Perfect projection: a guide to selling projectors

A simple guide to selling projectors

Projectors are primarily used in office and educational settings as a means to share information. There are a number of factors that your client will need to consider to choose a projector with the right features and performance to suit their needs.
To be able to suggest the correct type of projector for your clients, it is imperative that you know how they work, what type of media they play, their size and their resolution. 

Media type
The very first thing to do is to ask your customer what the projector will be used for. There are basically four kinds of images that can be shown on a projector: data; video; photos; and games. Although any projector can show any kind of image, it is important to choose one based on what your customer will use most.  Projectors are generally sold as business projectors (for data, such as presentations, spreadsheets and PDFs) or home entertainment projectors (for photos and video files such as movies). A growing number of projectors are sold as game-playing projectors, which require some of the capabilities needed for data images and some needed for videos. 

Another important question to ask your customers is how often the projector will need to be moved from one venue to another. Projectors come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from those small and light enough to fit in the palm of your hand to those that are suitable for permanent installation only. It is important to let your customers know that an increase in portability can mean a decrease in projection quality. 

Resolution, screen format and throw
The resolution your customer will use most often should determine the projector’s native resolution (that is, the number of physical pixels in the projector’s display). Projectors can scale images up or down to their native resolutions, but they lose image quality in the process. SVGA (800 by 600 pixels) will suffice for data, but for video 1080p is necessary to project the best image.
For video and games a widescreen format will be a must for your customersNative widescreen resolutions have become common even for data. 
Finally, you will need to ask your client whether or not they will need a short-throw project. Throw is the ability to cast a given-size image at a certain distance from the screen. A short-throw projector will allow users to throw a large image in a tight space, which minimises the risk of people getting in front of the projector and blocking part of the image. Most projectors can throw a 1,8m-wide image from 3,5m to 4,5m away; most short-throw projectors need 0,9m to 1,8m feetand ultra-short-throw projectors need only a few centimetres. On the opposite end of the spectrum, long-throw projectors are ideal for large conference rooms and small auditoriums. 

Brightness and contrast
The level of brightness your customer will need hinges on what they will use the projector for. Brightness is measured in lumens, or the amount of light emitted by an object per second. For a home theatre projector to be used in a dark room, 1 000 to 1 200 lumens will provide a large, bright image. In this instance, a 2 000-lumen projector may be too bright and hard on the eyes. For a portable data projector your customer plans to use in well-lit locations, 2 000 to 3 000 lumens will suffice. Generally speaking, the larger and lighter the room, the greater brightness the user will need. Small, incremental changes in lumens aren’t usually significant. For the user to perceive twice the amount of brightness, twice the number of lumens must exist. 
Contrast ratio is the ratio between the brightness of the brightest and darkest areas a projector can produce. A higher contrast ratio will mean more vibrant, eye-catching colours, with greater detail showing in dark areas on the screen.  

The way in which the projector interacts with other equipment will be important to your customers. Most projectors offer an analogue or VGA (video graphics array) connector, allowing connection to a computer or video equipment. An HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connection is preferable for digital connection, as it preserves quality and mitigates issues such as jitter. Some projectors are now adding mobile high-definition link (MHL)-enabled HDMI ports, allowing projection from Android devices.
Most newer-model projectors offer WiFi connectivity via a wireless dongle that fits in a USB port. 

Imaging technologies 
Today’s projectors are based on one of four imaging technologies: digital light processing (DLP)liquid crystal display (LCD)liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) and laser raster. 
DLP technology is usually used in inexpensive projectors. It projects primary colours sequentially rather than simultaneously, which often leads to a rainbow effect. Light areas on the screen break up into little rainbows when viewers shift their gaze or something moves on screen. LCD projectors don’t suffer from the rainbow effect, but they tend to be bigger and heavier for equivalent projectors. 
Standard-sized LCOS projectors offer the best-quality images, but they tend to be bigger and heavier than DLP or LCD projectors, and therefore more expensive. 
Laser raster projectors are uncommon, but one advantage of using a laser is that the image doesn’t need focusing. 

Projectors that are needed for videos and audio clips will require built-in audio. In general, highly portable projectors have poor audio quality. The larger the machine, the better the built-in audio usually is.  If your customer needs a highly portable device, they should consider using a separate sound system. 

One of the newest features available on projectors today is 3D. However, due to the fact that a variety of 3D schemes are available, just because a projector is 3D-ready doesn’t mean it will work with the 3D source you want to use. If the customer wants to use a projector for 3D content, you will need to ascertain that it will with the specific 3D image source they plan to use it with.

Mini projectors: a show wherever you go 

As the number of uses for digital projectors keeps growing, their sizes keep shrinking. While business people have been carrying laptop-sized units around for years, smaller (and cheaper) projectors have recently found a place in home theatre systems, dorm rooms and anywhere that you can find a blank space on the wall. 

They even drew attention during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, when protesters used them to project symbols and messages on the sides of buildings. 

There’s no accepted definition for these types of projectors. Some call themselves “pico” while others are labelled “mobile,” “pocket” or “mini.” Suffice it to say that they’re all significantly smaller and lighter than the Xbox-size units that have previously dominated the scene. They’re also not as bright and have lower resolutions than their bigger siblings. 

When it comes to mini projectors, you get what you pay for. Bottom-of-the-range projectors are one-trick ponies with limited applications, while the expensive devices produce sharp, bright images good enough for almost any purpose short of presenting to an auditorium. 

Most mini projectors come with HDMI capabilities, so they can be connected to an iPad and project, for example, a PDF presentation containing both text and graphics. These projectors can connect to a DVD player and show a movie. 

Bright and clear  
One of the main qualities of a good mini projector is brightness, though that’s more significant in a conference room at lunchtime than it would be in a small, dark room. Brightness is measured in lumens, a metric set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to determine the average intensity of a projected image – a higher number means a brighter image. These projectors are rated between 85 and 500 lumens; as such, they throw less light on a wall than does a 60-watt incandescent bulb (about 800 lumens). However, in the same way a 10-lumen keychain flashlight is bright enough for finding your way in a dark room, these projectors generally provide enough light. 
The clarity of the projected text, the contrast and the saturation of the colours is another important aspect of a mini projector. The greater the brightness and higher the resolution, the better the clarity will be. 

Most mini projectors display their menus on the wall, and very few have built-in screens. Some uses smartphone apps as their interface. 
Mobile projectors have audio-out jacks for headphones or external speakers. Use them. These projectors have built-in speakers, but they’re laptop-quality at best. Since they all have fans going as well, you need something more than what’s built in to rise above the background noise. 
Finally, these projectors involve some trade-offs, such as whether the unit has a battery or you need to be within reach of an outlet. Similarly, some really are “pocket sized,” while others require at least a small carrying case.


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