Why Widescreen Digital Projectors Are The Future For Classrooms

At Smart Audio Visual, we have a lot of experience in providing the best possible AV solution for classrooms of all shapes, sizes and year groups. However, we sometimes find that clients make decisions on which equipment to purchase based purely on how much it costs, overlooking key technical factors.

This approach is particularly indicative when it comes to digital projectors, often used in conjunction with an Interactive Whiteboard. We’ve noticed that some customers will purchase a 4:3 format projector over a 16:9 widescreen model due to the former being cheaper, only then to ask us why it doesn’t present content in the way that they want – i.e without large black bars running along the top and bottom, or in a way that doesn’t properly fill the screen space.

As more and more media content is produced in 16:9 as standard, 4:3 projectors present two problems.


Playing 16:9 content through a 4:3 format projector will result in a smaller image overall and will create black bars along the top and bottom of your screening area.


Firstly: playing 16:9 content on a 4:3 projector will result in a smaller-than-desired rectangular image in the centre with black bars (unused space) appearing along the top and bottom, as illustrated in the diagram above. Trying to fill in these areas will either result in information from the left and right of the image being lost, as it overspills the boundaries, or an image that is vertically stretched.

The second problem materialises if you try to use a 4:3 projector on a screen or Interactive Whiteboard that’s in 16:9 format. Here, you are in a situation where you are trying to use a square to fill the surface area of a rectangle, which simply cannot be done, unless, again, some serious compromises take place. Using a 4:3 projector for a screen designed to accommodate widescreen imagery will result in black columns occupying both sides. You can magnify your image to fill out those spaces, but will result in having information from the top and bottom overspilling the boundaries. You could also stretch your 4:3 format horizontally to span the empty spaces but this will naturally result in a heavily warped image. We don’t recommend either of these options.

A 16:9 projector system offers you more usable surface area with no need to compromise content. Due to their additional wideness (see diagram below), there is more screen real estate, that’s easily accessible, for students to use in interactive situations. Especially the case for smaller children, where just using a bigger 4:3 board would place much of the interactive content out of reach.


16:9 offers you more easily reachable surface area to present and interact with content. Note how the green rectangle in this diagram is much larger than the other one confined within the 4:3 parameters, making for a more full and satisfying viewing experience.


To know the future of digital projectors, one only has to look at how other screen based media has evolved. Manufacture and support of 4:3 televisions was phased out years ago and 4:3 monitors for personal computers are becoming increasingly more scarce, with common ratios being either 16:9 or 16:10. (Some laptops and most tablets and are also 16:10).

4:3 ratio projectors are quickly becoming obsolete, and will most likely disappear within the next few years, seeing as most visual media and displays are produced in either 16:9 or 16:10. Even laptops are now manufactured in the wide format. Soon, all the visual content that you choose to show students will be of a widescreen nature and a 4:3 projector will struggle to fulfil your needs.

So with most media creators having now transitioned to a widescreen format, it won’t be long before our 4:3 systems become an increasingly cumbersome solution. So although 4:3 projectors may initially cost a little less than widescreen units, which is a tantalising prospect for schools that are tight on budget, to ensure a long operating life for your AV system a widescreen solution may very well be the better long term investment.


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