Part 1 covered Overview, Brightness, Contrast, Color, LCD or DLP and Portability, while Part 2 concludes with Connectivity, Resolution, HD Issues and Image Aspect Ratios.
Video Projector Connectivity
Although most consumer electronics eventually settle on a “standard” set of inputs and outputs, the confusion in marketing focus between “business” projectors and “home theater” projectors has slowed that process in this segment. It really is important that you understand what I/O your video projector has, otherwise you will find it difficult or impossible to connect. For business use, you will normally connect with a PC or laptop, which CRE rents for just that purpose (among a thousand others). Business users occasionally need to connect a DVD player, too, while a home theater unit needs to be ready for DVD, an iPod or similar “media player,” an HDTV set-top box or a satellite feed.
Connectivity requirements between the two video projector categories we are discussing do, in fact, vary. Most, but not all, business and “prosumer” models support composite, component, S-video and VGA connectivity. (The Glossary of CRE’s home-site article on “A/V Basics” will explain these to you clearly.) Home theater projectors will typically include DVI or HDMI ports, as well, the latter of which is also beginning to show up on business models. In fact, HDMI is the “connection of the future” for audio/video gear.
A new connection type, and most appropriate for business users, is the M1 (or EVC, or P&D) standard, most commonly called M1 or M1-DA. This connector is similar to DVI, which is a digital single or dual link (or analog in the case of DVI-I). The M1 adds USB or FireWire connectivity, which allows you to send commands through the projector’s remote control to your PC. This gives you total control over your presentation—scrolling through PowerPoint presentations, pausing movie streams and so forth.
Best practice? Simple. Always ensure that the projector has the appropriate inputs for your intended use.
Projector Resolutions: SVGA, XGA and Two Kinds of “Widescreen”
Unless qualified beforehand, the term “resolution” means “native resolution” (also called “optical,” “fixed” or “built-in”) and measures the amount of picture detail that the projector supports without having to compress (down-sample) the number of pixels in the video. Compression inevitably degrades the picture quality because it actually “throws out” content.
Resolution is the most important attribute setting business models apart from home theater projectors. Frankly, it is not the amount of pixels but rather their arrangement when projected on a screen like the Fast Fold Da-Lite available from CRE. The height and width of the arranged pixels on the screen gives you both the resolution and the “aspect ratio” of your projected image. For portable projectors the highest resolution available is SXGA (1280×1024), and these units continue to be rather expensive. The most common projector resolutions available in the 4:3 aspect ratio (“old style” TV screens) are SVGA (800×600 pixels) and XGA (1024×768 pixels), although the new-ish widescreen versions (16:9 aspect ratio) of SVGA and XGA formats are becoming more widespread. Widescreen SVGA is known as WVGA, with an 854×480 pixel image, while widescreen XGA is called WXGA and has 1280×720 pixels.
SVGA and XGA projectors are better suited to business presentations, and the higher resolution XGA models are better able to show the fine detail in the content. In most circumstances, especially with text-heavy images, a lower-lumen SVGA projector will do a good job, but an XGA projector is best for presentations that have graphics, software demos or full web pages. This resolution is also a better match for a greater number of laptop computer displays. With the advent of widescreen laptops, though, the widescreen projector formats are also beginning to proliferate, as are more powerful high-lumen models.
If you want the biggest picture possible in your home theater, then get the highest resolution you can afford. You are far less likely to suffer pixelation issues this way. Of course, one can always move farther from the screen to address pixelation, but in a home theater the idea is to move in close for a wider viewing angle and a more immersive theater experience.
There is a great deal of exciting home theater R&D going on today at projector manufacturers. It is not widely publicized, but some of that energy is also going into the development of single units that can handle both business and home theater demands. The industry is also working diligently to bring HD capabilities to projectors—simply, straightforwardly and cost-effectively. Watch for an upcoming blog entitled, “How Projectors Handle HD Content.” After that, and considering the fact you just worked through a college-level course in the last two blogs, you can consider yourself on your way to becoming a true projector expert. Even if you aren’t, you can always contact one of CRE’s projector experts to clear up the confusion for you. At CRE, we don’t charge people to answer questions—never have, never will.
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