Projector Replacement Lamps: A Quick Guide to Help You Know What Your are Buying

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Projector Replacement Lamps: A Quick Guide to Help You Know What Your are Buying

Projector replacement lamp marketing is a circus of confusion for the customer.

Sellers of projector lamps stretch the limits of language to present their lamps in the best possible light.

  • "Genuine original lamp"
  • "High quality lamp"
  • "Compatible replacement lamp"
  • "Original lamp inside"
  • "OEM compatible"
  • "High quality bulb inside"
  • "Made from original parts"
  • "OEM lamp"
  • "OEM lamp module"
  • "Factory original module"

Each of these phrases may accurately describe what the customer is buying. The problem for the customer is that for a given projector model (eg. Epson EH-TW9000) there are several "replacement lamps" that will work for the projector, but each of the options has differences that may be important for some buyers. The sales language usually obscures these differences, rather than clarifying them.

Let's take a closer look.

First, the anatomy of the product we are discussing.

What is often referred to as a "projector lamp" includes two components: the "bulb" and the "cage" or "housing". Together, these two components constitute a "projector lamp module" or simply the "module".

Part of the confusion that is easy to exploit by sellers is the common usage of the word "lamp" to describe both the "bulb" (lamp is a synonym) and the entire "module". Look at the title of this blog post: Projector Replacement Lamps: . . . . This is an example of using the word "lamp" to denote the complete "module". But because the word "lamp" also denotes "bulb" it is easy to mislead.

One of the sales phrases listed above is "genuine original lamp". Does this mean the product being sold is the original lamp "module" that was in the new projector or does it mean the "bulb", also known as a lamp, is the original but the cage is not original. For some buyers, this distinction may not be important, but for a buyer who wants the exact same lamp module that was in the new projector, this distinction is important and the description of the product does not provide a clear answer.

Here is a guide to the "projector replacement lamp module" options that can be purchase.

100% OEM Module

A 100% OEM (original equipment manufacturer) module is the same bulb and cage that was in the projector when it was new. OEM modules are sourced by reseller distributors directly from the projector manufacturer. When a buyer does not want to risk any compromise of the projected image quality or lamp life compared to the what the new projector provided out of the box, an OEM module is the only choice - and always the most expensive.

Hybrid Module with OEM Bulb

A hybrid module with an OEM bulb is the closest option to the OEM module. In this case the bulb is the exact same one that was in the new projector, but the cage has been re-manufactured to be compatible with the projector. Clearly, the bulb is the most important component. A buyer can have full confidence the image quality will be very close if not identical to the OEM module. The only risk factor is in the re-manufacturing of the cage - precise fit and quality electrical connections. In most cases the cage will do it's job well and the buyer can get a module that is very close to OEM without paying the OEM price.

Hybrid Module with Premium Bulb

What's the difference between an OEM bulb and a Premium bulb? There are six manufacturers of "premium" bulbs designed for digital projectors: Philips, Osram, Ushio, Iwasaki, Phoenix and Panasonic. All projector manufacturers work with one of these bulb manufacturers to develop the bulb with specifications they want for a given projector. That bulb is the OEM bulb - made by one of the six major brands. A Premium bulb is a bulb with the same specifications as the OEM bulb, but made by one of the other bulb manufacturers - not the same one that made the OEM bulb.

This may seem like splitting hairs. For many buyers it is. They don't care. If the bulb is made by one of the six major brands, that is all that matters.

The risk is that there will be (minor) variations in the specs between bulb manufacturers. For example, the optics of the reflector part of the bulb may be slightly different from the OEM. Will this difference make for bad projected image quality? Probably not. But for a buyer who does not want to risk any compromise, it may be a factor.

The price difference between Hybrid Module with OEM Bulb and Hybrid Module with Premium bulb is negligible. Both cost less than a 100% OEM module.

Compatible Module

These are the ultra low cost replacement lamp modules that can be found on-line. The bulb is a "copy" or "knock-off" bulb made by a secondary manufacturer. The same is true of the cage. There is much evidence - some controlled studies, some anecdotal - that these low cost compatible modules produce compromised image quality and significantly lower lamp life than the options above.

Compatible modules do have a useful niche. If you own an old projector that simply needs to keep working for a few more months, these are the lamp modules for you. Anyone else should avoid them.

When you see phrases such as those listed at the beginning of this post, think about the definitions provided here to help you understand what you are buying. In some cases, the sales language will not provide an answer. The only option is to call to get clarity about which of the module options described above is being offered.

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