It’s often difficult to determine what the best projector is for your needs. With so many on the market, it can be hard to know which one will give you the best performance and value. A good projector will also come at a cost, which makes it sensible only if you purchase one that fits your needs.
In this article, we will discuss some factors you should consider when purchasing a projector. In addition, we’ll provide some guidelines for different types of users and highlight different beamers that are most suited and least suited for the different use cases as well as product features.
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to confidently select the perfect projector for your needs.
How Can You Tell a Good Projector?
A good projector will have several features that make it well suited for different types of users. These features include the resolution, brightness, contrast ratio, throw distance, lamp type, display type(imaging chipset), inputs, portability, and price. Striking a balance between these factors is key to getting an ideal projector.
Let’s look at each factor in more detail below.
Resolution is one of the most important factors when choosing a projector. The resolution is the number of pixels that make up the image projected by the device. This number implies the clarity of the projected image. A higher resolution results in a clearer and sharper image.
Resolution is given by the number of pixels along the width (horizontal) and height (vertical) of the screen.
Some of the most common resolutions are 1080 (Full HD), which is 1920 by 1080 pixels, and 4K (UHD), which is 3840 by 2160 pixels.
A 4K projector is 4 times better than a 1080 projector because the former has 4 times smaller pixels than the latter. The result is a clearer image, but it doesn’t end there. 4K allows access to the HDR spectrum of colors, resulting in a more realistic image as well as darker blacks.
While the price point is the main advantage of 1080 projectors over 4K projectors, certain settings won’t necessarily benefit from a higher resolution. For example, you don’t really need a 4K projector for business or classroom presentations where most of the content is text-based. However, if you’re looking to project movies or video games, a higher resolution will give you a better experience.
The KODAK FLIK X7 Home Projector is good overall, but regarding the resolution, it has a native resolution of 720p, making it one of the poorest performers. On the other hand, WEMAX Nova 4K UHD Projector has a decent UHD resolution that is bound to improve your viewing experience.
Brightness and Lumens
The light intensity, quantified in lumens, is the second factor you should consider when choosing a projector. A lumen is a unit that measures the amount of light emitted by a source. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the projector.
White brightness and color brightness are the two types of brightness a projector can have. The former measures how bright white light is, while the latter quantifies the intensity of all colors.
4K projectors will usually have a higher color brightness than white brightness, but in case you find one with a white brightness higher than the color brightness, you should expect a dull image.
ANSI Lumen is the standardized way of measuring the brightness of a projector. You should be on the lookout for this unit, as some unscrupulous marketers will use other units such as “nits”, “lux”, and “non-ANSI” to make their projectors look brighter than they are.
You should also consider that the best image quality clicks at about half the peak brightness. This is also true when watching 3D movies.
But how do you determine how much brightness you’ll need? It’s by considering the projected image size, the gain(reflective property) of the screen, and the ambient light in the room.
You will need to determine the foot-lamberts (FTL) for your situation. Foot-lamberts is calculated by multiplying the screen’s gain by the projector’s ANSI lumens and dividing the result by the screen area. You’ll need above 60 ftL for a high ambient light situation, 40-59 FTL for a moderate light situation, 27-39 FTL for low light conditions, 16-26 for dark conditions, and anything below 16 ftL is considered to be not sufficiently bright.
Going by the ANSI Lumens count, a 1000 lumen beamer is ideal for home theater conditions, while 2000 lumens is good for a man cave with little ambient light. A 2500 lumens projector is good for the living room with ambient light, while 3000 lumens is great for outdoor movie nights.
For a classroom, you need at least 3500 lumens as there is usually a lot of ambient light and 4500 lumens for a well-lit meeting room. A lecture hall needs at least 5000 lumens, and an auditorium needs about 7000 lumens.
The LG PF610P 1 LED CineBeam Projector with a 1000 ANSI lumen is a good choice for most people, but it’s a poor performer since it’s restricted to darker environments. The Sony VPL-PHZ60 Projector is one of the best options for those who need a lot of brightness.
