Projectors vs. Screens: Which Suits Your Needs Best?

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Every company needs a way to display content. Whether it be for presentation purposes, videoconferencing needs, announcements, information, or simply to catch customers’ eyes, enterprises require ways to distribute content in their offices.

There are two major products—projectors and video screens—for meeting these needs. However, with HD and Ultra HD screens becoming more affordable and easy to install, and with projection systems slowly transitioning into 4K as well, it’s tough to decide which display suits us best. There are benefits and setbacks to each system. It all depends on the end users’ needs.

Video Screens

The benefits of screens can be seen simply by looking at a display system. Screens allow for digital representations of images that can be customized to provide more vibrancy, brightness, and image quality than projection systems are capable of. Especially in spaces with high amounts of ambient light. Where projected images would appear washed out, screens can allow images to stand out.

Due to the high quality of video screens, and because of the ambient light that often illuminates corporate lobbies, a video screen is likely the best solution for video walls in highly trafficked areas. The screens can stand out to display company information and goals, announcements, and welcome messages to visitors. Quality makes the images onscreen easy to view and often will compel visitors to stay for a minute just to watch the screen.

There is also much to be said about the versatility of video screen systems. Screens can be placed together to form a larger display, and each screen can be used to display separate content at will. Screens can also be customized into various unique shapes that display content across the screens in the same way they would in a rectangular design, with blank spaces unaccounted for. While impractical for presentation, these customized screens are great for visibility. Companies can also buy tiled screens to build out their own video wall that connects content even when screens aren’t touching.

Screens aren’t only useful in lobbies to provide visual stimulation. An increasing trend in open office spaces is the huddle room, and within huddle rooms video screens can become a necessity. Many companies are beginning to sell screens with built in videoconferencing abilities. Add in the ability to display presentations wirelessly onto screens, share content between those videoconferencing upon the screen, and hold all wireless and videoconferencing hardware within the screen itself, and a display screen becomes an all-in-one tool for huddle rooms and videoconferencing suites.

“Flat-panels, except for some of the extreme large-sized ones, really work best in rooms that are less than twenty feet. That keeps our viewers close enough to the screen that they can read text and things that appear, and it still looks good for them,” says Mike Hancock, Vice President at MechDyne Corporation. “It’s the appropriate size and image so that everyone can see it and everyone can read it.”

If you are looking for the highest quality picture, something that stands out and is easily viewed in any environment, consider a video screen system. For collaboration considerations, a video screen can provide the capabilities and quality of image that become very useful for mobile workers and meetings with clients and customers at a distance. Also, for installation purposes, mounting a video screen is often a simple process that many people do in their own homes, and that won’t cost much in labor costs.

Projection Systems

The biggest factors that will inform your decisions on whether or not to buy a projection system are size and cost.

For a projection system, first there is a need to find a place to set up the projector where the image will not be impeded. This can be solved with short throw and ultra-short throw projectors that require little distance between the product and the screen. In larger spaces, placing the projector in a rack on the ceiling can usually solve this problem whether the product is short throw or not.

Then there is the need to install a screen to project upon. This is where cost comes into play most of all. Installers need to fit the screen size to match projection image, ensure that the screen is flush, and often will need to install a manual or automatic system to bring out and hide the screen between presentations. As the image grows larger, multiple screens can be called for, in which case the screens must be installed to come together seamlessly while still splitting apart to be hidden when needed.

All of these factors contribute to labor costs when installing the system. On average, a projector is going to be a less costly product than an HD or Ultra HD video screen would be. However, when taking into account the hours that would be needed to install supplementary products, namely projection screens, the overall cost can raise to a point where the projector and the screen become comparable in cost. This only holds true, though, up to a certain image size.

“Where projection starts to shine is when we start looking at higher resolution,” says Niel Wittering, Director of Product Marketing, Corporate AV for Barco. ” If you need some other resolution than [1080p], you need to start tiling them together. Once you do that, you need to deal with the seams that come into the display. When that becomes objectionable we come into projection systems.

“Projection can keep pace with the resolution command, for sure,” says Wittering. “It’s becoming easier and easier to drive more and more pixels onto a screen, and it’s becoming easier and easier to blend projectors together.”

Many companies are going to require an image that is larger than 100 inches. The cost of a customized screen or of building a screen through a tiled system will be significantly more than the cost of commercial screen display products. In large presentation rooms and auditoriums, or for displays that require life-sized images fit to scale, a projection system is really the only way to go. The costs of installing screens, while still pricey, will not be able to measure up to the cost of enough screens to match the image size of a projector.

“When it comes to large images, and when I say large images I’m talking about 90-inches or 100-inches plus, projectors are still going to be the most cost-effective option,” says Brian Rhatigan, Business Development Manager for Almo Professional A/V. “A typical medium-sized projector for a medium conference room can project an image well over 100-inches diagonal and can be had for about $1600, whereas a 90-inch flat panel is going to start somewhere in the area of $7000.”

We want projection systems in areas where large presentations will be held. While quality and brightness of the image will not be equal to that of video screens, projectors will allow for a size that screens cannot reach without dropping serious cash. In spaces where the system will be utilized infrequently, a mobile projector that can be displayed against a wall and moved into different rooms is a less costly solution than installing a screen in every room. In spaces with unique architecture, such as curved and rounded walls, a projection system can be used where a screen is unable to be mounted.

Into the Future

“I think that there’s always going to be a place for projectors because it’s always going to be that you can have a much bigger image with the projection technology for the dollar,” says Jay McArdle, Vice President and CIO of Zdi, Inc. “You’ll always have a $2000-$3000 projector that can put up a 120-inch image. You’re not going to ever get that out of an LED wall because there’s not going to be that cost.”

That’s the answer in a nutshell. Yes, screens are going to continue to get cheaper to install, cheaper to produce, cheaper to own. However, the price points on projectors are going to see the same reduction. It will always be a cheaper solution than a video wall, especially when we reach out into the 100-inch diagonal and more.

What we are most likely to see is flat panel display screens replacing projection systems in smaller sized rooms for smaller image display. Also true is that larger display screens will become more affordable, and some companies will wish to utilize those technologies on larger systems. Companies are going to go for the cheapest option that still gives them everything they need. For now, and for the near future, that means going with projectors for large displays and screens for smaller, over-lit, and highly occupied rooms.

Need to find the right solution for your organization? Contact MCC’s Audio Visual Solutions Division today to help eliminate the guess work! 

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