Today, you might want a projector for a number of reasons. With the growth of TV streaming apps, more and more people are finding that a TV is really just a screen — and, if that’s the case, why not get a projector so you can have a screen the size of your wall?
And they’re not just useful in homes. In classrooms, they can replace the constant need to buy and maintain whiteboards and markers — and teachers can incorporate multimedia tools like videos and interactive graphics into their lessons. In fact, you could use a projector for almost any situation where you need to direct people’s attention to digital content.
That’s why there are so many different projectors available on the market, each boasting some spec or component that sets it apart from the rest. It can be difficult sifting through all these options to figure out which one is best for you. Read on to learn how to choose a projector.
The Complete Projector Buying Guide
Projectors shine light through a lens to throw an image on a screen. They used to be most prominent in cinemas, though they have now become more affordable and more easily available. As a result, they’re leaking into many aspects of our lives.
If you want to buy a projector, it helps to have some filters that narrow down your options. So before you look, think about what you will use the projector for. That will give you a good lens to compare projectors on other factors.
The Different Types of Projectors
The type of projector you buy will depend on how you want to use it. After all, a cinema or home theater needs its projector to have certain capabilities that you wouldn’t care about in a school or university.
Dedicated Home Theater Projectors
However big TVs get, projectors still give you the closest viewing experience to a movie theater. Having a dedicated home theater projector also gives you the flexibility to watch sports or play a video game on a huge screen in high resolution.
- Stunning picture quality — provides stunning detailed 1080p images and fast data processing that’s optimized for fast-action sports, gaming and more
- Ultra bright images — 3,400 lumens of color and white brightness deliver outstanding-quality images in a variety of lighting conditions (3)
- Best-in-Class Color Brightness (1) — advanced 3LCD technology displays 100% of the RGB color signal for every frame. This allows for outstanding color accuracy while maintaining excellent color brightness, without any distracting “rainbowing” or “color brightness” issues seen with other projection technologies
- Versatile connectivity — features two HDMI ports, so you can connect your cable/satellite box, Blu-ray Disc player, gaming console or streaming device
- Easy setup — built-in speaker and easy setup for HD entertainment right out of the box
Projectors are a cost-effective way to improve business meetings, keeping people engaged by directing everyone’s attention to the visuals they follow along with. Some important factors to consider for a business projector include:
- Room size
- Average meeting size
- Lighting conditions
- Type of content people will project
- VERSATILE PROJECTOR: High brightness 4500 Lumens WXGA (1280x800p) projector with advanced visual features
- EASY SETUP: 1.1x optical zoom, and 40-degree vertical keystone
- LONG LAMP LIFE: SuperEco Mode allows the lamp to shine bright for up to 12,000 hours
- FLEXIBLE CONNECTIVITY: Supports most media players, PCs, Macs, and mobile devices with inputs such as dual HDMI, VGA, and USB inputs
Classroom projectors are generally for K-12 classrooms, rather than the college lecture halls that use more expensive, brighter projectors to display to hundreds of students. A good classroom projector is big enough for students at the back of the class to see, bright enough that the screen is visible against light streaming in through the windows, and affordable so school districts can buy a lot of them.
- 3LCD technology produces vibrant, eye-catching images
- Wireless connectivity allows seamless use with your devices
- Moderator function connects up to 50 users simultaneously
- Durable design provides long lamp life of 12,000 hours
- Flexible construction makes it easy to display from virtually anywhere
Portable projectors are smaller and lighter, making them a great option to bring with you on a trip, whether you want to use it in a hotel room or even while camping. If you don’t want to carry a projector when you travel, you could still buy one so that you can move your screen around at home. Battery life is an important factor to look at when you buy one of these projectors.
Many of these projectors come with bonus features that reduce setup time, since you might use them in many different environments. For example, they may have an auto-focus feature that automatically detects and fills up to the edges of a projector screen, or they could have intelligent obstacle avoidance, which tries to give you the largest picture possible while avoiding objects in front of the projector.
- [2022 Upgraded Projector]: Elephas BL128 Mini projector is designed with 2022 new upgraded technology, Comparable to the size of a smart phone, you can easily hold it in your hand. Compatible with the iOS/Android/Chromecast /Windows 10 system, enjoy your leisure life anytime.
- [Projector With the Latest Technology]: Elephas Movie projector using Germany's OSRAM LED projection technology, 1080P full HD support; Equipped with German emerald glass lens, 24-bit true color(more than 16.77 million colors) support, 200 inches huge screen, provide detailed images for indoor and outdoor entertainment.
