Guide to Video Projectors
Business vs. Home Theater Projectors
Multimedia Projectors are being marketed for use both in the boardroom and in the home. However, there are a few distinct differences between business projectors and home theater projectors that may well lead to great presentations in the boardroom, but not necessarily so in home entertainment.
An affordable yet excellent 2D/3D home video projector capable of excellent picture and bright 100-inch projections at a fraction of the cost of a 70-inch LED TV!
Most of today's multimedia video projectors represent a versatile, practical, and affordable tool that can serve different purposes both in the business as well as in home entertainment.
In addition, the fall in prices and developments in video projection technology have made the digital projector even more accessible to a larger group of home users.
Demand has increased to such an extent that manufactures are not only producing what are referred to as 'cross-over' models, i.e. projectors that can handle both PowerPoint presentations in the office as well as DVD movies at home, but also projectors designed specifically for home theater use. Why?
While it is true that 'cross-over' projectors can handle both worlds, this does not mean that a video projector that can deliver a great presentation in the boardroom, will also deliver a great cinematic experience in the home theater. The reason is that home theater projectors and business projectors have to fulfill distinct requirements in their use, which can only be met if the video projector is designed specifically for the purpose.
What differentiate Business Projectors from Home Theater Projectors?
It is no surprise that video projectors are becoming a popular choice with many home theater enthusiasts. The digital projector can deliver the largest image for your dollar. Simply hook up your DVD or Blu-ray disc and there you have the most cinema-like image in the home. Alternatively, connect your satellite receiver or cable TV set-top box and there you have a huge 100" HDTV for the cost of a 55-inch flat-panel TV.
In a similar manner, today's powerful and easy to use digital multimedia projectors are proving to be more than ideal for business presentations; they are capable of delivering bright huge images under normal ambient room lighting; this is something only dreamt of in the days of the overhead projector! Simply plug in your laptop, iPad, etc., and there you have the most fantastic business presentation in the world!
However, it is important to keep in mind that the boardroom and the home theater are two different arenas that require different beasts. The distinct requirements between the two are important; the discussion that follows explains what attributes apply in either case.
Important Projector Attributes
The brightness level (measured in lumens or ANSI-Lumens) is an indication of the level of light thrown out by the projector. Brightness is a lot more important for business use, this in view that many presentations are given in conference rooms under standard office lighting rather than under low ambient light. This means that the image needs to be bright enough to be seen, otherwise the projected image would look washed out.
For small boardrooms and presentation rooms with a lot of ambient light, a brightness of around 2000 to 2500 lumens should normally be fine. However, keep in mind that the required level of projector brightness depends on the projected screen size, the level of ambient light, and the projection screen gain; we discuss the latter in the following projector screen guide.
For home theater applications, a high brightness level is not important; a 1000 ANSI-Lumens projector should generally suffice in the home for 2D viewing. However, with 3D viewing, you need a brighter projector (typically with a light output of between 1800 to 2400 ANSI Lumens), to make up for the loss of brightness resulting from the 3D glasses.
Some projectors intended for home theater use come with bulb setting to enable the user to dim the light source for improved viewing and deeper blacks when viewing takes place in a darkened room. This has a further advantage of increasing the lamp life.
As discussed in our Contrast Ratio article, even a minimal level of ambient light may render a high contrast image of say 5000:1 similar to one with a contrast ratio of 500:1. This means that though a minimum level of contrast is important for the eye to perceive a sufficient bright image, yet contrast is not an important attribute in business applications, nor it is in home use if one will be using the projector in the living room with the lights turned on.
In reality, anything above 400:1 for contrast ratio would not be perceived by the eye if viewing does not take place in a completely darkened environment. In addition, due to the eye's contrast sensitivity function, a contrast ratio of say 2000:1 would not be perceived as five times better than one with a contrast ratio of 400:1. Therefore, pay more and go for higher contrast ratio video projector only in the case of a home theater projector, and as long as viewing in the home takes place under dimmed lighting.
Color, Gray-Scale Performance, and Smooth Video Playback
These are all attributes that are more critical in home theater applications. In fact, color accuracy with natural-looking skin tones and capability to present subtle detail in bright and dark areas of the image matter more to the home user.
Similarly, the projector's ability to present smooth, video playback with no added motion artifacts, when presenting fast action sports and movie scenes, is of prime importance only in home entertainment application.
