DLP vs. LCD Projector: What’s the Difference?

There are 3 types of the projector to choose from, but only 2 of them play a major role in buying a home cinema projector of your own. You have the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projector that uses prisms and mirrors split into 3 primary colors like the LCD screen technology of your computer monitor or HDTV but in projection form. There’s also the Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector that uses a series of microscopic mirrors in order to transform digital information into a fully formed moving image of a movie or a videogame.

The third projector type is the Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) projector that combines aspects of LCD and DLP projector together that won’t be discussed in this article due to its expensiveness. We will instead tackle the main debate of DLP vs. LCD Projector. 

What Does The Term “DLP” Projector Mean? What Are The Benefits of DLP Projectors?

Invented back in 1987, the “DLP” name for DLP projectors stands for “Digital Light Processing”. It’s a type of projector that uses one chip or three chips in order to project images. Each chip has millions of micro-mirrors on them that reflect light thousands of times per second.

What Is An LCD Projector? What Are The Benefits of LCD Projectors?

Polarized mirrors are what enable LCD projectors to work as superbly as they have for decades. Made back in 1968, LCD projectors are still in use today because they still bring in high-quality projections in the “High Definition Era of Entertainment” and its use of resolutions ranging from 1080p or 4K.

See more: What is a Smart Projector? Why Do You Need a Smart Projector?

Comparison Chart: DLP vs. LCD Projector

Types Image Contrast Light Source Technology Type
DLP Okay picture quality but less detailed than LCD Higher than LCD LED or standard lamp Reflective
LCD Sharper image and better picture quality than DLP Lower than DLP Standard lamp Transmissive

How Do DLP Projectors Work?

DLP projectors with a single matrix semiconductor chip can produce more than 16 million colors. 3-chip models, in contrast, can produce 35 trillion colors. The mirrors can be repositioned rapidly to reflect light either via the lens or right into a heat sink or a “light dump”. The closeness of every mirror within a chip makes it hard to see any spaces separating the pixels though. This results in a more crisp and fluid image when compared to the tech used for LCD projectors.

How Does an LCD Projector Work?

The LCD projector’s polarized mirrors block certain colors of light and let other colors pass in order to digitally recreate whatever picture it wishes to show. It roughly uses the same principles used to create cathode-ray tube images or pictures on its glass screen. Every channel of red, green, and blue or “RGB” is separated then converged through a prism after passing through the eponymous LCD panel that controls the saturation and intensity of each color for every frame of a video or videogame shown.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a DLP Projector

Advantages and Disadvantages of a DLP Projector 

Here are the pros and cons of a DLP projector. The depth of color variance going by trillions of colors, the blacker blacks, and portability make the DLP projector the more modern and ubiquitous choice for 21st Century projector sensibilities.

What are The Advantages of DLP Projectors? 

  • Portability: The more modern DLP projector makes for a smaller, lighter unit since it uses microchip technology and micro-mirrors to work. If you’re buying a portable pocket or pico projector then chances are it’s a DLP.

 

  • Low Pixel Visibility: A major flaw of LCD projectors that DLP projectors addressed is making the pixels less visible, thus the picture looks smoother and more photographic. This is due to every pixel having less space between them in DLP setups.

 

  • Cinematic on HDTV: If you’re viewing HDTV shows or HD movies on your 1080p or 4K DLP projector, you’ll get a more cinematic or film-like experience with the color quality of the image.

 

  • Okay Picture Quality: Although the picture quality isn’t as sharp as LCD, they’re still good and not pixilated when push comes to shove. The video also runs smoother partly because of the motion blur.

 

  • More Lamp Options: DLP projectors have more lamp options than LCD. You can use LED (Light-Emitting Diode) or standard lamps with it.

 

  • Higher Contrast: The DLP projector has higher contrast than the LCD projector, which means you get with it brighter whites, stronger blacks, and clear texts and details when compared to the grayer blacks of LCD projectors.

 

  • Priced Just Right: It has a higher price range of $300 to $1,000 or more for its extra color quality.

 

What Are The Disadvantages of DLP Projectors?

  • Lower Picture Quality: While it has higher contrast and more colorful images than LCD, its image sharpness is poorer compared to what LCD brings to the table, especially modern LCD units.

 

  • Rainbow Effect: There are flashes and splashes of rainbow colors on the image with DLP, as though the picture has gone through a rainbow filter from Instagram.

