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What Is A Smart Projector? (And Why You’ll Want One)

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Gouldian Finch | July 3, 2019
What Is A Smart Projector? (And Why You’ll Want One)

Smart projectors make your life easier. In a myriad of ways. They’re portable enough for outdoor parties. They stream straight from your phone. New technology allows them to continuously shine brightly, instead of dimming over time.

Smart projectors are capable of doing everything a smart TV can do but on a much bigger screen. These projectors are defined by their portable design, lamp-free technology, voice control, app integration, and streaming functionality.

Many projectors make the ‘smart projector’ claim. But, ‘smart’ means more than just having a built-in computer. So, it’s important to know what to look for when buying a smart projector. By considering how you're going to use it, you'll get the right mix of features.

Portable Design

Smart projectors achieve much smaller form factors. The smallest weigh as little as a pound, and can even fit in your pocket. Home entertainment projectors are much bigger but still offer a portable design. Usually via a handle.

Think about the situations you’re going to be using your projector for. Make sure to find a projector that fits that function. Taking your smart projector on-the-go? Consider how well the projector achieves a portable design. Does it come with a carry handle? Or, can it fold into a travel-ready container?

Smart Projector iF Design Award

If your projector is going to sit on your coffee table, make sure it says it's a"short throw." Are you going to want to use it outside? Make sure it has enough lumens to do the job. Knowing exactly how you’re going to use a projector makes a big difference in buying the right one.

Smart Projector Advantage: Portability

LED Light Source

LED smart projectors come with the latest DLP projector technology. This technology provides a much longer lifespan, making it a much better investment.

Traditional bulb projectors dim over time. Smart projectors remain bright. 2nd-gen LED projectors are now available, combining red, green and double blue light sources for increased color saturation and luminosity. 

“Lamp-Free” is what to look for. It means you no longer have to rely on bulbs, which need to be replaced over time. Bulbs dim over time, while LED light sources consistently shine bright over their lifespan. 

LED technology avoids dimming projector issue, allowing smart projectors to shine brightly for up to 30,000 hours. LED light sources run much cooler than bulb-based light sources (means less fan noise). 

They're eco-friendly, too. Lamp Free means no glass bulb is needed, which means no mercury.

LED Technology Means Less Fan Noise

Smart Projector Advantage: Consistently shining brightly

Resolution

Smart projectors have much smaller form factors than standard projectors. This makes resolution the first thing to go. Understand how you’re going to be using your projector. This helps determine what resolution you’ll need. For those who enjoy camping, and just want some form of entertainment next to the campfire, a lower resolution works.

4K Ultra HD on a Smart Projector

Mini projectors have the hardest time with resolution. But, not all smart projector suffer from poor resolution. 4K Smart LED projectors are now on the market. If home entertainment is your preferred use, opt for 4K resolution. The highest end smart projectors will call themselves "True 4K" projectors.

This means the image is not using upscaled technology. Rather, you're getting True 4K: UHD, native 3840x2160 with 8.3 million pixels. Smart projectors deliver less cost per inch (vs. a smart tv) without compromising on image clarity.

Smart Projector Advantage: True 4K resolution

Lumens

Lumens measure the light output of a projector. Smart projectors typically use LED light sources. Thus, smart projectors will often mention LED lumens. See the attached whitepaper on the difference between ANSI lumens and LED lumens

The brighter the room, the more lumens you’ll need. Dark rooms need fewer lumens, allowing you to focus more on other specs (like contrast). Look for ≥10,000:1 contrast ratio for dedicated home theater projectors. (See more on contrast ratio here)

Smart Projector Advantage: Highly saturated colors provide a better picture

App Store

Your projector is only as smart as the apps running on it. So, it makes sense to have an app store enabled on your projector. Does the projector you’re looking at come with app store integration?

To work with apps, enable voice commands and stream moves (all at the same time) look for a smart projector with ample processors, memory, and storage.

Smart Projectors With Core Processors

Smart projectors are the smart choice as there's no need for additional devices to stream entertainment. Of course, there's easy integration with most devices.

