Types of Video ProjectorsThere are three major types of Video Projectors: CRT (Cathode Ray Tube - still in use, available used, but new units no longer being made), DLP (Digital Light Processing), and LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). In addition, other variants of LCD video projection technology in use are: LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), D-ILA (Digital Imaging Light Amplification - developed and used by JVC), and SXRD (Silicon Crystal Reflective Display - developed and used by Sony). For more details, including the pros and cons of each type, check out my reference articles below.
Best Uses For A Video ProjectorHome theater projectors are best for viewing Sports, DVDs, or Blu-ray Disc movies. If you watch mostly regular TV, an LCD/DLP projector may be an expensive option as the bulb (light source) would need to be changed after about 2,000 to 3,000 hours of viewing, with some projectors now having upwards of 4,000 hours or more of bulb life. Video projector replacement lamps typically cost $200 or more, in fact some can be as high as $800 or more. Compare that with an LCD or Plasma TV which can last 60,000 hours or more, albeit with a smaller screen size. Also, make sure you have the proper room size for your projector.
PortabilityPortability is important; not just enabling you to move or travel with your projector, but simplifies installation and setup. It also makes it easy to try different screen sizes, distances, and different rooms to see what works best. If your projector is portable you can even hang a sheet on an outside wall (or garage door)in the summertime and enjoy your own drive-in movies!
BrightnessBrightness: Without sufficient brightness your image will look muddy and soft, even in a dark room. Check the ANSI Lumens rating. Relatively speaking, projectors with 1,000 ANSI Lumens or greater have sufficient brightness for home theater use. Room size and screen size/distance will affect the need for more or less lumens.
Contrast RatioContrast Ratio complements brightness. High contrast ratios deliver whiter whites and blacker blacks. A projector may have a great Lumens rating, but if the contrast ratio is low, you image will look washed out. Contrast ratios of at least 1,500:1 are good, but 2,000:1 or higher is considered excellent.
Pixel Density and ScalingPixel Density is important. LCD/DLP projectors have a fixed number of pixels. If most of your viewing is HDTV, get as high a native pixel count as possible (preferably 1920x1080). A native pixel count of 1024x768 is sufficient for DVD. However, 720p HDTV signals require a 1280x720 pixel count for native display, while a 1080i HDTV input signal needs a native pixel count of 1920x1080. If you have a Blu-ray Disc player, consider a projector with 1920x1080 native pixel resolution and the ability to the display the 1080p format.
Color ReproductionColor Reproduction is another factor. Check for natural flesh tones and color depth. Check how colors look in the brightest and darkest areas of the image. Check the degree of color stability from input to input. Everyone has a slight difference in color perception and what looks pleasing. Look carefully.
Inputs and The ScreenInputs
Make sure the projector has the inputs you need, such composite and S-video for analog sources, component inputs for DVD, and DVI or HDMI inputs for HD sources. Most projectors also have VGA-type inputs for computers. See additional photo.
Don't Forget The Screen!
Screens come in various fabrics, sizes, and prices. The type of screen that's best depends on the projector, the viewing angle, the amount of ambient light in the room, and the distance of the projector from the screen. For more details on buying a Video Projection Screen, check out my companion article: Before You Buy a Video Projection Screen