Understanding Aspect Ratios For Projectors

Last Updated January 03,2019

Projectors are replacing display devices in offices and at homes. They are becoming more affordable while providing excellent image quality. There is a wide variety of projectors being sold in the market. You must pay attention to different specifications while choosing a projector. One of the primary considerations is the aspect ratio of the projectors.

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What is the aspect ratio for projectors?

Projectors have a fixed resolution and project imagery in it. The aspect ratio defines the proportional relationship between the width and height of the imagery projected by the projector. E.g., if a projector has an aspect ratio of 1:1, then the imagery projected by it has the same horizontal and vertical dimensions, i.e. it forms a perfect square. A projector that has an aspect ratio of 4:3 projects images whose width and height are in the proportion of 4:3, i.e. the image is rectangular. The aspect ratio of a projector remains the same regardless of the image size. Whether it projects an image of 80” or 120”, the aspect ratio will not change.

Popular aspect ratios for projectors 

There are a few common aspect ratios popular in projectors. These include:


4:3 (Standard Format)

In the early days of projector technology, most projectors had an aspect ratio of 4:3. They were primarily designed while considering the requirements of businesses. Home projectors were also manufactured with the same aspect ratio as television signal (NTSC), and computer monitors used the 4:3 aspect ratio. With Full HD content becoming standard in both homes and businesses, projectors have begun to move towards the 16:9 aspect ratio. Although quite a few business projectors are manufactured with 4:3 aspect ratio even today. 

16:9 (HD Format)

16:9 has become the mainstream aspect ratio for modern projectors. It gained popularity with the introduction of HDTV (High Definition Television) and is the most widely adopted standard today. Modern set-top boxes, gaming consoles and DVD players output content in 16:9 resolution. Display devices like monitors used with computers also have the same aspect ratio. 

Most projectors being manufactured nowadays have 16:9 aspect ratio. They are a perfect fit for watching Full HD (1080p) movies and content. A majority of computers monitor designed for professionals and businesses also have an aspect ratio of 16:9 making these projectors ideal for business users.

16:10 (Widescreen Format)

A few projectors have an aspect ratio of 16:10. Projectors having a 16:10 aspect ratio are primarily used in businesses. Quite a few notebooks and laptops, as well as monitors used in offices, also share the same aspect ratio. Residential users who prefer widescreen imagery may also employ 16:10 projectors. The content available in 16:10 format is quite limited as compared to the 16:9 content. Therefore, projectors with 16:10 aspect ratio are not as popular as projectors with 16:9 aspect ratio.

2.35:1 to 2.40:1 (Cinemascope Format)

Cinemascope format is primarily employed in movie theatres though it may also be used in presentations. These projectors may have an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 2.39:1 or 2.40:1 depending on the manufacturer. They allow for cinema-like immersion and can be used in home theatres provided you have a device capable of playing media in cinemascope format. Most movies are shot in cinemascope format making these projectors ideal for dedicated movie watching.

How to choose a projector with the right aspect ratio

Choosing a projector with the right aspect ratio doesn’t have to be confusing. It can be easily accomplished while paying attention to a few factors.

One of the best ways to choose an aspect ratio for a projector is to find out the aspect ratio of the source that you will be using the projector with or the content that will be primarily displayed on it. The ideal choice for most home theatres and regular users will be a 16:9 projector as DVD players and set-top boxes output images in 16:9 format. If your playback device supports a different aspect ratio, choose a projector that matches the aspect ratio of the device.

Buyers who need a projector primarily for presentations (such as business users or churches) can consider a 4:3 projector. These are cheaper than other projectors although their resolution will also be lower than 16:9 or 16:10 projectors.

Homeowners who need a dedicated home theatre projector that will be used for watching movies can consider a projector having an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. It is because most movies are shot in cinemascope format.

 

Just because a projector has a specific aspect ratio doesn’t imply it won’t be able to project images having a different aspect ratio. If a projector with an aspect ratio of 16:9 projects 4:3 content, the imagery will have black bars on the sides. If a projector having an aspect ratio of 16:10 or 4:3 projects 16:9 content, the imagery will have black bars on top and bottom. A 16:9 projector will make sense in this aspect as it can display 4:3 and 16:10 content while limiting the black areas around the imagery.


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