A projector is an optical device that projects unto the big screen images, slideshows, film, or digital video. Most people are aware of the movie projector that projects a colored film reel or digital movie unto a screen using optical projection physics and Projector Display Technology. As its name suggests, it’s capable of “projecting” or “extending outward beyond something else”, like a screen or a wall in the case of the light and imagery projected by a home cinema video projector or a commercial film projector.
A projector is capable of producing a series of images unto a surface that forms into a video or moving picture projected onto a projection screen or wall. This is the case of the movie projector. The most modern ones can also double as computer monitors or TV sets but in projector form. As for the overhead projector and its usage of clear acetate sheets or the slideshow projector and its use of film slides, the device is also capable of blowing up a small image into a much bigger one that can be seen by a larger audience.
How Does a Projector Work?
This optical display appliance works by shining a lamp or light through a small transparent lens. This results in a projection that’s many times bigger than the small screen or television monitor. Even the biggest HDTV in existence cannot compare to the size and price point of a video projector. Projectors used to be for classroom and business meeting use. Projectors were originally supposed to project documents photocopied on clear plastic sheets or slides for slideshows.
However, thanks to the forward march of technology, the commercial film projector became the more affordable digital (LCD) video projector of the late 1990s and early 2000s. This resulted in the gradual shift from classroom and conference room to home theaters. As these projectors became more advanced, it became more possible for them to project whole movies in full 1080p HD or even 4K UltraHD in the late 2000s to the whole of the 2010s.
Comparing LCD versus DLP versus LCoS
Here’s how LCD, DLP, and LCoS projectors stacked up with one another when it comes to specific features and qualities of an ideal projector.
|Level of Quality||Contrast Ratio||Black Level||Brightness||Color||Motion Blur||Rainbow Effect|
|Best||LCoS||LCoS||LCD and DLP||DLP, LCD, and LCoS||DLP||LCD and LCoS|
|Good||LCD||LCD||–||–||LCD and LCoS||DLP|
As you can see, LCoS dominates most of the features in terms of quality but at the cost of a higher price point. If you want more bang for your buck then LCD is the way to go since it’s the second most dominant projector quality-wise save for dealing with the rainbow effect.
DLP hangs in there as the middle child or middle-ground projector that’s as bright as LCD and has superior motion blur mitigation but has a lesser black level and contrast ratio. All three projectors offer excellent color fidelity and grading.
Projectors by Display Type or Display Technology 101 (types of projectors)
Projectors can be sorted by capabilities, purpose, size, and specs. However, when shopping for a projector, it’s usually a question of which display or processing technology is being used. Are you using an LCD projector, a DLP projector, or an LCoS projector? Keep on reading types of projectors to learn more about them.
- LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): LCD or Liquid Crystal Display technology is among the earliest modern video projector tech around. It helped the projector make the leap from overhead and slideshow projectors to a digital one with movie projector capabilities when it came to rendering digital video for viewing on a projection screen. It’s dependable when it comes to projecting video, images, and project data, among other things.
It’s a highly popular business projector type. It’s characterized by its use of transmissive technology and its cheapness to manufacture. This projector type allows the light source to pass its rays through three colored LCD light panels, hence the name. The panels then serve as filters to some colors while letting other colors pass-through for the sake of forming any image required for display with amazing fidelity for a device that’s so affordable.
It’s even renowned as a 21st Century projector for home theater use because of its excellent color reproduction that’s on par with DLP and LCoS processing. You can commonly see them in business presentations, meetings, seminars, and classrooms. It uses a standard lamp but it’s not unusual for it to use a laser or LED tech as well.
- DLP (Digital Light Processing): A DLP or Digital Light Processing projector projects its rays through a color wheel instead along with reflection mirrors and a lens. It works just like the LCD projector of allowing certain colors to pass through and filtering the rest in order to reproduce certain digital images. It can create still or moving images as well as HD and UltraHD video projected unto the projection screen. It’s mostly used in movie theaters.
