“Burn-in” is a common issue in digital displays. Smartphones, laptops/desktops, televisions, etc., experience burn-in – particularly the ones sporting OLED screens. Though not as vulnerable, LCD screens could also present some image ghosting concerns.
Since projectors and screens have a symbiotic relationship, you may be wondering if the burn-in visible on the screen while watching a movie with family or during a presentation is due to your projector.
The even more important question is: Can projectors get a burn-in? To find that out and get a holistic understanding of the topic, keep reading.
What is “Burn-In”?
Commonly referred to as “screen burn” or “image burn”, the term “burn-in” denotes the permanent, faint ghostly images that show up on video displays as a result of displaying static pictures for extended periods.
In CRT (cathode-ray-tube) displays, which were notorious for their burn-ins, “screen savers” helped prevent or decrease the likeliness of the issue. The screen saver is essentially a computer program that fills the screen with patterns or moving images or blanks it out when the screen is idle for long.
OLED displays on modern smartphones and other mobile devices are a lot more advanced and resilient. They do not generally exhibit burn-in problems. But if subjected to extremities, like how Zack Nelson (from Jerry Rig Everything) treats his smartphone to flames, “burn-in” can be an issue.
The sad part about “burn-in” (if it does occur) is that it’s irreversible. If the display on your smartphone, TV, etc., is affected by burn-in, you’ll either have to replace it or buy a new device altogether.
“Burn-in” or “Image Retention”?
Often used interchangeably, “burn-in” and “image retention” are related phenomena, but they are not the same.
Image retention is a form of ghosting on screens that’s short-lived or reversible. It disappears with time, with no effort needed from your side. Burn-in, on the other hand, is permanent and won’t go away by itself or the measures you take.
It doesn’t take much effort for image retention to make its presence felt. A few hours of continuously displaying a still picture or object on the screen will cause the problem. On the other hand, several hours of continuously displaying a still image or text on the screen will cause the issue to turn into burn-in.
How Manufacturers Approach Burn-In
Most product manufacturers are well-aware of burn-in problems in their OLED display-sporting offerings. They, therefore, try to warn their customers of the possible scare.
TV manufacturers incorporate a “refresher” feature in their products to counter burn-in concerns. Sony televisions, for instance, employ the “Panel Refresh” function. LG refers to the same as “Pixel Refresher”.
You could run the feature manually, or the system will remind you of the same after having hit certain hours of usage. For instance, LG TVs with the functionality send a reminder after every 2,000 hours. Even other connected devices such as streamers and gaming consoles use “screen savers” to mitigate burn-in possibilities.
On a related note, “burn-in” could also refer to the stress test that component or system manufacturers put their products through for extended periods to detect possible issues. The test can also be carried out as a part of a company’s maintenance or repair routine.
Projectors and “Burn-In”
Burn-in is not an issue commonly identified with projectors. But it’s also not a problem that they are entirely devoid of. In other words, projectors can develop burn-in issues.
The burn-in usually shows up as discolored (typically dark brown or yellow) spots in the visuals projected. In this case, cleaning the projector lens or keystoning may or may not remedy the problem. And the longer the faulty projector remains turned on, the darker or more intense the burn-in will be.
The defective projection could also be due to a bad lens and not necessarily be a burn-in problem. This is most likely the case if the projector is not more than a year old.
What can you do if your projector develops a “burn-in”? Generally, the discoloration mentioned above could be due to a dirty lens and not a case of actual burn-in. At times, a dirty projector air filter could also be the reason. Cleaning your projector should do the trick.
According to Epson, users must clean the air filter in their projector once every 100 hours. If the filter is too challenging to clean or broken, get a new filter. Projectors usually come with an additional filter in the box.
If cleaning the air filter and the lens did not help, and burn-in is indeed the problem, you’ll have to replace the projector panel.
Projector Burn-in, Manufacturers, and Warranty
As alluded to earlier, manufacturers usually turn hostile upon receiving burn-in complaints with their products. Though image ghosting is a problem inherent to the display, most companies put the blame on the consumers or their incorrect or “irresponsible” use of the product.
Though sellers are not totally wrong in making product users accountable, it is also incorrect and lackadaisical on their part to not take ownership of the problem in some way.
If the projector is under warranty or less than a year old, the manufacturer may offer a helping hand. But the services rendered are likely to not be covered by warranty or for no charge.
Some companies/sellers may be okay with addressing the burn-in concerns under warranty, but they may look for loopholes or excuses to not do the repairs free of cost. For example, if you send the projector without its original packaging, they may see that as a valid reason to not entertain your warranty claims. Things can get pretty iffy.
Projector Technologies and “Burn-In”
LCD, DLP, and LCOS are the three major projector display imaging technologies. Getting in-depth into the three technologies or how they work isn’t the scope of this article. If you’re interested to learn about the respective technologies, watch this video:
LCDs, as aforementioned, aren’t the most likely candidates for a burn-in, unlike OLEDs. They can have burn-in problems now and then, but the much bigger concern for them is “stuck pixels”.
Stuck pixels are stubborn small squares maintaining a single hue all the time. Typically caused by hardware defects, such as assembly errors or a perpetually on transistor, stuck pixels aren’t always permanent.
LCDs can also experience “dead pixels”. On a white screen, a stuck pixel will be colored, not congruous with the image on display. A dead pixel is essentially a black dot, which means the pixel has no voltage.
With DLPs, a stuck or dead pixel is also possible, but the chances are extremely low compared to LCD. If a DLP projector develops a “burn-in” or “stuck/dead pixel” problem, an LCD projector would have developed 1,000 dead pixels if both were subjected to similar usage or testing conditions.
In other words, it’s extremely rare to see DLP projectors develop pixel or burn-in problems. DLPs will most likely “burn out” before burning in. LCD projectors are still relevant because they offer better color accuracy, have zero rainbowing or artifacts on horizontal pans, etc.
Similar is the case with LCoS projectors. Burn-in or image retention concerns with them are generally not heard of.
Burn-in is a problem that takes its time to manifest. OLED smartphones and televisions usually take at least a year or two to develop the issue. Comparatively, a projector is used less often, except if multiple departments use it in an organization.
Therefore, if your projector has developed burn-in concerns, it’s likely a manufacturing defect. Based on how extensively you use your projector and the product’s make, burn-in and other blemishes could come up earlier than usual.
Long story short, projector burn-in is not a myth. However, it’s not as frequent as it is the case with the more frequently used consumer devices. If your projector lens does go bust or develops a burn-in problem, contact your manufacturer right away.
Catherine Tramell has been covering technology as a freelance writer for over a decade. She has been writing for Pointer Clicker for over a year, further expanding her expertise as a tech columnist. Catherine likes spending time with her family and friends and her pastimes are reading books and news articles.