Counterfeit projectors have proliferated on online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. These are near-perfect replicas of projectors … except that they don’t work or don’t work as you’d expect.
Ever purchased a projector just to find out the brightness is absolute garbage or worse yet, it’s not a working projector at all? Well, sadly, these scam projector “brands” have grown bolder with time. In fact, Epson is suing 4 projector sellers on Amazon on grounds of misleading specs.
In this article, we will discuss a couple of scams currently active online. We will also talk about the brands you should generally avoid. We’ll end with 4 specific tips for spotting tells.
#1. Very Low Price Projectors
The average price of a good projector is anywhere from $500 to $2,000. The majority of the best picks by tech reviewers such as CNET, Wired, or Tom’s Hardware will fall in this price range.
There are indeed some which are cheaper in the $250-500 range.
But if you are getting a projector with a description that compares to one that is $1,000 but costs $150, it’s a major red flag. Generally, avoid projectors selling for $200 or below.
Generally speaking, if a price point sounds too good to be true then it’s likely a scam. The only exception is if it’s part of a discount. Don’t be sold to high ratings so easily.
If you still find yourself captivated by a particularly decent price point – it helps to go through all the negative reviews first. Most online marketplaces make it easy. Here are the steps for Amazon:
- Scroll down to the Customer reviews section.
- Click on the “1 star” bar on the left side. A separate page will open dedicated to reviews.
- Scroll down and you will find 5 drop-down menus. In the third one, choose “All critical.”
- If the number of reviews is very high, you can also additionally select “Verified purchase only” from the second drop-down.
- Read all these filtered reviews.
If you spot a scam-like trend in these critical low-star reviews, then you’re likely on a scam product page.
#2. Low-quality projectors
The price scam is the preferred way to scam unsuspecting users by selling them non-functioning projector replicas from fake or known-sounding brand names.
But that’s not the only way to scam.
A large number of companies manufacture extremely low-quality projectors that won’t work efficiently. These are also very likely to have a fake description with incorrect lumens or brightness specs.
Unfortunately, you can’t know who’s lying about the lumens or brightness without using the product. That’s why we will limit our search to other parameters.
Here are things that scream “low-quality” when it comes to projector listings on online marketplaces (apart from a scam-like pattern in critical reviews):
- Warnings from the manufacturers to turn off the device after a few hours of continuous operation.
- Products that stress a “fixed focus” are low-quality ones. This means if you move closer or further from their specified focus distance, you will lose clarity. This is often around 5 feet for most projector scams.
Brands That are the Most Popular with Scammers
Here are some brands to steer clear of. Note that this list is not conclusive proof, because these manufacturers can still sometimes sell legitimate products. The list is based on reports from countless online customers.
- Lumi Projector
- Digital Galaxy
- Wanbo (certain projectors)
A lot of projectors from these brands will mention staggering specs such as 1500 lumens or even 3000 in some cases. In reality, you’d find that these are measly 120-150 lumens projectors.
Please keep in mind that not all of these brands produce replica projectors.
They often produce low-quality projectors which can surprisingly be sufficient for certain specific use cases or for people using a projector for the first time in a small and dark room.
The general rule of thumb is that you are buying projectors from these brands at your own risk. They are allegedly high-lumens but will almost always have a dealbreaker.
If you want a good experience with a projector, read the tips in the section below to avoid fake, scam, or low-quality projectors.
4 Tips to Avoid Being Scammed
Here are things to keep in the back of your mind when shopping for projectors online to avoid getting scammed:
Read all the negative reviews. If a trend shows up where customers are noting the same drawbacks, then it’s most likely a scam projector.
Check the image quality of the product photos.
A good fraction of scams is run by people who aren’t the best when it comes to going the extra mile and making things look perfect. They possibly don’t even notice that their images look very bad or that it could be a problem.
They would just upload blurry images or a single image. Any respectable projector seller that’s proud of their product will not make this mistake.
Limit your search to products that cost $200+ and/or come from well-known brands. Six brands you can always trust include Epson, BenQ, Sony, ViewSonic, LG, and Kodak.
It’s not always the biggest market cap giants that produce decent projectors.
$100-500 products from some secondary brands can also be trusted. These probably won’t be as high-quality as the more expensive ones.
Four such brands are Optoma, Anker, XGIMI, and Silver Ticket.
It’s easy to get fake reviews today to push any product to 4+ stars. Most customers only pay attention to the star rating of a product once they’ve been sold to a low price.