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Projector Buying Guide

A comprehensive guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new projector.

Getting Started

An alternative to having a large TV as the centerpiece of your home theater is to have a projector. Projectors provide incredible imagery, flexibility and the largest screen size available for in-home theaters. When shopping, there are several things to consider when finding the right one for you.
Abt's Projector Buying Guide Video
Abt's Projector Buying Guide
Abt's Projector Buying Guide Video Abt's Projector Buying Guide Video
Still have a question?
Abt's Projector Buying Guide

Image Resolution

VGA (640 x 480)

This low resolution is really only found in older televisions and computer monitors. It isn't ideal for large screens.

SVGA (800 x 600)

This resolution is good enough for low-cost consumer electronics and small screens.

XGA (1024 x 768)

A majority of computer displays use this resolution. This is a decent resolution for movies and TV.

WXGA (1280 x 800)

This is XGA resolution in widescreen format. It works pretty well for standard-definition home theater.

SXGA (1280 x 1024)

This resolution is for high-definition TV or detail-oriented professional presentations.

UXGA (1600 x 1200) and QXGA (2048 x 1536)

These extremely high resolutions will give you a level of detail well above the capability of most Blu-ray players and other video sources.

Aspect Ratios

4:3 Theater


If you want to view material such as classic films, a DVD-based television series or an IMAX special in the large dramatic format, the 4:3 set-up lets you do this in a way a 16:9 system does not. Using vertical electronic masking, one can easily block off the top and bottom of the screen when one wishes to display 16:9 material, and open the screen to its full vertical height for the viewing of very large format 4:3 material.


Most, if not all, high quality home theater projectors being marketed these days are in native 16:9. As such, it can be hard to find a 4:3 projector that delivers video rivaling the quality of the 16:9 home theater models. And since most 4:3 projectors are in resolutions such as 800x600, 1024x768, and 1400x1050, it means that all video content will need to be scaled to fit the projector's native resolution.

16:9 Theater


For HDTV, widescreen DVD, and Blu-Ray, 16:9 is the logical choice. All HDTV broadcast material is in 16:9, and it will be displayed in its full glory, without black bars, on a native 16:9 projector. And there is a lot of 16:9 programming available. There are many 16:9 projectors to choose from, and many of them are designed specifically for high quality home theater.


While 16:9 programming looks larger than life, 4:3 material displayed on a 16:9 projector can appear small. Typically, when doing so, the image will be centered on a 16:9 screen with black columns on each side. Alternatively, if you watch a lot of movies that are wider than 16:9, you will have black bars above and below the image.
A white projector shining light and projecting an image with people sitting in the dark behind it



Projectors create their image through a source of light. From that, the brightness is measured in lumens, which are about 200 to 15,000. If you are a viewer planning on watching your programming with room lights on, you'll want a projector with a higher lumen count. Home theater projectors rated at 1,000 to 2,000 lumens are best used in a dark theater or conference room. Business or education users who have lights on during presentations will prefer projectors rated at 2,000 to 3,000 lumens. Higher numbers are needed when in very large or very brightly lit amphitheaters. Certain projectors allow you to control the brightness.

Projector Lamps

Your projector may use either incandescent bulbs or LED lamps. Many incandescent projector lamps list 2,000 hours of life or more. Some high-end models list a life of 60,000 hours. LEDs are another projector lamp option. Because LEDs have a much longer life-span than traditional incandescent projector lamps, they are the popular choice for home theater projectors and other electronics. LEDs has been clocked at working in the tens of thousands of hours.

Projector Care

As with any good electronics, good care is necessary. Wipe down the projector exterior and lens with a lint-free cloth dampened with a solution of one part isopropyl alcohol to one part water. Use canned air to blow dust out of vents and openings. When you're finished using the projector, turn the lamp off. Let the projector fan run until the projector is cool. Some projectors have automatic cool-down settings.

Outdoor Projectors

Brightness & Outdoor Lighting

When it comes to projectors, as the image you're trying to display gets larger, it will also inevitably get dimmer. That's why the brightness of your outdoor projector is such an important factor when shopping. The level of brightness any projector has to offer you is measured in Lumens. The average Lumens range you'll find in outdoor projectors is 500 to 2500 Lumens.

When shopping for an outdoor projector and looking at Lumens, it's important to consider where you plan on screening your content. For example, if you are planning on sticking to night time viewings, a projector with a minimum of 500 Lumens is good enough to do the job. A 500 Lumens projector needs a darker area in order to provide the best experience. A 2000 Lumens projector will come in handy for day time viewings, although you should still choose a spot in your backyard that is not getting direct sunlight. Even the best, most high end outdoor projectors will struggle to produce a good image on your screen in direct sunlight. In general, we suggest avoiding an outdoor projector with 300 Lumens or less and, instead, recommend a projector with about 2000 Lumens for enjoyable, high-quality images and easy outdoor use.

Optimal Resolution for Outdoor Viewing

1080p is the lowest resolution you should seek out in an outdoor projector (it's also the lowest we carry at Abt). Because outdoor projection will always be a tad lower quality than indoor projection, getting a device with the highest resolution possible within your budget is recommended. At Abt, we also carry projectors with 4K and 8K resolution, which offers a far more immersive viewing experience.


Outdoor projects range in price, with popular models often starting around $600. Why invest more for the same product? As the price tag gets bigger, you will often get higher quality built-in speakers, more Lumens (a standard measurement of brightness) and more input slots for a variety of external connections. High-end outdoor projectors can have prices ranging from $1500-$2500. Not every customer is willing to invest in luxury devices like these, but if you're a film fanatic dedicated to creating the best, most optimal viewing experience in your backyard, these models may be for you. If you're shopping on a budget, there are some outdoor projectors priced as low as $200, but they may not offer the best quality compared to other models. Ultimately, if you're looking for a durable, long-lasting outdoor projector that will produce a great picture for your enjoyment, we suggest shopping in the $500-$600 range.

Projector Screens

Things To Consider

When selecting a new projector screen, a few things should be considered. In the video below, you can learn about viewing distance, types of screens, different screen materials, texture, gain, color, and more. Still looking for more information? You can also use our projector screen buying guide as a resource when shopping for your backyard entertainment setup.
Projector Screen Buying Guide Video
Projector Screen Buying Guide
Projector Screen Buying Guide Video Projector Screen Buying Guide Video
Still have a question?
Projector Screen Buying Guide Video