In terms of price, those extra steps when it comes to color filtration means a 4K LCD projector will cost many leagues cheaper than a 4K DLP projector. That’s just the way things are. You must, therefore, be wondering what the point is in getting a DLP projector if it falters in certain features such as contrast ratio, black level, and the rainbow effect. It’s almost always in 3rd place for a projector that’s the 2nd most expensive one of the bunch.
In short, it’s because it’s advanced technology that renders motion smoothness better than LCD even though it falters at the black and contrast ratio level. Texas Instruments developed the DLP chip—also known as the DMD or Digital Micro-Mirror Device—responsible for making this projector work. The DMD chip is as large as a red blood cell and serves as a good alternative to the LCoS when it comes to how it manipulates images by changing mirror positions on a microscopic level and at speeds of 16 million cycles per second.
- LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon): It’s one of the most advanced and most expensive projector types out there. The LCoS or Liquid Crystal on Silicon projector is so pricey its cheapest price starts at $3,500 and it can go as high as $12,000 or more ($25,000 for a 4K projector). It’s one of the most cutting-edge technologies for projectors out there used in both commercial theater and home cinema settings to boot. This high-end projector offers the best everything across the board, actually.
It only really falters when it comes to brightness where it is at dead last and motion blur, where it’s about equal to LCD but inferior to the amazingly fast and blur-free DLP projector. Aside from that, it’s either equal to LCD and DLP or superior to them in every way. It thrives in contrast ratio, black level, color, and rainbow effect. Even when it comes to motion blur, it’s still good rather than just mediocre or okay. If you’ve bought a 2010 high-end projector, chances are it is an LCoS.
This projector is renowned for its digital fidelity, high resolution, and HD or UltraHD video. It exudes excellence and it’s one of the primary choices for true 4K projectors in light of its advanced technology. It works by combining LCD technology and microscopic suspension tech present in DLP. It’s like an amalgamation of both technologies in one projector, giving you the best of both worlds (pardon the cliché) in terms of performance, contrast, motion, and picture quality.
All About The Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Projector
LCD projectors work a lot like LCD TVs, funnily enough. It uses liquid crystal display panels to project the image. To be more specific, when the projector creates an image, it uses RGB or red, blue, and green colors filtered just right every time. All three colors are projected onto the screen at once to give you a full-color digital image, with filtration here and there in order to properly render everything. It’s the same TV technology used in the projection context. It’s also one of the earliest digital video projectors most classrooms and conference rooms in the 1990s would be familiar with.
The benefits of LCD include the following:
- High light output
- Great color accuracy
- Excellent black levels
- Inexpensive to operate
- Minimal rainbow artifacts
- Motion blur and smudging may be an issue
- Dependable and consistent liquid crystal display technology
LCD projectors with SVGA connections allowed schools and businesses as well as A/V rooms to “graduate” from using film projectors, slideshow projectors, and overhead projectors in order to watch a movie or do a presentation but now in a more digital format. These devices also range from a price of a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on how high-end it is, how large the screen is, and how HD or UltraHD it is.
They’re also available from companies like Panasonic, Epson, and so forth. It’s a pretty common projector that’s still in use today for 4K UltraHD movies and whatnot. Aside from TVs, LCD tech is also found in computer monitors. The beauty of casting images via LCD panels and filtering out the right amount of RGB colors is that when all three are simultaneously projected, you won’t have to worry about too many moving parts. LCD is one of the most straightforward projector types out there.
It displays full coloring to ensure great color accuracy and is has good enough black levels even though it’s not as excellent as those produced by an LCoS projector. The inexpensiveness of LCD projectors is also the reason why, despite its motion blurring issues, it’s a highly popular electronic appliance. It even features lower power consumption and brightness excellence.
All About The Digital Light Processing (DLP) Projector
The DLP or Digital Light Processing Projector uses tiny mirrors to reflect light towards the projection screen when it’s “on” pixel. The mirrors then shift away when something is “off” pixel. This more expensive type of projector offers sophisticated methods of rendering images and videos to ensure fidelity and quality across the board save for its mediocre contrast ratio and black level that, like LCoS, makes it more suitable for the home theater.
