What is a HDTV Projector?

Brendan McGuigan

An HDTV projector is a television projector that is built to display high-definition television (HDTV). This is a television broadcast system that has substantially higher resolution than traditional television. Modern HDTV is a fully digital system, although early HDTV relied on analog technology. The digital signal allows massive amounts of information to be transmitted over relatively little bandwidth, utilizing advanced video compression algorithms.

An HDTV projector is a television projector that is built to display high-definition television (HDTV).
An HDTV projector is a television projector that is built to display high-definition television (HDTV).

In the past two decades, home theater systems have become increasingly popular and affordable. While in the past a home theater may have been only conceivable for the very rich, they are now affordable enough for many people, with cheaper possibilities arriving every day. One of the central components of a home theater is a projector system, allowing images to be displayed on a large area, either a specially-coated wall, or a special screen intended to best display the image.

HDTV projectors can be used in home theaters.
HDTV projectors can be used in home theaters.

As projectors made their way into more and more houses, the limitations of traditional broadcast quality became apparent. On smaller, and even mid-sized, screens the image quality broadcast on standard-definition television (SDTV) appears fine. On projector-sized displays, however, the image quality begins to become noticeably degraded, with a loss of crispness and vividness. As a result, the growth of the projector market largely helped push the development of HDTV, and so owners of an HDTV projector were some of the early adopters of the standard.

HDTV made its wider public appearance in the 1990s, with early systems appearing in the early- and mid-1990s, leading up to the launch of the American Advanced Television Systems Committee HDTV system in 1998, displaying live coverage of John Glenn’s return to space. At this point there were virtually no home HDTV systems, but a number of theaters and science centers had been equipped with an HDTV projector, allowing them to display the feed. This led to a public recognition of the quality of HDTV, and early adopters began moving towards the standard.

Today, the landscape has changed substantially, and HDTV has become the dominant standard, with the HDTV projector becoming a staple in many households. Cable television stations, network television stations, and satellite networks have all adopted HDTV or HDTV options, allowing owners of an HDTV projector to watch television shows in high-definition at large sizes on their walls or screens. The Blu-ray® Disc has also quickly become the standard for displaying high-definition movies, and a number of video game systems have native HDTV capabilities as well.

There are three main ways in which an HDTV signal is identified, and an HDTV projector may have different native capabilities. First is the resolution that the feed is sent at, which is usually either 1280x720 or 1920x1080, usually shortened to either 720 or 1080. Second is the scanning system, which may be either progressive or interlaced, shortened to either p or i. Lastly is the frame rate, which may be a number of different things, but are largely 24, 25, 30, or 60. So a full identification might look something like 1080p24.

The pricing of an HDTV projector can range widely, with cheaper models available for around $500 US Dollars (USD), and more expensive models upwards of $15,000 USD. Three main identifying features are worth looking at when purchasing an HDTV projector: resolution, lumens, and contrast. The resolution will usually be 1080, although in the future some may be even higher. The lumens can range from 1000 to more than 5000, and determine how bright the image is, which affects how much ambient light can be present while still seeing an image. And the contrast ratio will also affect visibility, and may run from 1:1000 all the way up to 1:10000. In each case, the higher the number, generally speaking, the better the final image.

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