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Lamp or Laser Projectors. How to Choose.

There was a day not that long ago when some in our industry were busy predicting the demise of projectors. They reasoned LED displays would take over completely. However, those naysayers didn’t foresee the tremendous strides that would be made in projector technology, namely using a laser as a light source instead of a lamp. If your particular use points you toward a projector, you will immediately be faced with a decision: lamp-based or laser-based projector?

Here are some points you may want to consider.


There are two main cost factors in choosing between a lamp and laser-based projector: the projector itself and maintenance. Laser projectors cost more than similarly featured lamp projectors. While the lower initial cost of a lamp projector may be compelling, lamps lose their intensity over time and even burnout. Even with only a couple of hours use each business day, the typical lamp may need to be replaced in as little as three years. Contrast that with the typical long life of the laser. Even if the laser projector is on for eight hours every business day, it will still be operating nine or 10 years down the road.

For lamp projectors, replacing the lamp becomes a multi-faceted maintenance issue. There is the cost itself of the lamp, obtaining the correct lamp, and the labor to install the lamp. In addition, to alleviate high internal temperatures there is a fan that runs all the time, and a filter that must be removed and cleaned/replaced often. Laser projectors don’t have cooling fans and therefore no filters. Without filters and lamp changes, laser projectors are essentially maintenance-free.

Beyond cost, there’s another reason maintenance can be an issue – inability to access the projector. Imagine a large overhead projector in a space with fixed seating or other obstruction underneath. Removing seats or other special accommodations are costly and take time to arrange and implement.

Image Quality

While initially both projectors may have similar image quality, lamps fade in brightness over time. To offset this some projectors even come with two-lamps. While this sounds good initially, running the projector with one lamp reduces the brightness significantly, and of course replacing two lamps costs twice as much! This is a key factor in choosing a laser-based projector. The image quality will remain constant throughout the life of the projector.

Both types of projectors offer the same levels of resolution – computer, HDTV, and even 4K. So, this is not a concern.

OK, what about brightness (measured in lumens)? One manufacturer can provide a 31,000-lumen laser projector. Just like resolution, the brightness goes toe-to-toe with large lamp-based projectors.

Operating Noise

As noted above, lamp-based projectors require a cooling fan while laser projectors do not. You may already know what that sounds like. In certain environments, either additional loudspeakers or higher volume levels may be required to compensate for the noise, causing additional costs and other issues…not to mention that the fan will continue to run for some time even after the projector is turned off!

The laser projector runs quiet.


In turning a lamp projector on, it takes a few minutes or more for it to “warm up” before it will display anything on the screen. And as noted earlier, once turned off, its cooling fan will continue to run for some time. A laser projector is ready to go the instant it’s turned on. And when it’s off, it’s off.

All of these points of comparison aside, at the end of the day, the best price/performance option will depend on how, for what and where your equipment will be used…and of course…budget.

The good news is there are a LOT of technology options to ensure a solid fit with your requirements. The unsettling news is there are a LOT of technology options that can become overwhelming. The best news is…that’s why we are here – to ensure you get the best solution for your needs and budget.


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