Are All Projector Bulbs The Same? Why Lamps Are Not The Same 101

So are all the projector bulbs the same? No, not all projector bulbs are the same. Maybe it’s the case in the early days of projectors when there was only one type of bulb to use for overhead projectors or slideshows and whatnot.

However, as bulb technology developed and advanced through the decades, so did the projector and its projection technology. Instead of one type of lamp, there are multiple lamp types to choose from when push came to shove. Some projectors even used lasers to project images, which is advantageous in light of laser beam accuracy. 

Different Types of Bulbs and Light Sources 

A projector needs bulbs and lamps in order to display an image or video on a screen or wall. Overhead projectors used this technology and so did slideshow projectors. This is still the case with digital video projectors as well, whether they’re of the LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), DLP (Digital Light Processing), or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) variety. The most common bulbs they have to include metal halide lamps and LEDs (light-emitting diodes).

  • Standard Lamp: A standard projector lamp includes metal halide lamps such as UHD (ultra-high discharge) lamps and HID (high-intensity discharge) lamps.  They use high-pressure glass bulbs containing metal halide such as sodium iodide along with mercury vapor. These are high-efficiency lamps capable of producing 75 to 100 lumens of white light per watt. They also last about 3,000 hours before failure.

The projector lamp lifespan is rated for its half-life. Half-life is the amount of time the lamp’s brightness has become half of what it used to be, signaling it’s already halfway through going out.  Recently, the cost of replacing lamps such as these have gone down because of eCommerce shops and retailers selling cheap generic or OEM projector lamps at a fraction of the price of their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

  • Laser: Laser or LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) technology has advanced enough to allow its use in projectors. They’re beneficial for projector use because of their ability to maintain image fidelity and their controlled intensity that’s even more accurate than what you can get out of lamps, resulting in clearer HD or 4K pictures every time. It uses tech that amplifies light particles in a focused beam.

This parallel light ray beam is beneficial to projectors because they’re of the same color wavelength. This means that they don’t interfere with one another, leading to high-fidelity displays using only weaker 5 milliwatt lasers. With a laser projector, you can get high-contrast pictures that accurately showcase what you’re viewing without detail or color loss. However, it’s quite expensive due to its quality and 30,000-hour laser lifespan.

projectors laser
Image Credit: By
  • LED: LEDs are now available in lamp form when just before the 2000s they’re mostly known as diodes found in Christmas lights and the like. They’re superior to their incandescent, halogen, and incandescent bulb equivalents due to how long-lasting they are. LED lamps for projectors to make use of the Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) colors and don’t need to split the light into individual colors in order to produce high-fidelity pictures.

In short, LEDs are RGB displays. Furthermore, these lamps ensure that you have a more compact projector body due to LED’s space-saving technology. Naturally, many pico or pocket projectors with short throw distances use LED lamps instead of other, bigger bulb types. It also helps that LED lamps have a half-life of 20,000 to 60,000 hours, thus making your pocket LED projector longer lasting than the average home theater projector. 

  • Dual Lamp or Multi-Lamp: Simply put, a dual lamp projector makes use of two lamps in order to make more high-fidelity, high-contrast, sharper, and brighter projections from their projector. They could have twin standard lamps, twin LED lamps or twin laser lamps. It’s all for the sake of outdoing the brightness, intensity, sharpness, and durability of their single-lamp equivalents. What’s more, they usually last longer too because if one lamp goes out the other lamp keeps working. 

A dual lamp is capable of getting optimum brightness when the other lamp goes out. It simply uses more of the brightness of the remaining lamp. When both lamps work, they can lengthen the lifespan of both lamps by having them reach optimum brightness together. As for multi-lamps, they use two or more lamps together. A hybrid lamp projector, meanwhile, is a lamp that uses different lamp types together. For example, it’s a projector can use both LED and standard lamps or LED and laser tech together.


Why All OEM-Inside Lamps Are Not the Same 

OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) projector lamps—also known as original inside lamps, 100% authentic lamps, platinum lamps, manufacturer original lamps, and so forth—that are sold online might not be as OEM as advertised. A true OEM lamp is something you can get from the original manufacturer (hence the term) of the projector whose lamp you’re replacing. 

