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Here's a quick look at some common projection concerns for presenters:

   • How bright should my projector be?
   • How do I get the best image?
   • How portable should my projector be?
   • Which features make a projector easy to use?
   • Is there more to look for?

How bright should my projector be? [Top]

Projector brightness is measured in ANSI lumens. DLP and LCD projectors come in various sizes and brightness to fit the various needs of consumers.

Portable Projectors

Ultra-portable projectors (range from around 1000-2500 lumens in brightness. Low or lights-off presentations are generally considered less desirable, as they allow for less visual interaction with the audience. A projector with at least 800 lumens is desirable for use in rooms where there will be little ambient light. You should also consider the size of your typical audience when selecting the right brightness. Larger audiences require larger images, which also require higher lumen output.

• 1000-1200 lumens for lights-off, low ambient light, presentations
• 1500-2000 lumens with some ambient light
• 2000-2500 lumens with bright ambient light

Training/Conference Room Projectors

Typically, the brightest projectors (around 2500-7000 lumens) are slightly less portable. These larger projectors (around 10-25 lbs.) are perfect for conference rooms, training rooms and classrooms.

• 2500 lumens for audiences of less than a hundred with ambient light
• 3000 lumens for audiences of 100-200 with ambient light
• 5000 lumens for audiences of 100 or more under bright lights

How do I get the best image? [Top]

Choosing a Resolution

The fast and easy answer to getting the best image is to match your projector resolution to your computer resolution. XGA (1024x768) resolution currently commands more of the projector market share than SVGA (800x600) or SXGA (1280x1024) resolutions. For more about resolution click here.

What is Uniformity?

There is more to image quality than just resolution. Brightness uniformity is also important. Uniformity is the percentage of brightness carried from corner to corner and edge to edge of your image. A higher uniformity rating means better consistency throughout your image. For the most consistent images, look for a uniformity rating of 85% or better.
• Match the computer's resolution to your projector's resolution
• Brightness uniformity should be 85% or better
• XGA (1024x768) is the most common projector resolution sold today in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Did you know? Many business projectors produce such brilliant and clear video that you can also use them for big screen, cinematic images at home. HDTV compatibility in your projector is something you may want to consider if you have the option of taking your projector home. For more about projectors for your home click here.

How portable should my projector be? [Top]

Thanks to advancing technology, presentation projectors have become more portable than ever. Portable projectors weigh in around 3 to 8 lbs. and have footprints that are smaller than a laptop computer. A good travel case that carries both a projector and a laptop is a convenient accessory for 'road warrior' presenters.

• Portable projectors range from 3 to 8 lbs.
• Choose a smaller footprint for easier portability.
• Invest in case that carries laptop and projector for added convenience.

Additional considerations for Road Warriors:
• You will want at least 1200 lumens to combat ambient light.
• Remote with mouse control frees you from the computer. Check the specs because not all projectors ship with this option.
• Wireless projectors can save you set-up time.

Which features make a projector easy to use? [Top]

Most of today's portable projectors are very easy to use. They come with about as much hardware as a laptop. Usually just two to three cords (power, PS II mouse, and audio/video cables) and the projector itself pack into a bag small enough to carry on the plane, or place in the back seat.

Projectors are plug-and-play, user-friendly and can be set-up in a matter of minutes. Even with the challenges of a constantly changing environment, in most cases all you will need to shine is a power outlet.

• Most projectors are plug-and-play user friendly.
• Most projectors come with as few as 2 or 3 cables.
• Most projectors can be set up in minutes.
Quick Tip: Always run a "dummy presentation" before you hit the road. That way our Tech Support team can help you with any setup problems you may experience before the big day.

Is there more to look for?

Many projectors have added features that can make your presenting life easier and more successful. Here are some examples:
• Wireless projectors for easy set-up. New wireless products are very easy to setup and operate.
• Networkability for control from remote location and added security
• Component video inputs for better quality video
• Digital keystone correction for versatility in projector placement
• Wireless mouse control, for freedom to move while you present
• Lens shift for more convenient set-up

LCD and DLP technology offer different benefits. LCD projectors typically offer better color accuracy, and DLP projectors have higher contrast ratios for deeper blacks and richer colors.You may not require all of these bells and whistles, but keep them in mind when choosing the right projector for you. Click here to search our database by feature.

  Home Theatre Projector Buyers Guide

We understand that each home theater is unique, so we recommend contacting a Projector Expert with specific questions about your space. However, this fast and easy guide will get you started with the basics.

How bright is bright enough for my home? [Top]

Brightness is measured in ANSI lumens. For home theater projectors, brightness typically ranges from 700 - 2000 lumens or more. Your viewing environment will be a big part of determining how bright your projector needs to be. Dedicated home theaters (rooms with controlled lighting and no ambient light) will not require as much brightness as a space with ambient light from windows or other household lighting.

