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DLP vs. LCD/3LCD vs. LED Projectors

DLP vs. LCD/3LCD vs. LED Projectors

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Have you ever wondered why you have projectors as small as soda cans and others 10 times bigger?

Why do some projectors with the same specifications project images with different levels of brightness and color?

In this article, we will let you in on the reasons for these differences.

Projectors come in various types for different purposes and are classified according to the technology they use in projecting media.

There are high lumen projectors for bright spaces, gaming projectors with short throws, projectors for tracing images, and others.

These all use projection technologies that lend them certain capabilities.

This article details a comparison of the DLP vs LCD/3LCD vs LED projectors. First, let’s explain them.

Types of Projector Technology

Simply, there are two kinds of projector technologies that you can choose from. Your home cinema projector can either be a Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector, or the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projector.

LED projectors on the other hand, are projectors that use (LED) lamps as a light source. LED is not a display technology and can be present in either DLP or LCD projectors.

DLP projectors date back to 1987. They form images by using microscopic mirrors to reflect or deflect light.

LCD projectors use a much older technology from the 1960s. Using LCD panels, they send light through a small interference filter, color the light, and create an image.

If you want projectors for business presentations or for recreation, you have to decide between DLP or LCD projectors. You will also decide if you should get one with an LED light source.

All three projector types have their individual advantages and limitations. To understand how they work, read on.

How Do DLP Projectors Work?

how does dlp work short

Digital Light Processing technology involves the use of multiple mirrors and chips that control those mirrors.

DLP projectors have a digital micromirror device (DMD chip) that is made up of over two million tiny mirrors.

The mirrors on the DMD chip can direct light towards a monochrome image or deflect light from it. They do this by moving towards the source of light, or away from it.

Contributing to the DLP technology is a spinning color wheel. This wheel is responsible for color delivery and projection in single-chip systems.

A DLP projector can use LEDs, lasers, or bulbs as its light source.

There is something called the persistence of vision effect. The brain is fed many still images in quick succession and interprets them to be one. This creates the illusion of motion.

The spinning color wheel uses this effect to lend color to monochrome images. DLP projectors can be single-chip or 3-chip systems.

Single Chip DLP

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In this system, the white light from the lamp is passed through a spinning color wheel and onto the DMD chip.

The wheel separates the light into red, blue and green. The mirrors on the chip reflect these colored lights, pass them through the projector’s lens and onto the screen.

The viewers’ eyes blend these images into the intended colors.

The image switches speedily between red, blue, green, black and white. Thousands of switches can happen in a second, so the eyes perceive only one moving image.

The spinning color wheel can also cause the Rainbow effect to occur.

3-Chip DLP

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Some DLP projectors use a 3-Chip system instead of a color wheel. This is common in cinema projection systems.

Here, white light passes through a prism which separates it into red, blue and green pixels.

Each of the chips represent one of the three colors. Their tiny mirrors reflect the colored lights which are recombined, passed through the lens and projected onto the projector screen as one image.

DLP projectors are used often in home theaters. They are affordable and convenient. They can be easily set up or put back into storage.

How Do LCD Projectors Work?

5 Minute explanation - How does an LCD projector work? #shorts

The LCD technology of a projector is similar to an electronic watch’s liquid display.

This technology is a common feature of modern projectors. The first one was developed in the 1980s by a Japanese company, Epson.

LCD projectors work by following a sequence of steps. They create images using liquid crystal panels, filters, and prisms.

The white light from the source passes through a polarizing filter and on to dichroic mirrors.

Dichroic mirrors separate the light into three colors: red, blue and green. These mirrors reflect the separate beams onto an LCD panel.

The colored beams are filtered through the LCD panel and the dichroic prism where the lights recombine into a single image.

The image is projected through the projector lens and displayed on a screen.

3LCD Projectors

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These are a bit different from the regular LCD projectors. They have a total of three panels instead of one. Each of the panels control only one color.

A picture may have blue and red hues with no green. This means that the green panel prevented green light from reaching the dichroic prism and going out of the lens.

The resolution or sharpness of an LCD depends on the number of dichroic mirrors it possesses. These are called pixels.

The higher the amount, the more the clarity of the image. Each panel has control over the colors of its various pixels.

