Multimedia Projectors Buying Guide
If you’re on the market for a new home theater projector or a business projector, this projector buying guide for 2016 has you covered. We discuss the essentials of picking the right projector for your needs, including types of projectors, resolution, brightness, and more. The right multimedia projector could mean the difference between a great or poor presentation.
Projector brightness is rated in ANSI lumens, and most projectors range from 700 to 5, 000 lumens, with a higher lumen count meaning a brighter picture. Brightness affects how well you can see the projected image in your environment. The more ambient light a room has, the brighter your projector needs to be to compensate. Otherwise, the image will look washed out and barely visible. The ideal room setting for a projector is perfectly dark, where even a low brightness projector can produce a brilliant image.
If you don’t know how bright of a projector you need, the general rule of thumb is to purchase the brightest one in your budget and reduce the brightness as needed. Since a projector’s brightness is tied to its price, one trick to lowering costs on the projector is to reduce the amount of ambient light in the room.
Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest and darkest light levels of a projector. If you care about high quality shadows and rich black levels, you need a high contrast ratio. But anything lower than optimal viewing conditions will reduce contrast ratio, potentially causing the image to look washed out no matter how high the listed contrast ratio. Make sure you can get optimal viewing conditions before buying a projector with a very high contrast ratio.
Projectors range in resolution from as low as 800 × 600 for business models, to 4K for theater use. Most home theater projectors tend to support full HD 1080p natively. For displaying PowerPoint presentations, multimedia, and web pages, a 720p-capable projector will do fine. Only consider a 1080p model if you plan to display HD movies.
When a projector isn’t mounted properly—too low to the ground or too close to the ceiling— the projected image will appear as an odd trapezoid (keystone) rather than a perfect square or rectangle. Most projectors can correct for this effect to a point, using what’s called keystone correction.
Keystone correction is done on the software level, like digital zoom on a DSLR camera. And like digital zoom, image quality deteriorates as more correction is applied. If you cannot adjust the positioning of your screen and projector, you’ll want to get a model with good keystone correction or lens shift—more on that below.
The lens shift feature on a projector allows you to physically move the projection lens to correct for sub-optimal mounting. Think of it as keystone correction but with no loss of image quality due to software calculations. Not all projectors have the same level of lens shift. Some can only shift either vertical or horizontal, higher-end models can do both. Some may not even have lens shift capability.
Throw Ratio and Throw Distance
Want to know where to place your projector? Or maybe you have a mount already installed and need to find a projector that works for the placement? In both cases, you should check throw ratio and throw distance.