How to choose a projector; a guide with ranking important specs

How to choose a projector; a guide with ranking important specs

Choosing a projector or at least dealing with a projector is something that will come your way at least once in your life. If you are an entrepreneur who wants to impress the customers or investors, a sales person with need to close a deal, a parent who wants to care for the kids, an educator who wants to have visual interaction with the students, a simple presenter who wants to show a presentation to a bunch of audience or a movie enthusiast who wants to build a home theater, you will definitely deal with a projector in your life, sooner or later. The fact is, you should not miss out on owning a projector regardless of what you do and I have shown that here.


High-end projector - HEXA Eclipse

 

So here we try to show you the most fundamental things you need to know when dealing with a projector, so you will always have a go-to reference when you want to know about projectors. 

The most and foremost question that you should always answer when learning about projectors is what I want to use this projector for. Actually, the same question can be asked when you want to buy any other pieces of tech. In fact, you want to know why you are buying this gadget for. Is it for business or for fun?

The reason this is the most important question you have to answer first is that business projectors are different from the once made for fun and entertainment. The technology in them can be different, which will eventually affect the final price and applicability for the main purpose.

Yes, I know, you can use your expensive gaming laptop to do your school work or take care of business. Here, I just wanted to point out that the manufacturers of the projectors may make them for different purposes, but if you use your projector for other things, no one will stop you!

Frankly, I use my own Eclipse projector for both business and watching movies on Netflix!

So there are two types of projectors, data projectors and video projectors.

  • Data projectors

Data projectors are usually referred to as business projectors and they are designed to meet the business needs such as presenting data or business decks, portability and light weight. These projectors are built as a business tool to make the presentations and meetings effective and impress the audience. Data projectors may or may not have a built-in speaker. Their brightness and resolution can be lower than the video projectors as they are not made for movies or gaming. The may fall in the lower to medium price range and can be more popular for more versatility compared to video projectors.

 Business projector - HEXA Eclipse

  • Video projectors

Video projectors can be referred to with different names such as home theaters and gaming projectors. Despite the misguiding names, these projectors can be used in movie theater and commercial settings with large auditoriums or even at the basement of houses. The video projectors are made for showing quality moving pictures and may even come with sound equipment in expensive commercial devices. As you may have guessed, these projectors fall among more expensive side of the spectrum.

 Gaming projector - HEXA Eclipse

Once you answer the first question, now it’s time to think about more details about your future projector. I order to make these details easier for you to prioritize, we will rank them based on their importance with 1 the least significant and 10 as the most important.

 1 (the least significant) <------------------> 10 (the most significant) 

This ranking should by no means indicate that you should prioritize these technical items overs your actual needs. If your needs are having a stronger sound capability, although sound capabilities are on our low priority list, you should choose what is more important to you. This ranking is a guideline. 

I will also try to avoid technical clutter on this page. But if you are interested to know more about each of these technical featured, the links are provided in each paragraph.

 

Brightness and color brightness

(priority level: 1)

Brightness is measured in a unit named Lumen. The higher the lumens, the brighter your projector light source is. In simple words, your projector light is competing with other light sources in your room. So, if the projector is used in a bright environment, then you will need a projector with higher lumen. For a portable business projector, a lumen of around 1000 to 2000. The same lumens will be useful to home theatres.

Anything between 2000 to 2500 lumens will be useful for educational classes, meeting rooms and business presentations.

Brightness and contrast - HEXA Eclipse

Projectors with more than 3000 lumens will be useful for larger audiences such as movie theaters (cinemas), churches and large conferences.

There are commercial projectors with up to 40,000 lumens, which are very expensive and are designed for urban and outdoor projections on buildings and outdoor events such as music shows.

Fun fact: It is estimated that our Sun is 6840000000000000000000000000 lumens bright, if you could count the zeros!

 

Resolution

(priority level: 1)

Resolution is the number of pixels that a projector is capable to show. The more resolution is the higher the quality of the images generated would be.

Resolution is possibly the most defining parameter in the projectors quality vs. price graph. The projectors with higher resolution are on the expensive side and are build for video and image projection (video and gaming projectors based on our first definitions above).

The projectors with lower resolution are on the cheaper side and can be data projector. Projectors with middle resolution numbers are suitable for both business and fun.

The most common resolution ranges from 720p to 1080p (p stands for mega pixels), which results in HD (high definition) images and is suitable for many uses in business and entertainment.

