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DLP vs. LCD Projector Advice: Fixed Installation Projectors (also used for Large Venue rentals)

Posted on September 28, 2010 by Art Feierman

A look at other technologies: LCOS, LED, CRT, Laser (coming soon)

This section focuses on the issue of DLP vs LCD projector in terms of the larger, brighter and more feature laden projectors on the market. Although today, many companies find that smaller, "portable" projectors are more than adequate for installation in training, board and conference rooms, there is still large demand for the brightest and most feature laden.

Here we look at projectors, typically over 12 pounds, (and up to a couple hundred pounds), that offer interchangeable lenses, and typically offer brightness from 3000 to 15,000+ lumens. The bulk of these projectors are LCD models as well as 3 chip DLP projectors. There are also a few single chip DLP projectors.

In comparing, LCD vs DLP projectors in this class, there really are three catagories of projectors:

LCD projectors (all use 3 lcd panels)
DLP projectors (single DLP chip)
DLP projectors (3 DLP chips).

LCD projectors dominate the lower end of the price range for fixed projectors. With prices starting today, around $3000-$4000. There are likely more than 100 LCD projectors on the market that meet our definition of Fixed Installation projectors.

Single Chip DLP projectors, start with prices around $3500, and go up to $15,000. However there are very few low cost single chip DLP models, with perhaps less than a half dozen being availble for under $5000 (street price). That compares to perhaps 50 LCD projectors available for under $5000.

3 Chip DLP projectors. There are a few dozen of these out there, and all are expensive, with prices starting well over $10,000 at the time of this article.

The LCD projectors dominate sales in the under $20,000 arena, but in large part, that has been due to little competition from the DLP makers.

DLP Projectors - Single Chip

Until the last year or so, DLP projectors were pretty much either very small and light portables, or big, expensive 3 chip models, but that is quickly changing.

Typical of the new generation of affordable single chip DLP projectors are Panasonic's PT-D3500u, PT-D5500u and soon to be shipping PT-DW5000u (tenative model number).

The D3500 offers 3500 lumens, a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, and sells online, typically in the $3500-$4000 range, with a standard lens. Panasonic offers 5 additional lenses for the D3500. The D5000 goes a step further, not only increasing brightness to 5000 lumens, but offering a dual lamp design for reliability. The D5000 priced with most of the optional lenses still comes in at under $10,000.

Click Image to Enlarge

DLP vs. LCD Projector Advice: Fixed Installation Projectors (also used for Large Venue rentals)

This section focuses on the issue of DLP vs LCD projector in terms of the larger, brighter and more feature laden projectors on the market. Although today, many companies find that smaller, "portable" projectors are more than adequate for installation in training, board and conference rooms, there is still large demand for the brightest and most feature laden.

Here we look at projectors, typically over 12 pounds, (and up to a couple hundred pounds), that offer interchangeable lenses, and typically offer brightness from 3000 to 15,000+ lumens. The bulk of these projectors are LCD models as well as 3 chip DLP projectors. There are also a few single chip DLP projectors.

In comparing, LCD vs DLP projectors in this class, there really are three catagories of projectors:

LCD projectors (all use 3 lcd panels)
DLP projectors (single DLP chip)
DLP projectors (3 DLP chips).

LCD projectors dominate the lower end of the price range for fixed projectors. With prices starting today, around $3000-$4000. There are likely more than 100 LCD projectors on the market that meet our definition of Fixed Installation projectors.

Single Chip DLP projectors, start with prices around $3500, and go up to $15,000. However there are very few low cost single chip DLP models, with perhaps less than a half dozen being availble for under $5000 (street price). That compares to perhaps 50 LCD projectors available for under $5000.

3 Chip DLP projectors. There are a few dozen of these out there, and all are expensive, with prices starting well over $10,000 at the time of this article.

The LCD projectors dominate sales in the under $20,000 arena, but in large part, that has been due to little competition from the DLP makers.

