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Table of contents
The major projector features you need to consider include brightness, throw distance, zoom range, lamp life, aspect ratio, contrast, connector, resolution, refresh rate, lens shift, light source, and weight.
The options that are available to you when purchasing a projector are pretty vast. Here is a rundown of the types of projectors that are available on todays’ market.
Business, Home Theater and Portable
Business projectors are great for businesses and executives who have to make an impression with the presentations they present to clients, business partners or colleagues. Many of these projectors don’t even require you to hook the projector up to a computer or laptop. You simply put an SD card with the presentation files directly into the SD card slot and run the presentation directly from the projector.
We live in a day and age where bigger is better. Unfortunately the screen sizes of today’s televisions just don’t accommodate viewing area that many of today’s home entertainment enthusiasts require. That’s where home theater projectors come into play. You can see movies on the big screen right from the comfort of your own home. With many of today’s models easily being able to project image sizes as wide as 300” across, it’s no wonder people are foregoing large-screen televisions for home theater projectors in their family entertainment rooms.
Gone are the days when projectors were large and bulky and welcome to the era when a quality projector can easily fit into a briefcase. When you’re on the go and have to give that all-important presentation that will finally close the big deal, a portable projector is exactly what you need to get your point across and make your presentation clear and memorable.DLP, LCD and LED Projectors
DLP, short for digital light processing, is a proprietary technology that was developed by Texas Instruments. Most DLP projectors will come with a DLP chip that is made from tiny mirrors. Each mirror accounts for one pixel or point of light in the image that the projector displays. Light from the lamp of the projector is then reflected off of the mirrors to create the image. A color wheel is used in combination with the chip and the mirrors in order to modulate the colors within the image being shown.
LCD projectors have three LCD glass panels inside the projector. LCD is short for liquid crystal display. Each of the three glass panels represents a color – red, green, or blue. Light passes through these panels and then individual pixels open or close to create the image displayed by the projector.
LED technology is becoming the future of projectors. Whether it is a projector for home theater use, business use or educational use, there is an LED projector to meet your needs. LED technology is even bringing us handheld projectors and other miniature projector systems.
LED light sources are known to have significant advantages over conventional lamps. First and foremost, they require less maintenance since there is no lamp to be changed. In addition, LED light sources last longer than other light sources. When you combine the long life, lack of maintenance and low use of power, it’s not hard to see how LED projectors can save consumers money over time even if the initial investment is higher.
Now that you are aware of the different types of projectors that are on today’s market, it’s important to understand the specifications and features that the various projectors have to offer. Many customers don’t understand the different features or specifications of today’s projectors or why these things even matter, while others are very aware of why the specs are so important. Below we will discuss the specs and features that you should focus on when purchasing a projector, whether it be for home or business purposes.
There are two methods used to measure light in a projector. One is to measure the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) lumen rating of the projector. This measures the light energy that is being generated by the projector itself. The second method is the foot-Lamberts method, which takes the screen into account and measures the amount of light being reflected back to the audience. Of the two methods to measure brightness, the foot-Lamberts method is the better. Unfortunately, because this measurement depends on the screen size and gain, there is no foot-Lambert spec published by the manufacturer of a projector.
When it comes to purchasing a projector, brighter is not better. Your goal is to get a projector that produces enough light to fill the screen with a good contrast, but not so much light that it creates eye fatigue. When looking at brightness, remember that balance is the key. Usually you will want brightness in the range of 1,500 lumens to 3,500 lumens depending on your needs and budget. You should always take into consideration of ambient light, screen size and subject matter when choosing the brightness that’s right for you. For example, cutting out ambient light may save you money from going after a brighter projector.
The throw distance of a projector is the distance that the projector can “throw” the image onto the screen or viewing area. The throw distance of a projector is usually given in two numbers when you are looking at the specs of a projector. The smaller number is the shortest amount of space the projector can be from the screen and the larger number is the furthest distance that the projector can be from the screen. For example, a projector with a throw distance of 5' ~ 33' means that the projector can be no closer than 5 feet to the screen and no further than 33 feet away from it.
A zoom lens can make a projected image larger or smaller. This is done by shifting the internal optical elements within the lens. This is what allows the projector to deliver the right image size from a range of different distances. There are some projectors that have a very limited zoom range. Some projectors, on the other hand, can display an image size that is more than double of the minimum image size. This provides a lot more flexibility in where you can place the projector. It is important to note, however, that while a better zoom range can provide more flexibility, the light output can be affected when using the telescopic end of a long zoom lens.
