How to Buy a Used Projection System

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How to Buy a Used Projection System

Video projection systems are very popular, though rather costly items. The obvious, more affordable, solution is to buy one that is used. The price will be much lower and, assuming it has been well taken care of, it can be expected to perform well and reliably for a long time to come. Choosing a suitable used projection system starts with being clear about how the projector is going to be used as that will determine the features that are most important when buying one.

Projector Uses

Projection systems have two main uses: entertainment and information display. As such, they can be found in a variety of situations, from home cinema setups to classrooms and conference halls.

Home Cinema Projection Systems

Video projectors and screens are often the main components of a home cinema setup. Home cinema projectors tend to be larger and less portable than other types. They are situated in the best chosen location, carefully set up in conjunction with the screen at the required distance, and they tend not to be moved after that. As they aren't often handled, used cinema projection systems can escape the inevitable marks and scrapes that used portable systems may have picked up on their travels.

Business and Educational Use

Projection systems for classroom and business use are generally lighter and more portable so that they can be moved to any location and quickly set up. A projector used for business or educational purposes also has to be able to project the image with a good amount of brightness. That's because there is usually a lot of ambient light present that the projector has to compete with.

Projector Types

The following projector types are commonly seen in the used projection system market. Apart from CRT systems, all are current and constantly being developed and improved.

LCD Projector

LCD projectors comprise a powerful lamp sending a light beam through an array of LCD pixels, which modulate the light beam in response to any input video source. Good, bright images are a feature of most LCD projectors but contrast ratio tends to be less impressive than that of other types. 3-LC projectors use three separate LCD panels, each of which is tasked with handling one of the three primary colours, red, green, and blue. Lamps (which can be expensive to replace) can be expected to fail, or to deteriorate significantly in brightness after around 3,000 hours of use.


DLP projectors use a mirror system to modulate the light beam. 3-Chip DLP projectors, like 3-LCD projectors, offer better colour handling capability. Images are bright, and good contrast ratio is also a feature. Their light source is, most commonly, the same type used for LCD projectors and will have the same limited lifespan of around 3,000 hours.

LED Projector

LED projectors use either of the above technologies for modulating a light beam, which is supplied by more efficient, long-life LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that usually never need to be replaced.

CRT Projector

CRT projectors are heavy and bulky. The technology is now virtually obsolete, but there are many used models around offering good picture quality at very affordable prices.

Projector Specifications

A knowledge of the most relevant technical features of any video system makes the job of choosing one simpler. The main ones included in advertisements for used projection systems include the following.


Image Format or aspect ratio is the width to height ratio of the projected image. Modern widescreen image format is 16:9, the same as modern widescreen HD television broadcasts. Other aspect ratios, such as the more familiar 4:3 ratio, are also common. While 16:9 is the most desired format in home cinema setups, it is usually less important in business and educational use. The video source that will be played through a projector will also have its own aspect ratio that may differ from that of the projector. Mismatching of formats is common and often unavoidable. Mismatching causes no problems for the projector, but it results in unsightly black bands on the screen above and below or at the sides of the picture.


The projected image is produced by an array of light-modifying pixels. Pixels are arranged in rows and columns, and projector resolution is usually shown in projector advertisements as, for example, High-definition projector:: 1920 x 1080, a high resolution display that is ideal for home cinema use, but not required in many business applications unless very fine detail needs to be displayed in the video presentation. At the other end of the scale, 800 x 600 is a less-expensive low-resolution display, that would still be suitable for many presentations with larger graphics, such as flow charts, text and animations. It would be less suitable as a cinema projector or for presenting finely detailed visual materials such as complex circuit diagrams or detailed anatomical diagrams for medical use.


Brightness is measured in lumens, and more brightness generally costs more money. The required brightness depends on many factors such as the distance from the projector to the screen and the amount of ambient light present. A lumens value of 2000 is considered adequate in darkened or dimmed rooms, while around 3000-4,000 lumens may be needed for brighter environments, such as classrooms and conference halls with significant ambient lighting present. With used projection systems, the brightness of the lamp also depends on its age in terms of operating hours. A Typical (non-LED) projector lamp is rated at between 3,000-4,000 hours of use, during which time the lamp's brightness will gradually fade. This is an important consideration when buying a used projector as projector lamps can be expensive to replace.

Contrast Ratio

The contrast ratio of a projector is a measure of the difference between the pixels' brightest and darkest states expressed as a ratio. In other words, if a projector has a contrast ratio of 2,000:1, it means the pixels' brightest possible state will be two thousand times brighter than their darkest possible state. A high contrast ratio makes for a more impressive cinematic experience in home cinema projection systems, but is normally a less important factor in most business or educational video presentations.

The Benefits of a Used Projection System

The obvious advantage of buying a used projection system rather than a new one is cost. Used systems, depending on their age and condition, will be significantly cheaper. Always make sure when responding to any advert for a used projector that it is in full working order. A used projector can be expected to have some superficial damage in the form of marks, but any imperfections that affect the operation or the image-producing quality of the projector should be clearly mentioned in the advert and reflected in the price. A common example is a used projector in perfect working order but with a soon-to-expire lamp. That fact needs to be mentioned as a new lamp can add considerably to the overall expense. Most used projections systems are being sold by private individuals, but there are also many refurbished models sold by retailers, often at attractive prices. The advantage of buying a refurbished projection system is that it is guaranteed to be in full working order, having been professionally serviced and optimally adjusted for the best performance its capable of.

How to Find a Used Projection System on eBay

There are many used projectors and screens available on eBay. A variety of search terms can be entered into eBay's search box from any page to find them. Typical search terms include: "used projectors" and "pre-owned projectors". Depending on which of those terms the sellers may have used in the description of the projector being sold, the search engine will return a list of available used projectors. If the list is too large, make use of the categories displayed over at the left of the search results. The top-level category, Sound & Vision, and its subcategory, DVD, Blu-ray & Home Cinema, can be clicked to return a more relevant list. To make the search even more specific, the search-filter options, which are check-boxes shown underneath the categories, can be selected as needed. These include filters such as Brand, Display Technology, Image Aspect Ratio, Native Resolution and more. If it is known what kind of projector is required and with which features, these filtering options can make the search far more efficient.


With so many used projection systems available, it is only a matter of time before one that is suitable and affordable will turn up. That time element can be reduced simply by having a clear idea of the projector's intended use and a basic knowledge of the technical features required, such as resolution, brightness, aspect ratio and screen size. Armed with that knowledge, searching for a used projection system can be done with far greater confidence and likelihood of success.

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