Projectors have existed for a long time. We won’t delve into it too deep, like discussing the camera obscura, overhead projector, slide projector, film projector, and so forth. Instead, we’ll cover the modern all-digital projector that recently became affordable enough for the working class to buy as an alternative to huge HDTV screens. We’ll cover two of the four famous types of projector—DLP and laser projectors—while leaving off the LCD and LED projector for another time.
With that said, what’s the difference between a DLP projector and a laser projector? Also, which is better when it comes to the DLP vs Laser projector debate?
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What is a DLP Projector?
A Digital Light Processing projector uses tiny mirrors in order to reflect light towards the screen, thus creating a clear digital image of Full HD 1080p or Ultra HD 4K quality. It typically includes a physical color wheel responsible for giving your digital image or projection its vibrant, variegated hues when push comes to shove.
The Color Wheel
- The color wheel of a DLP projector is a literally spinning wheel full of color filters. It’s utilized for the sake of sequential color generation required to ensure the fidelity of the digital projection when all is said and done.
- The wheel is typically installed in single-chip DLP projectors or with triple-chip DLP projectors with DLP chips for red, green, and blue (RGB).
- You can get the cheapest DLP projectors for a couple of hundred dollars. It’s also the most common projector, usurping the title from the older LCD (Light Crystal Display) projectors of the past that’s been around since the 1960s.
- The vast majority of the home theater projector market makes use of DLP projector followed by LCD technology. LCoS, Laser, and LED tech make up the remaining percentage in light of their rarity and expensiveness.
Features and Benefits
- When you avail of a DLP projector, you’ll enjoy benefits like high color accuracy (accuracy may vary from manufacturer and model but for the most part they’re better than LCD projectors) and minimal motion blur. You can also avail of either 3-chip or 1-chip projectors depending on your budget.
- The light output possible with these DLP devices is quite robust to the point of being suitable with places that have loads of artificial ambient light like conference rooms and classrooms.
Drawbacks and Review:
- The rainbow effect or artifacting can happen wherein bright objects on the video might have a rainbow light trail or afterimages. This doesn’t affect 3-chip DLP while 1-chip DLP is susceptible to rainbow artifacts.
- Nevertheless, DLP projectors often shine when it comes to color accuracy while motion blur won’t be a problem due to the sharpness and crispness of the 60 FPS fast-motion sequences in sports and action movies.
What is a Laser Projector?
Projectors typically depend on lamps as their light source. This is true not only for DLP but also for LCD, LCoS, and LED projectors. In contrast, laser projectors use laser light sources in order to replace the lamps of their lamp counterparts. Laser projector technology might very well be the future of projectors depending on whether or not laser tech costs will go down.
What Characterizes Laser Projectors?
- Laser projectors are characterized by their quality. They trounce even LCoS, which combines LCD and DLP technology together.
- The laser light source of a laser projector lasts longer and even features superior energy efficiency compared to LED bulbs.
- Additionally, traditional projector bulbs are more fragile compared to the ever-durable laser that’s capable of offering instant on-off functionally that you can’t get from traditional lamp projectors.
Laser and LED Projector Similarities:
- Almost every benefit found on an LED projector can also be found on a laser projector.
- The laser projector still uses a DLP, LCD, or LCoS chip but its light source is laser-based instead of light-based.
- Therefore, a laser projector is by default better than DLP, LCD, or LCoS due to its utilization of laser tech instead of lamp tech. Aside from having a laser light source, it also creates exact colors required to form an image, especially if it uses a DLP chipset instead of LCD or LCoS.
- The laser light source of a laser projector is renowned for its extremely bright output. This is what allows it to create brighter, higher contrast colors. It’s because it doesn’t suffer from dimness that makes colors more muddy or ashen. This makes a laser projector combined with a DLP chip a fantastic mix that results in fantastic color reproduction and great black levels that you usually can’t get from lamp-based DLP projectors.
- If you want a superb contrast ratio, you won’t go wrong with a laser projector.
