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What is a DLP LCD and Why is It Cheaper Than a Standard LCD HDTV?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
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A DLP LCD television is a type of rear-projection TV that uses Digital Light Processing (DLP) along with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technologies. A DLP LCD is an average of 14-inches wide at the bottom rear. It is a less expensive television than a flat-panel LCD HDTV, which is a few inches thick and can be mounted on wall. An LCD HDTV does not use rear-projection technology.

There are different types of rear-projection TVs, of which DLP is one. DLP uses a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) on a semiconductor chip to create an array of grayscale light. Each tiny mirror on the chip represents a single pixel on the display screen. A spinning color wheel sits between the micromirror chip and projection lamp, producing colored hues. This sometimes creates undesirable ‘rainbow’ artifacts, and has been replaced in many cases by newer designs. These include three DMDs and a prism to split light; three LED lights in the primary colors eliminating the color wheel; or advanced color wheel designs.

DLP LCD shares the rear-projection television market with a newer technology known as LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). LCoS utilizes liquid crystals rather than micromirrors, combining aspects of both DLP and LCD to produce excellent picture quality with an arguably narrower cabinet than DLP LCD sets. Both products project the picture from the rear of the set to the back of the display screen.

Standard or flat-panel LCD TV is not a projection technology, but akin to computer monitor on steroids. The picture is formed on the display itself, rather than projected on to it. LCD HDTVs are desirable because of their sharp pictures, lighter weight, and ability to be wall-mounted. Flat-panel LCD TV is also an excellent choice for bright rooms, as the display is non-reflective. A standard, flat-panel LCD TV will not dim with use, though eventually the backlight will burn out. Life expectancy runs about 60,000 hours on average.

DLP LCD once ruled the big-screen market. Today with falling prices and larger LCD screens, flat-panel LCDs are effectively pushing the DLP LCD into a smaller market that occupies the largest screen displays in excess of 55-inches (1.39 meters). A flat-panel LCD can also be found in these larger sizes, but the price tag will be greater.

Rear projection televisions like the DLP LCD and LCoS are affordable choices for very large screens where a flat panel TV is either too expensive or not required. If the TV will not be wall mounted, one might opt to save a few bucks. Most rear-projection TVs require a new lamp, (a less expensive part than the LCD backlight), every 1-3 years, depending on use.

Pros and cons exist for every type of HDTV, so it’s best to look at sets side-by-side and decide for yourself which picture is most appealing, balancing price against quality. Flat-panel LCDs are generally considered sharper and more vivid, while rear-projection TV can provide larger bang for your buck, delivering a nice picture. Rear-projection TV might also be better suited to a screening room with ideal (dim) lighting, where an LCD TV might appear harsh.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Melonlity — On Jan 27, 2014

Be careful of an LCD TV -- they tend to "band" if the contrast is set too high. Banding means dark, vertical stripes develop on the screen. You can still see images through the bands, but they are darker than they should be and are a problem.

From what I've read, banding is caused by setting contrast too high and there is a very good chance the contrast on your shiny, new LCD set is set high so that the picture looks more vibrant. It's a good idea to set your TV up so that it looks good but won't lead to problems down the road.

Remember the old days when a tube television would last forever? It seems those days are over, so it's a good idea to baby that LCD screen a bit.

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