Projectors aren’t new. They’ve existed in various forms throughout time, from film projectors of the 35 mm variety to slide projectors used to show vacation photos. Remember overhead projectors in school that project clear plastic sheets with words printed on them? If you were born before the 1990s and beyond you’d remember. Increasingly affordable projectors had led to a new market known as a home cinema or home theater projection. Regular homeowners can now make home-based cinema using affordable projector technology.
With that in mind, which is better? When it comes to DLP vs LED Projector, which projector type do you prefer? If you want to learn more about DLP and LED projectors, keep on reading.
You may also like: Projector Display Technology
What is an LED Projector and What are Its Benefits?
The LED (Light-Emitting Diode) is a terminology that’s common in lighting tech. While LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), and DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors refer to tech for projection, LED projectors are simply projectors that use LEDs instead of halogen lamps and the like to provide the projector’s light. This means an LED projector can also be an LCD, DLP, or LCoS projector as well.
- Focuses on Being a Light Source: LED projectors can make use of any of the three major projector technologies. This is because the main characteristic of an LED projector is its use of LED for its lamp. Traditional lamps don’t compare to LED. LEDs are more high-efficiency. They’re particularly renowned for the way they increase lamp life. Most other lamps only last from 1,000 to 5,000 hours. LED lamps last upwards of 20,000 hours.
- Comparable to Laser Lamps: The best halogen (or otherwise) lamps are capable of going until 8,000 hours of lamp life. This still doesn’t compare to the 20,000 hours or more you can get from the solid-state projection light source that is LED. The only other light source type that compares to LED is the laser light source. It too can go up to 20,000 hours before replacement. However, as a caveat, it’s much more expensive but this is because it’s brighter and more colorful.
- LED Is The Laser Alternative: Even though laser projectors have sharper, more colorful images that bring out the best in LCoS, DLP, and LCD projectors, with fewer issues when it comes to color gradation and ambient light, LED is still more popular than laser as a projector light source because it’s less expensive or emptying of your bank account. The underlying projection source of LCD vs. DLP (LCoS is itself very costly) will still be responsible for color accuracy, motion blur, black levels, and artifacting.
- Pros and Cons: An LED projector can either be DLP or LCD (as well as LCoS) because it refers to light source type instead of the projection type. It’s almost maintenance-free, it’s energy-efficient, it doesn’t have as many issues with overheating as traditional lamps, and it has a long lamp life. Even laser, which is a brighter and more concentrated type of solid-state projection light source, can’t outdo LED’s 20,000 hours. They both have a 20,000-hour lifespan.
See more: Projector Lamp Life 101: How Long Does Your Projector Last?
What is a DLP Projector and What are Its Benefits?
A DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector is a projection type of projector that can either be a traditional lamp or LED/laser solid-state light source type of projector as well. It works by using tiny mirrors that reflect or deflect light towards a screen in multiple ways, thus creating a black and white image that can then be turned into color using a color wheel.
- All About The Color Wheel: The physical, literal spinning color wheel full of filters it what generates sequential colors to your projected black-and-white or monochromatic image produced by the mirror. You can avail of two subtypes of DLP projector as well, which are the single-chip DLP projector that depends on the color wheel for its color or the three-chip DLP projector with RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) DLP chips responsible for color accuracy without rainbow artifacting issues.
- Price Concerns: It’s highly recommended in the 21st Century or the 2020s for you to avail of an LED DLP projector since it’s the most cost-efficient type of lighting source that’s not as expensive as the brighter yet costly laser-lighted projector. Additionally, single-chip DLPs naturally cost less than their three-chip counterparts. A DLP projector can cost a couple of hundred dollars but it can balloon to tens of thousands of dollars if you were to avail of a laser projector with a three-chip RGB setup.
- DLP Has Overthrown The Former King LCD: LCD has been around since the 1960s as both a slideshow projector to a more modern digital projector in the 1980s with the advent of personal computers. It used to be the king of projectors and A/V rooms until DLP tech was developed back in 1996. Nowadays, even though LCD projectors still exist as the more affordable alternative to DLP, DLP remains the current king, with it composing the vast majority of home cinema projectors.
