DLP VS 3LCD Projector: Which is Better

Of the global projector market size of around $12 billion, a colossal $5.42 billion is attributed to the DLP projector segment. The market for DLP projectors is expected to grow at a massive CAGR of 7.3% over the next 5 years.


While the current market share of 3LCD projectors is almost at par with that of DLP projectors, the expected CAGR for this product category for the next 7 years up to 2030 is much lower at 5.5%. 


One of the reasons for this is the fact that DLP technology, which was until recently restricted to cinema halls, has made significant strides in the home theatre projection segment.


If you are in the market for a brand-new projector, chances are that the DLP vs. 3LCD debate will leave you confused. So, continue reading to know more about the difference between a DLP projector and a 3LCD projector and how these units fare when pitched against each other...


What is a DLP Projector?

What is a DLP Projector?

Devices based on a technology introduced by Texas Instruments, DLP projectors have been the go-to units for commercial cinema halls since their introduction in 1997. The technology was developed in 1987 and continues to be used in home theatre and commercial-grade projectors across the world. 


What is DLP technology?

This technology works by using three major components- a light source, a spinning color wheel, and a digital light processing chip. The light source provides the beam of light that is passed through the spinning color wheel that segregates it into beams of 3 primary colors (red, green, and blue- RGB).


This light then gets reflected off the millions of tiny mirrors on the DLP chip. These mirrors can align themselves at specific angles to create specific versions of each of the 3 primary colors. The reflected light is then passed through the lens and projected onto the viewing surface. So, at its core, DLP is a reflective technology.


A single source of light can be used to get all 3 primary colors or 3LEDs can be used, one for each color. Some units may also have 3DLP chips, one for each primary color. Also, the speed of the color segmenting wheel can vary between products, starting at 4x (this gives you RGB and white) and going up to 6X (this offers RGBRGB) and also 8X.


What are the advantages of a DLP projector?

What are the advantages of a DLP projector?
  1. DLP-based units offer more vivid colors and crisper picture quality thanks to the millions of mirrors on the chip, each of which stands for a single pixel on the screen.
  2.  The contrast ratio is also exceptionally high for DLP projectors.
  3.  The sealed chip architecture of DLP projectors means that they don't need a filter and are resilient to dust accumulation and damage.
  4.  DLP units also need little to no maintenance.
  5.  Black has a deeper more accurate tone when projected by a DLP unit.
  6.  Typically, DLP projectors are constructed with a single chip, which makes them lighter and smaller, hence more portable.
  7.  Because the pixels are packed more closely together, images tend to be smoother.
  8.  DLP projectors aren't prone to pixelation.
  9.  The display is more accurate and seldom produces shadows.


What are the disadvantages of a DLP projector?

  1.  For the same ANSI lumens and wattage, the image projected by a DLP unit will come across as less bright when compared to the performance of a 3LCD projector.
  2.  Classic DLP technology with a color segmentation wheel of 4X is prone to the rainbow effect.
  3.  Although the sealed chipset design eliminates the need for frequent maintenance and cleaning, it also eliminates the potential for preventative maintenance.
  4.  Because the color segmentation wheel is, after all, a moving part, there is the possibility of failure over time.
  5.  Also, the spinning color wheel is prone to making a whirring sound when the unit is operated.


READ MORE: DLP Projector vs. LCD Projector: What Are the Differences


What is a 3LCD Projector?

The 3LCD technology is simply an upgrade over LCD technology in the sense that while transmissive Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panels are used in the projector, 3 such panels are used instead of just one. The use of one panel for each of the 3 primary colors leads to richer and more vibrant colors.


What is the 3LCD technology?

Instead of a mirror-covered chip like the one used in DLP, LCD panels are created by housing liquid crystals in between two transparent glass panels. Once the beam of light exits its source, typically a metal halide lamp or LED, it is passed through a dichroic filter that separates it into red, blue, and green light.


Each primary color light beam is passed through its own LCD panel that represents various shades of the color in the form of varying transparencies. The liquid crystals, which represent pixels, operate in either a completely open or completely closed position.


The light beams of varying colors that exit the panel are then passed through another prism to be recomposed into a single light beam. It is this combined light beam that finally makes it out of the projector lens and is projected on the viewing surface.


What are the advantages of a 3LCD projector?

