A projector is an easy way to turn your living room into a home cinema. There are different types of beamers that can suit a small flat but also a bright living room. However, there are a few things to consider when choosing a projector, as there are now projectors in all price categories and application areas.
With our beamer test 2021, we explain everything from the technology to the set-up that you need to make a wise choice and give you a few recommendations along the way so that the next cinema evening will be a complete success.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The best Beamer in the United Kingdom: Our Picks
- 4 Buying and evaluation criteria for beamers
- 5 Decision: What types of projectors are there and which is the right one for you?
- 6 Guide: Frequently asked questions about beamers answered in detail
- 6.1 What does a beamer cost?
- 6.2 How bright should my projector be?
- 6.3 What should be the minimum contrast?
- 6.4 What resolution is recommended?
- 6.5 How far does a projector need to be from the projection surface?
- 6.6 How long does the lamp of a projector last?
- 6.7 What connections should a beamer have?
- 6.8 Where can I mount my beamer?
- 6.9 What are the alternatives?
- You need enough space for a beamer. The projection surface and the necessary projection distance between the surface and the projector can be calculated in simple steps before you buy.
- You can find the right projector by considering where you want to place it and what content you want to display. There are different technologies, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
- A projector is not just a one-time investment. It's important to keep in mind the life of the bulbs and the cost of replacement so you don't get an expensive surprise when the lights go out.
The best Beamer in the United Kingdom: Our Picks
Buying and evaluation criteria for beamers
You've probably noticed it too: Beamers are a dime a dozen. When buying a beamer, there are a lot of things to consider, which is why the most important criteria are listed here:
- Area of application
- Display technology
- Brightness and contrast
- Installation / Projection Size / Distance
- Lifetime & replacement lamps
- Operating volume
- Additional functions
Area of application
Beamers can be suitable for different areas of application. Therefore, it is important that you make clear what your beamer should be able to do. This is the only way to get the projector you really need! Not only the location, such as a darkened home cinema or a bright living room, is decisive. The content displayed, such as TV programmes, action films (in 3D) or games, can also be important in the purchase decision.
If you know a little about the display technology of a projector, you can significantly reduce both the choice and the confusion in advance. Here is a short list with the advantages and disadvantages of each technology.
LCD - Liquid Crystal Display
An LC display works by means of a membrane into which liquid crystals have been incorporated. These are movable and, depending on the voltage, either let light through or block it. In a projector, the light is split into green, blue and red by a prism and directed through the displays. This makes it possible to reproduce very true-colour and sharp images.
LED - Light Emitting Diode
We are familiar with LEDs from a wide variety of applications because they are very flexible due to their efficiency, low waste heat and long service life. In the case of beamers, they can be used to build mobile solutions so that a presentation or a film can be shown at any time.
DLP - Digital Light Processing
In DLP projector technology, tiny moving mirrors throw the image of the sensor onto the wall. The faster the mirrors move, the brighter the image. If the mirrors stop, no light is transmitted, which allows for a deeper black and higher contrast. A rotating colour wheel is used for the colours.
LCos - Liquid Crystal on Silicon
This technology has different names depending on the manufacturer, such as SXRD at Sony, D-ILA at JVC and Reflective 3LCD at Epson.
Brightness and contrast
The luminous intensity of projectors is expressed in a unit called ANSI lumens or lumens for short. This unit indicates how brightly a projector can shine and thus also shows the room for which it is suitable.
The lumen number or luminous intensity is an important purchase criterion. Unfortunately, many manufacturers, especially in the cheaper segment, outbid each other with high lumen numbers that do not always do justice to reality. Contrast is always given in a ratio of e.g. 10,000:1 and describes the difference in brightness between the darkest and brightest pixel.
The image appears sharper and more powerful with a higher value and depending on the technology used. As with luminosity, one should pay attention to whether a contrast ratio sounds realistic and whether the built-in technology is at all capable of achieving it at the desired price.
You're sure to have come across a few specifications about resolution. The classics are called HD Ready, Full HD, UHD and 4K. These refer to the pixels in the horizontal and vertical planes. The native resolution is an important purchase criterion for a projector.
|Designation||resolution in pixels (width x height)|
UHD and 4K are slightly different, as televisions actually have a UHD resolution, but this is often not quite correctly marketed as 4K, as this is a term from cinema technology. The higher the pixel density, the sharper the picture. However, since some people cheat with the specifications, the native resolution (i.e. the actual number of pixels of the projector) is decisive.
An image in Full HD (1920x1080p) will not look as sharp if the projector only has a native resolution in HD Ready (1280x720p), because it is missing a few pixels.
Installation / Projection Size / Distance
Projectors can be set up or mounted on the ceiling. However, unless you have chosen a short-distance projector, the room should be large enough. If the projection surface is about 2 metres wide, the projection distance between the projector and the projection surface should be about 4 metres. This distance also depends on the built-in zoom lens as well as on a lens shift function and can therefore vary, more on this in the guide!
Lifetime & replacement lamps
What you should never underestimate is the life span of the projector lamps. The fact is that replacement lamps can be very expensive. On average, the lamp of a normal projector has a life span of approx. 2,000 - 3,500 hours. This can be further extended with the power-saving modes of the projectors.
A single lamp can cost between 50 - 300 euros, which is why you should always take maintenance costs into account when making a purchase decision. Due to their efficiency, LED lamps last around 20,000 hours, but the projectors are considerably more expensive and less bright.
With a modern projector, the types of connection are relatively straightforward. To connect to a laptop or tablet, HDMI, DisplayPort or DVI outputs are usually used. Note that only HDMI or DisplayPort can transmit image and sound simultaneously.
For older devices, there is usually also an analogue VGA output, but this is susceptible to interference with long cable connections. Particularly practical are the options of a WLAN connection and USB ports to be able to play media directly from an end device or storage medium. If there is no WLAN built into the projector, an additional adapter is required.