 

  • Color Saturation and Poorer Reds and Yellows: The quality of the reds and yellows of DLP are poorer when it’s at full power. There’s also color saturation or lowered color intensity when compared to its LCD counterpart.

 

  • Requires More Lumens: LCD requires fewer lumens to combat the light-robbing effect of daylight or ambient light when compared to a DLP projector. It needs higher lumens due to the nature of its tech.

 

  • Expensiveness: Its price range is more expensive than LCD projectors since it starts at $300 while LCDs start a $250.

 

  • Noise: There’s an audible whine when you use a DLP projector.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an LCD projector

Here are the pros and cons of an LCD projector. The older LCD projector that was developed in the late 1960s remains relevant in the 2020s due to its tried-and-true usage of polarized mirrors that block and intensify certain colors in the RGB spectrum.

What Are The Advantages of LCD Projectors? 

  • Sharper Picture: When compared to DLP projectors, the LCD projector produces sharper, superior picture quality despite its washed-out blacks and fewer color variations than DLPs. This is apparent when viewing HD movies.

 

  • Less Power Used: DLP uses more power or wattage when compared to older LCD technology. Thusly, the LCD projector is more economical energy-wise if you wish to conserve energy as you watch movies on your home cinema.

 

  • Less Heat and Quieter Operation: The LCD projector works more quietly than even the quietest of DLP projectors. In turn, it produces less heat and lasts longer barring standard lamp life limitations.

 

  • Richer Color Dynamics: Even when faced with ambient light, its color dynamics remain richer and more intense. Color saturation isn’t a problem with this projector type even in the face of projecting in daylight.

 

  • Affordable: At the end of the day, you get more from an LCD projector of the same price range as a DLP one. Also, the cheapest LCD comes at $250 or $50 cheaper than the cheapest DLP.

 

  • No Rainbow Effect: Only DLP projector units produce the seeming rainbow filter or effect on its pictures.

 

What Are The Disadvantages of LCD Projectors? 

  • Worse Contrast: It has worse contrast than DLP. Sure, it doesn’t suffer from color saturation and has sharper pictures, but its blacks look grayer than DLP, making text and darker details less clear and more washed out.

 

  • Gray Blacks: If you’re viewing a darker video or a videogame with loads of darkness on it, the blacks will look ashier than anything else, thus giving you the effect of a washed-out picture even though otherwise LCD doesn’t suffer from color saturation.

 

  • Screen Door Effect: Certain resolution videos and games will give you a screen door effect when viewed through the LCD projector lens, such that if it lacks the millions of pixels of 4K, your small-resolution video will look like it’s being viewed via screen door.

 

  • Bulkier and Bigger: Sometimes, bigger isn’t better. In an age of smartphones and tablets, having a bulky projector the size of a small tumbler or icebox makes it rather inconvenient for portability or mobile use.

 

  • More Visible Pixels: There’s a greater chance for pixilation when using an LCD projector compared to a micro-mirrored DLP projector because the spaces between pixels with an LCD are wider compared to the more compact DLP.

 

  • Standard Lamp Only: It can only work with a standard lamp. It doesn’t use an LED lamp. This is also why there’s a debate between which is better between LCD and LED projectors.

What is a Smart Projector? Why Do You Need a Smart Projector?

Uses of DLP Projectors vs. Uses of LCD Projectors

Both DLP and LCD projectors share uses in terms of home cinemas, commercial cinemas, corporate meetings, classrooms, churches, concerts, and so forth. However, there’s an important difference between DLP and LCD, which is mobility.

LCD projectors are limited more for indoor use in offices, schools, and homes since it requires more cumbersome wiring and extension cords. DLP projectors are more used for mobile projector types like pocket or pico projectors due to the nature of its micro-mirror tech, allowing for outdoor usages like backyard movies or drive-in theaters. 

DLP Projector Price vs. LCD Projector Price 

LCD projectors are more affordable since they’re priced from $250 to $1,000 or more. DLP projectors are more expensive since their prices start at $300 and can go upwards of $1,000 or more, especially the 4K models.

What’s The Best Pick for Your Dollar?  

On one hand, LCD gives you more bang for your buck along with certain picture quality, energy economy, and noise reduction advantages. However, if you value quality over price and can trade in picture sharpness for color variance, portability, and smoother HD motion, then you won’t go wrong with DLP. They’re worth the extra bucks for that sweet dark contrast and depth of variegation. 

