Things to Consider When Purchasing a Projector

LED projector Optoma 550.

Every new technology starts out expensive. Remember when cell phones and DVD players were starting to become commonplace? Remember the dent that stupid VHS/DVD combo player made in your poor wallet? So it has been with the home projector, until very recently. In the last couple of years, more and more homes have been donating their flat-screen TVs to poor college kids and disadvantaged families, opting to invest in a home projector and a good ceiling mount instead.

Maybe you've seen some of the homes in your neighborhood switch to projectors. Maybe the last time you and the spouse went over to the Jones' place, you saw their brand new, top-of-the-line projector. Maybe you didn't like the smug tone in Jones' stupid voice as he yakked on and on about his stupid projector. Maybe you've always thought that ol' Jones was a real jerkwad. Maybe you're thinking about getting your own projector, and knocking that braying idiot down a peg or two.

Calm down, tiger. Before you march over to the nearest big box store to be sweet-talked by some slick-haired so-called genius hocking electronics at a 30 percent markup, you need to know what you're looking for. All you know right now is that projectors are the newest trend in home entertainment for some reason, and you don't want to be left in past with all the nerds.That's never a smart frame-of-mind to buy electronics in. If you take your time and consider certain factors, it'll save you a lot of time and spare you a lot of frustration in the long run. Before you make a decision, do yourself a favor and research the following topics:

The Types of Projectors

The Different Aspect Ratios

Lumens and How They Affect Your Picture

Resolution

Keystone Correction

Throw Distance

Your Intended Use

In this post, we aim to give you the very basics on each of these concepts - just enough to wrap your head around the concepts before you continue reading through the more specific nitty-gritty. Think of this as the basic syllabus to Home Projectors 101.

The Types of Projectors

When it comes to projector technologies, your basic options are LCD, DLP, or LCoS. Each term refers to a specific way that the image is interpreted from its digital signal to an image that the eye can interpret. LCD, or liquid crystal display, sends light through a glass screen filled with liquid crystals. DLP, or digital light projection, uses tiny mirrors to reflect each pixel's signal. LCoS, or liquid crystal on silicon, uses a combination of the two previously-mentioned technologies - tiny mirrors are treated with a substrate made from liquid crystals, which work together to interpret the signals from the video source.

The Different Aspect Ratios

Aspect ratio is the term we use to talk about the particular rectangular shape of the image we're looking at. There are two ratios - 4:3 and 16:9. 4:3 is the ratio most-often seen in standard television. A ot classic films were done in this standard ratio, as well as a large number of IMAX movies. 4:3 is the more square of the two ratios. The other ratio, 16:9, is also known as widescreen . It is the aspect ratio most beloved by cinephiles, mainly because it can deliver a higher quality image. Blu-Ray and HDTV are meant for a 16:9 ratio. Additionally many films, even older ones, were originally intended to be viewed in the widescreen format. When shown in standard, these films often have to have whole sections of their shots cut out, in order to fit the format.

Lumens and How They Affect Your Picture

Lumens are the basic measurement by which we assert how bright or dim a light is. The lumen is not to be confused with the watt, which is a measurement of energy, rather than of illumination. The basic thing you need to know is that the more lumens your projector puts out, the brighter your picture will be. The amount of lumens you'll need will depend on what kind of conditions you'll be operating this projector under. If you're planning on using your projector for outdoor cinema events, your projector will need to deliver a minimum of 2,000 lumens.

Resolution

Resolution essentially works the same as lumens. The higher the ratio, the clearer and sharper the image on the screen will be. There are three main ratios of resolution: 1280x720; 1280x768; and 1920x1080. 1280x720 is pretty standard for DVD and Blu-Ray, and projectors that offer this resolution are generally affordable. 1280x768 is the next level of resolution. Projectors with this resolution are a little more expensive, but this resolution ratio is recommended to handle images projected from a computer screen. If you're in the habit of using a hard drive to store and play your videos, you'll want to consider this mid-level resolution. Finally 1920x1080 is the highest resolution out there. If you're going to be projecting HDTV, Blu-Ray, or any modern video game system, this is the resolution to go with. The good news is that projectors with all three levels of resolution are generally affordable by the average household standards.

Keystone Correction

Sometimes positioning a projector the right way is harder than you think. If you've ever seen a movie projected in a more of a trapezoid shape than a rectangular one, then you've seen an improperly-positioned projector. Fortunately, many modern projectors come with keystone correction, a feature which corrects the image so that it displays flat on your screen. The majority of projectors today come with digital keystone correction, but there are still some models which will require a manual adjustment. You can also correct the image via a zoom lens and a lens shift, if your projector comes with those features.

Throw Distance

Throw distance is basically the length your projector can sit from the screen before the image starts to be compromised or distorted. The basic equation is as follows:

В (Distance from Lens to Screen)/(Width of the Screen) = Throw Distance

This equation will help you figure out i the projector you buy is capable of sitting far enough back from the screen. If you're building a home theater, you'll need to measure this precisely - a projector with the wrong throw ratio will sit all the way at the back of the room and still blow the image up outside the confines of the walls, let alone the actual screen. Conversely, a projector with too short of a throw will require your projector be placed closer to the screen, which might affect the overall flow and feng shui of your viewing room.

Your Intended Use

How you intend to use your projector will ultimately affect all the other factors that you consider. You're going to need different things for outdoor cinema events than you would for a private home theater. When you're considering things like lumens and throw ratio, each decision should be governed by the overarching question of what you're going to be using the projector for.

It is hoped that this simple guide will at least get you started as you acquaint yourself with the specifics of projector ownership. Do your research, read the manual, and read everything you can from other experienced users on the Internet. In no time at all, you'll be able to call yourself a projection expert. That'll really show up that Jones idiot down the street.

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