DLP Projectors - Single Chip

Until the last year or so, DLP projectors were pretty much either very small and light portables, or big, expensive 3 chip models, but that is quickly changing.

Typical of the new generation of affordable single chip DLP projectors are Panasonic's PT-D3500u, PT-D5500u and soon to be shipping PT-DW5000u (tenative model number).

The D3500 offers 3500 lumens, a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, and sells online, typically in the $3500-$4000 range, with a standard lens. Panasonic offers 5 additional lenses for the D3500. The D5000 goes a step further, not only increasing brightness to 5000 lumens, but offering a dual lamp design for reliability. The D5000 priced with most of the optional lenses still comes in at under $10,000.

Shown above, Panasonic's PT-D3500u, perhaps the lowest cost commerical single chip DLP projector on the market, and one that offers excellent performance. Click to read the review.

True, you can find LCD projectors with 3500 lumens for $3000, and 5000 lumen units for around $5000, so what makes the single chip DLP's interesting?

First, they have a sealed light path, preventing dust and dirt from getting inside where it eventually may show up as blobs on the screen. With a DLP, you change the filters as required, but don't need to have the projector removed and cleaned every year or three.

Second, DLP, as noted in previous parts of this series of articles, have much less visible pixels than LCD projectors. Having pixels that are not at all visible at viewing distance is a big plus for many "image quality critical" applications.

This makes them ideal for video oriented usage, also for high end graphics rendering. Also DLP projectors come much closer to producing black, than LCD projectors, which again is a big plus with video and graphics type displays.

There is far less choice out there with single chip DLP's, so finding one that meets your general requirements - may not be easy. The DLP projectors out there (with one class of exceptions I will get to) are typically, physically much larger than the smallest LCD projectors in this catagory.

That exception to size comes from a group of one chip DLP projectors that are actually sold under three different brands (and with some differences), but they all basically look the same. These are the very small (and yes they classify as portables, and don't belong in this section), higher resolution units eithe 1280x1024 (SXGA) 1400x1050 (SXGA+) and 1280x720 (WXGA), projectors sold under the Christie, Projection Design, and Digital Projection brands. They certainly are in the price range however, of fixed install projectors, and they do offer a choice of lenses, despite being under 9 pound projectors. (As a result they are popular for fixed install, as well as portable projectors.)

Lastly, there is concern out there that LCD projectors in heavy use environments, have a problem with color shift over time. A study (paid for by TI - the developer of DLP), a couple of years ago, showed that LCD projectors have a color shift toward yellow as the projectors reach about 5000 hours use - this due to degradation of the "blue" lcd panel. In fairness, the study ran the projectors 24/7 - continuous operation, which also means running the units hotter than most tradtional applications call for. What the effects are, with LCD's that are used only for an hour or two at a time, are unknown. It's possible that color shift may happen starting around 5000 hours, or maybe 20,000...

LCD projectors

How do LCD projector compare to single chip DlP's? On the down side for single chip DLP projectors, they are overall, significantly more expensive than equally powered, and featured LCD projectors. There is no question that you will get significantly more lumens per dollar with LCD projectors

With the huge number of brands offering large selections of LCD projectors, you are also far more likely to find an LCD projector that has exactly what you need, especially if you are on a budget.

Sanyo, for example, offers an extensive line of LCD projectors - with at least 8 or 9 meeting our definition of fixed install, and that's if we just stick to XGA resolution. They offer at least a half dozen fixed install projectors under $10,000 each offering optional lenses, optional wired or wireless networking schemes, and other features.

Click Image to Enlarge

Shown above is Sanyo's new PLV80 - a 3000 lumen widescreen LCD projector, offering multiple lens choices.. Sanyo offers several other projectors with 4:3 aspect ratios, in the same physical package.

I should note that within a large lineup, such as Sanyo's most projector's are 4:3 aspect ratio, but Sanyo now offers two wide screen models - a 3000 lumen PLV80, and a 5000 lumens WF10, but does not offer any really high end widescreen LCD projectors.

