What is contrast ratio in projectors?

If you’re looking to get a new projector, then you’ll probably see terms like contrast ratio and lumens used. Many aren’t exactly sure what these terms mean, and how they affect the quality of the image produced by your projector.

But the truth is that contrast ratios make a difference when it comes to the black level in your projected image. And depending whether you’re watching your projector in dark or light conditions will dictate how important your contrast ratio really is.

So, what exactly does the contrast ratio of your projector mean, and is it worth considering? Well yes, but it’s not the be all and end all. Let’s look at what contrast ratio means in relation to projectors.

What is contrast ratio in Projectors?

Quite simply, the contrast ratio is the difference between the brightness in an image (white), compared to the darkness in an image (black). So if your projector has a 1000:1 contrast ratio, this means that the white in the image is going to be 1000x brighter than the black.

Generally, if the contrast ratio of your projector is higher, then you’re going to get a brighter image. This means that you’re going to get a more detailed image projected onto your screen, and the colours are going to be more vibrant.

The difference between a black image and a white image is going to be more significant the higher the ratio that you have. And between the two, you’ll have shades of colour which will vary depending on what is on your screen.

The higher your contrast ratio, the higher the amount of different shades there will be between black and white. In dark conditions, an increased ratio is better. But in an area where there’s a lot of ambient light, a lower ratio can prove to be better.

So, we do definitely know that the ratio of your projector is important. However, a high contrast isn’t always necessarily a good thing.

Why contrast ratio isn’t everything

Although you can use contrast ratio to measure how bright the light is in an image compared to the dark, when looking at the contrast ratio of a projector this isn’t always reliable. Why? Well, there are a few reasons why I’d take a projector’s contrast ratio with a pinch of salt.

Different measurements are used

Like with lumens, the contrast ratio of a projector can be measured by ANSI (American National Standards Institute), who help to keep product quality high. So if you see ANSI contrast ratio, it might be accurate.

However, there’s no need for a company to actually do this, and they be measuring the contrast ratio by a different method. What you see stated in the description might not actually be accurate.

Full on/off contrast

Another method that is used to measure the contrast ratio of a projector is the on/off method. This can result in a much higher figure than using the ANSI standards.

So a projector that has a 3000:1 contrast ratio using the on/off scale, may only have a 1000:1 contrast ratio if measured by ANSI. There can be massive variations in this.

Bigger isn’t always better

This shows that even if you see a projector with a million to 1 contrast ratio (an exaggeration, but you get my point), you shouldn’t necessarily opt for it. Do some more research and see if it’s using the ANSI measurements.

Another thing to consider with your projector is whether you’re going to use it in a dark room, or you want a projector for presentations. If it’s in a dark room, then the contrast ratio becomes more important, as you need the ability to see the light in the image clearly.

However if you’re looking for a projector that you’re going to use in the daytime, then the contrast ratio becomes less important, as the image is going to be affected by the incoming light anyways.

What is a good contrast ratio?

The contrast ratio of a projector does matter, but like I mentioned, it’s important that you’re using the right measurements. If we did have the right measurements and were using an ANSI method to determine the contrast ratio, then I’d say that anything above 1000:1 is going to give you a really good, vibrant picture.

The majority of more expensive projectors out there will have a contrast ratio like this or even higher. This is both the case for full projectors, but also for mini projectors too.

So, if you can tell a company are using the correct measurements to determine the contrast ratio of a projector, then looking for anything of 1000:1 and above and you’ll be good.


Just remember that the contrast ratio of your projector isn’t everything, and many cheaper brands will state a higher contrast ratio than what the projector actually has.

Typically, the contrast ratio is worth considering, especially in a projector where a higher contrast ratio can help to produce a more defined image. But, this isn’t always accurate and there are other ways to tell how good a projector is.

We can also look at the lumens that a projector has, however, this is often misstated too. So, consider other things, like the technology that a projector uses.

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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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