LCD or DLP
It all depends. Strictly speaking, both technologies can do a good job in either of these applications in that advancement in technology has closed the gap between the two. Yet LCD projectors are normally the primary choice with business projectors in view that these still have a brightness edge over DLP.
On the other hand, DLP is still the favored technology when it comes to home theater use due to their improved black level performance and smoother looking projections that resembles more closely those at the movie theater. For more information, please refer to our DLP vs. LCD Home Theater Projector Guide.
This is a major issue with the business projector. Smaller and lighter is better, especially if you travel frequently. Weight is more of an issue for the business user. Business mobile professionals will want to hook up a lightweight projector to a computer or laptop, projecting an image on a large screen or wall for presentations.
Most business-oriented projectors weigh just a few pounds - some very light business models weigh no more than three pounds! These video projectors usually come with carrying cases and wireless remote controls that enable the user to control not only the projector, but also to send commands to the PC through appropriate connectivity. Some remotes include an integrated laser pointer.
Most multimedia projectors today support USB plug-and play video connectivity for instant setup once connected to a PC; other features often found on business video projectors include small integrated speakers for the sound and support for security features such as locking cables.
Portability issue is of no concern in the home theater. One would normally setup a fixed place for the projector. For home theater projectors, the best installation spot is on the ceiling. This means that some planning has to go into how best to run cables into the ceiling to connect your projector with the rest of your home theater gear. A great option here is wireless HD support as is the case with the Epson PowerLite 3010 featured above.
It is critical that your video projector comes equipped with the appropriate inputs to enable you to connect with your PC or laptop in the case of a business projector, and home theater gear, DVD, or HDTV set-top-box in the case of a home theater projector.
It is clear that connectivity requirements between these two video projector categories vary. Most models support component, composite, S-video, and RGB connectivity as well as HDMI. With home theater projectors, multiple HDMI connectivity is often desirable. With business projectors, more important is USB2.0 support.
Our advice: Always check before you buy to be sure that the projector has the inputs you need.
Projector Resolution: SVGA, XGA, WVGA, WXGA (720p), or 1080p?
This refers to the native or optical resolution and measures the level of picture detail that the projector can handle without compressing (downscaling) the number of pixels in the original video content. Downscaling degrades picture quality and leads to picture content loss.
This is probably by far the most important video projector attribute that differentiate business from home theater projectors. In reality, more than the number of pixels, what matters most here is how these are arranged on the screen in terms of width vs. height i.e. the native aspect ratio of the projector.
SVGA supports 800 x 600 pixels and represent the least expensive video projectors. XGA supports 1024 x 768 pixels; this represents the ideal resolution requirement for business video projector applications. Higher resolution SXVGA (1280 x 1024 pixels) may be necessary showing fine detail in business presentations that includes graphics and software demos. All these video projector resolutions support a 4:3 aspect ratio.
A word of caution: If the text on a PowerPoint slide makes use of a too small a font to show using a lower resolution SVGA video projector (and therefore necessitates the need of a higher resolution projector), it probably means that the audience at the very back would not be able to read it. In other words, though the higher resolution business projector would show the fine detail, ensure that the size of the fine detail will still show in a readable manner from the farthest viewing position. This seems to imply that in most business applications, an SVGA or XGA video projector should suffice.
Widescreen version of SVGA (WVGA: 854x480) and XGA (WXGA: 1280x720) are also available to enable better projections of widescreen 16:9 content - mainly in home entertainment applications. In the home theater, the minimum requirement is a 720p video projector; however, the ideal home theater projector should support 1080p resolution, i.e. 1920 x 1080 pixels; this supports full HD.
In other words, with home theater projectors, the higher the resolution the better if you want to use a video projector to project huge images on a screen, since you will be less likely to suffer from pixilation issues. It is true that pixilation disappears as one moves further away from the screen but in the home theater, many would prefer to move a little bit closer for a wider angle of view and a more immersing movie experience.
Note: Although most SVGA and XGA projectors support HD connectivity and therefore can display HDTV content, they do not have enough resolution to do it justice. Even with 852 x 480 pixel DVD content, the use of an SVGA or XGA video projector with its 4:3 pixel arrangement does not do a good job; the best way is to make use of a widescreen video projector.