There are many types of projectors out there. You have DLP, LCD, LED, and LCoS. There are also different models of projectors on top of the projector types. Manufacturers range from BenQ and Optoma to Canon and Sony (and everything in between).
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It might be confusing for some to deal with, but let’s take a step back and cover the most available of the projector types—the DLP projector. Just what is the DLP projector? What are the things you should consider before buying this projector type?
What are DLP Projectors?
A DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector is the projector that uses digital micro-mirror technology in order to display digital movies and TV shows on the big screen or widescreen. Incidentally, most digital cinema projectors nowadays use DLP tech.
It uses thousands of tiny mirrors coordinate by a powerful computer chipset in order to change and shift light reflection in accordance to the data provided by the digital video it’s attempting to render into a sharp, blur-free image.
How Do DLP Projectors Work?
Every micro-mirror on the DLP projector creates an image in response to the data of the digital video. When on the position of “On”, the mirror reflects light towards the screen, which creates a visible pixel. In the “Off” position, mirrors reflect light away.
This prevents the light from going to the screen, creating the black levels. Some parts partially reflect light in order to create gradients or shades of grey in between the brightness and the shadows.
How a DLP Projector Works in Terms of Color
Single-chip DLPs use the color wheel to create color. This wheel spins RGB patterns in front of the lamp at high speeds. Thanks to persistence of vision, the blinking colors appear as one colored image to your naked eye. This technique is topnotch enough to deliver cinematic quality.
DLP understands how the human eye works, after all. Every 1/50 or a fraction of a second, the retina combines the RGB light to see the full image.
DLP Projector Buying Guide
A single-chip DLP comes with a reflective surface with thousands of tiny mirrors. They coordinate with the light source in order to reflect and render digital imagery to any surface, specifically on projection screens.
What is the History of DLP Projectors?
DLP is essentially a set of chipsets that use a digital micro-mirror device to work and is based on optical micro-electro-mechanical technology. Larry Hornbeck from Texas Instruments originally developed the DLP projector back in 1987.
Even though DLP was invented by Texas Instruments, the first DLP-based projector was instead developed by Digital Projection Ltd back in 1997 a full decade later.
What are the Pros and Cons of a DLP Projector?
Let’s now discuss the pros and cons of a DLP projector.
- Higher contrast than LCD.
- Smaller and more compact box.
- It generates blacker black levels.
- Smoother video with no motion blur.
- Available as portable handheld projectors.
- The pixels are less visible compared to LCDs.
- Film-like quality on HD videos (since it’s the tech used for modern cinemas).
- Color saturation problems.
- It produces an audible whining noise.
- The device has more moving parts than LCDs.
- Rainbow effect or rainbow-colored afterimages.
- At full power it produces weaker yellows and reds.
- It requires more lumens than LCD to deal with ambient light.
What’s the Difference between a DLP Projector and an LCD Projector?
Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projectors use non-micro mirrors in order to split projected light into 3 primary colors of red, green, and blue. They then pass into 3 separate liquid crystal prisms in order to converge the colors to form an image. This results in a rainbow-effect-free image.
In contrast to LCD projectors, DLP projectors have good picture quality that is poorer than what LCD offers. However, DLPs have higher contrast than LCD. It can also be smaller, lighter, and more easily portable than LCDs.
Its price range is from $300 to $1,000, while LCDs range from $250 to $1,000. Its light source of a DLP can be a standard lamp or LED, while an LCD mostly only works with a standard lamp. A DLP uses reflective technology while an LCD uses transmissive or transmission technology.
Finally, DLP was invented back in 1987 while LCD was invented back in 1968. This makes DLP younger than LCD.
What Should You Look for in a DLP Projector?
DLP technology is widely used in commercial theaters, schools, businesses, and homes for home cinema setups. On that note, let’s discuss more about DLP projectors and what to look out for when buying them.
- Micro-Mirror Technology: All DLP projectors have micro-mirror technology. However, some are better at micro-mirroring than others. These tiny mirrors might work better depending on the brand of DLP or certain models have more mirrors to achieve 4K level pixel density.
