Laser projectors have really made their mark. They’re increasingly accessible for the majority of budgets and there really is a laser projector for just about every situation.
But they do still tend to come with a higher upfront cost than a lamp projector. So, while the market may have firmly turned towards a laser-based future, some people are still understandably asking the question: are laser projectors worth it?
A quick look at the specifications of laser projectors will show you that they clearly have some concrete advantages over lamp projectors. But these advantages will be worth different things to different people.
So how do you know which is the best option for you? Here, we’re going to take you through the six steps to answer the hot question of the moment – lamp or laser?
1. Decide how much colour and contrast you need
Laser projectors provide a wider range of colours, and sharper contrast between shades than their lamp counterparts. If your projector will be used to display detailed visuals or video, you’ll find this laser light source benefit a helpful attribute.
A wider colour palette will always look more impressive than its narrower counterpart, but if you don’t have a practical need for this benefit in your home cinema or office projector, it may be economically sensible for you to opt for a lamp projector with a lower range of colours.
For occasional use viewing simple presentations, documents and spreadsheets, a lamp projector could well be perfectly adequate.
2. Work out how bright your space is
Laser projectors are a relatively new technology and like all new developments, they arrive at the top end of the market. In projector terms – this means high brightness. In many instances, they can offer up to 20,000 lumens or more. In most office settings, this simply won’t be needed.
Darker meeting rooms just don’t need this level of projector to display a clear image. In most meeting rooms or boardrooms, you’ll generally only need about 5,000 lumens to display a bright image with optimum clarity and detail. However, if you have a very large screen or you’re in a larger conference venue, auditorium or lecture theatre, you may require 10,000 lumens or more to achieve the same results and laser may be a more cost-effective option in the long run.
Home cinema laser projectors aren’t designed to be ultra-bright as the assumption is that they’ll be used in lounges or dedicated dark rooms. These rooms generally block out a lot of ambient light making brightness an almost-moot point for home cinema.
However, laser does offer superbly bright whites, high contrast and clear benefits on colour-brightness that aren’t apparent on the spec sheet, so we’d still advise a full demo of a range of projectors before discounting laser.
3. Establish how often and for how long you will use your projector
This should be an easy one to answer. Laser projectors come with a much longer lifespan and unlike their lamp counterparts you will not need to regularly change the lamp. A lifespan of 20,000 hours is common for laser projectors, whereas the lamp life on a lamp projector can be as low as 2,500 hours; more on the costs of lamp replacement later.
If you’ve owned projectors in the past, lamp warranties and replacement lamp warranties aren’t the same as the projector themselves. There’s (often) no guarantee of the 2,500-hour running time.
Manufacturers are so confident in the long lifespan of laser that they’re offering a massive 5-year guarantee on many laser projectors and, in some cases, usage-hour guarantees.
We don’t often think of hours in counts of more than 24 at a time, so it’s difficult to understand how long that 20,000-hour lifespan really is. Put it this way, it’s the same as using the device for two years and four months, non-stop. If you were to use the projector for eight hours a day, five days a week, all year – the lifespan would still be a decade.
For industrial projectors that need to be hard wearing and last a long time, this lifespan is perfect if your projector is more of an incidental tool, vital on certain occasions but not constantly needed, in this case a lower lifespan could be perfectly fine.
4. Do you like to be kept waiting?
If you deliver regular lectures, or regularly have meetings scheduled throughout the day, there’s a good chance that you’ll spend a lot of time switching your projector on and off again. With old lamp projectors, this a problem; the process is often stalled by a few seconds or even close to a minute each time as the lamp heats up in order to work.
If your projector is going to be used infrequently, or simply not switched on and off frequently, this won’t be much of a problem for you. However, if you’re constantly stop-starting the machine then a laser projector with its ‘instant on’ capabilities will be a great benefit as it allows you to achieve the optimum performance from your projector instantly.
5. Where is the projector installed?
Lamp projectors require regular maintenance to carry on working at the required standard. For a start, the lamps will need replacing, which as well as being a significant expense on top of the original price of the projector, is also highly inconvenient. The filters inside the device, which prevent dust from interfering with the mechanism, must also be cleaned regularly.
Laser projectors do not suffer these problems, as they have neither lamps nor filters to contend with. If your projector is going to be in a place that’s difficult to access, then a lower maintenance laser projector may well work out better for you in the long term especially if you consider the cost of AV technicians.
6. What’s your budget?
If budget is not an issue for you, we advise you go for the best model you can find and in most cases this will be a laser projector. But the vast majority of businesses and individuals will be restricted by cost.
Making the right purchase is a matter of weighing up priorities and deciding which features we’ve previously outlined here are worth spending more money on, and which you just won’t have a practical need for.
Factoring in the upfront costs and average additional costs for two projectors with similar specifications over a five-year period, gives us the following price comparison:
|4 x £110 
|5 x £300 
 Total lamp changes take the amount of bulbs that would be required to give the lamp laser the same hourly lifespan as its laser equivalent (12,000), based on the average cost of a lamp replacement for this model.
 Based on an average annual cost of £300.
These calculations will vary vastly depending on individual circumstances. If you don’t require heavy duty use from your projector, you may well find that you require far fewer lamp changes and maintenance costs than this average assumes, and thus your costs may be much lower. Try doing a basic calculation of the amount of hours you expect to use your projector for over a five-year period, it may well be much less than the 12,500 hours that four replacements will give you.
Anyone with an experience of the latest projector technology can tell you that laser projectors are objectively better – slicker, with a longer lifespan and sharper specifications all round. But whether they’re better for you is a question needs more consideration to answer.
Whether you ultimately decide to go for a lamp projector or a laser projector, think carefully about your requirements from the device and choose wisely. Have a look through our range of different home cinema and office projectors here to decide which the best model is for you.
If you’re still unsure, get in touch with the team here at Projectorpoint and we’ll be more than happy to offer you our advice.