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Imaging Devices

Lights, Camera, Action! (Part 2)

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Light fantastic

A projector’s ANSI lumens rating tell you how bright it is. Home projectors are designed to be used in darkened environments, so they don’t need to be massively bright as your eyes will adjust to the image. Even so, most of the models here do a fair job under bright light. This is handy if you want to use them during the day or keep lights on in the background. A brightness of 1,200 lumens is fine for a dimly lit room, 2,000 lumens is fine for office lighting and 3,000 lumens are still visible in ambient daylight. However, ANSI lumen ratings can be misleading. An efficient 1,000 lumens projector can appear almost as bright as an inefficient 2,000 lumens model. Our reviews tell you how good each projector is.

Optoma ML500 DLP LED Projector

Optoma ML500 DLP LED Projector

Projector bulbs have a rated lifespan, after which they have to be replaced. Lifespans are increased by running a projector in Eco mode, which reduces the brightness. We’d expect a projector lamp to last at least 2,000 hours, while 4,000 hours or more is better. However, it’s the cost per hour that's important, as this gives you a running cost comparison for each model.

No place like home

Finding somewhere to place your projector so that it’s correctly aligned with your projection surface can be a challenge. All the projectors reviewed here allow you to flip and invert their images, so you can mount them on the ceiling or back-project on to special screens.

The most important part of setting up a projector is taking note of its throw ratio. This is vital in deciding how far to place the projector from your projection surface. The ratio is defined as the distance between the screen and the projector; divided by the width of the image you’re trying to project. Projectors with short throw ratios can display a larger image when close to the screen, whereas projectors with larger throw ratios need to be placed much further away to get the best image.

The most important part is taking note of its throw ratio

The most important part is taking note of its throw ratio

 Keystone correction is another common feature. Key stoning is when an image is wider at either the top or bottom, and occurs if the projector is too high or low for the screen. Keystone correction narrows the top or bottom of the screen to correct this, but it does so digitally, so you lose image quality. Several of the larger projectors here have lens shift, which allows you to change the position of the lens. This lets you correct for a projector that is too low, high or off-center without degrading the picture quality.

Third dimension

The latest and greatest feature for home cinema is 3D games and movies. It’s now so common that all but two of the projectors we’ve tested support it. All the projectors here require active shutter glasses, and there are no passive 3D models.

Not all 3D-ready projectors come with 3D glasses in the box. We say in each review how many pairs come with each model, but buying multiple pairs of glasses separately will add a couple of hundred pounds to the price.

More expensive projectors may include extra features such as MPEG noise reduction, which helps to eliminate compression artefacts, and frame interpolation. This creates extra frames, which are displayed between existing ones to create smoother motion. At high settings this can look a bit odd, as people seem to glide across the screen, but it’s great for watching fast-paced action such as sports footage.

Socket to me

All the projectors here are well equipped with multiple inputs; each has at least one HDMI, VGA, composite and component input. Marry have two HDMI ports, which is handy if you want to connect a Blu-ray player as well as a TV set-top box or games console, for instance. HDMI switches are available for as little as $30 if you need additional HDMI inputs.

All the projectors here are well equipped with multiple inputs; each has at least one HDMI, VGA, composite and component input.

All the projectors here are well equipped with multiple inputs; each has at least one HDMI, VGA, composite and component input.

Some models here come with integrated speakers. These range from tiny 2W mono speakers to 20W stereo speakers, but most people will want to connect an AV receiver and a dedicated surround-sound system to get the full cinematic experience. We’ve described the audio quality in each review.

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