A projector is an essential tool in many businesses. If you're in the market for one, you'll want to think carefully about how you're going to use the projector so you can find the features you need at the best price point. For instance, a projector's brightness is a key buying factor, but if you're not planning to give frequent presentations in large conference rooms or classrooms, you may not need high performance in this area.
The following key buying factors will help you choose a projector for your business.
Projector Light Sources
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), DLP (Digital Light Processing) and LED (Light-Emitting Diodes) are the competing projection technologies similar to those used on TV sets. Manufacturers tend to favor one of the three, and each has its distinct advantages and disadvantages.
DLP is the oldest technology, produces a great image, and the equipment holds up well over the long haul, but its image range and zoom is limited. LCD projectors also create a crisp image but carry higher maintenance costs due to the need for a filter and regular replacement of burned-out pixels. Finally, LED is by far the most energy-efficient option. These work quite well, but may not be as bright, so consider the ambient lighting in your room.
Projectors come in a wide array of resolutions. Some of the most common are:
- SVGA (800 x 600)
- XGA (1024 x 768)
- WXGA (1280 x 800 widescreen optimized for computers and phones)
- HD (1920 x 1080) (1080p home theatre widescreen)
- SVGA (1280 x 1024)
- UXGA (1600 x 1200)
- 4K (4096 x 2160 Ultra HD widescreen)
The higher the projector's resolution, the crisper your image—and the higher the price. If you will use your projector mainly for PowerPoint presentations, the SVGA resolution will be fine, while XGA is a good choice for displaying numerical data. You'll only need the higher resolution projectors if you need to clearly display fine details.
If you mainly need to display high definition video from HDTV broadcast or Blu-ray media, then a 1080p (home theatre) projector might be preferable.
Note that, where possible, it is best to match the projector resolution with the input device resolution. For example, if you typically use a widescreen laptop to connect to your projector, you'll obtain the best results with a projector that uses the same display resolution. Otherwise, the displayed image will be scaled to match the resolution of the projector, and the results may not be satisfactory.
The higher the ANSI lumens rating, the brighter the projector's light output. Projectors of 2,500-3,000 lumens put out enough light for normal business or classroom situations, while projectors of 3,000-4,000 lumens produce enough light to display images without washout in large conference rooms and classrooms. For auditoriums, halls, and other larger rooms a projector of 4,000 lumens or more is preferable.
Projector Display Contrast
Projector contrast is expressed as a ratio between the brightest and darkest areas of the image. In general, the higher the contrast ratio, the clearer the graphics and video images will be. You'll want to choose a projector with a very high contrast ratio if you plan to frequently project images with the lights on.
Projector weight is a portability issue. If you're going to be carrying the projector around to present in many different locations, the lighter the better. There are now many projectors available that weigh less than five pounds, which can lighten your load considerably if you're a mobile presenter. However, generally, lighter protectors will cost more.
If you want something really portable, there are tiny, battery-powered projector units available that can be connected to your smartphone. These are perfect for presentations to small groups of people. Some smartphones are even available with projectors built into the phone.
When you buy a projector, you'll choose one that connects to the computer or video source you normally use, of course. But will you always use the same computer or video source? You may need a separate connector cable or adapter in some cases. Check to see if the projector has multiple interface ports (USB, HDMI, Network, Composite Video, etc.) to accommodate your needs for connecting different video sources to the projector.
Some manufacturers even offer Wi-Fi connectivity so no direct cabling is required. The image from the computer screen is transmitted via Wi-Fi to the projector.
Projector Lamp Life
Another factor you may want to consider when buying a projector is the listed lamp life, as replacement lamps can cost hundreds of dollars. For a non-LED projector, a listed lamp life of 3,000 hours or more is excellent. Some projectors come with mode choices, such as "eco-mode," that allow extended lamp life and cut down on operating costs. Projectors that use LEDs as a light source are designed never to need lamp replacement (20,000 or more hours).
Choosing the Right Projector
Choosing which of these features is most important for you will depend on the unique needs of your business. Be sure to consider the variety of situations in which you'll be using the projector in order to decide on the one that fits your needs and budget.