- Pros and Cons: How DLP projectors make use of their lamps also put them above the likes of LCD. They have a robust light output, such that they’re usually used for places with more ambient light involved such as conference rooms and classrooms. This goes double for LED DLP projectors because LEDs tend to be more efficient and brighter than their traditional lamp counterparts that break down when they get too hot or too bright. Just watch out for rainbow artifacting from single-chip projectors. Otherwise, enjoy high color accuracy and minimal motion blur.
The Bottom Line of DLP vs. LED
It’s hard to compare LED to DLP because some LED projectors are DLP and some DLP projectors are LED. There’s more of a bit of intersection happening between both types of projectors because LED refers to the light source and DLP refers to projector technology.
- Shedding Light on LED Projector Technology: If we’re going to compare projectors, we can try LED projectors that use LCD technology versus LED projectors with DLP technology. They both benefit from LED’s 20,000 hours of lamp lifespan. However, DLP projector tech is superior to LCD in several ways, particularly when it comes to color grading, color variety, and minimal motion blur. DLP projectors cost more than their LCD projectors though exactly because of their higher quality. However, LCD LED projectors are less likely to generate the rainbow effect or rainbow artifacting because it doesn’t make use of a spinning color wheel to make color images.
- UHP DLP versus LED DLP Projectors: Let’s go on a different track. Let’s this time compare an LED DLP projector to a traditional lamp (halogen, halide, UHP or Ultra-High Performance Lamp, and the like) DLP projector. Because they’re both DLP, they have the same pros and cons as all DLP projectors, like the rainbow effect versus minimal motion blur and color vibrancy. However, the LED DLP is superior to the UHP DLP because the LED lasts longer, can go brighter, and doesn’t overheat as much as even a so-called high-performance traditional lamp. This is 20,000 hours of operation time versus 1,000-8,000 hours.
- Can an LED LCD Projector Outdo a DLP UHP Projector? LCD projectors use the tried-and-true liquid crystal display technology introduced back in 1968. It doesn’t have as many moving parts as a single-chip DLP projector or even its three-chip counterpart. Therefore, an LED LCD outdoes the DLP in those terms as well as in terms of LED longevity. However, in the defense of the traditional lamp or UHP DLP projector, DLP projectors are filter-free, have a sealed chip design, and are easier to maintain even with their 8,000-hour only UHP lamp.
- Pros and Cons of DLP Projectors: Even when faced with the superior LED lighting, lamp DLP projectors are able to outdo the longevity of their LED LCD projector counterparts due to their brilliant, colorful, and clear images with great contrast because of the way DLP processes deeper blacks or the darker parts of a given projected image. Sure, there are more moving parts but due to the effect of “persistence of vision” that’s also used to animate animation films or cartoons, most consumers won’t notice the flicker or change of color on the color images.
- Pros and Cons of LED Projectors: There’s not much bad that can be said about the LED light source. Before, up until the late 2000s, LED used to be the size of Christmas lights and incandescent light was the standard of the day. However, as huge LED bulbs became a thing, their benefits became very apparent. They’re better than any bulb type, from halogen to incandescent, at maintaining brightness for a longer period of time without overheating. If you’re going to buy a DLP projector, make sure it’s LED. It’s certainly more cost-effective than laser projectors even though the laser is superior in terms of brightness and possible color combinations.
What We’ve Ultimately Learned
Lamp-based projectors might soon become obsolete in light of all the hype surrounding LED, laser, and the newest solid-state projection light sources being currently developed. However, as long as it’s cheaper to produce lamp-based projectors compared to the more expensive solid-state projectors, they will still continue to exist. The problem with LED projectors and laser projectors is that they have high upfront costs, so only the big companies, rich people, and advertising firms can benefit from their significant low-maintenance and long-term cost benefits when push comes to shove.
- 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
- BuyDig Team, “Choosing a Projector: LCD vs LED vs DLP“, BuyDig.com, September 23, 2019