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Topic: Evaluating used projectors
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Joined: Jan 6, 2009
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Im trying to get started with video projectors on a shoestring budget and would appreciate getting input on evaluating used equipment. It is amazing how much the prices have dropped and the technology improved in the past 5 years or so. I hope it continues at that rate.
I am very forgiving on the specs and performance, and most sensitive on cost. I dont need 1080P or the ultimate brightness or contrast or even HDMI. Hey, Ive been watching analog TV all my life : )
It seems there are many (older) projectors being offered for $500-$350 or even below, and I can see that the bulb life (and current 'age') is an important aspect of value. What are the ways of assessing current bulb life/condition? Ive heard that some models display the current total hours - do they shut down at the 2000 hour point, or keep ongoing ? Can unscrupulous owners override the reading?


Other than the bulb, are there more electrical/mechanical aspects to consider in the value of a used unit?

THere seem to be many bulb sources online, is that an issue with some models (being able to get a replacement bulb)? I would always check first to ensure availability.

Is it ever advisable to clean off a bulb (dust?)

thanks for any help!
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Quote (whalerpaul on Jan 7, 2009 11:33 AM):
Im trying to get started with video projectors on a shoestring budget and would appreciate getting input on evaluating used equipment. It is amazing how much the prices have dropped and the technology improved in the past 5 years or so. I hope it continues at that rate.
I am very forgiving on the specs and performance, and most sensitive on cost. I dont need 1080P or the ultimate brightness or contrast or even HDMI. Hey, Ive been watching analog TV all my life : )
It seems there are many (older) projectors being offered for $500-$350 or even below, and I can see that the bulb life (and current 'age') is an important aspect of value. What are the ways of assessing current bulb life/condition? Ive heard that some models display the current total hours - do they shut down at the 2000 hour point, or keep ongoing ? Can unscrupulous owners override the reading?


Other than the bulb, are there more electrical/mechanical aspects to consider in the value of a used unit?

THere seem to be many bulb sources online, is that an issue with some models (being able to get a replacement bulb)? I would always check first to ensure availability.

Is it ever advisable to clean off a bulb (dust?)

thanks for any help!

I own a Panasonic AE900 and would highly recommend it used (720p,1080i).
But, they were first manufactured over three years ago, so if you were to buy used be aware that the bulbs may need replacement as well as the filter (easy to replace). I am on my fourth one now. The cost of the bulbs range $275-$400.

So, assuming you spent $500 on a used model budget almost as much on a replacement bulb.

Now, if you shop ebay try to find a newer model being sold. Something produced in the last year.

I don't know if it's a good idea to take the bulb out for dusting. Especially, watch out for leaving fingerprints on one if you do "dust" it.

Also, the projectors don't shut down at 2000 hours. They will start to get very dim. Night scenes in a movie or TV show looks nearly all black as the bulbs age. My first projector was an Epson Powerlite S1 (good little projector for the time) and I did have that bulb actually go out on me. It didn't blow, just wouldn't turn back on.
[Edited by Gumbonazi on Jan 7, 2009 at 2:21 PM]
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Quote (whalerpaul on Jan 7, 2009 11:33 AM):
Im trying to get started with video projectors on a shoestring budget and would appreciate getting input on evaluating used equipment. It is amazing how much the prices have dropped and the technology improved in the past 5 years or so. I hope it continues at that rate.
I am very forgiving on the specs and performance, and most sensitive on cost. I dont need 1080P or the ultimate brightness or contrast or even HDMI. Hey, Ive been watching analog TV all my life : )
It seems there are many (older) projectors being offered for $500-$350 or even below, and I can see that the bulb life (and current 'age') is an important aspect of value. What are the ways of assessing current bulb life/condition? Ive heard that some models display the current total hours - do they shut down at the 2000 hour point, or keep ongoing ? Can unscrupulous owners override the reading?


Other than the bulb, are there more electrical/mechanical aspects to consider in the value of a used unit?

THere seem to be many bulb sources online, is that an issue with some models (being able to get a replacement bulb)? I would always check first to ensure availability.