The contrast ratio is the difference in the light intensity between the brightest white and the darkest black that the projector can create. If a beamer has a 2000:1 contrast ratio, it means that the brightest white is 2000 times more intense than the darkest black.
The contrast ratio is directly proportional to the amount of detail in the image. The higher the contrast ratio, the more detailed the image will be. A projector with a low contrast ratio will have muddy-looking blacks and whites that lack detail.
Two methods are used to measure a projector’s contrast ratio– FOFO and ANSI. The full-on/full-off (FOFO)method measures the light output with the iris fully open and then closed. The ANSI checkerboard method uses a white and black checkerboard pattern to measure the light output.
While the two methods provide different results, the ANSI method provides solid and reliable numbers that you can use to compare projectors. The ANSI method is also more difficult to achieve and thus not popular. You should therefore be skeptical of the manufacturer’s claims of high contrast ratios.
For example, the JVC’s NX7, with an 80000:1 ANSI contrast ratio, rivals almost any projector in the market, despite some marketers advertising contrast ratios exceeding 2 million. You should thus pay more attention to user reviews than the manufacturer’s statement.
A contrast ratio of at least 1000:1 is essential for a quality image, while anything above 5000:1 is considered exceptional for all scenarios.
The GooDee Projector is a 3000:1 LED projector. While the price and portability may be reasons for the low contrast ratio, the projector’s image quality is still quite good. But if you need the most detailed image, the LG HF85LA would be a great option.
The throw distance is the distance between the projector and the screen or wall. The image size is directly proportional to the throw distance–the longer the throw distance, the larger the image.
When shopping for a projector, the throw distance is an essential consideration. The ideal throw distance depends on the size of your room, the size of your screen or wall, and how far away you want to sit from the screen or wall.
The throw ratio is the relationship between the throw distance and the image width. To calculate the throw ratio, divide the throw distance by the image width.
For example, if the image width is 2 feet and the throw distance is 4 feet, the throw ratio would be
(throw distance/image width) = (2 ft/4 ft)= 0.50. This means you need to place the projector 0.5 feet away for every 1 foot of projected image width.
The throw ratio can help determine the throw distance (where to place the beamer) or the image width (what image size to expect, given the ratio and the throw distance).
There are four types of throw; standard throw, short throw, ultrashort throw, and long throw.
This is the commonest type of throw. The ideal throw ratio for a standard throw projector is between 1.5:1 to 2:1. This gives you flexibility in choosing the right projector for your room.
You can check out the FANGOR HD Bluetooth Projector, a great standard throw projector.
A short throw projector has a throw ratio of between 0.38:1 – 1.4:1. This means that you can place the projector closer to the screen or wall and still get a large image. Short throw projectors are ideal for medium-sized rooms where you don’t have a lot of space to place the projector.
An example of a short throw projector would be the Optoma GT780.
An ultrashort throw projector has a throw ratio of under 0.37:1. These projectors are not popular in home theater applications, but they have spent some time in educational settings. The ultra-short throw distance allows you to place the projector close to the screen or wall without worrying about it being in the way.
Optoma CinemaX P2 is one of the best ultrashort throw beamers on the market.
A long-throw projector has a throw ratio upwards of 2:1. These projectors are not common in home theater applications but can be found in large auditoriums and stadiums. The long throw distance allows the placement of the projector far away from the screen or wall.
The Tkisko projector is a good example of a long-throw laser projector.
The projector’s lamp produces the light that projects the image onto the screen or wall. The three most common types of projector lamps are LED, laser, and bulb.
An LED projector uses an array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to produce the projection image. LED projectors have a lower lumen output, have cheap imaging chips, and are often low resolution at 1080 on the higher end.
Despite the low ratings, LED projectors consume less power and are thus suited for portable rechargeable projectors. These beamers are also cheap and do not heat up during use.
An example of a portable LED projector is the CiBest Mini Projector.
A laser projector uses a laser light source to produce the projection image.
Laser projectors have high brightness, use more expensive imaging chips, and do not require lamp replacement (lamp can go up to 30000 hours). These beamers also have a wide color gamut and very deep blacks. They still maintain brightness and color accuracy throughout the lamp’s lifespan.
