What Is a DLP Projection Television?

Jeremy Laukkonen

Digital light processing (DLP) technology is used in two different types of televisions (TVs). Front projection televisions use standalone projector devices and separate screens, while rear projection TVs have a more unified construction. Both DLP projection television types use the same underlying technology, which consists of rotating mirrors and some type of light source. This technology is typically found in high definition television (HDTV) sets, though some projectors that are designed to work with computers have lower resolutions. DLP projection television sets tend to be less expensive than plasma and liquid crystal display (LCD), though they are typically bulkier and have higher operating costs.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

One of the primary technologies used in high definition television displays is referred to as digital light processing. This technology relies on digital micromirror devices (DMDs), which are small chips that contains large numbers of tiny mirrors. These mirrors are capable of rotating independently, and each corresponds to a pixel in a DLP projection television display. In order to create an image, the mirrors are rotated rapidly to either reflect light through a lens or towards a component known as a heat sink. A number of other components, such as color wheels and colored lasers, can also be used to process the final image.

The light source of a DLP projection television can vary from one unit to another. Metal-halide lamps are a common option that are found in both front and rear projection televisions. These lamps are quite bright, though they tend to require replacement after several thousand hours of usage. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) can also be used, and an array of these solid state components can create a very bright light that will not burn out as quickly as metal-halide lamps. Lasers can also be used in DLP televisions.

A front projection DLP television can require a few different components to operate. The primary component is a projector unit, which is typically paired with an HDTV tuner. Other video sources, such as digital video disc (DVD) players and game systems, can also be used. A screen is also required if a high quality picture is desired, though front projection units can be used with sheets, walls, and other flat surfaces.

Rear projection televisions are typically complete units that include the projector, screen, and tuner within a single case. This type of DLP projection television typically offers larger screen sizes for lower prices than other high definition TV options, though they tend to be bulkier as well. Unlike plasma and LCD television sets, DLP televisions tend to be neither flat nor wall-mountable.

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