Pros and Cons Plus Verdict:
- In order to get laser-quality projection, you need to pay an expensive fee for it. Many people aren’t willing to pay the price for a laser projector when they can get roughly the same results (only slightly lesser or dimmer) with a lamp projector of the LCD, LCoS, LED, or even DLP variety.
- A laser projector doesn’t use RGB lighting because it’s capable of generating the precise colors required to form a picture. However, many will take one look at the projector’s price tag and think “RGB lighting is good enough for me!”
Further reading: Projector Display Technology
Laser Projectors versus DLP Projectors
There’s no accounting for taste and everyone has the right to have an opinion on anything. You can choose between Coke or Pepsi as well as Chevy or Ford, so why not choose between LED and LCD? Or DLP versus Laser? Or any of those previous projectors versus the expensive yet dependable LCoS projector? It’s a free market filled with options.
Which Has the Better Picture Quality?
- Side-by-side, it’s hard to tell the difference between DLP and laser picture quality. This is especially true if your laser projector uses a DLP chip. It’s more of a debate between the inner benefits of a lamp projector versus a laser projector, wherein the latter is better because it lasts longer and has slightly better color reproduction due in part to its superior brightness that allows it to combat ambient light.
- To a layman just watching, there’s no difference between lamp DLP or laser DLP.
Which Lasts Longer and has Better Energy Efficiency?
- An LCD laser light source offers a life span that’s more than double of UHP lamps for LCD lamp projectors (20,000 hours vs. 8,000 hours). Ditto with DLP projectors with laser light versus lamp DLP projectors.
- You can mix and match, like an LCD laser projector versus a DLP lamp projector or vice-versa and the laser one will always come out on top. Why? Even the LED projector succumbs to the energy-efficiency of a laser projector.
Which Is the Brighter and More Colorful Projector?
- A laser source can produce extremely bright projections ideal for daylight projection, like in the case of ad agency billboards or backyard movie marathons.
- Laser projectors are quite expensive though, such that most ad agencies avail of them versus the working class homeowner who’s rather invested in LED or DLP with a sufficient lumen count to allow them to marathon the Harry Potter film series from day to night without worrying about ambient light issues.
Which Requires The Least Amount of Maintenance?
- Laser projectors beat out lamp projectors on a maintenance level. A laser projector doesn’t heat up as much as a lamp projector so laser life spans are similar or superior to that of even LED lamp projectors. It’s mostly the heat that chips away at the light bulb or lamp lifespan when push comes to shove.
- This is why many advertising companies prefer laser projectors for their permanent or fixed ad installations on the highway at difficult-to-reach places like billboards or atop building signs.
Which is Cheaper to Operate or Run?
- When all is said and done, the laser is cheaper to run but more expensive to get while lamp projectors like DLP break down easier but you get what you pay for. Some homeowners prefer the quality of their DLP since they’re more affordable and they don’t usually do backyard movie screenings every day or every night anyway.
- The naked eye can’t tell the difference in picture quality between a laser-light projector and a lamp-light projector unless you pay attention to minutiae such as how a laser DLP projector can withstand ambient daylight better than the best lamp DLP.
Projectors have existed in a variety of forms for centuries, from 35-millimeter film projectors for cinemas (that used to be slideshows until movies became a thing and used to be the silver screen until Technicolor became a thing) to modern digital projectors for use with PCs and HD content.
Budget is one of the many factors you need to consider when selecting a projector for you. There are four types of projectors—LED, LCD, Laser, and DLP projectors. They can vary from $100 budget devices to thousand-dollar displays. Laser projectors offer the best image available from these devices but they’re too costly for the working class compared to the decent DLP. A laser DLP is better than a lamp DLP, but it’s also many times more expensive. The price tag might outweigh the benefits for many a homeowner compared to the needs of an ad agency.
- Moe Long, “DLP vs. LCD vs. LED vs. LCoS vs. Laser: Shedding Light on Projector Technology“, ElectroPages.com, June 25, 2019
- Tim Adams, “Lamp, LED, or Laser: What’s Best for You?“, Projector Central (Tech Talk), April 1, 2019
- “Laser Projectors vs Lamp Projectors“, CCS New England, Retrieved November 13, 2020
- Projector Display Technology From projectorninja.com