Gaming on projectors: a complete guide

Contents

Gaming on projectors

When I think about gaming I’m taken back to the late 90’s, tomb raider on the tv, controllers attached to the playstation 1. A time where the only medium to play your games was the TV (unless you were fortunate enough to have a game boy). Nowadays, consumerism has allowed us access to a variety of devices in which to stream games. In fact, gaming on projectors has become increasingly popular. 

We’re not quite at the stage where projectors have inbuilt gaming abilities, but I don’t think we’re far off. For now though, streaming on projectors has been gaining huge momentum both professionally and recreationally. 

Although interest may have increased in projection for gaming, is it the right way forward? 

When did the popularity of projectors increase?

Consumer projectors have gained huge momentum over the last 10 years. They’ve fallen from an unattainable item, to a genuine consideration for home cinema systems. They’re so popular that often their ability is pitted against TV. 

With 2.5 billion global gamers, it’s no wonder that projectors have fallen into the gaming limelight. However, the rise in esports has also played a vital role in growth. Often, esports display live imagery over projection to the huge crowds watching. Exposure to gaming on such large scales has undoubtedly influenced consumers – whether directly or indirectly. 

Although increasing in popularity, projectors for gaming are only taking tentative steps forward. For most of us, we still either use a TV or Monitor. This highlights projectors as a pretty exclusive piece of kit, as using them for PC gaming seems counterproductive. However, for those of you using a console and looking to upgrade, there are some clear benefits of projectors:

  • Screen size and immersion
  • Eye comfort 
  • Split screen benefits

Local multiplayer benefits

With the trajectory of online gaming, split screen has unfortunately become less popular (or has it?!). Apparently 80% of households in the US own a gaming device. One device. Of course, with only 10% of people under 50 living alone, it seems crazy that split screen isn’t a more dominant feature in modern video games. 

However, with Fortnite planning on offering up split screen capabilities, it seems a shift in the gaming industry might occur. Other popular split screen or local multiplayer games include:

  • Rocket league 
  • Star Wars battlefront 
  • A way out
  • Borderlands 
  • “Fifa” 
  • Call of duty

With this in mind, there are an abundance of games that can be played locally, with more predicted to come in the future. The benefit of a projector in all of this? When the screen is split it feels like each player has their own screen due to the sheer size of the projection. This has seen me win many online rocket league matches when playing alongside friends. 

Although not the primary reason for gaming on a projector, it sure as hell helps with making the decision to switch! 

Screen size and immersion 

Bigger is always better! It’s always a good decision to have a bigger screen, as explained in advantages of a projector. There is a positive correlation between screen size and immersion. This means the bigger the screen, the more likely you are to be immersed in the game and ignore your surroundings. 

As a lot of us use video games as a form of escapism, this makes owning a projector a great idea. However, it’s important that size correlates with quality. There’s no point upgrading your screen size whilst downgrading the quality of the image shown. As such, when looking into purchasing a projector, look at features such as contrast ratio and resolution

Eye comfort 

Projectors are better for your eyes: fact. 

When you’re watching a show on a TV or monitor, the device is backlit. Although great for the gaming experience, it really isn’t great for your eyes when playing in the dark. This is because your eyes adjust to the surrounding lighting conditions. This means that if you’re playing at night, your pupils dilate to let more light in (in accordance with dark surroundings). However, the light from the screen enters your eyes, causing strain and tiredness over time. 

The solution? A dimmer image. Fortunately projectors offer this up. Because the light from projectors is bounced off the wall, the image you view doesn’t have as much direct light forcing its way into your unsuspecting eyes. This means that you can comfortably game for longer without any eye fatigue. Bring on the marathon gaming sessions!

What to look for when purchasing a gaming projector 

Of course, you might be interested in looking for a projector with the biggest possible display. However, as a word of warning, this should be at the bottom of your agenda. For projector gaming, your main concerns will be:

  • Contrast ratio
  • Resolution
  • Lumen rating
  • Projector screen

For a complete overview of everything projector, check out our buying guide 2020.

Contrast ratio

The contrast ratio describes the difference between the whitest white of your projector and the darkest black. The higher the contrast ratio, the more grey tones fall between white and black. As such, a contrast ratio of 2000:1 means the whitest white is 2000 times brighter than the darkest black, with 1998 grey tones falling between them.

