Because projectors are so different from TVs, they’re often described using niche language like “ultra-short-throw” or “long-throw.” But this terminology exists for a reason. Once you understand this, you’ll have a much easier time identifying how projectors work and deciding whether a long-throw, short-throw, or ultra-short-throw model is right for your home.
What does “throw from the spotlight” mean?
Projectors use specialized lenses to project sharp, distortion-free images onto a screen. But you can’t just throw a projector into a room and expect to get a nice 100-inch image. In order to get the image size that a manufacturer promises from a projector, you need to place it some distance from a screen or wall.
This ideal projection distance, usually referred to as “throw”, depends almost entirely on the projector’s lens. One projector model may operate six feet from a projection surface, while another must sit inches from a screen to achieve the desired image size and quality.
Pulling a projector too far from a screen will increase its image size at the expense of sharpness and brightness. But moving the projector closer to a screen will have the opposite effect; your image will be smaller, brighter and a bit sharper. That’s why manufacturers often list a handful of “throw ratios” for their projectors. The “throw ratio” simply describes the throw distance you need to fit standard screen sizes, such as 80 inches, 100 inches, and 120 inches.
These measurements can be a little intimidating for customers and realistically the average person will only look at them when setting up their projector. To simplify things a bit, projectors are often separated into three categories: short-throw, long-throw, and ultra-short-throw. These labels are pretty simple, but they can have a serious impact on your experience with a projector.
I just have a side note. While most consumer projectors have a fixed throw ratio, some high-end models come with a zoom lens, which allows you to increase the distance between your projector and the screen without sacrificing size or quality. of the image. Additionally, professional-grade projectors may have interchangeable lenses, although these projectors are too expensive for the average person.
Long Range, Short Range, and Ultra-Short Range Explained
Most projectors use long-throw lenses, which means they’re quite far from a screen or wall. These projectors generally need at least seven or eight feet of distance to project an 80 inch image, and of course longer distances will accommodate larger screens.
Short-throw projectors are a bit different. They have special lenses that project larger images at shorter distances. The average short-throw projector can sit just five or six feet from a screen and project an 80-inch image, making it an ideal option for small rooms, apartments, or rear projection setups (where the projector hides behind the screen).
Note that short-throw projectors can be a little tricky to install, as you may need to run wiring down the center of a room. Also, short-throw projectors cast trapezoidal-shaped images (to compensate for the narrow projection angle), so they can produce a distorted image if you don’t install them correctly.
For those who want to place their projector against the wall, the ultra-short throw is the solution. These projectors use complicated lenses to bend light at an angle, and they often operate within inches of a screen. That said, because ultra-short-throw projectors are so meticulously designed, they only work with one screen size. (Manufacturers often sell multiple models of a single ultra-short-throw projector to accommodate different screen sizes.)
The benefits of each category of projector should be pretty clear. In a smaller room, a short-throw projector may be your only option. An ultra-short-throw projector eliminates the possibility of people walking in front of the screen (a solid choice if you have kids), and long-throw projectors are great for larger rooms because you can mount them near a wall to keep those cables nice and tidy.
Additionally, long-throw projectors are generally the best choice for outdoor viewing, as they can sit quite a distance from the screen you’re using. (That said, placing a short throw projector behind a rear projection screen will give you the most compact outdoor setup.)
As always, cost is a factor
In a perfect world, we could freely choose any projector we want to use at home. But your budget will play a big role here, as some types of projectors cost more than others.
Part of the reason long-throw projectors are so common is that they’re relatively inexpensive. They use fairly basic lens technology that is inexpensive to manufacture. If you’re shopping on a tight budget, chances are you’ll end up with a long-throw projector.
Short range models are slightly more expensive, but not to the point of being ridiculous. You can expect to pay a few hundred extra dollars for a short-throw projector. The prices only go crazy when you buy ultra-short-throw projectors, which start at around $2,000 but tend to include a ton of great features, like built-in audio systems.
Keep in mind that you’ll probably be buying more than just a projector. If you don’t have a flat white wall or you’re buying a projector that isn’t too bright, you’ll probably want to buy a screen (it’s at least $100). If you are installing your projector on the ceiling, you will need a mount. And of course, you may find yourself buying super long HDMI cables, cable trays, and other accessories.
What type of projector should you buy?
Most people should stick with long-throw spotlights. They simply offer more bang for your buck, and frankly, they’re generally easier to set up than short throw models. You can stick a long throw projector on a piece of furniture or a shelf across the room from your screen or wall, it’s super easy. And if you’re ceiling-mounting a long-throw projector, you’ll have a relatively easy time with cable management, since you won’t need to run cables across the room.
For those with the cash, short-throw projectors are often worth the extra price. They save space, they reduce the risk of blinding guests or children, are often the only option for small rooms or rear projection setups.
Ultra-short-throw projectors are a bit of a niche, but they’re awesome. The installation process is simple: just put it on a piece of furniture in front of your wall. And although ultra-short-throw models cost thousands of dollars, they often have built-in sound systems, smart features and other perks, which can make them a cost-effective option for people who want a full-featured home theater. .
Epson Home Cinema 880 3-chip 3LCD 1080p Projector, 3300 Lumens Color and White Brightness, Streaming and Home Cinema, Built-in Speaker, Auto Picture Skew, 16,000:1 Contrast, HDMI 2.0, White
The Epson Home Cinema 880 long-throw projector offers 1080p resolution, 3300 lumens of brightness (decent for daytime viewing), a built-in speaker, and a maximum image size of 120 inches from 12 feet away.