The sharpness and clarity of the picture on the screen is determined by a projector's resolution. Resolution is simply the number of pixels (or "picture elements") the projector uses to create the image. The more pixels it uses, the "higher" the resolution.

Resolution is usually quoted in two numbers, such as "800 x 600," where the first number refers to the number of pixels from side to side across the screen, and the second number refers to the number of pixels vertically from top to bottom.

True Resolution/Native Resolution
When speaking of a projector's resolution, it is common to refer to "true" or "native" resolution. If a projector's native resolution is 1024 x 768 (XGA), that means that the actual number of physical pixels on the display device is 1024 x 768. In some projector models, specifications show compatibility with higher resolutions. This is achieved through the use of compression technology. Compression technology displays a perfectly acceptable image, but is not matched pixel for pixel from computer to projector to screen.

Advantage of Higher Resolution
High resolution projectors are able to show more picture details than low resolution projectors. Also, since there are more pixels used to make the image, each individual pixel is smaller, so the pixels themselves become less visible on the screen.

XGA Resolution: 1024 x 768 Resolution

1024 x 768 Resolution

SVGA Resolution: 800 x 600

800 x 600 Resolution
Advantage of Lower Resolution
Lower resolution projectors are much less expensive, and they can produce images that are just as bright and attractive as higher resolution machines. Unless you really have a need to display fine details, lower resolution products will be your best bet from a cost perspective.


Resolution Options
Your basic choices for native, or true resolution are the following:
  • SVGA, or "800 x 600" - This is a very popular resolution today, because of its attractive prices and great images.
  • XGA, or "1,024 x 768" - XGA projectors are generally more expensive, and are an equally popular resolution format to SVGA. They have become more popular as XGA resolution computers have become more plentiful.
Which Resolution is Right for You?
One of the key factors in choosing the right resolution is your typical application. Do you have a need for very accurate display of small visual details, or not?

If your primary use of the system is for "Powerpoint" style graphics, pie charts, graphs, and general business presentation, you don’t need to pay extra for high resolution equipment. SVGA resolution is perfect for this kind of work, and the best solution for the money.

On the other hand, if you are often presenting materials like Excel spreadsheets with a lot of numeric data on the screen, you will probably be happier with XGA resolution. This format is able to produce a clearer and more legible image of small numbers and other data.


Matching Your Computer to Your Projector
Keep in mind that the best resolution for your projector is the resolution of the computer you intend to use with it. If you typically use a notebook computer with SVGA resolution, you will want a projector with the same native SVGA resolution in order to get the sharpest and cleanest image. Similarly, if you normally use a computer with XGA output, you will get the best picture from a projector that has XGA as its native resolution.

Native Resolution

Native (True) Resolution
Computer and projector are
at the same resolution.
(Simulated Image, Enlarged 300%)

Non-Native Resolution

Non-Native Resolution
Computer is at a higher resolution
than the projector (compression).
(Simulated Image, Enlarged 300%)

PLUS projectors are capable of projecting input signals other than their native resolutions. For example, you can usually hook up an XGA computer to an SVGA projector. The projector will automatically convert the incoming 1,024 x 768 signal to its native 800 x 600 output. However, there is always a loss of sharpness and detail in the process, so you will end up with a picture that is not quite as sharp as if the incoming signal had been the same format as the projector's native resolution.

This loss of sharpness also happens if you plug an SVGA computer into a higher-resolution XGA projector. You will usually get a decent image, but the conversion from the 800 x 600 input to a 1,024 x 768 output will produce some fuzziness that you may not appreciate after having spent the money for an XGA projector.

The projector's process of converting a different input format to its native output format is called "scaling." Projectors are very good at scaling, so any resulting image fuzziness, is relatively minor, and the image is very adequate no matter what the source.

Courtesy of ProjectorCentral, ©1999-2003, All Rights Reserved

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