Is it ever advisable to clean off a bulb (dust?)

thanks for any help!

Buying a used projector is a gamble... ALWAYS. It is very important to understand that a new projector lamp will run you $300, on average. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but on average, this should be expected.

Likewise, projectors are electronic equipment that happen to stuff an incredibly hot light bulb next to electronics - and all electronics are heat sensitive. So, you have no real idea of how well that particular piece of gear has been taken care of.

So, you don't know either the condition of the projector, or if the lamp is going to last you more than a week - or a day. You have no warranty at all if it does not work, and you have no recourse if you do have issues.

In a nutshell - I almost NEVER recommend used projectors unless you can buy from Craigslist and see the projector firsthand yourself... even then, you should be wary.

Now, in comparison, the Epson Home Cinema 700 projector...
http://www.visualapex.com/Optoma/Projector-Specifications.asp?For-The=Home-Cinema-700
Is $750 and includes the manufacturer warranty, is brand new, with a new lamp and has a HDMI & VGA input.

Limited zoom range, and no lens shift will make mounting that model difficult.

The BenQ W500, in comparison, has limited zoom range as well, but includes lens shift for far easier placement.

http://www.visualapex.com/BenQ/Projector-Specifications.asp?For-The=W500

About $800 gets this to you with 720p and HDMI and VGA inputs.

Yet, for the real placement flexibility that I've discussed with you before, the AX200 for $1000 is still one of the most flexible, best for that amount of money.

These really are all 'bottom of the line' projectors for pricing, while having excellent quality and most of all - RELIABILITY and a warranty.

Now, let's compare this to an eBay used model...
http://cgi.ebay.com/Panasonic-PTL500U-LCD-Projector_W0QQitemZ160307700889QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item160307700889&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A2%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318

This one is $200 (minimum), plus a required new lamp - for $300 - so you are paying $500 (minimum) and you have no warranty, not a single screen shot of the projector in use, and this model is FOUR generations old. A design from half a decade ago... is this what you want to risk $500 when you can't even take it for a test drive?

http://www.projectorcentral.com/Panasonic_Home-PT-AE500U.htm

How about a decent projector, with screen shots and some honesty from the owner?
http://cgi.ebay.com/Panasonic-PT-AE700U-High-Definition-HD-LCD-Projector_W0QQitemZ140292582791QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item140292582791&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A2%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318

That's a projector that is 'bad' - they include shots to show you that it most definitely IS bad. $500+ in minimum repairs, and you are faced with a potential issue of typical aging for heavy use/under cleaned projectors.

There are good and bad deals out there, but I personally recommend that people with low budgets don't risk what little they have unless they actually are truly prepared to lose their money.

More than one person on this forum has been burned.
AV Integrated - Theater, whole house audio, and technology consultation during the build and installation process in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
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Thanks for the comments, greatly appreciated. I plan to do the evaluation(s) in person, locally (eg. craigslist) and assess the seller as much as the projector. I've (carefully) purchased all my appliances and cars used over the past 40 years and that has worked well for me; I'm game to do this with projectors.

The key question is still bulb usage. Is it (when was it) standard to have a bulb hour counter in the projector?, and can this be reset without changing the bulb?


Is there a simple meter that will measure the light output so you can see how degraded it is? (even before it becomes truly dim)
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The bulb counter can be reset. When ever you replace your bulb, it is a good idea to reset the "lamp hour" from the projector's menu using your remote. Yes, someone selling a used projector can reset the hours on it to mislead you into thinking the bulb is fresher than it actually is.
Consider a refurbished projector. Yeah, used, but someone owned it, returned, got a replacement. Here's a link from Ebay from a reputable seller that I have bought from and been satisfied:

http://stores.ebay.com/AuctionDrop

I noticed he has only one projector for now, but, check back. The one available looks pretty good for a 4:3 Native. Not HD. But good for DVDs and the Wii.
[Edited by Gumbonazi on Jan 8, 2009 at 8:30 AM]