- [Projector With Carry Bag & Tripod]:Portable projector with a mini stand and carrying case, it is very convenient to use the projector indoors or outdoors. Mini projector use the efficient heat dissipation system, which greatly reduces fan noise, brings you to concentrate on enjoying your movies. With built-in HIFI speaker, provide excellent sound quality without external speakers, enhance your immersion in the movie experience.
- [Multimedia function]: The projector is equipped with multiple ports, such as USB/HDMI/AV/Audio/ interface, which can be easily connected to a variety of media devices, compatible with Laptop, PCs, TV Box, TV Stick, Chrome Book, Tablets, Blue-ray DVD player, USB Flash Drive, Media players, Smartphones. ❀( Note: Due to HDCP copyright, this movie projector doesn't support Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, But you can get around this with an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku Stick.)
- [Specialty support]: ELEPHAS projectors possess CE, FCC, RoHS, PSE certificates, we also provide 3-years factory support, with 2 months free return. For any questions, please contact us, we will be here for you 24-7 for your satisfaction.
Factors To Consider Before Making a Projector Purchase
Once you’ve figured out the type of projector you need, you’re ready to find the one that’s right for you. With the wide range of projectors available, there are a number of factors that you should take into account in your comparisons.
Price Expectations for Your Type of Projector
Prices vary quite a bit depending on the type of projector you buy. After all, if a home theater projector needs a higher image quality than a business projector, you would expect it to have a higher price tag. Here are the price ranges you should expect depending on the type of projector you need:
- Home theater: These projectors are generally more expensive, since they need to produce high-resolution images. You can find a low-end projector for around $1,500, though you could spend up to $60,000 for a higher-end option.
- Business: These need to be bright to combat ambient light from office windows but don’t need very high image detail. An extremely low-resolution business projector can be under $350, though you should expect to pay between around $500 and $700 for decent resolution and brightness.
- Classroom: The main factors affecting the price of these projectors is their distance from the screen and projector features like interactivity that can improve an education. Lower-resolution projectors cost less than $500, though most school districts likely spend $700 to $1,200 per projector.
- Portable: Since they’re small, portable projectors are usually very affordable. In fact, Rolling Stone’s top-ranked portable projector of 2022 costs just under $600 — and their fifth-best is $89.99.
Projector Resolution Types
The resolution of a projector refers to the number of pixels on its imaging chip. To get higher resolution, each pixel is smaller, leading to images that have more detail — but for a higher price. The standard resolutions available are:
- SVGA: These have a resolution of only 800×600 pixels in a 4:3 aspect ratio, so they’re affordable but mostly suitable as business projectors to show simple data, video clips, and charts.
- XGA: These also have an aspect ratio of 4:3, along with a resolution of 1024×768 pixels, which is the same as most computers. As a result, it’s common to pair a computer to an XGA projector.
- WXGA: This is the widescreen version of XGA, at 1280×800 pixels. It offers the same vertical resolution but 20% more horizontal resolution, so you can pair it with notebook computers and smartphones.
- WUXGA: These projectors have a resolution of 1920×1200 pixels, which is becoming the standard for higher-end notebooks and workstation computers. You may also see people use these as installation projectors and in large venues that need high-definition video quality.
- HD: At 1920×1080 pixels, this is the most common type of home theater projector.
- 4K: These are generally the most expensive projectors you can buy, but with a resolution of 4096×2160 pixels, you get much sharper image quality than other options.
Some manufacturers also use pixel-shifting to make their projectors display a higher resolution than the chip’s native resolution. To do this, the projectors display parts of a frame in rapid succession, shifting pixels diagonally. Your eyes see this high-speed motion as one fluid image that holds all the detail a 4K projector would offer.
The lumen rating is the brightness of the projector lamp. This is a vital factor that decides if a projector is okay or great, as a brighter lamp yields more vibrant colors and an overall clearer picture. A higher lumen rating also helps the projector combat ambient light.
Business and classroom projectors often list brightness in ANSI lumens to let you know that the lamp has been tested according to industry standards and the rating you see is true. If a projector only says “lumens,” you should take the rating with a grain of salt.
The lumen rating you need will largely depend on your ambient light. In short:
- For a completely dark room, you can use 1,000 to 1,200 lumens.
- For a room with standard indoor lighting, around 2,000 lumens should be enough.
- For a fully lit space, you may need 3,000 lumens or more.
The lamp will also need to be brighter if your projector is far from the screen. If it’s further than eight feet away, you may need 1,500 lumens in a dark space or 2,500 to 3,000 lumens in regular lighting.
When you consider brightness, you should also think about whether you want your projector to use a bulb or a laser as a light input. Laser light projectors have traditionally been much more expensive than bulbs, but the prices have gotten continuously closer. The lasers are also very bright, have wider color spaces and deeper black levels, and never need replacement. They also don’t produce as much heat as bulb projectors, so you don’t need to worry about ventilation when you install your projector.
