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Geek Proud, GeekOut.

Projectors: What you need to know before you buy

Projectors are fantastic; if you have a Raspberry Pi, or if you have a laptop, a tablet – Whatever it is, you may want to project it. We used to use a projector at the GeekOut Bristol Meets, which we would project a game onto a wall (usually an ill-suited wall at that). However, the projector we had was terrible if your game had words to pay attention to. We certainly couldn’t watch a film off it – So what went wrong and what do you need to know before you buy a projector?

Under £100 is probably too cheap

One of our projected games – This was with a projector that cost approx. £30. Clear enough for the purpose.

The projector I have cost me something like £30. It was great for what it was, but as I mentioned before, if you wanted to display words, it was just not good enough. It didn’t display anything in a good enough resolution to make it worth projecting. The icing on the cake came when our gamers tried to play Quiplash and the words were just fuzzy, blurry messes. So what gives? It said it accepted 1080p!

There is a large difference between what a projector accepts as input and displays as output. This may sound obvious, but a lot of these cheap projectors will try and sell it to you as if they can handle displaying things at 1080p. However, a typical projector that can take input and display output at that quality will set you back a lot more than £30. In fact, this is basically the projector I bought (if this link goes down, sorry, it’s an eBay link!)

The point is however, just like many things when you are buying something, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Resolution vs Native Resolution

Resolution explained by Wikipedia

This is the key thing you absolutely must look into.

If you look at the specifications of a projector, this is the most important part. One part should say “Resolution”, whilst the other part should say “Native Resolution”. The resolution would simply be what input the projector can accept. Therefore, if you have a laptop that has a resolution of 1080p (I.E 1920 x 1080), then this is the maximum “input resolution” the projector can accept. This means that it can understand images up to that clear. You won’t, for argument’s sake, be able to input 4k (which is 3840 x 2160 pixels or 4096 x 2160 pixels).

Next up is the native resolution – This is the most important piece of the puzzle. The native resolution is what resolution the projector will display for everyone. This is the resolution that it can project up to. If you input a 1080p display, but have a native resolution of 320 x 240, then you’re going to get a grossly distorted image. This is fine if you’re playing small games, retro games or watching a show and really don’t care about quality – But you’re going to miss out on a lot.

You want to find a projector that ideally outputs an equal quality to what you input.

What are ‘Lumens’?

Simply put, this is how bright the projector will be. The higher the lumens, the higher the brightness. This may not seem like an important aspect, but it affects how far away the projector can project to. Naturally the further away your projector is from a wall, or whatever you’re projecting to, the larger the image is going to be. Furthermore, the brighter a room is, the more lumens you’re going to need, as it requires more brightness to project in a brighter room.


Usually, you’ll get projectors with built-in sound, as well as a remote control. These are useful enough features, but often you’d opt to have your own sound. The remotes can be pretty handy though. If you’ve ever considered buying yourself a projector, or if you already have, why not share the make and model in the comments below, or over on our Facebook and Twitter pages – Get projecting, folk!

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