3LCD projectors consume less electricity and are brighter than regular LCD projectors. They can use lens shifts and zoom lenses.

LCD projectors are good classroom projectors. They are also good for home cinemas and official settings.

What Are LED Projectors?

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Unlike DLP and LCD, LED (Light-Emitting Diode) is not a type of projection display technology. It is a highly advantageous type of light source for projection.

They are only different from others in the kind of projector bulb they use. LEDs are characterized by a low heat and low energy semi-conduction energy generation.

LED projectors hardly go above 3500 lumens brightness. They make use of red, blue and green LEDs in combination.

LED projectors have durability over regular projectors. Their lamp life can be up to 10 times the lifespan of regular lamps which is between 1000 – 5000 hours.

You never have to replace them because most times, the lamp can even outlast the projector. A lot of them can go way above the 20,000 hour mark.

The contrast and color accuracy of an LED projector depends on its projection technology. This can be either DLP or LCD technology.

Comparison of DLP vs LCD/3LCD Projectors

According to their type of display technology, projectors offer varying degrees of brightness, contrast, and other features necessary for good projection.

We will compare DLP and LCD projectors based on certain parameters. At the end of this section, you should be able to decide which is best.

1. Light Output

Ideally, projectors should only be used in dark spaces or low ambient light. Is this always possible? Er, of course not.

To combat the wash-out effect of ambient light on projected images, you need more brightness. The brightness of projectors is measured in lumens.

Getting enough brightness to display a good image in ambient lighting is not easy. Projectors require at least 1500 lumens to project sharp images in a dark room.

In areas of partially controlled ambience, at least 3000 lumens brightness is ideal. Larger spaces with less control over ambience (i.e. a church or a lecture hall) will require projectors with 4500 lumens and above.

High light output is a characteristic of LCD and 3LCD projectors. 3LCD projection brightness is usually higher than that of DLP projection.

2. Vivid Coloration

projector with vivid coloration

Color accuracy is a measure of how well a projector can display colors transmitted in a signal. It describes the projectors ability to recreate exact color tones and shades.

Some projectors may display inaccurate colors. You may have noticed blue or yellow tints on different colors.

These clash with the viewer’s imagination and can be very distracting. Sometimes, calibration can improve color accuracy.

DLP projectors have more mirrors in their system than LCD projectors. 3LCD projectors are not far behind.

More mirrors mean more pixels to hold varying shades of color and project more color-accurate and uniform HD images.

There is little space between the pixels and this sharpens the displayed image.

3. The Rainbow Effect

Sometimes, some people can see flashes of color in sequence while viewing a projected image. This is called the Rainbow effect.

For those who notice it, this effect usually occurs when bright objects show up against a dark background.

This disturbing effect is common on many DLP projectors that use the single-chip system. It happens because they use chips that produce color in sequence.

The color production is managed by a spinning color wheel at very high speed and should be unnoticeable.

The Rainbow effect may be seen on DLP projectors with slower color wheels. Older models are more susceptible to this.

LCD projectors are not at risk of this because they do not use spinning color wheels to tint images. LED light sources also reduce the chances of this distortion.

4. Motion Blur

blurred motion

Motion blur is a visual anomaly that affects moving images. It often occurs in HDTVs and LCD projectors.

Motion blurs can be caused by any number of factors. Some blurs occur because the eyes are tracking objects that are moving fast on LCD displays.

More often, motion blurs on LCD projectors occur when pixels have a slow response time.

5. Size

Projectors come in various sizes. Often, the sizes have a lot to do with their operating technologies and the range of functions they offer.

Projection is useful in a lot of places and situations. Often, one is tasked with moving projectors from one location to another.

Portability is increasingly necessary in modern projectors. With portable projectors you can easily set-up anywhere you desire.

LCD projectors are characterized by bulk. They have many components that contribute to their size and weight.

This makes them difficult to transport and inconvenient for projection in multiple venues.

Most of the portable and lightweight projectors available today rely on DLP technology.

6. Contrast

projector with high contrast ratio

Contrast ratio of a projector determines how much detail you can see on a displayed image.

A high contrast ratio is useful for projecting detailed images in dark rooms. It is especially important if the media you are projecting has dark areas.

