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Projectors Buying Guide

Selecting a new projector should be a piece of cake so far as you are, at least, clear on where you would use it, how you would fix it, and the minimum performance you expect from it. The good news is this buying guide would give you the essentials you need to answer those questions and more.

Types of Projectors

Home Theatre Projectors

Home theatre projectors are suited for creating a cinematic movie-watching experience in your home. These projectors usually feature high definition resolutions, rich colours, high contrast display and a quieter operation mode. They are also good for watching sport and playing video games. They work best in darker rooms. Home theatre projectors will usually have a HDMI connection port.

Multimedia Projectors

Multimedia projectors cover the widest range you will find on the market. You will usually find them being used in churches, during meetings, at conferences or auditoriums, and in classrooms. They give the brightest displays so they work better in brighter rooms than home theatre projectors. A multimedia projector will usually feature VGA andDVI ports.

Portable (Pico) Projectors

Pico projectors are highly mobile devices which could even fit in your pocket or your purse. They are suitable small groups, off-site presentations, home users, and people who need a projector they can use with their smartphone as they move around. Before you buy one ensure it has the connection ports you need, such as USB, VGA, or HDMI. Also check for other extras like built-in speakers, memory card readers, and battery support.

Features to look out for in a Projector

DLP vs LCD Projectors

DLP and LCD refer to the technology used to create an image in a projector. A DLP projector uses a chip(s) made of numerous mirrors while a LCD projector used 3 glass panels. DLP projectors produced better video images and better contrast. They also fit easier in compact projectors.They are less light-efficient and so work better in darker rooms. DLP projectors sometimes produce what is referred to as the rainbow effect, where at certain points in time the image may look distinctively red or green or blue. You will find many home theatre and portable projectors based on DLP technology. On the other hand, LCDs tend to have better colour intensity than DLPs. A DLP display image may look comparatively pale in that sense. LCDs also tend to have sharper images in static image presentations. Being more light-efficient, LCD work comparatively better in brightly-lit rooms. LCD-based projectors work better with image and text presentations than with video presentations.


Projector brightness level is measured in ANSI lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter it is. Ideally a projector displays best in complete darkness. The more light you introduce in a room the more the image looks washed out. There are various online calculator to help you determine the lumens level you need from a projector. As suggested on, you generally need: - For a living room where the lights can be turned off completely: 1,500 to 2,000 lumens - For a school classroom or boardroom where the lights can be dimmed: 3,000 lumens - For a lecture hall or small church requiring a 10-foot-wide screen, and has a moderate amount of light: 5,000 lumens - For a movie theater: 20,000 lumens or more

Screen Resolution

Screen Resolution is the number of distinct pixels (aka dots or picture elements) that form an image on a projector screen. The more resolutions the projector has, the sharper the image will look, especially if you sit close to the screen. A XGA (1024 pixels across x 768 pixels tall) resolution projector should be the minimum if you are buying a portable or a multimedia projector. For a home theatre projector, a WXGA (1280 pixels across x 800 pixels tall) resolution projector should be the minimum.

Contrast Ratio

Contrast Ratio is the ratio of the intensity of light, from white to black, that the projector is capable of producing. A higher contrast ratio is more visible when you use your projector in a dark room. The image should also be projected on a projector-friendly surface such as a matte white wall or a projector screen.

Throw Ratio

The throw ratio of a projector is based on the distance from the projector to the screen (the throw distance), and how wide the screen is. A throw ratio of 1.6:1, means that if the projector is 1.6 feet away the screen, the projected screen will be 1 foot wide. Similarly, if the projector is 3.2 feet away from the screen, the projected screen would be 2 feet wide. There are various online tool you can use to calculate the maximum and minimum screen width for a given throw distance on particular projectors. A short throw projector will give you a wider display screen from a short throw distance. Buy a projector with a wide built-in zoom range if you would be using the projector at different places.

Zoom Lens

A projector zoom lens allows you to enlarge the display size on a screen without having to move the projector further back. A 2.0x zoom lens means the projected image can be made twice as big. Some projectors have built-in zoom lenses, accessible using a dial on the device or through a remote. Other projectors have replaceable lenses. These replaceable lenses may have bigger and more flexible zoom ranges. Some portable projectors do not have a zoom lens at all.

Projector Lamps

Projectors are powered by three basic types of lamps: Metal Halide lamps, LED lamps, and Laser lamps. The lifetime of a projector lamp is the number of hours it would run before it will look half as bright.

Metal Halide Lamps

Metal Halide lamps are the commonest type found in projectors. These lamps have a lifetime of about 3000 hours and over before needing replacement. They produce very bright lights. The lamp can get quite hot and would need a high speed fan to cool it down. As a result of the time needed to light-up and cool down the lamp, Metal Halide lamps projectors have longer startup and shutdown times.

LED Lamps

LED lamps are longer lasting lamps with a lifetime of about 20,000 hours and over. They take less space than Metal Halide ones, making them easier to fit in smaller projectors. LED lamps are also rugged. They require no cooling fans and have quicker startup and shutdown times. Projectors based on LED lamps also have higher contrast and better power efficiency. However LED lamps are not as bright as Metal Halide lamps, making them more suitable for darker rooms.

Laser Lamps

Laser lamps last generally last longer than LED lamps with over 30,000 hours lifetime. They also have higher contrast ratios, less heat, brighter lights, and wider colour ranges than the other lamps. Laser lamps are not replaceable. There are also Hybrid Projectors which have two different lamp sources built-in, such a projector having both laser and LED lamps.

Keystone and Lens Shift

A situation that occurs when using a projector is that the image appears wider at the top or at the bottom when the projector is pointing too high up or pointing too low. Similarly, the image will look wider on one side when the projector is looking too much to the left or to the right of the projection screen. Keystone is equipped on projectors to make such corrections on the projected image without having to physically adjust the orientation of the projector. Many projectors would have at least vertical keystone to correct the distortion at the top and bottom. The downside with using keystone is that is digital based. As a result, too much keystone applied can degrade the image output on the screen. Lens shift works just like keystone just that it is optical based. You correct the distortions on the image by mechanically changing the angle of the lens. As a result, the image is not degraded. Lens shift would usually be found on high-end home theatres.

Other Features

- Projector Screens: You get clearer, brighter images on these surfaces - Projector Mounts: Convenient and permanently hang a projector on a ceiling - Projectors with built-in speakers - 3D-ready Projectors - Projector Connections: HDMI, VGA, DVI video slots and Wireless connectivity

What’s your Budget

A Pico Projector will usually be the cheapest type of projector. Multimedia projectors cover the widest price range, from low to high. The cost of a home theatre would depend on the features it has. Again, prices range from low to high. The type of hardware components and features on a projector affects the price. Other things being equal, a Metal Halide projector would be the cheapest, followed by a LED projector. Also, a LCD projector would be cheaper than a DLP projector. A lens shift projector would also command a higher price than a similar projector without it.

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