Home theater projectors are improving in quality every year, but they’re still divided into two broad categories: LCD and DLP. Each technology has advantages and disadvantages that may make it more or less suitable for your home theater.
To answer this question, we must first ask which features are most desirable in a home theater projector.
Key factors include:
- Contrast ratio
- Connectivity options
- Light output variability over time
- Accuracy of the color pallet
Now that we have identified our key factors, let’s look at each projector type independently. Let’s start with:
DLP projectors are best for…home theater! DLP stands for “Digital Light Processing” and is commonly referred to as “Digital Projection.” The system uses a single chip containing millions of microscopic mirrors that switch on and off up to several thousand times per second.
This chip is attached to a color wheel, which causes the mirrors to reflect light through different color filters and onto the screen. These DLP projectors are known for their high contrast ratios and brightness capabilities, which make them ideal home theater devices.
However, you must expect some degradation of image quality over time from these projectors. The brightness of a projector can change with age due to a phenomenon called “thermal drift,” in which the amount of transistors used to create each pixel decreases slightly as time goes on. Thus, images may appear dimmer or less vibrant over time.
LCD stands for “Liquid Crystal Display” and is a type of light valve, similar to DLP projectors. The liquid crystals do not degrade over time as DLP mirrors do, so the color and brightness of an LCD projector will remain stable throughout its life.
LCD projectors also tend to be cheaper than their DLP counterparts due to simpler internal components that require less research and development money. Their simplicity makes them more reliable and easier to maintain as well.
However, they typically do not produce as high of a contrast ratio as DLP devices (although some models can reach native contrast ratios close or on-par with DLPs), which means they struggle to display deeper blacks on screen; the images can appear gray and washed out.
Most LCD projectors also use a “three-chip” system, meaning they require three separate image chips to produce one picture that is then displayed onto the screen. This can lead to lower brightness levels and reduced color quality compared to single-chip DLP models.
LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon)
The LCoS system uses liquid crystal technology much like an LCD model, but instead of using it on a traditional glass substrate, the crystals are applied directly onto a silicon chip. The advantages of this include a wider viewing angle, a larger color gamut range, and better contrast ratios. However, LCoS projectors are even more expensive than LCD ones due to their complicated construction process, which also increases the likelihood of breakdowns that require maintenance or repair.
DLP projectors are best for…home theater!
If you need a projector fast, home theater is where DLP shines. They are excellent devices with solid black levels and great brightness capabilities, although they may experience loss of color vibrancy over time. LCD models are an affordable option if you want high-quality images but don’t have much money to spend on a projector, as they tend to be cheaper than DLP equivalents.
Be warned though: over time, the brightness from your projector can decrease as well as its ability to deliver deeper blacks. LCoS is the most expensive projector system out of all three but has excellent color and contrast levels to make up for its hefty price tag.
However, they are not as common as DLP projectors, especially in home theater settings where their high cost can drive potential customers away. They are best suited for professional applications like presentations or archival use, although some companies (like Epson) offer models that also operate well in home theaters.
LCD models are an affordable option if you want high-quality images but don’t have much money to spend on a projector. However, over time their brightness will last decrease as well as their ability to deliver deeper blacks.
Choosing Between LCD and DLP Technology
Here’s how to decide which is best for your needs: If you require a smaller projector, opt for an LCD model because they tend to be smaller than DLPs. You’ll also save on weight and power consumption (most of today’s LCD home theater models use just 20 watts or less).
If fast performance is more important than high contrast ratios, go with an LED TV instead. They’re not as good as the best home theater projectors, but they’re much better than the cheap front or rear-projection TVs.
If you want a projector that’s more durable and easier to maintain, go for an LCD model. They’re not as bright as DLPs — which are often used in high-end conference rooms — but most modern LCDs are very bright, so they can easily handle ambient light from windows or lamps.
Once you’ve decided on the type of technology you want, it’s time to choose between two primary categories of home theater projectors: traditional data projectors vs. short throw projectors. Traditional models can produce large images, but they require very dark environments because they shoot their pictures onto the screen from several feet away.
Short-throw models have a much narrower angle of projection because they shoot their picture onto the screen from within a few inches. That means you need a smaller screen, and it also means you can place them in front of your seating area without having to worry about seeing them from anywhere other than where you’re sitting.
For most people, short-throw projectors are the better option because they produce brighter pictures that look more vivid — even with lights on — but if you want to use yours as an outdoor model or as part of a home studio setup, a traditional data projector might be preferable.