As customers’ standards go up and today’s guests in the hospitality segment demand more in terms of audiovisual stimulation, technology is keeping up with bigger and better display options.

But for some applications, our customers turn to the time-tested technology of front projection systems. There are some things plasma display monitors and LED screens just can’t do — at least, not for a price that’s within the budget of most hospitality venues.

For instance, Panasonic’s 152-inch plasma display, unveiled at last year’s CES, carries an equally large price tag of $500,000. If you’re designing a new hospitality venue or upgrading your existing systems, you could buy a lot of regular size screens, speaker boxes and a digital signage system for that price.

Besides, even though projection systems aren’t the latest technology, there’s something about them that reminds people of a night on the town — people are constantly looking for technology that’s different than what they get at home and that’s where projectors, well, shine. (Pun intended.)

The 96-inch, 2X2 video wall at Z2, featured here in Commercial Integrator magazine, is impressive by itself. But add a 116-inch projection screen, and you’ve got the Wow factor working overtime.

Let’s compare some of the traits of projectors and plasma screens. Of course, there are also LEDs, LCDs, OLEDs and the options just keep coming. But let’s narrow the choices for now and compare the differences between a plasma screen and projection systems.

Screen Size – Front projectors can create extremely large images. The largest front projection screen size is 300 inches, but images can also be projected on walls. The largest plasma screen available on the market is 150 inches.

Size and Weight – Plasma TVs tend to be bigger and heavier, and may require additional supports when mounted to walls. Projectors are light, typically weighing up to 20 lbs. However, a projection screen can be large and bulky, measuring up to 18 inches in depth. For rear projection, you’ll need a hidden spot behind the screen to place the projector.

Viewing Angles – Plasma screens offer better wide-angle viewing, so customers watching a plasma TV from different angles will view solid, colorful images without any loss of brightness or shifts in color. Viewing angles are not an issue for front projection units since the image isn’t coming from behind the screen. Rear projection units have limited viewing angles, which means the picture will dim as your clients move beyond a 45-degree angle to the screen.

Refresh Rates – Plasma flat screen have fast refresh rates, so your customers will be able to view fast-action videos with less blurring and more detail. Generally, refresh rates are not provided by projection TV manufacturers, so it’s difficult to make a comparison.

Contrast Ratios – Plasma TVs and projection systems have comparable contrast ratios (the black levels within an image), so your customers will be able to see more details in darker videos. However, depending upon the ambient light in the room, projection units can lose some contrast and brightness. So they’re better in darker environments, unless you plan to spend more for an ultra-high-lumens project that works well in high ambient light conditions. It will still be cheaper than a plasma of the same size.

Image Retention/Dead Pixels – Burn-in is not an image with today’s high-tech plasmas. Image retention has never been an issue for projection equipment, but they can have problems with pixels going out in some areas of the image.

Product Lifespan – Plasma panels are rated for up to 60,000 hours, and you don’t have to replace any lamps. Projector lamps can be easily replaced but are pricey. Lamp life varies so ask your installer.

Durability/Installation – Screen damage to plasma TVs can be permanent. If plasma screens need to be mounted on a wall, the wall needs to be able to bear the weight. Therefore, it’s best to have a professional installer perform this task. Projectors and screens are durable and light for easy installation; however, front projectors typically need to be installed on the ceiling. Screens can be easily damaged, but are less expensive to replace.

Many sports bars, restaurants, nightclubs and hotels in the New York tri-state area today rely on a combination of projection technology and plasma or LCD monitors to achieve the effect they want to create for their customers. A New York audio visual design consultant can help you with these important choices and more when it comes to designing the AV systems in your New York venue.