What Is a Short Throw Video Projector?

Short and ultra short throw projectors are practical for small rooms

Short throw projectors are specifically designed for small spaces such as living rooms and home theaters. Before you add a video projector and screen to your home theater setup, you need to know the projector's throw distance capability.

Information in this article applies broadly to projectors made by various manufacturers. Check individual product specifications before making a purchase.

The Video Projector, Screen, and Room Relationship

The major advantage of watching movies on video projectors vs TVs is the ability to display images of varying sizes depending on projector-screen placement. When setting up your video projector, the projector and screen need to be placed at a certain distance from each other to produce a specific size image.

The type of projector you need depends on the size of your screen and the size of the room. If you have a 100-inch screen (or enough wall space to display a 100-inch image), you need a projector that can display images up to that size, but you also need a room that allows enough distance between the projector and the screen to display that size image.

Hisense Laser TV - Ultra Short Throw Projector
Image provided by Hisense

Other factors to consider when shopping for a projector include the core technologies (DLP or LCD), projector light output, and resolution (720p, 1080p, or 4K).

Video Projector Throw Distance Categories

Throw distance is the amount of space required between a projector and screen to display an image of a specific size (or a range of sizes if the projector has an adjustable zoom lens). The lens and mirror assembly built into a projector determines its throw distance.

For video projectors, there are three throw distance categories:

Long and short throw projectors send light to a screen directly out the lens, but the light coming from the lens of an ultra short throw projector is reflected off of a mirror that directs the image to the screen. Ultra short throw projectors often don't have zoom capability, so the projector must be physically positioned to match the screen size.

Most video projectors also include tools such as Lens Shift and/or Keystone Correction to aid in positioning the image properly on the screen. Companies like Epson, Optoma, and Benq provide online video projector distance calculators.

Projector Room Setup Tips

When shopping for a video projector, note the size of the room and where the projector will be placed in relation to the screen. Here are some tips to consider when determining where the projector will be located in relation to the rest of your home theater gear:

  • If the projector is placed in front of you and your video sources are behind you, longer cable runs may be needed. This also applies if your video sources are in front of you and the projector is behind you.
  • Make sure your seating position isn't too close to the projector so that you're not distracted by fan noise.
  • If you have a large or mid-size room and don't mind placing the projector behind your seating position, a long throw projector may be right for you.
  • If you want to place the projector in front of your seating position, consider a short throw or ultra short throw projector.
  • If you have a small room, or you just want to get the projector as close to the screen as possible and still get that large-screen viewing experience, then an ultra short throw projector is likely the best option for you.