LCD projectors ushered in the modern era of the portable projector, so much so that all portable video projectors are often incorrectly referred to as portable LCD projectors, regardless of their projection technology.
LCD is short for liquid crystal display, which refers to the transparent chip that the lamp shines light through to make the image. In fact, a portable LCD projector has three chips, one each for red, green, and blue. This is why some manufacturers refer to their projectors as 3LCD models (obviously, this is merely marketing speak, as all LCD projectors use three chips). Each chip is capable of opening, closing, and partially closing many tiny liquid crystals, each representing one pixel (the smallest point in an image). The combination of open and closed pixels is what creates the wide spectrum of colors need to display the image.
Since effectively replacing CRT projectors in the early 2000s, LCD has battled DLP and the even newer LCOS to remain the most dominant portable projector technology. It currently holds a slight advantage in market share, but more DLP models are on the market, making this a fight sure to rage on.
LCDs are known for being good values, both for lower cost business models, and high end home theater projectors. There is constant debate, with LCDs and DLPs each having their unique drawbacks, but it is generally thought that DLP projectors have the slight edge in overall picture quality, looking more “natural.” LCD projectors are known to display the screen door effect, especially at lower resolutions. This occurs when the gaps between pixels become slightly visible, blurring the image, making it look like the viewer is looking through a screen door.
In general, try to view both an LCD and a DLP projector before making a purchase because each displays digital artifacting unique to its projection technology, and what bothers one customer may not bother the next.
- Usually cheaper than DLP models for home theater applications (prices are more comparable for business products)
- Good compatibility with loom and shift zens, increasing placement options
- Superior contrast and deeper blacks when compared with DLP projectors
- Superior sharpness for static images, especially at lower resolutions
- More stable image with fewer artifacts than DLP
- Lower wattage bulbs for comparable brightness mean less power consumption and heat generated
- Screen door effect, especially at lower resolutions
- Unsealed chips mean that dust can alight on the chip, ruining the image, if filters are not cleaned regularly
- Pixel burn out requires replacement of entire chip, and life spans of LCDs are hotly debated