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DLP Projectors vs. LCD Projectors

by Paul Sanders

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LCD projector for home theater entertainment

When shopping for projectors, you'll likely be choosing between the two most common projection technologies: DLP and LCD. Below, we'll compare projectors of both types, explaining each technology and the advantages of both home theater projectors. You can then decide which projector is best for your entertainment system.

Comparing Projectors:

  1. DLP and LCD projectors operate differently. Both types of home theater projectors use an incandescent lamp, laser or LED array as a light source, but they produce color images from that light differently. DLP projectors reflect light off of a chip containing thousands of tiny mirrors, passing it through a spinning color wheel to produce the colors in a projected image. LCD projectors will shine light through a miniature LCD panel, which limits the color and amount of light which passes through several color filters and a prism to the projector lens. The differences between these projectors bring different advantages to each.

  2. DLP projectors excel in image quality. With no pixel grid, DLP projectors produce smoother video with less pixilation than LCD. Truer black levels and higher contrast capabilities also give these projectors a more realistic picture. Some viewers may notice that shadows of red, green and blue light can occur in high-contrast areas of the screen. This is known as the rainbow effect, and while a small number of viewers are bothered by it, you may not even notice it. LED and laser-based DLP projectors are able to avoid this problem.

  3. LCD has several benefits over DLP. Projectors using LCDs will use less power and produce less heat than their DLP counterparts. While these projectors don't suffer from any noticeable "rainbow" effect, like DLP, you may notice a "screen door" effect close up, where the grid of pixels is more noticeable. Higher resolution projectors, and adequate viewing distances from the screen make this problem less noticeable. LCD projectors also tend to operate better in ambient light and produce more clarity at low brightness levels.

  4. Lumens, or the measured brightness, are a primary factor in image quality. Since lumens are a measure of the brightness of the lamps, LEDs or lasers that illuminate projectors, both DLP and LCD projectors can have varying brightness. Projectors also tend to put out fewer lumens in higher image-quality modes. LCD has a slight advantage here, since it can produce clarity even at a low brightness.

  5. Both technologies can operate in HD projectors. High-definition images are typically defined as high-resolution when it comes to projectors. HD projectors use both technologies, so you'll simply need to check the resolution to see whether a projector will display HD movies and TV.

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