  1.   Because a panel each is devoted to the 3 primary colors, 3LCD projectors offer greater color saturation and more vivid colors.
  2.   In terms of color accuracy, particularly when it comes to lighter tones, 3LCD offers greater color integrity.
  3.   3LCD units tend to offer more precisely focused images.
  4.   For the same wattage and ANSI lumens, 3LCD projectors will always be brighter than DLP projectors.
  5.   Because these units offer more brightness for a given wattage, they are more efficient in terms of power consumption and hence have a lower operational cost.
  6.   Since the images are brighter, ambient light has a lower impact on the performance of 3LCD projectors.
  7.   Because there is no spinning color segmentation wheel, 3LCD projectors are not prone to the rainbow effect.
  8.   And for the same reason, they are also quieter than DLP units.


What are the disadvantages of a 3LCD projector?

  1.   Because LCD panels rely on liquid crystals instead of micromirrors, they are prone to the screen door effect or pixelation.
  2.   The liquid crystals that represent pixels are more prone to failure over time than the micromirrors used in DLP chips.
  3.   In case of a component failure, 3LCD units are harder and more expensive to repair.
  4.  Over time, the completely closed or completely open operational movement of the pixels leads to failure causing dead pixels, which are seen as white/black spots or dull-colored spots on the screen.
  5.   All 3LCD projectors need frequent filter changes and hence have a higher cost of maintenance.
  6.   Because 3LCD units do not have a closed chipset, they accumulate dust easily and hence suffer a higher risk of component damage related to it.
  7.   The use of 2 glass sheets in the creation of each LCD panel and the inclusion of 3 such panels in each unit significantly increases the weight of the projector.
  8.   Because the liquid crystals in the main display component absorb light and heat, they decay over time. This leads to a tint to the images or faded colors.
  9.   3LCD projectors are prone to image misalignment.


DLP VS 3LCD Projector: Which is Better?

DLP VS 3LCD Projector: Which is Better?

Image quality

1. Contrast ratio: The contrast ratio of even portable DLP projectors starts at 500:1 while for a top-of-the-line unit, it can go to 2000:1 or higher. In comparison, the native contrast ratio of 3LCD units is considerably lower. Unfortunately, manufacturers tend to inflate this figure by using dynamic contrast ratio which often runs into 10,000:1 or even higher. But, this isn't the same as a native contrast ratio.


2. Color saturation and accuracy: In terms of saturation, DLP projectors are head and shoulders above 3 LCD units. But the use of LED in the construction of the latter has certainly led to improvements on this front.


That said, 3LCD definitely scores higher when it comes to color accuracy, particularly for the primary color red and darker tones of all primary colors. In contrast, red is often darkened to a muddy brown by DLP projectors while teal, cayenne, and magenta also show inaccuracies. But, lighter tones are displayed more richly and accurately by DLP projectors while they come across as washed out in the display of 3LCD units.


3. Brightness: If you were to use the exact same light source and wattage, as far as brightness goes, a 3LCD projector would be the clear winner. But, the combination of laser and LED with DLP technology is changing that in a significant way. 



1. Pixel structure: There is barely a micron worth of space in between the tiny mirrors that make up a DLP chip, which means that pixelation is never a problem. Moreover, pixel shifting allows you to get a greater resolution from DLP units as compared to 3LCDS projectors.

For the viewer this means clearer and crisper images and a picture quality that is remarkably immersive and life-like.


2. Motion blur and image lag: Because 3LCD projectors work on transmissive technology that involves pixels in completely open/completely closed positions, these units are prone to motion blur as well as image lag.


In contrast, the reflective technology that is DLP offers more instantaneous rendering and hence is more suitable for fast-moving images as it never suffers from motion blur or image lag.


3. Black levels and shadow detail:Despite the use of 3 LCD panels, one each for the three primary colors, black is displayed as a tone of gray by 3LCD units. This is noticeable despite the greater brightness of white.


 As opposed to this, a DLP projector will depict black in its deepest and most solid form. So, even when contrasted with the comparatively less bright white, the picture quality of DLP is more detailed and eye-catching.


Now, if you add greater brightness to this equation with a laser or led light source, of course, you get a significant boost in contrast, color accuracy, and the clarity and sharpness of images.


Price and affordability

1. Initial purchase price: Typically, a 3LCD unit will cost a bit less than a DLP projector but a lot depends on the manufacturer and additional features. Overall, in terms of pricing, these technologies are almost at par with each other.


2. Lifespan & need for regular maintenance or potential costs:A 3LCD unit will need regular filter changes and because it lacks the sealed chip construction of a DLP projector, it is dust permeable. Over time, the accumulation of dust particles on key components can lead to damage and failure.


Unfortunately, replacement parts for a 3LCD unit will cost more than the parts of a DLP projector. Actually, the only component in the latter that may ever fail is the color segmentation wheel, and that too can be easily and inexpensively replaced.