  • Buying a New Projector Lamp: When buying a new projector lamp because your old one is busted, you’re usually required by the OEM of your projector to present a warranty to see if your device can still be fixed for free since it’s still under warranty. If it’s not then you have to pay quite a lot to get an OEM replacement lamp. Sometimes, it’s so exorbitantly expensive that some consumers opt to buy a new projector model instead.


  • OEM Lamps versus Online Lamps: Even when buying a standard lamp or an LED lamp from one manufacturer, two supposed OEM lamps might not necessarily be the same. If you bought your OEM lamp or bulb online, there’s a chance that it’s a universal-fit or generic lamp instead that’s using misleading advertising for you to get them. Only buy from the OEM if you want the real-deal lamp. Of course, sometimes these generic lamps are good enough to keep your device functioning and they cost much less than what’s offered by the OEM.


  • Hallmarks of a True-Blue OEM Lamp: In some cases, the OEM lamp you’re eyeing is the same as the manufacturers. In other cases, they’re not. A true OEM lamp module uses the OEM bulbs and original cases that match or are fully compatible with the projector whose old lamp you’re replacing.  However, only a few companies who make projector bulbs ship their bulbs along with new projectors. Every manufacturer uses an acronym to designate what type of bulb they make.
Original Bulbs
Image Credit: By
  • Acronyms Ensuring You’re Getting an OEM Lamp: You know you’re getting an OEM or genuine replacement bulb for your projector if you see one of the following acronyms on the bulb as matched by the company or OEM that makes them. Watch out for these acronyms in the following OEMs. 
    • Philips: UHP
    • Phoenix: SHP
    • Osram: VIP, P-VIP
    • Ushio: NSH, UMPRD
    • Iwasaki: HSCR, MSCR
    • Matsushita: HS, ‘M’, UHM
    • Epson: UHE (more on UHE E-TORL lamps)


  • Remanufactured Cages versus New Cage Lamps with Original Bulbs: The funny thing about remanufactured cages with the original bulbs versus the new cage lamps is that they’re not necessarily the same by the quality of the replacement is so high that you get virtually the same performance as when your projector was new. These remanufactured-cage lamp modules are offered at a much lower price than the OEM module to boot, especially if you buy them online or at a discount using a coupon code.


  • Copy Lamps That Remain Compatible: Lamps with remanufactured cages and the original bulbs shouldn’t be confused with compatible lamp modules or copy lamps. The bulbs for these modules are made by companies other than the OEM ones listed with the acronym indicators. They also have remanufactured cages but this time around even the bulb doesn’t come from the OEM. This is your least expensive option but it comes with certain risks and compatibility issues.


  • Lamp Housings Are Usually Not Made OEM: Getting an OEM lamp cage or housing might be a bit of a misnomer in light of the fact that most manufacturers don’t make their own cages or housings. They subcontract them to another company with their own molding equipment and factory.  In turn, this factory might make lamps for multiple companies ranging from Philips to Epson or any of the Japanese projector firms. So even an OEM-issued replacement isn’t necessarily completely OEM.


To Sum It All Up 

To reiterate, not all projector bulbs are the same. Not only do they vary in accordance with the type of projector being used, but the same projectors also make use of different bulb variants. Even bulbs of the same type vary in quality, such that you have to be picky when it comes to maximizing bulb cost-effectiveness. Not all bulbs are created equal, even if they’re the same type of bulb.

As a footnote, buyers beware of single-chip DLP projectors. Only a third of the white light lumens of a given lamp can be used by DLP projectors with single chips. To process RGB spectrum colors, it uses only a single chip. It needs three chips to process the colors and the lumens at 100%. Because it’s only using one chip, only a third of the lumens of a 3,000-lumen lamp will be used, giving the projector a 1,000-lumen output.

James Core

I love my projector system and I am here to help you find the right projector for your needs.

Recent Posts