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Choosing the Right Projector for your Needs

Choosing the Right Projector for your Needs

To often I see this question come up online from potential buyers that really don’t know what to look for or what they need when it comes to buying a projector. Usually you start with the concept that you want a home theater or are a business user and need a projector for meetings or presentations. In the end you almost always end up asking “What should I buy?” This question is almost always most easily resolved by answering the question “What will you use it for, and where will you be using it?”

So let’s take a stab at answering that question. First will this be a projector used for:

  • Business – Medium Sized Projector with 800 x 600 to 1280 x 1024 resolution range.
  • Home – Small to medium Sized projector with 1280 x 800 to 1920 x 1080 resolution range.
  • Mobile – Small Projector with 640 x 480 to 1024 x 768 resolution range.


Small Business Portable Pico ProjectorEpsonEH-TW5200

Home Theater/Small Business Projector


Medium/Large Business/Education/Theater Projector

Those three categories will get you started on making a decision and help with selecting the size and resolution.  Next lets answer the following question; How big will the audience be:

  • 10 or less – 40 to 1000 ANSI Lumens
  • 40 or less – 1000 to 5000 ANSI Lumens
  • 100 or more – 10,000 to 15,000 ANSI Lumens

This question will help determine the brightness (lumens) of the projector you will want to consider in conjunction with the size of the intended room.  Of course the brighter the projector the hotter it will run and generally the more expensive it gets.  Projectors intended for audiences of 100 or more are generally purchased for business and education settings while those with smaller audiences can be easily deployed by both homes and businesses. There is no benefit to buying a 15,000 ANSI Lumen projector for home use unless you want to watch your favorite movie in a 95 degree living room and set fire to your wall or projector screen. This of course brings us to our next question, throw distance.

Throw distance is the measured length from the lens to the screen or target wall. This is quite critical for selecting the right projector as they all have minimum and ideal throw distances. Too short and your picture is not in focus or doesn’t fit the screen, too far away and your picture is blurry and feint. You want to be right in the middle. While there are no hard defined throw distances for projectors there are some general guidelines which will help. Your intended setting is:

  • Small room or small conference room – Distance from projector to screen is 5 to 10 feet
  • Home theater or conference room – Distance from projector to screen is 15 to 30 feet
  • Medium to large room or theater – Distance from projector to screen is 30 feet to 100 feet


 These are general guidelines and are meant to assist you with determining the size and specs to look for when selecting your projectors should list a minimum throw distance. Make sure your intended room and mounting position will accommodate that distance to the screen. There are projectors that specifically list “Short Throw” as a feature.  See our review of the Optoma HD33 Full 3D Projector as a comparison.

Additional Considerations:

  • Video Refresh Rate
    • 48, 60, 72, 120Hz (Generally the higher the better less flicker)
  • HD or Non HD Quality
    • 1080P Full HD
    • 720P
    • 640 and lower
  • Lamp Life in Hours (higher the better, usually in the thousands of hours)
    • Bulb replacement can be in the hundreds of $USD$.
  • DLP vs LCD
  • USB Ports
    • Direct media access – (Some files not all are compatible and varies by projector)
      • JPEG
      • PPT/PPTX
      • MOV/AVI
  • Video Output
    • HDMI
    • VGA
    • RGB.
    • DVI
  • Built in Speakers


Now that you have some basic information you can go about selecting the right projector for your needs. If you are in the USA you can buy one online or in any Best Buy. For overseas you can find them in this webshop where they have an extensive listing of projectors by type, size, cost, manufacturer and more.  This is a great resource for listing and comparison as well as specifications.

We hope this guide has helped you and if you want additional information please don’t hesitate to contact us.


2 Comments... What's your say?

  1. Thanks Frank. You are right on the money. People dont ask enough questions of their needs and of the products before they buy in my opinion.

  2. Great read Jason. I love that you start off with the same question I ask all of our customers. “What are your plans for this space? Where would you like the display mounted?” These two questions provide enough information so that I, as the system designer, can have an idea of what projector/ flat panel to use before I leave the room.

    There are a few things I’d like to point out though.

    Projector Brightness:

    There is actually an ANSI standard for this which has nothing to do with the size of the audience. It all has to do with luminescence of the image vs ambient luminescence. Without going into a ton of math lets just say that your rule of thumb works out in some situations, but I can tell you I have never specified a 10,000+ lumen projector. Not even for the film department on campus. It’s overkill for 99% of any use outside motion video viewing in a very large venue. On the flip side I have specified a 8000 lumen projector for a conference room of 15 people due to windows on 3 of the 4 walls in the space. There was so much ambient light, even with shades, that we needed the excess lumens to overcompensate for the sunlight. Long story short, too late I know, your readers should look at their specific application and consider ambient lighting and screen size needed more than their audience size.

    Throw distances:

    Throw distances will vary depending on the projector and lens combination. Any manufacturer, worth purchasing, will have a throw distance calculator on their site for easy reference.

    DLP vs 3-LCD:

    Your readers should know the difference here as it has a huge impact on cost and is directly determined by use of the space. If a customer tells me they want to watch high definition 1080p60 films and video quality at high frames is a huge deal (hello film department), then I will recommend a DLP. Whereas if they just want to do power points, (hello english department/ business department), then I will recommend a 3-LCD. The DLP gives better overall image quality/saturation, but at a big price difference. The 3-LCD will give a brighter true color which is great for still images and power points, and at a better price point. Again this all goes back to the “what do you want to do with this space?” initially asked.

    Again I liked this article and feel that this can be a very tough question for most people to answer when making a projector purchase. I’m glad you started off in the right direction by defining the purpose of the space!

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