Choosing the right projector.
Home theater projectors
Home theater projectors emphasize image quality and high contrast, with deep blacks and rich color saturation. If you’re looking for an even more immersive viewing experience, 4K projectors deliver incredible detail and vibrant color to bring movies, gaming and more to life.
Home theater projectors simulate a dark movie theater environment, so they work best in a dedicated room where you can control the amount of light that enters the space from outside. However, you can compensate for ambient light by choosing a home theater projector with high brightness and investing in a high-quality reflective screen to improve how the image is displayed in partially or fully lit rooms.
If you plan to use your projector for meetings, presentations or classroom instruction, you'll need a business projector, also known as a multimedia or data projector.
These projectors are brighter than home theater projectors, so they work well in rooms with overhead lighting and windows. Business projectors are designed primarily to display static images, such as graphs and PowerPoint slides, but they also work for multimedia and entertainment use.
- Uses mirrors to reflect light onto a screen
- Smooth motion for videos and fast-action scenes
- 1-chip DLP typically small and lightweight
- 3-chip DLP typically found in premium projectors
- 3 LCD panels displaying different colors combine to make a vibrant image
- Impressive color output or brightness
- No moving parts
- Uses liquid crystal chips with a mirrored backing to create a high-resolution picture
- Mostly found on premium projectors
- Great contrast and black levels
- JVC refers to this technology as D-ILA
- Sony refers to this technology as SXRD
|Boot time||Needs to warm up/cool down before powering on/off||Turns on/off quickly||Turns on/off quickly|
|Life||Estimated up to 10,000 hours of usage time||Estimated up to 20,000–30,000 hours of usage time||Estimated up to 20,000 hours of usage time|
|Features||Bright light, but degrades over time||Brightest of the three lighting types||Low draw on power, making LED extremely portable|
|Size||Medium or larger projectors||Larger projectors||Smaller, portable projectors|
|Price||Found in a wide range of projectors||Premium projectors||Less expensive projectors|
|Maintenance||Bulbs can be replaced||Low maintenance||Low maintenance|
|Experience||Ideal for occasional use for things like family movie night||Ideal for cinematic experience seekers, usually in a home theater||Ideal for someone looking for portability and a compact size|
The total number of pixels that a projector can display defines the projector's native resolution. The more pixels you can fit in the display, the crisper and more detailed your images will appear. The higher the resolution, the closer you can sit to the screen without viewing a pixelated image. Resolutions range from 480p on the low end to our most common resolutions, which include 720p (HD), 1080p (Full HD), and up to 4K or 8K for incredibly realistic images and lifelike picture quality.
You'll get the best image quality by matching the projector resolution to the resolution of the video source you plan to use most often. For example, if you want to watch movies on your 4K Blu-ray player, you'll need a 4K projector to view the movies at full resolution. If you want to share your laptop screen, choose a projector with the same image format as your laptop, such as XGA for a 1024 x 768 display.
|Resolution||Lines of resolution||Pixels||Description|
High definition (HD)
|720p||921,600||The original HD. High Definition TVs provide double the resolution of any analog TV|
|1080p||2.1 million||Twice the clarity of standard HD, delivering impressive resolution on smaller screens|
|2160p||8 million||Superior pixel power delivers four times the resolution of Full HD on any screen size|
|4320p||33 million||An unbeatable 33 million pixels for exquisite resolution on really big screens|
Projector brightness is measured by lumens; the higher the lumens, the brighter the projector will be at a given distance. Two separate brightness measurements can help you choose a projector that will display bright, colorful images in any lighting:
- White brightness (white light output) indicates the total amount of white light emitted by the projector, without measuring color.
- Color brightness (color light output) measures how bright the projected colors will be. The higher the number, the more detail and vibrancy you will see.
Make sure to compare both brightness measurements. If the color brightness of a projector is lower than its white brightness, the images and details it displays may be dark or dull.
If you're buying a business projector, you'll want a brighter output, so look for a higher lumen rating in both white and color brightness.
If you're buying a home theater projector, brighter is not necessarily better. Instead, you want enough brightness for rich color contrast but not so much that it washes out dark-scene details.
The throw ratio tells you how wide the image will be when you place the projector at a certain distance from the screen. For example, a 1.8:1 ratio will produce a 5-foot wide image when you place the projector 9 feet from the screen (5 feet x 1.8).
Calculating the throw ratio is especially important if you plan to permanently mount the projector. If you can't install the projector far enough away from the screen due to space limitations, you may need a short throw projector. A short throw projector will allow you to place the projector much closer to the screen, while still displaying a wide enough image to fill the entire screen.
Not sure what size projector or screen you need? Use the Projector Calculator to find the maximum and minimum screen sizes and projection distances for various projectors.
Wireless projectors, adapters and streaming capabilities
If you want to project photos or a PowerPoint presentation wirelessly from your laptop, smartphone or tablet, you'll need a projector with wireless capabilities. Some projectors allow you to send an HDMI signal wirelessly from the video source to the projector using a wireless HD transmitter that's either built in or sold separately. You can download a wireless projector app for iOS or Android that works with your specific projector brand.
Some wireless projectors have built-in voice assistants and streaming capabilities. With a voice assistant, you can control your projector using your voice. Models with streaming capabilities allow you to stream movies, music and more by connecting directly to the internet. If the projector doesn’t have streaming built-in, you can connect a streaming device to enjoy your favorite movies and more.
If you'll be setting up your portable projector in different places where you won't always have control over the screen size or placement of the projector, you can use the lens zoom to adjust the image size. By adjusting the lens zoom, you won't have to move the projector closer or farther away from the screen in order to adjust the image size.
The greater the zoom ratio, the larger you can make the image. For example, a 1.2x zoom creates an image up to 20% larger than the minimum size. A 2.0x zoom creates an image twice the minimum size. Not all projectors feature a lens zoom; portable projectors, for example, often exclude the lens zoom in order to make the projector as compact as possible.
Home theater projectors
Home theater projectors typically include one or more HDMI inputs for your cable or satellite box, Blu-ray player, gaming console and other devices. Your home theater projector may also include other ports, such as component video, VGA, an SD card slot and USB. Audio outputs allow you to connect to your sound system.
Make sure you have the right type and right number of connections that you'll need. For example, if you want to connect a Blu-ray player, gaming console and HD cable box to your home theater projector, you'll need a projector with at least three HDMI inputs.
Why use a screen?
Although you can use a white wall as a screen in a pinch, a high-quality projection screen will make the picture look better and brighter. Since the screen reflects light, it works with your projector to make colors and images pop off the screen. Every screen is rated according to its gain factor, or how efficiently it reflects light. The higher the gain, the brighter the image will be on the screen.
White screens enhance brightness, which is especially beneficial for business use, where you'll be viewing images in a well-lit room and presenting documents and graphs with a white background. Gray screens boost color contrast and make 3D images stand out more, which makes it a good color choice for a home theater room with ambient lighting or light-colored walls.
With a projector and screen, you can make images much larger than most HDTVs can. The screen size needs to match the aspect ratio of your projector, such as 4:3, 16:9 or 2.4:1.
Screen sizes range from 50" measured diagonally to 300" measured diagonally or even larger. You'll want to make sure the screen will fit your space before you make your purchase. Measuring the ceiling height, making sure the screen is high enough off the floor to see over a coffee table or other furniture, and figuring out where you'll mount the center speaker are all issues to take into consideration when choosing how big you want to go.