HD projector purchasing advice: how to choose the right product
- What you need to know
- HD projectors are great for film buffs who want a cinema-like experience at home.
- For the same picture size, HD projectors are cheaper than HD TVs.
- They are a great option for gamers who want an immersive experience that doesn’t strain your eyes.
- Before buying you need to plan where you want to position the projector, screen, and seats so that everything matches up.
- Projectors need a darkened room to work.
Why buy a projector?
TVs are ubiquitous in modern households, however projectors are not. In recent years though, projectors have become more and more popular, especially with home cinema aficionados. The image cast by projectors is much bigger than a standard TV, meaning you can get a much more immersive experience. Projectors are a great option for social gatherings too: watching films or sports together is often much more fun than doing it alone.
Unlike TVs, projectors don’t dominate the room they are in. When not in use, they can be quickly stowed away. Likewise, screens can be rolled up so you barely notice them. Of course, you can permanently mount your projector on the ceiling – this is great if you often watch films in the same place.
You need a suitable room
Projectors need to be installed in a suitable room, one which is large enough for the picture and can also be darkened. Due to this, a lot of people often have a TV as well, simply because they are easier to use – you can switch them on without having to think about lighting or position.
When setting up your projector, you need to make sure you can connect it up to your speaker system. While a lot of projectors tend to come with inbuilt speakers, they are usually pretty low quality – especially if you want to recreate the cinema experience at home. However, with the right sound setup, you can crack out the popcorn for a box office experience.
There are four different types of technology you tend to find in projectors nowadays. Read on for an overview and analysis of the different kinds on the market.
LCD is the tried and tested projector technology. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display: the projector works by filtering light rays through liquid crystals and then casting them out onto a screen or wall. LCD projectors produce great color and good light-dark contrast. This makes them great for things like presentations, as they are extremely readable.
However, LCD projectors aren’t that highly regarded by home cinema buffs, as they tend to be bad at producing black color tones. LCD projectors are also quite loud: the crystals need to be constantly cooled so you do get a lot of fan noise. Some older models were susceptible to projecting pixellated images, but this is quite rare nowadays. This said, some LCD projectors can still suffer from a memory effect, in which artefacts remain after the image changes.
- Comparatively inexpensive
- Compact and lightweight
- Vivid colors
- High contrast
- Black tones not very powerful
- Can produce artefacts
Digital Light Processing (DLP) is a projector technology in which a fast color filter wheel guides light into a DMD chip. This light is then reflected by millions of tiny mirrors inside the chip to produce the overall image. The image isn’t actually created completely simultaneously, but the chip works so quickly that it is imperceptible to the naked eye.
Some people can notice a flashing rainbow effect with single-chip DLP projectors, which can cause headaches.
DLP projectors have much better blacks as well as clearer color contrast compared to LCD projectors. Since they are sealed, DLP projectors can’t get damaged by dust. However, due to the constantly rotating color wheel, they are quite noisy. Depending on the model, DLP projectors have a fixed resolution, which can mean you get dropoffs in quality if your video source has a higher resolution. Likewise, some DLP projectors can produce the rainbow effect.
- High contrast
- Rich blacks
- Good spatial representation
- Colors not 100% realistic
- Fixed resolution
LED projectors are very similar to LCD and DLP projectors. The difference is that instead of having a UPH lamp as the light source, they have LED bulbs. The advantage of this is that LEDs are much more efficient and do not heat up as much, which makes the projector quieter. Moreover, LEDs last much longer than conventional lamps. They have a service lifetime of up to 30,000 hours – that’s nearly ten times longer than a normal bulb! The payoff is that LEDs aren’t as bright as some other bulbs, so LED projectors aren’t good unless the room is properly darkened.
- Energy efficient
- Lamp lasts a long time
- Lower luminosity
3CLD projectors have an individual LCD for each of RGB color (red, green, and blue). The light is then sent from these to a prism which bundles them together and puts them out simultaneously. This means there’s no chance of the rainbow effect you can get with DLP projectors.
3LCD technology produces high luminosity and contrast. However, resolution is a bit limited, as is refresh frequency – 3LCD isn’t the best for gamers.
- High light output
- Vivid colors
- No rainbow effect
- Poor resolution
- Low refresh rate
Which projector is best for me?
The best projector for you will depend on what you want it for, and where you are going to set it up. If you want a home cinema, you’ll want the best image quality possible, but if you’re a gamer, the decisive factor will be refresh rate. You can get short-throw projectors for small rooms, and ceiling-mounted projectors for conference rooms. In short, these examples are meant to show that there will be a projector that fits your needs, you just need to know what to look for.
For a lot of people, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have long since replaced standard TVs. Nowadays, these platforms offer a lot of content in 4K resolution, making them perfect for home cinema setups. If you plan on using your projector with a streaming service, make sure you get one that is Wi-Fi compatible: you can even get smart projectors now which come with the apps pre-installed.