When it comes to the cost of operation, yes 3LCD will give you greater power efficiency but the inclusion of laser and LCD has changed the dynamics on this front. At this time, DLP and 3LCD projectors are neck to neck when it comes to the actual cost of operation per hour.



DLP Projectors

3LCD Projectors

Image Quality


Contrast Ratio



Color Saturation and Accuracy

Greater saturation but lower color accuracy for darker tones.

Greater color accuracy, particularly for lighter tones.


Not as bright as 3LCD unless powered by a laser or LED light source.

Twice as bright as DLP for the same type of light source and similar wattage.



Pixel Structure

More rigid due to micro-mirrors placed very close together, not prone to pixelation.

Prone to pixelation or screen door effect.

Motion Blur and Image Lag


Suffers from image lag and motion blur for fast-moving videos.

Black Levels and Shadow Detail

Deeper levels of black, hence exceptional shadow details.

Black is displayed as a tone of grey, the additional brightness washes out the lighter tones, impacting shadow details.

Price and Affordability


Initial Purchase Price

At par with 3LCD or slightly higher.

Mostly the same as DLP projectors.

Lifespan & Need for Regular Maintenance

Greater lifespan, lower need for maintenance. Does not require filter changes.

Requires regular cleaning and filter changes. Prone to pixel burnout and dust-related component damage and performance degradation.


READ MORE: Which Projector Is Right For You: DLP, LCD, or LED Projector?


Epson - Destination for 3LCD Projector

Epson was the first company that refined LCD tech for the projector market with the inclusion of 3 panels in each unit. They licensed this technology in 1988 and continue to be one of the leading manufacturers of 3LCD projectors.


In fact, the introduction of 3LCD is what put projection units based on this technology at par with DLP projectors, which had the upper hand in the segment till then. At this time, Epson offers dozens of 3LCD models powered by LED, metal halide lamps as well as laser.


WEMAX - Your Brand for DLP Projector

WEMAX Nova DLP Projector

WEMAX is a pioneer in the DLP projector segment. It was one of the first companies to combine DLP technology with laser to remove deficiencies related to lower image and color brightness. At this time, WEMAX offers a range of FHD and UHD DLP projectors for home theater and portable applications.


One of their leading products is the WEMAX Nova. A high-end DLP + ALDP projector that uses laser to deliver 2100 ANSI lumens of brightness coupled with a contrast ratio of 3000:1 and 100% REC 709. The result is a massive 1 billion plus colors reflected on the screen, which come together to create the most life-like picture quality possible.


In fact, the WEMAX Nova owes its popularity to the fact that in terms of picture quality and viewing experience, it can give any in-class 3LCD projector out there a run for its money.


In addition to the 4K UHD Nova, WEMNAX also has an impressive lineup of portable and pico DLP projectors. The WEMAX Dice is one such portable plus stationary unit that is ideal for use both indoors and outdoors.


The WEMAX Go range includes WEMAX Go Advanced, an ultra-portable projector that is perfect for both home and commercial use as well as the WEMAX Go which is a revolutionary pico pocket projector that weighs a mere 0.66 lbs. The GO series is also powered by ALPD laser and is built on DLP technology.


Wrapping It Up

A DLP vs. 3LCD comparison is anything but simple and straightforward. So, there cannot possibly be one clear winner. How a unit built on these technologies will fare for you will depend on your unique requirements and the projection environment that they will eventually be operated in.


Without a doubt, DLP is miles ahead of 3LCD when it comes to contrast and color saturation, and vividness. But, the technology lags behind when it comes to color brightness, an area in which 3LCD has a clear lead.


Similarly, while 3LCD has a price advantage, DLP more than makes up for this with its stellar and exceptional performance as well as the sturdiness of the products. So, if you don't mind spending a bit more for cinema-grade picture quality and a highly functional unit that will perform just as well for gaming as it does for playback of regular video content, then a DLP unit will be right for you.


But, if your budget is a crucial factor in your purchasing decision and you don't have as much control over the ambient light in the projection environment, a 3LCD projector will be a better option.


Related Blogs from WEMAX

Different Types of LED Projectors

WEMAX Nova: Best Alternatives to Optoma & VAVA 4k Projector

Beginner's Handbook of Projector Terminology

Be the first to know the latest updates, tips, how-tos, exclusive deals, and discounts from WEMAX. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Comments (0)

Leave a comment

Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty

Continue Shopping

Spend more and get free shipping!

You are eligible for free shipping!

You may also like
Subtotal: 0

Ships within 2 business days. Free shipping to US. "Buy now, pay later" options available via Klarna.

Checkout Continue Shopping
Got a discount code? Add it on the checkout page.