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How Projectors Work – A Flash in the Pan, or a Vision for the Future?

Have you seen the latest in projectors? Have you checked out the newest multimedia projectors? It’s totally amazing what they can do now. You can hook them up to computers, DVDs, VCRs, HDTVs – there are all kinds of electronic possibilities. And there are so many models to choose from now, each with their own “exclusive” feature. If you’re considering buying one, you’ll definitely need to shop around. But as you shop, you’ll also need to know what you’re shopping for.

So we’ve put together a simple explanation of multimedia projectors here. We’ll explain some of the more common features so you’ll get a clear understanding of these versatile machines. And, if necessary, you can refer to our Glossary of Projector Terms and Definitions for clarification.

DLP technology creates a whole new world for projectors

One of the biggest advances in projector technology came from the new digital technology of the mid 1990s. Texas Instruments developed Digital Light Processing (DLP), and integrated it into a projector. DLP technology is based on its Digital Micromirror Device (DMD), a dime-sized switch that controls the placement and intensity of projected light with more than 480,000 mirrors. With a DLP-based display, you have a virtually unlimited range of colors, with saturation and clarity that gives you clear, bright video images as good as a 35mm slide.

Multimedia projectors are the call of the day

We’re going to focus here on the multimedia projector. These machines have been developed to satisfy a more and more demanding electronic world. As new ideas are formulated in every corner of our technologically-advanced society, more efficient methods of presenting these ideas become necessary. That’s why there’s been such a recent windfall of multimedia projectors. They provide a wide variety of ways to present these ideas – through video and audio, all enhanced by computer technology.

One of the strongest demands in multimedia projectors is for portability. If you remember the old bulky projectors they had when you were in school ( if you’re a baby boomer), then you’ll understand the need for improvements. And improve they have! You can now get a multimedia projector that weighs 4.5 pounds. Considering the number of features these machines have, this is pretty amazing. But if you think of the goal of computer technology – smaller is better – then you’ll agree that we’re going in the right direction.

Many features mean many options

Let’s examine some of the more popular features and how they affect the workings of a multimedia projector. First of all, the power of the lumens (a measurement of light) is important because that specifies how bright the projected picture will be. 500-1000 ANSI lumens will usually be enough for a conference room, or for a boardroom with dim light. However, as rooms get larger, higher lumens rates will be needed. For a very bright room, or for a large auditorium, you’ll need at least 1500 lumens to display a viewable image.

If you’re concerned about the quality of the image, you’ll need to know about resolution and contrast. Resolution refers to the accuracy of the projected image on the screen, while contrast is the relationship between white and black in the image. Resolution is expressed in pixels, which are the smallest unit that can be displayed on a screen; so the higher the pixels, the clearer the image. There are several types of resolution and, with improving technology, more types are becoming available. Each type is a factor of VGA (video graphics array). Some examples of these types of VGA are SVGA (super video graphics array), at 800 x 600 pixels; XGA (extended video graphics array), at 1024 x 768 pixels; SXGA, at 1280 x 1024 pixels; UXGA at 1600 x 1200 pixels; and the most advanced WSXGA, which splits the resolution into vertical and horizontal – 1920 x 1600 horizontal pixels, and 1080 x 900 vertical pixels.

Contrast, expressed as a ratio between black and white, is also important for image and text clarity. The higher the ratio, the sharper the image. Most projectors have a contrast ratio of 400:1, but some of the better models can have up to 800:1.

Another feature is remote control. You can now get a VirtualMouse which actually becomes a wireless PC mouse. You can right-click, left-click, point or drag. With this feature, you can direct a computer presentation without being tied to the computer. One of the most useful features of the VirtualMouse is its laser pointer, which consists of a little red dot that can be maneuvered around the screen. Get the point?

For world travelers, an important feature in a multimedia projector is input connections for different types of video formats. Most good models now have video inputs to accommodate the different formats used throughout the world: NTSC for America, SECAM for France, Russia Eastern Europe and some countries in Africa, and PAL for Western Europe, Asia, Australia and certain countries in South America and the Far East. As the world “shrinks”, this becomes an important feature.

Make sure you have your basic beneficial features

To give you a sense of what’s available these days, and how their features are advertised, we’ll give you a few examples of different models from various manufacturers:

3M’s Digital S10c

  • Brightness: 1200 lumens
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs
  • Resolution: SVGA
  • Swivel base makes setup simple
  • Ideal for the office and home use
  • Toshiba TLP-S41U

  • Resolution: SVGA (1600 x 1200)
  • Brightness: 1600 ANSI Lumens
  • Contrast Ratio: 400:1
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs
  • Hitachi CP-S210W

  • Brightness: 1200 ANSI lumens
  • Resolution: SVGA (800 x 600)
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs
  • HDTV theater ready
  • Contrast ratio: 300:1
  • Epson PowerLite 730C

  • Brightness: 2000 ANSI lumens
  • Weight: 4.3 lbs
  • Resolution: XGA (1024 x 768)
  • Those are just a very few examples, containing only a very few features. But you get the idea. When you’re looking for a multimedia projector, there are so many choices. But the thing to remember is, if you do your homework, and find exactly the right features that suit your needs, then you’ll have a productive match. But now you’ve seen some of the features available, making your choice will be much easier.

    Knowing how something works is always interesting. But knowing how something you’re planning on buying works becomes a huge advantage for you. So go and do your presentation with this knowledge as your weapon. And, with all your features working at optimum performance, you’ll be giving your optimum performance, too.

    About The Author

    Gareth Marples is a successful freelance copywriter who enjoys working from home. He provides valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing lcd projector reviews, slide projector bulbs and professional digital cameras. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

    This article on "How Projectors Work" reprinted with permission.

    © 2004 - Net Guides Publishing, Inc.

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