On the hunt for a projector with no idea where to start? You’re in the right place! Projectors are a great asset for all types of settings, be it a cosy home cinema, an interactive classroom session, an engaging board meeting, or a fun outdoor movie night. Understandably, this can make choosing the right projector a bit overwhelming. Each has unique features and specifications, with some better suited to certain settings than others. Don’t worry though, we’re here to help you make that decision with some easy-to-understand and digestible information so you can make an informed choice.
- What will it be used for?
- Lamp Life
- Connectivity Options
- Projector Screen
What will it be used for?
The first thing to consider is what you will be using the projector for. Will it be for business presentations, a home cinema, classroom use, or something else? Here is a brief overview of the specifications and features you’ll want to pay attention to based on your use case.
- Home Cinema: Projectors for home cinemas should prioritise superior image quality and resolution, high contrast ratio, and rich colours. For an all-out home cinema experience, you should place the projector in a room where you have full control over the lighting so you can simulate a dark movie theatre. If that isn’t entirely possible, you’ll want to ensure the projector has decent brightness too.
- Business or Education: If the projector will be used in settings like the boardroom or classroom, prioritise brightness - this is important for use in well-lit environments. It's likely the projector will be displaying images, text, and graphs, amongst other things, so resolution should also be taken into consideration if detailed visuals or text is important. Ensure the projector has the right connections too, such as VGA, HDMI or wireless connectivity.
- Outdoors: If you’re looking for a projector to use outdoors, brightness takes priority as outdoor settings have uncontrollable ambient light (if used during the day). If you intend to do large-scale viewings, you’ll also want high resolution for sharp and detailed images, as well as adequate throw distance. Additionally, portability and wireless connectivity may be valuable for flexible setup in outdoor locations.
- Portable: For those wanting a portable projector, the key considerations are pretty obvious. You want something lightweight and compact so size and weight are paramount. Battery life also matters if you require a projector that is usable without constant access to a power source. Equally essential is the setup and use convenience— you would want a plug-and-play model without complicated installation processes. Connectivity options, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, can provide flexible streaming options, making it easy to view content from various devices.
Projectors come with various display technologies, each with distinct attributes suitable for different situations. There are primarily three types: Digital Light Processing (DLP), Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), and Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS).
- DLP projectors are popular due to their exceptional image quality and smooth video playback. They create images using microscopic mirrors arranged in a matrix on a semiconductor chip, providing sharp images, good response time, and 3D capabilities.
- LCD projectors use liquid crystal displays to create images, offering vibrant and colour-rich outputs. They tend to display brighter images, making them suitable for well-lit environments.
- LCoS projectors, often seen as a hybrid of LCD and DLP, provide the highest quality projection but at a higher price point. They work by reflecting light off a panel towards the lens and typically produce very smooth, high-resolution images with excellent colour accuracy.
- LED projectors use Light Emitting Diodes as their light source. They are energy-efficient, produce less heat, and require minimal maintenance. However, they are typically not as bright as other types, which means they may not be as effective in well-lit rooms or large venues.
Consider the size of your room and how far the projector will be from the screen. The throw distance of a projector refers to the gap between the projector and the screen and determines the size of the projection. The three main types of projectors based on throw distance are short-throw, long-throw, and ultra-short-throw.
- Ultra-short-throw projectors can project a large image while placed extremely close to the screen, often just a few inches away. They're great for uses where space is limited, such as for turning small rooms/living spaces into a home cinema.
- Short-throw projectors are also ideal for tight spaces as they can project large images from a short distance, but usually require 1-2.5m of space from the screen. They work well in small meeting rooms and classrooms.
- Long-throw projectors need a substantial distance from the screen to project large images, typically used in large halls, auditoriums, outdoor settings or theatres where there is ample space.
Brightness, measured in lumens, dictates how much light a projector can produce, playing a significant role in the clarity of the projected image. Essentially, the higher the lumens, the brighter the projection, which is particularly crucial if you're planning to use the projector in rooms with a lot of ambient light.
Typically, for a home theatre, a projector of around 1,000 to 2,000 lumens should suffice, provided you have control over the room's light conditions. For classrooms or conference rooms that often involve more ambient light, you may want a projector with 3,000 lumens or more. For outdoor environments, this number may need to rise even higher (this is different if you’re displaying at night of course).
