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Buyers Guide to LCD Projectors

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/7/2009

We take a look at how LCD projectors work and some things to consider before we proceed to our buying guide.

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    The first stop on your journey to Home Theater nirvana starts at the projector. For this first section, I’ll be covering projectors and which ones are the best to buy now that their prices have gone down. If you’re wondering why TVs haven’t been included in this article, it’s simply because they’ll be talked about in another article down the road.

    How do you know that a projector is the right fit for you? To find out, just analyze your media room.

    If you have large, unclaimed stretches of wall space, a projector might definitely be the right fit for you. If your room is going to be used ONLY as a media room, a projector will definitely be a better fit than a TV. Finally, if you want your TV to go over 70 inches without costing you a king’s ransom, you’re going to want a projector.

    A projector is really an interesting piece of technology. Inside, you’ll find a High-Intensity Bulb, otherwise known as a HID Bulb. These bulbs are rather hearty, lasting anywhere from 750 hours on the low-end to up to 2000 hours on the high-end.

    The bulb produces different potentials (through voltage), which means it heats up to different temperatures – this is what produces different colors. In an LCD projector, the way the image is displayed is through the melting of Crystals, ergo, a Liquid Crystal Display. Three panels worth of crystals are melted, and then through variations in the bulb temperature, the image is displayed on the screen.

    Just like on a Television screen, the colors which are then melted are either swept across the screen as lines (in the interlaced, or 1080i signal) or sent to the screen as a single image (in the 1080p signal).

    The other cool part of the projection technology is the fact that the screen is made up of a phosphorous coated compound that will then react to the presence of light. Through the three LCD panels inside the projector, Red, Green, and Blue are produced and then displayed into a single pixel. The interaction of the three colors produces the subtle nuances in colors we are all accustomed to seeing in our movies.

    Let’s talk a little bit about the purchase of your projector. While I am going to take the next article to give you some great projectors and then a budget one to look at, here are a few things to consider when looking into an HD projector for your movie room.


    Make sure the projector is an HD projector and not a standard projector, like the ones used for schools.

    The projector needs to be able to do 1080p, if it cannot – don’t bother with it.

    The projector should have HDMI ports, at least one, if not two or more ports. If it doesn’t, you could look into a receiver that is capable of turning multiple inputs into a single one that is then piped to the projector.

    Finally, a projector should be able to have a good throw distance – that is, the distance at which it’ll be able to still display the image on the screen without a loss of quality. Take any good projector and put it 200 ft away and you won’t be able to tell a cat from a dog, but the projector needs to be able to project at a distance that fits the entire space you’re looking to use as a screen

    Finally, I have a piece of advice for you before you start projector shopping. Look into screen sizes and determine how big you want your screen. Thanks to the fact that we just put up our projector without much of a thought as to how it would be showing on our wall, we had to build a custom-fit screen because the size of ours was too large for regular-sized screens.

    Before you come back for our round-up on the best of the best projectors-wise, do yourself a favor and map out your plan of attack for the room. You’ll want to know how big you want the screen so that you can then put the projector at the correct distance. There’s a rather handy calculator that helps you accomplish this task – just plug in the values and it does the hard work for you.

Building the Perfect Home Theater System

We take you through the ups and downs of owning a movie room and having that home theater set-up that everyone envies.
  1. Installing Home Theater Systems
  2. Buyers Guide to LCD Projectors
  3. LCD Projectors - The Best Of
  4. Buyer's Guide to Projector Screens
  5. Projector Screens - The Best Of