In the sharply competitive digital projector market, educators often must feel like they’re caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between manufacturers of Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) devices. Now, in the latest salvo over how these technologies are marketed to schools and other consumers, both sides again are claiming victory.
After a review prompted by concerns from Texas Instruments (TI) over fair marketing practices, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau has recommended that Epson Electronics should "modify or discontinue certain claims" in its projector advertisements and training materials. But the agency also said Epson can support the majority of its advertising claims.
“3LCD is very pleased with the outcome of the NAD ruling and the decision to uphold the majority of the claims,” said Rina Bhuva, senior strategic marketing manager for 3LCD Technology.
The decision concerned training materials that Epson, a leader in 3LCD technology, used as part of its sales. The NAD considers any material that is used to help sell a product as an advertisement, such as media kit inserts and PowerPoint presentations.
TI, which developed DLP technology, had challenged roughly 70 Epson claims in all.
Mike Guillory, TI’s worldwide DLP marketing manager, said the company submitted its concerns to the NAD in an effort to make sure educators and other consumers received accurate information about DLP projector technology.
"It’s important that the person buying a projector understands the technology inside," Guillory said. "We want to protect the consumer and make sure the person who ends up buying that projector has accurate information, and NAD’s decision will help ensure that is the case, not only for things that TI puts out, but for things our competitors put out."
"The NAD validated the key claims that we make about our technology. Epson will take into account the NAD’s recommendation that it also clarify a few supporting statements mostly found in Epson’s training materials," said Rajeev Mishra, director of Epson’s projector division.
At the outset, NAD noted that the competing technologies–DLP and 3LCD–are the clear leaders in front-projection technologies, and both TI and Epson produce and market high-quality products.
Some Epson advertisements pointed to color breakup with DLP single-chip technology. The NAD found that Epson had a reasonable basis for those claims, but recommended that Epson discontinue the claim that color breakup in DLP projectors "can be very distracting to some viewers."
Epson was encouraged to modify its advertising to "avoid unqualified claims that the benefits of 3LCD technology are due to the greater number of chips or that the 3LCD and DLP products share the same design."
And while the NAD determined that Epson provided "a reasonable basis for certain color performance claims, including its description of its own technology as ‘full-time color’," it should, "in order to avoid a misleading comparison or a falsely disparaging message, discontinue its claim that single-chip DLP delivers only ‘part-time color.’"
Regarding advertisements featuring side-by-side images, the NAD recommended that Epson clarify the images it featured and note that they are "intended to depict particular features of the technology, and not the comparative performance of the projectors, generally."
However, the NAD upheld Epson’s claims that 3LCD technology’s three-chip design delivers “clear and vibrant images,” and that its light engine efficiently uses available lamp light.
In contrast to one-chip DLP technology, 3LCD projects 26 percent more brightness per watt of electricity, Bhuva said.
Epson, in its advertiser’s statement, said it "believes consumers are best served when all competitors are held to the rigorous standards employed by NAD and appreciates the opportunity to participate in the self-regulatory process."
The company said it will "take into consideration NAD’s thoughtful suggestions in future advertising."
TI believed that numerous statements Epson was making about DLP technology "weren’t entirely accurate in the market, and we wanted to make sure that the information was communicated properly," Guillory said.
"All in all, we’re quite happy with the NAD ruling," said Epson’s Mishra.
The ruling should not directly affect education customers, Mishra said, because the NAD did not find any of Epson’s advertising claims to be untrue.
"Buying projectors is a very important decision for schools," he said, and anyone making that decision will take an in-depth look at the product and its features. Educators take many things into consideration during projector purchases and will not likely be influenced by a single advertisement.
Manufacturers of DLP and LCD machines have traditionally been at odds over which technology is, in their eyes, stronger and more beneficial to schools.
The traditional line of thinking holds that DLP technology makes for a sharper image contrast, while LCD gives users richer color. In the past year, however, DLP makers introduced BrilliantColor, a new technology designed to improve the color reputation of DLP projectors. LCD manufacturers say their own technology has improved as well, citing improved image contrast.
DLP projectors typically have been more expensive than LCD projectors, but that price difference shrinks when users examine the total cost of ownership (TCO), DLP’s supporters say–which is especially important to educators as schools struggle with smaller budgets.
[Editor’s note: For more information about the latest developments in both DLP and 3LCD technology, see our recent Special Report on DLP vs. LCD.]
Educators have been courted by staunch advocates for both technologies.
According to an explanation on ProjectorCentral.com, LCD projectors typically contain three glass panels: one each for the red, green, and blue components of the image signal being fed into the projector. As light passes through those LCD panels, pixels can be opened to allow light to pass or closed to block light. This activity produces the color image that is projected on the screen.
DLP technology works differently: Instead of having glass panels through which light is passed, these projectors use a DLP chip, a reflective surface made up of thousands of tiny, hinged mirrors. Each mirror represents a single pixel, and light from the projector’s lamp is directed onto the DLP chip’s surface. Those mirrors rotate back and forth, directing light either into the lens path to turn the pixel on, or away from the lens path to turn it off.
In very expensive DLP projectors, there are three separate chips, one each for the red, green, and blue color waves. But schools typically use single-chip DLP projectors.