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A guide to buying a projector

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On the search to buy a projector to fulfil your home cinema or business needs? Well, you have come to just the right place.

There are various specifications and features of a projector to look out for before you spend your hard-earned money buying one. Often, this process can be confusing, which is why our guide below will get you up to speed with everything you need to know about before buying a projector.

Let’s start with the basic definition of this device.

What is a projector?

Resembling an inverted camera, a projector is an optical device used to project an image onto a surface, usually a projector screen.

This image is formed by shining light rays through a small transparent lens or, in the case of newer variants, directly through lasers.

You need to be familiar with eight things before making an informed decision on buying a projector:

6 things to consider when purchasing a projector

1. Application

Projectors have a range of applications. So, the first thing that you should ask yourself when intending to buy a project is, “what do I need it for?”.

For instance, for your home cinema needs, you need to look for a projector compatible with the 16:9 format resolution as it is the format in which most movies are available. Both full HD projectors and 4K projectors offer this resolution. 

On the contrary, when it comes to your business needs, you need a portable projector for mobile use and an installation projector to be fixed in your meeting room.

2. Brightness

A projector needs to output sufficient light to form a bright image. The ANSI Lumens rating of a projector tells how much light is being put out.

However, various environmental conditions in your room can affect the lumens required from the projector. For instance, the ANSI Lumens rating must also be high for a large-distanced projection as the luminosity decreases as the projector light travels to the screen.

To give you an idea, for a well-lit meeting room with a 2.8m wide image, around 4000 lumens is good enough

3. Resolution

The resolution, or the pixel density, relates to the number of pixels that make up an image. The greater the resolution of an image, the more detail it is.

The resolution you should be looking for depends on your application. Here is a list of different types of resolutions along with their particular use:

  • HD Ready (1280 x 720 pixels, 16: 9 format) – suitable for DVDs on big screens.
  • WXGA (1280 x 800 pixels, 16:10 format) – Ideal for business presentations.
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels, 16: 9 format) – excellent for home cinema and gaming (PS4, Xbox) needs.
  • WUXGA (1920 x 1200 pixels, 16:10 format) – ideal for high-end business meetings.
  • 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels, 16: 9 format) – excellent for high-end home cinema needs.

Note that although there is not much content available in 4K as of yet, using a good upscaler, you can relish a variety of full HD content that is 4K quality.

4. Technology

Projectors can be based on different technologies, namely DLP (Digital Light Processing) and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). The third one has three different names: D-ILA (Direct-Drive Image Light Amplification), LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), and SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display). Here are the pros and cons of each:

DLP

DLP is suitable for home cinema and business.

Pros

  • High contrast ratio
  • Requires less space so smaller projectors can be produced
  • Low-maintenance.
  • A closed system contains the light source and optics, so no dust penetrates.

Cons

  • Slight colour flashes are visible (rainbow effect)
  • Not as good as LCD when it comes to colour representation
  • The colour wheel can be noisy

LCD

LCD (liquid crystal display) is the most commonly used imaging system. Unlike DLPs, LCDs don’t produce perceptible motion artefacts since they create line-by-line images.

LCD is especially useful for high-end home cinema needs.

Pros

  • Fine pixelation
  • High-Quality images
  • Good colour representation
  • Brighter than DLP

Cons

  • Requires more maintenance in comparison to DLP
  • Lattice effect, especially with lower resolutions

D-ILA, LCoS, and SXRD

This technology is mainly suitable for home cinema.

Pros

  • Better contrast ratio
  • No lattice effect
  • High resolutions

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Lower brightness

5. Portability

If your projector is portable, it is easy to travel or move with it and its installation and setup also become much more convenient.

Moreover, a portable projector allows you to quickly try out different projector distances, screen sizes, and more to determine which arrangement suits you the most.

There are lightweight and battery-powered portable projectors available in the market that are a perfect fit for your personal use if you are a professional.

6. Price

When it comes to the projector prices, they vary vastly from a budget projector of around £400 to a top-class 4K projector of more than £35000.

Here’s what you can expect from a projector according to its price range:

Price rangeFeatures
>£320, <£1000XGA image resolution Around 4000 lumens brightness 5 years collect, repair and return warranty Lamp light source
>£1,0001920×1080 image resolution Some wireless functionality Sharp images during the daytime from most angles Good for gaming 15,000:1 contrast ratio
£1,000-£2,000+4K image Image clear during the daytime from all angles Wireless functionality Automatically rectifies the image distortions Excellent for gaming

Types of projectors

As you may have gotten an idea by now, projectors are of various kinds, each suited to a specific role(s). Below are the outlines of the most common ones.

