and pixilated. The resolution of the projector should match the resolution of the computer that will be used with it. If you are not planning to display a lot of complicated or detailed graphics, a lower resolution projector will be adequate. The lower the resolution, the more money you will save.
4:3 Format Options:
- SVGA (800x600 pixels)= Suitable for basic PowerPoint presentations. SVGA is still the least expensive resolution but with the recent price drops of XGA models the price advantage of an SVGA projector is small and this resolution may soon become obsolete.
- XGA (1024x768 pixels)= Suitable for spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Adequate for most commercial applications. Recent price drops have made XGA resolution projectors extremely affordable. Most manufacturers are now producing wide screen business projectors (see WXGA below) to fit the growing number of presenters using widescreen formats for PowerPoint presentations.
- SXGA (1280x1024 pixels)= Suitable for technical drawings, small details(CAD/CAM applications), and detailed graphics.
- SXGA+ (1400x1050 pixels)= Suitable for detailed photography and data graphics.
- UXGA (1600x1200 pixels)= Suitable for very detailed applications and graphics requiring high resolution workstation applications that are detailed or information intensive
- WXGA (1280x800 pixels) (16:10 Aspect Ratio) = WXGA resolution projectors are designed to match the format of new wide screen laptop and desktop monitors. Wide XGA projectors are growing in popularity as more and more users upgrade to wide resolution computer monitors.
- HD 720 (1280x720 pixels) (16:9 Aspect Ratio) = for home theater use where the main viewing material is 720p HDTV. Nearly all new home theater models are now HD 1080 resolution (see below).
- HD 1080 (1920x1080 pixels) (16:9 Aspect Ratio) = for home theater use where the main viewing material is 1080 HDTV and Blu-Ray. Buying a projector with a native HDTV resolution will give you the best possible image quality for your HDTV and 1080p Blu-Ray movies.
- WUXGA (1920x1200) (16:10 Aspect Ratio) = for use in high end auditoriums, lecture halls, and houses of worship. Also called "Full HD+" resolution.
Contrast Ratio is the difference between the whitest white and the darkest black colors that the display can show. The higher the contrast the crisper your images, the more vibrant your colors will be, and the better the color representation. When a projector provides good contrast, images are clear and attractive. Projectors with a lower contrast ratio may become difficult to see clearly and tend to appear washed out and faded. Room light substantially impacts contrast ratio.
Projector lamps are one of the few parts of the projector you will need to maintain. They periodically need to be replaced. Lamps generally last around 2000 hours and cost around $200-400 (sometimes more). Some projectors have low power modes that will extend the lamp life to 3000 or 4000 hours. This is an important consideration for the overall cost of ownership. Also be aware of how many lamps your projector uses. High brightness models will sometimes use a dual lamp system. It’s important to understand that lamps are not covered under the general warranty of the projector. They’re typically only covered for 90 days or sometimes up to one year depending on the manufacturer.
LED and Laser/LED hybrid light source projectors do not have replaceable lamps, however, the light source is typically good for up to 20,000 hours of use.
All projectors have to be mounted at a specific distance from the screen in order to produce a certain size. It’s important to know how far you must mount the projector from the screen to achieve your desired size, especially if your mounting options are limited. You can determine the throw distance by looking at the throw ratio of the projector. Throw ratio is the relationship between your projectors distance from your screen and the width of the image. Almost all projectors have a zoom feature to adjust the size of the image so the throw ratio will be shown as a range, e.g. 1.1-2:1. For this example, in order to calculate the screen size width you will get from a specific distance, you would divide that distance by 1.1 to find the largest image size you can achieve and then divide by 2 to find the smallest image. To calculate the throw distance you need to achieve a specific size, you would multiple the size by 1.1 to find the shortest distance and then multiple by 2 to find the longest distance.
Projection calculators are also available to help you determine screen sizes. If you find that there are no projectors available that will work with your setup, there are specialty lenses available for “short” throw and “long” throw applications.
- Projection Screens - Projection screens can be manual pull down, electric, portable, or fixed wall screens. The projection screen can sometimes cost as much or more than the projector itself so it’s important to factor this in to your budget.
- Projector Mounts - Mounting hardware is available for virtually any projector on the market. Universal kits are available to make it easy for you.
- Cables - Always be sure to check the outputs of the devices you plan to hook up to your projector and the inputs of the projector to make sure they are compatible. This is especially important in ceiling mount applications.
The length and coverage of the projector’s warranty is an important factor in your decision. Most manufacturers offer at least one year warranties on their projectors, and many offer two and three year warranties. Additionally, be familiar with the process for replacing a defective projector. A few manufacturers will pick up your unit, repair it, and then ship it back to you. Most will execute the process as fast as possible but even at that you will be without a projector for a few days. Other manufacturers offer an express replacement and will overnight you another unit that has been previously repaired and keep your defective unit. This works well if you can not be without your projector but the drawback is you never get your particular unit back. In the end, it’s best to know how the replacement process works before you purchase.
Business projectors can vary widely in their application. Some users are interested in portability while others are looking for a permanent conference room application.
If you’re in the market for a portable business projector, it’s tough to beat DLP’s for size and weight. In fact, all of the projectors under 3 lbs. on the market today are DLP projectors. You will spend a little more for smaller models, so LCD projectors will be a better choice if you’re on a tight budget and don't mind carrying a few extra pounds.
