What to Look for in a Quality Home Theater Projector – Is Brighter Better?
When desiging your Home Theater System, many factors come in to play. Choosing the right speakers, proper screen size, projector, etc. If working with a Custom Installer, then you’re probably in good hands. They typically specialize in designing home entertainment systems, and are highly experienced in front projection systems.
Well we all want the best sound and picture within our budget, but what really differentiates a data grade or presentation projector from a quality Home Theater Projector? If they all state similar specs, why the dramatic price difference? What makes one unit $4000 and one $1500? Lets look into the specs a little further.
Ansi Lumens (American National Standards Institute)One specification that receives too much credit is ansi lumens, or light output. The greater the lumen output the brighter the unit will be. But is brighter really better? Not exactly. Lumens can sometimes be a little deceiving as some manufacturers tend to inflate these ratings. Let’s say manufacturer A states an output of 1500 ansi lumens. Manufacturer B may then raise the contrast ratio and brightness levels of a comparable unit in order to spec a higher lumen output. Now our unit is brighter – and after all doesn’t 2000 ansi lumens look better than 1500? By raising the levels to the extreme the picture then becomes completely unwatchable, but it’s brighter and better than yours. It’s a “numbers” game and manufacturer’s play the game far too much.
Typically you’ll find that most inexpensive “Data” grade projectors have very high lumen ratings. This is because they are designed for classrooms and conference rooms, but do not necessarily have the greatest picture quality. Typically these units have very poor color saturation and the black levels look almost gray.
Contrast RatioThe more important spec when considering a quality projector is Contrast Ratio. Contrast ratio measures the relative difference between white and black. It is difficult for any video display to create the brightest whites, and the darkest black while maintaining detail in the darkest scenes. This is the main objective of any quality display and what makes the image jump off the screen. Contrast adds depth, the whites are bright, colors are rich and vibrant, and black looks black, not dark gray.
In conclusion, don’t be misled by Ansi Lumen ratings. The most important factor in a quality projector is the Contrast Ratio. Regardless of which projector you choose or your custom installer suggests, it’s important to control the amount of light in order to get the best possible picture. Given that, is brighter really better?