Resolutions comparison - HEXA Eclipse

On the lower range, there are projectors with 480p resolution. You can use these projectors for work that does not require high resolution.

On the higher range, there are projectors with 2k to 4k resolution and most recently there has been an attempt for 5k resolution. These projectors are still experimental, too delicate and fragile and should only be chosen when very high images quality is needed.

4K projector - HEXA Eclipse 

The other thing that must be thought about when researching resolution, is that your input device, such as your laptop, phone or TV must have a resolution equivalent or higher than your projector. Always keep in mind that regardless of your source, your projector resolution is limited to what it is capable to project so if your feed the projector from a source with 480p resolution, you cannot expect a 720p output.

 

Fun fact: Human eyes resolution is approximately 576 mega pixels but our eyes are nothing compared to birds of prey and big cats such as lions!

The most sophisticated eyes known - HEXA Eclipse

 Photo caption: Mantis Shrimp with the most sophisticated eyes known.

Screen size

(priority level: 1)

This is the size of a screen that a projector can have without the image getting blurry or fuzzy.

The best maximum screen size is between 60 inches to 90 inches for both business and home theatre projectors. Projectors with 720p to 1080p can generate good quality images with screen size of 60” to 90” without pixilation.

 Amazing Home Theater - HEXA Eclipse

There are commercial projectors with over 100 feet diagonal screen size for large theatres and auditoriums.

 

Contrast ratio

(priority level: 3)

Contrast ratio is the brightness difference between the darkest and the brightest part of the screen. Since it is a comparison of brightness, it is measured in lumens, similar to brightness itself. If the images quality and the contrasting between different shades in the images are important for you, then go for a projector that supports higher contrast ratio.

 Contrast ratio - HEXA Eclipse

A contrast ratio if 500:1 (500 lumens in the brightest part of the image and 1 lumen in the darkest part of the image) is the safest place to be.

These days, many of the projectors allow you to change the contrast ratio using the software that comes with the projector.

  

Aspect ratio

(priority level: 3)

Aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and the length of the screen projected by the projector.

If you want to have more impressive images or even an engulfing presentation, you may want to choose a widescreen, which has 16:9 aspect ratio.

Aspect Ratio - HEXA Eclipse

The standard aspect ratio is 4:3, which can be good for both business and entertainment.

I give it a priority level 3 because these days, almost all the projectors can support different aspect ratios. But make sure the projector you choose covers most of the aspect ratios.

 

Portability

(priority level: 2)

Portability and ease of installment are two interconnected items. If you want to use the projector for both business and fun, make sure it is portable.

Portable projector - HEXA Eclipse

There are many projectors out there advertised as “portable”. But when you see the actual projector, you will realize that the projector, its bag and the accessories are probably larger and heavier than your laptop.

 portable projector - HEXA Eclipse

I have seen many business and sale people who spent a lot of money on buying these “portable” projectors and they ended us being fed up by the whole carrying-the-load experience and they eventually gave up on carry the projector around.

 

Although this fact is usually overlooked, portability is probably one of the most unspoken parameters the manufacturers will never tell you about.

Unless it is for a large theatre or auditorium, you do not want your projector to be difficult to move. Even if you are building your home theatre, you want to have the flexibility to move your projector any time you decide. This way you can test and experiment with your desired your home theatre design and are not locked into a specific location at your home.

 Eclipse in backpack - HEXA Eclipse projector

I gave this a priority level 2, but you may have it on your 1st priority list depending on what you want the projector to be used for and where.

Read on: The art of closing sales and how effective presentation can help

 

Ease of installation

(priority level: 2)

As an extension of “portability”, the projector has to be easy to set and use, specifically if you are using it for your business or personal fun.

Projector installation - HEXA Eclipse

There are many projectors that are great when you look at their brightness or resolution. But most of these projectors are large and need permanent installation in certain areas of your room. Unless really needed, make sure to stay away from those projectors and rather go for the ones that do not require any installation and can be used anywhere, anytime. 

