How to choose the right video projector, my 2 cents

October 2, 2004

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If you’re in the market for a new front projection unit, for your home theater or media room, I salute you. You’re going to be faced with as many choices as new cars at the local car dealer, actually more. In 2005 alone over 100 new video projectors are slated to be launched. Among these are several models from each of the current crop of technologies, and among those several models that are basically clones of each other, branded under another manufacturer’s name.

Where o’ where to begin, first you’ll need to determine what technology you want, for your home theater. The most popular at the moment are DLP and LCD respectively, with a smattering of DILA and the old standby CRT. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume were talking about a DLP or LCD, for basically no other reason than if your in the market for a CRT, DILA, or LCoS, then you’re already well aware of the differences involved. Also to be considered is what screen format, 16:9 or 4:3. I honestly cant remember the last time I recommended a 4:3 screen, as HDTV is much better suited for 16:9.


All right, with that said let’s narrow it down from there. If a client asks me point blank, what should I buy? 99% of the time I answer DLP. This is not to say LCD doesn’t have its place, actually many LCD’s offer higher resolution than their DLP counterparts at the same price point. What it really boils down to for me is pixel structure, or the dreaded “screen door effect”. This is really nothing more than how fine the projector can draw each individual pixel, or how tight they are together. The finer and more closely aligned the individual pixels are, the smoother the image will appear.

It’s been my experience that DLP’s offer the advantage in this area, however this is not an absolute rule. Projectors, such as the Sony Qualia, offer one of if not the best images from any projector currently available, but at 27k shouldn’t it? The average price of HDTV capable DLP is well under 10K and many can be found under 5K. One of the best selling DLP’s of late actually retails around $1500, the Infocus 4805, while only offering EDTV resolution it is still a solid performer and offers excellent image quality, in its price range.

Most importantly when comparing video projectors is, if at all possible, go see it! Whether at a local dealer or trade show, don’t listen to sales pitches and hyperbole when your potentially, about to drop 5k on a piece of electronics gear. I highly recommend forming a relationship with a local dealer. They can offer immensely valuable services and advice you won’t find online. You may or may not find something in your price range, but you will come away knowing more about what you’re after.

B.Greenway

**edit**

This is as good a time as any to introduce someone who regularly contributes here, his reply to this article perfectly illustrates why it’s so important, if at all possible to go and see the projector you’re interested in, before you buy it.

Dithermaster seems to be more sensitive to DLP rainbows than I am, where I seem to notice pixel structure more (I have to sit real close, with my setup) Granted LCD’s have gotten much much better, in the last few years, but unfortunately the projector he ultimately settled on was a few hundred dollars out of my budget.

I look forward to seeing some of the stuff Dithermaster’s working on for the site.

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My own humble experience says that screen door is no longer an issue.

Some history: I am a DLP fan. I discounted LCD when I first started researching projectors years ago due to screen door effect (SDE). SDE is the space between pixels that is not lit. It is larger for LCD than DLP.

SDE was a huge problem for 800×600 LCD projectors, no doubt. An 800×600 DLP, by comparison, displays a much more solid picture.

However, at 1280×720 (or, 1388×788 for the Sony projectors, until recently), SDE is very, very small. And, in my opinion, no longer is issue.

Furthermore, sampling theory (google for “sampling theory shannon nyquist”) would suggest that even if SDE were non-existant (as it approaches on DLP), you would *still* want to slightly de-focus your projector so the pixels blend into one another. This can be done for LCD or DLP projectors, to good effect.

It’s true, a perfectly focused DLP with zero SDE should be defocused. Why? Because perfectly sharp, square, pixels introduce artificial high frequencies in the image that don’t exist in the source.

In the end, for my own money, the moving-object-edge-rainbows I could see in single-chip DLP systems bothered me more than SDE from LCD, and I bought an LCD. I shoot it 106″ diagonal on a 106″ screen, which I sit about 11 feet from, and with a very slight defocus, and I can’t see SDE at all. Not one bit. And, I got a high-def LCD projector for only a little more than the standard-def DLP projector I had been considering.

So, even if you are a fan of a particular technology, don’t completely discount the others until you’ve looked at the latest offerings.

Dithermaster.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Projectors


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