Welcome to the first Projector Lamp Genie BLOG. We are planning to produce these BLOGs on a weekly basis, and we have a whole variety of topics planned for future editions. In this edition we will look at some of the issues associated with buying lamps online and advise you of some of the steps you can take to avoid disappointment.
What to look out for when buying online.
Trying to purchase a lamp online can be a confusing and stressful experience. There are literally hundreds of suppliers all claiming in some way to be the best or the cheapest. Some suppliers go to great lengths to explain what they are selling, whilst some are a little vague about the type of product they are offering and others will advertise one thing and supply another. So how do you pick your way through this minefield?
The first thing to understand is what makes up a lamp sometimes called a lamp module.
Lamps (modules) are made up of two main elements: the bulb and the cage (or housing) including electrical connector.
Bulbs are effectively ultra high-performance lights developed by the world leaders in lighting technology working in close cooperation with the projector & rear projection television manufacturers.
Cages are housings produced by the projector manufacturers to accurately seat the lamp and enable user replacement (each physically different projector model usually requires its own bespoke cage design).
Secondly it is useful to know what different types of lamp exist
Manufacturers’ Original (sometimes referred to as OEM). These are provided by the manufacturer of the projector or RPTV who supplies both the lamp module and the cage or housing. These are generally the most expensive.
Genuine. These are manufactured by organizations that source bulbs from the original lamp developer holding the technology patent (e.g. UHP™ from Philips) and combine these with a cage or housing sourced elsewhere. Genuine lamps are manufactured with the full endorsement of the original lamp manufacturers. There are a number of manufacturers of this type of lamp including Diamond Lamps, APO-G and Alternative Lamps. These are typically 20% lower in price compared to the Manufacturer’s original.
Bulb only. Some manufacturers’ will supply the bulb only, so that the customer can fit it into the existing housing. This is usually a complicated process and should only be carried out by someone who has the necessary skills and experience to carry out the task- for example a service center engineer.
Copy or Compatible. Copy lamps do not use bulbs originally used by the OEM and have one distinctly attractive feature in usually being the cheapest option. Knowing it’s an imitation, it is generally understood that there will be compromises in quality and it’s a matter of deciding what’s acceptable.
Gray Genuine. The bulb manufacturers have a very short list of companies they will supply with their bulbs to make genuine alternative lamps. In the case of Philips that’s currently 4 as they need to know that there are exacting standards of production and that the finished product will be distributed both honestly and ethically. Grey genuine lamps are not supplied directly from the manufacturers; they tend to come from OEM’s selling off excess stock into markets near their Asian factories, the product subsequently leaving the territory. The challenge here is that a bulb manufactured for one OEM’s lamp often gets ‘shoehorned’ into another OEM’s lamp because the correct bulb isn’t available but there is a gray market item with similar ratings.
Re-Lamped or refurbished. In re-lamping or refurbishing the lamp the old cage is retained and the bulb replaced.
There are three types of bulbs that may be supplied:
- An identical genuine bulb
- A grey genuine bulb
- A copy bulb
The performance risks are identical to the above lamp categories. However, there is also some debate as to the viability of using a cage multiple times, arguing that connectors may have degraded and / or the plastic being heat stressed. There may be merit in the arguments, although with no moving parts it is hard to see how there could be issues. In our experience there are no issues, but perhaps this is down to the quality of processes used in our re-lamping.
Counterfeit. Unfortunately these do exist and there is a growing trade in them that many resellers are unwittingly passing to users.
Asian factories are installing copy burners in copy reflectors that then have counterfeit markings. As gray genuine bulbs bounce from agent to agent across Asia the copy bulbs get mixed in and until sold to the west as ‘genuine’. Because it is impossible to either distinguish a copy burner with the naked eye or test it without a projector, resellers in the western world who don’t buy from genuine sources are unaware that counterfeit goods have infiltrated their product line. The easiest way to safeguard against these is to be wary of items that are too cheap to be true and to be circumspect about buying from by individuals on internet auction sites rather than registered companies with a trading history and reputation.
A more detailed explanation of the different types of lamp and the risks associated with some of them can be found here:
- So as you can see there are a number of choices to be made. Firstly, unless you want to take on an engineering project we strongly recommend that you go for an option that comes with a housing, as fitting bulbs is a tricky task. If it is not clear from the website whether the lamp you are ordering comes with the housing or not then ask before you place an order.
- Secondly, if performance and reliability are important to you, go for either the Manufacturer Original or “Genuine” options – there are manufactured to consistently high standards.
- Thirdly, try to avoid counterfeit lamps at all costs – there are serious health and safety issues. How do you tell?’ Well generally if the price looks too good to be true it probably is.
- Fourthly, try to ensure you will get the lamp type you want to order. As mentioned above there are some internet resellers that will lead you to believe you are buying a Manufacturer’s original and ship you a copy or counterfeit version. The best way to tell is by price. The price of a manufacturers’ original is unlikely to vary by more than 10% between resellers, genuine alternatives are typically 20% lower than originals and copy, re-lamps, bulb only and counterfeit can be anything up to 2/3rds cheaper than the original.
- Another thing to be aware of is that some manufacturers make projectors that are branded by other manufacturers, often with the only differences being the logo and part number. Therefore it maybe that when you order a replacement lamp for say an Eiki projector, you may be shipped a Sanyo lamp.
- Finally, if you are unsure what to do, or would like some help and support please call or email us.