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Projectors

Making a choice

Video projectorSo, you have decided to take the plunge into the world of projectors? Whether your projector needs are professional, educational or simply for entertainment, there is a vast range of products on the market. On the surface, one projector looks much like another and it can appear incredibly difficult to make a well-reasoned decision. Further added to this is the fact that there are a multitude of projectors on the market ranging in price from under £100 up to the £10,000 and more. Bearing all of this in mind, you might reasonably pose the question of what criteria should you be using when deciding on which projector to buy?

There are a few very important aspects to consider when analysing a potential projector purchase. Firstly, you should be clear on exactly what you are going to be using the projector for. For example, if your use is going to be mainly watching movies at home, then you should be looking at a projector with a fairly low brightness level. If you are going to be using the projector in a large space such as an auditorium or church, then a projector with a higher brightness level would be more suitable. Other important factors to consider include the resolution, the aspect ratio and the weight. Once you have established exactly what you are going to use the projector for, you can start to use the above criteria to rapidly narrow down the field of products.

The Technology

In today's projector market, there are over 300 different models on sale - a daunting figure, I am sure you will agree.  These projectors run on one of two different technology types: LCD or DLP. Before you have a further panic, it is worth noting that projectors running either of these technology types have a very wide level of application and give excellent results when viewing a range of different material, whether it is video content or computer applications. However, once again your decision should be influenced by exactly what you are going to be using your projector for. Depending on what it is, one technological format may suit you better than the other.

The Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projector is the modern incarnation of a classroom favourite, the overhead projector.  The undoubted advantage of LCD technology is that it creates images that are very sharp along with high levels of brightness and satisfyingly crisp detail. This makes it a great projector for you if you needs require text to be clearly displayed (i.e. classroom or business use). Criticisms of LCD projectors have been that, generally, they are heavier than their DLP counterparts and they do degrade over time.

Digital Light Processing (DLP) projectors are the newer form of technology on the market. The projectors harness the power of nearly 2 million microscopic mirrors to create images that are incredibly smooth and soft. This can be especially observed if the projector is being used to watch video footage. In addition, DLP projectors are generally smaller and more compact making them perfect for you if you want your projector to be portable.

Brightness

When deciding how bright a projector you should be considering, look at the size of the room in which the projector is to be used. Generally, the larger the room, the brighter the projector you will require. Secondly, you should think about the likely lighting levels in any location in which you are going to be using the projector. All projectors will give better results when used in darker locations. Therefore, if you are going to be using it in a room where it is difficult to control the level of light, you should be looking at a product with higher brightness levels.

Once again, it is important to consider the exactly what you are going to be using your projector for. If, for example, you will be using it in a classroom or for giving business presentations, it is likely that you will need text to be clearly displayed to your audience. In order to guarantee that text is sharp and visible, you should look towards a brighter projector.

To put this in context, projector brightness is measured in Lumens. For home cinema use in a dark room, a level of less than 1000 Lumens will be acceptable. For classroom use or home use in a bright room, a level between 1000 and 2000 will suffice. Projectors for use in large classrooms or meeting rooms should be between 2000 and 3000. Finally, for use in large concert venues, auditoriums or theatres, a level of more than 3000 would be required.

Resolution and Ratio

Pocket projectorThese two aspects are important for ensuring that the size of any image that you wish to display is correctly portrayed.  Most people should be fairly familiar with the idea of resolution. Put simply, the higher the resolution, the sharper and more detailed the image is likely to be. Resolution for projectors is measured in pixels. Most projectors will come with a 'native resolution', this is the setting that the projector is most comfortable working from. However, most of them can be used at higher resolutions if necessary. Note that this would have an effect on image quality.

Projectors come in a wide variety of resolutions ranging from 800 x 600 all the way up to 2048 x 1080. You should make your choice of resolution based again on what you are likely to be using the projector for. For good all round use, 1024 x 768 has emerged as a popular favourite, but you could get away with 854 x 480 for basic home cinema requirements. If your product is to have a practical application, i.e highly detailed drawings or detailed photography, then a resolution of 1920 x 1080 may be more suitable.

Quickly dealing with aspect ratio, you will observe three common projector ratios: 4:3, 16:10 and 16:9.  4:3 is the standard ratio for standard television, 16:10 ratio has been designed for widescreen computers and 16:9 is recommended for movies or high definition content.

Conclusion

The on-going theme of this guide has been the need for you to establish exactly what applications your projector is going to have. Establishing this can really help you to make an informed decision on the correct model to buy. However, as has been mentioned, the majority of projectors will give you good performance across a variety of tasks so there is no need to become too tied down in technicalities.

To summarise, you need to consider LCD v DLP. The answer to this question will be determined by whether you will be using the projector more for video footage or detailed text and drawings. LCD for more detailed text and DLP for predominantly home movie use.

Next, take into account the location and light levels in which the projector is to be used. A larger and lighter room will require a projector with a higher brightness level, whereas a smaller and darker room at home will not require such a high level.

In terms of resolution, you again need to consider usage of your projector. Different resolutions will be more suitable for simple home cinema use versus projecting detailed drawings and watching high definition content.

The desired aspect ratio for your projector will also change depending on whether you will be watching standard television, projecting from a computer screen or watching film or high definition content.

Once you have considered your projector needs in conjunction with the above points, you should be in a much better position to compile a decent shortlist.