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Hardware Thread, Dim projectors - Design flaw or fatigue? in Technical; Hi Folks I look after the IT resources for a number of schools in West Yorkshire. The original tranche of ...
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    Dim projectors - Design flaw or fatigue?

    Hi Folks

    I look after the IT resources for a number of schools in West Yorkshire. The original tranche of funding for smartboards back in 2004/05 went to a local supplier with contacts in the LA (suprise suprise) who installed almost exclusively NEC Projectors (VT470's, VT570's etc) at massive cost.

    Most of these are now on to their second or third lamp, and are increasingly dim despite the purchase of a new lamp - some of these have been sent back to NEC for cleaning, at about 100, and then needed a new 'optical unit' which has cost another 100. This is stupid when contrasted against the cost of a new projector. Unfortunately if you've ordered a lamp for 150 to correct a brightness issue, then told the projector needs a clean, you're already wandered down the garden path of spending and it's hard to stop.

    I also look after a couple of schools who decided to shop around back in 04/05, and they went for Hitachi ED-X3400's and Epson EMP-S3's. Although they've received the same amount of use, these are still bright and usable wheras the NEC's are rubbish.

    My questions are: Are we the only ones who've encountered this? What lifespan do people regularly achieve / expect from their projectors? I'm considering planning to replace them every 3 -4 years now, and writing this into the ICT budgets. Did we simply get projectors with a design flaw?

    Lastly, does anyone reckon this scenario still applies to NEC projectors? I've seen the LP200's cheap with a 3yr hardware & lamp warranty but I don't know if I should trust NEC. Anyone got any good recommendations up to 450 inc VAT (3 yr warranty essential given previous experiences!)

    Sorry to be so verbose, but I'd like a good consensus to take back to my Headteachers. Your advice is both representative and greatly appreciated :-)

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    Yes there's usually three reasons why the image is getting dull.

    1) The lamp. Obviously this is not the case.
    2) Dust getting on the internal mirrors and lenses. As you say you've had the internals cleaned professionally (BTW it's perfectly possible to do this youself if you have a steady hand a bit of care).
    3) Due to heat, especially if filters aren't checked/cleaned regularly, the projectors mirrors and lenses may of got dust burnt on to them. With some projectors you can get a new lense/mirror kit to replace them but it's generally not cost effective.

    Basically, when you start having issues beyond lamp failures with projectors my advice is just to replace the projector. You're just throwing money away trying to solve the issue. Plus a new projector will not suffer from the design issues older projectors do.

    Generally if a projector is designed in such a way that it suffers from problem 2 and/or 3. We try and replace it as a soon as it's out of warranty. Otherwise we'll keep them running for about ~5 years. As it can be difficult to source replacement bulbs past that age.

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    I agree with Geoff. Once you're into the cycle of paying money out again and again to keep the same piece of kit, then it's time to ditch the junk and get new.

    The school I'm at has invested heavily over the past 4 years in IT and AV kit and the govenors have agreed to a rolling 4 year replacement policy for IT and AV equipment.

    Now I've got projectots that were installed over 4 years ago and are 'due to be replaced'. The vast majority of these are still as good as the day they were installed, so I see no reason to spend 500 quid on a new one. I've reached and 'understanding' with the dept head (in charge of the budgets) to not spend the money but use it as a disaster contingency fund. Then when a server or switch dies we'll have the money to replace it, the budgets will still balance at the end of the year and everyone gets to be the good guy for a change.

    Another point to note - we've also got some of the NEC projectors, and they're the only ones I've had to replace in 4 years - out of about 60 others we have, I've only had to replace the bulbs on 2 and they all get used for 5 periods a day!

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    Batman's Avatar
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    We always use Go AV for projectors. I think if you spoke to them they might be able to give you some advice.

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    Andrew_C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Plus a new projector will not suffer from the design issues older projectors do.
    They will have found a new "design fault" to keep you changing projectors.

    Apart from that, I agree. Many of our projectors are 5ish years old and only 1k Lumens. A new lamp will be 400 or so, and a new projector at 2k Lumens under 300. The only difficulties are finding matching focal lengths and compatibility of mounting hardware.

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    Thanks guys, some interesting points there. While I suspected it may be the case that the NEC VT-x70's were a poor design, it's reassuring to know that other organisations in the same boat are planning a 4 year lifecycle for this kind of kit; I just wish that the LA in these parts would make it clear to the schools that this requires a commitment to ICT funding, rather than a one off payment for technology that lasts forever!

    I've been reading around on this, and I've discovered that the LCD design in the NEC's (especially the older ones) is an open system, compared to the closed system used in a DLP projector; the older the projector, the more likely it is that dust will contaminate the optics in an LCD system, although I guess this becomes less of an issue with warrantied hardware on a 4 year replacement cycle.

    Does anyone have a favoured manufacturer? I haven't bought that many in the last few years so I haven't had chance to compare.

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    KWestos's Avatar
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    We always buy BenQ - they are excellent! We recently bought some from Misco where they were throwing a free bulb in there too! - which would of been around 140ish

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    Mandy's Avatar
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    What you need is a projector that comes with 3 years UNLIMITED lamp warranty + 5 year hardware warranty!!

    Projector with 3 Years Unlimited Lamp Replacement


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    john's Avatar
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    I love NEC units and havent had any problems with them in my use and my local installer swears by them as being far more reliable than many others out there. But I guess its down to care and respect for the units and environments.

    The LP100 and 200 "NEC" projectors are not NEC units they are rebadged ones so best avoided if you want an NEC projector.

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    The other possibility with a dim projector, is that the whiteboard surface you are projecting onto is filthy. Have a look at the boards themselves and see if all they need is a good clean.

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    Sirbendy's Avatar
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    we're running this place down, as it's closing and being demolished in 4-5 months..some of our projectors are shockingly dim. I do strip them to clean the mirrors/lenses/optic path as we're not allowed to spend any cash now, but we're just praying they all hold on until the summer final closedown.

    Then we up and move to a new facility, new NECs throughout, new smartboards, new dual core/4gb/320gb workstations throughout..it'll be bliss. Can't wait.

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    witch's Avatar
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    Interesting as it is my Sanyos of about the same vintage that are giving all the trouble. I have NECs in another school and I have had no failures yet in over 4 years and only one bulb replacement.
    Have just got 3 new ones and went for NECs as they have been so reliable.

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    In our schools I have been pretty impressed with our Sanyo and NEC projectors in general, they tend to stay good past the 3 year mark.

    Ones I wouldn't recommend are Toshiba projectors, we recently replaced all of our Toshiba projectors because they all suffered from the dimming problem, and they were only in for about 3 years!

    I believe also that manufacturers design projectors so that they become ineffective and you have to buy new ones. How else would they make their money!!

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    Wasn't there an issue with the lens or prism yellowing over time? I'm sure I read a post on it a while back.

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    Sirbendy's Avatar
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    2 of our NECs had image discolouration due to mirror/lens degradation. Non-repairable.

    I've got another in music with the same.

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