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Projector Buying Guide

Table of contents

Projector Introduction

Do you find yourself focusing your eyes on a small TV screen to watch movies or a tiny notebook display to read reports? A more comfortable and delightful experience is available via projector, which makes movies and presentations simply larger than life (up to 100 inches or more) for clearer and more detailed images. With the development of projection technology, most home and small business users can now afford to own a projector.

At, projectors offered range from LCD to DLP and from mainstream to professional. Home and business users alike will be able to find projectors that fit and function perfectly both for the office and the home and enjoy maximum visual quality and impact as well as enhanced work efficiency.

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Projector Types

There are two types of projector technology currently: LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and DLP (Digital Light Processing). Let's find out how they differ:

LCD Projectors

LCD projectors are subdivided into two groups: One LCD and Three LCD.

One LCD Projectors

One LCD projectors control colors through one LCD glass panel, and generally provide brighter images than DLP projectors.

Three LCD Projectors

Three LCD projectors control colors through three LCD glass panels instead of one, allowing them to provide images of a higher quality than one LCD projectors.

DLP Projectors

Unlike LCD projectors, DLP units utilize a DLP chip containing millions of micro mirrors to processing the light and color. This approach allows DLP projectors to provide excellent color contrast and performance. This design also allows them to work continuously without stopping for longer* periods of time in comparison to LCD projectors (not to be mistaken with machine service life). Additionally the projector lamps in DLP projectors are also capable of longer service lives.

*An LCD projector that is in use for extended periods of time (6 hours or longer) can become very hot. To avoid having a projector crash because of heat, users must allow the projector to cool from time to time by turning it off. This is not needed in DLP projectors. The service life of a DLP projector lamp is also longer than that of LCD projectors (LCD: 1500~2000hours, DLP: 2000~3000hours) due to the different thermal attributes of the projector.

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More specs to pay attention to

Resolution (Native)

Similar in concept to the LCD display resolution, the resolution of a projector is the number of pixels displayed in the projected image. Projectors offering higher resolutions can display more information on screen and higher quality images.

Generally speaking, projectors offering lower picture resolutions are intended for home use such as displaying standard definition movies. Projectors offering higher resolutions are typically intended for business use as they are capable of showing more onscreen information and sharper looking images at longer distances. Higher resolution projectors are moving into the home at a rapid rate, however, as DVD players and digital TV broadcasting are providing high resolution picture signals that help make the most out of a high resolution projector's capabilities.

Here are the four most popular projector resolutions in use today:


The SVGA standard corresponds to a resolution of 800 x 600 and is common in entry level projectors. This resolution is sufficient for analog TV and DVD playback, and even for small business use.


Corresponding to a resolution of 1024 x 768 (equal to most computer displays), the XGA resolution is often seen in mainstream projectors. This resolution is more suitable for graphics work, business applications, as well as movie playback.


Displaying a picture resolution of 1280 x 768 (16:9 widescreen aspect ratio), the WXGA projector makes widescreen movies look their best. The WXGA projector will also display a picture resolution of 1024 x768 for standard aspect ratio output.


The 1280 x 1024 pixel SXGA and 1400 x 1050 SXGA+ resolution are the higher resolutions available in current projectors. With increased picture resolution, images look sharper and more detailed and generally very pleasing to the eye. In addition, a greater amount of onscreen content can be displayed should the signal source support it.

Projector Resolution and HDTV compatibility

Although some projectors support picture resolutions higher than native specification, the projected images are generally resized versions of the original with a slightly reduced image quality level. For example, an HDTV compatible projector with a native SVGA or XGA resolution will be able to accept incoming HDTV picture signals that are then resized to the projector's native resolution.

On the other hand, HDTV compatible projectors providing WXGA or SXGA level native resolutions will be able to project a full 720p HDTV picture.


The brightness of a projector is a very important factor in its performance as the color and picture quality is to a large extent influenced by brightness. Insufficient brightness can cause images to look less clear and colorful.

A projector's brightness is measured in ANSI (American National Standards Institute) lumens. A higher brightness specification means that the projector is capable of a higher level of image brightness.

1000 lumens or less

Budget users may prefer these projectors for their lower cost. These projectors should generally be used in darker rooms where there isn't harsh or conflicting light to ensure a brighter looking picture.

1000 - 2000 lumens

These brightness levels are typical of mainstream projectors. Pictures from these projectors can tolerate more conflicting light without degradation to image quality making them suitable for most meeting rooms and living rooms.

2000 - 3000 lumens

Suitable for larger rooms such as the classroom or a larger conference room, these projectors provide enough brightness to project a high quality image over a greater distance.

3000 lumens or more

These projectors are suitable for various large rooms for large board rooms, auditoriums, churches, concert halls and nightclubs.

Contrast Ratio

Contrast Ratio is a measure of the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black areas of an image.

In scientific terms, contrast is the ratio between the light intensity of the brightest and the darkest points in an image. What it does in practice is to allow a screen to show both light and dark details as well as possible. A higher contrast performance often allows darker details to show better and therefore improves picture quality.

Lens & Zoom

Most projector zoom lenses are either motorized or manual designs. Motorized lenses typically feature an auto focusing function so users can adjust the size and shape of the projected image simply via remote controller. Manual designs require lens adjustment by hand.

Video Compatibility

Like most TVs, projectors also support a variety of signal formats. This means that a user must pay attention to the projector signal format support. The format support must match the output signal format in order for the image to be projected. Analog signal formats include NTSC, PAL and SECAM; while HDTV formats include 720p and 1080i.


Video connectors vary from model to model. Different applications require different connectors.

The common different applications' requirements on connectors are as follows:

For home DVD movie playback: RCA (Video), S-Video, Component
For HD movie playback: Component, D-SUB, DVI, HDMI
For business presentations: D-SUB, DVI

Please see our Connectors guide for more details.


For convenience, projectors sometimes feature built-in speakers for direct audio output. This allows business users to perform small group presentations easily without the need to hook up a set of external speakers. Home users, however, can enjoy a greater level of audio quality by utilizing a separate home audio system.

Size & Weight

If you are a home user and your projector unit does not get moved frequently, the size and mass of a projector is of relatively small importance. If, however, you are a business user who needs to move a projector frequently from one meeting place to another, the size and weight must then come into consideration. Our recommendation for indoors business use (projectors that get moved around) are for models weighing no more than 5lbs. For mobile professionals we recommend ultra compact projectors weighing 2lbs to 3lbs.

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