A little light can always pass through LCD panels even if they’re black. This gives them a somewhat lower contrast than DLP projectors.

DLPs display images with higher contrast and darker blacks. A plus for projecting in dark rooms.

7. Durability

A projector should last a user long enough to be worth its cost.

DLP projectors last longer and their parts degrade at a slower rate. The only pitfall to this is that when they do fail, it is impossible to use them.

LCD projectors have panels which degrade over time. This depends on how often they are used.

However, they do not have any moving parts, so this lends them some reliability. When they do develop fault, images may become poorer but projection is not cut off.

So, while the LCD projectors may fail faster, they’re easier to repair and maintain. This sort of balances the disparity.

LCD is better for projection in areas where DLP projectors cannot be readily repaired or replaced.

Final Recount

LCD projectors have held their own against the newer DLP technology.

LCD projectors are a good choice for daytime projection because of their brightness. They are more light efficient than their counterparts. They operate on a simpler technology that does not need moving parts. For this reason, they are more reliable and use up less power.

The DLP technology is newer and often more expensive. DLP projectors have high contrasts that make them better for projection in the dark.

While DLP has its drawbacks, the 3-chip variant is highly accurate with color reproduction.

DLP projectors have smaller and more portable designs. This quality makes them convenient for transportation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of DLP vs LCD/3LCD vs LED Projectors

  Advantages Disadvantages
DLP projectors
  • 3-chip DLP projectors have higher color accuracy
  • They display crisp images with no motion blur
  • They have higher contrast
  • DLP technology is less expensive
  • They come in portable sizes
  • Single-chip systems are susceptible to the Rainbow effect.
  • They are not as bright as LCDs
  • Minimal reliability due to moving parts
LCD/3LCD projectors
  • They have fewer moving parts.
  • Great color reproduction in 3LCD
  • LCDs have higher brightness even on the same lumens as a DLP
  • They display better colors in areas with ambient light
  • There is no occurrence of the Rainbow effect
  • They consume less power
  • They may exhibit motion blur
  • They may lose image quality with time as their panels degrade
  • Less color uniformity than DLPs
  • Poorer contrast in dark scenes
  • They are bulky
LED Projectors
  • LED projectors have a very long lamp life
  • They are highly efficient
  • They require little maintenance or replacement
  • LEDs are very energy efficient
  • LEDs are an expensive light source
  • They do not have a high capacity for brightness


1. Is DLP or LCD better for projectors?

DLP and LCD projectors have competed successfully for many years. Either can be a great choice depending on what you intend to use it for.

LCD projectors perform exceptionally with brightness and good detail. The 3LCD technology gives them an edge over DLP projectors.

DLP projectors are portable with more pixels for projecting HD or UltraHD images. 3-chip DLP projectors do not have the disadvantage of Rainbow effects.

Brightness is very important for projection, so LCD projectors are a better choice if you don’t have to think about portability.

2. Do LED projectors last longer?

LEDs are characterized by durability and low heat emission. Yes, they last longer.

LED projectors have lamp lives of 20,000 hours and more. They have a longer lamp life than other light sources for projection.

They do not have to be frequently manipulated to change bulbs. This reduces the chances of wear.

If you take good care of your LED projector, it will last you a very long time.

3. Which type of projector is best?

DLP projectors are better than LCDs for so many reasons. They give accurate colors, crisp images and better contrast. They are perfect for projection in areas where you can control ambient light.

Alternatively, the brightness of LCD projectors make them better suited for projecting in bright spaces.

The best choice is a 3LCD projector with an LED light source.

4. What are the advantages of LCD projectors?

  • LCD projectors have fewer moving parts so the risk of damage is lower.
  • No risk of Rainbow effects.
  • They are perfect for projection in areas with ambient light.
  • They consume less power.
  • They give great color in 3LCD.
  • LCD projection technology is brighter than DLP technology even at the same lumen.


Projection technology has come a long way since it was first used. Now, projectors are used at schools, offices, public events and even in the home.

Your TV can be conveniently replaced by a projector and a larger projector screen. Big projector screens offer impressive visuals for recreation and entertainment.

There are many projectors available for different purposes. So, don’t miss out on anything a good projector has to offer.

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