Projectors are unique devices and there’s a different type of tech jargon associated with them. Unlike computers or mobile phones, where terms like RAM, OS, megapixels etc are commonly understood by kids and elders alike, the language used to describe projectors can even confuse teenagers. It would thus help to understand terms like DLP, LCD, aspect ratio, contrast ratio, lumens etc. as they would help you make a better purchase.
We have a detailed article on how DLP projectors function and everything you need to know about them. The present article goes into the tech jargon usually used to describe mass-selling projectors.
. >>>>> <<<<< .
The first thing one needs to consider before making the purchase is to choose the type of projector to get. There are three basic type of projectors available in the market:
Type of Projector to Get
DLP Projector: DLP stands for Digital Light Processing and it was developed as a technology in the late 1980’s. In today’s world, DLP is the leading projection display technology and about 85% of all digital cinema use a DLP projector. The colors in a DLP device are produced by a light source (lamp) emitting light towards a color wheel. The color wheel consists of several microscopic mirrors, the number of these mirrors corresponds to the pixel resolution of the projector. DLP projectors are preferred for their high brightness and image quality.
LCD Projector: The production of LCD projectors is waning as they face tough competition from DLP and LCOS type projectors. The flagship LCD projectors are produced by EPSON who use their 3LCD technology which are powered by 3 LCD screens and a powerful metal-halide lamp. LCD projectors are generally cheaper and more portable than DLP projectors.
LCoS Projector: Liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS or LCOS) is a mix between DLP and LCD technology. They remain an expensive choice and are new entrants to the existing market. They use a mixture of crystal and individual mirrors supported by a silicone backplane to project the images. Most LCoS projectors are extremely high in resolution, usually in the SXGA range (1365×1024). Because of this, these devices are relatively more expensive and prices for these devices start at around a thousand dollars.
DLP vs LCD vs LCoS Projector: This is the big question among projection enthusiasts. All three technologies have their pros and cons although DLP and LCD projectors enjoy a greater market share. While the number of DLP models in the market is higher, many of the best-selling devices are either LCD or LCoS.
One of the main issues with a DLP projector is the rainbow effect. People who are light sensitive can find it problematic although most users will hardly notice a difference. On the other hand, LCD projectors cannot produce large black images. LCoS devices are disliked for their low color brightness.
In the end it is generally agreed that it is more important to choose the right projector as opposed to choosing the right technology. As both good and bad projectors are produced using any of these three technologies.
Range and Resolution of the Projector
After choosing the type of projector to get, the next important question is to decide the throw-range of the device. This depends on whether you’d like the device to be ceiling mounted (long-range) or wall mounted (short-throw) or as close to the screen as possible (ultra-short throw). In other words, a long-range projector has to be kept 6-8 feet away from the projector screen, thus it is the best option if you’d like your projector to be ceiling mounted. A short throw projector on the other hand has to be kept 2-4 feet from the projector screen, which makes it a suitable wall mounted device. An ultra short throw projector is highly portable and can be kept inches away from the screen. Ultra short throw projectors are comparatively more expensive than short throw or long throw projectors. They are also very new in the market and only a handful of big companies currently produce flagship ultra short throw devices.
After deciding the range of the projector, the next question is to chose the image dimension. We recommend buying a 3D projector over a 2D one as most 3D projectors can support 2D projection as well. A 3D projector can seamlessly be used as a data projector or a video/gaming projector.
Image resolution is another important aspect to consider. Movies and games look best on 1080p resolution while most office presentations can suffice with 800 x 600p resolution. We suggest finding middle ground and choosing a 720p projector. Think of it this way, a resolution of 800 x 600 is likely to be lower than the resolution of your mobile phone/laptop or television screens. Hence, if you are accustomed to watching things on a higher resolution, than a lower resolution projector might bum you out and you will find your mind constantly making comparisons and wishing you had better resolution.
Finally, let’s take a look at all the other tech jargon used to describe popular projectors:
- Lumens: Lumens are a measure of the brightness of the projector. Whether the projector type be LCD or DLP, the color brightness of the device will be mentioned in terms of ANSI lumens. According to the ANSI, the lumen specification of a projector lamp calculates the brightest white image the lamp can produce. In other words, the higher the lumen rating of a projector, the brighter the images it produces. There is some content among experts regarding the use of ANSI lumens as a brightness specification, many believe a CLO (Color Light Output) gives a better idea about the projector’s brightness. However, the usage of lumens remains the standard practice.