High contrast ratio
Low contrast ratio

This means that your projector will be able to have more depth to its images – especially important when you’re playing games with dark scenes. The more grey tones your projector has the ability to show, the more depth will be given to your shadows. In other words, you should be able to see everything in dark scenes. 

ANSI contrast ratio vs “Marketing” contrast ratio

However, when looking at contrast ratio, make sure you know the difference between ANSI contrast and “marketing” contrast. ANSI stands the “American national standards institute”, and as the name suggest, they standardise a method of testing products. When a projector has an ANSI rating, it means the rating has been tested using the methods set out by the ANSI. Of course, this doesn’t make their method of testing bulletproof. However, it does mean that ratings can accurately be tested against each other. 

Unfortunately, often when an ANSI rating is not given, the method of testing a rating cannot be quantified. In this instance, as the manufacturer is setting the rating, often it can be a little exaggerated. We refer to this as “Marketed” ratings. 

The minimum ANSI contrast ratio recommended in order to achieve a good level of shadow depth is 2000:1, although in 4k projectors the average contrast ratio sits at around 50,000:1. 

Resolution

The resolution describes the number of pixels available on your screen. The higher the resolution, the more pixels and thus the sharper and more defined the image. 

Of course, your image is only as good as your input, so make sure the device you’re playing on reflects what you expect from a projector. Nowadays, both the Xbox and the Playstation come in 4k (although not supported by all available games). This means that it would be unwise to invest in a projector with anything below this resolution as you’ll be dumbing down the visual quality of your games. 

High resolution
Low resolution

One thing to be wary of, which we discussed in our 4k projector vs TV article, was the inability of projectors to natively be 4k (unless you want to pay an extortionate amount). When it comes to projectors, the pixels are displayed as a series of mirrors (DMD projector) on a chip or as opening and closing “doors”. Either way, each mirror or door is representative of one pixel. With the advancement of projection in recent years, it’s possible to have a double chip projector in order to increase resolution. 

However, in recent years to combat this (as it becomes a space issue), is pixel merging technology. That is, a projector does not need to be 4k on its chip (natively) in order to project 4k imagery. As such 4k is rapidly becoming more accessible and thus cheaper as projectors become more popular. 

Nonetheless when it comes to gaming 4k is the only way.

Lumen rating

Although some stereotypes of gamers include dark basements and clear lack of night, gaming is a sport best enjoyed at any time of the day. Undoubtedly, gaming is infinitely better in the dark but it’s not always possible to have full control over this. As such, having a high Lumen rating is important when purchasing a projector for gaming. 

Lumens describe the output of light from your projector. The higher the Lumen, the stronger the light and the brighter the projected image. If you plan on gaming at all hours, this is especially important as projectors aren’t backlit. This means that when there is an increase in ambient lighting, your projected image can become “washed out” or faded. 

As with Contrast ratio, Lumens can be described as either “ANSI Lumens” or (Marketing) “Lumens”. Lumens that aren’t displayed as ANSI have been tested by the production company using a non standardised approach – be wary! Roughly Lumens fall at a 6:1 ratio to ANSI Lumens. You can expect to see around 1 ANSI Lumens for every 6 “Marketing” Lumens. 

With that being said, you can see our recommended Lumen ratings below (depending on lighting conditions):


Lighting conditionMinimum ANSI  Lumen rating Maximum ANSI  Lumen rating 
Home theatreCompletely dark20002300
Home theatreSomewhat dark23002500
Home theatreBright25003000

Projector screens

Projector screens and paints are proven to increase the colour depth of your image. Further to this, because of their reflective quality, they can increase the perceived brightness of your screen. Because of this, they are an essential feature for every gaming projector owner. Of course, if you want to go for a cheap option (as costs can stack up) you can paint your wall light gray on a matte finish and the result will be somewhat similar. 

Conclusion

To conclude, gaming on a projector does have some key benefits. However, these aren’t to be outweighed by the cons – it will take some adjustment time and the projector won’t be as bright as you’re TV. However, if you’re ready to take the next steps and delve into the world of projection, check out our: 

If you have anything to add or any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.


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