Some help on the Home Projector front.
October 13, 2006 7:40 AM   Subscribe

More home-theater projector questions. This time, it's eBaytastic. Of course, there's

I've read up on a number of AskMe threads on this subject, so it looks like I'm in the right place to clarify my further confusion on the subject.

I just found a number of exceptional deals for projectors on eBay from highly rated sellers. I've investigated them and found that the projectors are well received by critics and consumer reviews, so I'm good there. My questions stem from the fact that I've never owned a projector before: Namely, I've read that bulb replacement is a common thing and could potentially occur up to twice a year. How much does a bulb for one of these things cost, anyway?

I'm basically worried that I'm going to get a great deal on a good projector, have 6 months of fun with it, and then have to replace a bulb that costs 2 times as much as I paid for the projector (the auctions I've seen show decent units for under buyout pricing).

Finally, most of these units show no audio input. Should I expect to purchase a sound system of some sort to accompany these units, or will the units themselves project enough sound to be serviceable?
posted by thanotopsis to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Finally, most of these units show no audio input. Should I expect to purchase a sound system of some sort to accompany these units, or will the units themselves project enough sound to be serviceable?

You're going to need a sound system. Unlike TVs, projectors rarely have anything beyond the most meager sound capabilities.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 7:43 AM on October 13, 2006

the price of the bulb will be dependent on your projector but i would expect to pay $200 and up. for example here is the first result on google for my projector.
posted by phil at 7:47 AM on October 13, 2006

It may be risky, but a friend followed this, and his results were amazing.
posted by Kudos at 7:53 AM on October 13, 2006

an amendment to my first comment. in the price range you are talking about it seems likely you are talking about a neo game projector. if i am correct this guy will sell you an additional one for $22. like i said in my first post the price will be dependent on the projector.
posted by phil at 7:56 AM on October 13, 2006

I've had my projector (an Infocus X1) for 2 years now and have only used maybe 60% of the lamp hours. You can do the maths pretty easily. Just look up the rated lamp hours for your model and divide by the number of hours per week you plan to use it. Also, if you're buying secondhand, you'll probably get a bulb with very few hours left, which explains the low price

Yes, you'll need an external sound system, though even a cheap 2-speaker micro hi-fi system is more than good enough. Most projectors only have a single low-quality speaker built-in, and it'll mean the sound is coming from behind you, which sucks.

Also, buy a proper screen. Walls are much less flat and clean then they might appear.
posted by cillit bang at 7:57 AM on October 13, 2006

Also, buy a proper screen. Walls are much less flat and clean then they might appear.

This is not universally true. I have long-term projected on three different white walls, and the projection surface was far from the weakest link. (I can say this, because I also have a "proper screen" in a fourth location due to a window on that wall.)
posted by trevyn at 8:43 AM on October 13, 2006

Unfortunately, there is no getting around the high cost of projector bulbs. In fact, $200 is on the very low end of replacement lamp costs. Until recently, it was rare to find replacement lamps that were anywhere under the $300-$400 range ($500+ lamps are not uncommon at all in some higher-end units). Virtually every projector has a proprietary bulb, so you're kind of stuck (i.e. it's not like you have the option of replacing the manufacturers bulb with a generic replacement). I've been in the business of selling projectors for over a decade and can tell you that if anyone is making a ton of money on projector bulbs, it's not the dealers, as there actually tends to be fairly low margin on bulbs.

If cost of replacement bulbs is a concern, I would recommend you compare the models you are considering at Projector Central, which has full specifications of virtually every projector every on the market, including bulb life. Bulb life varies greatly from projector to projector, ranging anywhere from 700 to 4000 hrs., so if you are looking at total cost of ownership, getting a unit with long bulb life is a major consideration.

As others have accurately mentioned, it you want good sound you are going to need to connect to a third party sound system. Most projectors have internal speakers, but they tend to just be a couple of watts each.
posted by The Gooch at 8:53 AM on October 13, 2006

The projector we have (I have presently forgotten what type) has a bulb that lasts for 1000 or so hours and costs about $500.00.

We don't use it that much.
posted by Lucinda at 10:14 AM on October 13, 2006

You may want to wait for this to come out (although it may be out of your budget).

I got a great deal on a projector off ebay about a month ago -- here's the trick i used:

1. set up an RSS feed, focusing on buy it now items -- the other ones are gonna get bid up too high (or at least 20 bucks more than i wanted to pay) at the last minute by folks thinking they're getting a steal. buy it now items that have six days to go might have reasonable buy it now prices, but aren't seen by the bulk of people because they're so far back in the listing. You'll need a very very long search string to hit these consistently -- i actually maxed out the limit ebay would let you put in with all the negated terms I put in to get rid of the chaff.

2. read the description CAREFULLY. a lot of those projectors are for parts only, or need a bulb, or are "untested" (which, despite what anyone says, seems to usually mean "i couldn't get it to work".). Make sure you're at the least getting a non-DOA on arrival. You probably want a min resolution of 800x600.

3. place your bets, take your chances. i got a $140 (shipped) InFocus DLP425 ... No remote. When it arrived, it powered up and displayed the default image. I did the happy dance for about 30 seconds until I realized that none of the buttons on top worked, which they neglected to mention, but which would explain why they didn't mention what the bulb life was. Technically, from their description, they were covered by selling me something that was essentially worthless (because the video input was stuck on the proprietary computer input, the cable which didn't come with the projector either).

Fortunately, i was able to pull the top off and simply hit the buttons directly on the circuit board to switch it to video. It'll be a bitch if I ever want to tweak the settings again, but there's really not *that* much which can be done in the menu, so I ended up being pretty happy. Oh, and the bulb life they were unaware of? According to the menu, it was 100 hours on a 2000 hour bulb.

if you want one that is pretty much guaranteed to work, i think you're going to be looking more in the $300-400 range (at which point the brand new one from lumenlabs i linked above becomes appealing, especially considering the bulb replacement is supposedly only $30). Anyways -- that's my data point.
posted by fishfucker at 10:37 AM on October 13, 2006

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