Projector People recommends the following lumen outputs:

  • Dedicated home theaters need 1000 lumens or better.
  • Rooms with some ambient light should have at least 1200 lumens.
  • Spaces with high ambient light need about 2000 lumens.

Tip: In many cases, manufacturers rate projector lumen values based on data output, not video. Lumen output for video is typically not as high as data. For help determining which projector is right for your viewing environment, contact one of our sales professionals. Our Projector Experts have personally seen most units perform in video mode.

How much do I need to know about image quality? [Top]

The three most important factors to consider when looking for image quality are native resolution, your source material, and brightness uniformity.Currently WVGA (854x480), ¾ HD (960x540), and WXGA-H (1280x720) are the most common home theater projector resolutions. A WXGA-H projector has about twice the number of pixels of a WVGA projector. More pixels mean a sharper looking image, and better compatibility with high-definition sources.

Available 16:9 resolutions


848 x 480

407,040 total pixels

WSVGA (or 1/4 HD)

964 x 544

524,416 total pixels


1280 x 720

921,600 total pixels


1366 x 768

1,049,088 total pixels

Projector People recommends a WXGA-H (1280x720) or high resolution XGA (1024x768) native 4:3 products, as your best choice for HDTV. If you primarily use a DVD player (with a resolution of 480p) a WVGA will cost you less, and is worth considering if you don't see HDTV in your future.What you are watching will make a big difference in the quality of your image. A low-quality signal into your projector will most likely look like a low-quality signal when projected, and on a larger screen may be even more noticeable. For best results, you should try and match the native resolution of your source material. A progressive scan DVD player is typically a 480p signal, while HDTV signals are still not totally standardized, although 720p or 1080i seem to be the most common. Projectors designed for home theater applications will usually include some kind of video scaling technology which improves the appearance of non-native signals. Ask your Projector Expert for more about scaling technology.

Brightness uniformity will also affect the overall quality of your image. Uniformity is the percentage of brightness carried from corner to corner and edge to edge of your image. A higher uniformity rating means better consistency throughout your image. For the most consistent images, look for a uniformity rating of 85% or better.

What connections will give me the clearest images?

Connectivity and compatibility also factor into getting the sharpest, clearest images. Projectors specifically designed for home theater often have multiple video inputs, special video micro-chips and other features. Projector People recommends that the projector you buy for home theater have at least one component video input and/or an HDMI or DVI connection. Sometimes a component video inputs look like a composite input, but it splits the video signal into three separate parts rather than one and can be identified by a red, green and blue connector. You may also be able to receive a component signal via a VGA input. Component video It is the most common type of high quality signal available today, though DVI and HDMI are available on most new HD sources. DVI and HDMI are more future-proof.

Nearly all projectors will have at least one composite and one S-Video connection. S-video cables differ from composite cables in that they split video signal into two different components: luminance and chrominance. The S-video cable will offer marked improvement over a composite cable. Composite inputs may come in handy though, as it is still on some new equipment, and nearly all legacy sources. DVI and HDMI cables are the latest in high definition connectivity. Both carry true high-definition signals, but there are a few differences. The HDMI connector is smaller, and carries digital quality audio. Either of these connectivity options will help to future proof your purchase, as more manufacturers seem to be choosing DVI or HDMI on DVD players and HDTV receivers to transport their HDTV signals.

What do I need to know about lamp life? [Top]
LCD and DLP projectors typically have a lamp life between 2000-4000 hours. This specification is actually referring to the 'half-life' of the lamp. The half-life is the point where the lamp is half as bright as it was new. The lamp will still work at its half-life, but it will continue to gradually lose brightness. Longer lamp life means less expense in maintaining your projector.

If you are planning to use your projector to replace your current television, lamp replacement cost should be factored into your purchase. Replacement lamps run approximately $200-$400.If your projector will be used primarily for watching movies and special events, lamp life will not be quite as important. But you may still want to factor the cost of a replacement lamp into your purchase. The average projector used in this manner runs approximately 8 hours a week.

  • Lamps typically last between 2000-4000 hours.
  • Replacement lamps cost between $200-$400.
  • Regular filter cleaning and proper operation will improve lamp life. See lamp life tips here »
  • The average projector used for movies and special events runs 8 hours a week. At this rate, the a lamp will last aproximately 4.8 years.

Quick Tip: If you purchase a spare lamp with your projector, run it in your projector for a few hours first, then store it somewhere cool and dark. Lamp warranties begin from the day of purchase, not from the day of use. If a lamp is faulty, it will usually fail within the first 4 to 10 hours of opperation.