The throw ratio tells you the image size you can project from a specific distance away (also called the throw distance). Most projectors will have a throw ratio of 2.0, meaning that the projector needs to be two feet away to project an image one foot wide.
Projectors have three types of throw ratio:
- Regular (over 1.5)
- Short throw (0.38 to 1.4)
- Ultra-short throw (0.37 or less)
If you plan to permanently install your device, it’s important to ensure that it’s at the right distance to project the screen size you want.
Color accuracy is especially important for home projectors because vibrant, accurate colors enhance the content you’ll watch on them. The main projector specifications that determine color accuracy are the brightness and contrast.
Contrast is the range of brightness levels and dark levels that the image will contain. Projectors have two major types of contrast measurements:
- On/off contrast: This measures the brightness of a completely white screen against a completely black screen
- Dynamic contrast: This uses an iris to detect the amount of ambient light and system contrast, which measures luminance from different perspectives in a checkerboard pattern, to provide a more representative measure of the actual contrast levels
Weight and Portability
Depending on how you use your projector, weight and portability may matter a lot. If you expect to carry it around a lot, many projectors are available at under five pounds, though they generally cost more. This is ideal if you want to take your projector on trips, or if it needs to move around a lot in a house or office.
A home theater projector, which would remain stationary, generally weighs up to eight pounds.
Mounting Distance and Mounting Ease
You can calculate the mounting distance — how far you’ll have to put the projector from the screen — with the projector’s throw ratio. Simply multiply the ratio by the screen size you want and you’ll find the mounting distance for your projector.
You should also consider the difficulty of mounting your projector, especially if you’re buying a portable one. Some projectors offer features that increase your room for error. For example, keystone correction is a feature that digitally corrects a projector that was mounted at an angle. This does lose some detail in the picture but it will prevent the image from taking on a trapezium shape.
Set-Up and Installation Process
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Before you buy a projector, you should check what you need to set it up and install it, so that you know there won’t be any complications. There are four types of installations:
- Front, when you mount the projector on a raised surface like a table from the same side as the viewer
- Ceiling, when you mount it from the ceiling
- Rear, when you mount the projector behind the screen, so the viewer can’t see it
- Side, when you mount the projector on the side of the screen
Rear projection takes up the most space, so you wouldn’t use it for a home theater or classroom projector.
Front projection installation is the easiest, since you don’t need to bury wires and have a more flexible connection between the media source and audio equipment. The projector can get in the way during daily activities, though.
Ceiling installation takes more work, since you need to buy the right mount and run wires to and from the ceiling. However, after installation, the projector will be out of the way and always fastened at the right mount distance for the screen size you want. You should also make sure nothing else hanging from the ceiling, like a chandelier, is in the way, since it’ll cast a shadow.
Side projection installation is a newer method that only certain projectors can use at the moment. These projectors let you adjust the horizontal trapezoidal correction on your projector to get a square image. This is useful to conserve space, since you can even tuck the projector into a corner with the screen. These projectors are expensive, though, and the picture quality does reduce, so side installation may be a better option for business or classroom projectors than for a home theater.
You should also consider whether the projector’s features help with the setup. For example, most projectors have a manual focus adjustment, which means that you’re responsible for making the image clear. If you need to move the projector around a lot, constantly changing the mount distance, it would help to buy one with auto-focus.
3 Primary Types of Technology Used in Video Projectors
Most video projectors available use one of three types of technology to form the image. Knowing how each one works can help you understand which type will be most useful for you.
DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors pass light through a spinning RGB color wheel that splits it into red, green, and blue. The light then bounces off a DLP chip covered in micro-mirrors, also called pixels. These mirrors reflect the light through the projector’s lens onto the screen to form an image.
This image technically switches rapidly between red, blue, and green thousands of times a second, so your eyes will perceive it as one moving image. However, if the wheel doesn’t rotate fast enough, it can cause a “rainbow effect,” in which you notice flashes of red, green, and blue shadows on the projection. This effect is more noticeable when light objects contrast sharply with a dark background.
Most people should stop noticing the rainbow by just ignoring it over time. However, it can give some people viewing discomfort, eye strain, and nausea. If you want to reduce the effect, you can try:
- Lowering the brightness
- Reducing the projector bulb power
- Increasing ambient lighting
These projectors tend to be the brightest, though they can’t produce the deepest black levels. You’ll also never have to deal with convergence problems, which the other types can face, so they can maintain a sharp image throughout their lifespan with minimal maintenance. These projectors also have a sealed light path, keeping dust from settling in the light path and forming shadows on the image.