A simple rule applies here: the brighter the beamer, the louder the fan that has to cool the lamp. However, the noise can be reduced by switching on a power-saving mode. To enjoy a quiet film, beamers with a maximum volume of 30 decibels are recommended. For comparison: a whisper produces about 20 - 30 decibels.
A projector that can be used flexibly has a few very useful additional functions that can greatly simplify set-up and setup.
- Lens Shift: If the projector cannot be pointed straight at the screen, the "lens shift" function is handy to shift the image either horizontally or vertically.
- Keystone correction: If the image is displayed at an angle, the keystone correction helps to balance the image and make it appear square again.
- Zoom: And if the distance to the screen is not suitable, a zoom can help. Beamers often have fixed optics, so it is worth looking for a projector with a zoom function. This can be found in the technical data and has a designation such as 1.2 - 1.6:1.
Decision: What types of projectors are there and which is the right one for you?
Depending on the purpose and location, there are different types of projectors that can meet your needs. To shed some light on this, we explain what types are available and where they can best be used. From small rooms to big screen cinemas, everything is possible depending on your budget!
|Type of beamer||Area of application|
|Mini beamer||Thanks to the rechargeable battery, ideal for on the go, to briefly throw a presentation or a cinema film on the wall|
|Short-distance beamer||Suitable for small rooms with too little distance to the projection surface or gaming|
|Full HD beamer||The standard for every home cinema experience, for displaying any content on a wall or screen|
|3D projector||With the appropriate shutter glasses, one of the best ways to finally experience gripping 3D content at home|
|4K projector||Because of the high entry-level price, actually already in the professional range, because the image quality can hardly get much better with it|
The following list gives you a rough overview of the projectors and their main features so that you can make the perfect purchase decision.
Guide: Frequently asked questions about beamers answered in detail
What does a beamer cost?
To choose the right beamer at the right price, it therefore helps a lot to use the information above to form an opinion about what you really need and what you do not.
How bright should my projector be?
What should be the minimum contrast?
If your projector is in a room with daylight, however, the contrast value plays a subordinate role. Rich black levels mean that the projector illuminates the dark surface as little as possible. If the room is a little lit, it is not so noticeable if the dark black is displayed a little brighter by the projector.
What resolution is recommended?
How far does a projector need to be from the projection surface?
If you find a zoom value in the technical specifications, such as 1.25 - 1.68:1, then a corresponding lens is installed. This means that for every 1.25 - 1.68 metres of projection distance, a projection surface of 1 metre in width is obtained, depending on how high the zoom factor is set.
An example Let's assume we have a screen with a width of 2 metres. If we now use a projector with a zoom value of 1.25 - 1.68:1, then we calculate 2 x 1.25 = 2.5 and 2 x 1.68 = 3.36. This means that the minimum distance is approx. 2.5 metres and the maximum distance approx. 3.36 metres to obtain an image width of 2 metres.
Also important is the optimum seating distance from the screen, which varies depending on the resolution. The higher the resolution of the image, the shorter the seating distance should be, as the pixels are no longer perceptible above a certain distance.
How long does the lamp of a projector last?
The life of a lamp can also be extended by switching on energy-saving modes (e.g. Eco mode). This is important because a new lamp can cost between 80 and 300 euros, depending on the model.
The maintenance and operating costs should therefore definitely be included in the price of the beamer! With LCD and DLP lamps, it is normal for the brightness to decrease even before they are replaced. Therefore, they can already be replaced when the brightness decreases and is no longer sufficient.
Important: After switching off the projector, it should not be disconnected from the power supply immediately, as the fans will speed up again and cool down the lamp. You should also make sure that your projector stays clean and that dust or other objects never block the ventilation slots, otherwise heat can build up.
What connections should a beamer have?
|HDMI||The most common standard for high-resolution image and sound transmission. With the new HDMI 1.4, even 3D content in full HD is possible|
|DisplayPort||Similar to the HDMI standard, but can be installed without a licence. Has a snap-in function to prevent accidental disconnection.|
|USB Type C||Also called Thunderbolt 3 and already used as a standard connection on many modern devices. With it, power, data and image transfers are possible at the same time and even faster than with USB 3.0.|
|USB Type A||Usually used with beamers for external hard drives to play back images in JPEG format or, depending on the device, MS Office files.|
|Wireless Lan||Via WLAN, a device can be connected wirelessly to the projector and thus play back images, presentations or videos, for example. If the projector supports the MHL function (Mobile High Definition Link) via a Miracast adapter, HD content can also be played back.|
|VGA||The VGA connection is an analogue connection that can still be found on older devices such as TVs, PCs or laptops. It cannot transmit sound and video at the same time.|
Where can I mount my beamer?
- The projector only needs to be adjusted once and will most likely not be adjusted again. It can then be operated simply by remote control.
- It saves a lot of space because the beamer no longer needs a fixed place on the floor and there is no longer a tangle of cables.
- The noise of the fans is further away from the viewers, which makes enjoying a film much more pleasant.
The following options are available for mounting a beamer:
- Universal mounts: These can be used on just about all beamers. What is important is the maximum weight that the projector is allowed to have.
- Height-adjustable mounts: If your room only has fairly high ceilings, you can consider an adjustable mount to achieve the optimum height.
- Electric mounts: If you want the room to look as clean as possible, a retractable mount is the best alternative, although by far the most expensive. This usually requires a professional to install the bracket in the ceiling.
What are the alternatives?
If the homeowner does not allow the installation of a screen, or if the installation and maintenance costs are simply too great, then you should really consider a TV in a suitable size. TVs are usually cheaper to buy, require little maintenance and are less sensitive to ambient light.
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