PROJECTOR BUYING GUIDE – HOW TO CHOOSE A PROJECTOR

Projector buying guide

With so many different projectors on the market it is easy to become confused.
Which projector should you choose from the over 600 models on the market?

This projector guide has been created to help you choose. We will be answering a few questions to help you pin point the projector that will meet your requirements.

Projectors are usually compared using three main factors: brightness, resolution and lens ratio.
Once these factors have been considered, you can narrow down your choice further with secondary factors such as light source, lamp life, warranty, connectivity etc.

PROJECTOR BRIGHTNESS

Projector brightness

Brightness is measured in lumens.

Most reputable manufacturers quote their brightness in ANSI (American National Standards Institute) lumens. The ANSI lumens rating is a trusted measure of true brightness, calculated using a specific technique, as opposed to 'marketing lumens' which uses different ways of measuring and can be less accurate.
The higher the ANSI lumens level, the brighter the projector.

So how bright should your projector be? First you need to consider the following factors:

- How bright is the room and can you control the light?

Regardless of projector brightness, the best results are achieved in a dark room; however it is not always possible or practical to project in darkness.
If you are going to use the projector in a room where there will be lighting or where there aren't any curtains to block out the natural light, it is recommended to choose a bright projector.
Home cinema users are advised to use their projector in a dark room to enjoy the home cinema experience to the full.

> The more light there is in a room the brighter the projector will need to be in order to compete.

- How many people will be in the room?

The more people in the room, the bigger the picture will need to be to ensure everyone can see it.
Increasing the size of the picture will spread the light over a bigger area and therefore require a higher brightness.

> The more people in the room, the bigger the picture, the brighter the projector.

- What is your application?

Projecting text, graphs or any other detailed material from PC will require a brighter projector because of the need to see and read the details of what is being projected. These applications also typically require some amount of ambient light for note-taking and communication.
Videos and TV do not need such a bright projector as they are visually less demanding and are usually shown in darker rooms, if the projector is too bright for home cinema, this may reduce the image contrast.

> The more detailed the image/picture, the brighter the projector.

Once you have decided the factors of room brightness, image size and what you will be projecting, you can decide what level of brightness is best for your application.

Less than 1000 lumens

Most projectors in this category tend to be portable, LED projectors for home entertainment or on-the-go applications as they must be used in dark rooms to ensure an optimal picture quality (contrast levels).
Click to see a list of projectors below 1000 lumens.

1000 to 2000 lumens

The majority of projectors in the brightness range are for home cinema.
This level of brightness ensures good levels of contrast while allowing some ambient light. Projectors between 1000 and 1500 lumens may need reduced lighting for better results; projectors between 1500 and 2000 lumens do not require a totally dark or dimly lit room to produce a good picture.
Click to see a list of projectors 1000 to 2000 lumens.

2000 to 3000 lumens

These projectors are the most commonly used for portable business applications or in classrooms.
They are able to cope with increased levels of ambient and natural light and/or larger screens.
Click to see a list of projectors 2000 to 3000 lumens.

3000 to 5000 lumens

As technology improves and prices decrease over time, projectors with brightness levels between 3000 and 5000 lumens have become increasingly affordable.
They are ideal for larger and brighter rooms such as boardrooms, where detailed data is projected or in application where the highest levels of image clarity are required.
Click to see a list of projectors 3000 to 5000 lumens.

Over 5000 lumens

Projectors over 5000 lumens are typically used in large venues such as auditoriums, Churches, halls etc. where a larger screens is required or where it is difficult or impractical to limit ambient light.
Click to see a list of projectors over 5000 lumens.

PROJECTOR RESOLUTION

Projector resolution

The resolution is the number of pixels that make up an image - e.g. 800 x 600 means the picture is made of 800 columns of pixels by 600 rows of pixels; for a total of 480.000 (800x600) pixels making up the whole image.
The larger the number of pixels the higher the resolution and the sharper and more detailed the image is.

When comparing projectors, we are comparing their native resolution; most projectors are compatible with higher source resolutions through the use of compression technology, but the native resolution is the actual number of physical pixels the projector will project.

See below a list of resolutions commonly available in projectors.