Home Cinema

If you are ready to upgrade your home theatre experience from TV, you should consider getting a home cinema projector.

Not only does it create a huge (up to 300 inches) bright image, but it is also cheaper than older technologies.

Moreover, resolutions up to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) are now available in home cinema projectors.

Portable

Portable projectors, also called pico projectors, are very compact projection devices primarily designed for personal movie viewing and unplanned business meetings.

The small size of compact projectors means the image size is sacrificed for portability. Also, there is no optical zoom, so you will need to place your projector just right to achieve the desired image.

Office

Office projectors fall under the portable category of projectors. They are optimised for presentation use in conference halls. So, they are crucial in effective business proposals and deal closures.

These projectors can either be portable or small and fixed. 

Golf Simulator

Want to play your favourite golf courses and practice on the range irrespective of the weather outside? Well, then you should acquire a high-quality golf simulator projector.

A golf simulator is responsible for ball flight as well as the simulation on the screen. So, a substandard projector means you would get a dark image, ruining your overall experience.

Large Venue

With an ANSI Lumens rating of over 7000, large Venue projectors are suited for large conference rooms, auditoriums, and houses of worship.

Note that these projectors have interchangeable lenses.

Education

Education projectors are very effective in both face-to-face and hybrid classrooms. They provide a feasible way to easily integrate traditional and digital teaching according to their preferred style.

Gaming

To enhance your gaming experience, you need to move on from a TV to a top-grade gaming projector.

Besides allowing you to play your favourite games with a picture of over 100 inches, a good-quality gaming projector has a comparable cost to a TV.

Types of projection

There are three types of projections, set apart by their throw distance. Throw distance refers to the distance light travels from a projector to the screen’s surface.

Here’s a comparison between the three types of projections:

Standard throw

Standard throw, also called long throw, is the most common projection type. To form a 100” (16:9) image, it requires about 8-10 feet (244-305 cm) of throw distance.

This projection is ideal for both home and office uses due to its ability to create a big picture even in close confines. However, it only works with flat projection surfaces and is not compatible with any ALR materials.

Short throw

Unlike standard throw, a short throw projection requires about 3-4 feet (90-120cm) to create a 100” (16:9) image.

They are used for professional and commercial purposes as they can form a big picture even in close confines. However, similar to standard throw, it only works with a flat projection surface and is not compatible with any ALR materials.

Ultra-Short throw

This is a state-of-the-art technology when it comes to the types of projection. An ultra-short throw requires about 3-20 inches (8-50cm) to form a 100” (16:9) image.

Ultra-short throw projectors are used by businesses, homeowners, and educational institutions as it gives a big picture in close confines. On top of that, its flush design helps eliminate the shadow problem.

Nevertheless, it is only compatible with a perfectly flat projection surface, and as of now, there is limited availability of larger CLR material sizes.

FAQs

Do I need a projector screen?

Not necessarily, no. A projector shines a light onto a surface; if that surface is clean and reflective, you will see a picture.

Therefore, instead of a projector screen, any clean, light-coloured, and reflective sheet would get the job done for you.

How much should I spend on a projector?

It depends on what you need a projector for. You can get an excellent variant for watching DVDs at home or during day-to-day business meetings for under £500.

However, if you are looking to tackle high-end business meet-ups or home cinema needs, there are a variety of top-class projectors ranging from £500 to over £5000.

How many lumens is good for a projector?

Again, it depends on your application of a projector. In the case of a home theatre projector, you will need at least 1500 lumens whereas, for conference rooms, classrooms, or a room without windows, a minimum of 2500 lumens is best.

Is 3000 lumens good for a projector?

Yes, it is good. However, if you primarily use your projector indoors in the dark, you may easily get by with under 3000 lumens.

Summary

And that wraps our guide to buying a projector. We sincerely hope that it has helped you come to a decision.

To reiterate, there are a variety of projectors based on a range of applications. Regardless of the type of projector you need, you must keep an eye out for certain things concerning your projector. These include application, brightness, contrast ratio, resolution, technology, features, portability, and whatnot.

Only when you consider the aforementioned things can you make the best choice in terms of your needs, preference, and budget.

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