Should I Buy LED Projector or LCD Projector?
Should I Buy LED Projector or LCD Projector?
There are pros and cons to every type of projector technology, so when you decide between an LED or LCD projector, make sure you fully understand the big picture. Though they perform the same function, LED and LCD projectors operate differently. Knowing which product will be best for you involves a little research and comparison.
About LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) Projectors
LCD technology has been around since 1984 and remains a mainstay in digital projection technology. Unlike traditional film projectors, which shine a beam of light onto individual sheets of film to project an image through a lens aperture, LCD projectors send intense beams of white light through three pixelated displays, breaking it into three separate hues (red, green, and blue) before combining them again in a prism that transmits the beam of light onto a surface. This is accomplished using coated mirrors that allow only certain light waves to pass through when reflecting the light onto an internal crystal display. Each time an electrical current is activated, the pixels that make up the display block or allow certain beams of light to pass through the surface. The three display hues then combine in a prism that focuses the single beam and projects it onto a screen.
DLP (digital light processing) projectors range in price and features. Some are used in movie theatres and are considered ‘high-end’ technology. This means they are expensive to purchase and maintain. LCD projectors can provide adequate performance for a fraction of the cost, but they aren’t for all circumstances or budgets. Single-chip projectors cost less than three-chip models, but the three-chip models make less noise and have better color-saturation.
Here are a few more pros and cons to weigh before deciding if the technology is right for you.
LCD Projector Pros
- Image Quality: LCD projectors use digital data (USB or DVD) instead of film. Since digital data will not erode with use, the picture projected onto a screen will remain crisp and clear, no matter how often you view it.
- Color Saturation: There is no spinning color wheel in LCD projectors. The hue-combined prism ensures full saturation of the color spectrum on display, without the “rainbow” effect common to digital light projectors (DLPs). The lack of a color wheel also means there is one less part to wear out or require maintenance.
- Sharpness: The technology in LCD projectors create high contrast, sharp images on display.
- Value: The cost of an LCD projector is anywhere from $200 to $9000—a fraction of the price of high-end DLPs, which can cost upwards of 20,000.
LCD Projector Cons
- Maintenance: You’ll need to clean and maintain your LCD projector to ensure it continues to display properly. Dust on the interior screen will distort the projected image, and individual pixels in the prisms may burn out with frequent use, creating blank spots in the image.
- Pixilation: Due to the sharpness of the projected image, you are likely to notice the pixilation on the screen display. This effect is called a “screen door” appearance because the image looks as though it has been projected through a screen.
- Portability: LCD projectors contain several parts, making them heavier and less easy to transport than other types of projectors, such as the handheld Pico projectors, which can be integrated into camera-phones, digital cameras, or computers.
About Light-emitting Diode (LED) Projectors
The defining factor of LED projectors is the light source. Instead of a traditional lamp or liquid crystal pixel display, LED projectors to use red, blue, and green reflective diodes to project colored images. LEDs can also be found in some LCD projectors, and they are often used in Pico projectors—handheld projectors that are lightweight and highly portable. They have a long lifespan, are energy-efficient, and display colors clearly, with little-required maintenance.
LED Projector Pros
- Lifespan: LEDs can last up to 20,000 hours. That’s up to 10 times longer than most LCD projectors. This is due to the LEDs using less energy and generating less heat. Since most LED projectors have fewer internal parts, they are less likely to fail.
- Internal Storage: Smaller LED projector units may contain internal storage.
- Rechargeable Battery: Some handheld LED projectors to come with a rechargeable battery that allows for short-term viewing “off the grid.”
- More Accurate Colors: LED technology replicates the color spectrum more clearly on display.
- Use Less Power: LEDs use less power and therefore cost less to run.
- No warmup/cooldown needed: LEDs are energy-efficient and won’t overheat or require time for the light to become bright.
- Quieter: Because LED projectors are less likely to heat up, they don’t have noisy fans to keep them cool during use.
- Less Maintenance: An LED projector has almost zero maintenance needs and is hardier than its LCD cousin. Many LED projectors are designed to last the lifespan of the LEDs inside.
- Portable: LED projectors are smaller than most LCDs and generate much less heat, making them easy to transport. Pico projectors, for instance, are small enough to be held in one hand.
LED Projector Cons
- Less light: With a maximum of 3,000 to 3,500 lumens, LED projectors are not as bright as LCDs and may not be appropriate for all settings. You will need a darker environment to fully appreciate the display of an LED projector. Partially-lit environments may make the projected image appear dim. Since less light will create a diffusion of the image at long-distance projection, these projectors work best in smaller, darker spaces.
- Expense: LEDs are more expensive to replace than traditional light sources. Therefore, many LED projectors are designed to be replaced when the LED bulbs burn out.
Whether to choose the color saturation, sharpness, and value of the LCD or the energy-efficient, portable convenience of the LED depends upon your budget, display needs, and travel plans. Mini LED projectors will require a larger initial outlay, but over time, they will save you money. LCD projectors will require more maintenance and are not as portable as most LED video projectors—especially the hand-sized Pico projectors—but they will project a clearer image in larger or partially-lit rooms. If noise bothers you, you’ll be happier with the quiet LED projector, which also uses less energy and won’t have to warm up or cool down before and after use. This makes it a good choice for business presentations or in classrooms, where the proximity of children could pose a safety issue.
Both LCD and LED projectors are popular and affordable alternatives to the solid-state (and expensive) DLP projectors. Their unique technologies allow for reasonably clear, colorful image displays across a broad range of viewing conditions. Ultimately, choosing which type of projector is right for your needs will involve balancing the pros and cons of each to determine which technology will best adapt to your individual circumstances.