DLP Versus LCD Projectors

Which one is better, DLP or LCD? 🤔 💭

Depending on who you ask, you will likely get different answers. If we were to break down our answer to its simplest form, we would say LCD projectors have a sharper image and offer a higher quality picture

DLP projectors are light, portable, and have a better reputation for reliability. Of course, this is just a surface explanation. As with most comparisons, the true answer is more nuanced.

While we won’t have enough time to break down all of the differences between these two technologies, would like to point out some of the pros and cons of each.

What Are DLP and LCD?

You will hear the terms DLP and LCD thrown around a lot as you search for your new projector. But what do these terms mean?

DLP is an abbreviation for Digital Light Processing. It is a technology that uses micro mirrors. This is a technology that you are going to frequently find in digital cinema production. 

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. With this technology, light is sent from a lamp through a prism in order to display images. 

DLP and LCD

With DLP, there is a single chip that has a reflective service with thousands of little mirrors. These little mirrors coordinate together with the lamp to reflect the selected image on the surface.

With LCD technology, the light is projected into the chip, split in to the primary colors, red, green, and blue, travels through a prism, passes through the lens, and then is projected on the screen. 

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DLP has the primary advantage of creating a smooth video, having dark colors and black, providing a rich contrast, and showing less pixels. LCD offers rich colors, works better in ambient light, requires less power, offers a sharper image, and is quiet.

Invented in 1987, DLP is a reflective technology that uses LED or a standard lamp as the light source. LCD is a technology that’s been around since 1968. It is a transmissive technology that also uses a standard lamp.

Advantages of DLP over LCD Projectors

  • Portability: A major advantage of DLP over LCD is portability. DLP projectors just have one chip. LCD projectors have three. DLP projectors can use LED or pico technology. As a result, they are easy to transport, which makes them one of the best portable projectors. Also, they can easily be used in conjunction with mobile devices, such as your phone or your tablet.
  • Higher Contrast: A DLP projector can create deeper blacks than LCD. This is one of the reasons why people opt to have a DLP projector as their home theater projector. The difference in black contrast might not be apparent when you use an LCD and a DLP projector side by side in a room with a lot of ambient light. However, the differences do come to the fore if you use them in a theater environment.
  • Less Pixelation: DLP projectors have a unique pixel structure. When you see them from a distance, the image you see looks smooth. This isn’t too important during a business setting when you are showing a PowerPoint presentation. However, the advantage does become clear when you are doing video presentations.
  • Reliable: There are fewer parts in a DLP projector as opposed to an LCD projector. This means that there are less parts to break. When repairs are necessary, they are less expensive.

Advantages of LCD Projectors

  • Improved Picture Quality: When you use an LCD projector, you’re going to have improved picture quality. This is because an LCD projector does not use a color wheel. As a result, the images are more saturated with color and the colors are more accurate to life.

LCD projectors produce a sharper image when compared to a DLP projector that has the same resolution. Additionally, LCD projectors can produce a brighter image, even if the lamp being used has the same wattage as one used in a DLP projector. 

Disadvantages of DLP and LCD Projectors

Rainbow Effect on DLP projectors: When you turn your head away from the projected image, you might see a rainbow effect on one side of the screen. Or when there is a bright image, you might see rainbow colored stripes around that bright object temporarily. It’s not the end of the world, but it can be somewhat distracting.

Lower Contrast on LCD: There's a huge difference when it comes to projector contrast ratio. An LCD projector will not be as able to make completely black images like a DLP projector can. This is not going to be a big problem if you are in a room with ambient light.

However, if you are in a theater environment and the room is very dark, you’re going to be able to tell that the blacks are not truly black. You may even have spotty images of varying darkness. The problem gets worse as the LCD projector gets older. This is not an issue with a DLP projector. 

dlp-vs-lcd

Portability Issues: A DLP projector is going to be a lot more portable than an LCD projector. The LCD has the three chips that take up space. The DLP has one chip, making it lighter and smaller.

DLP and LCD projectors usually fall within the same price range. You will be able to find some lower end models for as little as $300. With both technologies, you will be able to find other projectors that are in excess of $2,000. 

Which One Should You Choose?

The million dollar question is, which projector is right for you? We lean toward DLP projectors. The smaller size makes them easy to take with you wherever you go. They have the ability to produce noticeable contrast and true black.

This is a great feature to have when watching movies in a dark room. And while LCD projectors will produce more vibrant colors, they also run the risk of having the screen door effect and the dead pixels, both of which mar the image quality.

What do you think? Are there advantages to LCD projectors over DPL? If so, tell us about them in the comments section below. 

My name is Steve Scott. Father of 2 and owner of Outdoor Movie HQ. I’ve been involved in the A/V industry for most of my life and built this blog to help people better understand projector technology. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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