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DLP vs. LCD Projectors: Which is Right for You?

What are the differences between a DLP projector and an LCD projector, and which should you choose based on your needs?

CDW Expert CDW Expert
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Projectors offer versatile visual impacts in a personal or business setting. These machines have come a long way in recent years and bring impressive features to the table. Consider the differences between a DLP vs. LCD projector to discover which type will best serve your needs.

Understanding the Difference: DLP Projector vs. LCD Projector

DLP, or digital light processing technology, came out in 1987. Today, DLP front projectors operate in a standalone manner, typically for education in classrooms and business settings. Comprised of chipsets, DLP itself relies on optical micro-electro-mechanical technology that involves the use of a digital micromirror device, or a myriad of tiny mirrors. A DLP chip is vital in the capture and projection of your media files, and a spinning color wheel shines red, blue and green light to create patterns that translate into the intended images being projected.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projectors offer more contemporary options for showing video, still images or digital files and data than its predecessors. The LCD projector channels light first through a metal-halide lamp and then through a prism or group of dichroic filters (the "liquid crystal") that divide the light into a trio of panels to handle the red, blue and green elements in the display. Polarized light moves through the panels and opened and closed pixels determine whether light goes through or is blocked. This series of open and closed pixels generates a rainbow effect of colors in the projector's output. 

LCD vs. DLP Projectors: Advantages

You can find a variety of projectors available for small business, enterprise corporations or even for personal use. Consider these LCD vs. DLP projectors' advantages to better understand which projector type is the best fit for your needs.

LCD Projector Advantages

  • LCD projector lamps can deliver high light capacity even within a small zone.
  • Any flat surface serves well as a screen for viewing purposes.
  • These projectors often offer compact and highly portable solutions for viewing slideshows, movies, video and stills on the fly.
    • LCD projectors remain popular among hobbyists and the DIY crowd.
    • LCDs tend to have a higher contrast ratio than DLPs.
  • Perceived contrast is similar if not better than that of DLP projection.
  • Similarly, 3LCD projectors have three chips instead of one, offering less electricity consumption and higher brightness than the standard LCD projectors.
  • 3LCD projectors also tend to be the quietest models in most cases.

DLP Projector Advantages

  • DLP technology continues to enjoy a large market share for front projection devices as well as the pico category of compact, mobile display projection systems.
  • Image projection is smooth and shake-free.
  • Grayscale linearity and geometry are impressive.
  • The light source is easily replaceable by comparison, therefore the lifetime of the projector may also be longer.
  • Active and passive 3D projection is affordable and achievable.
  • Non-liquid components allow for greater screen size versatility.
  • Color spectrum has a wider range. A DLP projector can process up to seven colors and get the closest to true black.
  • DLP projectors are virtually maintenance-free.

Choosing Between a DLP or LCD Projector

When weighing your options of DLP projector vs. LCD projector, it can be helpful to look at available features, strengths and your intended use for the device.

Consider these key points to help guide your projector buying decision and be sure to read our projector buying guide:

  • What is the budget range for this purchase?
  • Is this a business or personal purchase? What is the intended use?
  • What level of quality is acceptable for the projector? The price point will likely go up as the quality does.
  • Will the projector need to travel for use at other locations?
  • What special features are available and how important are they in making this decision?

Consider these factors to help you decide between a DLP or LCD projector:

  • DLP projectors provide sharp, high-quality projections with the potential for 3D capability as well.
  • DLP projectors tend to have more mirrors and therefore more pixels to project your desired images and videos in higher definition. 
  • LCD projectors tend to be less expensive. However, they also require more maintenance and upkeep, particularly with changing out filters and preventing dust buildup.
  • 3LCD projectors deliver exceptional brightness while using less power in many cases. They're also typically quieter as projectors go.

Robust feature sets and options across every price point make projectors an accessible technology upgrade for personal and business environments. Remember that both projector types will offer a range of good, bad and mediocre performance.  Understand your intended usage and most important requirements to help with your selection process. Browse through the different styles of DLP and LCD projectors to find the one that best suits your needs.