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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

How Do Laser and LED Projectors Work, and Which Is Right For You?

video game playing on projected screen

There are a few things to consider when buying your first projector. Price range and the space you have are important, but you should also consider lamp technology. This will affect both the price and image quality of the projector.

Most of the projectors you see on the market will be LED, or lamp, projectors. The lamps typically last thousands of hours, meaning you can get years of use before you need to purchase a new lamp. And since you can replace the lamp yourself, you can get even more time out of your projector by spending less than $100 on a new lamp.

Laser projectors are a bit of a different beast. They’re more expensive, but they get brighter and last much longer: typically over 20,000 hours. That means if you use one for four hours each day, your projector’s laser will last over 13 years.

How Do LED Projectors Work?

close up view of LED projector

LED projectors are by far the most common you’ll see when you research for your home theater. At this point, they’re an established technology, and cheap enough to manufacture that they’ve just become the default.

The LEDs inside a projector work the same way other LED light sources do: an electrical signal passes through semiconducting materials. This signal activates electrons in the semiconducting materials to produce photons, which are particles of light visible to the human eye.

When it comes to projectors, TVs, and other displays, there are red, blue, and green LEDs inside the display. These combine into all the colors you see onscreen. Inside the projectors, you’ll see one of two things. Projectors with a Digital Light Processing (DLP) chip will reflect the light off an array of tiny mirrors, while those with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) layers pass the light through these LCD layers the same way a TV does.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of LED Projectors?

As mentioned above, LED projectors have been around for a while. LEDs are now cheap enough to be used in projectors that are about $100, and in specialty projectors like holiday lights that are even cheaper. The LED bulb in most home theater projectors is replaceable, and they typically last for a few thousand hours of playback. I have a ViewSonic PX800HD, which has a rated lamp life of 300 hours in normal mode. If you use the projector for four hours a day, the bulb will last 750 days—or just over two years. And at the end of those two years, I’ll be able to get a replacement bulb to make the projector last even longer.

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