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Projector Buying Guide

Choosing the right projector can be tricky. Our comprehensive buying guide will help you weigh up the various pros and cons, address some key questions, and give you all the information you need to select the ideal projector for your school. 

Projector Buying Guide BannerProjector Buying Guide Banner

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From usage to specs, there are a number of important points to consider when purchasing your brand-new projector. Let’s begin with a few important questions.

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How will you use the projector?

First, you need to ask yourself exactly how you’ll be using your new projector. Will it be installed in one particular hall or classroom? Will it be regularly moved from room to room? Will you need to pair it to your laptop or smartphone? Once you’ve given it some thought, you’ll be able to choose from a range of different models, from compact and portable projectors to overhead projectors and smart projectors.

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What resolution do you need?

Resolution is simply the number of pixels in an image. The higher the number of pixels, the greater the resolution and the better the image quality. So, if you’re looking for pin-sharp images, you’ll need to go for a higher-res model. 

Here are the common resolutions and their native aspect ratios:

Projector Resolution ChartProjector Resolution Chart

Aspect ratio denotes the width to height ratio of an image. This could be 16:10, like your laptop or flatscreen TV,  or 4:3, like an old-style old TV set or computer monitor.

Projector Aspect RatiosProjector Aspect Ratios
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Where do you intend to install your projector?

Before purchasing a new projector, you first need to make sure it’s compatible with your chosen space. You can do this by calculating the projector’s throw ratio. The throw ratio is the distance that a projector is placed from the screen divided by the width of the image it projects. Once you know this, you can determine exactly where you need to site your projector in any given room.

Short throw and ultra-short throw projectors can be installed very close to the screen, ensuring teachers don’t create shadows across the image. Standard throw models will have to be placed further back in the room.

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How bright is your space?

The brighter the room, the brighter your projector will need to be. If there’s too much ambient light in a classroom, images may appear faded and washed out. To ensure sharp, clean images, choose a projector with a minimum of 2,500 lumens. Or if you’re able to stretch the budget a little further, opt for an interactive flat-screen display.

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Do you need to share textbooks, maps, diagrams or 3D objects with the class?

For a truly interactive learning experience, you might want to combine your projector or interactive flat-screen display with a visualiser. Visualisers are portable, lightweight document cameras that allow you to share items, such as maps and diagrams, with the whole class. Visualisers can bring an extra dimension to the classroom. They enable you to show objects in minute detail, live stream events, and capture lessons as video clips. With a visualiser, you can easily share knowledge and ideas and create a compelling, immersive learning environment. 

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Are there any other key features you need to consider?

Here are a few more things to think about before making your purchase:

• Would you like your projector to have interactive or wireless functionality? 

• Do you require built-in speakers?

• Which inputs do you need (e.g. HDMI, VGA)?

• Once you're happy you have assessed all of your options, it's worth familiarising yourself with a few common technical terms before you make a final decision on the perfect projector for you. Our handy jargon buster will help you with this.

Ambient Light:

Any light in the viewing room created by a source other than the projector or screen.

ANSI Lumens:

ANSI lumens give the most accurate measurement of the overall brightness of a projector. Because the centre of a projected image is brighter than its corners, ANSI lumens are calculated by dividing a square meter image into nine equal rectangles, measuring the brightness of each rectangle, and averaging these nine points.

Aspect Ratio:

The ratio of image width to image height.

Auto Balance:

A system for detecting errors in colour balance in white and black areas of the picture and automatically adjusting the white and black levels of both the red and blue signals as needed for correction.


Overall light output from an image. While a brightness control can make an image brighter, it is best used to better define the black level of the image.


Advanced colour processing for bright, vibrant, deep saturated colour for lifelike reproduction.

Colour Wheel:

Rotating wheel with three or more translucent colour filters, used to display sequential colour in a DLP projector.

Contrast Ratio:

The ratio between white and black. The larger the contrast ratio the greater the ability of a projector to show subtle colour details and tolerate ambient room light.


The commercial name for the display technology from Texas Instruments that is in each Optoma projector. This uses millions of mirrors to produce high-quality imagery which does not suffer colour degradation over time, as sometimes experienced in other projector technologies.

Full HD:

High-Definition, high-resolution 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels).

HD Ready:

WXGA resolution (1280 x 800 pixels).


High-Definition Multimedia Interface. An uncompressed, all-digital audio/video interface that supports audio/video sources such as a set-top box, DVD player, A/V receiver, and projectors.


Hertz. The rate at which an image is refreshed (also known as cycles per second).

Invert Image:

Flips the image from top to bottom to allow you to mount a projector on the ceiling in an upside-down position.

Lamp life:

The average expected life of a lamp used in a particular projector.


The time lag between cause and effect, i.e. the time it takes for a device to perform a particular task after it has been requested to do so. Important in gaming. The shorter the latency the better.


Light Emitting Diode. A light-generating technology that uses a semiconductor diode that emits monochromatic (single colour) light when charged.

Lens Shift:

This allows the optical lens to be physically shifted up and down (vertical) and/or left and right (horizontal). Some lens shift mechanisms are motorised. Lens shift can negate the need for keystone correction to align the display to produce an aligned image.

Long Throw Lens:

A long throw lens allows greater distance between the projector and the screen while being able to maintain the image size and brightness of a shorter throw lens for any given projector.


A measurement unit of total illumination. Projector light output is measured in ANSI lumens. A projector with a higher number will produce a brighter image for a given image size. See ANSI Lumens.

Maximum Distance:

Sometimes used to refer to the distance from the screen that a projector can focus the image.

Native Aspect Ratio:

All Optoma projectors support multiple aspect ratios. Images shown in the projector’s native aspect ratio will use the entire resolution of the display and achieve maximum brightness. Images shown in other than native aspect ratio will always have less resolution and less brightness than images shown in native aspect ratio.

Power Zoom:

A zoom lens that is driven by a motor and controlled from the projector’s control panel and/or remote control.


The number of physical pixels in a display device. The higher the number of pixels, the greater the resolution and the better the image quality: Full HD 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) and HD Ready (1280 x 800 pixels).

Short Throw Lens:

A lens designed to project the largest possible image from a short distance.


SVGA is a display resolution measuring 800 x 600 pixels. SVGA has a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Throw Ratio:

The ratio between the projection distance and image width. Normally quoted as a range as most projectors have a zoom facility.


Also called HD Ready display resolution 1280 x 800 pixels.


Display resolution 1024 x 768.


A lens with a variable focal length enabling you to adjust the size of a projected image without moving the projector.

Zoom Ratio:

The ratio between the smallest and largest image a lens can project from a fixed distance.

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