InfoComm 2009: No Bulb in the Projector

Front projectors are a terrific value for HDTV content; 1080p projectors can cost $1,200 or less and 720p models can cost well under $1,000. As John Jatinen of Epson puts it, they are the thinnest screen possible. And if you want a large image, they are much less expensive than an equivalent flat panel. Front projectors can also be much less intrusive in a home decor than a large flat screen, and new projection screen technology can do a good job of rejecting ambient room lighting. But one major problem with front projectors is that they use expensive lamps that need to be replaced every few thousand hours.

Rear projection HDTVs had the same problem, but some manufacturers switched to solid-state lighting that lasted the life of the set. (Never mind that almost nobody would buy them.) And now, Texas Instruments, Luminus, and Coretronic have teamed up to create a front projector that relies on solid state LEDs as the light source. According to some sources, projectors with light output as high as 1,000 lumens are now possible.

The result is a projector with a light source that is rated to last 100,000 hours with a bright enough image to be useful for home entertainment applications. It’s too early to know how successful this new LED lighting will be, but eliminating the cost and hassle of lamp maintenance could remove a barrier for broader acceptance of front projection by consumers.