Short-Throw vs Long-throw Projectors: Key Differences Explained briefly | Guide 2023

In the projector industry, long-throw vs. short-throw has been a very confusing topic. Therefore, today, I’ve brought you a detailed guide that compares both types of projectors; it also lets you know which type will be suitable for you.

James K. Brownlee
what is the difference between a short-throw projector and a long-throw projector

Everything indeed looks better on a better display. Nothing beats watching your favorite sitcoms on a crystal clear screen from a projector that suits your space and needs.

However, it is quite tough to choose the correct projector to suit your taste. This is because there are a wide variety of specifications to take into account, such as resolutionbrightnessthrowpricename of the manufacturerlens size, and more. 

This guide aids your decision-making process as you go projector shopping. It aims to educate you on projector’s throw distance which is one projector specification that must be duly considered if you are to make the right choice when shopping for a new projector. 

What is a Projector’s Throw Distance: The primary factor that determines the cost of a projector.

Depending on whether you want your projector to be a few inches away from the wall or at the top of a large room, the throw is the most crucial factor to be considered. 

In a nutshell, a projector’s throw distance is the distance between the projector and the projection surface. 

Although most projectors can ‘throw’ an image across a good distance, say a few meters, some others don’t operate like this and require the projectors to be positioned some meters away from the surface to get the optimum viewing appearance.

Projectors can either have short or long throws based on the throw distance they are designed for. Stick with me while I demystify the differences between both types. 

The Definition: Short-throw vs. Long-throw

What is a Short-throw Projector? Projection sizes & distances

Short throw projectors are projectors that are capable of providing large images of about 100 inches while reducing shadows and eye glare. This type of throw is usually seen from projectors either mounted on the wall or under the ceiling close to the wall, basically anywhere that is close to where the image will be projected. Short-throw projection is generally identified as a distance of about 4 feet away from projector to screen. 

What is a long-throw projector? What about the distances? 

They are projectors built for much longer distances. They are optimized for distances of 6 feet and longer. If you place the projector less than 6 feet away, you will get a smaller image or buggy image with lesser contrast.

Short-throw vs. Long-throw: Functional differences between long-throw and short-throw projectors

1. Size of Image Projected: Long-throw projectors produce larger screens

Long-throw projectors are generally capable of having much larger image projected sizes than short-throw projectors. For example, good short-throw projectors can create a large 100-inch plus image, but long-throws can project anywhere between 120 and 350-inch images.

2. Multi-Room Use: Space around your projector screen

Where you intend to place your projector is another thing to consider. You have to ask yourself whether you want the projector to be mounted to the wall, resting on a shelf, or sitting on the floor. Another question to consider is if you have enough room behind your projection surface to allow the possibility of getting a translucent screen and putting the projector behind it.

3. Lighting Conditions: Short-throw projectors on the winning side

Short throw projectors are more flexible when it comes to placement because the light from windows is not usually much of a problem compared to long throw projectors.

4. Shadows: It matters a lot for short-throw projectors

If someone gets up to get more popcorn, because the placement of the projector is right in front of the screen means there are no shadows cast on the screen, thus making it more flexible to be used in different rooms as opposed to their long throw counterparts. 

5. Mounting: Advantages & Disadvantages of a projector mounting 

Although mounting your projector ensures that your image will be projected correctly every time, not mounting the projector gives you the option to make your projector mobile. This is perfect for projecting movies on the side of the house on those warm summer nights.

Related: How to mount a projector? 

6. Brightness and Clarity: Which one offers better? 

6.1 Your Short-throw projector & brightness

The unique positioning of the short throw projector ensures that it rejects more light, especially from the light sources positioned on the ceiling. Also, short-throw projectors often have a laser light source, which makes them very bright, which adds brightness to the image; the higher contrast and brightness can provide clear and vivid images. 

This is why most people choose short-throw projectors to be used in the living room to get that richer color experience. 

6.2 Your Long-throw projector & brightness

Even though short-throw projectors are known for better color experience, in situations such as in a classroom or conference room where viewers aren’t seated so close to the screen, long-throw projectors would be advisable because they are a cheaper alternative to short-throw. Moreover, most people wouldn’t notice the difference in contrast and color accuracy when going through slides during a PowerPoint presentation.

