A Guide to Finding the Best Projector in 2015

Buying a new projector may seem to be the hardest thing in the world – there plenty of models to choose from and each of them have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. The fact that projectors are divided into a multitude of categories doesn’t make things any simpler either. But, armed with the necessary information, there is no reason why you can’t easily pick out a device that meets all your needs. The key to simplifying the buying process is to know exactly what you need and then look for a device in the appropriate category.

Choose the Type of Projector You Want

There is a common misconception that a projector is a one-size-fits-all kind of device. However, this is not true. For example, if you try watching a movie on a projector that is designed for office use – no matter how expensive it may be – you won’t have a pleasant experience. But what exactly is the difference between the various machines and what do you need to look at when making a decision?

Don’t worry! We’re here to help. Here’s a look at some broad projector classifications and their salient features.

Business Projectors

Delivering presentations on a bright 150-inch screen is a sure fire way of making an impact on your audience at a business meeting – something that can easily be achieved by using a good quality projector. Most popular business projectors are short throw and have a WXGA (1280×800) resolution which works seamlessly with most widescreen laptops. Higher-resolution HD models are future-proof and also produce a sharper and more vivid output.

Look for models which are plug-and-play – they are extremely user-friendly and can be set up very quickly, even if you are using someone else’s laptop/tablet for making the presentation. Portable projectors are light-weight and can be carried around easily in your laptop bag. Additional features like Wi-Fi, iPhone compatibility, etc. could prove to be a lifesaver.

Home Theater Projectors

Modern home theater projectors come with a variety of features ranging from Full HD resolution to 4K and 3D projection capabilities. And they are priced cheaper than ever before too! These projectors are designed for use in a dark room which is dedicated to screening video – something that makes them extremely sensitive to ambient light. Many models don’t have in-built audio either since most people prefer using another audio device.
When buying a projector for your home theater setup, it is important to make sure that the device is suitable for the room it is going to be used in and has the necessary brightness, contrast, throw, etc. Additional features like vertical/horizontal lens shift offer greater adaptability when it comes to placement.

Gaming Projectors

Modern video games are extremely immersive and use brilliant graphics which often look extremely realistic. Gaming consoles like the Xbox One and the PS4 have even started becoming the centerpiece of a home entertainment setup. Gaming projectors bring the visuals of your favorite game into a big screen allowing for a more compelling experience.

When using a projector for gaming, don’t settle for anything less than a Full HD 1080p model. While XGA, VGA and WXGA are enough for business uses, games look great at high resolutions. Input lag times – the time it takes for the projector to accept information and create an image – should be as low as possible and the refresh rate should be as high as possible (preferably over 120Hz).

Portable Projectors

Projectors which were small enough to be carried around in your bag (or pocket) may have been considered wishful thinking a few years ago. But, as technology has improved, projector sizes have come down significantly and nowadays, it is easier than ever to project video and data on the go.

Pocket (Pico) projectors are only slightly larger than many cellphones and can be used for all sorts of multimedia presentations including videos and slideshows. However, even though they are extremely portable, they are a bit expensive and have comparatively lower brightness. Palmtop projectors are slightly larger (but lightweight) and can be carried around with a laptop. They are brighter as well and come with additional features like rechargeable batteries, SD card slots, etc. Generally, the larger a device is the better it performs. However, the resolution of portable devices tends to max out at WXGA (1280×800).

3D Projectors

Even though 3D projectors aren’t very common due to relative newness of the technology, they do find applications in home theaters, schools, etc. A good projector goes a long way in enhancing viewing experience – especially when watching movies or playing games. Active 3D glasses have dropped in prices as well, making the technology more affordable than ever before.

When buying a 3D projector, look for models with high brightness. Full HD models are ideal for movies and games while the basic resolution of 720p is usually enough for business presentations and classroom uses. Even though 4K 3D projectors produce excellent visuals, they can be really expensive.

LCD Projectors

LCD projectors have been around for a while and are extremely popular. Buying one, on the other hand, can be a headache because of the sheer variety on offer. These projectors use three separate LCD panels create the output and images tend to have great detail and vibrant colors. But, they can be bulky devices and pixelation is a real possibility if you don’t buy a good model.

When buying an LCD projector, look for models with a suitable screen size, resolution, throw, brightness, contrast, etc. Depending on where you are going to use the device, it might be a good idea to check fan noise as well. If the fan is too loud, it may distract from a movie/presentation. Look for projectors with a long lamp life to reduce maintenance costs.

DLP Projectors

Many people consider DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors to be best when it comes to creating an image that is vivid and free of pixelation. Since these devices use a rapidly spinning color wheel for projection, they can be prone to the rainbow effect where red, blue and green shades flash across the screen – which could cause headaches in some people. They can be a bit lacking in detail as well.

Single-chip DLP projectors with a wheel speed of 3X is usually enough for business purposes. For movies, look for wheel speeds of 5X or above as they tend to not only produce a great image, but also lessen the rainbow effect. Devices which use an LED lamp are easy to maintain and don’t need frequent lamp replacement. Three-chip DLPs are excellent performers, but can be really expensive.

LCOS Projectors

Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) projectors are the new kids on the block and use three chips to simultaneously deliver and modulate light and color. These devices produce highly detailed images with rich colors and no apparent pixelation. LCOS projectors have high resolutions and are often priced at a premium when compared to DLP and LCD projectors. Moreover, the lamp-life of these projectors is low – which could drive up costs in the long run.

LCOS projectors are excellent for both home and commercial use. If the high price isn’t a deal breaker, getting one of these projectors could help take your home theater to the next level. Since different manufacturers tend to use their own LCOS panels (unlike DLP and LCD which have more uniformity), different models perform differently. Companies like Sony, Canon and JVC dominate the field and all of them have different native black levels – remember to check output quality before making an investment.

How Do I Make A Decision?

Ultimately, the projector you should buy depends on your requirements. For example, if you want a small device, DLP models would be your best bet. If price is of no concern and you want the best in image quality, an LCOS projector would be the way to go. Nowadays, no matter what your budget is, you will find a device that has most of the features you are looking for – after all, there are hundreds of models available now with plenty more coming out in the future.

No matter what you choose, avoid falling into the trap that is buyer’s remorse. The technology is constantly improving and the projector you get will not be as good sooner rather than later – it is inevitable. Just sit back, relax, and soak in the movie experience and you will have a great experience with the projector you buy.