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Lamp, LED, or Laser: Which Projector Light Source is Right for You?

Lamp, LED, or Laser which projector light source is right for you

Due to the constant evolution of projector technology, the past few years have seen the growth of different kinds of projectors defined by their non-lamp light sources alongside the still continual use of traditional lamp projectors. The first of these lamp-free projectors is the LED projector which typically utilizes individual LED lights for each of the primary colors in the RGB color model. The other main type of lamp-free projector is the laser projector which can either feature a single blue laser to produce all of the light or, similar to an LED projector, use individual lasers for each of the RGB primary colors.

With the emergence of these three choices, coupled with the fact that each type has their own pros and cons, it is natural for the consumer to question which type they should buy. This article will help break down the various advantages and disadvantages for each, so that a buyer can choose the type that best suits them.

Comparing the Different Light Sources

When comparing the three types of light sources, the main differences tend to fall into the following categories (all of which will be detailed below): Color Performance, Brightness, Price, Durability/Lifespan, Power On/Off Times, and Environmental Impact.

color performance icon

  • Color Performance

  • Because most LED and RGB laser projectors rely on individual lights/lasers to produce each primary color, they are able to produce purer and more saturated colors when compared to the typical lamp projectors. This advantage over lamp projectors is corroborated by the fact that currently the color gamut for the average lamp projector is still limited to the Rec. 709 color standard typical for the average high-definition television, while LED and laser projectors in general feature color gamuts based on the wider DCI-P3 color standard, with some laser projectors being able to push their color gamuts to the even wider BT.2020 color standard. 

    Brightness icon

  • Brightness

  • Another important aspect of a projector’s performance which plays a major factor in the decision-making process for many consumers is brightness. Here lamp projectors hold an advantage over LED projectors – particularly the portable kind – as the typical lamp projector is able to pump out over 4,000 lumens of light compared to the 1,800 lumens of an average portable LED projector, though the match-up is more of a draw when compared to high-performance LED projectors which can similarly average 4,000 lumens of brightness. Despite this advantage though, laser projectors still hold an edge over the other type of projectors, as their brightest models can hit a benchmark of over 10,000 lumens.

    Durability/Lifespan icon

  • Durability/Lifespan

  • As anyone who has changed the lights in their house knows, the lifespan of traditional incandescent bulbs is drastically lower than that of LED bulbs. The same runs true when applied to projectors, as both LED and laser projectors on average have lifespans of 20,000 hours compared to the <10,000 hours lifespan of a normal lamp projector, making lamp replacements and their costs something a potential buyer has to think about when considering a lamp projector (more on that later).  

    Power On/Off  icon

  • Power On/Off Times

  • Similar to the discussion above, because of the nature of incandescent bulbs, lamp projectors require warm up and cool down times anytime they are powered on or off slowing down each process when compared to LED and lasers that do not need such considerations.

    Environmental icon

  • Environmental Impact

  • Beyond the fact that lamp projectors require timely bulb replacements, which produces added waste, their bulbs (and the cooling system that are associated with them) also require more energy to operate, which may be an important factor for those who are environmentally conscious or concerned about energy costs. To this end, LED and laser projectors are generally more energy efficient.

    The Settings that Suit Each Light Source
    The settings that suit each light source for living room, bed room, meeting room

    With a knowledge of the various performance-based advantages in hand, the next main thing a potential buyer must consider when deciding upon a projector is their personal needs in regards to the space in which the projector will be used. Given their brightness capabilities, LED projectors (particularly portables ones) are more suitable for consumers looking for a projector to use in smaller spaces with little to no ambient light, while home-theater users or small businesses that require a conference room projector should probably stick to the brighter lamp projector. Laser projectors on the other hand, due to the prohibitive nature of their cost, are usually recommended for users, or corporate customers, who prioritize overall performance with little to no budget constraints.

    Maintenance and Repair Issues
    Maintenance and repair icon

    Outside of the discussion above, there are also a couple of common questions regarding some of the practical issues of using projectors of each light source which may be relevant to a perspective user:

    The first question some may have is whether or not a lamp projector can be converted into an LED or laser projector by switching its bulb? The simple answer is no, you cannot change a lamp projector you might currently own to a different type of light source. This is because the complicated mechanics involved in each type of projector and the drastic differences in their technologies prohibit any type of switching over.

    The other commonly asked question is whether LED lights or the lasers in each respective type of projector can be manually replaced? The answer here again is no, LED and laser light sources are not generally user-serviceable but instead require service center personnel to replace. The thing to keep in mind about this is that since LEDs and lasers usually have a lifespan of 20,000 to 30,000 hours, there usually isn’t any need to replace them under normal usage conditions.

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