Whether you are looking for a digital projector for home theater use or as a traveling salesman, there is a projector that will fit your needs. One of the wonderful things about the digital projector market is that there are so many projectors to choose from today. Of course, that makes it hard to choose the right one for you. Armed with the following information you will be much better prepared to make the right choice.

Digital Projector – What Are Your Needs?

Projectors for different environments have varied features based on the specific needs and situation. Many will want a good projector that will serve well in many situations. While those exist, the more specific you can be about what is needed in your environment, the more pleased you will be with the final purchase.

If choosing a projector for use in an office conference room or a home theater, you are less interested in portability than you are in stunning video. Home theater customers should be looking for greater contrast ratio rather than higher lumens. Each environment is different, as is the purpose of the projector. By understanding the different elements that make up projector specifications you will be able choose the right projector for your needs.

Digital Projector – Lumens

Brightness of a projector is measured in ANSI lumens. Most mainline projectors fall into a range of 800 to 4000 lumens of light output. There are smaller pico projectors that output much less. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the output. Factors that influence the effective brightness of a projector are the distance the image is being projected and the amount of ambient light in the room.

The number of lumens you need in your projector depends on the brightness in the room where the video or pictures are viewed. An office conference room is a place where it is helpful to have the room light at a normal level. Therefore a projector with a higher number of lumens is more desirable. Is the conference room full of windows which make it hard to dim the ambient light? If so you want a projector rated at a higher light output. A lumen rating of 2000 and up is recommended. The size of the room will also determine the needed output.

It is possible to have much greater control over the lighting in a home theater. The biggest difference in a home theater and a conference room is that the focus of the viewers is on the screen only while at home watching a movie. The viewers won't need to take notes or be able see a presenter showing items off screen. Home theater users will find that 800 lumens may be plenty if the room is small and the lighting can be well controlled.

A projector for a traveling representative needs to be more flexible. As a representative you never know the exact situation you will be in for each presentation. Erring on the side of too many lumens is usually the safer choice. If you typically make your presentations for small groups in an office setting, then a 1000 lumen projector may be plenty. However, if you are often in large auditoriums, even if the ambient light can be lowered, you should still look at getting a 2000 lumen, or higher, projector.

Digital Projector – Resolution

The resolution of a projector means how many lines of pixels left to right, and up and down there are in the image. A standard TV image is 480 lines. HDTV is 720 or higher. The higher the resolution of the projector, the better it will display a higher quality input signal.

It is usually best to match the source input resolution and the projector resolution when possible. In a business environment where most of the presentations are run from a computer, it is a simple matter of matching the computer and projector resolutions. Traveling representatives who always use their own computer-projector combo have an easier time with matching the resolution. Office settings usually have different input sources depending on whose computer is being used for the particular presentation.

Home theater environments have the greatest variety of potential mismatch between input source and projector. The input source resolution can be different for each piece of equipment plugged into it. Still, the higher the resolution of the projector, the better the final image will be. A projector with high resolution output will never make the original source image better than it was originally (VHS will still look like VHS). But it will make a high resolution source image look better than a low resolution projector will.

Resolution is usually represented in two different ways. One is a number and another is a set of letters. This can be confusing when one reporting format is used on one projector, but the other used on another projector you are comparing.

Standard Format
Wide Screen
VGA 720 x 480 WVGA 848 x 480
SVGA 800 x 600 WSVGA 964 x 544
XGA 1024 x 768 WXGA-H 1280 x 720
SXGA 1280 x 1024 WXGA 1366 x 768

Digital Projector – Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio is the difference between the dark and light extremes on a projected image. In a corporate environment where the majority of the presentations are text and charts, there is not a great need for high contrast ratio. However, if the projector is used in a photo company to show off stunning images from their customers then higher contrast ratio is desirable.

In home theater use you want to look at a higher contrast ratio. This will make your video images more smooth. There will be fewer "hot" zones in the image. A higher contrast ratio in projectors will give a much better theater experience.

Digital Projector – LCD vs. DLP

There are two competing technologies in projectors. These are LCD and DLP. LCD technology is made up of three colored LCD glass panels which light passes through to create the colored images that are projected on the screen. DLP projectors reflect the light off of a panel that produces the colors and images.

LCD usually offers better color brightness and accuracy while DLP offers better contrast, however, more expensive LCD projectors have begun to match DLP in contrast ratio. DLP projectors are also typically smaller for the number of features available. For the amount of money you spend, you will get more light output from an LCD projector than a DLP projector.

Which one is better? Neither and both. Much of the difference in the two technologies is minuscule. If you have a chance to view two similar projectors with each of the two technologies you will be able to tell a difference in the video image. But it will be up to you to tell which one is better. One may be better for certain types of images (LCD for corporate spreadsheets), but the other is better for other types of images (DLP for high contrast images). They are both very good systems and your choice of projector should probably be measured in the other factors mentioned above rather than just which projection technology is used.

Digital Projector – Other Factors

There are many other factors which can be considered when making a choice in a projector purchase, but the above information covers the biggest points. Some of the other factors only matter when you have a choice of two good projectors which fit everything you need, but are unsure of which one is actually better. For example, if you are purchasing a projector for a home theater and you have two otherwise identical machines, you will want to choose the one that is quieter. For a large conference room, then the amount of noise may not be as much of an issue and therefore not matter. However, having the ability to hook up a computer wirelessly is a great feature for a conference room where many different users will be hooking up various machines.

Spend some time learning about the different factors that make one projector more desirable for different situations than another projector and you will be pleased with your purchase decision.