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How bright is bright enough for my home theater projector ?

Brightness is measured in ANSI lumens. For home theater projectors, brightness typically ranges from 700 - 2000 lumens or more. Your viewing environment will be a big part of determining how bright your projector needs to be. Dedicated home theaters (rooms with controlled lighting and no ambient light) will not require as much brightness as a space with ambient light from windows or other household lighting.

Dave's Home Theater recommends the following lumen outputs:
  • Dedicated home theaters need 2000 lumens or better.
  • Rooms with some ambient light should have at least 1200 lumens.
  • Spaces with high ambient light need about 3000 lumens.

Tip: In many cases, manufacturers rate projector lumen values based on data output, not video. Lumen output for video is typically not as high as data. For help determining which projector is right for your viewing environment, contact one of our sales professionals. Our Projector Experts have personally seen most units perform in video mode.

What do I need to know about image quality Before purchasing a projector. [ top ]

The three most important factors to consider when looking for image quality are native resolution, your source material, and brightness uniformity.

Currently WVGA (854x480), ĺ HD (960x540), and WXGA-H (1280x720) are the most common home theater projector resolutions. A WXGA-H projector has about twice the number of pixels of a WVGA projector. More pixels mean a sharper looking image, and better compatibility with high-definition sources.

Available 16:9 resolutions
WVGA 848 x 480 407,040 total pixels
WSVGA (or 1/4 HD) 964 x 544 524,416 total pixels
WXGA-H 1280 x 720 921,600 total pixels
WXGA 1366 x 768 1,049,088 total pixels
Hi-Def =1920 X 1080 Total pixels

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HDTV: 1080i Vs. 1080p? Whatís the difference?
HDTV (High-Definition Television) offers a clearer and more detailed picture because it contains more information. Television pictures are made up of many dots or picture elements (pixels) that form the image you see, therefore by using more of these pixels, in a high-definition (HD) transmission a more clear and sharp image is available. Normally, an HD signal can contain up to around five times the information compared to standard definition (SD) in terms of the number of pixels used. SD signals are made up of approximately 500-600 horizontal lines of pixels depending on transmission system used, whereas HD transmissions use at least 700 to around 1000 lines.

1080i and 1080p? What do both i and p mean?
These formats indicate the number of horizontal lines the transmission format uses along (denoted by the number) and the picture display method being used (indicated by the letter.
  • i stands for Interlaced
  • p stands for Progressive Scan
Why 1080p is theoretically better than 1080i ?
Basically, 1080i -- the former king of the HDTV hill, actually boasts an identical 1,920x1,080 pixels resolution but conveys the images in an interlaced (i) format (the i in 1080i). In a tube-based television, otherwise known as a CRT, 1080i sources get "painted" on the screen sequentially: the odd-numbered lines of resolution appear on your screen first, followed by the even-numbered lines--all within 1/30 of a second.

An Interlaced Image
An Interlaced Image

While, the Progressive-scan (p) formats such as 480p, 720p, and 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) convey all of the lines of resolution sequentially in a single pass, which makes for a smoother, cleaner image, especially with sports and other motion-intensive content. As opposed to tubes, microdisplays (DLP, LCoS, and LCD rear-projection) and other fixed-pixel TVs, including plasma and LCD flat-panel, are inherently progressive in nature, so when the incoming source is interlaced, as 1080i is, they convert it to progressive scan for display.

A Progressively Scanned Image
A Progressively Scanned Image

Today's high-def broadcasts are done in either 1080i or 720p, and there's little or no chance they'll jump to 1080p any time soon because of bandwidth issues. There's been a lot of chatter over whether the new breed of high-def movie players, Blu-ray or HD-DVD, as well as the upcoming Sony PlayStation 3, will output in 1080p. Allegedly, they will, but those players and recorders will be very expensive at first (more or nearly $1,000), and they probably won't hit more modest price levels during this year, 2007 or even 2008. The PS3, on the other hand, is designed to be more of a mainstream product; with a fairly price tag in the neighborhood of $599. Itís one of the cheapest Blu-ray player in the recent market.

