LCD Projector Guide

This LCD Projector Guide is just what you need to assist you in the use and purchase of a digital LCD projector or DLP projector. It will discuss the differences between LCD and DLP projectors, size and portability considerations, projector bulb types and brightness, resolution, image quality and other considerations in the use and purchase of a digital projector.

LCD Projector Guide

Digital Projectors are more prevalent than ever in business conference rooms and school classrooms. As the technology improves and the prices drop, LCD projectors that can be connected to computers, video players, and other media devices are even finding their way into our homes.

DLP and LCD Projectors have become smaller, lighter, brighter, and even cheaper. Families are catching on to the idea that what works well in the office also has a place in today's home theater systems. Why limit yourself to a 42 inch or a 51 inch television screen when you can have an entire wall!

LCD vs. DLP Projector Types

LCD Projectors (Liquid Crystal Display)
LCD Projectors operate by shining light through transparent LCD cells. Most LCD projectors us advanced polysillicon LCDs, which use three s

Whether your interested in an LCD projector for your home or office, or for the next great sales presentation that you're making on the road, knowing some basic information about the differences and features available on today's digital projectors will help you make an informed decision about which one would be best for your circumstances.

While many refer to all projectors as LCD projectors, there are really two main types of digital projectors: Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) or LCD projectors. This guide will help you understand the differences between the two and provide you with a good overview about what to look for in a projector.

Separate color panels (red, green, and blue) to produce the desired color. Projected images are produced by the combination of light shinning through the LCD cells. LCDs have excellent color saturation, usually have adjustable brightness and contrast, are typically brighter than DLPs at the same lumen output, and they have a broader range of connectivity.



DLP Projector (Digital Light Processing)
DLP projectors were developed by Texas Instruments and project images by reflecting lights against hundreds of tiny mirrors called digital micro devices (DMD). Each mirror representing one pixel, is powered by electronics that adjust the angle of the mirror according to the color being displayed. DLP projectors are lighter in weight than their LCD counterparts. They are all digital technology and typically have higher contrast ratios, meaning that they project video images better than LCDs. They are portable, tend to be smaller and lighter than LCD projectors and connect easily to other digital devices.

Comparing LCD and DLP

The best way to compare LCD projectors and DLP projectors is to set two with the same brightness and resolution side by side and see which one projects the best for the type of image you will be showing through the projector.


LCD Projectors DLP Projectors
  • Tend to produce more saturated colors and sharper images
  • Depending on the resolution and size , images may become pixilated
  • Little difference in price
  • Typically offer deeper blacks and higher contrast
  • May not project very detailed images well
  • Little difference in price

Size and Portability of Projectors

Projectors fall into three broad categories: Ultralight portable projectors, conference room projectors, and fixed installation projectors.

Ultralights: Personal Portable Projectors
If you travel a lot to conduct presentations, sales calls, or man trade show exhibit booths, an ultralight projector is probably the one for you. Every year projectors get smaller and lighter. It used to be that hauling a projector through the airport required an extra suitcase. Now days, it fits in one corner of your suitcase, and in some cases, fits in your briefcase. The latest models of ultralights weigh in at just under three pounds and some weigh as much as eight pounds.

Ultralights typically range from around 1,000 to 2500 lumens in brightness. You want a projector with at least 1000 - 1,200 lumens for use in rooms where there will be some ambient light. The more lumens you have, the better will be your presentation. Use the following guide for brightness you should look for.

Projectors are measured by brightness and resolution. ANSI Lumens are the industry standard measurement for a projector's brightness. Depending on the lamp, lens optics, and projector design, ANSI lumens range from 200 to 10,000 per projector. The more lumens a projector has, the brighter the picture will be.

Lumens Application
1000-1200 lumens Use in rooms where the lights are off or their is low level ambient light.
1500-2000 lumens Use in rooms with some ambient light
2000-2500 lumens Use in rooms where the lights are on or there is a high level of ambient light.

Just because the ultralights are small, doesn't mean they're not going to match the larger models for image quality, brightness, and extra features. If weight is a big issue, get the smallest model you can, but know that you're paying a premium for that small size. The same features and power in a projector that may weight six ounces or a pound more, will cost much less.

Conference Room DLP or LCD Projectors
This is probably the most popular size projector. If you normally move your projector from room to room rather than across country, then this is the class for you. There is less a focus on weight and size and more attention is paid to performance. Conference room projectors are heavier, brighter, and more adaptable to a large room than the ultralights. These projectors also come with many extra features such as extra video or computer ports, remote mouse, or a laser pointer. These projectors typically weigh 10 to 25 lbs.

Lumens Application
2500 lumens Needed for audiences of less than 100 with ambient light
3000 lumens Needed for audiences of 100 to 200 with ambient light
5000 lumens Needed for audiences of 100 or more with bright room lighting.

Fixed Installation Projectors
Fixed or in-house projectors are usually installed in a permanent spot in an auditorium, presentation hall, or classroom. In large installations, these projectors can weigh over one hundred pounds. Fixed projectors are the most expensive of the three types, but they are the most powerful and versatile. These projectors can handle different resolutions and image sizes, project in very large, bright rooms, and usually include mounting hardware and brackets to secure it in a permanent installation. Fixed installation projectors can range from 1,000 to 10,000 lumens.