With LCD projectors, you will be able to find most models with a wide range of lenses offered, and you'll also find many offering dual lamps for reliability and flexibility, and even a number of 4 lamp projectors out there. Dual and four lamp models, are critical normally for high usage environments - command and control rooms, digital signage, sports viewing (sports books, bars, restaurants, etc.)

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3 Chip DLP Projectors

Once we move to 3 chip DLP, the game changes completely. Yes they are extremely expensive - from around $15,000 to well over $100,000, and most of them are priced in the $25,000 - $50,000 range.

These units combine high lumens, with the best overall performance, in terms of image quality - high contrast ratios, rich colors, etc. The three chip DLP's are generally considered to outperform the three chip LCD projectors, not only in ability to do black levels, and have high contrast, but also in color saturation. In summary, and more dynamic, impressive image. Combine that will less visible pixels and three chip DLP's are the reigning kings of performance wherever best image is required, be it in an auditorium, in an architect's presentation room, or a video screening room in Hollywood (or just a high end home theater for that matter).

Click Image to Enlarge

Shown above, SIM2's C3X, a 2500 lumen widescreen 3 chip DLP, primarily designed for home theater, but also used in commercial applications demanding best image quality, but not needing an extremely bright projector.

Many if not most of the more expensive 3 chip DLP projectors also offer multi-lamp designs for redundancy and reliability.

You will also find that in the 3 chip DLP world there are plenty of models in all price and brightness ranges, with native 16:9 aspect ratios.

Click Image to Enlarge

Pictured above, one of Christie's "legendary" Roadster series high power 3 chip DLP projectors - the S+ 16K. It has SXGA+ resolution (1400x1050) and 16,0000 lumens, and you can stack two of them to get 32,000 lumens. We're talking incredibly bright! PS. this projector weighs in at a mere 140 lbs.

Whether you need just 3000 lumens or 10,000+ it's no problem finding widescreen solutions. In fact, the vast majority of digital projector going into movie theaters and replacing film, are 3 chip DLP models, dominated by companies like Christie, and others. (Sony also is entering that market, but with a different technology - LCOS - which they call SXRD).

Edge Blending

What? Edge blending is a technology allowing you to use multiple projectors side by side, to create a larger image. You might want to have a screen covering an entire wall - for some special application - say 8 feet high and 30 feet wide - way beyond the normal aspect ratios of projectors... With edge blending, and the supporting hardware and sources, you can create a smooth transition from one projector to another so that it appears seamless. With proper edge blending not only do you not see the transition, but the color handling is also corrected from one to the next so that there is no detectable shift in colors.

Why mention this here? You'ld be surprised at how many higher end solutions need technology like this. Projectors supporting edge blending are found within all three technologies.

Summary

In summary, if imagte quality is key, especially where you don't want pixels to be visible, single chip DLP projectors are likely the way to go, if you need to balance budget with picture quality

If the brightest image, widest selection of projector and features is needed, and the most overall "bang for the buck" is called for, LCD is going to be your choice.

Finally, if you need the absolute maximum in image quality, general performance, and possibly widescreen, as well, and you have a large budget, you'll definitely be looking at 3 chip DLP projectors.

the 3 chip DLP projectors not only dominate the high end of commercial applications, but they are also definitely considered the hands down best for home theater applications, with only a few esoteric CRT type projectors (with unbelieveable prices) out there that could be considered better (though dimmer). If you are looking to spend more than $15,000 on a home theater projector, you can barely even find a solution that's not a 3 chip DLP.

Price, color accuracy, lens options, black levels, film-like performance, image dynamics, ergonomic considerations, even warranty, will all have to be weighed against each other, as you decide which projector and technology will work best for your needs.

Choose wisely.

Overview and Technology
DLP vs LCD Home Theater Projectors
DLP vs LCD Featherweight Projectors (under 5lbs.)
DLP vs LCD Portable Projectors
DLP vs LCD Fixed Installation projectors
A look at other technologies: LCOS, LED, CRT, Laser (coming soon)

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