- Contrast Ratio: The contrast ratio of any display device is one of the most highlighted aspects of the product. As far as projectors are concerned, the contrast ratio can be thought of as the dynamic range of the projector’s display. It measures the ratio between the brightest and darkest image that the projector can produce. A higher contrast ratio is more desirable.
- SVGA/WXGA/XGA/SXGA: Most of the projectors in the market today give you the option to get a SVGA, WXGA, XGA or SXGA version of the device with the SVGA version being the cheapest. These terms are not as daunting as they seem because they simply refer to the resolution of the device. A SVGA projector will have resolution of 800 x 600 and they represent the least expensive option. A WXGA projector will have a resolution of 1280 x 800 and can be thought of as an HD projector. The XGA projectors are the most popular option and have a resolution of 1024 x 768. Finally, the SXGA projectors have a resolution of 1400 x 1050 and most sell upwards of a thousand dollars.
- Lamp Life: If you’ve ever owned a projector before or even a television, you may have noticed that with time the brightness of the projector or televison display starts to dim. This is because the lamp of the device has reached it’s dying age and it will slowly fade out. Most projectors come with anything from 5000-10000 hours of lamp-life which should suffice for an average home user. If you plan to use your projector often then it becomes important to consider lamp life of the device as replacement lamps are expensive and come for upwards of a few hundred dollars. Thus, you should always look for projectors with a long lamp-life and also projectors with low lamp replacement costs.
- Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio of an image measures the ratio between the width and height of the image. There are essentially two different types of aspect ratios; 4:3 (which is standard for televisions and monitors and produces a more square image) and 16:9 (which is used for widescreen images and is more rectangular). There also exists a hybrid 15:9 aspect ratio. However, most projectors these days can produce at least 2 different aspect-ratios and have other image-display settings built-in.
- 3D Ready vs Full 3D Ready: 3D projectors are gaining considerable momentum over their 2D counterparts but there still remains considerable confusion about 3D technology. A 3D Ready or DLP 3D Ready projector is not a full-fledged 3D projector and there are certain limitations with regards to the formats the device can support. Most inexpensive “3D Ready” projectors support a frame sequential 3D format which necessitates the use of a computer/laptop with 3D software support. It means that these projectors cannot support a Blu-ray 3D player or set-up box. A Full 3D Ready projector on the other hand will support all the HDMI 1.4 specified transmission formats and can be paired with all devices that provide 3D support. Thus it becomes important to look at the specifications of the projector and make sure that the device supports other transmission formats. To keep things simple, if you see it mentioned that the projector is Full 3D Ready or HDMI 1.4 compatible or Blu-ray 3D compatible than it is safe for a purchase and can easily be used with multiple devices.
- Keystone Adjustment: You may have seen projectors supporting a horizontal or vertical keystone adjustment feature. This feature is required when the projector screen is uneven and it become hard to produce a proper square image. One can re-orient the image horizontally to vertically using the keystone buttons to get rid of the keystone effect. The feature is handy for both home and office users and is specially useful for people who need travel with projectors and use them for presentations in varying environments.
- HDMI or VGA Port: When you buy a projector, you want to make sure that your newly-purchased gadget can be easily paired with your existing gadgets. This is where it becomes it important to know the kind of ports your projector supports. Most projectors and laptops/computers these days have both a VGA and HDMI port. So if you purchased your device recently, you should be in the clear. Older models of laptops/computers may only have a VGA port. In any case you can supplement the compatibility of your by buying new cables that can convert VGA to HDMI and vice-versa. This means spending an extra $20 on cables.
- ECO Mode: Using a projector is ECO Mode will make the projector use less power and produce images with lower brightness. The lamp life of a projector is greatly enhanced when the device is used in an ECO Mode and it is suggesting to use ECO Mode whenever possible.
- Refresh Rate: Refresh rate as the name suggests it the number of times an image is refreshed per second. Most projectors come with a refresh of 120Hz which should suffice for most home and office purposes. However, projectors designed for gaming have a higher refresh rate of 144Hz which is important for players to get the most out of their gaming experience.
- Throw Ratio: A projector’s throw ratio becomes important when setting up the projector for the first time. The throw ratio gives the user an idea of the optimal distance of the projector from the screen and having an idea of the throw ratio will help in ideal placing of the ceiling mounts and projector screen. To know more, here’s a Wikipedia article.
Reading through this article should tell you everything you need to know before making the big purchase. Although we may have missed a few and you are welcome to use Google’s help. You can also go ahead and take a look at the Amazon bestsellers to get an idea of the popular products and prices.