On the downside, laser beamers are quite pricey, and the laser projection can damage your eye if you stare directly into the emitter. There’s also no way to replace the lamp, so you’d have to dispose of the entire projector.
The OMMC Projector is a great laser projector, but just like the technology that makes it, the price is quite hefty.
A bulb projector uses a filament light source (usually UHP, XENON, or Metal Halide) to produce the projection image.
Bulb projectors have a considerably high power consumption and require lamp replacement (every 5000 hours). These beamers also produce a fair amount of heat during use. They need to warm up before use and cool down before powering off.
On the upside, they are less expensive and can be used for a long period with occasional bulb replacement. BenQ TH685P is a great projector, employing metal halide bulb technology.
The three imaging techniques used in projectors: are LCD, DLP, and LCoS. Each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages.
DLP (Digital Light Processing) is a type of projection technology that uses a spinning color wheel and mirrors to reflect light onto the projector screen.
DLP projectors can create smooth motion making them ideal for videos and fast-action scenes, such as in movies and gaming.
Single-chip DLP projectors are typically small and lightweight, making them easy to transport and set up. Three-chip DLP projectors are typically premium beamers, providing superior image quality. However, they are also more expensive and require more maintenance than one-chip DLPs.
The Optoma X365 XGA 3600 is a business-type DLP projector, while FATORK Mini is a small portable projector utilizing the same DLP technology.
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) is a type of projection technology that uses liquid crystals to modulate the light passing through them.
LCD projectors usually have a higher native contrast ratio than DLP projectors, making them better suited for dark rooms. However, LCD projectors can suffer from the “screen door” or “chicken wire” effect, where the individual pixels are visible.
LCD projectors are also brighter than DLP projectors, making them a good choice for large rooms or outdoor use.
The DBPOWER WiFi Projector is a great LCD projector for home use.
If you’re looking for a high-quality projector, you’ll want to consider a model that uses LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) technology. This type of projector uses liquid crystal chips with a mirrored silicon wafer backing to create a picture. The result is a high-resolution image with great contrast and black levels.
LCoS projectors are mostly found on premium models, and they’re often referred to by different names depending on the manufacturer. JVC, for example, calls this type of projector D-ILA, while Sony refers to it as SXRD. No matter what it’s called, LCoS technology is sure to provide an impressive picture.
AAXA P400 is one of the most affordable LCoS projectors.
Comparing the three chipsets, DLP is superior when considering convergence, motion blur, and light output. LCD projectors are best at eliminating the rainbow effect, while LCoS tops regarding contrast ratio, black levels, and color accuracy.
When choosing a projector, you’ll want to ensure that it has the right inputs for your needs. The most common input types are HDMI, VGA, and DVI.
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is the most important input to look for. This is the standard for HD content, providing the best possible picture quality from your projector.
For example, 4K and HDR content can only be displayed properly with an HDMI input. If you want to connect your projector to a Blu-ray player, game console, or streaming device, you’ll need an HDMI input.
Depending on how you intend to use the projector, you may need one with both wired and wireless connectivity options.
The ELEPHAS Mini WiFi Projector supports HDMI, USB, and VGA inputs and still supports wifi wireless connectivity. It is one of the best options for multiple input types. On the other hand, HOWWOO Projector supports only Bluetooth and WIFI wireless connections, limiting it to specific types of devices.
Another important consideration is portability. If you plan to use your projector for business presentations or traveling, you’ll want a small and light-sized model to take with you. A portable projector should also be easy to install and set up and also accommodate different inputs, screen sizes and throw distances
Many of the best portable projectors are LED models, as they tend to be smaller and lighter than other types of projectors.
For instance, the LG HU810PW 4K CineBeam Projector is a great indoor beamer but considering its 24.3lb weight, it’s among the least portable options. On the other hand, Kodak Ultra Mini Portable Projector weighs around 0.33 pounds, making it an ultraportable pocket projector.
See Also: Best Portable Projectors for Camping
So, there you have it! The key factors to look for when shopping for a projector are:
- Brightness and Lumens
- Contrast Ratio
- Throw Distance
- Lamp Type
- Display Type