While LCD projectors have a sharper image and superior picture quality, DLP projectors are lighter, portable, and considered to be more reliable.

DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology uses micro-mirrors to project images from a monitor onto a large screen. DLP is seen in standalone projection units, in rear projection TVs, and in a majority of digital cinema projection. LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) video projectors send light from a metal-halide lamp through a prism to display video, images, or computer data on a screen or flat surface.

Comparison chart

DLP Projector versus LCD Projector comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartDLP ProjectorLCD Projector
Introduction Type of projector technology that uses a digital micromirror device. Type of video projector for displaying video, images or computer data on a screen or other flat surface; modern equivalent of the slide or overhead projector.
How it Works DLP’s one chip is with a reflective surface having 1,000s of tiny mirrors coordinated with a light source to reflect digital imagery to any surface Projected light onto mirrors split to 3 primary colors: red, green and blue. Colors then pass via 3 separate prisms, with colors converged via 2nd prism for projection on screen.
Advantagaes *Smoother video *Smaller box *Pixels less visible *“Filmlike” on HDTV *Generate "blacker" blacks *Higher contrast *Portable *Richer color dynamics in ambient light *Less power *Throw less heat *No "rainbow effect" *Quieter, sharper image on data
Disadvantages *Some "rainbow effect" *More moving parts *Produce audible whine *Poorer reds, yellows at full power *Color saturation *More lumens than LCD with ambient light *More visible pixels *Some screen door effect on certain video images *Larger - even for same lumen # *Poorer contrast *Black is lighter gray than in DLP
Image Good picture quality, but poorer than LCD projectors Sharper image; better picture quality than DLP projectors
Rainbow Effect Yes No
Contrast Higher than LCD Lower than DLP
Portability Smaller, Lighter, Easily portable Buliker, Not very convenient for portability
Price $300 - $1000+ $250 - $1000+
Light Source LED or Standard Lamp Standard Lamp
Technology Type Reflective Transmissive
Year Invented 1987 1968

What to Look for when Choosing a Projector

The ideal choice for your projector depends upon several factors: whether you want it for a home theater or office presentations; whether it has a dedicated spot or will be used when traveling often; and, of course, budget. Other factors like sharpness, clarity, picture quality, etc. are constant, and non-negotiable. This video guides you on what factors to consider before you buy a projector:

Pros and Cons

Advantages of DLP over LCD projectors

DLP projectors offer road warriors and home theater enthusiasts many advantages:

Advantages of LCD projectors

LCD projectors claim three main advantages over DLP projectors:

Disadvantages of DLP projectors

The few disadvantages of DLP projectors are:

Disadvantages of LCD projectors

LCD disadvantages are more relevant to video:

How Projectors work

This video explains how DLP and LCD projectors work:

How DLP Projectors Work

DLP projectors rely primarily on a DLP chip, or digital micromirror device (DMD), which comprises up to two million tiny mirrors, each mirror one-fifth the width of a human hair. Each of these mirrors can independently move toward or away from a light source to create a dark or light pixel. The color is fed to the DMD by a beam of light from a light lamp source, which then passes through a spinning color wheel before it reaches the chip, and the image is fed through the lens and onto the projection screen.

The conception diagram of a color wheel used in DLP.
The conception diagram of a color wheel used in DLP.

A DLP projector with three-chip architecture can deliver up to 35 trillion colors. A three-chip DLP projector uses a prism to split light from the lamp, and each primary color of light is routed to its own DLP chip, then recombined and routed out through the lens. Three-chip systems are in higher-end home theater and large venue projectors, and DLP Cinema projection systems in digital movie theaters.

How does an LCD projector work?

LCD projectors use 3 LCD technology systems with the same LCD displays as those used to create images in watches and other electronic devices. This system combines three liquid crystal displays, where an image is created in a multi-step process. A light source provides a beam of white light, which is passed to three mirrors (or dichroic mirrors) specially shaped to reflect only a certain wavelength of light.

Here the mirrors reflect red, blue, and green wavelengths. Each colored light beam is fed to an LCD panel, which receives an electrical signal. The signal instructs the panel how to arrange the pixels in the display to create the image. The same image is created by the three LCD panels, but each with different hues due to the colored light through the panel. The images then combine in a prism, resulting in a single image with up to 16.7 million colors. Finally, the image is passed through the lens for projection onto a screen.

Technology and Light Source

DLP technology is 'reflective'. Instead of passing a light source through a LC material, light is reflected off the DMDs. In a single-chip DLP projector, light from the lamp enters a reverse-fisheye, passes through a spinning color wheel, crosses underneath the main lens, and reflects off a front-surfaced mirror, where it is spread onto the DMD. From there, light either enters the lens or is reflected off the top cover down into a light-sink to absorb unneeded light.

LCD projectors use transmissive LCD, which allows light to pass through the liquid crystal. In LCD projectors there are always three LCD panels, and they are always light transmissive devices rather than reflective or direct view displays

Being light-source agnostic, DLP technology can effectively use a variety of light sources. Typically, the main DLP light source is a replaceable high-pressure xenon arc lamp unit. Alternatively, ultra-small or pico DLP projectors use high-power LEDs or lasers. For LCD projectors, Metal-halide lamps are used given their outputting an ideal color temperature and a broad spectrum of color. Smaller metal-halide lamps make LCD projectors smaller, hence more portable than most other projection systems.


Depending on the quality and functionality, both DLP as well as LCD projectors can cost anywhere from $300 to well above $1000. Here are two helpful shopping links for projectors on Amazon.com:


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