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How Epson plans to win the projector war

MANILA, Philippines—Unless you are a hard-core techie, the technology that goes into a projector is not a key consideration when making a purchase. What usually figure in the equation are price, brightness, color and brand reliability.

However, the brightness and color factors—or, to be more precise, the vividness of projected images—is actually hinged on the technology a certain projector is using.

It is not enough to consider how big an area a projector can cover or how many people can see projected images with reasonable clarity. The measure of a good projector is in the quality of the images—how close they look to real life—it projects.

According to Eisuke Shimoyama, manager of visual instruments marketing at Seiko Epson Corp. in Japan, image quality lies with that little chip—or, in Epson’s case, chips—found within a projector.

For its projectors, Epson uses 3LCD technology developed in-house, which makes use of three chips—one for each of the primary colors red, green and blue.

With 3LCD technology, the image projection process starts with the splitting of the white light from the projector lamp into the three primary colors. Each color beam is then directed toward its own LCD panel.

After each colored light passes through its individual LCD panel, the beams are then recombined in what is called a “dichroic prism.” This prism forms the final image that is reflected toward the lens.

“It’s the power of three chips. The images rotate quickly so the brain perceives full color,” Shimoyama says. “Also, on average, 3LCD projectors are 25 percent more light-efficient. The proof is in its market success. Around 60 million 3LCD chips have already been shipped.”

Epson’s 3LCD technology is actually pitted against another projector technology: one-chip DLP (digital light processing).

Projectors that use the one-chip DLP technology uses a microchip called a digital micromirror device (DMD) to create the image and use the light from the lamp to reflect the image toward the lens.

Unlike 3LCD projectors, one-chip DLP devices project only one color at a time and relies on the human mind’s color perception abilities to combine single colors that are rapidly projected in a sequential manner into a range of colors.

The downside of this process is that, for colors to appear brighter and for images to look more vivid, manufacturers put more powerful lamps into the projector, thus boosting power consumption.

Using the “color-light output” metric—or the measure of a projector’s ability to deliver color, Shimoyama says 3LCD trumps one-chip DLP.

While the technology is not perfect—it is also more expensive to produce than one-chip DLP—he expresses confidence that 3LCD’s merits far outweigh its shortcomings. In the end, it is the consumer who will decide which technology to go for.