DLP projectors are usually among the smallest and most portable projectors you can buy, since they only use one chip. DLP chips have a native resolution of up to WUXGA, though they can use pixel-shifting to create a perceived 4K resolution. This quality, along with the simple setup, makes them a good option for home theaters, as well.
- BRILLIANT IMAGE QUALITY: 4000 ANSI Lumens high brightness and 20000:1 contrast deliver stunning display presentations
- FAST TRANSMISSION, DUAL CONNECTIVITY: HDMI provides faster data transmission. Dual HDMI additionally offer multiplatform and expanded connectivity.
- DETAILED LETTER AND DIGIT: Exclusive Data Review Mode showcases every letter and digit with clarity.
- EASY SETUP AND ALIGNMENT: Ergonomic retractable foot and auto vertical keystone for easy setup and fast image alignment.
- GOING GREEN AND ECONOMICAL: SmartEco Mode saves lamp power up to 70%
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) projectors also start with a single source of light. However, these projectors use mirrors to split the light into three beams — one red, one green, and one blue. Each beam goes to a different area inside the project box to pass through a grayscale LCD panel with a color filter that isolates the beam’s color. The three beams then pass through a prism that recombines them into a single full-color beam.
The resolution of an LCD depends on the number of mirrors it has. Higher-resolution LCD projectors have far more mirrors than their lower-res counterparts do.
LCD projectors hadn’t performed as well as their DLP counterparts have in the past. However, the technology has made significant advancements thanks to the development of the dynamic iris, which has improved LCD projectors’ contrast. Today, these are a good option for serious movie watches because they produce good contrast and black levels. An LCD projector is also a great option if you’re sensitive to the rainbow effect.
However, LCD projectors are more likely to experience a different visual defect — motion blur — where images in motion seem to move erratically. This often means that some pixels had a slow response time. Because of the number of components, an LCD projector is also too bulky and heavy to move around.
You could also buy a 3LCD projector, which uses three panels instead of just one, so that each panel can control only color. These are generally brighter than both LCD and DLP projectors and use less electricity. They can also use lens shifts and zoom lenses, which regular LCD projectors can’t.
The LCD panels degrade over time if you use the projector often. Since the projectors don’t have any moving parts, though, they offer more durability than DLP projectors do in a way — the image quality may reduce but the projection won’t cut off at any point. So they do have face problems and degrade faster than DLP projectors do, but they’re easier to repair and maintain when issues arise. As a result, they’re a better option in areas where you wouldn’t be able to easily repair or replace a DLP projector.
- VERSATILE PROJECTOR: High brighness 3800 Lumens SVGA projector with advanced visual features
- EASY SETUP: 1.1x optical zoom, 40 degree vertical keystone
- REDUCED INPUT LATENCY: A low 16ms input latency provides faster frame-by-frame action for smooth images without delay
- LONG LAMP LIFE: SuperEco Mode allows the lamp to shine bright for up to 15,000 hours
- FLEXIBLE CONNECTIVITY: Supports most media players, PCs, Macs, and mobile devices with inputs such as HDMI, VGA, mini USB
LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) projectors start by splitting light into three color beams, like 3LCD projectors. However, LCoS uses a silicon panel that reflects light like DLP, instead of transmitting it. The light then passes through a prism, again like 3LCD, and recombines to form a single full-color image.
You can get a higher pixel density with LCoS imagers than with DLP or LCD ones, so a smaller chip can give you a higher resolution and the highest-quality black levels of the three projector technologies. As a result, this projector technology is most common in native 4K dedicated home theater projectors.
It’s good to note that these projectors usually use better, larger optics and quieter cooling systems, so they generally have a larger chassis than DLP or LCD projectors do.
- 1080P FULL HD NATIVE RESOLUTION - Latest generation LCoS imager delivers clear and crisp 1920x1080 pixel resolution without upscaling
- SHORT THROW OPTICS - Projects a vivid 100" screen at just 5.25 feet from wall. Typical projectors requires almost double the distance.
- ALL-IN-ONE PROJECTOR - featuring an Onboard Media Player with USB and TF ports and onboard speaker. Additional inputs includes HDMI and 3.5mm headphone jack.
- BATTERY POWERED - Powerful 39W Lithium Ion Battery is included and provides up to 2 hours of runtime.
- SUPER COMPACT – Measures just 4.5" x 4" x 2.3" and weighs 19.8 ounces - the P400 projector fits nicely in your laptop bag or briefcase for business travel and outdoor camping use cases.
Are You Ready To Invest in a Quality Projector?
Now that you have the information you need to find the right projector for you, all that’s left is to start your search. To make your search easier, you can first identify the type of projector you want and list the factors that will be most important. This will help you figure out a price range and, if you list them in order of priority, you’ll also know the factors to compromise on first if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for.