Recent product announcements from some of the world's best known and established projector manufacturers have mainly focused on the release of laser projectors. To some, this signals the start of a new era in projection, but to others whispers of lamp technology advancements suggest this familiar feature of modern projectors is yet to reach its peak.
To try to answer the question of where manufacturers are likely to focus their attention in the future, the experts at ProjectorPoint have explored some of the recent product releases and identified the potential intentions of some of the world's leading projector brands.
A well-known name in the technology industry, Casio has encouraged rumours of a laser revolution after introducing a new range of seven affordable LampFree projectors.
Certainly a significant investment in laser technology, the new additions to the Core Series lineup of industry-leading laser projectors have been designed to suit almost any budget, offering WXGA and XGA resolution to both home and corporate environments.
According to Casio, the laser range offers a lifespan of up to 20,000 hours while removing the need for lamp replacement and reducing electricity consumption, suggesting the total cost of ownership is significantly better than that of lamp projectors.
Although an equally well-known name and a leader in projection technology, Canon has opted to pursue new advancements in lamp technology rather than jumping ship to lasers.
During this year's ISE event in Amsterdam, Canon unveiled the latest additions to its popular XEED installation projector range, including the XEED WUX6010, which is an upgraded version of the flagship XEED WUX6000 model.
Designed for use in business and education environments, the projectors come complete with five different lenses to enable flexible installation, all of which are cross-compatible with previous Canon devices.
Canon has also announced that the new range will be supported by the brand's 3 Year Lamp Warranty, which provides users with up to three free replacement lamps for three years after purchase. Although this doesn't completely remove the potential burden of lamp replacement, it does offer an incentive to those tempted by the new laser alternatives.
Considered by many to be the leading international electronics brand, Sony is known for blazing a trail rather than sitting on the fence when it comes to advancements in technology. Despite this, Sony has boosted speculation that lamp technology is not over yet after introducing a new four-model line featuring both lamp and laser projectors.
However, Sony has revealed that the two lamp models, the VPL-FW65 and VPL-FW60, provide users with more options for installation applications that could be better suited to lamp technology, raising the question of whether laser projectors could ever completely replace lamp technology.
Another major manufacturer of both lamp- and laser-based projectors, Epson has a wide range of models designed for home cinema, installation and education purposes. On the laser side of things, for example, the company recently announced the 10,000 lumen, WUXGA resolution EB-Z10005U installation projector.
Epson are not intending to move away from lamp-based technology any time soon. The manufacturer recently pushed its EB-G7000 range of projectors, designed for meeting rooms, lecture theatres and large classrooms, at the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) show in Amsterdam.
Barco offer both lamp and laser projectors for businesses, cinemas and large venues. However, the firm’s focus seems to be shifting towards laser as its preferred technology, as shown by its unveiling of the F90 series of 4K DLP laser phosphor projectors for the pro AV and events markets.
Wim Buyens, Senior VP of Barco’s entertainment division, recently said: “Now is the time to switch to laser. By selecting laser projection, exhibitors invest in the future. Following the digital cinema conversion, we’re proud to spearhead the transition from lamp-based to laser-illuminated projection by offering the widest range of laser-illuminated projectors in the industry.”
Panasonic is a huge brand that covers a massive range of markets, but focuses primarily on installation grade projectors, with high brightness, resolution and interchangeable lenses. They have gradually moved towards offering more solid state light sources including laser-based options.
John Baisley, Senior Vice President, Visual & Imaging Business Operations, for Panasonic in North America, said: “Laser technology holds tremendous promise for projection technology, improving efficiency, performance and delivering costs savings through maintenance-free operation. As the technology evolves, we’re able to expand access to an increasing number of products and at the same time expand into new markets previously in-accessible due to limitations in lamp technology.”
Offering a range of projectors for the business, home cinema and education markets, fast-growing manufacturer BenQ is another company embracing laser technology, as shown by the launch of its flagship W11000 4K UHD home theatre projector at ISE.
That’s not to say that BenQ has abandoned lamp-based projectors entirely, as evidenced by its TH670 and MH741 Colorific projectors, both of which offer over one billion colours in sharp 1080p picture quality.
Another manufacturer that’s currently hedging its bets by supporting both lamp- and laser-based technology, including a broad range of LCD, 1 chip, 3 chip DLP and laser phosphor projection solutions for everything from meeting rooms to large venues.
On the laser side of things, Christie launched its new HS Series 1DLP large venue projectors, comprising the D12HD-HS and D12WU-HS models, in January 2016. The company says the new units are the quietest 10,000+ lumen laser phosphor projectors on the market.
A manufacturer that exclusively makes projection units, Optoma is well renowned in the market for home cinema, business, education and installation projectors. The company has long supported lamp-based technologies, but recently unveiled the 6,000-lumen ZU650, which is the first laser phosphor projector that the company has made and could mark a new direction.
Jon Grodem, Senior Director of Product Management at Optoma, said: "By eliminating the need for lamp or filter replacements, the ZU650 provides a lower cost of ownership and will future proof any installation."
The lamp- and laser-based projectors from NEC offer a rich set of features, plenty of connectivity and superb reliability. In January 2016, the company launched its flagship PX803UL laser projector, which boasts 8,000 lumens of brightness and is said to be suitable for stadium-sized events.
Digital Projection offers an extensive range of high-performance 3-chip and single-chip DLP projection systems designed primarily for large venues, events staging and higher education.
It's not yet clear whether either lamp or laser technology will completely win over manufacturers in the foreseeable future, but what these announcements do suggest is that both will be accommodated for many years to come. This should reassure projector users, who can rest easy knowing that any choices made during 2016 can be purely based on preference rather than a need to future-proof.