What's the Difference: LCD vs. DLP Pt. 3

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Today we’ll get to our final installment of LCD vs. DLP. We’ve covered some basic design differences, discussed the pros and cons of LCD, so today we’ll tackle the pros and cons of DLP. And I’ll tell you which one you should buy (spoiler alert, I’m not really going to do that; it’s not nearly that clear cut). But first, DLP; what’s good, and what’s not.

DLP Pros

  • High reliability. Because of their sealed optic engine and lack of organic or inorganic panels, they tend to last for a long time and look the same throughout the life span. 
  • No convergence issues. It’s a single chip, so you don’t have to worry about images not lining up. Of course, when you start looking at 3 DLP projectors, convergence becomes a factor again. 
  • No real screen door effect. At a given resolution, the pixel pitch tends to be tighter on a DLP than LCD. Thus, you are less likely to see the pixels. The image tends to look more homogenous. Again, at 1920x1080, these differences are shrinking a lot.
  • Higher apparent output. DLPs have a while slot on the color wheel to boost brightness. Thus, the image may look brighter than an LCD. This is deceptive, however. I’ve seen shootouts of projectors where a 5000 lumen LCD is clearly brighter than a 7000 lumen DLP. I suspect this has more to do with how “lumens” are calculated, however. 

DLP Cons

  • The rainbow effect. I mentioned this last time. Because of the color cycling that happens when the image is produced, some people can see a rainbow of color on the screen. 
  • Color saturation might not be as good as LCD. Again, this has to do with the way the colors are reproduced. There are some DLPs with exceptional color saturation, but they tend to be expensive. Lower cost units are often a little washed out. 
  • No grey. A DLP micro-mirror is either on or off, black or white. There is no grey. To produce a grey, the pixel as to be flashed on and off between black and white many times per second, and this can produce some artifacts. Whether this is a problem or not will depend on your content. 

Does It Matter?

Maybe, maybe not. Again, for many applications, either a DLP or LCD projector could be perfectly acceptable. As I said, I’ve seen some LCD models that look so much better than DLPs it’s not funny. At the same time, I’ve seen some DLPs that are gorgeous. Like many things, it’s more about the price point than the technology. Once you start comparing projectors of comparable (and sufficient) price, the differences become more subtle. 

That’s not to say there aren’t choices to be made. It all depends on the application. For something like environmental projection, you can easily get away with an inexpensive LCD projector. When you start talking about IMAG in a large room, you have to start choosing more carefully. I’m not convinced it’s the underlying technology that has to be the key factor, though. I’ve been to enough NAB’s and InfoComm’s and seen enough LCD and DLP projectors to know either can look great. Often, it comes down to availability, price, suitability, lenses, service and what your dealer carries. The good news is, either technology can be more than good enough. And they keep getting better

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