 

Sound capabilities (audio)

(priority level: 5)

Most of the projectors come with some type of built-in speaker but the truth is, audio is not what projectors are made for. In fact, the most expensive projectors do not offer any internal speaker at all and the audio part is taken care of by using dedicated audio systems.

 portable projector with speaker - HEXA Eclipse

 

Connectivity

(priority level: 1)

This is probably one of the most determining factors when it comes to how you plan to use the projector. Fortunately, most of the projectors are become more capable of handling the data and video/images wirelessly so that you don’t have to worry about how you are going to use the projector or how to connect if you lose one of those cables!

projector cables - HEXA Eclipse

If you really need a very high quality image/video, then make sure the projector offers HDMI connection. For business projectors this is not a priority. For business, you must consider a smaller number of cables and go for wireless as much as possible because it will help eliminate the need for connecting many cables and remaining focused on what matters, which is impressing your audience or connecting with your business colleagues.

For wireless connectivity, your priority should be Bluetooth and WiFi. A WiFi-only projector will not be able to connect to Bluetooth devices such as a keyboard or a phone.

modern projector with no cable - HEXA Eclipse

WiFi connectivity is important because it allows you to use the software on the projector to present your content directly from the internet.

I consider this as a priority level 1 parameter and I think you should too. 

 

3D effect

(priority level: 9)

Although most of the projector manufacturers gave up on making 3D projectors, there some that still make such projectors. What you have to keep in mind when considering a 3D projector is that you will need a pair of 3D glassed in order to see 3D photos or movies. That would cost you more and you must consider educating yourself on 3D glasses before you buy any. Some of the manufacturers offer matching 3D glasses with their projectors so that you will not have to worry about purchasing the right 3D glasses for your projector.

3D projector - HEXA Eclipse

Aside from the 3D glasses, the biggest challenge that you will have when going for a 3D projector is finding 3D content. The major content producers such Disney, Hollywood, Sony and even Netflix, do not produce that much of 3D movies. So, unless you are a 3D content producer yourself, or if you will have fun using the 3D videos on YouTube, your use of 3D will be very limited. Although I personally think that 3D projection will come back in future with more advancement of technology, I think this is a low priority factor, at least for now.

  

Optics technology

(priority level: 2)

There are 2 major projection technology or optics in projectors, DLP (digital light processing) and LCD (liquid crystal display). It is important to know what optics your projector has because each technology has its own advantages and disadvantages and understanding them can help you pick the projector that has what you need.

DLP projector optics- HEXA Eclipse

DLP projectors are considered newer technology compared to LCD ones. DLP is invented by Larry Hornbeck for Texas Instruments and they have been able to dominate the projector market, specifically in portable and business projectors, due to small size. DLP offers high quality with small size such that it is even built into tablets and computers.

 

Light source

(priority level: 2)

The light source generates the light that goes through that optics.

To avoid confusing the light source with optics, consider your light source as a lamp and consider your optics as some mirrors. The light generated by the lamp will get reflected by the mirrors on a screen and that is how your pictures are created by the projector.

 projector light source - HEXA Eclipse

The light source affects the 1- brightness, 2- contrast ratio, 3- resolution to come extent and 4-the longevity of the light source.

 

Modern projectors use Laser and LED as light sources.

 

Laser light sources generate higher brightness and are normally used in larger projectors. Laser light sources don’t have an actual bulb. They have laser generating source. So, under very unlikely conditions where the light source malfunctions, the entire unit will have to replaced.

 projector laser light source - HEXA Eclipse

Most of data projectors use LED light sources as they occupy smaller space inside the projector and have great power efficiency and long life expentency.

 

In LED light sources, there is an LED bulb. Some projectors are designed so that if ever needed, the bulb can be replaced. The LED bulbs can last for more than 20,000 hours of operations, which is equivalent to 6,700 movies of 3 hours length. So, it will be good for as long as you use it.

To summarize, for everyday purposes, go for LED light sources, unless you want the highest photo/video quality and your budget allows to go for a laser projector. Either way, you will be fine.

 

Throw ratio

(priority level: 5)

Throw ratio is only important if you want to install the projector permanently at certain place in your room. So if you have a portable projector, you do not need to worry about this.

 Throw ratio - HEXA Eclipse

Throw ratio shows you how wide the images will be when the projector is placed at a certain distance from the screen. For example, a 1.8:1 throw ratio will produce a 5-foot wide image when you place the projector 9 feet from the screen. (5 feet x 1.8) or consider that if you are trying to have a 5-feet wide image, you have to install the projector at 9 feet from the screen.

