Understanding Projectors: Glossary of Common Terms

Understanding Projectors: Glossary of Common Terms


We all want to communicate a message. And what better way to pass a message than with a projector? Projectors have come a long way. Today, they sport high-end technologies which allow them to project high-quality imaging with fine details. All colors are accurately calibrated to convey the intended message to a private or massive audience.
The mini pocket projector can also be portable and save space. Heck, they can be used to project animated logos and interactive graphics, to add life to adverts and the message being passed. But unfortunately, in the projector world, there’s no such thing as a one size fits all. Every install is different. Your choice of the best projector under 200, for instance, will depend on the model, intended use, price, and specification.
Clearly, you need to determine a budget before you get down to business. Also, you’ll need to get yourself up to speed with the projector lingo used. Researching the best-LED projector can get frustrating fast with so many tech terms and acronyms. Lucky for you we shed light on all the tech jargon and simplify the process for you.

Ambient light

This is any light in a room from a source other than your home cinema projector. It may include daylight, hallway lighting or overhead lighting. Ambient lighting varies from space to space and yes, you can control it. When ambient light reflects off your screen, the projected image is washed out. Sometimes, big screen projector is not so wonderful. Consequently, the more ambient light is present in a room, the brighter the projector should be. The projection surface should also be darker to offer a higher contrast ratio and a sharper image.

Note: bright projectors only minimize the ambient light effect. They cannot eliminate the impact.

Contrast ratio

This is the ratio between the brightness of the brightest and darkest color. It’s basically the difference between the darkest black and brightest white. So a 10,000:1 contrast ratio means that the brightest color white is X10, 000 brighter than the darkest color black. Using higher contrast ratio projector, the picture quality is more high-resolution.
For a home cinema projector, the higher the contrast ratio the higher the details you’ll see. Every object projected will stand out better. Low contrast ratios result in dull and pixelated images.
The lesser ambient light a room has the lesser contrast ratio matters. If you decide to buy a  home cinema projector with poor contrast ration, ensure the windows are covered and the lights are turned off.

Led projector


Every image is made up of tiny multi-colored dots called pixels. Some projectors have more pixels than others. The number of pixels used to display images in projectors is known as resolution. Doesn’t make sense? Well, try this. Take a picture in low light with your phone’s camera and try zooming in on the photo. With every zoom, the photo gets boxy right? Now imagine even tinier boxes on your projectors.
For a high-resolution projector, resolution rating is important. The more the pixels the cleaner and crisper the images will be. A high-resolution projector is perfect for displaying HD video, and detailed texts and graphs.
Resolution is indicated as a combination of numbers like 1920 X 1200. This means that the projector has 1920 pixels horizontally and 1200 pixels vertically. A total of 2,304,000 pixels make up the image on the screen.

Note: a projector cannot upgrade picture quality. But it can reduce it if it’s fed with HD content and it has lower resolution.

Projector lumens

This is a unit of measuring light. 1 lumen is equivalent to light from a foot of candle illuminating a 12-inch x 12-inch area. This is not a lot of light right? But if this were to be increased X2, 000 things start getting interesting.
The best LED projector can have anything between 2,000 lumens and 3,000 lumens. The number of lumens you choose will depend on the ambient light and image size.

Throw Distance

Before you buy your high-resolution projector, ask yourself how far it will be from the screen. Will the projector hang behind the audience as you’ve seen in movie theatres? Will it sit on the conference table? Or will it hang at an angle or face down?
Throw distance is the distance between the screen image and the projector. It is simply the distance over which a projector can throw an image. The common projector throw distances include:
Long throw: these high-resolution projectors cast large images. These projectors are often hung on the ceilings of large rooms.
Short throw: projectors with this specification cast large images with reduced eye glare and shadows. These are often installed on walls or hang on ceilings close to the wall on which the image will be cast. Short throw projectors typically refer to a distance of between 3 and 8 feet from the projector.
Ultra-short Throw – projectors with these do not have eye glare or shadows. This type of throw specification is common in projectors installed on walls or on tables projecting downwards. Ultra-short distances vary between 0 and 4 feet.

distance projector

Viewing Angle

This is the maximum angle at which you can view the projected image with acceptable visuals. Persons within the projector’s viewing angle enjoy the best picture quality while those outside it experience some change in brightness and some color shifting. The optimal viewing angles are between 30 and 40 degrees.

Color Shifting

This is the variation of the light reflected across the spectrum based on a surface that unevenly disperses light. For instance, pure white can be viewed as a yellow tint when projected.


Keystone is when the projected image appears bigger at its top than at the bottom. Many projectors feature a keystone adjustment which gets rid of this distortion.


Choosing the best home cinema projector can be an uphill and confusing task. But armed with the above knowledge of tech terms, even a newbie can pick out the best projector. You could decide to go for an ultra-short throw projector if you don’t have plenty of space to work with. Hopefully, the terminologies above should make things easier.  
Note that for some of these tech features, higher is not always bigger. Weigh the pros and cons and you’ll find the best projector for your needs in to time.

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