Projector lamps can be expensive and difficult to replace. Because of this, you will want to look at the expected lamp life of a projector before making your investment. Lamp life is usually given in hours. A projector may have different lamp life specs depending on how the projector is being used. For example, a projector may feature lamp life specs of 3,500 Hours (Standard), 5,000 Hours (ECO), and 6,000 Hours (ExtremeEco). This means that you can get more life out of your lamp when running your projector in different modes.
When talking about projector specs, the numbers that are given when referring to the aspect ratio refer to the rectangular shape of the video image that is displayed by the projector. A standard television has an aspect ratio of 4:3, which means that the picture is four units wide for every three units high. The HDTV standard is 16:9, which means that the image is 16 units wide for every 9 units that it is high. Many projectors are capable of projecting in multiple aspect ratios. For example, if you see a projector that has an aspect ratio of “16:9 (native), 4:3, 16:10”, that means that “native” or “optimized” viewing ratio for that projector is 16:9, even though the projector can also project with an aspect ratio of 4:3 or 16:10.
The contrast of a projector is the difference between the brightest and darkest parts in an image. The greater that difference is, the higher the contrast will be. Depending on your specific needs and what you are using your projector for, contrast may be a very important feature. For example, those who are using their projectors for home theater use will want the highest level of contrast they can afford. A high-contrast projector produces a picture with a deep level of black and clearly-defined shadow detail. This contrast will give “depth” to the images presented by the projector.
The number of connectors going into the projector is another feature that you will want to consider. If you want to connect multiple computers and/or video sources to the projector at the same time, you will need a projector that features multiple input jacks. For example, you may want to connect two different laptop computers to run two consecutive presentations. If your projector only has a single computer input, you will not be able to perform this task. Instead, you will have to unplug and re-plug each laptop in throughout the course of the presentations in order to utilize the projector. Multiple connectors eliminate this need.
The resolution of a projector is the number of pixels that it has available in order to create an image. The higher the resolution is, the more pixels that it has. More pixels mean better image quality. Projector resolutions are usually given in either one or two numbers. A two number resolution, for example, might be listed as 1920 x 1080. The first number of the equation shows how many pixels there are in each horizontal row of the image. The second number shows how many pixels make up each vertical column. If you multiply these two numbers, you get the total number of pixels. Sometimes a projector’s resolution is only given in one number, such as 720p or 1080p. This refers to the vertical resolution of the projector. In these cases, the “horizontal” number is not given because “p” stands for “progressive scan, which means that the entire picture is displayed at the same time.
A projector’s refresh rate is the ability of the projector to process video. If you only plan on using power point slides and other business presentation files, the refresh rate will not be very important to you. If, however, you plan on using your projector for home entertainment or gaming purposes, the refresh rate of a projector will be a very important spec. A higher refresh rate means crisper, seamless images.
Lens shift is another feature to take into consideration if you need flexibility when setting up your projector. This feature allows you to shift the lens up or down or from side to side, depending on where you need to place your projector. Without lens shift abilities, a projector must be placed in exactly the right spot in order for the image to fit properly within its allocated space.
Many of today’s projectors feature integrated Wi-Fi. This means less need for wiring and easier installation. If you want to reduce installation hassles or frequently hook up and remove devices from your projector, a projector with integrated Wi-Fi can make things a lot easier.
Today’s consumers have a broader range of light sources to choose from when it comes to buying a projector. There are LED, LCD and DLP projectors on the market to fit a variety of budgets. When buying a projector, consider your lighting needs. Are you environmentally conscious? An LED projector may be what you’re after. In addition to being more energy efficient, LED projectors do not require a fan and therefore are also quieter. Interested in “solid-state” illumination? Then a DLP projector may be something to consider.
While weight may not be an issue for some, for others it is a significant concern. Some projectors weigh much less than others. If you travel frequently and need to take your projector with you on business trips or to meetings, you will want to pay close attention to the weight of the projector as you will need to haul it with you – not only on a plane but to and from your business meetings.
Video Signal Standard
Most projectors accept composite video, S-video, computer/RGB signals and YPbPr/YCbCr component video. There are also, however, projectors that can recognize DVI and HDMI inputs. Because many of today’s computers feature DVI or HDMI outputs, you may want to consider a projector that has this capability.
SD Card Slots
If you will be using your projector for business presentations and you do not want to bring your laptop or have your projector hooked up to a computer, you may want to consider a projector with an SD card slot. This allows you to bring your presentation files along with you on an SD card and insert them directly into the projector without having to hook the projector up to a desktop or laptop computer.
When buying a projector, there are some specifications and features that will be more important to you than others. The projector specifications and features that are most important to you will depend on how you intend to use your projector. You will have to know which type of projector is best for you in order to understand which features and specifications will meet your needs. This is addressed in the section of “Which is the Best Projector for Me?”