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Projectors : Projector FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Digital Projectors


Q1 What is the difference between home theater and data projectors?

A1 Don't be blinded by lumens - high lumens will not translate to a great home theater experience. Since the first affordable LCD projectors were released in the early 1990's, the benchmark for finding the right projector was based on brightness or lumen rating. But as the market shifted from data projection (PowerPoint slides etc.) to home theater, so have the ways of deciding between the projectors. Today, contrast ratio, resolution and native aspect ratio are almost as important as the brightness when it comes to watching a DVD or HDTV through your projector. Always remember - high lumens do not necessarily translate into the best visual performance - especially in a home theater environment. Here are some keywords to look for when choosing between your home theater projector and data projector:

    Data Projector -
    1. Resolution - SVGA (800 x 600), XGA (1024 x 768), SXGA (1280 x 1024)
    2. Aspect Ratio - 4:3
    3. Contrast ratio of approx 400:1.
    Home Theater Projector -
    1. Resolution - WVGA (842 x 480), WXGA (1368x 768), WUXGA (1920 x 1024)
    2. Aspect Ratio - 16:9
    3. Contrast ratio of 3000:1 or higher
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Q2 DLP or an LCD - which is better?

A2 We could get really deep here and consult experts on the difference between a DLP (Digital Light Processor) and an LCD (Liquid crystal Display) and have some cool schematics and graphics on the difference between DLP and LCD but we won't do that right now. Our goal is to simplify these technologies so you can make a better decision rather than show you mirrors, cells, and light bouncing.

What is a better technology? That depends on who you ask and what they already own.

The high performance LCD home theater projectors that have hit the market recently are challenging the DLP projector which until now reigned supreme in the world of high end HT. Not too long ago, the only way to get brightness, high contrast and vivid colors was to get a DLP projector. Even the early versions of DLP projector could crank out four times the contrast as an LCD projector. But lately, DLP and LCD projectors are more evenly matched feature wise and the difference between the two technologies comes down to this: Do you prefer a smoother (LCD) or sharper (DLP) image?

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Q3 What's a lens offset?

A3 Stripped down to its core, lens offset refers to where the projected image begins on the wall (bottom) and ends on the wall (top). The center of the lens on your desktop projector could be at 3' but with a significant lens offset and a 5' throw distance, the bottom of your projected image could be at 5'. The formula to figure out the lens offset is available on the downloadable PDF. for each projector available on our site

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Q4 What is the aspect ratio and what is the difference between 16:9 and 4:3?

A4 The basic definition of aspect ratio is "width to height ratio of a film or television image". Today, when you are shopping for a projector, you have to decide between getting a 4:3 or 16:9 native projector.

4:3 projectors display a "squarish" looking image and normally match the look of a standard computer monitor or TV. Native resolutions of 4:3 displays are 800 x 600 (SVGA), 1024 x 768 (XGA) and 1600 x 1200 (UXGA) and they are designed for displaying computer data and do a good job showing Standard Definition TV (SDTV) or normal TV.

16:9 ratio projectors are more "rectangular" and match the display format found in widescreen DVD's and HDTV. When displaying SDTV, a 16:9 native projector will either display the content as a square in-the-middle-of a rectangle or the projector will stretch the image to fill the screen. When you are shopping for DVD's and you want an image that will fill the screen, look for 16:9 formatted DVD's, 1.78:1 or 1.85:1. Within what is considered widescreen, there are several formats and if your DVD says widescreen 2.35:1, the content will be displayed as a rectangle within a rectangle with border on the top and bottom of the image.

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Q5 What sort of screen should I buy to go with the projector I've selected?

A5 Let's see... gray screen or white screen? Pull down or fixed frame? Choosing a screen might be tougher than picking your home theater projector if you try to research it on your own. In our experience, simplifying your choice is the best way to go.

    A. What size screen do you want?

    Purchase your home theater projector first, even ceiling mount it or set it up in the cabinet you will be using, and then play with the zoom until you get the screen size that will work best for you.

    B. What type of screen do you want - drop down or fixed frame?

    This could be based on how dedicated to home theater you want your room to be and what screen materials are available to you. Drop down screens are just like the screens we had in school without the "off-white" or "browning" screen material. You can choose between electric and manual with the expected difference in price. With electric screens, you also have the ability to "trigger" the screen when the projector is powered up.

    Fixed frame screens are for rooms dedicated to home theater use and hang on the wall like a picture. These screens usually cost more than their pull down cousins and have more screen material options because they will not be subjected to the rigors of descending and retracting with every use.

    Your choice in a screen depends on the extent to which you've dedicated your room to home theater as well as that recurring question: "How much do you want to spend?"

    C. What type of screen material should you choose?

    You may have already limited your choices based on the type of screen you want - drop down or fixed frame. More details about screen material will be coming soon.

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