LED Projectors: Livin’ Lamp-Free and Easy
Relatively new to the home theater projection market, LEDs boost the color, efficiency and lifespan of front projectors.
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LEDs have become common in TVs and now are making their way into front projectors.
June 23, 2009 by Arlen Schweiger

Want a projector that will deliver dazzling high-def images until 2064—and never have to replace the lamp?

Rather than settle for the 2,000 or so hours of viewing you may get out of today’s projectors before you need a new bulb, you could consider a lamp-free model that uses LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes).

One of the attractions? A 60,000-hour lifespan with no LED replacement, meaning at a modest estimate of two hours of daily viewing—projectors still aren’t the primary display for most homes—it will last 54.8 years.

While LEDs are increasingly being found in LCD televisions, they are just beginning to hit front projection. They are becoming common in portable pocket, or pico, projectors, and earlier this year LED made its first splash in home theater projectors.

“LED is a solid-state light source, and there’s no failure mechanism or degradation anywhere close to lamp systems,” says Matt Mazzuchi, general manager of the projection display business group at Luminus Devices, whose PhlatLight LED chipset has been employed in the first LED theater projectors. “We’ve put 3 million to 4 million device hours under test, to where these [projectors] are showing incredible stability, so we’re comfortable saying things like ‘there’s a 60,000-hour lifetime’ on them.”

Luminus’ technology circulated in pocket projectors from LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Acer, BenQ and others before it showed off Full HD resolution DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors from Delta and Chi Lin at January’s Consumer Electronics Show (and projectiondesign recently hit the market with its avielo kroma model).

Aside from their lifespan, LED-source projectors feature color saturation to make theater enthusiasts drool, says Mazzuchi. In short, because reds, greens and blues are pulsed directly to the optics without going through the spinning and chopping of an ordinary projector’s color wheel, colors are richer and more saturated, with less “breakup” or “rainbow artifacts,” he explains.

Also, LED projectors don’t require any warm-up or cool-down time, but are instant on/off.

Not that Mazzuchi thinks lamp-based projectors are slouches. Heck, he has a sweet 1080p LCD Panasonic projector in his own theater. But he believes LED’s advantages—along with the eco-friendly bonuses of being energy-efficient and mercury free—will help increase its projector presence in the coming years.

“I’ve seen four demo systems that blow [my system] out of the water,” he says. “The contrast is great, the color much richer and true to life, and the image quality is tremendous.”

A drawback? Cost, perhaps, as Delta’s Vivitek-branded LED projector, for instance, runs near $20,000. However, there are LED chip sizes to meet about any projector panel size, Mazzuchi notes—and price ranges. 

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

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