When I looked to buy my first projector, I noticed that there were different options for home and business, which got me thinking about why you would need more than one option.
So, what’s the difference between home and business projectors? A business projector is generally brighter and equipped to deal with a variety of media options, whereas home projectors have a higher resolution, and are optimized for film and TV. Realistically, either can be used in a home theater system, but the type you choose will depend on your overall needs.
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To really break it down for you, and help you decide what type of projector will be best for your needs, I’ve completed a list of the main differences, and the pros and cons of each.
Hopefully this will help you make a more informed decision, resulting in a better home theater.
Differences Between Home And Business Projectors
As I mentioned above, the main differences between home and business projectors stem from their use.
Business projectors are designed to handle a range of different media, from word documents and presentations to film and audio, whereas home projectors are optimized for watching TV and films using a cable connection.
The differences can be broken down into general areas for the two types of projector.
Business projectors are designed to be lightweight and easy to carry, and just as easy to set up. This is because they’re generally not kept in one room, and might need to be moved between conferences and presentations.
It’s fair to assume you might not need portability in your home theater, as it’ll probably stay in the same room. However, if you want a projector that you can move between rooms (or take outdoors), then this might be a reason to go for a business projector.
2. Simple to use
One of the main selling points about business projectors is their ease of use. They’re designed so that anyone in the office can set them up wherever they need to. Gone are the days when projectors were the responsibility of the IT department.
Again, simplicity might be something you’re looking for in a home theater projector, and business projectors are generally more responsive too. However, simplicity does come at a price, which is a lack of “tweakability”.
Business projectors are generally much brighter than home projectors, simply because they’re designed to fill much larger spaces. Also, they’re usually equipped to deal with rooms with more ambient light, especially since glass-walled offices became trendy.
For a home theater projector, you might not need such brightness. Home theater rooms generally won’t be as large as office spaces, although if yours is, then good for you! Similarly, most people have curtains or blinds in their home theater rooms, which means lower levels of ambient light.
4. Input connections
Business projectors are built with as many different input connections as possible. These will usually include options such as VGI, HMDI, USB, DVI, and more. Business projectors are designed to be versatile, and connected to the wide variety of devices that are used in a business setting.
Generally, home projectors come with the range of connections you need for home media. This will include options like DVI and HDMI, but possibly not USB. However, there are ways around this problem, especially if you have other media devices in your home theater, such as a games console.
1. Higher resolution
Home projectors will generally have a much higher resolution than business projectors because they’re designed to handle things like Blu-Ray and 4K video. Most media devices function in high definition, and all live TV is shown on HD channels, so resolution is one of your main concerns when buying a projector.
Business projectors generally work at lower resolution because they rarely handle videos, and so are optimized for documents and other media. You’ll probably also find that their native resolutions follow computer formatting, rather than TV.
2. Better contrast ratio
Videophiles will probably already know all about contrast ratio, but for those of you who are new to the scene, contrast ratio is the difference between the lightest and darkest areas in the picture.
At the dawn of HD video, contrast ratio was all the rage, and a higher ratio results in darker blacks and crisper colors.
This is obviously fundamentally important if you’re watching films. Business projectors don’t really need high contrast ratios because images don’t need to be as crisp and impressive in a business setting. You can find business projectors with high contrast ratios, but they’re expensive.
3. Optimized connections
As I mentioned above, home projectors are optimized for visual media input, and so will prioritize HMDI and DVI over other connections.
Many will also have ways to hook up laptops and computers, but might not feature as many options as a business projector.
Connectivity is obviously important for a home theater projector, but I imagine it’s likely that you’ll have ways around the loss of a few connections. For example, most games consoles have USB inputs, and as long as you can hook up a computer to your projector, your options are endless.
4. More suitable throw ratio
The throw ratio is essentially the required distance between the projector and the image it’s projecting in order for optimum viewing conditions.
As a general rule, for every foot your image is wide, your projector needs to be 2 feet away. You’ll have plenty of options for throw ratio with home projectors because there are models designed for both large and small rooms.
Business projectors, on the other hand, are usually designed for larger rooms, and so will have larger throw ratios. Your home theater space probably isn’t as big as an office, and so you need a smaller throw ratio in order to get the most out of your picture.
Generally, home projectors will be more suitable for your home theater needs, as that was exactly what they were designed for.
However, there might be some situations when you would favor the portability and ease of use of a business projector. Read on to find out more information about things to consider when choosing the right type of projector.
What To Look For In A Home Theater Projector
Choosing your home theater projector shouldn’t be a quick decision. You should consider exactly what you plan to use it for, what your main input sources will be, and important things like contrast and brightness.
The video below will give you a fair idea on what to look for:
However, here are the main factors that I consider important when choosing a home theater projector.
Projector brightness is measured in lumens, and should be one of the first factors you consider when making a purchase. Home projectors start at 1,000 lumens, which is ideal for home theaters with almost no ambient light.
If you go for the lower end of the lumen scale, consider getting blackout blinds or curtains (assuming there are windows in your home theater room).
If your room has a level of ambient light you’re not able to block out, then look for projectors with a brightness rating of 1,500 lumens or higher. These will be suitable for home theaters with windows that cannot be completely blocked out with curtains or blinds.
For rooms with a lot of ambient light, you should be looking closer to 3,000 lumens, although this is then getting into business projector territory, and you should consider addressing your ambient light problem.
Most manufacturers will provide a lumen rating for their projectors, and some will even state what kind of environment it’s suited for. However, if they don’t, there are plenty of handy guides online that will give you measurements and advice.
