What is a DLP projector?

There are different kinds of technology that we can use to project an image onto your projector screen. Whilst LCD and LCOS are also kinds of projector display technology, most people end up purchasing a DLP projector instead.

But what is a DLP projector? Well, it’s one of the most popular types of projector, and it’s likely what you’d want if you were setting up your own home cinema. They provide good value for money, and they make up some of the best budget projectors. So, let’s have a look at DLP technology in closer detail.

What is a DLP projector?

A DLP projector is a type of projector that uses DLP, or Digital Light Processing technology. This type of tech essentially shines a bright light through a rotating wheel filled with different colours through to thousands of tiny mirrors, which in turn creates a projection.

But that’s only a very short explanation, and it doesn’t really explain how these kinds of projectors function.

How does DLP technology work?

As mentioned, a DLP projector works by shining light through a spinning wheel. But this isn’t the full story, and it needs a little more explaining than this.

Firstly, DLP technology actually uses a lot of tiny mirrors – the more mirrors, the higher the resolution of your picture. These mirrors tilt towards and away from the shining light, which determines how bright they are.

If they tilt towards to the light, then the reflection gets brighter. If they tilt away from the light, then the image gets darker. These mirrors can tilt at a fast rate (thousands of times per second), which is how changing colours are produced.

If this were the whole process, then it would just portray a monochrome image. But before the light gets through to these mirrors, it passes through a rotating coloured wheel of red, blue and green – between these colours, we can create pretty much any colour you can think of.

The tiny mirrors on the top of a DLP semiconductor chip are what produces the image. Each tiny mirror is essentially a pixel in your display resolution.

The mirrors are designed to reflect the coloured light off of them to project your image. So for example, if you were to combine the blue and red colourings, then you’d get a purple colour being projected.

Depending on the projector that you’ve opted for, it’ll either use one chip or three chip technology. More expensive projectors will use three chip tech, with separate ones for each colour.

A high end DLP projector will have a different chip for all of the three primary colours – red, green and blue – which can help to increase the colour accuracy on screen.

DLP projectors are the popular choice in the majority of home cinemas nowadays. Issues that we used to face with this type of technology, like loud fan noise, isn’t so much of a problem nowadays compared to the past.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why you might want to opt for a DLP projector, and some reasons why you might not.

Pros of DLP Projectors

There’s a good reason why DLP projectors are some of the most commonly used projectors out there, along with LCD too. The type of technology that projectors use is definitely important to the overall projected image quality that you’re going to see.

No Motion Blur

Another area where DLP projectors beat the competition is their lack of motion blur. This is very important for your home cinema, as the last thing you want when you’re watching an action film is any kind of blur or distortion.

Motion blur is a pretty common issue with LCD projectors, so it’s a key area where DLP is better.

Dust Free/Maintenance

One of the main benefits of a DLP projector is that you’re never going to have to worry about dust collecting in the projector itself.

Anyone who has an LCD projector can tell you that you’ll need to keep an LCD cleaned and clear of dust. But, with a DLP projector this isn’t an issue, as the design of the unit is sealed off.

Contrast Ratio

In the past, it was always said that DLP was lacking behind LCD projectors when it comes down to contrast ratio. Contrast ratio is one of the most important factors in a projectors sharpness, so this is pretty important.

In recent years, DLPs have improved a lot in this area, and the difference between the two would likely be minimal. Contrast ratios are very important when it comes to projection, and having a high contrast is considered to be a good thing.


Another area where DLP projectors is excel is in their portability. The technology that’s used in DLPs in very small and lightweight, which means that it can be used within quite a small device.

The majority of small portable projectors out there are going to use DLP technology. So although they may not be drastically less expensive than the competition (they’re usually a similar price to LCD projectors, maybe a bit cheaper), they are lighter.


This isn’t the case for three chip DLPs, but single chip models have the advantage of no convergence at all. Other projector chips may have a level of poor convergence, which appears the same as chromatic aberration.

This can make it very difficult to enjoy a movie, as you won’t be able to see the outlines and silhouettes of objects properly.

Cons of DLP Projectors

Rainbow Effect

There are a few issues that you can have with DLP projectors, and they’re usually associated with cheaper models.

One of the main issues is with the coloured wheel which is spinning within the projector – in some cases, this can create a slight “rainbow effect” around the edges of some of the brighter objects on your display.


Another potential area where DLP projectors aren’t as good as some other types of projector (like LCD’s) is in their colour production.

Historically, they don’t produce as vibrant and brighter colours as LCD projectors. However, I will say that in more modern models, you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference.

Lamp Life

Though it shouldn’t prove to be a massive factor in your decision if you’re buying a relatively cheap projector, an LED projector’s lampswill typically last longer than a DLP.

Where a DLP projector may have a lamp life of 5-10,000 hours of viewing time, typically an LED projector lamp will last double this amount of time. This can definitely be a factor if you’re trying to minimize lamp costs, but it’s a long term consideration.

How are they different to LCD projectors? – DLP vs LCD

The difference between a DLP projector and a LCD projector is in the technology that it uses. Whilst a DLP projector uses mirror technology, an LCD projector works slightly differently.

Essentially, an LCD projector will actually use 3 different displays to project an image, which is why you’ll often see them referred to as 3LCD. The bright light shines through the 3 different displays, which are angled in such a way that they all meet together within a prism, which is where the image is projected.

LCD stands for liquid crystal display, which is a pretty well known technology amongst monitors and televisions. They’re now one of the most commonly used types of projector out there.

Generally, good quality LCD projectors can cost a little more than DLP projectors, as they can produce a slightly sharper image (though the difference would likely be negligible to the naked eye).


All in all, a DLP projector is often the best choice for those looking for the best value for money. The technology that they use is advanced, but it is relatively expensive compared to other types of technology.

However, it can allow you to create a perfect home cinema environment. So, if you want to get an image with sharp detail, then maybe the best choice for you would be a DLP projector.

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About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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