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What Should You Look For in a Projector?

What Should You Look For in a Projector?

Big Screen in a Small Space

One drawback of many projectors is that they need a lot of uninterrupted space. The good news is, a lot of major brands now make short-throw projectors, capable of giving you a big screen even in a small space.

For New York City apartment-dwellers, a short-throw projector is a necessary feature to look at in any small space. Some projectors today, such as the LG HU85LA or the Optoma P1, can give you a massive screen even just a few inches from the wall. That means there’s something out there that will work in even the smallest Manhattan-sized apartment.

LG-HU85LA

What other specs do you need to look at when shopping for a projector specific to smaller spaces? Let’s go through key features in detail.

Understanding Throw Ratio

The “throw” is the distance between the lens of a projector and the screen. A longer throw gives a more focused picture and also needs more horizontal space in front of the lens to get the same image size. 

Consumer projectors use the throw ratio to express the relationship between the image size and the horizontal distance. Projectors with a standard throw have a throw ratio of around 1.5:1 to 2.5:1. To get a 100” screen with one of these projectors, you’ll need around 12-20 feet of space with no walls in between—an impossibility in most New York City apartments. 

Short throw projectors have a throw ratio between about .4:1 and 1:1. In comparison, that will give you a 100” screen from around 3.5 to 9 feet away. If you want to place the projector closer than that, you’ll want an ultra-short throw ratio. The LG HU85LA, for example, can generate a 100” image from just 1.5 feet away. That’s something you can manage in any apartment.

Lamp-based vs laser projectors

Laser projectors are the newest craze in home theater projectors, and it’s easy to see why they’ve gained such popularity. They have a lot of advantages over the traditional lamp-based projector design. For one thing, they typically have a short or ultra-short throw ratio, which as we mentioned above is great for small apartments.

There are other advantages to laser projectors. They’re very low maintenance, often lasting 20,000 hours or more before you need to replace any components. Lamps usually burn out and need to be replaced every 2,500-5,000 hours. Many lamp projectors also offer better color accuracy and contrast ratio and often include modern features like voice control capability. 

Hearing all this, you might be wondering: why would anyone buy a lamp-based projector? There’s one main reason: they cost a lot less. You can find quite a few short throw projectors with lamps that sell for less than $1,000. Laser projectors are a newer technology, and they tend to sell for a good bit more—around $2,500 and up. 

How bright a lamp do I need?

In a dedicated home theater or other light-controlled space, you can get away with a lamp brightness as low as 1,000 lumens. Most apartments don’t have space for this kind of set up. Even with blackout curtains on your windows, you’ll probably want a brighter projector, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 to 3,000 lumens.

If you don’t want to have to think about limiting light, you can find projectors that are even brighter. Anything over about 4,500 lumens will be bright and vivid even in a well-lit room, especially if your space is relatively small. 

Gaming projectors vs home theater projectors

You’ll see some projectors that are marketed as gaming projectors. But what does that mean? The most important feature for gaming is the projector’s input lag. This stat tells you the delay between your input on the controller and what you see on the screen.

Some gaming projectors offer an input lag as low as 16 milliseconds (ms). Anything lower than 30ms is ideal, but you can consider any projector with an input lag of 50ms or lower is acceptable for playing modern, fast-paced games. 

You don’t need to get a projector that’s labeled for gamers to find an input lag this low. The Optoma P1, for example, is a great all-around home theater projector that still gives you an input lag of 49ms.

Final words

There are great short-throw projectors out there at every price point. Even if you’re working in a tight space on a tight budget, you can get big-screen entertainment right in your own home. 

Take some time to evaluate your space before you start shopping for projectors. If your space is well-lit, you’ll want to look for a model with higher brightness. Determine whether you need an ultra-short throw ratio or if a short-throw will suffice. The trick to a good overall home theater experience is finding the combination of features that best matches your space. 

Guest Writer: Karl Kennedy from projectortop.com

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