Resolution
Pixels
Aspect Ratio
Description
WVGA
800x480
16:10
Entry level home cinema resolution, also often referred to as 480p
SVGA
800x600
4:3
Entry level projector resolution which is quite popular thanks to the lower purchase cost.
XGA
1024x768
4:3
A very popular resolution for business and education projectors in the recent past but which is gradually being phased out for widescreen resolutions.
720p
1280x720
16:9
An entry level home cinema widescreen resolution also known as HD Ready.
WXGA
1280x800
16:10
Currently one of the most popular widescreen resolutions thanks to the affordable cost; used mainly for corporate or education application.
1080p
1920x1080
16:9
A very popular widescreen resolution for home cinema projectors and some business models; also known as Full HD
WUXGA
1920x1200
16:10
An increasingly popular widescreen resolution for corporate projectors, offering high clarity.
4K UHD
3840x2160
16:9
An increasingly popular resolution for both high end home cinema applications and corporate use.

What resolution is best for you?

Projectors are compatible with different resolutions coming from sources such as computers and DVD players. They convert different input resolution to the native output resolution in a process called 'scaling'.
While this is very useful when using a variety of sources, it is always recommended to match the projector resolution to that of the most used source (e.g. if you are using a WXGA resolution laptop, you should if possible use a WXGA projector). This is because scaling can cause a loss of picture quality: it is not as sharp and detailed. This happens not only when the projector is of lower resolution than the source but also when the projector is of higher resolution.
Matching the resolution of the projector to the source's resolution will ensure you are getting the sharpest and cleanest image.

Another factor in choosing the right resolution for your projector is the typical application.
The following suggestions are for minimum resolutions suggested; we recommend that the larger the image size projected, the higher the resolution to ensure clarity and sharpness of the image.

> If you are using the projector for 'Powerpoint' type applications with large text and diagrams, SVGA or XGA should be sufficient.
Click to see a list of SVGA projectors. or XGA projectors.

> If you are using the projector for numeric data presentations, 'Excel' spreadsheets etc. or smaller text where the image needs to be clearer, XGA or WXGA is recommended.
Click to see a list of XGA projectors. or WXGA projectors.

> If you are projecting more detailed technical data such as engineering drawings, small text or high end photography, WUXGA resolutions would be best.
Click to see a list of WUXGA projectors.

PROJECTOR LENS RATIO

Projector lens ratio

The projector lens ratio also known as throw ratio is the ratio between the image width and projection distance (throw distance). It determines how large the projected image can be from a given projection distance or how far the projector needs to be to project a given image size.

The throw ratio (TR) is calculated by dividing the projection distance (D) by the image width (W). So for example if the image width is 2m and the projection distance is 4m, the throw ratio is (D) 4 / (W) 2 = (TR) 2.0.
If you know the image size you require and how far you would like the projector to be installed, you can work out the throw ratio you need.

The lens ratio is generally expressed as a range, written out like this example: 1.5 – 1.8:1 (except in the case of fixed lens projectors where it is a single ratio, for example 0.8:1).
In the example above, the range means that the projector would need to be installed between 1.5x and 1.8x the image width measurement away from the screen (e.g. for a 2m wide image, the projector would need to be between 3m and 3.6m away from the screen).

Different projectors have different lens ratios so it is important to make sure the model you would like to buy has the correct lens to achieve the image size you need from the projection distance available.
This is especially important when the projection distance available is limited or particularly large.

Lens ratios and projector types

Most standard projectors have lens ratios between 1.2:1 and 2.3:1. Some models have a smaller ratio range (e.g. 1.4 – 1.7:1) while other have wider ranges (e.g. 1.4 – 2.2:1) making them more versatile.

Short-throw projectors

When you have limited space, a short-throw projector may be required.
Short-throw projectors typically have a lens ratio between 0.5:1 and 1:1. This means they can be installed closer to the screen for a given image size than a standard projector.

> For small rooms or when the projector needs to be closer to the screen due to lack of space, you may need a short-throw projector.
Click to see a list of short-throw projectors.

Ultra-short throw projectors

Ultra-short throw projectors are designed to be wall mounted above the projection surface (typically a traditional whiteboard, interactive whiteboard or fixed frame screen) or on a cabinet below a screen (e.g. for home cinema). They are very popular in classrooms, training or meeting rooms as well as for home cinema.
With a lens ratio of around 0.25 – 0.4:1, they project images up to 130" diagonal from less than 50cm away.