 

Throw distance

(priority level: 3)

This the distance between the projector and the screen. Some of the new models of projectors have certain lenses that allows you to place the projector very close to the wall and yet get a wide image. If you are planning to have the projector in a room where there is not enough space, like small apartments, this could be the ideal solution.

Short throw projector - HEXA Eclipse

Keep in mind that projectors with small throw distance may not be used everywhere, which will limit its portability. Some of the projectors offer exchangeable lenses to switch between short throw distance and long throw distance.

  

Lens zoom

(priority level: 2)

Lens zoom enables you to focus the picture at any distance. This is specifically important if you want to move the projector all the time. For example, if you use the projector to present to clients, each time you will present in a different room with different distances. Being able to adjust the focus is important because you will not have to compromise on the size of the picture. When there is no zoom feature, you will have to move the projector close to the wall to focus the image, however this will make the image small and will have a negative effect on your audience and their ability to see your presentation easily.

 Zoom focus knob - HEXA Eclipse

Although some small projectors do not have a zoom/focus button or nob for the sake of simplicity and price, make sure you do not neglect this item because it will become very handy.

 

Accessories (screen, tripod, pointer, remote, lenses)

(priority level: 2)

Always overlooked, accessories will make a projector stand out and be more functional. The type of accessories really depends on what you want the projector for, so you should do your research on accessories depending on your needs.

 

Some of the accessories are listed here:

Screen: projector screen come in many sizes and functionalities. For example, some of them are permanently installed on the wall. Some are retractable with motorized units and some come with tripods. Best case however: project on a white wall with no screen.

Projector screen - HEXA Eclipse

If you want to use your projector for your trade show purposes, you can use your banners as a screen too. When designing and printing the banner, you can leave some areas of the banner blank as projection area. A smart trick would be to buy a completely blank banner that is expandable and use it as a screen so during the trade show you can set it up anywhere and let your brand shine!

Tripod: similar to screens, tripods and stands come in many forms and shapes. If you want to use the projector for business presentation, a mini foldable tripod bought from Amazon would suffice. Some of the manufacturers also offer free tripods with the projectors.

 Projector tripod - HEXA Eclipse

If you need larger tripods or stands, a trick would be to use a camera tripod. Good quality and price can be found among some of the items offered on Amazon or Walmart.

 

Pointer and clicker: This is an useful item for business presentation. I have a Bluetooth laser pointer which act as a clicker to change the slides. So, it is important that your projector has Bluetooth so that you can use a pointer/clicker with is.

 Projector laser pointer and clicker - HEXA Eclipse

Remote control: Most of the projectors come with a remote control, similar to that of DVD players. These remotes make it more convenient for you to control the projector contrast, brightness, on/off and also switch between different inputs, for example, switching from your PC to your phone.

 Projector remote control - HEXA Eclipse

Lenses: Most of the projectors do not offer free additional lenses. But you may find a variety of them on Amazon and other sources. On the modern projectors where you have software control of the image and also the zoom function to change the screen size and resolution, correctional zooms are becoming more and more irrelevant. These lenses become more important on large commercial projectors for auditoriums where image/vide quality should be adjusted for large audience.

 Projector lens - HEXA Eclipse

Battery

(priority level: 2)

The large projectors that are not meant to be portable do not offer internal battery. The batteries are intended for portable and smaller projectors.

The internal battery become crucially important when you use the projector for business presentation. It eliminates the need to connect the projector to a power source, which will simplify the setting up and presentation prep.

Projector tablet with internal battery - HEXA Eclipse

The battery size it measured by its output in milli amperes per hour (mAh). Depending on the size of the projector the battery sizes vary, but the ideal size would be anything above 2,200 mAH. Always choose chargeable lithium polymer batteries as they have better longevity and longer hours per use.

  

Maintenance

(priority level: 1)

The biggest enemy of the optical system of a projector is dust. The modern projectors have sealed optical units to prevent dust from going inside. Make sure your projector has a sealed system.

It is also important that the lens of the projector is robust enough, in case it hits something. Broken lenses are a common reason for projectors going out of life.

Legendary projector - HEXA Eclipse

Proper cooling systems in projectors in important to keep them healthy and work longer. Make sure your projector has a fan. It would be also very useful to have a heat sink, similar to the ones installed in PCs.

 

I hope this guide helps you make the right decision and buy the right projector. If you have any questions or you are in doubt what to choose, shoot me an email by filling in the following form and I will do my best to help.

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