- Millions of Mirrors Equals Pixel Density: It’s important to remember that the more mirrors available in a tiny space on your DLP the more pixels it will produce. The most pixel-dense of DLPs produce the sharpest, most stunning images care of millions of micro-mirrors.
- Cinematic Technology: Since cinemas changed from film projectors to digital projectors, they’ve been using DLP instead of LCD tech. Therefore, it’s used in 85 percent in all movie theaters. The rest use a mix of film projectors, LCoS projectors, and LCD projectors.
- Resolution: Back in around the 2010s or so, DLPs were becoming more and more common. To judge how good your DLP is, pay attention to the resolution achievable. Just in the 2010s, DLPs were achieving 4K resolution. In the 2020s, we’ve breached towards 8K. 1080p is standard.
- Color Wheel: Your DLP projector shines at 1/50th of a second red light, blue light, and green light at that order. Your eye then thinks it’s seeing a seamless color image when it’s actually seeing the red, blue, and green parts of the image in quick succession.
- No Color Wheel: By paying extra, you can get a three-chip DLP that won’t use pulsating shades of RGB light from a color wheel in order to produce color from your micro-mirror tech. It gets rid of the rainbow effect too.
- The Advantages of Three Chips: Although the alternating pattern is so quick your eye won’t notice it, three-chip is more seamless. The extra chips deal with color transmission like the prism effect of LCD or LCoS projectors.
- More Pixels for Sharper Images: The better the quality of your DLP the more pixels it has and the higher the resolution it produces. This image sharpness is why you won’t see blurry movement from a digital video rendered in a DLP projector display.
- Filter-Free Design: Unlike LCDs and its tech that requires more filtration and heat exhaust, DLPs have a filter-free design that requires virtually no maintenance. It’s not quite on the cool-down level of the LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) but it’s getting there.
- Easy Maintenance in General: All the horror stories you hear about overheating projectors that shouldn’t be stored until their temperature has gone down roots from LCDs. DLPs are quite close to LCoS projectors in terms of time-saving, barely-any-effort maintenance.
- Sealed Chipset: The reason why DLPs are so easy to maintain is because their chipsets are sealed to prevent formation of dust spots. Their use of LEDs or lasers also ensure that cool-down is easy and overheating issues are unlikely.
- Jitter-Free Images: The best of the best DLP projectors out there make full use of DLP tech’s inherent ability to produce smooth motion that’s clear and jitter-free. Nary a flicker will happen and 60 FPS (and above) is readily apparent to anyone watching your digital video.
- LED or Laser Technology: Unlike LCDs that can only use standard lamps like metal halide or halogen, DLPs can use environment-friendly LED or laser technology. Both LED and laser lamps are known for their cost-effective eco mode and longevity in the tens of thousands of hours.
The Final Verdict
There are many things going for the DLP projector. It’s superior to the much older standard of LCD projector in terms of portability, modernity, maintenance-free operation, LED and laser support, sealed chipset, and jitter-free images that have higher contrast.
On the other hand, it’s not perfect and the LCD projector still outdoes it in terms of overall still image quality, saturation, and color richness without using a color wheel or dealing with rainbow afterimages from the projection.
Optoma vs. LG—the Best DLP
Let’s now talk DLP projector recommendations. We recommend the following.
The Optoma HD146X is a high-performance kind of projector costing around $550 and can be used for gaming or movie screenings. It has a brightness of 3,600 ANSI lumens, it features a single-chip design (uses color wheel), and its enhanced gaming mode allows for 16ms response time (reduced lag).
The LG PF50KA, on the other hand, showcases how portable a DLP projector can be with its micro-mirrors and computer chipsets controlling the digital video display. On top of all that, it has 600 ANSI lumens and a USB hardware interface to allow for on-the-go movie viewings.
- “DLP vs. LCD Projector“, Diffen.com, Retrieved June 25, 2021
- “Digital Light Processing“, Wikipedia, Retrieved June 25, 2021
- “What to Look for in a DLP Projector“, ViewSonic.com, July 28, 2019