5 Things to know when Buying a Replacement Projector
Projectors last a long time but they need to be replaced eventually, it just isn't working, you want to get a better model, or someone stole it. We offer a telephone advice service at Projectors and I hear day after day "we are looking for a projector, not sure what to buy, can you help". Of course we do help but most people are amazed at how many different things they needed to know before they purchased, they thought that the price was the main driver and the one they choose would just work. The other feedback we get is when we ran through some basic questions it all made sense and they were happy with the choice, This blog is not about saying how great our advice line is or chat button, although I think we do make it easier, I thought if I could share the 5 basic things you need to know when buying a replacement projector it might just stop the person getting their lovely new projector and it being the wrong model for them, having all the hassle of contacting the shop they purchased it from, better to get it right first time.
1. Get the Right Throw Ratio to ensure the right image size
Is this replacement projector for one that is already hanging on your ceiling or wall and/or do you have a specific place you need to put the projector on the table?
Even if you see a model that looks the same specification then it probably isn't the fact is each projector has what is called a "throw ratio" which determines the ratio of the image size to the distance back, it is a very easy calculation you are either dividing a number or multiplying it . So imagine you need an image size (S) of say 2.1m and you have distance back (D) of 3m then the calculation for the Throw ratio( T) is
Distance (D) divided by image size (S) equals the Throw Ratio (T)
3 (D) divided by 2.1 (S) = 1.42 (T)
Just an important thing to point out here, all we care about is the width of the image not the height, that is explained later but just think width for the time being
Armed with that info you would look for a projector that includes that range, for instance we have a TH681+ which has a throw ratio of 1.15-1.5, that means the 1.42 is within that range so it gets a tick, If you got a model that had a longer throw of say 1.95 then the image wouldn't fit your screen and in fact in that example above we could calculate the distance from 3m with a throw ratio of 1.95. The formulae now changes to
Distance (D) divided by Throw Ratio (T) equals image size (S)3 (D) divided by 1.95 (T) = 1.53 (S) which of course if you already have a screen that 2.1m then you have lost 50cm of possible image size.
So you need to be careful, get a projector that have the throw ratio range that includes the throw ratio you need, we also suggest you measure, people are awful at guessing distance we find someone will say to us that is was a 4m distance and it turns out to be 3m, doesn't sound a lot but that will make a huge difference on the throw ratio. There is a definite advantage if your budget is restricted to get a projector with a smaller zoom, for example the Casio projectors have a great zoom of 1.4 to 2.8 that means they have a zoom of 2.8/1.4 of 2, these modules are great for installation as you have a huge scope to place them but they are more expensive by £200+ and if you filtered down your requirement to a smaller zoom then you would save money, so take the time, find the tape measure and save £200!
If your throw ratio came out at more than 2.5 then it is time to consider changing your set-up, projectors that need a longer throw lens option have to purchased as a body only solution and then a replacement lens, this was very option for a church set up and the costs got very high, with the advent of short throw projectors hanging of a pole just above the screen then you can save literally thousands, so this again is time to chat to a professional to see your options.
I did mention that the image width (S) was the important thing not the height, that is because the projector resolution determines the shape of the image the ratio Width to Height (sorry this seems to be a Maths lesson now)
- 4:3 XGA 1024 x 768 / SVGA 800 x 600 / SXGA+ 1400 x 1050
- 16:10 WXGA 1280 x 800 / WUXGA 1920 x 1200
- 16:9 1080p 1920 x 1080 , 720p 1200 x 720
A handy hint of you change the aspect ratio of your image then the throw ratio will change by 25% but this can be trickier to get right so maybe it's time to talk to a professional. When we speak to people it is good to know the existing model they are replacing so we can do a check of your measurements for instance if the calculation come out that you have a throw ratio of say 1.5 and the projector only does 1.95-2.15 then something is wrong either with the measurements or the image has been adjusted by the installer to fit the screen which when you buy a new projector will cause a problem. Most decent projector websites will have a throw ratio calculator on each product page so all you need to know is either distance or image size to see if that certain model works for you, also the brand websites will have one for example this is the one on Infocus website.
