Projector Reviews

Classroom Projector Report: Best School Projectors for Education – Image Quality

The 2012 Classroom Projector Report is sponsored by: Click Here!

COMING SOON! The 2012 update of this page is in the works. In the mean time, the analysis from last year’s report is still applicable. Check back on June 4th for updates.

This section considers the general picture quality of the fifteen education projectors reviewed for the report. Let’s start with color handling itself.

Classroom Projectors - Color Handling

Before going into talking color, a brief discussion of Color lumens vs White Lumens. For years, the ANSI standard has been to measure white. In recent years, some non-DLP manufacturers of projectors have been pushing for a formal Color lumens standard as well, or Color brightness standard. I’ll discuss further elsewhere. The bottom line though, is that if a typical DLP and LCD both can put 2500 lumens of pure white on the screen, then the argument is that the LCD projector will produce more lumens if you measure pure colors; like red, green, blue, yellow…. There is validity to the argument, but in the performance section I’ll try to provide some balanced insight.

It really comes down to this: As a general rule of thumb, when working with all but the very brightest preset modes of these projectors, the LCD projectors will almost all have very good color. Typcically the very brightest mode on a projector is usually labeled Dynamic (in one case Presentation). Whether LCD or DLP projector (or LCoS projector), most manufacturers will use that mode to push out the maximum in brightness and still have any vague color accuracy. In other words for most Dynamic modes good color is a luxury, max lumens is the goal.

On most projectors, however, the next brightest mode might be called Presentation, or Standard, or Normal, or… No matter, that second brightest mode (unless it’s perhaps called Game) probably has very good color if it’s an LCD projector, or could have anything from pretty good to so-so color performance for DLP projectors.

For the second year, we are pleased to report that just about all of the DLP projectors reviewed are doing at least decent bright reds and yellows in multiple modes, far better than just a couple of years ago, and better than last year’s crop of reviewed projectors, when a couple of the DLP projectors had dark red wine colored bright reds, and ugly bright yellows that look mustardy, and with some green caste. If it’s history class and the bright red of a flag comes out dark red… For most of these DLP projectors in their brightest modes, there is still a real tendency for those mustard yellows, and wine color when expecting bright red.

Move down into the dimmer modes (names like Cinema, Movie, Video, etc.) and the color improves, especially with the DLP projectors.. The main difference though is that with most LCD projectors, those modes are still pretty bright. On DLP projectors it’s not uncommon for those best modes to surrender up to half of maximum brightness, to achieve their very best color. But, that best color is really good, as it is with the LCD projectors. This year no LCoS projectors in the report, to consider. Keep in mind, that while I refer to 3LCD as having an advantage, DLP for years dominated image quality among home theater projectors. It’s just a matter of priorities.

So, while most, not all, DLP projectors are capable of very good color even in their dimmest modes, remember that: If you definitely need really good color, you can expect an LCD projector to deliver the same quality or better color, with more lumens than the DLP can provide.

Let’s use some photos for comparison:

These examples are from last year’s report. Below – our test color wheel image taken using the Epson Powerlite 85+ projector (3LCD) in Presentation mode. Despite being an extremely bright mode, color is excellent. Presentation mode on this Epson achieves about 90% of the brightness of its brightest – Dynamic mode.

Now consider this image taken with the Dell S300W DLP projector in Presentation mode. Not bad for a DLP, but note the yellows definitely pale compared to the Epson above, and with a touch of green in the “pure yellow” slice. The Dell, btw, though not the best of the DLPs reviewed here, is pretty good. Now look at the second image below – the Dell, again, but in Movie mode. Despite the exposure being a little darker in the second image, the yellow and pure red are better, and with more punch. Even the blues look better.