Sunday, August 10, 2008 

Digital Projectors - Key Features To Look For When Buying A New Projector

A digital projector is a device that connects to a computer or like devise via cabling to enable the computer monitor display to be enlarged and projected onto a screen. The standard digital projector connects via a VGA lead direct to your computer or uses component video cables, (red, green and blue plugs) to connect to your DVD player, HDTV, set top box or video camera. However to be safe always make sure to double check the projector has the right outputs to connect to the devise or devises you wish to connect it to. Features of a quality digital projector should include:

Digital Projectors - Resolution

Digital projector resolution refers to the pixel density of the image to be projected. A digital projector has two resolutions, the natural resolution and maximum resolution. The natural resolution is the standard pixel size of the projected image; the maximum resolution is the maximum capability of the projector. Typically a digital projector should be able to accept resolutions of 800x600, 1024x768 or 1280x1024, however it is not the size of the resolution the digital projector can accept which is important, but rather the native resolution of the projector. The higher the native resolution of the projector the greater the colour quality, or should I say color density of the projected image.

Digital Projectors - Lumens

Lumens refer to the brightness of the projected image. Simply put the higher the lumens the brighter the projection. Brightness ratings, measured in lumens, are typically lower for home theatre models than for office models. Room size and screen size/distance will also affect the need for more or less lumens. A projector may have a great Lumens rating, but if the contrast ratio is low, you image will look washed out. For low-ambient or true lights-out productions, you may find that a 1000 to 1500 lumens rating is sufficient. If you need a very bright projector (3000 lumens or more), an LCD projector is probably your best choice. The lowest lumen projectors today start at about 700 lumens and go up to a jaw-dropping 15,000 lumens. A good rule of thumb is that it is always better to err on the side of too many lumens than too few.

Digital Projectors - Throw Distance

Throw distance refers to the maximum distance your digital projector can be positioned away from the screen before image resolution, luminosity and therefore image quality are affected. The greater the throw distance, the larger the size of the projected image on the screen. Digital projector throw distance is an important key feature if you are planning to use the projector in a large room or outdoor environment, however for the home user todays basic digital projector has more than sufficient throw distance to meet the needs of your home movie theatre.

Digital Projectors - Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio refers to the ratio between the width and height of the projected image. There are three standard aspect ratios settings that you should ensure your digital projector projects these are: 1:1, 4:3 and 16:9. Having a digital projector which has aspect ratio options are important as different media are delivered in different aspect ratios. For example standard video is delivered with an aspect ratio of (4:3), while HDTV uses a (16:9) format. If your digital projector had a locked aspect ratio of (4:3) you would not be able to experience in full, the visual experience of wide screen movies or images. With more and more digital media including cable and online TV networks adopting the (16:9) format this is something to definitely check.

Display Features - fixed keystone correction and lens shift functions

To ensure you can maximize the quality of the digitally projected image on your presentation screen ensure that the digital projector has fixed keystone correction and a lens shift function. Fixed keystone correction shoots the image higher than the lens so the projector itself doesn't block the viewers line of sight. Similarly the lens shift function allows you to shift the image up and down and left and right. A handy tool for making fine-tuning the position of your projected image on the screen.

If you are considering buying a digital projector remember the key features to look for are high native resolution, high luminosity and a suitable throw distance for the environment you intend to use the projector in.

For more helpful advice about choosing the right digital projector for your needs or for more information about digital projector lamps and accessories click here

Chris Hopkins is an event specialist with several years experience using digital projectors both in the commercial environment for seminars, conferences and concerts and in the home for personal viewing pleasure.

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LCD, DLP Or Plasma? Oh My!

Currently, there are three main types of high-def televisions available: plasma, LCD and DLP.


Let's first look at with the least expensive, the DLP. DLP stands for Digital Light Processing, and is actually a rear projection TV. In DLP projectors, the image is created by a matrix of tiny mirrors, with each mirror representing one pixel on the screen. Though less expensive than other hi-def choices, this technology can still deliver 1080p resolution - the highest currently available.

While DLP televisions are no heavier than the other high definition types, they are quite a bit thicker (about 15-20 inches) and are not designed to be wall-mounted as of yet, though that may change in the near future.

Other minor drawbacks include the possibility of annoying fan noise in some models, and since the technology is more "mechanical" than plasma and LCD, there may be a higher incidence of breakdowns. Projection televisions of any type also are burdened with poorer viewing angles than the direct view sets, and color resolution may not be as sharp.


At a decidedly higher price point is the next type of set to consider: Liquid Crystal Diode televisions, also known as LCD.

LCD televisions utilize two "polarized" panels that sandwich a thin liquid-crystal gel. That gel is divided into individual pixels, each of which can be darkened or lightened according to how much precise voltage is passed through it - the more voltage, the darker the pixel. Since some light always leaks through the gel, an absolutely black screen is almost impossible for an LCD television to achieve, but advances in LCD technology have put these TVs nearly at the same level as plasma.

LCD computer monitors, because of their light weight and small footprint, quickly became the technology of choice in the industry. The smaller screen sizes created sharp LCD images, so small-screen TVs became LCD's niche. But in the past few years screen size has grown larger and larger while maintaining sharpness, and the previously poor viewing angles have become as good as plasma televisions can offer. Hi-Def LCD televisions are now a viable competitor to plasma televisions on the home entertainment field.


Built in a similar manner to an LCD TV, in that a sandwich is created by two panels of glass, the material between the two panels is not a liquid gel, but rather a gas.

Though the gap is narrowing, plasma TVs generally exhibit greater brightness and sharper contrast then the competition - especially as the screen size increases. Plasma televisions can be may measure under 5 inches, and have a very wide viewing angle.

The usable lifespan of a plasma TV is 60,000 hours - which would allow you to watch TV for 6 hours a day for 27 years. Hi-Def plasma televisions can boast of contrast ratios of 30,000:1, a significant advantage over less expensive hi-def televisions. Although screen "burn-in" has been an issue in the past, technological advances have reduced this potential drawback to a minimum.

How to Choose

As with every other aspect of your long-awaited home entertainment project, in the long run the amount of money at your disposal will be the biggest factor in which television you ultimately choose. You would need to itemize the components you must buy, and prioritize it.

Audiophiles could choose to spend more money on a hi-tech surround sound system; others might choose to turn over a greater percentage of the budget to the designer. But no matter which option you choose, be comfortable knowing that any of the choices open to you are vastly superior to to what was available even in the recent past.

Frank Sarntarpia
Home Theater
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