2. Upgrade on the Resolution
The price for a really decent 1080p projector is silly low now around £400-500 compared to £1200 just 12 months ago, you are going to get at least 100% if not 200% better image quality for just another £150, spread over the 5-7 years lifetime that is under £30 a year. You wouldn't go buy an old Nokia phone now when you could get a smart phone for just a little more, projectors have changed as much as phones so invest in the future, if you present to customers say you new website then give them a chance to see it in its full glory, word, excel has all gone widescreen so if you are doing a presentation then show more on the presentation by at least having a widescreen resolution like WXGA rather than XGA.
1. Get the Right brightness but make sure you are getting ANSI Lumens
Lumens is the measurement of brightness and we actually quote ANSI lumens on our site which is defined as
ANSI lumens The light output of projectors (including video projectors) is typically measured in lumens. A standardized procedure for testing projectors has been established by the American National Standards Institute, which involves averaging together several measurements taken at different positions.
This is important that you only buy main brand projectors as they have all signed up to show a true lumens output, I see projectors claiming to be 4000 Lumens Full HD but in fact they are less than 1000 lumens and not Full HD but I will come onto that later. A main brand is one you find on lots of websites, big brands include Epson, BenQ, Infocus, NEC, Panasonic, Viewsonic, Sony, Acer, Hitachi, Vivitek, Casio, & Eiki. Okay you are not going to get one for £175 claiming to be the answer to all your needs but you are going to get one that is a honest lumens rating. I would say for most people buying around 2600-3500 lumens is the right move, basic lights off but no need for blinds unless its a wall of windows. If your audience size is bigger than 70 people you are going to need to show a larger image, that means the projector goes further back and more light pollution so higher lumens required to get the projected image to the screen. Don't just buy 5000 lumens if you don't need it, you are going to foresake a better image as more lumens means the blacks having a tougher time on contrast, certainly in most house 1600-2500 lumens is more than enough, going to the higher end of this range for daylight viewing, but if you want to create a projector cinema experience in the dark then 1600 is perfect, you will notice that the decent high end cinema projectors are not bright.
4. Get a HDmi connection for future proofing, quality
Projectors have been using VGA cables for donkeys years, and it is an analogue connection was is fast being phased out by the sources such as laptops and desktops, so you have to make sure that you will be able to connect when you upgrade your equipment. Also VGA doesn't take sound with it, so there are more than just the image quality and future proofing to consider. Therefore for an extra £10 you should buy a projector that has HDmi on it, you only need one if you are using if for a business use, but having two for home if more useful as you can get two sources connected without the need for an accessory. Annoyingly projector manufacturers don't give you an HDmi in the box, so you will need to buy one at the time of purchase or go to your local store, but HDmi is a must and I hope manufacturers will stop selling ones with no HDmi's very soon. One thing to mention as a projector with a HDmi will be classed as "HD Ready" then don't suddenly think that you will improve your imagine quality dramatically if you link it to an old non HD source, you cannot make a great image if you start with bad content. Also it is true to say a HDmi connection isn't going to make a native 480p projector often advertised as £175 Full HD projectors anything other than absolute rubbish. The fact that they have a very poor projector with a native resolution of 480p, stick in an HDmi and claim it to be 1080p is wrong, supported is not the same as native, the number of pixels make up the image not the connections on the projector.
5. Ask for a better price
We don't have the barter mentality much in this country but there are opportunities to get a better price, There is always a deal to be done, even if its reduced delivery, certain brands offer website like ours better margins which we can pass on. It might be that you end up with a projector not the same as you first wanted , in fact the spec might be better but take the time to save money, you could then put it towards a better screen or maybe a wireless adapter. Companies want your business. If you are buying bulk then manufacturers will resellers bid pricing, we will need to know the end user to log the bid but there are great savings to be had.
In conclusion there are of course other things to consider when buying a projector, I reckon it takes my sales 12-18 months of training to be able to give full advice, but AV professionals by asking a series of questions can help you in under 10 mins.