As anyone who purchases and maintains digital projectors knows, replacing those metal-halide projection lamps can get way pricey. Typical projection lamps have a life expectancy of 2,000–3,000 hours and range in price from about $100 to well over $300. There are other drawbacks to metal- halide lamps, too. They contain mercury and require a high-voltage jump start from a ballast before slowly reaching their ideal brightness and color temperature. They operate extremely hot and need to fan-cool even after the lamp itself is shut off.
That’s why I was so eager to try out the Casio XJ-ST155.
It has a new lampless, hybrid laser and LED breed of DLP technology from Texas Instruments. What does lampless really mean? Well, consider how the standard LCD projector works: Basically, light from a separate source—a projection lamp—is split and beamed through a set of translucent LCD panels—generally red, green, and blue—and those panels handle the imaging. In projectors using this new DLP technology, LEDs (light emitting diodes) working in tandem with a fluorescent element and a laser, both provide the light source and render the images. Essentially, each pixel is its own little projection lamp.
The main advantage of the DLP projection technology? Instead of a 2,000-hour lamp life expectancy, the LEDs are predicted to last 20,000 hours—that’s over 15 typical school years of non-stop classroom use. You could save a lot on lamps in a decade and a half.
Of course, Casio doesn’t guarantee this projector will still be alive and kicking in 2027; but it does guarantee a bulb warranty of five years or 10,000 hours of use. Unlike conventional projectors, the XJ-ST155 is quick to fire up and doesn’t take time gradually fading in to a bright picture. Instead, it powers on in under 10 seconds and immediately projects its full 3,000-lumen brightness, producing very little heat and using less energy than a comparable LCD projector. The new projection technology also delivers high contrast images with a very complete and rich palette of colors and, like all DLP technologies, it’s 3-D ready.
As advanced as it is, the Casio XJ-ST155 has a few negative markers common to emerging technologies. Selling at around $2,000, the initial cost is still high, even with the anticipated savings on lamps. It’s also fairly large and, at 15.6 lbs, a rather heavy projector. And even though it runs relatively cool, it’s a bit noisy. It was hard to tell if all the noise it made was coming from the cooling fans alone, or if the projection technology itself also generates a hum, but a decibel meter confirmed that it indeed had a slightly higher operating noise than comparable LCD projectors I tested.
Despite those flaws, the Casio XJ-ST155 is a quality, interactive whiteboard-capable projector with a 10-watt speaker, the ability to create its own WiFi hotspot and connect to and project multiple PCs wirelessly. It has plenty of input and output connections—all the features you’d expect in a high-end projector. Plus, if you buy one, you won’t have to worry about forking out big bucks down the road for replacement lamps. All told, it really is a promising development.