Smart Projector Advantage: Integrated App Store

Voice Control

Related to having an integrated App Store, Voice Control is another thing to consider. No need for a remote. Simply turn your projector on/off, by asking Google or Alexa to do so. 

Smart Projectors have Voice Control

Smart Projector Advantage: Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa Voice Control

Alexa-Voice-Commands-for-Smart-Projectors

Streaming

If you’re into streaming, look for a smart projector that connects straight to your phone or laptop. If the projector mentions Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, you’re in luck. Make sure the technologies between the two devices connect. Some smart projectors take this a step further. They allow you to turn your smartphone into the remote control.

Streaming Heaven  Smart Projector Advantage: Ease of use with mobile devices

Short-Throw

The days of having to mount a projector to your ceiling are over. Smart projectors provide better options. "Short-throw" is important if you to stream straight from your coffee table. "Ultra-short throw" allows you to place your projector flush against the wall you're projecting onto. 

Short Throw Smart Projector

It’s important to know exactly how far away you can place your projector from the screen. Make sure your room matches the recommended projection distance of your projector.

Smart Projector Advantage: No need to mount to your ceiling

More Smart Features

Once you've decided which smart projector features are most important to you, there are more smart features to help make your decision.

Auto Focus & Auto Keystone

Auto Focus is a truly smart feature. It allows your projector to do the work for you. A small motor rotates the lens for a sharpened image. Auto Keystone is great, especially when your viewing angle optimal. Again, smart projectors are able to do the work for you.

Smart Projectors include Auto Focus & Auto Keystone as additional features

Premium Speakers

Most smart projectors have to compromise on sound. This is the only way to fit all the components into such a small form factor. If you don't already have a premium sound system integrated into your home theater, opt for premium speakers. The X10-4K just happens to have Harmon/Kardon® speakers. 

Harman-Kardon-Premium-Speakers

What's great is you don't even need to be watching a movie to activate the sound! Using Bluetooth, you can play back messages on your phone, talk with Alexa or turn Movie Night into a dance party.  

Height Adjustment

Sometimes just a stack of magazines will do. But if you don't have a bunch laying around, you'll really enjoy having a height adjustment stand. Look for a two-tiered adjustment stand that provides up to 130 degree offset.

Height Adjustment Stand

Ports & Connections

Ports & connections are important if you're not streaming from your phone. HDMI 2.0 connections offer better support for 4K UHD content, and USB-C connections allow you to charge your phone while mirroring your screen at the same time. (Ensure the host device supports video transmission via USB-C for screen mirroring).

Ports Connections on a Smart Projector

USB Type-C Streaming

Why watch on a smartphone, when you can watch something on the big screen? Sure, you can use Wi-Fi. But, sometimes your connection is too slow. USB Type-C streaming allows you to play content straight from your phone.

Of course, this only works if your phone allows USB Type-C streaming. iPhone and iPad users need to buy an Apple-authorized Lighting to HDMI cable adapter.

Screen Mirroring

Screen Mirroring means being able to instantly cast your phone onto a big screen. This is a big enhancement for those who already have a lot of content on their phones. 

5G Wi-Fi

Not all smart projectors are optimized for mirroring content from your smartphone to the big projection screen. That's why it's important to make sure your smart projector operates 5G Wi-Fi band.

Stream Wireless on your Smart Projector

Eye Protection

Staring directly into a projector is not advised. But, sometimes these things just happen. That's why there's eye protection. With a built-in ultrasonic sensor, smart projectors shut off when something gets too close to the lens.

Smart_Projector_Eye_Protection

Frame Interpolation

The final thing you're going to want to look for is Frame Interpolation technology. Sometimes abbreviated as MEMC (Motion Estimation/Motion Compensation), this feature smoothes quickly changing images at the video processing stage.

Intermediate frames are generated between actual ones, to help increase perceived framerate. Especially valuable in sports, frame interpolation lets you catch even the most minor of details on the big screen. 

Frame Interpolation or MEMC Technology for Sports