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LED looks like it could well become the de facto lighting system for LCD TVs. There just seems to be no arguing with its combination of enhanced performance and extra ecological benefits. And now LED is also making a very strong case for itself in the projection world too. At the low end of the scale LED lamps have made a whole new product category of ‘pocket’ projectors possible. But it’s at the high end where things have really got exciting, as evidenced first by Vivitek’s outstanding H9080FD, and now by Sim2’s jaw-droppingly good MICO 50.
At the heart of the MICO 50 sits a 0.95in, 1080p DarkChip4 Texas Instruments single-chip DMD - a chipset you might well find in any any number of good quality DLP projectors. But it’s what feeds this chipset with its light that matters, namely three Luminus Phatlight (love that name) PT120 LEDs - one each for the red, green and blue colour elements.
Having three separate light sources crucially removes the need for the colour wheel system generally needed in single-chip DLP projectors. This means that the MICO 50 shouldn’t suffer with the dreaded, colour wheel-created ‘rainbow effect’, where stripes of pure red, green and blue can be seen over bright picture elements, or in your peripheral vision.
In fact, Sim2 reckons the effect of the switching-LED lighting is roughly equal to a 7x colour wheel spinning seven times faster - or a 49x colour wheel, if you will! As a result other colour wheel problems, like colour smear and blur, should also vanish without a trace.
Using LED lighting in the MICO 50 has a number of other major benefits too. First, as we’ve noted before, LED lighting produces a wider colour gamut than ordinary projection bulbs, making for more intense yet also accurate colourscapes. Next, the ability of LED lamps to be pulsed extremely rapidly means they can achieve an active colour cycle of 20x per frame of image content, eliminating sequential colour artefacts, and boosting contrast, colour and greyscale accuracy - all without damaging the lamps’ overall lifespan or image quality.
The MICO 50’s LEDs are driven by an 8-bits-per-channel high speed current driver which can balance the three LED modules’ light intensity courtesy of a sensor positioned within the light engine. The driver can deactivate the 30A current to each LED in under one microsecond. Even faster than I can polish off a Dairy Milk, in other words. And that’s saying something.
Another big LED advantage evidenced by the MICO 50 concerns that lamp lifespan we mentioned earlier. For LED lamps last far longer than normal projection lamps. In fact, according to Luminus, the LEDs in the MICO 50 should last for a truly remarkable 100,000 hours. Sim2 more conservatively pitches the lamp life figure at around 30,000 hours. But compare either of these figures with the 2000-4000 hours of a standard projection bulb, and you can see why it’s such an important feature. For some users it might actually be fair to say that the lamps in the MICO 50 will last for the lifetime of the projector, making it a maintenance-free option.