The 8 Best DLP Video Projectors
8. EUG Portable Cinema
7. Vivitek Qumi WXGA Q5
6. BenQ MH741 3D
5. Apeman Portable Mini Video
4. InFocus Corporation IN119HDX
3. BenQ HD 3D Home Theater
2. ViewSonic PA503W
1. Optoma GT1080 Darbee
What’s The Big Deal With DLP?
You may have seen a few different types of projectors on the market. Depending on your needs, you might find that a projector without DLP technology could be more to your liking. After all, DLP projectors tend to be a little more expensive, and they don’t boast the kind of lamp life that some other technologies — like LED projectors — have to offer. If you’re serious about projecting high-quality, cinematic images for your home theater or gaming experiences, there’s really no viable substitute.
That’s because the technology behind DLP projection provides images that no other system can compete with. The DLP stands for Digital Light Processing, and it refers specifically to the means by which these projectors reflect the light put out by their bulbs before it reaches the lens. The technology that’s exclusive to DLP projectors is something called a digital micromirror device, or a micromirror array.
The micromirror array is exactly what it sounds like: a series of extraordinarily small mirrors. How small? These individual mirrors are precision-cut and measures by the micron. 4K projectors that need to throw their images up on full-size professional movie screens will utilize micromirrors that are about five microns across. These projectors will often employ one mirror for every two pixels in a digital image. As a result, these mirrors — and the coolant devices needed for them to run safely — take up an enormous amount of space.
Why not use one mirror for every pixel? Well, thanks to a physiological effect of perception in human vision, manufacturers can use half as many mirrors and our minds don’t notice. Remember, our brains don’t watch moving pictures; they watch 24 still frames slide by each second, creating the illusion of movement that our minds are all too willing to accommodate. A similar effect is at work in the micromirror array thanks to a phenomenon — and perennial candidate for word of the year — called wobulation.
Because these micromirror devices are so expensive to produce, manufacturers understand that any DLP projector is bound for a higher class of customer. As a result, they tend to keep the short cuts at bay, opting for higher-grade optics all along the image chain. That means you’re liable to get better lenses, more adjustable keystones, and more color accuracy.
Features To Look For In A DLP Projector
Nothing can be worse for a cinefile than dropping a boatload of cash on a fancy DLP projector, only to set it up and encounter a pale, washed out image of a classic film. Knowing what some of the tech jargon in the projector industry refers to — and how to compare those specs side-by-side — can give you a distinct advantage in selecting a model that’ll do justice to the cinematography of Citizen Kane.
The most important among these specifications are brightness and contrast. The brightness of a projector is measured in lumens, and a brighter projector will almost always be better, so look for this number to be as high as possible. The same could be said about contrast ratio. In the age of refined, ultra-high-definition television, we’ve come to expect nothing but the deepest blacks and the widest dynamic response from our images. Selecting a projector with a high contrast ratio will provide you with just that.
An added benefit of both a high lumen count and a high contrast ratio will reveal itself if you have any unwanted ambient light in your viewing space. That ambience can easily wash out an image if your projector isn't able to counter it. More light and more contrast can quickly vanquish such light.
Throw distance and potential screen size will largely be determined for you by the size of your projection space. If you know you only have a limited amount of room between your intended mounting point and your screen location, then a short-throw projector will be your friend. These units have lenses capable of creating large, widescreen images from a very short distance. They boast lenses of a comparable quality to long-throw projectors, though they tend to impart a bit of distortion on the image due to the degree of refraction necessary for their effectiveness.
Other Specs That Can Make Or Break Your Purchase
Some other vital statistics to compare are degrees of keystone correction, zoom and focus functionality, and unit size. As with brightness and contrast, higher keystone numbers (and more intervals between them) will do you well. That’s because keystone correction allows you to adjust the angle of the image without moving the projector itself. If your mount isn’t perfectly level with your screen, you can make quick adjustments with ease.
Zoom and focus can make a huge difference in the quality of your image, as well. Some projectors have a limited focal range, necessitating placement in a very small window of distance from your screen. More focus means more flexibility, as you can sharpen the image from wherever you place the projector.
More zoom means more flexibility, as well, but this feature comes at a cost to your image. As with camera lenses, primes (lenses permanently set to one focal length) are sharper because manufacturers only have to optimize their performance for one measurement. By contrast, zoom lenses detract from overall quality by forcing manufacturers to optimize the image at multiple points.
Unit size will have a great bearing on the portability of your projector. If you know you want to take your projector out on the road with the family, you’ll want something that’s as small as it is effective. Some of the models out there are designed with portability in mind, making their components as small as possible.
Portable units rarely have the kind of brightness or contrast ratios of their stationary competition, however. This can sometimes run counterintuitive, as ambient light from the moon or a cozy campfire can wash them out pretty significantly. It might be wise to grab a small, powerful projector that’s a little bit more of a hassle to take with you, but that can give you a fantastic picture if you’re willing to go through the trouble.