A comprehensive guide to buying projectors

Projectors are used in classrooms, meeting rooms, gaming and often times as a home theater. A projector projects the image on the screen, giving the feel of being right there in the middle of the action.  The image that is projected on the screen, no matter where you are using it should create a great impression on the mind of the audience.

The four kinds of images that are projected are games, video, data or presentations and photographs. Any projector will show all these images, but a given projector will specialize in the display of one kind of image better than the other kinds. Identify what is your need before you put in the money for projector purchase.

Lumens

The brightness of a projector is measured in Lumens. The price of the projector will be higher for a projector that is brighter as it has higher Lumens.

Every projector has specifications for two Lumens. One is for the white brightness and the other is for color brightness. Good brands will always give specifications for both Lumens. If information is provided for a single lumen rating, then it is referring to white brightness only. The color brightness can sometimes be one-third Lumens of the stated Lumens.

The lighting in the room will determine the projector brightness. In a dimly lit room like the living room or entertainment room that is used for home theatre viewing, choose a projector with a minimum of 1500 Lumens. In a classroom or conference where the room is very well lit, the right projector will be the one with minimum 2500 Lumens. If the auditorium or lecture hall is large, a projector with much higher Lumens should be used.

Contrast Ratio

The difference between the dark and light on the screen is expressed by a number that is called the contrast ratio. The brightest white on the screen is compared with the darkest black for its luminosity, this is the contrast ratio. Contrast ratio is specified as 10000: 1 which means that the brightest white is 10000 times brighter than the darkest black.

The higher the contrast ratio, the clearer, rich and detailed will be the image that is projected. The contrast ratio plays a very important role in projectors that are used in dimmer lighting especially for home theatres.

Resolution

Images are displayed by the number of dots called pixels. Resolution is the number of pixels that is used to display an image. Higher resolution means more pixels are used to create the image that is displayed as clearer and crisper. Resolution is indicated by the numbers that tell us the number of dots that are vertical to the number of dots that are horizontal to make up that image. 800 X 600 resolution means it is a combination of dots that have a density of 800 pixels horizontally and 600 dots vertically across which equals 480000 total dots to display the image on the screen.

A higher resolution is used for projecting texts, graphs, charts or high-definition videos. Business projectors with a lower resolution of 800X600 pixels are used for projecting simple data like charts and short video clips. The lower resolution projectors are affordably priced. Computers use 1024X768 pixel resolution, which is also called as XGA. Pairing computer with XGA projectors is very common.

The wide screen version of XGA is a projector with 1280X 800 pixels that gives a 20% more horizontal resolution and is used in notebooks and smart phones.

WUXGA is a standard resolution now with 1920X1200 pixels that is used for projectors installed at larger venues to display high-definition and bright content.

Last but not the least is the home theatre projector that comes in two resolutions. 1280X720 pixels are the most common format used for movie projection. It is highly economical and matches the HDTV standard. The higher resolution projector is the 1080p that displays a resolution of 1920X1080 pixels which is a standard for HDTV broadcasts and Blu-ray formats.

Projection Technology

Two technologies are used in all projectors to offer power-efficient projection that delivers true-to-life images with high brightness for color as well as whites. Majority of projectors use 1-chip DLP or 3-chip 3LCD. The 1-chip DLP technology spins color wheel which produces lower output of color. The 3-chip 3LCD has no color wheel hence there is no trade off between the color and white brightness.

The other two imaging technologies used in projectors are LCOS and laser. DLP projectors and some LCOS based projectors are the cheapest. They display the colors in a sequential order and may result in a rainbow effect.

Size and Portability

LCOS projectors are bigger and heavier as compared to DLP or LCD projectors.

Wired or Wireless

Select a wireless-enabled projector to project content from your computer. The projector comes with inbuilt wireless LAN to enable the projection wirelessly.

A wireless-optional projector is also available. You can purchase the wireless LAN separately, which is a plug and play module, to enable the function.

Connectivity

Many connection options are available in many types of projectors. These include UBS, VGA, Component, HDMI and a display port.

How to position the projector

The size of the image and its clarity will depend on where the projector is positioned as per the throw distance. Throw distance means the distance between the projector and the image on the screen. The throw distance depends upon the size or configuration of the room where you plan to hoist the projector.

The common throw distances are:

  • Short throw- projection of image is between 3 to 8 feet from the projector screen. These projectors are usually installed on the wall or ceiling, which provide larger images and reduce shadows
  • Long throw- projection of image is between 12-15 feet from the projector screen. It projects very large images from the projector that is installed at the center of the ceiling of a large room
  • Ultra-short throw- projection of image is between 0-4 feet from the projector screen. The eye glare and shadow are completely eliminated. The projector can be installed on the on a table projecting downwards on the wall or ceiling

Image Positioning

Most of the projectors let you control the alignment of the images using the projector. This includes horizontal and vertical correction, lens shift, screen fit and zoom as well.

Network

Contents from the computer can be delivered to the projector over a network. This is mainly used for meeting or presentation. The projector can be shared with other presenters without changing the cables.

Real time messages can be broadcast and announcements made when connected through a network.

Audio

All projectors do not include audio. If you do need sound, make sure there is a built-in audio with good quality sound and volume to fulfill your requirement. You can attach an external sound system, whether at home or office.

3D

Projectors claim to be 3D ready. Identify do you really need to show images in 3D. Beware, by 3D ready it does not mean that the 3D content from the source will work as 3D on this projector when you want to use. Let me explain, a projector may work with a Tis DLP link which requires a quad buffered computer with an open GL-3D graphics card but will not work with a 3D Blu-ray. Make sure that the 3D projector works with the 3D source you are going to use.

Prices

The price of the projectors depends upon the brand, the resolution and the luminosity. Make a quick check on why you are buying a projector and then decide what you need to pay for.

Conclusion

Decide whether you will use the projector for data and business purpose, as a home theater, as a video projector or home entertainment. Few projectors are sold as gaming projectors that has both capabilities of high quality of data and video image handling. Most projectors have a hassle-free setup. Identify the right projector from the wide range of sizes, capabilities and technologies available to suit your need and your pocket.

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