"Do I need a projector, or a screen?”
This must be one of our most asked questions and one that there isn’t a definitive answer to.
Let me explain.
Normally people are referring to a TV screen as a flat panel display that’s mounted to the wall, but it’s important to remember that a projector also requires a screen, or surface, to project onto - for our purposes right now lets just call the flat panel display a screen.
So back to the question “do I need a projector or screen?”
Well that depends on what you're trying to do. Here are some questions to help you decide.
Do you need to interact with the content?
Generally projectors are ‘dumb’ devices meaning you can’t interact with the image whereas screens are readily available in ‘smart’ or ‘interactive’ models meaning the user can interact with the image on the screen - think about a self-service counter in the supermarket where you interact with the screen to pay for your shopping.
There are an increasing number of interactive projectors available, but screens tend to have much more functionality built in.
So generally speaking if you want any form of interaction an interactive screen may be your best bet, unless it’s very big.
How big does the image need to be?
An important consideration is how big you want the image to be. The image size required for a small classroom is clearly going to be different to the size required in a school hall.
Screens are always bought at a set size for example 50” or 79”. As a rule of thumb with screens, the bigger the screen size the more they cost.
With a projector, you can create a range of screen sizes from a single projector - either by moving the projector closer to or further away from the projection surface, or by adjusting the zoom lens on the front of the projector (although some projectors have a fixed lens and need a specific throw distance).
So if you are looking for a large image a projector could be your best bet, and for smaller images a screen might be better.
But what about that middle spot? Where is the line? Again there is no definite answer but generally screens are available, and fairly affordable, up to a diagonal screen size of 80”.
How bright is the room?
Generally, unless you go for a very bright projector, screens are brighter and work better in very bright rooms. Direct sunlight will wash out even the most powerful projector, making the image difficult to see, and should be avoided at all costs.
The advantage of a screen is that much more natural light can be let into the room without washing out the image.
Focus - Projectors can lose focus and may need to be manually focused, whereas screens will always stay in focus.
Obstructing the image - When you’re presenting are you going to obstruct the projector and block the projected image? If you are then you’re probably better with a screen. It’s also horrible presenting with a projector shining in your eyes.
Installation – Is there somewhere to mount the projector or screen? Does the room lend itself better to one than the other?
Cost of ownership – The initial purchase cost of a projector is generally lower than that of a screen, however traditional projectors require lamps to be changed meaning there is a cost of ownership that extends past the initial purchase cost (although laser projectors, with no lamps, are another option).
Noise – Projectors generally have fans to keep the lamp cool which produces background noise whereas screens generally run silently.
Energy Efficiency – As a general rule a screen is more energy efficient than a projector. If this is multiplied over many classrooms the savings aren’t insignificant.
In conclusion we generally recommend screens for small installations where a screen size of 32” - 80” is acceptable and projectors for bigger applications.
Where an interactive solution is required you are almost always better with a screen.
It’s always best to talk to your supplier and discuss your individual needs before making a final purchasing decision as technology is always changing with new products coming to market.