How To Choose a Good Video Projector

By Matt Scheer

Updated September 15, 2017

i old dirty Multimedia projector image by Pavel Losevsky from

Knowing what video projector specifications mean is the most important aspect in choosing a good projector. Resolution, lamp source, and contrast ratio are basic specs you can use to compare projectors. Beyond those basics, features like intelligent resizing technology, video line doublers, multiple inputs, and peripheral components will help separate the good projectors from the best. Consider these factors as well as your budget to pick out the best projector for you.


Determine what kind of projector you need by the space it will go in. A room that is not very deep, for example, can't sustain a projector that's best put dozens of feet away from the screen. Furthermore, a bright room will need a projector that has a higher lumen rating, a measurement of brightness. Projecting in bright rooms will need a lumen rating of 1,500 or more, but in dim rooms a rating of 600 to 1000 works better, depending on the size of the project, according to United Visual, a company that specializes in projector installations. See the Resources Section for a free online calculator that will help you determine the distance and lumen rating for your ideal projector.

Check the projector's resolution specs. The resolution is one of the most important factors in determining the amount of detail you will see. For computers, the first number listed on the product expresses how many pixels wide the screen is; the second number expresses how high it is. For example, an LCD projector with a resolution of 1280 X 720 means the panel is 1280 pixels high and 720 pixels wide. But for a video projector, the numbers indicate the lines per inch you can see on a test pattern. In either case, resolution indicates how much detail the image will have. From best quality to least, the four main categories of resolution are UXGA, SXGA, XGA, and SVGA. A UXGA projector will have resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, the highest quality; whereas SVGA will have 800 x 600. If you just need a projector to show PowerPoint presentations, SVGA is right for you. On the other hand, if you use a more graphics intensive video, choose a higher resolution projector.

Determine where you're going to put your projector. If it needs to be portable, such as on a cart at a University, look for lighter weight projectors. If, on the hand, the projector's being mounted to a station or a durable ceiling, look for heavier models.

Check Contrast Ratio. This specification compares the brightest white to the darkest dark. The larger difference means there will be more visible richness in the image.

Determine the aspect ratio of the video source, such as an HDTV or SXGA system. The aspect ratio compares the image height to its width. HDTV and SXGA sources typically use 16:9. If the project doesn't use the same ratio--4:3 is common--the image will be distorted.

Choose whether LCD, DLP, or LCOS technology is best for your set up. LCD is the cheapest of the three options and uses three glass panels of red, blue, and green to create an image. DLP has a more complicated mechanism, reflecting light off of many spinning mirrors and projecting it through a color wheel, according to AV Partner's buying guide. It's also more expensive than LCD. LCOS is the most expensive and uses three LCOS chips in the red, green, and blue spectrum, similar to LCD.

Check for extra features. Some projectors come with built-in speakers and a remote control. Another feature to be aware of is the right inputs to hook up the source of the video to the projector. For example, direct digital video input allows a computer to hook up to the projector.