Brightness is very important with portable projectors since your environment will change often and you may not always be able to dim the lighting. 2000 or more lumens are recommended.
Resolution - XGA resolution is still the most popular resolution in this category. However, XGA is rapidly being overtaken by wide format projectors that display 16:10 images compatible with newer laptops and presentation software.
If you would like to discuss the specifics of your application please call our sales team at 1-888-686-0551. If you would like to start your search online by looking at a few of our more popular portable projector models please click here
Brightness is very important in fixed conference room applications. Typically you are working in high ambient light conditions with a 100" diagonal image or larger. Having a bright projector will allow you to leave the lights on so your audience can take notes and brainstorm while still viewing the presentation.
Resolution - Typically, XGA resolution is adequate for conference room applications. However, if you’re going to be displaying highly detailed spreadsheets or CAD drawings, you should consider a higher resolution projector such as SXGA+. Additionally, most manufacturers have come out with bright, wide format projectors that display 16:10 images compatible with newer laptops and presentation software.
Other Considerations Many projectors have added features that can make your presenting life easier and more successful.
- Wireless projectors for easy set-up. New wireless products are easy to setup and operate.
- Networkability for control from remote location and added security
- HDMI and Component video inputs for better quality video
- Digital keystone correction for versatility in projector placement
- Wireless mouse control, for freedom to move while you present
- Lens shift for more convenient set-up
If you would like to discuss the specifics of your application please call our sales team at 1-888-686-0551.
If you would like to start your search online by looking at a few of our more popular conference room projectors please click here
Projectors for educational use can vary depending upon the class size and intended use.
Standard K-12 classrooms are frequently looking for a low cost projector to fit within their school budget. A projector with XGA resolution and 2,000 to 2,500 lumens is commonly used in these situations and are currently in the $500 - $800 range. Additionally, extreme short throw projector have gained popularity in education markets because they allow educators to project without having to walk in front of the projector. This reduces shadow distractions and glare in the eyes of the instructor. If you would like to start your search online by looking at a few of our more projector models for school classrooms please click here
Higher Education institutions are frequently looking for a permanently mounted, high lumen projector to be used in large classrooms and auditoriums. If you would like to discuss the specifics of your application please call our sales team at 1-888-686-0551. If you would like to start your search online by looking at a few of our more popular classroom projectors please:
Click here for our popular mid-size classroom projectors or,
Click here for our popular large classroom projectors
Church sanctuaries typically produce large images under moderate to high ambient light conditions. Since most places of worship will have to project during the day and have windows that can not be shaded, brightness is the most important feature to consider. A bright projector with XGA resolution is most commonly used in churches with these conditions. For most house of worship applications we recommended that your projector have 5000 or more lumens. Additionally, many sanctuary applications require long throw lenses in order to project from the rear of the sanctuary to the front. These long throw lenses are typically only available on the bright, higher-end LCD and DLP projectors.
If you would like to discuss the specifics of your application please call our sales team at 1-888-686-0551.
If you would like to start your search online by looking at a few of our more popular projectors used in church sanctuaries please click here
Home theaters range from a dedicated room with no windows to a remodeled basement complete with a pool table and dart board. In either case, controlled lighting is critical for ideal home theater video quality. That's not to say that your room has to be completely dark. You can have your friends over for the big game and shoot a game of pool at the same time. A pool table light on the opposite end of the room is not going to wash out a 1000 lumen home theater projector. However, if you plan to have a significant amount of sunlight or ambient room lighting a 1000 lumen projector may not be your best choice. Contrast Ratio
If you recall reading somewhere a few years ago that DLP is the only way to go for home theaters delete that from your memory!
. Yes, it is true that a Business Grade
DLP projector will have a higher contrast ratio than a Business Grade
LCD projector. However, this is not always true when shopping for a Home Theater Projector
. Manufacturers are producing some outstanding LCD home theater models with contrast ratios that equal and even exceed similarly priced DLP models. Thereore, it’s very important to look all of the specifications of home theater projectors, not just the contrast ratio.
- 2000:1 - 3000:1 - This is what you will find on most entry-level home theater projectors. It will be enough to give you decent black levels and color saturation.
- 4000:1 - 6000:1 - This category is what you will find on most midrange home theater projectors. Shadow details will be better defined.
- 6000:1 and up - This level of contrast is typically found in high end home theater projectors. This category of projectors will provide deep, dark black levels with excellent shadow detail.
The resolution you choose will depend on your budget and what material you plan to watch. For home theater, Full HD 1080 is very popular and is continuing to go down in price. HD1080 is preferred if you plan to watch a lot of 1080i HDTV and/or have a Blu-Ray player. Contrast ratio is especially important in home theater models since the light should be controlled in your room. 5000:1 or higher should be considered.
For schools, churches, and conference applications, the right resolution will depend on the material you're projecting. For basic PowerPoint and simple presentations a basic XGA resolution will work for most applications up to 10-12' wide in image size. WXGA is recommended if you're used to widescreen monitor or if you're presenting more detailed information.
SXGA+ and WUXGA resolutions are designed for the largest type applications with high resolution video and data presentations.
If you would like to discuss the specifics of your application please call our sales team at 1-888-686-0551. If you would like to start your search online by looking at a few of our more popular home theater projector models click here