Projectors will typically have an indication of White Brightness and Colour Brightness. You want to ensure that these are balanced as excess white brightness could lead to washed out images, whereas too little may result in dull, hard-to-see visuals. It’s also necessary to balance brightness with other factors such as screen size, throw distance, and resolution.
The resolution refers to the number of pixels used to create an image and determines the clarity of the image. Higher resolutions offer sharper and more detailed images. The quality of resolution can greatly influence your viewing experience, making it an important factor in choosing a projector. We recommend choosing a projector with a high-definition resolution.
These begin on the lower-end with HD 720p (1280x720) which will suffice for super small spaces, simple presentations or viewings where crisp image quality isn’t a priority; FHD 1080p (1920x1080) offers clean and clear images making it great for detailed data presentations, videos, or cinema-quality movies; and UHD 4K or 8K (4096x2160 or 3840x2160) offers super crisp, realistic and immersive imagery for the best visual experience you can get - a great choice for large spaces.
Contrast ratio in projectors indicates the difference in light intensity between the brightest white and the darkest black. A high contrast ratio delivers deep, dark blacks, bright whites, and a broad range of colour nuances in between, creating vibrant, realistic images. It is particularly crucial for home cinema projectors where you want a more immersive and cinematic viewing experience, especially during dark scenes where detail differentiation is important.
Contrast ratio numbers can range from 1,000:1 (meaning the darkest black is 1,000 times darker than the brightest white), to 10,000:1, and even 1,000,000:1. Projectors that support High Dynamic Range (HDR) further enhance this aspect by delivering a broader colour spectrum and better contrast, allowing for an exceptional level of detail in both the darkest and lightest parts of a picture. HDR, coupled with a high contrast ratio, is especially beneficial for home cinema projectors, adding a significant depth to the viewing experience.
The impact of a high contrast ratio can be less noticeable in well-lit rooms as ambient light tends to wash out both the dark and bright parts of an image, reducing the overall perceived contrast. Therefore, if you’re planning on buying a projector for use in a well-lit environment (such as a classroom or conference room), a high contrast ratio is not as necessary.
Lamp life is an important factor to consider for any projector buyer, as it not only affects the longevity of your device but also the overall costs over time. Typically, projectors use lamps as a source of light, and these lamps have a finite lifespan, measured in hours. Once the lamp reaches the end of its life, it needs to be replaced, which can be a significant added cost.
Projector lamps can have a wide range of lifespans, typically between 1,500 to 6,000 hours, and even up to 15,000 hours in eco mode. Those with a longer lamp life can be more cost-effective in the long run, requiring less frequent and fewer replacements. If you plan to use your projector regularly or for extended periods, a model with a higher lamp life rating could be a smarter choice, offering a better return on your investment and less maintenance.
We can assume most projectors come with the standard connections you may need but it’s worth ensuring compatibility with your use case and devices. Common connection types include HDMI, USB, VGA, and composite video inputs. HDMI is a must-have for high-definition sources. Some projectors may offer multiple HDMI ports, allowing you to connect several sources simultaneously. USB can be handy for displaying files directly from a USB flash drive. Older laptops and computers might require a VGA connection, which would make VGA necessary for projectors used in settings where a variety of devices may be used with it.
Wireless connectivity options such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can also extend flexibility, negating the need for cables and enabling streaming from smartphones, tablets, or laptops directly. Recently, projectors with MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) support allow compatible smartphones and tablets to be connected directly for display. In some instances, compatible projectors can even draw power over the MHL link, keeping your portable device charged.
Projector screens are designed to optimise the quality of the image produced by your projector. These screens come in various sizes, and choosing the correct size depends on factors like your room size, viewing distance, and the projector's capability. Many projector screens are typically made from reflective material to enhance image brightness and can be available in permanent fixtures or retractable models for greater flexibility. Different types of screens include fixed screens, motorised screens, pull-down screens, and portable screens.
You can also find screens specifically constructed for different lighting conditions and viewing angles. The screen's colour, typically white or grey, can also impact image quality. White screens are standard, providing a neutral surface for the projector's light, while grey screens can enhance perceived contrast and deliver more vibrant blacks in environments with light control. Specialized screens can also reduce ambient light interference.
What Projector Should You Buy?
We hope this guide helped to provide some clarity around what to look for in a projector. Our Projector department is a great place to start as we've got a great range of projectors categorised by use types. If you're interested in Ultra Short Throw projectors, be sure to check out our article on Short Throw Projectors too!