Home Theater Projectors - Warranty and Support
March 2009 - Art Feierman
There are basically three aspects to the overall warranty and support issue. Two relate to the warranty: Duration, and Replacement Programs
Comparing projectors for those two aspects is fairly straightforward, but with an occasional twist.
Support, on the other hand, is hard to get a handle on. Some companies seem to have a superb reputation for support, but for the most part, I don't get enough feedback to make determinations. In fact when I do comment, it is usually in part based on my previous experience as owner of a large online projector reseller. Having sold that business, I was still involved in it, through end of 2005. Still that's now 4+ years ago, and some things may have changed. For that reason I'll make no attempt here to try to define and rank support.
Projector Warranty Duration:
All of the projectors considered in this comparison report offer limited warranties. A full warranty implies if it breaks, a brand new unit will be sent to you, and no one does that.
All of the projectors have one, two or three years, parts and labor warranties. The vast majority have two year warranties, so I'll just list those with more, or less:
One year warranties:
Three year warranties:
Epson 9100, 9500UB
Projector Replacement Programs:
These companies will replace a projector with warranty problems for the timeframe specified, with one out of a loaner fleet. That isn't a guaranty of a brand new unit, but rather one out of a pool of units set aside for this type of program, and those units are typically projectors that came back to them with a problem, have been repaired, and added to their replacement fleet.
Note: Replacement programs are more popular with business projectors than home theater ones. A number of companies that provide a replacement program (or similar loaner program) on their business projectors (including Panasonic and Mitsubishi, to name two), do not offer them on their home theater lineup.
I'm a huge fan of replacement programs! From my experience, most owners who have used one consider it to be a great support feature.
In the case of Epson, the replacement program is built around overnight shipping, with BenQ, it's 2nd day shipping. In both cases, there is a cut-off time in the afternoon, after which they can't ship it out the same day as the problem is reported. Both manufacturers not only pay the freight to get you the replacement, but also pay the freight to send the broken unit back to them. (usually in the box that the replacement came in, so you don't have to send yours back until you've received the replacement).
One other note: Replacement programs normally require you provide credit card information. The manufacturer will hold that information, and put a charge on it for the value of the projector, in the event that you don't return the broken projector, and keep them both.
Epson 8100, 8500UB: Two years
Epson 9100, 9500UB: Three years
Optoma HD8200: 1st year only
Optoma HD8600: 1st year only
(This is a straight repeat from the 2009 report): Generally, support - primarily technical support, is good with projector manufacturers. That said, from my own experience, one company stands out, and that is Epson. Not only are they very customer focused, but they offer a direct line to their projector support team, saving time and hassle navigating through layers of support people when you need to speak with them. When you add to that, the fact that they have a replacement program, their support is tough to beat.
While I don't get many emails relating to support department performance from home theater projector owners, I can say that most tend to be complaints. With Epson, on the other hand, I get an occasional email just to tell me how good Epson is. In fairness though, Epson has just worked through a "red line" issue with the 8500UB and 9500UB, which did have owners calling Epson a bit frustrated until Epson got a handle on things. Since they came up with a fix to their problem, I've only heard one complaint in the last month, and one more person who said the support person he spoke with, was clueless about the red line problem. (strange!)
I can say this, about once a month, I'll get a complaint about how a manufacturer handled an issue, from a specific owner. If it makes sense, I'll normally forward that to contacts I have with the manufacturer. Generally I get feedback from that person, that the manufacturer has resolved the problem to the satisfaction of the owner.
* While Panasonic offers only a one year warranty, so far, since its launch, they have been offering a 2nd year free, in the form of a mail-in rebate.
*** Sanyo is the only company that I am aware of, that doesn't offer to replace initially defective (DOA) units with a brand new one. They prefer to have you ship them in, make them right, and ship it back to you. (They pay all freight). In addition, while Sanyo doesn't offer a replacement program, they do promise rapid turn around, of no more than 3 days at their repair facility.