You would think that the rise in popularity of flat panel displays would phase out projectors from the AV industry. On the contrary, they remain a favorite amongst consumers due to their ability to display images of over 100 inches.
What has changed in recent years though is that manufacturers are shifting their focus to lamp-free projectors. But don’t dispose of your lamp-based model just yet. Both types of projectors have their strengths and weaknesses as we’ll discuss in this article.
But first, what do we mean by lamp-free and lamp-based projectors?
What is a lamp-free projector?
A lamp-free projector, as the name suggests, is one that uses solid-state sources for light production instead of a bulb. The light is then processed by LCD or DLP technology and then sent to the lens for enlargement and screen display.
What is a lamp-based projector?
A lamp-based projector is one that makes use of bulbs or lamps for the production of light. Similar to its lamp-free counterpart, the light is processed by LCD or DLP technology and the generated image is enlarged and shone on a screen.
Types of Lamp-free projectors
The four main types of lamp-free projectors are:
LED projectors are the most popular of the four kinds of lamp-free projectors largely because they have been in the market for a long time. They use an array of LEDs (red, green, and blue) to produce vibrant and accurate colors.
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They are generally small in size and portable which many businessmen and campers will appreciate. Their main advantage is a long lifespan which can be as high as 30,000 hours.
And their downside is their brightness level. They are rated for an average of 1,500 lumens, which isn’t sufficient for lights-on or daylight viewing. You’ll be limited to dark environments like home theaters or rooms with blinds and curtains.
Hybrid LED/Laser projectors
Hybrid LED/Laser projectors are a combination of lasers and LEDs. As you would expect, they are better than the individual parts they are made from. One feature that stands out is their outstanding lumen rating of around 3,000 to 4000. However, they are a bit more expensive than LED projectors.
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Laser Phosphor projectors
These projectors use one blue laser source. When the blue laser light is shone into a phosphor wheel, a yellow light is produced. This yellow light is then shone into a color wheel which results in red and green lights. In the end, you get the three basic colors; red, green, and blue for accurate image creation.
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Something to note here is that the processing technology for laser phosphor projectors is primarily DLP. That can be single-chip or three-chip with the latter producing superior images.
Laser phosphor beamers are rated for an average of 20,000 hours and can illuminate images of between 5,000 and 13,000 lumens in brightness. That’s enough for use in daylight or the outdoors without a noticeable decrease in picture quality.
RGB laser projectors
RGB laser projectors will set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars. And they are that expensive for a reason: they are capable of producing extremely high brightness (north of 20,000 lumens) and make use of three separate lasers (red, green, and blue) for color accuracy.
Lamp-free vs Lamp-based projectors
In this section, we’ll cover the factors you should consider when deciding between lamp-free and lamp-based projectors and how they compare.
A projector’s brightness is expressed in ANSI lumens or LED lumens. But ANSI lumens is the standard way of measurement. The higher the lumen rating, the brighter the image will be, and vice versa.
The important factor to consider here is where you plan to use the projector. If it’s when the lights are on or during the day, you need to get one with as high a brightness as possible.
Now, laser models have the highest brightness level often more than 3,500 lumens while LED models have the lowest brightness level typically ranging between 1000 and 2000 lumens. Lamp-based projectors fall in between with an average rating of 2000 lumens.
Keep in mind that LED projectors tend to have better color saturation which makes their images appear to be of higher quality than they are.
When you purchase a projector, you want it to last as long as possible. You don’t want it to fail before the first year is over.
Now, if you skim through product descriptions in online marketplaces, you’ll see the lifespan of any projector on sale. But you should not take it at face value.
The lifespan mainly depends on usage. If you use your projector for long hours every week, it will last for a shorter period than the stated lifespan. On the other hand, if you use it for just a few hours each week, it may last for a period closer to the stated value.
As far as lamp-free and lamp-based models, the former last longer than the latter. Laser and LED projectors have average rated lifespans of more than 20,000 hours whereas their lamp-based counterparts have an average rated lifespan of fewer than 10,000 hours.
Money is something that matters to everyone on this planet. As with most products, the price varies based on quality. If you want the best quality of anything, then you’ll have to spend more.
When it comes to projectors, you have to consider the total cost of ownership and not just the initial purchase price. Laser and LED projectors have a high acquisition cost but they require minimal maintenance. On the other hand, lamp-based models are affordable but require lots of maintenance. You will have to factor in the cost of lamp replacement and repairs.
The size of a projector doesn’t always translate to better-quality images. But it’s important when it comes to portability. If you want a projector that you can easily move from room to room and the backyard, then the smallest you can get is the right fit. And that is LED projectors. Lamp-based models aren’t large either but they are tinnier than most laser projectors.
The color gamut is the standard way of measuring the accuracy of a projector. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the range of colors that our eyes can identify. Now, both lamp-based and lamp-free projectors utilize the Rec.709 color standard.
The difference is that LED projectors of up to 125% of that standard when it comes to color saturation. That means that you get the perception of higher-quality images.
Time to Power Up
Waiting for a projector to warm up before turning it on and cooling down after every use can be annoying. And that is the case with lamp-based projectors. They can take up to 2 minutes to boot up and a similar period to cool down after use.
LED and laser projectors, on the other hand, will instantly turn on and off. There’s no waiting period, which can be handy when it comes to business meetings and presentations.
When we talk of the rainbow effect, we refer to the red-green-blue flashes that we sometimes see from projected images. Now, laser and lamp-based projectors are affected by it because they use a color wheel to shine the projected light which can sometimes slow down.
On the contrary, LED projectors are not affected by the rainbow effect. And that is because they can produce different colors without color wheels. But even so, there’s a pair of them to filter out any red-blue-green flashes.
Lamp-free projectors differ significantly from their lamp-based counterparts as we’ve discussed in this article. Although lamp-based models were the standard for many years, they are now being phased out in favor of lamp-free beamers.
We hope this post has helped you get a better understanding of lamp-free projectors.