> When a ceiling mounted projector is not suitable or for use with a whiteboard or interactive whiteboard, ultra-short throw projectors can be ideal.
Click to see a list of ultra-short throw projectors.

Long throw projectors

In large venues such as school halls, theatres, Churches etc. the projector may need to be installed a long distance away from the screen without the need for an extremely large image. For these applications a long throw lens is required.
Professional installation projectors are available with optional interchangeable lenses, including long throw and ultra-long throw lenses, which allows the customer to choose the best lens for their use.

> When the projector needs to be installed a long distance away from the screen, a professional projector with long throw lens may be required.
Click to see a list of professional projectors with optional lenses.

PROJECTOR FEATURES

When you have shortlisted projectors that meet your needs in terms of brightness, resolution and lens ratio, you may need to narrow it down further depending on other features which can differ from model to model.

Below we have listed a few factors that may be important for you.

LIGHT SOURCE

Projectors have different light sources.
Most models use lamps that periodically need to be replaced however many newer projectors now use as laser light source. Laser means there is no lamp to replace, however when the laser light source comes to the end of its life-span (typically around 20.000 or 30.000 hours), you will need to buy a new projector.
There are also projectors which use an LED light source. They are typically ultra-portable and compact, however they are not bright enough for most professional applications.

WARRANTY

Manufacturers offer various levels of warranty depending on the projector model.
Low cost projectors typically come with shorter warranties (e.g. 1 to 2 years) while mid-range to high end models have longer warranties (e.g. 3 to 5 years).
Warranties also vary in the type of service provided. A return to base warranty means the projector needs to be sent back to a service centre while an on-site warranty often means a technician comes on site to repair or swap the projector.
Always check the full terms of the warranty.

LAMP LIFE

If you choose a projector with a lamp light source, as well as the cost of replacement lamps, check the expected lamp life.
Some projectors, in particular brighter ones, have a lamp life of around 4000 to 5000 hours however many newer models have lamp lives up to 10.000 or even 12.000 hours.
The longer the lamp life. The less maintenance and replacement will be required.

CONNECTIVITY

Most modern projectors now include a HDMI input connection and often a VGA input connection. If you need other inputs or outputs to connect specific equipment, it is important to check that the projector has what you need.
Some models (but not all) include in-built or optional wireless connection which is useful for portable applications or when multiple laptops need to connect to the projector in a meeting.

WEIGHT & SIZE

If the projector is going to be used in various locations and needs to carried, weight and size will be factors.
For mobile applications such as sales or on-site training, a light and compact projector would be recommended. There are projectors in the region of 1.7kg to 2.5kg which are designed for this purpose.

TECHNOLOGY

Most projectors use either LCD or DLP technology (with the exception of a few models using LCoS technology).
While both DLP and LCD projectors are suitable for most applications, there are small differences that may be important to you.
Check our guide on DLP vs LCD projectors.

LENS SHIFT / KEYSTONE

Typically a projector should be installed centred with the screen horizontally and near level with the top (for ceiling mounted solution) or bottom (for table mounted) of the image for best results. If the projector needs to be mounted higher or lower, it will need to be tilted up or down; if it needs to be off-centre horizontally, it will need to be turned slightly left or right.
Tilting or turning the projector will cause the image to become a trapezoid. To correct this you can use a projector with keystone correction or lens shift.
Lens shift is a mechanism that allows the image to be moved up/down (vertical lens shift) and/or left/right (horizontal lens shift) without tilting or turning the projector. It preserves the quality of the image.
Keystone correction is a digital process that contracts the image on one side (horizontal keystone) or at the top or bottom (vertical keystone) to make it rectangular again. This process may be necessary at times but should be avoided if possible as it reduces the quality of the image.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

Projectors can come with additional features which may be required or useful.
We have mentioned wireless projection above but if you want to mirror a smart phone or tablet screen on your projector, you may need a Miracast compatible projector and phone/tablet.
Some projectors can project files and photos from a USB memory drive. This is often called PC-less presentation and is not available on all models.
There are projectors with interactive features allowing you to interact with your software without the need for an interactive whiteboard.
For more specialised applications, there are features such as edge blending which allow 2 or more projectors to be used together to make one large, seamless image; geometric correction which allows projection on a curved surface without distorting the image; portrait projection allowing the image to be projected in portrait orientation rather than landscape.
Call us if you would like to discuss any feature.