Brilens Technology LS1280
Laser/LED Hybrid Portable Projector
Is it worth paying a premium for an LED/laser hybrid light source with a forecasted 20,000 to 50,000 hour life? Let's look at one of the competitive alternatives--the newly released Viewsonic PJD5555W. This is another DLP-based product with native 1280x800 resolution. The LS1280 is rated at 3800 lumens and the PJD5555W rating is almost the same, at 3200 lumens. Both weigh about 5 lbs., although the Viewsonic is physically a bit larger since the power supply is built into the casework, whereas the Brilens is a two-piece unit with the external power brick.
The salient differences on paper are these: the Brilens is rated at 50,000:1 contrast, while the Viewsonic is only 15,000:1. The Brilens boasts a 50,000 hour lamp life in the Amazon ad, although we are inclined to believe the 20,000 hour quote from the Brilens rep at CES. Meanwhile the Viewsonic's high pressure lamp will deliver 5,000 hours in full power and 8,000 hours in eco-mode. And most notably, the Brilens is $999, while the Viewsonic is half the price, at just $499 (official minimum advertised price). However, the price of a replacement lamp on the Viewsonic is $279, or a bit more than half the price of the projector itself.
This is what causes so many people to choke on the issue of replacement lamps, and it is also what drives the strong interest in laser or LED light sources. But notice that with the price of a replacement lamp factored in, the investment is $778, or still two hundred bucks less than the LS1280. And that gives you 10,000 hours in full lamp power or 16,000 hours in eco mode. How many hours are you planning to spend watching video in the next few years?
So ... which is the better deal?
When these two projectors are put up side by side, the Viewsonic PJD5555W trumps the Brilens LS1280 in three obvious ways - color accuracy, brightness, and fan noise.
First, in terms of color accuracy, if one views the LS1280 on its own without any independent color reference, it can be quite watchable since the large majority of viewers would not be aware of the inaccuracies. However, light up the PJD5555W next to it, put it into its "Viewmatch" color mode, and the reaction from just about any viewer would be, "Oh, so that's what the color is supposed to look like." In point of fact the comparison is rather dramatic. The PJD5555W has been designed to optimize color performance, and for its modest price it does a superb job of getting much closer to the reference monitor ideal than the LS1280 can. Not only that, but it comes that way out of the box. The Viewmatch color mode (according to Viewsonic) is intended to eliminate the need for the user to make any adjustments to optimize the picture for color balance.
Second, in terms of brightness, there is no contest. The PJD5555W's Viewmatch mode registered 2400 lumens with BrilliantColor on and 1000 lumens with BrilliantColor turned all the way off. Putting the projector into eco-mode brought it down to about 820 lumens, still visibly brighter than the LS1280 after some rudimentary color adjustments.
Third, in full power mode the Viewsonic fan noise is much lower than the Brilens, and if you drop it into eco-mode, it puts out just a soft purr. Compared to the very present fan noise of the LS1280, it is again no contest.
Other observations include the following:
Input lag. Both projectors measure 33 ms, so in terms of response time are equally good for most gaming applications.
Contrast. The LS1280 has an advantage in contrast, but how dramatic the difference is depends on the mode you using on the PJD5555W. With its Brilliant Color setting on 10, which is maximum, it puts out 2400 lumens, but at the price of some contrast and color saturation. The Viewsonic is roughly four times brighter than the Brilens, but the Brilens shows more picture depth and shadow definition. When you turn BrilliantColor off, the lumen output of the PJD5555W drops to 1000, but the contrast and saturation improve quite noticeably. In this comparison the Brilens still has an edge in contrast, but not much, and not enough to compensate for the color inaccuracies in the picture.
Black levels. The Viewsonic has much more solid blacks in dark scenes. Not only are they blacker but they are neutral in color. The Brilens blacks show a decidedly green tint unless you are in User mode and decide to pull green way down. That will minimize the green tint at the expense of lumen output, making the picture that much dimmer.
User Interface. Viewsonic has been making projectors for many years, and their menus and remotes are far more sophisticated than those in the Brilens product. All buttons have verbal cues, and the tactile response is excellent. The IR range on the PJD5555W's remote is sufficient to communicate with the projector via bounced signals from the screen.
Warranty. The PJD5555W comes with a 3-year warranty, and service is available in the USA. The LS1280 comes with either a 1-year or 2-year warranty depending on which source is accurate. Brilens intends to offer service in the USA starting this year sometime, but until then it may be necessary to return the unit to China for service.
And finally, the lamp cost issue....
If you were to acquire the Brilens LS1280, you would never get more light out of it than you would the Viewsonic PJD5555W in its eco-mode. So the appropriate comparison is the presumed 20,000 hour life of the Brilens vs. the presumed 8000 hour lamp life of the Viewsonic in eco-mode.
We suggest you do some quick ciphering to see how long it will take you to burn through 8000 hours. If you average one 2-hour movie a night every day of the year, that lamp would last 11 years. If you play 5 hours of video games every day, you'll burn through it in a bit over four years. And once you've done that, you need to spend an additional $279 to get another four years. So based on your predicted usage, does it make sense to spend $999 today to get 20,000 hours of use, just to avoid the purchase of a $279 lamp down the line?
This is the exercise every potential projector buyer should be going through before making any decision to go LED or LED/laser instead of the high pressure lamp. Many buyers will soon realize that replacement lamp cost is not the problem it used to be due to much longer life lamps.