Just the other week, I wrote in our 3D poll that I intend to keep my 3D projector in good working order for as long as I can. Practically the same day that post published, the projector died on me.
I have two projectors in my home theater that I use for separate purposes. The unit that I call my reference display is a JVC D-ILA model, which I almost exclusively use for watching 2D movies on Blu-ray. That particular projector stinks at 3D and I don’t like wasting its lamp hours for watching TV shows. A few years back, I snatched up a clearance sale deal on a Sharp XV-Z30000. This is a DLP model and one of the last home theater projectors Sharp made before exiting that product category. I bought it primarily because DLP is the only display technology totally immune from 3D crosstalk artifacts. I also default to it for general TV watching. As a result of my recent viewing habits (which lean more towards TV than movies), I actually get a lot more use out of the Sharp projector than I do the JVC.
Things went swimmingly with this projector for a long time. The Sharp doesn’t have quite as nice a 2D picture as the JVC (which has better contrast specs and performance), but it’s typically plenty good for the needs that I use it for. In recent weeks, I’d noticed that the image was perhaps a tad dimmer than ideal, but in my opinion was still acceptably bright. I figured that I’d have a while left before needing to replace the lamp. Unfortunately, out of the blue, a “Change the Lamp” warning message flashed on my screen.
I checked the lamp hours in the projector’s menu and found it to be at 1,945 hours. According to specs I found online, this lamp should be rated for 5,000 hours in Eco mode, which is what I thought I had the projector set for. Strangely, I discovered in the menu that Eco mode was actually turned off. I don’t recall whether I did that intentionally at some point in the past, or if it was an error I’d never noticed. When I tried switching Eco mode on, the projector just shut down on me!
I restarted the projector and it seemed OK for a few minutes. I switched back and forth between Eco mode On and Off and saw no difference in picture brightness on my screen (or any audible difference in fan noise). Then, a couple minutes later, the projector shut down on its own again.
That was obviously troubling. I wasn’t sure if the problem was the lamp failing on me or something wrong with the projector itself. At that point, it was getting very late and I was trying not to panic. I elected to go to bed and try again the next day.
Sadly, even after a day’s rest, the projector decided not to play nice with me. Theorizing that the shutdown issue could be an automatic protection measure when the lamp reaches its rated limit (which is 2,000 hours in High mode), I reset the lamp counter back to zero. That made no difference. The projector would only run for a few minutes before shutting itself off. After the third time that happened, I gave up again and decided to buy a new lamp.
I didn’t relish this prospect. Projector lamps are expensive. Moreover, because the XV-Z30000 is a 2012 model that Sharp doesn’t support anymore, even finding a replacement at all proved to be a challenge. Most of the retailers I usually go to for this purpose don’t carry it. Although some eBay sellers offer replacements that are allegedly compatible with my projector, I don’t entirely trust knockoffs from China. Finally, I located an OEM lamp (with a 90-day manufacturer warranty) at Projector Lamp Genie for the steep price of $365. At the time I looked, the store only had one in stock. After some deliberation, I ordered it and spent another $20 on overnight shipping.
Where There’s Smoke…
Day 3 brought me nothing but bad news. I received the replacement lamp, installed it, and powered on the projector. Although the projector seemed to turn on and I could see a small amount of light coming through the front lens, I saw no picture on screen. Then I noticed a burning smell, which quickly got stronger.
I immediately turned off the projector, unplugged it and removed the lamp. The smoky smell filled my room and I needed to bring in a fan to clear it out.
If nothing else, I felt glad that I bought the lamp from a retailer that would let me return it, rather than some random eBay seller. However, I still wasn’t sure whether the problem was a defective lamp or the projector itself crapping out on me. For obvious reasons, I was afraid to try it again.
A couple hours later, I put the old lamp back in. The projector successfully turned on and produced a picture of adequate brightness, but then automatically turned itself off again after less than two minutes.
Steeling my resolve, I decided to be brave. I put the new lamp in again and turned on the projector once more. This time, I kept the remote in hand and a fire extinguisher by my side.
I didn’t smell anything burning this time, which was an improvement. At first, it seemed that I still had no picture. However, when I turned off all the lights in the room, I realized that there was an incredibly dim image on the screen, barely visible at all. I turned off the projector, removed the lamp, and reseated it, then tried again. Same result. This lamp was clearly defective and would have to go back. Even with nearly 2,000 hours on it, the old lamp produced a much brighter picture for a couple minutes before the projector turned off.
Try, Try Again
I called Projector Lamp Genie and opened an RMA ticket to return the defective lamp. The sales rep indicated that one more lamp for this model was expected in the following week. That was good news, at least.
In the meantime, I looked up the warranty info for the projector. I bought it in May of 2013, just short of four years ago. The manufacturer’s warranty is only three years, but luckily I purchased it with a credit card that offers an automatic one-year warranty extension. If these problem I’ve experienced turn out to be more than just lamp failure, I still have a small window where I might be able to get it serviced.
A week later, another lamp came in stock and I had it shipped overnight to me. This time, my results were a mix of good news and bad news.
I put in the new lamp and turned on the projector, and got a picture of sufficient brightness. The projector ran for more than two minutes without shutting down. These were good signs. I started to think that my problems were all related to the lamps – the original one hitting the end of its lifespan and the next one being defective.
Then the projector shut itself off after ten minutes for no reason.
I let it cool off for a bit and then tried again. This time, I immediately turned on High Fan mode. The results were better this time. I was able to watch two hours of television with no unwanted shutdowns. The projector turned off normally by my command. That was several day ago, and I’ve watched two to three hours of TV every night without any more problems.
I’m torn on what to do next. If not for that ten-minute shutdown, I’d feel a lot better about things. Assuming that this problem doesn’t recur in the near future, I don’t know whether I should send the projector in for servicing. I only have about a month left on my warranty extension, so it seems like it would be better to be safe than sorry. On the other hand, I’d hate to ship off the projector only for Sharp to say they can’t find anything wrong with it.
Unfortunately, I can’t duplicate the issue consistently. If the shutdowns happened on a repeatable basis, I would definitely send the unit for servicing as soon as possible. If not, however, I’m concerned that Sharp will just take a quick look at it, not find anything immediately wrong, and send it right back without doing anything. I’d be without the projector for potentially weeks or months, and there’s a lot of risk of damage during shipping. (I had a really bad experience in the past with shipping a projector for servicing.)
If this problem is all related to overheating and using High Fan mode solves that, great. That’s no problem. However, if the projector overheated when the weather was cold and my room was pretty chilly, what’s going to happen in the summer?