The specs for every projector lists contrast ratio and possibly dynamic contrast ratio. Contrast ratio is all about seeing the details of the image on the screen and it’s one of the most important factors when understanding how good an image will look. As you can imagine, a higher contrast ratio is better. But it’s also more expensive. Here’s what you need to know.
What is contrast ratio for a projector?
Simply put, contrast ratio is the ratio of the brightness between the brightest color and the darkest color. In other words, it’s the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black. A 10,000:1 contrast ratio means that the brightest white is 10,000-times brighter than the darkest black.
For a projector, the better the contrast ratio the more details you will be able to see of whatever you are projecting. Each object, whether that’s a person in a movie or a chart in a presentation, will stand out more. A poor contrast ratio could result in a dull, pixelated image.
The darker your room, the less contrast ratio matters. So if you have a low contrast ratio, make sure to cover the windows and turn off the lights. Your only chance to battle this problem is to get a bright projector (with high lumens).
What is dynamic contrast ratio?
Many companies now include dynamic contrast ratio in their specs in addition to contrast ratio (or static contrast ratio).
The static contrast ratio is what the display technology itself can do. With an LCD, this is what the liquid crystal panel itself is capable of. For DLP, it’s what the chips can do.
The dynamic contrast ratio is a broad term that describes the contrast ratio that a projector can get to when the image is moving by altering the static contrast ratio. Some projectors now include technology that adjusts the overall light input based on the image being displayed. So some projectors slightly improve their contrast ratio while the image is projecting, i.e., dynamically.
The static contrast ratio is a more important factor than the dynamic contrast ratio. If the LCD or DLP technology can natively produce a higher contrast ratio, this is going to provide a much better image than if a projector is dynamically trying to improve the image.
Example – ViewSonic PA503W
The ViewSonic PA503W is our top pick for best projectors under $500. It has a static contrast ratio of 15,000:1, but a dynamic contrast ratio of 22,000:1. ViewSonic is able to improve the contrast ratio of the projector with its dynamic color technology by about 5,000:1.
Conclusion – Recommended contrast ratio
Better contrast ratio often comes at a cost. More expensive projectors usually have higher contrast ratios. We recommend a contrast ratio of at least 10:000:1 since you can find these in projectors even under $500.