Choosing The Right Projector
If you're looking to buy a projector for your home theater system, office or boardroom presentations, check out this guide on what specifications you should consider before you buy.
Projectors are becoming more popular and reasonably affordable, however, it is still a significant investment and nobody wants to waste their hard earned cash on the wrong buy. We have rounded up 5 important points to consider when buying a projector that can help you decide what projector is best for you.
There are several different display types each with different picture quality and lens life. The most common types of projector displays are:
Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) – These projectors deliver a high degree of illumination and as they have no native setting as such, they can display a range of resolutions. Computer resolution can be up to 2000 horizontal lines but the main disadvantage is that they are big and bulky.
Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) – LCD projectors are relatively cheap and have good resolution, making them a good choice for most purposes. Polysilicon TFT LCD is a popular LCD technology for the top of the line LCD projectors. Three monochrome LCDs are placed in each of the three color light paths inside a projector, one each for Red, Green, and Blue. This results in increased color saturation, with contrast ratios
Digital Light Processing (DLP) – These projectors offer higher brightness and contrast than that of an LCD, but of course they are more expensive.
They work by using hundreds of thousands of tiny mirrors, which are operated by tiny motors that tilt the mirror, causing the light either pass thru or be blocked. Older models can be susceptible to what is known as the rainbow affect’. Because the colors are shown separately and switched between red, green and blue many people can get headaches or even nauseous when watching images displayed by a DLP projector. Newer models have a faster color wheel with more color segments to reduce the flickering.
This is the ratio between the height and the width of the picture size. A 4:3 aspect ratio is a standard picture size, 4 units wide and 3 units high. 16:9 is wide screen format 16 units wide and 9 units high. Projecting a 16.9 image with a 4.3 projector or respectively, a 4.3 image with a 16.9 aspect ratio, black bars will appear over and under the image for a 4:3 projector, or left and right of the image on 16:9 projectors.
If you are buying your projector for home theater use and you mostly watch new movies, then you should probably go for 16.9. Bear in mind that older movies will have an aspect ratio of 4.3, so the black bars will still appear if you go with the 16.9.
If you want the image to be as large as possible both in 4:3 and 16:9 formats, or if you know you are going be switching between the two ratios then a 4:3 projector can be a good buy if you don’t mind the grey bars over and under the image.
The sharpness and clarity of the picture is determined by the project’s resolution. The resolution is the total amount of pixels used to make the image and is measured, width by height, the higher the resolution the better the quality. Most projectors like DLP and LCD models work best in their native resolutions, with the exception of CRT projectors, since they don’t have a panel like DLPs and LDCs have, they don’t have a native resolution.
Most projectors automatically display images that are of different resolutions to the native resolution of the projector. The resulting image will be compressed and scaled to fit using a variety of alithograms. Not all projectors use the same compression algorithms; therefore, the quality of compression can vary. The nature of compression in a digital device can mean that some image content is lost.
If you are mostly using your laptop to project images from, it’s a good idea to check what your native resolution is and go with a projector that matches:
- 800 x 600, SVGA – Because most notebooks are SVGA, this resolution is currently the most popular
- 858 x 484 WVGA – This is the lowest true widescreen resolution available on the market. This is most commonly found in lower price range projectors
- 1024 x 768, XGA XGA – is the second most popular resolution and many of the newer laptops and display units are available in XGA. They are generally more expensive than SVGA products but the prices are dropping as they become more popular
- 1280 x 720 WXGA – This is true widescreen and is perfect for home theater use
- 1280 x 1024, SXGA – These products are targeted for high end personal computer users and low end workstation users. They are used primarily for command and control, engineering and CAD/CAM applications where acute resolution of small details is important
- 1600 x 1200, UXGA – UXGA is for very high resolution workstation applications that are detail or information intensive. These are expensive projectors that support a broad range of computer equipment. However there are only a few products on the market that have this native resolution
Projectors are available with wide range of different light outputs, generally the more you spend on a projector the brighter it will be. Brightness is measured in ANSI (American National Standards Institute) lumens and when choosing your specifications you should go for the brightest projector you can afford.
If the room in which you will use you projector has a lot of light such as an office or boardroom, you should consider buying a projector with a light output of at least 3000 lumens, whereas a project with a light output if 1000 lumens may only be sufficient for viewing in a dark room or dimly lit room.
The contrast is measured as a ratio between the lightest and darkest points of an image. The room light has a drastic affect on contrast ratios and a low contrast ratio causes darker shades to be displayed as black. If you’re planning to use your projector on a room with a lot of natural light or the lights turned on, then you should look for a model with a ratio of 400:1 or higher.
Other points to consider when buying a projector:
- Warranty and lamp life Most warranties for a projector are 1- 3 years but for the lamp itself, is usually only 3 months. The cost of the lamps is expensive so consider this when choosing your model. The better bulbs will last longer and will work out to be cheaper in the long run
- Video Connections – Whether you’re using your projector for board room presentations or a home theater system the way in which you will connect the projector to your system should also be looked at. Component video has the greatest picture quality, followed by s-video and then composite video. Many offer additional inputs such as DVI for digital transfer and wireless connectivity for greater flexibility
- Audio Connections – For the home theater system 5.1 surround sound is standard. Some projectors have audio outputs to connect direct to your 5.1 home entertainments system. Other may have on board speakers which are perfect for on the go presentations
- Dimensions – If you’re on the road a lot doing presentations then the size of the projector is important. These days the size and weight have been significantly reduced compared to older models. The most compact and lightest designs of projectors are usually the most expensive
- High Definition Users – With the rising popularity in the new High Definition or Blu Ray formats, it seems logical that most people will be looking for products that support the new technology. But true high definition at 1080p may not be necessary for most projections. The THX recommended maximum viewing distance for a 123-inche screen is 13.7 feet. If your screen is going to be smaller than that, let’s say, 60 inches viewed from 10 feet away, you may not be able to tell the difference between 1080p and 720p.
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