7. Complexity of Installation: Short-throw projectors are on the easiest installation side with zero additional cost

Short throw projectors are usually positioned right under the screen; this has some inherent benefits, like it doesn’t need professional installation personnel. Also, they usually don’t require a fancy mount and expensive HDMI cables to install them. 

It takes about the same setup time that it will take a person to unbox, fine-tune and set up a brand new TV. This means it is perfect for people who don’t want to spend extra costs on employing a technician or buying extra gadgets that might spoil the arrangement of the room.

7.1 Short-throw projectors have lots of features to offer, 

Since short-throw projectors are most times marketed as TV replacements, some manufacturers go the extra mile, including full-blown TVs like remotes, interactive operating systems, internet connectivity, and even built-in backfiring speakers. 

These additional features make short-throw projectors perfect for movie lovers who desire very large high-quality displays in their living rooms and don’t want a giant black rectangle at the center of the room spoiling the general esthetic of the house.

7.2 Long-throw projectors require more effort, 

On the other hand, setting up long throw projectors is an entirely different ball game; due to the projector’s preferred position, it might need some level of expertise.

Let’s say the projector is to be hung from the ceiling to prevent shadows from blocking the screen. I won’t expect a first-time projector consumer just to read the user manual, but open a toolbox, get on a ladder and somehow mount the device perfectly well. This is because doing that may not only be dangerous for the person, but it could also damage the projector itself.

8. The room size: The biggest reason to consider while choosing your projector.

This is an important consideration when setting up anything in a home theater is the space it is being set up in. The arrangement of fittings in the room could help dictate good locations for your projection surface and the location of your projector. Wall sockets for power as well will impact what kind of projector you should go with.

8.1 Take care of your projection surface, 

Primarily, you want to be sure your projection surface isn’t catching glare from the light outside your windows or from within the room. In addition, you’ll want your seating area directly across from your projection surface with enough real estate to have your speakers surrounding the room symmetrically.

8.2 Small size opposes long-throw projector, 

If you are working with a tiny room, you will likely want to go with a short-throw projector since a long throw may not give you the screen size you desire with the available space. 

8.3 Never mind, but long-throw projectors create a larger screen size, 

If you have a lot of room to spare and require a large screen size, a long throw projector will be more suitable for your purposes. The use of a short-throw projector can also be advantageous if you need to install it on the ceiling in close proximity to avoid ceiling objects like overhead fans, vents, or light fittings.

9. Pricing: Short-throw vs. Long-throw

This is a tricky section to discuss because the shelf price isn’t the only factor to be considered when determining how much the projector actually costs, things like the longevity of the bulb, cost of additional set up materials, and cost of manpower to hang the projector are to be put into consideration.

9.1 Long-throw projectors are cheaper, but short-throw projectors have a secret advantage

On a store shelf, long-throw projectors are generally cheaper than their short-throw siblings. Still, when it comes to the frequency at which the bulbs of short-throw projectors are changed, they are at an advantage as their bulbs usually have a life expectancy of about 20,000 hours. However, long-throw projectors are usually rated for between 5000-10,000 hours of life expectancy.

9.2 Long-throw projectors and their additional costs,

Long-throw projectors also have additional costs in hiring skilled labor and purchasing extra materials like special long cables and ceiling mounts during the initial mounting of the projector.  

Conclusion: Which is Right for You? A short-throw projector or a long-throw projector? 

Like most technical products purchased today, in the debate between short-throw projectors and long-throw projectors, it all depends on what you are looking for. Do you want to use it as a home theater setup in a small room, or do you need to conduct meetings and presentations in a medium-sized room? 

Ultimately, the projector you choose will be determined by factors that are important to you. Whether you want a specific screen size or your viewing area is located in a specific part of the room, there is a projector to help you get the job done. 

As long as your projector provides you with the cinema-like experience you need, no projector can go wrong. Determine your priorities, and you will find the best projector for you.

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