Picking a projector can be challenging and the process is far more difficult if you don’t know much about projectors. Read on to learn everything you need to make an informed decision on gaming projectors!
Don’t forget to check out our list of Best Gaming Projectors and our FAQ.
That’s actually a pretty deep question. Projectors aren’t an easy thing to think through for most people. We think three factors will play the largest part in your decision for selecting a gaming projector.
The first is your platform. If you play on a nice modern console you’ll want something 1080p or 4K. Older consoles look great at 720p as well. Secondly you’ll want to consider your environment. Projectors are very sensitive to outside light and using one outdoors is near impossible without a high luminosity, high contrast, and a quality projector. Using them indoors can require curtains, dimming switches, and more. Your environment will play a huge factor in your decision. Finally we suggest you consider the setup space. Projectors need various distances to run correctly. Some work really close to a wall while others need up to 8 feet just to look ok. After thinking through your target resolution, your environmental factors, and how much space you’ll need, it’s a bit easier to decide!
Keep reading though and we’ll show you what features matter and what pitfalls to avoid.
It’s natural to want to save money and when picking up a gaming projector you might be tempted to get something light or less than top notch. The problem is that unlike a low-quality television set, a low-quality projector is crippling to the quality of your gaming. It will affect refresh rate meaning you have immense visual lag and artifacts. A cheap projector will lack a strong bulb and make gaming impossible short of an all-black room with no light. Finally, a cheap projector may also overheat. A very inconvenient thing to happen in the middle of a match. In general, going cheap on a projector can get you a pretty useless projector. We have one low-budget projector on our list and in practice it shows! If you want a gaming projector its best to fully commit and spend a bit. This will make the outcome far better.
Resolution is one of the easiest ways to make the call on which projector to buy. Consoles are actually divided by resolution pretty clearly. Recent consoles such as the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are 4K enabled, while older consoles such as a PS2 would look fine on a 720p or less projector. Ideally for those who like media (Movies and games) the sweet spot is 1080p but if you want to project some old Halo 2 matches, a 720p projector will do just fine.
Nothing is more obnoxious than turning on your projector to find that the bulb has burnt out. Projectors have different lengths of time they can be used before you need to replace a lamp or other parts. This is measured in hours. We recommend products rated for at least 6000 hours of possible usage, so you aren’t changing bulbs out annually.
The refresh rate is measured in Hz and quite simply corresponds to the frames per second that you’ll be able to see. Below 30Hz, you often will notice visual artifacts, stuttering, and tear. Top-notch PC Games regularly run at 144Hz. The human eye general can’t distinguish between anything over 60 Hz but some individuals are more sensitive than others. Projectors don’t usually promote a refresh rate, but some gaming projectors do achieve refresh rates of 144hz.
These two terms get mixed up pretty frequently. Response rate is the speed at which pixels can change from one color to the next. If it’s too high, you’ll see blurring and ghosting of older images. Input lag is different and often not actually measured in the graphics industry although WILDLY important. Input lag is the response time between your input and output (Often times this is in reference to your mouse or controller). A high input lag will make you feel as if your games are one or two seconds behind. A sort of awkward unresponsiveness results. It’s important to get a projector with a natural rate and limited lag that will make gaming feel smooth and responsive. Unfortunately, due to industry measurement standards being inconsistent it is hard to get a feel for this and relying on user reviews is most helpful.
Projectors tend to be mounted to a ceiling or in an obscure and hard to reach space. That makes wireless projectors a must for simple tasks. For instance, a Bluetooth enabled projector can receive audio input while mounted if it is wireless. So a cord such as DVI which possesses no audio input is still very effective. It’s another consideration to think through.
Some projectors have dual speakers onboard that generally aren’t quite loud but have enough kick to work in a room. It’s a handy feature for ambient music or set-ups where speakers are inconvenient. Most speakers are low quality but useful for a variety of purposes.
Projectors come with a variety of input and output options such as HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort or DVI. While these may seem unimportant at first glance, there are a few really key things to consider. First, refresh rate is often locked into your input and output format. Secondly some cords can carry audio signals (HDMI) while others cannot (DVI). Consoles often have a variety of I/O slots. Make sure to double-check your desired refresh rate and whether or not your cord can reach those levels.
One of the most important factors in selecting a Projector is luminosity. If the projector doesn’t have a high-enough luminosity it becomes challenging to get the room dark enough for high-quality visuals. Luminosity is measured in lumens. The visual quality heavily depends on your screen size, the distance from the screen to projector, and lumens. Lumens being one of the most important factors. The best tend to have around 3000 lumens and some short throw projectors have smaller lumen counts but project close enough to a surface that it offsets the low lumen count.
Projectors have a required minimum distance to project correctly. Too close and it may look squished or blurry. Too far and the projector dims and stretches the image. Those that project in really close spaces such as 5 feet are referred to as short-throw projectors. Short-throw projectors can also make a pretty large picture in a small space. This is handy for those who sit behind the projector or need to have a unique set-up in a tight area.
Projectors are by virtue of design used in wide-open spaces. They are heavily affected by the environment and room setup as well. To be frank, using the wrong resolution can basically make your games look like stretched out blotchy pixels. It calls into question the very notion of using a projector if the visuals look absolutely terrible. Going for a higher resolution is significantly better than a lower one. Even a 1080p device using 4K settings will look decent but a 4K device using 720p will not. It’s important. Very important.
Look below and find your device for the intended minimum resolution.
Using a PC with a projector is incredibly natural and intuitive but for gaming, it can be a bit more complicated. Due to the nature of PC gaming, most games offer little in the way of split-screen modes or other formats. Also, set-up can be challenging without a secondary monitor. If you can get a PC setup though, modern gaming software has amazing options for the PC
Steam has taken the time to develop an amazing mode for television screens and projectors. With the click of a simple button, steam converts to a unique mode specially tuned for television sets and projectors. You don’t need to own a projector to check it out either. You can use big picture mode pretty easily right now and give it a whirl. This might help you think through whether or not a PC Gaming Projector would be a good decision.
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