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The Essential Projector Guide

Projectors are what Just Projectors have been specialising in for the last 19 years.We are not a retail high street shop, this would increase our prices to cover the overheads but we are able to help you get the right projector as we have trained staff ready to receive your call to ensure you get best value for money and exactly the right projector for your needs . We have a network of projector installers to cover your area. On higher end projector models we can arrange a loan or demo. To understand what the benefits are of a projector, it is useful to know exactly what a it can do and also the different type of technologies which will help you decide which one  maybe say more useful as a business projector rather  than say a home cinema projector set-up. Firstly what is a projector;  it is in fact an electrical device that when light is integrated with an optics system then the end result is a large image being displayed from say a computer , video source or a games console.  Projectors can be manufactured in 5 main types, LCD, DLP LED, LASER-LED AND LCOS.

DLP Projectors- which stands for digital light processing is the newest entrance and it has  revolutionised not only the pricing but also the longevity of the projector. So what are DLP Projectors, well Texas Instruments back in 1987 developed the DLP chip.  As with all things in the projector world things have moved on, in March 2008 the new DPP1500 chipset was developed which has brought about the Pico or micro projectors which amazingly means that it can be the size of a mobile phone, although it is time to say that these micro pico projectors still need to improve their light output to really be taken seriously.

DLP Projector have evolved so much since the first few years and they have been the single biggest driver of the reduction in prices for projectors with the emergence of Brands such as BenQ (pronouced Ben-Q) , in fact many of the traditional LCD manufacturers have added to their range many DLP Projectors. So DLP projectors work in a different way from LCD Projectors.DLP work by thousands of mirrors set out in an array of pixels to replicate the projectors resolution. Each mirror is thinner than a firth of a human hair. With the use of hinges the dlp chip mirrors create light and dark pixels by being either off or on. The white light generated then is shone through a colour wheel of up to six colours. The human eye sees all the colours and the result is a full colour image.

Features about DLP Projectors are that they do not require you to maintain the projector regularly as they do not any filter, they tend to be lighter and they seem to have in general lower lamp life costs. They are able to achieve high contrast ratios which means blacks are black which is a particular favourite for a home cinema projector user.  So after reading all this about DLP projectors you might wonder why we sell other types of projectors such as LCD or Lcos Projectors, and in the past you could say that DLP struggled with accuracy of colours and the annoying rainbow effect which means you can look at the projector screen and see the primary colours flashing every now and then, some people never see it but others are prone to it. However let me dismiss the negavtivity about DLP which I once shared as DLP technology has improved. The colours are more accurate on DLP than before, and that is simply due to an improved number of segments on the colour wheel from in the old days with just 3 segments RGB (red ,green , blue ) meaning orange and reds were a problem with introduction of White, Magneto and in some cases Yellow we see now colours that coudl rival any LCD projector As for the rainbow effect which I was prone to see, the faster colour wheels on DLP have almost removed this totally, and the better made DLP brands such as BenQ, NEC, Viewsonic, Infocus it has almost completley disappeared. As you have to appreciate projectors are a collection of components and some manfucturers use better components. DLP in general other that the Ultra Short Throw range tend to be slightly longer throw ratio than LCD with a typical throw of 1.8-2 and the zoom (the ability to place in multiple positions) tends to be a little more restricted. DLP lamps tend not to fade so the projectors wil be as bright onthe first day of use as they are 2 years down the line.

LCD Projectors have been in existence longer than any other technology. The colours on these are extremely accurate and if you need a projector for use as a photographer or graphic designer in the past I would always recommend a LCD Projector. How does an LCD or sometimes known as 3LCD projector actually work, well there are three liquid crystal panels , a lamp , prism and filters. In lamp shines white light through a polarizing filter, then a series of dichroic mirrors .The three colour red, green and blue are then sent to a separate LCD panel; remember there are three of them. From there the LCD panels send the light through the dichroic prism which recombines the light and sends it out the main lens in the LCD projector to the surface against which it is projected. Each LCD can control one colour. So if you were to see a picture of a red plane against a blue sky, the green LCD would block the light from passing to the dichroic prism and out the lens. In the past the accuracy of colours is the key reason why people choose LCD projectors, now I consider that LCD which are more expensive than DLP as still a force to be reckoned with but mainly on the higher range models where higher brightness is required and a better throw ratio. LCD are more diffcult to maintain, although there have been some models coming out with filter free less maintenance requirements. The projector lamp prices are higher and there is often deterioration over a period of time.The main manufacturers for LCD are Epson, Panasonic, NEC Hitachi, in the last year both Sanyo and Mitsubishi who were traditional LCD manufacturers have ceased produced on projectors, in Sanyo's case Panasonic have taken on the higerh end range. 