The benefits of DLP include the following:
- Minimal motion blur
- Robust light output equal to LCDs
- Smooth frame rates and movement
- Good brightness and color precision
- High color accuracy (varies by device)
- Single-chip or three-chip DLP projector
- Amazingly fast Digital Light Processing projector technology
Additionally, the DLP projector’s brightness is bright enough to work in ambient light settings even though both LCoS and LCD offer superior contrast and black levels. Most models use color filters and the color wheel to create the high-fidelity, high-brightness projection. Meanwhile, the high-end varieties use DLP chips for each color—red, blue, and green. Speaking of the color wheel, it’s a wheel because it spins in order to work and uses filters to generate sequential colors.
You can buy DLPs for cheap as single-chip DLPs. However, the best high-end DLP projectors have a three-chip combination of tech as mentioned previously. Back in the 1990s it was the LCD projector that was most common but it has since taken a back seat for the high-quality DLP projector that’s a hit among home theaters and actual literal cinemas. It has also replaced the old-timey film projector ever since Hollywood has gone all-digital with their movies.
DLPs range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars in price, but as a rule of thumb it’s more expensive than its LCD counterpart but at least cheaper than LCoS. This is because it’s a projector that uses more sophisticated technologies to render images and videos while being the best at mitigating motion blur among all the projector types. More to the point, most projectors in movie theaters use DLP digital video projectors, with models coming from Mitsubishi, BenQ, Optoma, and so forth.
All About The Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) Projector
LCoS refers to the Liquid Crystal on Silicon Projector. It’s a hybrid projector that uses LCD and DLP technologies. It utilizes liquid crystal chips with a mirrored backing in order to work. The chips are the LCD tech and the mirrored backing is more DLP. Like DLP, it uses reflective components to render an image but it blocks light to ensure image fidelity the way LCDs would. The primary makers of the LCoS projector are JVC and Sony. They typically belong to the D-ILA (JVC) or SXRD (Sony) series or brand of projectors.
The benefits of LCoS include the following:
- DLP-LCD hybrid
- The best black level
- Varying light output
- Superb contrast ratio
- Excellent color fidelity
- Excellent image quality
- Only a little motion blur
- Little to no rainbow artifacting
- The best level of quality across the board
The LCoS projector is superior to DLP and LCD mostly because it combines both technologies together to form a new kind of projector tech. As mentioned earlier, it offers the best of both worlds in terms of LCD’s contrast ratio and and DLP’s motion blur mitigation. Compared to LCD and DLP though, LCoS has a terrible amount of brightness despite its excellent color contrast and black level. Therefore, it’s best used in home theaters or commercial cinemas where ambient light isn’t so much of a problem.
The price range of LCoS projectors starts at a few thousand dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars, as though it’s as big of an investment as a used car. This is because it’s better than the other projector types in almost every aspect except decreasing motion blur and sheer brightness to combat ambient light settings. The DLP/LCD hybrid is a favorite among videophiles because of its mouth-watering image rendering capabilities. It’s so mind-boggling with its projection clarity that you’d swear you were looking at an HDTV screen when it’s turned on.
Its performance is second to none, with the deepest blacks, the richest colors, and the most faithful image reproductions. In terms of cons though, motion blur might be an issue as well as light output. Older LCoS projectors have low lumens but newer ones have upped the brightness. When consumers are looking for the highest-quality high-end projector they typically get an LCoS projector, especially nowadays in the 2010s or probably all the way through the 2020s.
When All Is Said and Done
Which is the best pick for your dollar when it comes to projector display or processing technology? Should you go for the LCD, DLP, or LCoS? Where does the LED projector fit into all this? What about the laser projector? Just keep in mind that when buying a projector, it’s usually a balancing act between reasonably low price versus ultra-huge screen and projection quality.
Also, you’re likelier to buy an LCD or DLP projector instead of the rare LCoS that you might be tempted to buy for the sake of better quality at a higher price point. When it comes to getting more bang for your buck, it’s more the pros and cons of LCD versus DLP. All three can make use of either LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology for long-lasting brightness or laser for long-term low-maintenance projection without worrying about bulb burn out.
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