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What to know when buying a projector

Projectors are essential in the boardroom, and a very nice toy to have if you'd like one in your home. Picking the perfect projector for your needs might be intimidating at first, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some pointers and definitions to keep in mind when you are in the market for a projector.

What to know when buying a projector

Common projector features and what they mean


A lumen is a measurement unit of light (based on how much light a single candle emits from one foot away), which means that the higher the lumen count, the brighter the projected image will be. More recently, lumens are labelled as ANSI Lumens, which is just a standard from the American National Standards Institute (similar to the SABS) to which a lumen is measured.
Brighter is not always better with lumen counts, though. The amount of lumens needed should always be subject to two basic factors: the size of the image to be projected, and the lighting of the room that the projector will be used in. A lower lumen count (e.g. 1000-1500) should have no problem lighting up a small dark room, but if the room has plenty of natural light or the projector needs to be mobile, a higher lumen count will be needed (e.g. 2000-3000). 

Aspect Ratio

An aspect ratio determines the ratio of a picture's width to its height, and is easily understood due to the commonality of television aspect ratios. In the past, the most common aspect ratio was 4:3, which produced an almost square image on older CRT televisions and computer monitors. Currently, the most commonly used aspect ratio is 16:9, which produces a rectangular widescreen image.

Contrast Ratio

The contrast ratio describes the contrast between the brightest area of the projected image and the darkest. The higher the contrast ratio, the more vivid the colours of the projected image will be. This feature is more of a nice-to-have than an essential, as there is no standard way of measuring contrast ratio between different projectors.


Similarly to television sets, projectors are manufactured with a fixed resolution that it uses to display the projected image, measured in pixels. Resolutions are displayed as numbers indicating the width vs the height in pixels, with a higher number meaning a higher picture quality. Different projectors have different fixed resolutions that it lists as a feature, which means that regardless of the input resolution (e.g. 1920x1080), if the projector has a fixed resolution of 1280x800, it will display the image in the fixed resolution.
Popular resolutions for projectors are: (width vs height in pixels)

  • XGA: 1024x768 pixels
  • WXGA: 1280x800 pixels
  • HD: 1920x1080 pixels
  • 4k: 4096x2160 pixels

The above factors are some basic features that most projectors list on their specification sheets, which you will now be able to interpret more effectively. Understanding the features when you are buying something for more than R5000 could result in either a value-for-money purchase, or a total waste of money. Try out your newfound projector skills by having a look at some features listed on our projector product pages.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments section below.

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