Daves Home Theater recommends a WXGA-H (1280x720) or high resolution XGA (1024x768) native 4:3 products, as your best choice for HDTV. If you primarily use a DVD player (with a resolution of 480p) a WVGA will cost you less, and is worth considering if you don't see HDTV in your future. Learn more about projector resolution and home theater here Ľ

What you are watching will make a big difference in the quality of your image. A low-quality signal into your projector will most likely look like a low-quality signal when projected, and on a larger screen may be even more noticeable. For best results, you should try and match the native resolution of your source material. A progressive scan DVD player is typically a 480p signal, while HDTV signals are still not totally standardized, although 720p or 1080i seem to be the most common. Projectors designed for home theater applications will usually include some kind of video scaling technology which improves the appearance of non-native signals. Ask your Projector Expert for more about scaling technology.

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Brightness uniformity will also affect the overall quality of your image. Uniformity is the percentage of brightness carried from corner to corner and edge to edge of your image. A higher uniformity rating means better consistency throughout your image. For the most consistent images, look for a uniformity rating of 85% or better.

What connections will give me the clearest images? [ top ]

Component Video

Connectivity and compatibility also factor into getting the sharpest, clearest images. Projectors specifically designed for home theater often have multiple video inputs, special video micro-chips and other features.

Daves Home Theater recommends that the projector you buy for home theater have at least one component video input and/or an HDMI or DVI connection. Sometimes a component video inputs look like a composite input, but it splits the video signal into three separate parts rather than one and can be identified by a red, green and blue connector. You may also be able to receive a component signal via a VGA input. Component video It is the most common type of high quality signal available today, though DVI and HDMI are available on most new HD sources. DVI and HDMI are more future-proof.


Nearly all projectors will have at least one composite and one S-Video connection. S-video cables differ from composite cables in that they split video signal into two different components: luminance and chrominance. The S-video cable will offer marked improvement over a composite cable. Composite inputs may come in handy though, as it is still on some new equipment, and nearly all legacy sources.

DVI and HDMI cables are the latest in high definition connectivity. Both carry true high-definition signals, but there are a few differences. The HDMI connector is smaller, and carries digital quality audio. Either of these connectivity options will help to future proof your purchase, as more manufacturers seem to be choosing DVI or HDMI on DVD players and HDTV receivers to transport their HDTV signals.

How Long Will the Light Bulb In My New Projector Installation Last?

[ top ]

LCD and DLP projectors typically have a lamp life between 2000-4000 hours. This specification is actually referring to the 'half-life' of the lamp. The half-life is the point where the lamp is half as bright as it was new. The lamp will still work at its half-life, but it will continue to gradually lose brightness. Longer lamp life means less expense in maintaining your projector.

If you are planning to use your projector to replace your current television, lamp replacement cost should be factored into your purchase. Replacement lamps run approximately $200-$400.

If your projector will be used primarily for watching movies and special events, lamp life will not be quite as important. But you may still want to factor the cost of a replacement lamp into your purchase. The average projector used in this manner runs approximately 8 hours a week.

  • Lamps typically last between 2000-4000 hours.
  • Replacement lamps cost between $200-$400.
  • Regular filter cleaning and proper operation will improve lamp life.
  • The average projector used for movies and special events runs 8 hours a week. At this rate, the a lamp will last approximately 4.8 years.

Quick Tip: If you purchase a spare lamp with your projector, run it in your projector for a few hours first, then store it somewhere cool and dark. Lamp warranties begin from the day of purchase, not from the day of use. If a lamp is faulty, it will usually fail within the first 4 to 10 hours of operation.

Which features make my projector installation easy to use? [ top ]

When selecting your projector, look for intuitive menus. Particularly those that allow you to easily adjust color fidelity, choose between HDTV and NTSC broadcast, and easily switch your video sources. Full function remote controls are also a plus if you want to make your life a little easier. With or without these special features, most of today's projectors are very easy to use.

  • Intuitive, user-friendly menus
  • One-touch video source 'switching'
  • Full-function remote controls
  • Lens shift and wider zoom ranges (easier to install)

Daves Home Theater sales representatives have seen the projectors we sell in action. For tips on which projectors are the easiest to use, consult a projector expert directly.

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