Which features make my projector easy to use? [Top]

When selecting your projector, look for intuitive menus. Particularly those that allow you to easily adjust color fidelity, choose between HDTV and NTSC broadcast, and easily switch your video sources. Full function remote controls are also a plus if you want to make your life a little easier. With or without these special features, most of today's projectors are very easy to use.

  • Intuitive, user-friendly menus
  • One-touch video source 'switching'
  • Full-function remote controls
  • Lens shift and wider zoom ranges (easier to install)

Projector People sales representatives have seen the projectors we sell in action. For tips on which projectors are the easiest to use, consult a projector expert directly.

Should I install my projector or set it on a tabletop?
[ Top ]

Home Installation Diagram One choice you should make early on in your purchasing decision process is whether you want to ceiling mount your projector or simply put it on a tabletop when you want to use it. Each option has its advantages.

Ceiling Mounting

Ceiling mounting your projector will get it out of the way, creating a more polished look for your viewing area, while keeping your projector more secure. Keeping the projector in a fixed area will also save you the time of setting up your projector for each use. However, an installed projector is less portable and will require a bit more planning than straightforward tabletop use.
If you plan to ceiling mount your projector, you will need to know the fixed distance between the projector and your screen. This is because different projectors have different throw ratios. The throw ratio is the relationship between your projectors distance from your screen and the width of the image. For example, if your projector will be ceiling mounted ten feet away from your screen, your image will be larger than if your projector is only five feet away.

Table Top Projection

Most video projectors weigh less than 20 pounds and are easy to transport from location to location. That means you can take your 'big screen TV' with you to the homes of friends and family, or host an outdoor movie projected on the garage door without any heavy lifting. However, you will have to set up your projector for each use, and your primary viewing area will not have the polished look of an installation. If you decide that tabletop projection is right for you, consider a projector with less fan noise. Aim for around 32dB or less for 'whisper quiet' fans. You may also want to consider the overall product's exterior design since the projector will be visible.

  • Purchase a ceiling mountable projector (not all can be ceiling mounted).
  • Determine the distance between projector and screen.
  • Be sure to leave enough space between projector and wall to ensure proper ventilation.
For tabletop use:
  • Aim for less than a 30dB noise rating.
  • Look for a projector design that suits your taste.
  • Consider the distance projector will be placed from your screen.

Best of Both Worlds?

A ceiling mounted projector can be removed from its permanent perch if desired. It is a good idea to keep extra cables on hand for those special occasions, because installed cables are not practical to remove. You should also consider purchasing a quick release mount.

Quick Tip: Projector People recommends that you purchase your projector before purchasing a screen. Even with thorough planning, things happen and custom-made screens can't be returned. Install your projector first, start it up, and then decide which screen best fits your needs. This also gives you a chance to make sure the projector meets your expectations.


What is 'native' aspect ratio?
[Top ]

Because a projector is a "fixed resolution" display device, they have what is called a "native aspect ratio." The most common aspect ratios for projectors are 4:3, 5:4 and 16:9. That means that the chip (or panel) inside the projector is shaped in the specified 4:3, 5:4 or 16:9 proportions. Think of the chip as a miniature version of the image you will see on your screen. Currently the most common aspect ratio in projectors is 4:3, which is the same as most televisions and computer monitors.

Dedicated Home Theater

A 16:9 native aspect ratio is designed primarily for home theater use. This is because widescreen DVD and HDTV signals are broadcast or encoded in the 16:9 format. Home theater enthusiasts tend to prefer 16:9 aspect ratios because they are closer to original 35mm film format. 4:3 projectors can also display widescreen images however, and can also be a good choice for home theater use.

Multi-Use Projectors - 'Black Bars' or 'Letterboxing'

Many projectors, whether in a 16:9 or 4:3 native aspect ratio, are able to display multiple aspect ratios. However, while displaying their non-native signals, you will see black bars either on the sides (16:9 displaying 4:3), or at the top and bottom (4:3 displaying 16:9) of your image.

Quick Tip: The 16:9 mode on your projector should be used exclusively with anamorphic DVDs. Set your DVD player to output to a 16:9 television and the projector to 16:9 mode to achieve the desired results.


Is there more to look for? [ Top ]

There are of course, the little things. The things that make you love technology. The stuff you show all your friends while their jaws drop and say, "Wow!" For a projector, some of those features include:

  • Multiple aspect ratio support
  • Picture-in-picture or picture-by-picture
  • Cinema mode for richer color and quieter fan
  • Back lit remote control
  • DVI with HDCP compliance or HDMI inputs
  • Lens shift for easier installation
  • Internal scalers
  • Screen triggers for remote operation of electric screens
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