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Choosing Your Projector

With over 200 projectors now on the market from an increasing number of manufacturers how do you choose the best projector for your requirements? The purpose of this page is to help you to make that choice and to understand the main parameters involved. 

There are a number of major factors to consider in selecting the right projector along with any number of minor factors to influence your decision. The major factors are WEIGHT, BRIGHTNESS, RESOLUTION, CONTRAST RATIO, TECHNOLOGY and BUDGET - the priority order is down to you. Other factors include type of technology, number of inputs, lamp life, cost of replacement lamps, manufacturer, warranty, special features, supplier after-sales support, etc. We address each major factor in turn.

WEIGHT - Data projectors are generally categorised into 5 groups: SUB MICRO PORTABLES, MICRO PORTABLES, PORTABLE, DESKTOP and FIXED INSTALLATION. Each heading gives some clue towards the intended application and weight. 

Sub Micro Portables are the latest development in projectors providing convenience in a small package. Weighing in at under 2.0kg this category includes both SVGA and XGA versions and are ideal for mobile presentations. Due to the compact nature of these projectors, prices tend to be a little higher than comparable performance models in the Micro Portables and Portables categories.

Micro Portables are small enough to be classed as micro without the increase in price attached to the Sub Micro range. These projectors weigh in between 2.0 and 2.9Kgs and as with most projectors are available in both SVGA and XGA resolutions. These projectors tend to have less features than their big brothers in the Portables category. As with Sub-Micro Portables, these models are ideal for mobile presentations but on a budget.

Portables are the most popular choice in projectors for mobile presentations due to the weight and features. Many of today's models offer high brightness (up to 4500 ANSI lumens) and often include a range of advanced features such as auto keystone correction, USB presentations, etc. Weight range is regarded as between 3.0 - 4.9kg and most major manufacturers now offer these in XGA resolution. Many portables can be permanently installed and if you need a projector with features for mobile presentations then this is the best category for you.

Desktop Projectors are within the range of 5.0kg to 9.9kg and designed more for office environments where a projector may be needed for different rooms and occasional mobile presentations. Available up to SXGA resolution this category generally accommodate higher brightness and more features than available on Portables e.g. additional source inputs, network control, lens shift, etc. As well as being extremely useful for good performance in a variety of settings, this category is the most popular for fixed installations.

Fixed Installation projectors are 10.0kg and above and designed more for large lecture halls, presentation suites and conference venues. They can be ceiling mounted or desk/table top and can offer the highest brightness of all categories. Training suites and Auditoriums are best served by fixed installation projectors. High in features and flexibility they are also generally the more expensive category.  

BRIGHTNESS - The light output from the projector commonly expressed in ANSI lumens (American National Standards Institute measurement of candle power). The choice here is determined by the environment i.e. ambient and localised light levels, and by the image size required. In a darkened room a brightness of 1500 ANSI lumens will produce an acceptable image on a screen width up to 1.5m and 2000 ANSI lumens is adequate for similar size projection in daylight conditions. Above 2500 ANSI lumens will produce good quality images in most meeting environments. For conferences and larger venues with a capacity of 50+, 2500 ANSI lumens should be considered as a minimum and we recommend a demonstration to assess the performance prior to purchasing. Fixed installation projectors generally have greater brightness (up to 3000 for theatre/auditoriums) but with a commensurate price tag. Often, the type and size of screen used can greatly enhance the apparent brightness of a presentation but as a general rule the greater the image size and the lighter the environment, the greater the required brightness. It is also important to note that lamps reduce in brightness during their life so over-specifying brightness and running the projector in low lamp mode is a good idea.

RESOLUTION - This relates to picture clarity and proportions (aspect ratio) and is expressed as the number of pixels displayed. The following terms are commonly applied: SVGA = 800 x 600, XGA = 1024 x 768, SXGA = 1280 x 1024 and UXGA _1600 x 1200_. Widescreen (16:9/16:10) variations are also available such as WXGA (generally regarded as 1366 x 768) and WSXGA. The higher the resolution, the crisper the image (subject to distance) - and generally the higher the price! XGA is the most common format but the widescreen variants are increasingly popular. Under normal presentation circumstances, SVGA will be_acceptable but for fine line drawings or spreadsheets, XGA is recommended. Data projectors have a single true resolution but may accommodate other resolutions using in-built compression or expansion technology. It is best practice to match your projector with the native resolution of your computer or other input source.

CONTRAST RATIO - This is an indication of the dynamic range of a projector and is a measurement of the difference between the projector’s white and apparent black (projectors can’t project black though). Very simply, low contrast ratios offer poorer colour distinction than high ratios. This ratio, in combination with the brightness, resolution and screen size will determine the image quality. Ratios of 400:1 and above yield good performance for most applications but if projecting over long distances or in daylight conditions opt for the highest ratio you can.

TECHNOLOGY – There are 2 main types of technology available in projectors: DLP and LCD. DLP (Digital Light Processing) uses micro-mirrors to reflect light through a spinning colour wheel and tend to offer smoother images ideal for video. Although entry level models tend to be cheaper than their LCD counterparts, they often struggle with certain colours and whites sometimes appear unrealistically bright. At the higher end of the scale (5000 lumens and above) DLP models tend to be higher priced than equivalent LCD models but are excellent performers. LCD projectors throughout the brightness range tend to deliver vibrant, sharp images and are the most popular choice for installations.

BUDGET - Often a decisive factor in choosing the right projector. In general you get what you pay for - the higher the specification the more it will cost but as with most technology related products you get more for your money today than you did 12 months ago. Ultimately the amount you spend on a projection system should reflect its importance to your organisation. It’s worth looking at the total cost of ownership rather than just the initial cost though, such as warranty, cost of lamps, lamp life, maintenance, etc.

– We hope that this information is helpful but if you need any further advice we’re more than happy to make recommendations appropriate to your needs. If you are looking to have a projection system installed we recommend a site survey by one of our engineers who are familiar with the latest projector models and can advise you on the best overall solution as well as presenting a range of options. Site surveys are usually subject to a nominal fee which is refundable against purchase.

PROmotivations represent leading manufacturers of projectors in the UK. We conduct extensive price checks every month to ensure a highly competitive approach and offer spares, accessories and maintenance packages to compliment our after sales support. We carry out installations throughout the UK in venues ranging from small offices up to the nation’s biggest churches, ancient and modern and operate to the highest standards to ensure peace of mind.
Please feel free to call us on 0845 370 3220 if we can help.

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