Projector Resolution

Resolution refers to the number of dots of light that appear on a screen or a projected image. Even though some projectors may be able to work with several resolutions, there is one "native" resolution at which it works best. To get the best image, match the resolution of your projector with the resolution of your computer. Most newer projectors have higher resolutions to match most current laptop computers. The most common resolution today is XGA (1,024 x 768). For higher resolutions, such as SXGA (1,280 x 1,024), you'll pay a higher price for the projector.

Projector Resolution Options

Resolution Description
800 x 600
SVGA projectors are great for those on a tight budget. They are good for PowerPoint presentations or those that include clip art or line drawings. They're good for black and white, showing documents, etc. They are not good for presentations that require a lot of detail.
1,024 x 768
Most computers still output in native XGA, so matching an XGA projector to your computer ensures you won't lose any detail. These are good general purpose projectors.
1,280 x 1,024
SXGA projectors are high resolution, and will be more expensive than XGA. These products are targeted for high end personal computer users and low end workstation users.
1,400 x 1,050
SXGA+ projectors are becoming more popular, and there are several offerings available in both budget and high-end configurations. These are very good for detailed photography and graphics.
1,600 x 1,200
UXGA is for very high end high resolution workstation applications that require exacting detail. These are expensive projectors that support a broad range of computer equipment.
* The most popular projector resolution

NOTE: For best results, match the resolution of your computer with the native resolution of the projector.

Image Quality
There are four factors that the quality of image. They are contrast, color, brightness, and how even the illumination is across the picture. The best way to get the highest quality image is to match the resolution of your projector with that of your computer. Every year, computers are sold with higher and higher resolutions with the most popular today being the XGA 1024 x 768 sold in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Contrast Ratio
Contrast is the difference between the brightest (white) and darkest (black) parts of the screen. Contrast helps to define the depth of an image, and is important when projecting video images. A good projector will have a contrast ratio of at least 250:1 or more. The higher the contrast ratio, the better the projected image with the best quality projectors having a contrast ratio of 2,000:1.

The more colors you projector can support, the better it will be able to project high quality images and video. Color helps to define the depth of an image, by adding shades to the objects displayed. Projectors should display 16 million colors or more which is adequate for computer screens and video.

The bigger the audience or room, the bigger and brighter the image must be. The brightness level of a projector depends on the kind of environment you will be using it. Will you be in a small classroom, a conference room, or a large lecture hall or auditorium? Will the room be lit or darkened?

These are some of the factors you must consider when purchasing a LCD projector. Trade show floors, for example, and other lighted environments require brighter images, while darkened rooms need less brightness. Typically, you should have at least 1,000 lumens to project effectively in a lighted room. For very large installations, 10,000 lumens is required.

Illumination Uniformity
As you compare projectors, notice how the projector fills the screen. Is it even from side to side and top to bottom. You should avoid dark corners of the image and bright centers. Illumination uniformity refers to the percentage of brightness that is carried across your screen from edge to edge and top to bottom. A higher uniformity rating means a more uniform image brightness across your screen. You want uniformity at a level of 85% or better.

Projector Lenses
Zoom lenses are almost standard on today's projectors. The zoom lens lets you project a larger or smaller image on your screen depending on the distance between your projector and the screen. The best lenses are manufactured with glass, but some models are using plastic lenses to cut down on weight. Glass will give you a clearer, sharper image. Some projectors are also available with interchangeable lenses. The f-number of the lens is a measure of how much light gets through the lens to the screen.

Projector Lamps
Projector lamps are one of the hidden costs of a projector. It's like toner cartridges for printers. Over the life of the printer, you'll probably pay more for the toner cartridges than you originally paid for the printer. The same is true for projectors. The lamp is the most expensive part of the projector. The lamp type is related to the image brightness. The most common types of projector lamp are the:

  • UHP - Ultra High Performance
  • UHE - Ultra High Efficiency
  • Some projectors also use metal halide lamps.

Lamp life is rated in hour3. The typical lamp life for a projector is between 1,000 and 4,000 hours and depending on how much the projector is used, can add to the total cost of operating a projector over a given period of time. Replacement bulbs run anywhere from $300 to $600. A lower watt lamp will stay cooler and last longer than a higher watt bulb. Since it uses less power, it will also cost less to operate.

See additional information about Projector Lamps

Other Features to Consider when Purchasing a Projector

Today's LCD projectors are very easy to use. They are plug-n-play and require only a few minutes to set up. Some projectors come with additional features that can be very convenient and are ones that you should consider in your purchase decision.

  • Some DLP and LCD projectors are wireless for easy set-up and no cables to mess with.
  • Networked connections so that projector can be controlled from a remote location
  • Component video inputs for higher quality video. This is the preferred input for projecting video.
  • Digital Keystone Correction for adjusting the rectangular shape on the screen when the projector cannot be positioned perpendicular to the screen.
  • Wireless mouse control for freedom to move around while you are presenting.
  • Dual computer inputs for hooking up to more than one computer.

Projector Aspect Ratios

Aspect ratios refer to the number of units wide to the number of units high of your LCD projector display. For years, the standard was 4:3, but with the popularity of wide screens, the new option is 16 x 9. A 4 x 3 display is more square than the rectangular shaped 16 x 9

Screen/Display Aspect Ratios
Wide Screen 16 x 9 Standard Screen 4 x 3
16 x 9 aspect ratio 4 x 3 aspect ratio

Now that you know the basic features to look for and the difference between the DLP and LCD projector technology , you can make an informed decision when shopping for a projector. There are many manufacturers and models on the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. They have great potential for both your office and in your home theater. Have fun and happy shopping!

Hitachi CP X2010N LCD Projector


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