A projector's resolution (or more precisely, its "native resolution") is simply the number of pixels that it has available to create an image. The higher the resolution of a projector, the more pixels it has.
Projector resolution is designated with either one or two numbers. A typical two-number resolution might be listed as "720x1280." The first number indicates how many pixels there are going up the screen and the second number is how many pixels go across the screen. (These numbers are sometimes written the other way around eg 720x1280 - whichever way they are expressed the largest number represents the number of pixels going across the screen). If you were to multiply the two numbers, you would end up with the total number of pixels on the display device. Often, a projector's resolution will be referred to by one number, such as "720p" or "1080p." This designation refers to the number of pixels/rows going up the screen while the "p" refers to progressive-scan, which simply indicates that the entire picture is displayed at the same time.
Generally speaking, the higher the resolution, the more the projector will cost. The advantages of higher resolutions are that (a) they can display more detail in the picture and (b) they reduce or eliminate the visibility of the pixel structure. Both of these are highly desirable in good home cinema. The price difference is not as extreme as it once was, but there is still a gap to be aware of.
Common Resolutions in Home Cinema Projectors
Projectors come in a variety of different resolutions, including the following:
720x1280: For a long time, this was the most popular home theater projector resolution on the market. Most 720x1280 projectors offer very good to excellent DVD video quality. They also do a beautiful job of displaying 1080-line video, such as the 1080p found on Blu-Ray discs or the 1080i of broadcast HDTV. This excellent resolution format is easy to get into from a budget perspective and is really popular for gaming.
768x1280: This is a hybrid resolution that combines the ability to display 16:9 video in 720x1280, as well as standard computer resolutions XGA (768x1024) and WXGA (768x1280), in native form without scaling. If your viewing material includes both video and computer data or Internet surfing, this format will allow you to see the computer data signals in their clearest, unscaled form. Note that this is a 15:9 aspect ratio rather than 16:9 as are the others in this list. So when you are viewing 16:9 video material, there will be small black bars at the top and bottom of the projected image. That is the penalty you pay for having those extra 48 lines available to accommodate XGA computer signals. A variant of this format, 800x1280, can display 768x1024, 720x1280, 768x1280 and 800x1280 signals natively.
1080x1920: The ultimate high definition format; it will display HDTV 1080i signals, as well as 1080i and 1080p signals from Blu-ray disc players, all in native format without any scaling. This gives you the sharpest and most detailed images available today. Due to the pixel density, visible pixel structure is virtually non-existent.
Selecting the right resolution for you
The best resolutions for widescreen 16:9 format are 720x1280 (720p) and 1080x1920 (1080p).
The 720x1280 format is the best choice if you have a more modest budget and/or you don't want to pay a premium to get the absolute maximum detail out of a 1080i or 1080p video signal. Today's 720p projectors deliver beautiful high definition images from 720p and 1080i HDTV as well as Blu-ray disc players, so there really is not much of a compromise in picture quality by going with 720p instead of the higher resolution 1080p format. This is also a popular choice with gamers.
On the other hand, if you have the money to spend, and you want the sharpest and most detailed picture possible from high definition sources, then 1080p projectors are the best choice. While 720p projectors can deliver impressive HD images, the picture quality in terms of image detail is even better when the projector has the ability to show all 1080 lines of the signal in itís native, uncompressed format.
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