Tech News: How Bright Is Just Right?

Tech News: How Bright Is Just Right?

Our most frequently asked question here at is “How bright does my projector need to be?” There is good reason for this, since brightness is uniquely relevant to projection technology. So, how bright is just right for your space? Check out our recommendations.

For Starters

800 lumen projector in living room environment

Brightness for home theater projectors is measured in ANSI lumens. For home theater projectors, brightness typically ranges from 800 – 1500 lumens. There are brighter home theater models available, but they are often ‘cross-over’ or multi-purpose projectors that are used for presentations as well as home theater. There are also brighter digital projectors that are designed for movie theaters or home theaters with large (30 plus) seating capacities. They cost significantly ($25,000 or so) more than the projectors installed in homes of DIY enthusiasts today.

Quick Tip: Manufacturers rate projector lumen values differently. Business projectors are rated in data mode, while home theater projectors are measured running video. Since lumen output for video is typically not as high as data, home theater projectors may seem to be less bright than business machines. In reality, a business projector may lose as much as half its brightness in video mode. 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.

Brightness by Space

As you probably already know, there are two primary kinds of home theater spaces: dedicated home theaters with controlled lighting, and converted living rooms. The space you are working with will play a role in determining the brightness you need. What you watch and when you watch it will also impact the apparent brightness of your image.

Living Room (1000 lumens or better)
If you are planning to turn your living room into a home theater, the time of day as well as the content you watch will factor in to the appearance of brightness on your screen. Sporting events and cartoons will ‘pop’ off the screen, even in daylight hours, because the content itself is bright and colorful. A dark movie like Star Wars or Batman will look better at night, with more detail in the dark portions of the image.

Dedicated Space (800 lumens or better)
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. In fact, with too much brightness images can lose detail in darker scenes.

Quick Tip: Although it would be ideal to have 1000 lumens or better, many people have had success with 700 and 800 lumen models in living room environments. Click here to see an image of an 800 lumen projector (projecting in eco mode) in a well lit living room space.

Screen Size and Brightness

Shoppers who purchase regular CRT television sets never ask the question, “How bright do I need my 42-inch TV to be?” But when buying a projector, you should have an idea of the screen size you are trying to attain. As you might expect, the larger you want your screen, the more lumens you will need to create a bright image.

Lumens by Screen Size
80-100 inch screen 800 lumens 100-120 inch screen 1000 lumens 120 + inch screen 1300 or more lumens Recommendations are for screen sizes in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Why aren’t home theater projectors brighter?

In short, because they don’t really need to be, at least not for a small, dedicated home theater. Most manufacturers have concentrated on video quality and image details in their home theater lines. And customers are paying more money for high-contrast projectors. With the lights on, you will lose some of the rich blacks and saturated colors, and are compromising the immersive ‘home theater’ experience. Brighter projectors typically have lower contrast ratios as well, as the lighter colors overpower the subtlties in the dark portions of the image.

What about all those 2000-3000 lumen projectors on the market

As we mentioned above, many of these units are measured for their brightness in computer mode rather than video. They are also typically 4:3 versus 16:9 products. They still might be a good choice for you, but they will be lacking some of the more desirable home theater features. For example, some may not be HD resolution, they may have fewer video inputs, and they might have a louder fan. And for those sacrifices, you still may only see 1500-1800 lumens when the projector is displaying video. For business presenters who want a multi-purpose option, a projector like the Mitsubishi XD460 is an ideal combination of brightness, video quality, and flexibility.

A Short Story

A couple years ago a friend of mine, an architect in San Diego, purchased a new Mitsubishi LVP-X50U – a 750 lumen projector. He asked me if I felt brightness or resolution should be his biggest concern since there was a brighter SVGA projector available. I suggested he worry more about resolution since he had a newer laptop and wanted to display large and detailed images to potential customers. As it turned out, he now rarely uses his projector for business, but rather uses it for movie nights with family and friends. His only complaint so far has been that, in small spaces (like his local coffee shop), it’s too bright.

Want your own custom brightness recommendation? Call a Projector Expert today!

, , ,

Tech News: Resolution Evolution

For several years resolution has been a predictable projector specification. Most business projectors were either SVGA (for PowerPoint presentations) or XGA (for spreadsheet and detailed images).

This has changed over the past three years, as home theater projectors were developed with widescreen resolutions (WVGA, WXGA, or WXGA-H) to meet the high-definition demand. We now appear to be reaching a new plateau, where SVGA becomes obsolete and brighter, more portable widescreen products and higher resolutions like SXGA+ offerings enter the marketplace.

Adieu SVGA

While it’s not extinct like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, SVGA looks like the latest victim of advancing technology. Most manufacturers have been removing SVGA models from their product lines, focusing more on XGA and higher-resolution machines. SVGA products are now available for as low as $599, just a couple hundred bucks more than a replacement lamp. If all you want is a cheap projector, now is the time to buy. They can’t get much cheaper than they already are, and there will be far fewer SVGA models to choose from in the coming months.

XGA is the new SVGA

You may have heard the saying, “30 is the new 20” or “brown is the new black” Well it looks like XGA will soon be the new SVGA. There are loads of fantastic XGA values available in the portable and installation categories, including many more options in the 2000 lumen and brighter range. As SVGA exits the marketplace, XGA will remain the optimum choice for value and performance for business projection.

Quick Tip: Unlike SVGA, XGA projectors can produce high-resolution video display. The black bars produced in widescreen mode are not desirable to a home theater enthusiast, but for road warriors who enjoy taking their projector home once in awhile, it’s a nice perk.

The Widescreen Scene

Laptop computers with widescreen monitors have become more popular in recent years, possibly due to the addition of DVD drives as standard hardware. There haven’t been many video projectors with a widescreen native format developed for business presenters, as most of the focus has been placed on home theater units. Home theater products are typically not as bright in order to preserve contrast and heavier to reduce fan noise and production costs.

If you are looking for a WXGA (1280×768 pixels) business projector, the new Mitsubishi HD4000U is one product that may just fit the bill. It’s got a lot going for it with widescreen (WXGA) resolution, 2000 lumens, 7 lbs. chassis, excellent video quality with DLP technology, and a competitive price. Widescreen projectors like this used to be much heavier and were twice the price of this model.

Just Say SXGA+

The selection of SXGA+ (1400×1050 pixels) projectors has significantly improved over the past two years. We are now reaching a point where there will be bona fide options as manufacturers release more SXGA+ products this year.

The first to hit the streets with an incredibly competitive model is the Optoma EP910. It’s got more features than any other model in its price range, including DVI input with HDCP compatibility, 3W speakers, RS232 control, and a 2500:1 contrast rating. It’s also reasonably portable, at just 10 pounds.

Quick Tip: SXGA+ projectors are designed for high-resolution applications such as control rooms, medical installations, digital photographers, engineering, and other situations where fine details are desired in large images.

Still have questions about projector resolution? Call a Projector Expert today!

, , ,