LCD vs. DLP: Does it Matter?

If you’re in the market for a projection system, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the techno-speak surrounding the liquid crystal display (LCD) versus digital light processing (DLP) debate. First of all, we’re here to tell you that you can relax, since both systems have made great strides in recent years. As with so many technology investments, your final decision should encompass your budget, space requirements, maintenance expectations and, above all, the service and support you’ll receive.

To help you make an informed decision based on the technical differences between LCD and DLP projectors, we’ve put together some basic descriptions of how each system works.

What Is an LCD Projector?

When you hear the letters “LCD,” you likely think of an LCD TV. An LCD projector, or liquid crystal display projector, uses transmissive technology to display images or video. The technology used in LCD projectors is very similar to the LCD technology used in television sets. Many companies use LCD projectors for business meetings, seminars and event presentations.

As you investigate LCD projector models, you’ll likely find another variant — 3LCD projectors. These projectors have three liquid crystal panel displays instead of a single LCD. They offer a higher brightness quality and use less electricity than a standard LCD projector. Depending on the context, a 3LCD projector may be unnecessary for your AVL build, as a standard LCD projector will accomplish your goals while offering you a more affordable solution that doesn’t sacrifice the level of quality and special features you may desire.

What Is a DLP Projector?

While you may not have heard of a DLP projector, you’ve seen one in action. DLP projectors, or digital light processing projectors, play a crucial role in movie theaters. This video processing technology is also common in rear-projection TVs and in front projectors used in occupational and academic settings. There are two different types of DLP projectors — one that uses a single-chip DLP and another that uses a three-chip DLP.

When researching the benefits and disadvantages of DLP vs. LCD projectors, you may also discover another option — the LCoS projector. LCoS projectors, or liquid crystal on silicon projectors, are unique in that they’re essentially a hybrid between LCD and DLP projectors. These projectors use liquid crystal chips with mirrored backings to deliver the best of both LCD and DLP projectors. However, LCoS projectors are notably more expensive compared to LCD and DLP projectors, and are better for facilities planning to invest significant capital into their AVL build.

How LCD Projectors Work

LCD projectors have three light panels representing the three primary colors red, green and blue positioned at 90 degrees to each other that send their respective light beams through a prism. In basic terms, the video input effectively gets split into its primary colors and then projected via the prism’s output that acts to recombine the colors correctly.

Most LCD projectors use metal lamps for projection purposes. These lamps are excellent at displaying color, and produce a large amount of light in small areas. Moreover, their color temperature is also well-suited for projection applications.
First developed by Texas Instruments, DLP projectors are a bit more complicated than LCDs. The “engine room” of any DLP consists of its chip, made up of thousands of tiny mirrors, that spins like a color wheel. Unlike an LCD model that shines all its colors at once, the DLP operates on the fact that our eyes retain a certain amount of color and light that we see for a short period.

That’s why it flashes the red, green and blue portions of an image in quick succession — somewhere in the range of 1/60th to 1/240th of a second. The result is that we see one continuous image where all of the colors evenly blend. However, some people with quicker vision might see individual bursts of color — or a rainbow effect, as some call it. It’s essential to note that more recent DLP projectors have successfully addressed this issue by speeding up the rotation of their color wheels.

LCD vs. DLP: Strengths and Differences

Now that you have a basic understanding of how each system works, the crucial question to answer is, “Which system is right for me?” While both offer a wide range of projection capabilities, a few critical differences set them apart. Each of them has unique qualities you may view as advantageous to your AVL build. They each also have specific features — or lack thereof — that you may consider as drawbacks if integrated into your specific AVL context.

LCD Advantages

LCD projectors are lightweight and portable, which makes them popular for many consumers. Although you may be planning your initial AVL build or upgrade now, you may choose to restructure your build or relocate it later. This portability will make it easier for you to move the LCD projector without much assistance. Also, LCD projectors have no fast-moving parts, which typically makes them less complicated and sometimes less expensive than alternative options like DLP projectors.

LCD Disadvantages

LCD projectors do have a few drawbacks when it comes to performance and maintenance. The LCD projector will require routine cleaning, as their filters get dirty during use. Regarding image quality, LCDs have a lower ability to display sharp color contrasts compared to the DLP projector. One example is their depiction of black color. Many individuals notice that LCD projectors display a “grayer” black than DLP projectors.

DLP Advantages

One immediate benefit of DLP projectors over LCD projectors is that they require little maintenance, which is an advantage if anyone unfamiliar with this type of technology will be using your projectors. Concerning image quality, due to how DLPs physically project images, they’re slightly better at showing sharp color contrasts, especially found in fast-paced action — for example, at sporting events. Smoother video and higher contrasts, including a “blacker” black, make DLP quite popular for the discerning eye.

DLP Disadvantages

Although DLP projectors require limited maintenance, that also means there is less preventive maintenance to conduct. With the complexity of DLP projectors’ internal digital micromirrors and color wheels, it’s smart to get an extended warranty plan in case these issues impact the quality of your video projection after a few years of use. DLP projectors are also more prone to producing “rainbows,” or trails of multicolored lights that seem to appear when a bright object sits against a dark background.

Of course, there are many differences between DLP projectors and LCD projectors, even between brands. When it comes to LCD vs. DLP, you may discover that one manufacturer meets your needs more acutely with a DLP projector compared to the same brand’s LCD. You may also discover that the “drawbacks” of a brand’s lower-tiered LCD projector aren’t a disadvantage to you at all. We recommend that you not only weigh the general pros and cons of LCD vs. DLP,  but consider other elements as well.

What to Consider When Buying a Projector

DLP vs. LCD — which is better? Both have advantages and disadvantages. However, when comparing apples to apples, one isn’t “better” than the other. The option you should choose is the one that best aligns with your needs. As you weigh the pros and cons of each projector, you also need to consider a few vital elements, just as you would when investing in any other piece of technology for your AVL setup — budget, context of use, quality desired and special features.

  • Budget: Your facility budget is a top priority, so you must purchase all AVL equipment as fiscally responsibly as possible. There are a variety of expenses associated with AVL equipment. Although you’ll pay a price upfront to purchase the projector, you also need to calculate any cost of required maintenance. You should also consider how you may need to use this projector in the future — it may be worth spending a little more now to avoid having to upgrade it later.
  • Use: How you plan on using your projectors will influence your decision on DLP vs. LCD. For example, a worship service may choose an LCD projector because they plan on primarily using it to project lyrics for singalongs or still images. However, a high school may choose to use their projectors for rewatching school athletic games or screening films for students, which may be better to view on a DLP projector. Identify your planned usage, and you’ll immediately see which projector tends to be more beneficial for your context.
  • Quality needed: Value is always an essential consideration for consumers, but it’s crucial to remember that both short- and long-term performance affect quality. For example, over time, an LCD projector’s pixels may burn out. Price doesn’t always necessarily equate to excellence, but you should be knowledgeable about why specific models of DLP or LCD projectors may offer a higher or lower quality, based on your level of investment.
  • Special features: When you’re searching for the right AVL equipment for your facility, we encourage you to think long-term. A dynamic AVL system should do more than solve a current problem. It should also provide solutions for the future. Be mindful of the special features these projectors may offer — for instance, 3D video capabilities. You’ll also want to look at the type of connectivity each projector accommodates — the ability to connect a variety of devices via hardwire, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi may be necessary for the future.

Illuminated Integration for All Your Projection Needs

For more information to help you choose the right video projector, contact us today. At Illuminated Integration, our team dedicates themselves to providing you with crystal-clear audio, video and lighting solutions.

Post updated on 6/11/2020 by Illuminated Integration

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