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How do I choose a projector?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I'm a complete newbie to projectors but after finding this forum I just HAVE to build an outdoor theater to watch from the pool area! I'm thinking a front projection would work best in my application (I have an area in a flowerbed that already has power, the projector could go there).

Soooo... how do I choose a projector? I want to do it as inexpensively as possible but I don't want to buy junk that won't last.

Any basic guidelines I should look for?

post #2 of 5
The nice thing about outdoor theater is that you don't really need a great projector for it to look great. Once it gets dark enough, you can really use any projector for it. Now, if you have some stray light (such as from street lights, or neighbors, etc.) you probably want to go with something that is a bit brighter than average.

I have an old Benq pb6100 (SVGA) projector (which is only 800x600 pixels) and I get many many comments from my guests about how they can't believe the image is so clear. It is also a light cannon (rated at 1700 lumens, but I'm sure much less--and it is a few years old, with about 1300 hours on the bulb, so it is not as bright as it used to be (bulbs dim over time). The light cannon is useful, because we can get started on the movie when it isn't completely dark.

If you are just getting started, I would probably recommend picking up something cheap and possibly used, especially if you are not really planning to use it in your home (outside, you sit far enough away that the projector's resolution is not that big of a deal--once you get the projector in your living room, you may want something a bit better and more expensive). You can always upgrade should you feel the need to after a season or two if the projector isn't doing the job you want. But by that time you will have a really good feeling for what you are looking for, and you'll know a lot more about projectors.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Steve!

Are there any features that I should look for? Things that are really a "must have" even for an outdoor use projector?

post #4 of 5
You should know the difference between LCD and DLP, for one. I prefer DLP over LCD because I think the image just looks better, and has less "screen door effect". (Screen door effect is when you can see the lines separating the pixels, if you get close enough, like looking through a screen door to see the image--do a search and you will probably be able to find it...)

I also think DLP in general has deeper blacks and better color, but I'm sure there are people who prefer LCD who might tell you otherwise.

(DLP uses an array of tiny mirrors to reflect projected light after travelling through a color wheel. LCD projects light through an LCD panel. By the way, the color wheel makes some people tend to see "rainbows" (the rainbow effect) in DLP projection--on a high contrast scene (white text on a black background), darting your eyes causes a brief flash of color, like a brief rainbow--I can see them, but I am not bothered by them, and I don't even really notice them anymore.)

Although you can certainly get by with an SVGA projector (800x600), you could probably get an XGA, or even WXGA (the "W" stands for "widescreen"--which means the pixel panel has a widescreen aspect ratio) fairly inexpensively. These just give you increased resolution of the pixel panel, providing a larger amount of smaller pixels on the screen.

I would look into demoing some projectors to get a feel for what they can do. Although there are a host of factors to consider in your projector, if you break it down, you really only need to look at three things:
1. Brightness
2. Resolution
3. Contrast ratio

These factors are the keys to getting a decent projector.
1. Brightness. I already talked about brightness--I would recommend a bright projector for outdoors (not only if you have stray light, but because you are spreading your light source onto such a huge canvas--my screen is 16 feet by 9 feet. The bigger the image, the less light per foot.
2. Resolution. If you are only using the image for outdoor viewing, resolution is not that big of a deal. In fact, while 720p and even 1080p projectors are all the rage (and you pay a lot more for them), my little SVGA projector (coupled with an anamorphic lens, which I won't go into now, but can provide more info if you don't know what this does) throws out a really good image, and while it isn't HD quality, it is pretty stunning I believe.
3. Contrast ratio--I haven't talked about this, but the higher the contrast ratio, the deeper the blacks and better the overall picture.

The quality of the final image is directly related to these three factors. Hope this helps.
post #5 of 5
I was using the optoma movietime but my wife can easily see RBE (rainbow effect)... And outside on a much larger screen it is even more evident. So I made the switch to the Sanyo Z5. It is 720p, and one of the greatest bang for the buck pjs available now! I plan to watch HD DVD and Blu ray this summer outside. And since this pj accepts a 1080p signal I see more detail. I just wish Mothernature would help us out soon!
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