Lcos or Liquid crystal over silicon projectors are a hybrid of LCD and DLP and before the improvements in both LCD and DLP was a very desirable if not more expensive option but things more on and the gap is getting smaller but the price of Lcos hasn't really seen much reduction.  LCOS will produce the most accurate video that is capable of far better than either LCD or DLP. How does Lcos projectors work, light passes through these LCD panels on the way to the lens and is modulated by the liquid crystals as it passes. Thus it is a "transmissive" technology. Lcos uses liquid crystals instead of individual mirrors. Three LCOS chips, one each to modulate light in the red, green, and blue channels which is like LCD panels  The end result is a very high resolution image, they tend only to start at SXGA (1365x1024). So if the technology is so good why aren’t all projectors made that way, the simple reason is price, which out of the reach of most people who are buying a business projector. The contrast ratio on a Lcos projector is often restricted to around 500:1, lamp life is often shorter with them not achieving much more than 1500 hours so cost of ownership tends to be very high. And finally they are not any ultra portable LCos projectors .LCOS  technology is usually very high resolution, and typically higher in price than most LCD and DLP products. There is no such thing as an SVGA resolution LCOS projector, and we know of only one very rare XGA resolution machine. Generally LCOS machines begin to appear in the resolution class and higher. So by definition they are not cheap to produce as are not many are sold there are few volume efficiencies achievable. Pixels on Lcos are much smoother then DLP sharp edges, which again helps provide the smooth image quality. Typical manufacturers of Lcos projectors are Canon and JVC

So now Just Projectors have explained how projectors work and the different types of technology it is important to work out which one is suitable for your needs. There are 5 main choices you have when buying a projector; what resolution, what brightness, what technology, what inputs can it take and what is the throw ratio. Looking at all of these in turn.

Brightness is measured in Ansi lumens, this is standard that every projector is measured against so that you know if its 3000 Lumens then its brighter than say a 1500 lumens. It is not true to say that a brighter projector is always better as especially for home cinema projectors you would really be looking for a high contrast and the more lumens then that will reduce the contrast available. So it’s important to get the right lumens for the right requirement. We typically recommend 1200-1800 lumens for home theatre and over 2000 lumens for the business projectors. Education projectors often tend to be lower lumens but in recent months it seems that 2000 Lumens now is the minimum requirement. If you have an audience size of more than 50 people which in turn means you need a larger projector screen then the lumens output should be in the regard of 3000 lumens. Large venue projectors or projectors for meeting rooms should be around 3500 lumens upwards. If you are a mobile projector user then lower lumens is often acceptable as you are trying often to have ultra light projectors which usually are no so bright. With the emergence of Ultra short throw projectors then the lumens output can be reduced as the image doesn’t have to travel so far to get to projector screen and the ambient light has less effect on the projector image. Typically ultra short throw projectors are around 2000 lumens.

Resolution is the number of pixels that the projector displays its native resolution, the most important thing is to look at the native resolution not the supported resolution often the cheaper unknown browns will make advertise the unit as SXGA when in fact it might just be a redundant VGA resolution that supports SCGA, ie show albeit the quality is terrible after all the compression

The lowest resolution that is acceptable is SVGA (800x 600) a 4:3 format. these are the cheapest projectors and really you should only buy these is you have a very low budget, to see the quality of SVGA  just look on your computer and change the display to see what SVGA resolution looks like and you will see that it is quite poor. If however you only want to use a it for showing Dvd’s or video content then a SVGA projector would be suitable.

We sell more XGA projectors (1024 x 768) 4:3 format  than any other type; although surprisingly this isn’t the resolution most people pcs or laptops run at but as these are the most affordable and there are more of these than any others available.  Probably people buy XGA because they have always purchased XGA.

WXGA projectors (1280 x 800) 16:10 format should be the natural choice now as applications are going more widescreen so you can enjoy more content on your projected image. WXGA projectors also have the benefit that they mimic a HD resolution 720p, so if you wanted to have a business projector but also take it home and maybe use it for gaming then it would be more suitable than an XGA projector. WXGA projectors also have the advantage that if you want to change from 16:10 format to 4:3 then you woudl lose an quality. However if you purchased a XGA projector 4:3 format then wanted to go to widescreen 16:10 then the pixels would have to be stretched and the loss of quality. 

