Today we’ll dive right into the major types of projectors available for today’s consumer. Keep in mind from the last post that you may be limited based on aspect ratio and throw distance. A few other factors will come into play as well, specifically brightness, which is measured in lumens, but we’ll cover that more in depth when we talk about room design and light control.

So, without further adieu, here they are:

CRT  – While you most likely won’t run across any of these at your local AV store,  CRT, or Cathode Ray Tube projectors still exist in many homes, and are often coveted by those that want the purest cinema experience. While they can produce an amazing picture, they do require calibration to be properly dialed in for that “sweet spot”.

Often referred to in the AV world as the 3-eyed monster, CRT projectors employ three separate tubes (red, green, and blue) that converge to create the image. Because of the tuning required, as well as the size, CRT projectors are typically not seen in most home environments. If you are one of the few who goes the way of the CRT, you can be assured that you will have some amazing black levels and contrast, which we’ll discuss shortly.

DLP – DLP was very common in the first wave of HD television systems to hit the market. However, because of the depth required to generate the image on a DLP set, they quickly lost ground to the much thinner LCD and now LED sets that are on the market. DLP projectors, however, still continue to flourish.

DLP technology works by projecting the image on tiny mirrors and then sending that image through a color wheel to generate the color palette that you ultimately see on your screen. Original color wheels contained 4 segments (red, blue, green, and clear) spinning rapidly on a wheel. Because of this, some viewers are prone to the “rainbow effect” which means that they may occasionally  see a hint of a rainbow on their screen due to the colors not lining up as expected.

Keep in mind that this is a small minority of individuals, but it is important to demo a DLP projector first to see if this bothers you or not. Newer DLP projectors use 6 segment color wheels, and some even use separate DLP chips for each other primary colors, virtually eliminating any chance of the rainbow effect. These DLP projectors have amazing black levels, but do come at a price.

LCD – LCD projectors, or Liquid Crystal Display, are quite popular and quite affordable for home theater use. The latest round of 1080P LCD projectors (some even 3D ready) produce an amazing picture quality and are packed with features.

LCD projectors use three separate colored glass panels to create their image – one red, one blue, an one green. Because there is no color wheel like in DLP projectors, rainbow effect is non-existant. Where LCD does lag behind compared to DLP projectors is in contrast. To many people, this is hardly noticeable, but if only the deepest blacks will do for you, you will want to do a side by side comparison of LCD and DLP models.

A newer technology, called LED, is now in the market. Unlike LCD and DLP projectors, which use a lamp, LED (or light emitting diode) uses very bright charged diodes to produce a light source. These LEDs are not only brighter, but also last longer than traditional projector lamps. As always though, you will pay a premium for this technology.

I’ve made several mentions of black levels and contrast ratios, as well as projector brightness (measured in lumens). We’ll talk more about these items next as we wrap-up our overview of projector types. In the next post will also speak to the various inputs you’ll find on your shiny new projector. Until then.. happy shopping!

(photo credit gsloan)

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