Q: Our training room’s projector died, and we are in the market for a new one. Can you give us some advice as to what we should look for in a replacement projector?
A: The good news is that today’s projectors are better than ever—and far less expensive. There are many facets to consider, but only a handful are most critical. Below is my checklist for evaluating and selecting a new projection system.
- Lumens. The most important consideration is the lumens—the brighter the better. While 2,000 lumens will get the job done in darker rooms, having 3,000 lumens usually allows you to leave the lights on and still see the screen just fine.
- Widescreen. Since today’s laptops and monitors have migrated to widescreen displays, your projector should support widescreen as well. (Of course, if you do purchase a widescreen projector, you may also need to upgrade to a widescreen projection screen.)
- Input ports. Make sure the new projector supports your computer’s output signal, be it VGA, HDMI, USB, DVI, S-video, component video, etc. (I find that VGA is adequate for computer displays, but HDMI is needed to support high-definition DVD or television signals.)
- Wireless (optional). You should consider purchasing a wireless projection system so Bluetooth- or TCP/IP-enabled laptops, tablets, and smartphones can easily connect to the projector.
- Other. Most systems that meet the above four criteria will likely provide adequate speakers, resolution, contrast ratio, ceiling mount, rear display, and keystone correction options. So these factors are typically less important to scrutinize in detail, but you should still check to make sure they are included.
- Projector screen. The size and quality of the projection screen are very important. In my opinion, the screen must be at least 8 feet wide, or wider (even if the ceiling height is only 8 feet and the screen can’t be fully deployed vertically). The back of the screen should be solid black to prevent light from bleeding through, as this allows more light to bounce back toward the audience. The screen’s surface should be textured (not smooth) so light is also reflected sideways (in addition to straight back) to allow viewers seated near the edges of the room to see more clearly. As a comparison price, I found this 10-foot-wide Elite screen, pictured below, available (on Amazon.com) for $249.
- Use Windows low resolution. If you intend to project computer applications (i.e., not just PowerPoint slide shows), you should set your computer screen’s resolution to the lowest possible setting (not the highest resolution, which most people tend to use). This setting will display fonts and images larger so they are easier for the audience to see and read. To change your screen’s resolution, right-click on the Windows Desktop and select Screen resolution, then select the lowest resolution supported by both computer and projector that will display your intended content properly, as pictured below.
- Economy mode. Ironically, many people purchase a more powerful 3,000-lumen projector and then set the bulb to 1,500 lumens (“economy” mode) to save the projector’s bulb life. This approach is akin to purchasing a 12-cylinder Jaguar and using only six spark plugs to save gasoline. I recommend that if you plan to run your projector in “economy mode,” save some money upfront by simply buying a cheaper projector that supports fewer lumens.
- Price. As a comparison price, in November 2013, I paid $649.99 (on Amazon.com) for a 3,000-lumen Epson EX7220 Wireless WXGA 3LCD Projector for use in delivering CPE courses.