The Complete Projector Buying Guide

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The Complete Projector Buying Guide

Projectors are used in businesses, education, and in home theaters for entertainment. There are three different projector technologies: liquid crystal display (LCD), digital light processing (DLP), and liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS). Projectors greatly enhance presentations, movies, lectures, sporting events, and more. There are several important things to consider to ensure you get the best projector for your specific needs.

Home-Theater Projectors

Many people find that a big-screen television is not enough, and opt for a home-theater projector. These high-tech devices project a widescreen and/or high-definition video onto a screen or wall. There are seemingly endless options for home-theater projectors, so to simplify the buying process, shoppers should consider several features.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is the rectangular shape of the video image. A standard television has an aspect ratio of 4:3. This means that the video image is four units wide and three units high. Home-theater projectors have native aspect ratios because projectors are a fixed-resolution display device. Projectors usually have a native aspect ratio of 4:3, 16:10, or 16:9, which means that the chip inside of the projector is shaped in those proportions.


A projector's resolution refers to the number of pixels it has to create an image. The resolution is represented by two numbers, such as 1280x800. The first number indicates how many pixels there are horizontally, and the second number tells how many pixels there are vertically. Sometimes, the resolution will be stated using one number, such as 1080p. The number refers to the vertical resolution, and the p refers to progressive scan, which just means the entire picture is being displayed at once. The higher the resolution, the better quality the projected picture will be, and usually the more expensive the projector will be. Common resolutions for home-theater projectors are 1280x720, 1280x768, and 1920x1080.


Projector brightness is measured in lumens. Lumens determine how well images will be projected in a well-lit room. The more lumens there are, the bigger and brighter the projected image will be. Because home-theater projectors are generally used in dim settings, they usually begin at 1,000 lumens and can range up to 2,500 lumens. The amount of lumens needed depends on the setting and brightness of the room. Certain projectors allow users to control the brightness.

Contrast Ratio

The contrast refers to the difference between the brightest and the darkest areas in an image. The higher the difference, the greater the contrast that produces a more defined image. Higher contrast also gives more depth to the projected image.


When deciding on a home-theater projector, consider the options for installation. Projectors can be mounted on the ceiling or simply placed on a tabletop. Placing the projector on a tabletop or other flat surface makes it easy for the projector to be transported from place to place. However, projectors on a table will need to be set up each time it is used. If users choose to use the projector on a tabletop, look for one that has a low fan noise. Ceiling-mounted projectors are advantageous because they are out of the way and already set up whenever they need to be used. If the projector is mounted to the ceiling, make sure to be aware of the throw ratio.

Throw Ratio

Each projector has a different throw ratio, which refers to the width of the projected image in relation to the projector's distance from the screen. The closer the projector is to the screen, the larger the image will be. So, different projectors have different throw ratios based on the recommended distance from the screen for optimal image size.

Business and Education Projectors

Projectors used in business and education settings can be a vital component to delivering a powerful presentation. Key things to consider when purchasing a business projector are portability, resolution, and brightness.


The resolution for a business or education projector consists of the same criteria as a home-theater projector. The higher the resolution, the sharper the data and pictures will appear on the screen. If the presentations do not require attention to fine detail, buyers can opt for a lower-resolution projector, which will save them money.


There are many factors that go into determining the brightness for a business projector. Like home-theater projectors, the brightness is measured in lumens. Dark rooms provide the best image on the screen, regardless of how bright the projector is. However, in business and education settings, it is not uncommon for lights to be left on for note-taking. If this is the case, consider a projector with more lumens. About 6,000 lumens are necessary for rooms with bright lights and large audiences.

Weight and Portability

For users who plan on bringing their projector from place to place, consider a projector that is easily portable and light in weight. There are many portable projectors that weigh 3 to 8 pounds; however, these projectors may not include as many features and may not put out high-quality images or brightness. Users who travel only occasionally can find projectors that weigh around 10 pounds and project higher-quality images.

Projector Technology

Various projectors have different technology. Most projectors either have liquid crystal display or digital light processing. There is also an emerging technology, the liquid crystal on silicon, which is found in many projectors. Each type of technology has its advantages and disadvantages.



How it Works



Who Should Buy It

Who Should Steer Clear

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)

Three glass panels separate the color schemes; light passes through the glass to project image. Oldest, most widely used.

Better color saturation offers vibrant colors; highly detailed data and images.

Pixels can be visible; larger/bulkier.

Best choice for those who need a bright projector, usually has at least 3,000 lumens.

Not ideal for travel.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)

Light from the lamp reflects through thousands of mirrors and a color wheel, which makes up the image.

Pixels not visible; high contrast ratio in comparison; small and compact

Light efficiency/ image detail not as strong; can have ‘rainbow effect,' where red, blue, green shadows flash on the screen.

Optimal for those who need a quality portable projector.

Not ideal for bright-light situations.

Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS)

Three chips modulate colors. Simultaneous delivery of light/color components.

Very rich colors; no visible pixelation; high resolution, very detailed images.

Most expensive; low contrast ratio; lamps must be replaced frequently.

Excellent choice for those who want the most detail and riches colors, and don't mind the price tag.

Not ideal for those on a budget.

LCOS technology combines the benefits of LCD and DLP technology. However, LCOS technology projectors are the most expensive. Understanding the different projector technologies will help buyers get a better idea of what projector suits their needs.

Determine Your Budget

Home-theater projectors and business projectors differ in price. Home theater projectors range from $700 to more than $4,000 in 2012. The price of the projector depends largely on its resolution. Buyers pay more for a clear, detailed image. Business projectors can range from $500 to $2,000 in 2012. Projectors on the lower end of the price scale usually have a lower resolution and fewer features. Portable projectors are usually less expensive because they do not project high-quality images. However, more expensive projectors with various features can still usually be portable.

Find Projectors on eBay

If you have chosen a home-theater projector, go to the Consumer Electronics portal, then select TV, Video & Home Audio from the categories list. After you have selected TV, Video & Home Audio, choose Home Theater Projectors, and begin searching for item listings on eBay. If you are looking for a business or education projector, go to the Computers, Tablets, & Networking portal, then select Monitors, Projectors & Accs from the categories list, then choose Projectors. Once you have narrowed the search, various subcategories will allow you to refine your search by display technology, aspect ratio, image brightness, resolution, and price.

If you are looking for a particular item, search eBay using specific keywords. For example, type "LCD 1080 p projector" (without quotations) directly into the search box to generate a list of related items. To narrow down your search, use the Advanced Search option.

Before making a purchase, be sure to research the projector and the seller. Carefully read the details in the projector's description. To feel safe and secure about your purchase, research the seller by evaluating his or her feedback. You can find the seller's feedback link in parentheses after the user ID. Feedback will display the percentage of positive feedback the seller has received, and also show what other buyers are saying about the seller. You should also find out the seller's terms and conditions, including a return policy and shipping insurance.


There are many varieties of projectors with different forms of technologies. First, determine the primary use of the projector, such as whether it is for entertainment, business presentations, or educational lectures. Once the projector's purpose has been established, evaluate the options and features of different projectors. Quality projectors can be found for decent prices, but high resolution will provide users with fine detailed images. Whether buying a projector for entertainment or business, projectors deliver impressive presentations and images.

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