Whether you’re buying a projector for business or education, it’s worth knowing what features and specifications to look out for. From lumens to lasers: read our no-nonsense answers to some of the most common questions asked by projector buyers.
Resolution measures the amount of detail a projector can accurately display. It’s normally measured in ‘pixels’ – the tiny dots making up an image. As a comparison, your Full HD TV has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Projectors typically use measurements for resolution that are borrowed from the computer industry including SVGA (800 x 600), XGA (1024 x 768), WXGA (1280 x 800), WUXGA (1920 x 1200) and even higher resolutions up to 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160). The greater the resolution the sharper the detail you’ll see on screen, with higher resolution projectors typically costing more. Don’t compromise with anything less than the original resolution of any source you’re likely to be projecting – the resulting images will lack detail and sharpness.
Contrast measures the difference – expressed as a ratio, like ‘2000:1’ – between bright and dark parts of an image being projected. The higher the contrast ratio, the more detail you’re able to see on the screen. Ambient light in the room will always reduce the effective contrast of your projector. In a classroom or office, you’ll struggle to tell the difference between models offering a high or low contrast.
The brightness of all Sony projectors is expressed as ‘colour light output’ and measured in lumens. It’s a more useful real-world measurement than the older ‘ANSI lumen’ brightness that simply expresses the brightest white the projector is capable of delivering. The brightness of Sony projectors ranges from around 2,600 lumens for easy-to-carry portable and desktop models, right up to 7,000 lumens for high-end projectors for permanent installation like the VPL-FH500L and VPL-FHZ700L.
3LCD is the name of the technology inside all Sony projectors for business and education. White light – from the projector’s Ultra-High Pressure Mercury (UHP) lamp or laser light source, depending on the model – is split into three primary colours (red, blue and green). Each colour is beamed towards its own LCD panel that forms the image. Finally, the three primary colour images are recombined. 3LCD technology offers the benefits of high image brightness, colour accuracy and reliability over other projection technologies.
Projectors like our VPL-FHZ700L and VPL-FHZ65 use a 3LCD laser light source instead of a conventional lamp. As well as excellent picture quality and quick start-up, you’ll enjoy low running costs and reduced maintenance, with up to 20,000 hours virtually maintenance-free operation… that’s around 10 years in normal use. Find out more about laser projection.
In most business and educational environments, projectors are often connected to a computer, server or local area network (LAN) to display PC presentations, documents and web sites. Depending on your projector’s input ports, you can also connect other sources like DVD or Blu-ray Disc players, video conferencing systems, set-top boxes and gaming consoles.
Dividing the distance from a projector’s lens to the screen by the width of the image tells you the ‘throw ratio’. This ratio is useful when you’re installing a projector, telling you how close the projector can be placed to the screen while ensuring clear images with no visible pixels. Some Sony projectors are compatible with optional interchangeable lenses with different throw ratios. This gives you more flexibility to install the projector closer or further away from the screen as you choose while maintaining image quality.
Our Projection Simulator app is a handy tool to help AV installers see the effect of throw ratios, optional lenses and available lens shift ranges. This can help with deciding which projector is most suitable for the buyer.
Ideally, a projector is placed perfectly in front of the centre of the screen to produce a perfectly-proportioned image. In reality, the projector often needs to be positioned higher or lower, or to one side lens shift adjustment allows the projector to be installed off-centre, either vertically or horizontally. This gives more flexibility during installation – and it doesn’t sacrifice the projector’s native image resolution.
If a projector isn’t pointing directly at the screen, images that should be perfectly rectangular look distorted in an irregular shape known as a trapezoid. Keystone correction automatically compensates for this image distortion, ensuring projected pictures that are geometrically square and accurately proportioned. Be aware that this image correction does have a small (but effectively unnoticeable) effect on the projector’s resolution.
Ultra Short Throw projectors are an increasingly popular choice for classrooms, offices and open-plan meeting areas. They’re a great way to project big, bright images onto a screen, whiteboard or wall without having to site the projector far away on the other side of the room. The projector is typically mounted on the ceiling or a wall very close to the screen – often a metre away or less. As well as taking up less space, there’s no danger of the projector beam being interrupted by shadows from other people in the room.
Chromecast is a wireless streaming technology by Google that lets you ‘cast’ video content from a smartphone or tablet to view on a projector. Most Sony projectors support Chromecast. Just plug Google’s Chromecast device – a USB dongle – into the projector’s HDMI port. Wireless streaming is controlled by the Chromecast app on your mobile device.
Traditionally, projectors have been connected via a cable to the source they’re displaying, whether it’s a PC or DVD player. But now wireless presentation is becoming increasingly popular, letting you project images directly from a laptop, smartphone or tablet with no cables. You may need to add an optional USB wireless dongle for the projector, plus our Projector Station app for your mobile device.