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Projector Technology and Features

Sign trade show has an assortment of articles dedicated to the many technologies that drive modern projectors, but for the sake of this guide we’ll also quickly touch upon several of the basics. First up we have the type of projection design or technology. Currently, DLP (Digital Light Processing) and LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) serve as the two main approaches to projection. Our recommendation (which we stand by throughout our entire projector lineup) goes to DLP as the better option.

DLP Provides Better Image Resolution and Quality

In DLP, light shines on a digital micromirror device, also known as a DMD or DLP chip. Up to several million mirrors fit on one DMD, the size and intricacy of which determines the projector’s resolution. One of the most important factors when choosing a projector is color accuracy.

DLP technology uses a dedicated micromirror for each pixel on the screen, so a 1080p projector has over two million mirrors, while a 4K projector uses 8.3 million. LCD projectors use an array with only a few mirrors to project light from a source onto an LCD panel, not unlike the one found in your smartphone, regardless of resolution. DLP requires high precision manufacturing of the DMD/DLP chip with its millions of mirrors, whereas LCD projectors use common off the shelf components. LCD image quality tends to appear very saturated in projection applications. Because of their relatively simplistic design and use of small LCD panels, projectors based on this technology deliver images that look much “jaggier” and more pixelated compared to DLP.

Thinking of the long term, a major advantage of DLP comes from longevity. The DLP chip lasts virtually a lifetime. We have more about award-winning BenQ DLP technology if you’re interested.

Understanding Resolution: Full HD, True 4K, and Enhanced 4K

As of the writing of this guide, the balance of power in the realm of resolution has shifted in favor of 4K, or 3840 x 2160, most commonly. Another 4K format has 4096 x 2160 pixels, but remains mostly used in cinemas. Effectively when 4K ultra HD (UHD) is discussed, 3840 x 2160 is the resolution in mind, totaling 8.3 million pixels (megapixels) per frame/image.

Between 2005 and 2017 the pre-eminent resolution was full HD or 1920 x 1080, which equals 2.1 megapixels. So it’s easy to see 4K has about four times the pixel count of full HD, creating noticeably more detailed images.

When we say “true”, we mean you could pause playback and then actually count 8.3 million distinct pixels on the screen. DLP/DMD designs with 8.3 million mirrors remain very rare and costly, so most true 4K projectors employ pixel shifting to generate duplicates of any given frame. The duplication happens so fast you can’t perceive it and there’s no flickering or other undesired side effects. The net result are 8.3 million beautiful pixels per frame.

The Big HDR Factor

High dynamic range, or HDR, stands together with 4K resolution as the most important development in home video during the past few years. Contrasted with SDR (standard dynamic range), HDR began appearing in photography and movie theaters during the early 2000s. By the mid 2010s a variety of HDR standards made their way onto flat panel TVs and from there to projectors.

At the core of HDR reside higher peak brightness, greater image contrast, and deeper color spaces or a wider color gamut. With HDR you get deeper darks, brighter whites, stronger contrast, more realistic colors, and greater overall image detail. You experience content as created in its native form without missing out on crucial details. Several HDR standards exist, most notably HDR10 by the UHD Alliance, Dolby’s Dolby Vision, and HLG, supported by broadcasters like the BBC. HDR10/HDR10+ are by far the most common.

All good projectors have onboard computing elements just like smart TVs that handle what is known as metadata, or the added information that’s required to transform a raw image into refined output, in this case with HDR.

Color Gamut and All-Glass Lenses

Projectors can only perform as well as their optics allow just as TVs depend on their panel quality. That’s why you should research the optical design of any projector you’re thinking of buying. What you’re looking for are multi-lens arrays that use coated, heat resistant, all-glass components. The importance of glass affects more than just image quality. Mixed material or plastic lenses result in blur and lost details, plus lens warping in short order due to lamp heat exposure. Tough glass lenses that pass strenuous testing guarantee long-lasting image fidelity. Lenses are essentially the most important part of a projector, determining the quality and accuracy of what you see. A projector may have excellent image processing but if its lenses aren’t up to the task you’re not going to benefit from any of its advertised features, including 4K and HDR. That’s why you need top notch optics, to support and enable everything else.

Source: BenQ