3LCD vs DLP: The Best Projector Technology?

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In short, the difference between 3LCD vs DLP projectors is that 3LCD projectors offer higher brightness for the same wattage and lower cost, while DLP technology gives better picture quality and colors.

Whether you’re an avid gamer, movie fanatic or tech geek, you know that the quality of the image on your screen is hugely impacted by the type of projector you have, and the technology behind it.

Two of the most common technologies of recent years are Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Three Liquid Crystal Display (3LCD), which refer to the way that the image is produced by the projector.

DLP is the newer technology, and is much more complex than 3LCD, which is itself a variant of the 1960s single LCD standard.

When you’re deciding on a projector, it’s very important to understand the difference between DLP vs 3LCD projectors, so that you can be sure that you get the display quality that is right for you.

Both 3LCD and DLP have their uses for home theaters, so read on to understand their individual pros and cons and which will be right for your situation.


3LCD vs DLP

What is a DLP Projector?

DLP projector

DLP technology was first introduced to projectors in 1987, and is a very complex system involving a DMD chip that contains potentially millions of tiny mirrors, each only a few microns across.

The benefit of employing so many mirrors is straightforward. When there are even more mirrors, there are more pixels, as each mirror effectively corresponds to one pixel of the display, and the image becomes crisper as the number of pixels increases.

So DLP projectors provide amazing visuals by cramming millions of mirrors into a small space, with this technology now frequently employed in projectors used in education, industry, and home entertainment.

But the DMD chip itself only works in a binary world, either reflecting light or reflecting nothing – it doesn’t control color.

Color is controlled by a revolving color wheel spinning at thousands of revolutions per second, sending flashes of red, blue, and green light to the DMD chip, which then reflects light through the lens to produce the desired visuals being projected.

DLP Pros:

  • DLP projectors provide bright, vivid, crisp pictures with a high contrast ratio and strong contrast.
  • Because of the utilization of mirrors, light loss is considerably decreased, and light output is high.
  • DLP creates a smoother image comparable to 35 mm or 70 mm film.
  • Because DLP projectors have a filter-free and sealed chip architecture, they are simple to maintain.
  • Because there is less gap between the pixels, the final image is sharper
  • In comparison to other projectors, DLP technology provides a deeper black tone.
  • DLP is extremely accurate and produces no shadows.

DLP Cons:

  • The DLP technology isn’t as bright as LCD technology for the same wattage.
  • Because of the mirrored chip, the DLP has a restricted amount of pixels.
  • It may create a rainbow effect because it flashes colors over the screen in short bursts.
  • The color wheel can fail over time as it is a fast-moving part.

What is a 3LCD Projector?

3LCD projector

A fairly modern variation of the much older LCD technology is now utilized in home theater and commercial projectors, in the form of 3LCD technology, developed by Epson in the late 80s. This is the same as standard LCD tech, but instead uses three separate LCDs, one for red, green and blue, rather than one single LCD for all three. 

3LCD projector displays are pleasing to the eye since they display excellent images in vivid, natural colors with smooth motion and no color breakup.

Compared to its predecessors, Liquid Crystal Display projectors provide more modern alternatives for displaying video, still pictures, or digital files and data. 

The LCD projector divides the light into three panels to handle the display’s red, blue, and green parts, first through a metal-halide lamp and then through a prism or collection of dichroic filters. 

Open and closed pixels decide whether polarised light passes through or is blocked as it passes through the panels. 

In the projector’s output, this succession of open and closed pixels creates a rainbow impression of colors. The color brightness of 3LCD projectors is greater, resulting in vibrant and crisp color pictures. 

This is particularly welcome in home theaters where you are less able to handle ambient light, as it means that the image is not drowned out to the same degree than the less bright DLP projectors.

3LCD Pros:

  • The color saturation of LCD projectors is excellent.
  • LCD projectors deliver a clearer, more precisely focused image.
  • LCD projectors have a higher brightness capability and generate a brighter image for the same power level.
  • When it comes to brightness, an important projector characteristic, LCD projectors rank better.
  • The LCD projector is more efficient.
  • 3LCD projectors will produce brilliant colors and sharply defined pictures even in a bright setting.
  • There’s no rainbow effect with 3LCD projectors, unlike DLP.