DLP vs. LCD projector FAQs  

Here are the most frequently asked questions in regard to the eternal debate of which is better—the DLP or LCD projector?

 

  • What is the DLP Rainbow Effect? The DLP rainbow effect is an effect unique to DLP projectors that cause their pictures or images to have a rainbow-like filter or tinge to them, as though you’re looking at the video through a prism or rainbow lens filled with multiple primary or rainbow colors caused by the closeness of the micro-mirrors with each other.

 

  • Which is better: LCD or LED projector? This is really more of a debate of standard lamp LCD versus LED lamp DLP. LED lamps to have the advantage of being brighter and lasting longer than standard metal halide or halogen lamps. Halogen lamps last 2,000 hours. Metal halide (the modern LCD standard lamp) lasts 20,000 hours. LED lamps last a whopping 50,000 hours.

 

  • What are the uses of an LCD projector? An LCD projector, as mentioned above, is mostly used for indoor viewing at darkened rooms and theaters. It was mostly used in the 1980s as the business projector of choice for slideshow presentations or in schools as a teaching aid. It eventually entered the home video and home cinema arena along with DLP with the emergence of HDTVs, digital cable boxes, and on-demand streaming services.

 

  • How do you use an LCD projector in teaching? In the earliest days of the LCD projector’s commercial use, it was mostly used as a slide projector or overhead projector alternative, with teachers using slideshow presentation programs to teach their students various lessons without writing them manually on the chalkboard. As technology progressed, so too did LCD projectors’ ability to also show videos with sound and public service movies in class.

 

  • What are the parts of the LCD projector? The parts of the LCD projector include the control panel (which includes the power button, input button, lamp indicator, enter button, warning indicator, and more), an air outlet port, vertical lens shift ring, focus lever, zoom lever, metal halide lamp, polarizer, LCD panels, analyzer, and mirrors.

 

  • What are the types of LCD projector? The first type of LCD projector was the prototype with liquid crystals developed by its inventor, Gene Dolgoff. The first digitally accessible LCD matrix device led to Dolgoff creating the complete LCD video projector in 1984. He then invented “depixelization” to reduce the screen door effect.

CrystalVision, a German company, developed LCD projectors with polarized filters to fix the tendency of such devices to overheat and stop working. Dolgoff then licensed his LCD tech to Samsung and Panasonic. Further variants of LCD projectors in Japan where made by LCD pioneers Sharp and Epson.

 

  • What are the different kinds of projectors? The different kinds of projectors not defined by technology or display type include the home cinema projector, the business projector, the short-throw projector, and the pico or pocket projector. The first two types are among the most common, with the business projector having a separate set or resolutions and aspect ratio (16:10) compared to the more HDTV-standardized home cinema projector (1080p and 16:9).

Final Things to Consider

On one hand, the DLP projector is a new technology made in the 1980s that produces higher contrast pictures and more compact units at the expense of blurrier pictures and the rainbow effect. On the other hand, LCD produces sharper pictures at the expense of visible pixels, bulkier units, and the screen door effect on certain videos. This is projector quality that has stood the test of time even in the HD Era.

Which is the ideal choice for you? It depends on your needs and which flaws you can tolerate more the screen door effect or the rainbow effect. Each projector type has its pros and cons, so it’s a matter of circumstance, taste, and budget in the end. 

References:

  1. Steve Smallcombe, “DLP vs. LCD: Which is Better?“, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, November 30, 2007
  2. Tracy V. Wilson and Ryan Johnson, “How DLP Sets Work“, How Stuff Works, August 9, 2005
  3. Robert Lamb, “How LCD Projectors Work“, How Stuff Works, May 22, 2012
  4. Geoffrey Morrison, “DLP vs LCD vs LCoS: Projector tech pros and cons“, Cnet.com, May 6, 2013
  5. Evan Powell, “ANSI Lumens vs Color Light Output: The Debate between LCD and DLP“, Projector Central, September 19, 2013
  6. Kevin Leeper, “What Are The Different Kinds of Projectors?“, It Still Works, January 9, 2018
  7. DLP vs. LCD Projector“, Diffen.com, Retrieved June 5, 2020
James Core
I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right projector.

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