1080p Full HD (1920 x 1080p) 16:9 format is one of the fast growing resolution not only now seen for home cinema but also seen for larger audience size with the higher lumens. 1080p is the the quality you would expect to see with Blu-ray or apple tablets.

SXGA+ (1400 x 1050) a 4:3 format only sold by Canon with their XEED range has always been a niche resolution mainly for camera clubs and photographers or medical use but with the emergence of more 1080p and the WUXGA projectors being able to do both 16:10 and 4:3 then it probably won't be long before SXGA+ becomes redundant.

WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10 format  - this is really a very high quality , reflected in purchase price of around £2500 - when you want more than 1080p.

Inputs on a projector are so important so do not ignore them when buying. All machines will be supplied with composite video (yellow) connection which is the simplest but poorest quality signal. All are supplied with at least one VGA or also known as RGB connection which links to your laptop or pc. The better ones have two VGA inputs which always you display more than one input source at a time. Having a VGA output is useful when you want to display both your projector image and also to be able to view your monitor at the same time.  Component video or BNC which is the red/green/blue connection is a much higher quality than the composite video as it provides a correct display of the signal

S-Video is a standard connection supplied and like composite it is used for video it does slightly differ as it splits the video signal into two different components: Luminance and Chrominance which results in a better image quality than composite video. HDMI is fast becoming the must have connection as it is the basically a digital version of a scart connection and it has the advantage that it also carries audio.

Having a RS232 is basically a control connection to allow your projector to communicate with other devices such as electric screen.

Projector Throw Ratio Probably one of the most important specifications of any projector but most people don't know about it or don't know how to calculate this very simple formulae. If you are in mobile situation you might have limited space so knowing the throw is important. If you are installing then it is vital. If you know you screen size width say in metres (SS) then multiply the throw ratio (TR) and that will say how far away - distance (D) you need to place the projector. If there are two TR's then that is the zoom within that range SS x TR = D Eg screen size 2m , Throw Ratio 1.9 - 2.1 = 3.98m-4.2m Calculation 2 (SS) x 1.9 (TR) =3.98m away - distance the projectors needs to be from the screen 2 (SS) x 2.1 (TR) =4.2m away - distance the projectors needs to be from the screen Another example- a projector with a fixed lens- so must be placed at a exact distance SS x TR = D Eg screen size 2m , Throw Ratio 0.5 = 1m Calculation 2 (SS) x 0.5 (TR) 1m - distance the projectors needs to be from the screen So as you can see the lower the throw ratio (TR) the close or short the throw the projector is. Handy Hint 1: - If you have a tricky installation situation choose a projector that has a larger Throw Ratio range eg 1.4-2.1 which will give you greater flexibility Handy Hint 2: If you choose projector with an unusually large throw or short throw then bear in mind that any installation that you set up will mean that the next time you purchase a projector you will need to get a projector with the same throw ratio, and therefore maybe limit your choice in the future. If you want to know how big an image a certain projector will produce from a certain size then the calculation is still very simple Distance away from the screen (D) divided by Throw Ratio = Screen width (SS) Eg distance away 4m , Throw Ratio 1.5 - 1.8 = 2.22-2.6m image width or screen size Calculation 4 (D) / 1.8 (TR) =2.66m width of screen required 4 (D) / 1.5 (TR) =2.22m width of screen required So at 4m the image size will be between 2.22m and 2.6m An example- a projector with a fixed lens- so must be placed at a exact distance D/TR = SS E.g. distance away 4m , Throw Ratio 2 Calculation 4 (D) / 2 (TR) =2m width of screen required This means if you need a larger or smaller image then you have to move the projector as there isn't any zoom on the lens Every one of projecotr pages has a projector throw distance /screen size calculator too to make it easier for you

The last thing to mention is what is the future of projectors , certainly getting smaller for the mobile presenter, led technology has seen the emergence of the pico projectors or micro projectors which weigh less than 50g’s and Just Projectors believes that the low lumens output will be resolved within the next 5 years. Led projector with a combination of DLP technology has also seen the first lamp free projectors being made available, notably the Casio XJ-S range. They have a lamp life of 20,000 hours and without the mercury in any lamp is now the green option. 3D Projectors have always been available but now they are affordable. Using active technology DLP projectors can now show 3D using a single projector using the active shutter glasses and the prices are under £500 for a 3D solution. However a note of caution as yet 3D projectors only works with Sky TV if you purchase an Optoma 3d-xl adaptor.

Hopefully you would have found this article about projectors to be useful but please contact us at Just Projectors for all your projector needs.