3LCD Cons:

  • ‘Dead’ pixels are common in LCD projectors. A constantly off dead pixel may not make a significant difference, but the projector will be hampered if there are too many dead pixels.
  • It’s difficult to move them room-to-room because of their weight due to the many internal components.
  • LCD projectors give a densely pixelated image.
  • Color homogeneity is not as good as DLP.
  • The LCD can degrade quickly, and replacement parts are costly.
  • Over time, the image fades as it is not a closed system, allowing dust and dirt to damage the internal components when combined with the excess heat that they produce.

3LCD vs DLP Projectors: What Differences Matter?

DLP vs 3LCD projectors: What differences matter?

Input Lag

Particularly when playing video games, but even just for projecting movies, lag time is very important. The length of the delay might var, but DLP projectors have a higher lag than LCD projectors in general.

Having a higher refresh rate helps, so keep an eye out for a high refresh rate measured in Hertz, particularly a frequency of 120hz. If you have to choose between a 120hz LCD and a 120hz DLP, you should choose the LCD. 

There is because with a 3LCD projector, there is minimal lag time due to the colors being formed straight from the crystals rather than a chip passing through mirrors. 

However, if you’re choosing between a 120hz DLP and a 60hz LCD, the DLP is the better choice because it has substantially higher speed and will cover indirect color processing.

Resolution and Image Quality

As long as you are choosing a projector with a resolution of at least 1080p and a brightness of 3000 ANSI Lumens, then there are no notable variations in quality between DLP and LCD projectors. If you are interested in 3LCD vs DLP 4K projectors, then DLP become the preferred standard as they are much more widely produced for a 4K resolution. Take a look at my article on the best 4K projectors for more on this.

Convergence

When colors join together to produce the pictures you see on screen, this is called convergence. Colors are reflected by mirrors in DLP projectors using one chip or three chips in more high end projectors.

Crystal Panels are used in LCD projectors to concentrate colors. When there’s a convergence issue, the visuals you see will be hazy and full of inaccuracies, as if you’re looking through a dirty window.

Single-chip DLPs win since there’s nothing to converge because they utilize one chip. So there’s no risk of a convergence issue. 

LCD and 3-chip DLPs may experience convergence difficulties over time because if one chip or panel is slightly out of sink, it may impact the entire picture.

Rainbow Effect

rainbow effect on DLP projectors
Rainbow Effect halo from a DLP projector

But by far the most important difference between one chip DLP and 3LCD projectors is the presence of rainbow effect in the former technology.

This is caused by the spinning color wheel, which can produce a rainbow halo around on-screen objects, particularly when they move quickly, or if you move your head too fast while watching the screen.

This is because the color wheel makes the DLP projector overlay each red, green and blue layer of the image, thousands of times per second, usually too fast for the eye to notice, but this does depend on the individual.

This can be a strong negative for DLP projectors, so it’s sensible to try one out in-store before committing to a purchase.


Final Thoughts on LCD vs DLP Projectors

Generally speaking, you will find that projectors using the 3LCD technology are cheaper than DLP projectors, and are much more suited for entry-level and business uses. 3LCD is far superior in brighter rooms due to its higher light output, explaining why it is preferred in conference rooms and the like.

If you have a home theater where you are unable to control the light to any great extent, then 3LCD is probably the best choice, but otherwise DLP offers better image quality.

DLP is a good choice when balancing performance and price, but is itself superseded by 3-chip DLP for outright image quality. This employs three separate DMD chips, doing away with the need for a color wheel as each chip handles either red, blue or green colors only.

Beyond this, there are laser projectors which do not use the traditional lamp of LCD or DLP projectors, but a much more powerful laser source. These again can be single laser with a color wheel, or three laser without color wheel, although you will need to pay upwards of $5000 for the latter.

Overall, DLP is the best entry-level projector for most, with great image quality, and a very reasonable price.


Read More:

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4K UHD vs 4K HDR

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