No, I’m not pitching a movie sequel where James Franco gets his other arm trapped behind a rock (though that might be hilarious). The number above reflects how long the lamp in my JVC projector lasted before crapping out on me this week: 507 hours. Considering that it was rated with a 3,000-hour lifespan, this is really frustrating.
I’ve had the DLA-RS40 for eight months now. I’ve given my impressions of its performance in previous posts. Although I’ve had mixed feelings about 3D playback, standard 2D viewing has been mostly exemplary, as I’d come to expect from my experience with previous JVC models.
Unfortunately, since not long after its initial release, this particular product generation (late 2010/early 2011) has been the subject of complaints on AVSForum about an alleged design flaw – that the lamps burn out early. Several users reported that their projector bulbs started to dim drastically after a few hundred hours, some to a point described as “unwatchable.” A few claimed that their lamps had catastrophically failed between 600-1,000 hours.
I read these discussion threads with interest, but tried not to stress about it too much. AVSForum is often filled with hyperbole, and many of the people there put their equipment through punishing conditions. Posters talk about racking up 500 hours on a projector in three months time. That would require running it for almost six hours a day every day. It took me eight months to get that far, and it’s not like I’ve been letting the thing sit idle for that time. I tend to watch a few hours of TV on my projector about 4-5 nights a week. That’s a high volume of usage, in my opinion. Also, a lot of these people have absurdly huge screens much larger than mine, so what they might describe as an “unwatchable” level of brightness may still be acceptable at my screen size (a teeny-tiny, microscopic, six-feet wide, in case you’re wondering). Further, some people posted about having no significant lamp brightness issues over 1,000 hours or more, which set my mind at ease a bit.
Anyway, everything seemed perfectly fine for the first 400 hours or so on my projector. Not long after that, however, I noticed a detectable loss of brightness in 3D mode, and an increase in 3D crosstalk artifacts. (I’ve written about that here.) Yet 2D playback (which remains 99% of my viewing) seemed unaffected.
By about the 480-hour mark, it was clear that the lamp was headed on a rapid downward trajectory. 3D playback was effectively unusable, and I’d found myself having to inch open my iris settings more and more during 2D viewing as well. By 500 hours, the picture had become uncomfortably dim even with the iris all the way open. At this point, I placed an order for a replacement lamp. That’s a $400 expense that I hadn’t expected to make for at least another year or more. And, unfortunately, the lamps were backordered.
Earlier this week, I turned on my projector, and the lamp had dropped another 70% or more in brightness overnight. I’d be generous to estimate that I got 1 foot-lambert of light on my screen. The picture was truly unwatchable. I turned the projector right off and sent an email to my dealer pleading for a status update on the replacement lamp. Thankfully, it finally came back in stock and is scheduled to arrive by the end of this week. I’ve been without a projector in the meantime, however.
Much has been speculated about the cause of these lamp failures. Some people believe it to be a defect in the lamp construction, caused when JVC changed manufacturers between this product generation and the previous one (which had no serious issues in this regard). Others speculate that the projector itself may be overdriving the lamps and causing premature failure. Rumors have flown that JVC has issued a running change to the lamp design that’s supposed to fix this problem. The current (late 2011) product generation uses the same lamp model. However, the company has offered no official acknowledgement that anything was ever wrong in the first place, much less that it’s been resolved now. Feedback from people who’ve installed replacement lamps is inconclusive so far as to whether they last any longer.
Some people have sworn off JVC products as a result of this issue. I can’t go that far. Having gone through several other projectors over the years, absolutely nothing I’ve used can touch JVC’s D-ILA line for picture quality… when the projector is working right, of course. I have to admit that I’m a little disillusioned with the company right now, though. For now, all I can do is install the replacement lamp and hope that this one lasts a reasonable amount of time.