DLP™ vs. LCD vs. LCOS


The most common questions about front projectors center on the different technologies that they use. Which is better? That depends on what you are looking for. In this section will we compare the technologies as they relate to front projection. We will discuss how the technologies work in greater detail in the Learn About The Technologies section.

Digital Light Processing™ (DLP™) — DLP™ is a Texas Instruments technology that uses micro mirrors to project an image. There are three distinct types of DLP™ light engines: three chip; single chip for home theater and single chip for business. We will cover the pros and cons for each.

Three chip DLP™ — Pros:

  1. Perfect color accuracy.
  2. Good contrast; much greater than film theaters.
  3. Good shadow detail.
  4. Can provide high brightness compared to the limited brightness of single chip versions.
  5. Overall image quality deemed as the best of any type of micro display technology.
  6. Same technology as projectors installed in digital theaters.
  7. Pure digital technology.
Three chip DLP™ — Cons:
  1. Very expensive compared to the other technologies. Prices start at around $20k.
  2. Lower contrast than single chip versions.
  3. Generally larger and always louder than single chip versions.
  4. Lamps usually don't last as long.
Single chip DLP™ for home theater — Pros:
  1. Fantastic color accuracy.
  2. The best contrast ratios and shadow detail.
  3. Generally very quiet.
  4. Very little space between each pixel creates a very smooth image, even when using lower resolution projectors.
  5. Best overall image quality available for under $10k.
  6. Very few, if any, dead pixels.
  7. Light engine failures are very rare so repairs are less costly than other technologies.
  8. Technology doesn't degrade over time. With proper routine maintenance, DLP™ projectors consistently provide just-out-of-the-box performance. (DLP™ is the only technology that makes this claim).
  9. Color uniformity is the best of the technologies.
Single chip DLP™ for home theater — Cons:
  1. It is more expensive than LCD technologies given comparable projector resolution and brightness.
  2. Home theater DLP's only reach a maximum of 1500 lumens of brightness.
  3. On some DLP™ projectors, viewers can detect a color breakup effect called the "rainbow" effect. This rarely occurs with home theater DLP's.
Single chip DLP™ for business — Pros:
  1. Provides higher brightness than home theater DLP's.
  2. Excellent contrast and shadow detail.
  3. Generally produces reduced noise levels.
  4. Very little space between each pixel creates a very smooth image even when using lower resolution projectors.
  5. Very few, if any, dead pixels.
  6. Light engine failures are very rare so repairs are less costly than other technologies.
  7. Technology doesn't degrade over time. With proper routine maintenance, DLP™ projectors consistently provide just-out-of-the-box performance. (DLP™ is the only technology that makes this claim).
  8. Color uniformity is the best of the technologies.
  9. Cheaper to purchase - based on resolution and brightness - than true home theater DLPs.
Single chip DLP™ for business — Cons:
  1. Color saturation is not as good as LCD or home theater DLP™ machines.
  2. Color separation effect, AKA "rainbow effect," can be apparent on these projectors and can be distracting to watch, although most people don't notice the effect.
  3. Advanced menu screens for image adjustments are rare in business machines, although some manufacturers do offer them.
  4. Most, but not all, business machines won't offer HDCP enabled digital inputs.
  5. These machines are only offered in 4:3 aspect ratios.
  6. True 720p resolution projectors not offered.
LCD — LCD or liquid crystal displays are the oldest type of micro display technology used in front projection. Since the only real differences between an LCD projector for home theater and one built for business are the resolution and menu options, we won't differentiate between the two here.

Pros:

  1. Can be very bright even in home theater applications.
  2. True high definition models are the least costly of any technologies with 720p models starting at under $2k.
  3. Great color saturation.
  4. Home theater models are usually feature-rich.
  5. 1000 lumen and lower models will usually have long lasting lamps.
Cons:
  1. Dead pixels are common.
  2. Contrast ratios are lower than those on DLP™ projectors.
  3. Shadow detail and absolute black levels fall short of DLP™ powered projectors.
  4. Panel convergence problems (where the three LCD panels don't align properly producing a noticeable color halo around each pixel) are common.
  5. LCD panels are organic and lose image quality over time. The less the machine is used each day, the less of a problem this is. Projectors that are used for over eight (8) hours a day can exhibit problems fairly quickly.
  6. Color uniformity across the image is lower than that of DLP™ powered projectors.
LCoS — LCoS, or liquid crystal on silicone projectors, came along at about the same time as DLP™ powered projectors and have a much smaller market share than either DLP™ or LCD in the home theater or business machine markets. LCoS technology is also referred to as reflective LCD, while individual manufacturers use their own names. For example, JVC refers to its LCoS light engines as "D-ILA."

Pros:

  1. LCoS resolutions tend to start at SXGA enabling native 720p high definition images to be shown.
  2. Like LCD, LCoS machines can be very bright.
  3. Offers a very smooth, film-like image due to its pixel structure.
  4. Great color saturation and accuracy.
Cons:
  1. Can be pricey, although based on resolution, the cost is not much more than that of DLP™ home theater projectors.
  2. Dead pixels are more visible than with other technologies and happen as often as with LCD's.