Lamp Vs. Laser: The Final Projector Battle

Comparing the technologies, if you are looking at a reasonable budget range, the 3LCD projector will far outshine the single chip DLP for color brightness if both models are the same advertised lumens.

Lamp Vs. Laser: The Final Projector Battle
Here are two identical Digital Projection Laser projectors - notice the consistency of color and brightness. This is rated at 8,500 lumens.

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Lamp Vs. Laser: The Final Projector Battle

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So it takes a mad scientist like me to want to do a very loooooong-term shootout of a lamp and a laser projector.

The breakthrough technology of the laser-based illumination engine is very similar to that of a white LED that is now the mainstream light bulb today.

This was supposed to be a study in quantum physics, but the reality is that was too much work…

Starting with a few of the basics of projector technology and how they work will be useful in understanding the differences and what you should look for, if you are in the mode of searching for a solution.

There are two main categories that need to be considered in a projector. First is the imaging engine. The second is the light source.

For the imaging system, there are two main technologies that I will cover here, and that is DLP and LCD. Being that this industry is full of acronyms, you are probably asking what does that three-letter term mean? Well, LCD stands for “Liquid Crystal Display,” which if any of you had a Casio wristwatch back in the day, or your smartphone now, use this technology. It is similar to having a shutter that either opens or closes and lets the light pass through or not. In a projector, there is a light source that shines through the three LCD chips for each of the colors – red, green and blue. Then a prism is used to recombine the colors into the projected image which is sent out the lens. The 3LCD projector will have equal color and white brightness.

A DLP projector uses a DMD chip (Digital Micromirror Device) to reflect light through the lens or off to a heatsink. The DLP projectors come in two flavors – the single chip and the three-chip models. In the “affordable” price point, all of them are single chip DLP projectors, which use a color wheel.

So what is a color wheel?

Imagine a pie cut into three to five pieces, and each piece is a color. The light from the lamp hits the DMD chip, and then passes through the color wheel and out through the lens. So in functional speak, the single chip DLP only projects one color at a time, sequentially.

These sequential color projections happen so fast, that your eye perceives them as a cohesive color image, but the math of it all works out that the white brightness is the sum of all the colors.

So a typical 5,000-lumen single chip DLP projector will have 5,000 white lumens when new, but the color brightness will be around 1,500 to 2,500 color lumens. The three-chip DLP uses three DMD chips to project all colors simultaneously and the color brightness will equal the white brightness.

More About Stefan Svard
Stefan Svard has been involved with the A/V world for virtually all of his life. His first experience dates back to when he was 13 years old, and fast forward to the present. He now has the opportunity to serve a much larger base of people through his company, Audio Video Electronics, a Minneapolis-based AVL systems integrator, which specializes in sound systems, acoustic design, sound transmission isolation, video systems and lighting systems.
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Worship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
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