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Laser or Lamp Projectors: Make the choice

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All projectors supposedly do a similar job – letting you enjoy big, bombastic and colourful images: Deadpool on a 100” landscape is drool-worthy indeed. But in terms of choice UHP lamp light projection (ultra-high pressure mercury vapour inside the lamp) was the only choice for decades. Now laser light projectors are a strong contender thanks to aspects ranging from far-enhanced operating life to a greener operating footprint.

Let’s take the case of a flagship laser projector like the Sony VPL-FHZ700L installation projector, for instance. The laser light source in the VPL-FHZ700L offers an impressive operating life of up to 20,000 hours. UHP lamps, in contrast, require more frequent replacement.

Another element that needs to be considered in your final purchase is the brightness. Yet it’s not a simple case of one technology being brighter than another. Consider for instance that the Sony 3LCD VPL-FHZ700L laser projector with 7000 lumens colour output has a corresponding UHP model, like the VPL-FH500L that offers exactly the same brightness and resolution in the same chassis.

On the picture quality front again, there’s generally no discernible difference in picture quality between the two technologies from an audience point of view.

The superiority of laser projectors is reinforced big time in the maintenance element, as the light source effectively needs no maintenance during its operating life. This makes it a great choice for projectors permanently installed in inaccessible or hard-to-reach locations.

Another aspect where laser projectors score is definitely the start-up time. While UHP lamps can take a little while to reach optimum operating temperature, laser projectors benefit from near-instant start-up. It’s an advantage in business meetings or classrooms where you can’t afford to waste time and risk losing your audience’s interest.

Laser projection is still a relatively new technology. While production volumes are relatively lower than conventional lamps, this means laser projectors typically cost more in initial hardware costs. Balanced against this, laser’s near-zero maintenance requirements can cut labour costs significantly over the lifespan of the projector. Factor in the savings in lamp costs: typically four to five replacement lamps will be required during the average projector’s operational lifespan, compared with none required for laser – making total ownership costs for laser look very attractive indeed.

Of course, if you’re the sort who uses the projector occasionally [John Wick: Chapter 2 should be one such apt moment], the lamp variant could be the best bet if you’re not using the projector heavily. For applications where the projector is only being used for an hour or two each day, the reduced initial hardware costs of lamp make it a better value option in many applications.

The green imprint is an aspect where lasers take an easy advantage. And it’s easy to see why. A regular projector lamp, for instance, throws away most of the white light, leaving only the red, green, and blue parts. It then projects those on the screen so you can see white light. This mildly inefficient aspect is a far cry from lasers, which only create the exact colors needed, meaning improved energy efficiency. Plus, laser projectors like the Sony VPL-FHZ700L contain no mercury.

In conclusion? Lamp projectors are your best bet if the projector is only being used for an hour or two each day, the reduced initial hardware costs of lamp make it a better value option in many applications. Balanced against this, laser projectors are ideal choices for permanent installations in hard-to-reach locations like in schools, universities and office spaces and where they are used for long periods of time. Laser’s near-zero maintenance requirements can cut labour costs significantly over the lifespan of the projector. Factor in the savings in lamp costs: typically four to five replacement lamps will be required during the average projector’s operational lifespan, compared with none required for laser, and total ownership costs for laser look very attractive indeed.

Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2015 and 2016. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.
@anildotgeorge