What To Look For In A Projector

What To Look For In A Projector main image What To Look For In A Projector image

There are many options and features available when selecting a projector. Understanding what all these features mean and what to look for, can be a challenge. Often it is hard to know why one projector is much more expensive than the other. Making a decision based solely on price could create problems, frustration with setups and sometimes no image at all! It pays to do some quick research and ask a few questions from your rental house before making a decision about which projector is right for you.

In this article, we have tried to simplify the process and provide a quick guide with a few key points to keep in mind when you are looking at hiring a projector. As always, it is definitely a case of you get what you pay for.

Projector brightness is measured in lumens. All projectors have a manufacturer rated lumen rating. This is a measure of how bright a projector and/or projector lamp is. The higher the lumens, the brighter "light" the projector will provide, this is a big factor in situations where there is some ambient light or even complete daylight. A projector with a low lumen rating will not be able to cope with any ambient light and will produce a washed out to almost invisible image. A higher lumen projector will provide a much clearer and vivid image with ambient light. Generally, natural light and projectors don't mix, no matter how bright the projector is. Anything less than 2000 lumens is considered very low. A 4000 lumen projector is good option for low to mid level light conditions. Cinema projectors would reach 10,000-20,000 lumens.

Throw Distance / Projector Lens
The throw distance is an area that is often over looked. Most projectors offer a very long throw distance. What this means is that the projector needs to be much further away from the screen to create its maximum size image. This is a big problem when you are restricted by the total length of the room, as is often the case in a boardroom or a regular lounge. Selecting a short throw projector, or a projector with a short throw lens, will allow you to reach the projectors manufacturer specified maximum image size in a much smaller area. If a projector can produce a large image, but requires 5m distance (from the screen) to achieve this image, you will never be able to use it to its full potential in a small room. Short throw projectors are also generally much more vivid and brighter, as the light has less distance to travel and is focused in a shorter space. Traditional power point style office projectors (Acer, Epsom, ViewSonic etc) are not great in this department. Always ask what the throw distance of the projector is before making a decision.

Keystone / Kerning
This is a very handy setting that is not a standard feature in all projectors. It will allow the projector to change the vertical and horizontal access of the image so that it can still display a completely square projection, even if the projector is on an angle to the screen, or below or above the ideal horizon line of the screen. Setting up a projector in perfect position directly in front (or behind) the screen may not always be an option. Sometimes you have to work with the dynamics of the room, such as, hanging points, fixed furniture, cable paths etc. Having the flexibility to position the projector anywhere (within reason) in relation to screen provides much more flexibility and ease of setup.

Manual Focus and Zoom
This is a common feature with projectors, although in some cases, this feature can only be accessed by entering the projectors setup navigation menu. With manual focus and zoom, the user can manually focus and zoom the projector with traditional dials (similar to a 35mm camera). This negates the need to enter the projector menu and offers very quick fine tuning during a presentation without disruption to the image.

Noise Level
Most older projectors have very noisy fans to keep the lamps and electrics cool. This can ruin the mood during any silent portion of a presentation or suspense moments in a movie. If excessive noise could cause problems during your presentation, ask your rental house what the noise level of the projector is before making your decision.

Image Rotation
This is also a common feature in any good projector, particularly projectors that are specifically designed with video performance in mind. Image Rotation (Image Flip) provides the ability to flip the image on either axis. This is crucial if the projector is being mounted upside down, or if the presentation requires rear projection, which means the image needs to be reversed so that the audience in front of the screen see the mirrored (or correct) image.

Most modern projectors (even models manufactured and sold in 2012) are based on XVGA resolution which is 1080x720. Full HD is not a common standard feature, as found in any flat panel TV. If full HD detail is an integral part of your presentation, animation or game console, ask your rental house if the projector is FULL HD.

Ensure that the projector you are hiring has the right inputs for your job and is compatible with your device. All projectors will have standard RCA, VGA(Computer) and DVI (Computer) / HDMI inputs. Some models will also offer component (red, green and blue), Ethernet and variations of HDMI. Some models won't have component input, but will provide this feature using an adaptor and through their secondary VGA port. Although HDMI and DVI connections are interchangeable with an inexpensive and small video adaptor, it is important to note that some devices have copyright protection on their HDMI signal. This copyright protection is a necessity to protect the intellectual property of digital media content, such as, Blu-Ray or games. As a result, this can sometimes have impact on the compatibility of the devices video signal with an HDMI convertor or digital/analogue video convertor. This is particularly the case with Sony PS3. It always pays to check what inputs you need and if the projector you are hiring is capable of accepting all of these inputs. Most rental houses should carry various video adaptors for smart phones, iPad, Game Consoles etc.