Short Throw vs Long Throw Projector: Differences Explained

By Dylan Clayton
Last Updated April 16, 2021

If you're in the market for a projector, you will have noticed how the specifications vary from one model to the next. One vital criterion should be the throw distance; how near or far the projector should be from the screen to create a sharp image.

Short throw projectors are ideal in smaller spaces, such as offices, bedrooms, and living rooms. They can fill 100" screens from just a few feet away. Ultra-short throw projectors need only be a few inches away from the screen to cast high-resolution images.

Long-throw projectors cast larger images from greater distances away; this makes them ideal for conference rooms, halls, and large venues.

The biggest determining factor between the two is the lens; its quality and its construction. Long-throw projectors rely on simpler lenses; they are typically the more affordable of the devices.

Short Throw Projectors

short throw distance


Short throw projectors require minimal installation and set-up time takes minutes, about the same time it takes for a new television. It makes them ideal for people new to projectors.

They sit directly in front of the screen; there is no need for a professional ceiling installation.

Long HDMI cables are expensive; short throw projectors only need the regular lead supplied.

Brightness and Longevity

Short throw projectors often have a laser light source, making them very bright, adding luminescence to the images. Lasers typically last around 20,000 hours. By comparison, lamp-based projectors have a 2500 – 4000 hour life expectancy.

Some of the additional cost of short-throw projectors is recouped against not having the expense of regular bulb changes.

TV Replacement?

Some ultra-short-throw projectors are marketed as TV replacements; they are pre-loaded with Smart TV OS. Some have voice-activated remote controls.

High-end models with internet connectivity provide real-time system updates.

Ambient Light Rejecting Screen

ALR screens reflect light from below and reject light from above. The unique positioning of the short throw projector ensures it rejects more light, especially that from the ceiling. Greater contrast and brightness supplies vivid pictures with superb clarity.

Multi-Room Use

Light is a projector's enemy, but short-throw models are best-suited for use in rooms with windows and ambient light.

The models with speakers in the front are ideal for living rooms with no surround-sound system.

If someone gets up to get a drink, the placement of the projector means there are no shadows cast on the screen.

Disadvantages of Short-Throw Projectors

  • The cost might be prohibitive, depending on your budget. For some of the top-of-the-range models, you should expect to pay several thousands of dollars.
  • You are limiting your screen-size options. Typically, short-throw models project up to 120", a few brands go up to 150". While this might suit most home theaters, those that wish to go bigger should consider a standard throw machine.
  • The projector's position might cause an issue, especially in a small room. An ultra-short-throw model needs to have at least a 7"-8" clearance from the screen, which in turn stands proud of the wall by 14" or more. The projector will then be more than 2-feet from the wall. You need either a deep entertainment stand or some form of a secure platform for it. You might have an issue if you own a center channel speaker that sits directly beneath the screen; overcome if the projector fits on top of it.

Long-Throw Projectors


Installing a long throw projector is a precise science, ensuring the optimum size and quality picture; throw distance should be accurate. Most long-throw models work best when ceiling mounted; incorrect measurements adversely affect the image. If the throw distance is too short, the images are too small; too far away, the image is too big for the screen.

To calculate throw distance, refer to the projector's handbook; if it shows a ratio such as 1.3, the throw should be 1.3 x the width of the screen in inches. It must be accurate, especially in models where there is no zoom option to offer flexibility.

If your projector has a varied throw ratio such as 1.5 – 2.25, precision isn't quite so important. For a screen width of 87”, the center of the lens should be 130.5 – 190.75” away.

Room Size

Long-throw projectors work best in large venues such as cinemas, halls, and assembly rooms. They work well for presentations and movie nights where there is no limit to screen size.

The projector needs to be at least 6ft from the screen, but the further away it can go, the bigger picture it can project. Long-throw devices are capable of 300" images in 4K, HDR, and HD – bright, detailed, and are superbly saturated.


Long-throw devices are invariably more affordable than their short-throw counterparts. They are cheaper to build, mostly because they don't use the same high-quality glass lenses.

There are 3-main types of a long-throw projector, the technology in each is different and directly affects the price:

  1. DLP or Digital Light Processing projectors rely on a series of tiny mirrors to reflect light through a rainbow color wheel. They have different price points but are still the cheapest devices. Although they project vivid, colorful images, they are sometimes guilty of the rainbow effect; a prism that affects the viewing experience.
  2. 3LCD – Red, green, and blue Liquid Crystal Display panels combine to produce superb, true-color definition without the rainbow effect.
  3. LCOS or Liquid Crystal on Silicone combines the best parts of the two previous types of projectors. They project superior black levels, crisp, high-resolution images with superb color reproduction. For obvious reasons, LCOS is the best type of long-throw projector however, they are very expensive.

Disadvantages of Long Throw Projectors

  • Long-throw devices need large spaces to perform to the best of their ability. They need to be at least 6ft from the screen, depending on its width. If they are too close, the image will be too small and be of poor quality.
  • Any obstruction in front of the lens is disruptive; people standing to go to the bathroom will cast a shadow on the screen.
  • Image quality suffers if the projector isn't well-secured or the floor is 'bouncy.' Any slight movement makes the image wobble.
  • Long-throw projectors don't perform well in a dusty atmosphere; it affects the brightness, leaving the images dull and washed out.

Throw Distance of Modern Projectors

Throw distance is calculated by the ratio of the projection distance (shown on the device) multiplied by the projection width (horizontal screen width)

Long Throw2.5:116.4ft or more
Standard Throw1.2 to 1.5:14.9 to 16.4ft
Short Throw0.6 to 1.2:12.3 to 2.9ft
Ultra-Short ThrowLess than 0.6:1Less than 1 to 2.3ft

This is a guide for the recommended distance between the center of the projection lens and the center of the screen.

Final Thoughts

There is one main consideration when choosing between short throw and long throw - room size. Lecture halls and large classrooms need a long throw device, where-as short throw projectors are suited to smaller rooms and living spaces.

There are projectors of every throw distance to suit many budgets, all of which can create images in the highest resolution.

Dylan Clayton
My passion for cinema resulted in a hobby for Home Theaters and the creation and ideation of this website. My goal for Home Theater Explained is to share my experiences with other Cinephiles in hopes that they too can improve their own setups.