Laser Projectors vs. Lamp Projectors
When you hear the term ‘laser’ projection you might think of that scene from Star Wars where the giant Death Star shoots lasers to blow up unruly planets. Fortunately, that level of high-powered laser technology isn’t widely available yet. But as it turns out, lasers are a great alternative to traditional lamps in a projector.
There are plenty of tips and tricks about how to get the best out of your projector, most of which have related to maintenance of the lamp. To help extend lamp life of the projector, there were some simple, but slightly annoying rules to follow, like ‘Be sure to cool your projector down before packing it up!’ or ‘Keep your projector in a cool location to reduce lamp temperature!’...this new laser technology makes all those old tips crazy AV old-timer talk.
Put simply, laser-based projection offers longer lasting brightness, lower maintenance and improved color and contrast over similar lamp-based models.
The solid state lasers used in projectors today are very bright, have wider color spaces, deep black levels and never require lamp replacement! Yes, replacement lamps have gotten less expensive but there’s also the labor involved to replace these lamps. If the projector is installed high up in a sanctuary for example, you might need to rent a lift. Do this 3 or 4 times and you’re really not coming out ahead on savings.
Additionally, these new laser light source projectors are a particularly good choice for heavy use and ‘all day’ applications, because they don’t overheat like traditional bulb projectors. And unlike lamp based projection, their color and white brightness is maintained over a much longer period. They also offer some greater installation flexibility - some can be mounted at any point of a 360-degree radius.
Most popular laser projectors - January 2022
What’s the catch?
So? The catch? You guessed it, cost. But when you amortize over time, the cost levels out quite a bit. And if you put a price tag on aggravation, well the laser projector might ultimately seem a good bit cheaper. Sony has a handy total cost of ownership wizard which provides a comparison of unit, maintenance and electricity costs, if you need to do some convincing.
UPDATE as of 2021: Laser projection is rapidly becoming the norm, and pricing has leveled out considerably over the past 3-4 years. There are still lamp based projectors out there, but there's no doubt that laser is where the market is moving towards.
Benefits of Laser Projection
- Low to no lamp replacement or maintenance costs
- 20,000 hour lamp life = 8 hours a day 5 days a week 50 weeks a year for ten years
- Laser lamps don’t slowly fail the way lamps do
- Precision color accuracy, stability
- Instant on and off
- No cooling-off period required
- No mercury
- Greater energy efficiency
- Maintains brightness over life cycle; if it's 5,000 lumens now, it'll be very close to that 2-3 years from now.
Cons of Laser Projection
- Not many.....
- Higher price – typical cost difference is between $1,000 and $2,500, depending on the model
Benefits of Lamp Projection
- Affordably priced
- May be more cost effective for a low use projector
- Familiar color quality, familiar performance
- Lamps are replaceable, lasers are not
- Replacement lamps are no longer sold at hostage taking prices (many under $150)
Cons of Lamp Projection
- Requires more maintenance
- Picture color and brightness will fade and change over time
- Lamps are replaceable, but do add cost ($90-500 or so)
Projector People carries about 30 solid-state laser projectors which start at under $5,000.
Have questions about whether laser projection is right for your situation?
Give us a call at 1-800-639-3010 or chat with one of our projector experts online today. We’d love to help you out!