2. Image Quality
Image quality is again one of the most important factors to consider. After all, you want your projector to be able to handle the quality of your input devices.
Nowadays, most home projectors will come with the resolution 1920 x 1080 as standard, which handles HD 1080p images.
However, you’ll also find projectors with a resolution of 1280 x 800, which is called Wide XGA. This is typically the resolution used by business projectors, and can deliver HD images, they’re just not as sharp as those delivered by HD projectors.
Make sure that you’re buying your projector based on the highest image quality delivered by your input devices, as you can always use lower aspect ratios if necessary.
There’s also a growing market for projectors that handle 4K Ultra HD, but these are obviously much more expensive. Over time, the technology will get progressively cheaper to manufacture, but if you want to “future proof” your home theater, then consider investing the money now to save you buying a replacement projector in a few years’ time.
3. Aspect Ratio
The native aspect ratio of a projector is its default ratio that it uses to produce images. Home projectors usually come with native ratios of 16:9, 16:10, and 4:3. Home media (DVDs, TV, Blu-Ray, etc.) is typically coded for 16:9 aspect ratio, so this should be your main focus for a home theater projector.
Business projectors will usually have an aspect ratio of 4:3, as this is more suitable for documents and presentations. However, some will also offer 16:9 widescreen aspect ratios to accommodate the growing trend for widescreen in computer devices.
You can run widescreen media on 4:3 projectors, although you’ll end up with what’s call letterboxing. This is probably something you’re familiar with if you watch old movies, and it’s simply the black bars that appear around the image because it’s the wrong aspect ratio.
While this isn’t the end of the world, you should avoid it if possible because it will have an impact on your viewing experience.
The placement of your projector is important, and will mainly be decided by the throw distance. Almost all projectors can be mounted, either on the ceiling or in a cabinet.
Alternatively, you have the option to keep it on a tabletop. Modern projectors aren’t very heavy, and keeping them on a tabletop will give you the option to move them about the house if you want.
Mounting your home theater projector on the ceiling gives your room a more polished look, and means you don’t need to mess around setting the projector up every time you want to use it. Projectors designed for home use are better mounted because they’re not necessarily intended for transportation.
Business projectors will be a better choice if you want portability, but as I mentioned, this will mean refocusing your projector every time you want to use it.
Also, your home theater will look a bit more messy because you’ll have wires trailing around your viewing area, but this isn’t something that bothers everyone.
The Pros And Cons Of Home Projectors And Business Projectors
By examining the difference between home and business projectors, I found that there aren’t actually that many differences between them, but even these small differences will have a big impact on the viewing quality in your home theater.
Realistically, either can be used in a home theater, but your decision should be based on your requirements. To really break it down for you, here is a list of the pros and cons of each type of projector.
- Business projectors are capable of kicking out much brighter images, which are suitable for rooms with higher levels of ambient light. This is because they need to be suitable for viewing in an office environment, which is usually much brighter than a home theater.
- They are usually smaller and lighter than home projectors. This is because they’re designed to be portable and convenient for business users.
- Business projectors are easy to set up, and most are plug in and go. They’re designed to be used by specialists and novices alike, making them quite practical for a business setting.
- Business projectors are generally optimized for computer-based projections, and so have suitable resolutions and aspect ratios for computer screens. While they can handle video media, there may be some issues with letterboxing.
- They are generally quicker to respond than home projectors, but this is a side effect of their portability. If a projector is designed to be set up on the fly, then it needs to be quick to turn on and warm up.
- Because they’re designed mainly for documents and presentations, their resolution will be nowhere near as good as home projectors. This might not be an issue if you only want to watch DVDs, but you will notice some issues with HD media and games.
- Their easy to use format means there are not as many options for customization, something that true home theater fanatics will certainly miss. Many people like having total control over their media devices, and this is something you’ll miss out on with a business projector.
- Their portability means that there will be some sacrifices on build quality. At even the most basic level, lighter parts will not be as durable and could result in you having to pay out for costly repairs if your projector suffers a few bumps.
- Home projectors are designed specifically to handle the resolutions needed by home media. This means their native resolution and aspect ratio will be for high definition widescreen images, which covers almost all modern video media.
- They have higher contrast ratios, and so can deliver sharper colors and deeper blacks. If you’re investing in a home theater, you want to get the most out of your media.
- Home projectors are also optimized for home media input connections, including HDMI and DVI. This means you should be covered for all devices you will typically want to plug in to the projector.
- Home projectors have more suitable throw ratios for home theaters. Many are designed to work in smaller rooms, as most people won’t be trying to fill an office-sized space.
- They’re suitable for mounting in one permanent place in your home theater, although portability is still an option if you need it.
- You won’t have as many connection options as a business projector, but this should present little problem as many modern computers can be connected to a HDMI cable.
- Home projectors are typically slower to respond and turn on than business projectors.
- They’re also heavier and so not as easy to transport around the home.
- If you’re looking for higher resolutions (think 4K), be prepared to pay much more money than you would for a good quality business projector.
Business Vs. Home Theater Projectors: Final Thoughts
The main thing I found out from comparing home and business projectors is that the biggest differences stem from image quality.
If you’re looking for a projector for your home theater, image quality will surely be your top priority. If it is, stick with a home projector, as these will be much more suitable for your needs.
Business projectors still work, but they don’t have enough power to deliver the deep blacks and crisp images you’ll want in your home theater.
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