Epson 1080UB: Lamp swap

Way, way back in 2008 I purchased the Epson 1080UB. While I wasn’t new to having a home theater setup, this was my first step into digital projectors. I run the projector in ‘low brightness mode’ as I’ve got a dedicated room that has complete light control. This lets me extend the lifetime of the lamp, as per the manual you should get 3000 hours.

Lamp life: 2500 hours (in high brightness mode, for select color modes) to 3000 hours (in low brightness mode, for select color modes), depending on usage

Around the 3000 hour mark, the 1080UB will start to show you a warning on screen shortly after you power it on. This warning thankfully goes away after a short time, but it returns every power on.

I’ve been living with the warning for some time (apparently years). As I understand it, the light output will drop over time. While human vision is quite adaptable, eventually you’ll get to a point where it’s obviously too dim. Honestly, this didn’t happen for me – my original bulb was still going strong. Still, this same one had been running since 2008, more than 15 years. It had also seriously exceeded the expected lifetime.

During the Black Friday sales, I grabbed a deal on a new lamp. The Araca lamp for the Epson 1080UB wasn’t the cheapest option, but it had good reviews and it was one of the options I’d been watching for a while.

6036 hours over 15 years is 251 days of display time. That’s an average of 16 days of viewing time every year. If I had exclusively watched movies that would be more than 2400. It is an impressive number no matter how you slice it up. While I’ve occasionally had the upgrade bug, there hasn’t been a good reason to retire the Epson 1080UB.

The new lamp arrived well boxed. It included a white cotton glove for handling it to help avoid transferring any oils from your skin to the lamp – any contaminants can cause early failure. The Epson 1080UB manual cover the replacement process (page 50). There was also a disposable Phillips screwdriver included, but I didn’t use it as it was terrible.

I took my projector down from the ceiling mount. Did a careful dusting, and cleaned out the filter. I then put on some nitrile gloves, then put on the (one) cotton glove on my dominant hand to handle the lamp.

Removing the lamp is straight-forward but after loosening the two screws I found the lamp was still fairly tightly connected to the projector. After a little fiddling around I discovered that it does take a pretty firm tug to lift the lamp out as it is seated in a power socket under the lamp.

I’ve indicated the approximate location circled in red. Make sure the screws are fully loosened, then it should come out with a firm pull straight up. It did take a few tries, and more force than I anticipated. Once it unseats from the connector, it will lift out easily.

There was a tiny bit of dust in the lamp compartment that I wiped out with a dry dusting cloth. Installing the new lamp was uneventful. It required a firm push to fully seat. The new lamp fit perfectly.

After re-installing the projector, the new lamp started up without any drama. This new lamp may take a slightly bit longer to warm up than the original. The first thing I did was to reset the hour counter on the 1080UB as per the manual.

For the first hour or two there was a strong ‘new electronics’ smell, I left it running to let that clear out and to ‘burn’ the new lamp in. During this time I made sure the projector was well aligned, and focused on my screen. I left it running while we had dinner to let the smell work itself out. After dinner I turned it off and let it cool down for an hour or so.

Later, we all sat down to watch a movie. Again the power on warm up phase feels a bit slower to me than the original. I do think the overall light output is a bit brighter once it has reached operating temperature, but it is hard to say. The viewing experience isn’t that different. The smell is either very faint, or gone completely at this point. I’ve kept the original as a backup in case this one fails.



Review: AKIYO O1 Mini Projector

I may completely lose my credibility as a home theater enthusiast, but hear me out. We are fortunate to have a cottage where we can get away from it all, and one of our rules there is “no tech”. Over the years this has eroded a little as we’ve ended up with generous mobile data plans, and our kids have become more technology attached. I also put the cottage on the internet for some automation setting up a remote site with openwrt and wireguard. Still, as a general rule we put our devices away and enjoy the sounds of nature and the freedom of being disconnected.

Under the guise of making things more fun for our teenage son, we decide to bring a movie to watch the other day. Watching Ratatouille on a 16″ laptop screen on the screened in porch after sunset was pretty nice. You can imagine the slippery slope we are on, and it was not a huge leap to think about setting up a projector and getting the ‘outdoor movie’ experience.

There are many great, low cost, projectors now. A local dealer has a great Epson 1080p projector for $700, and I’m certain with a little shopping we can cut that price down significantly – or look on the used market for a great deal at half the price. The Epson would be suitable for a ‘home theater’ space, and I don’t need my “no tech get away” to have an amazing audio video setup. This sent me looking at much less expensive solutions.

There is a whole class of low cost “mini” projectors out there, with so many choices. How do you pick one? You also have to wade through all of the technical mumbo-jumbo descriptions and marketing claims, many of them which are there to confuse you. There is also the misleading ‘sponsored’ reviews. The only good news here is there are many low cost choices so you’re not risking a lot, but remember the golden rule here: You get what you pay for.

I settled on the Akiyo O1 Mini Projector which I found on It had enough reviews which helps gives some confidence that they are not all sponsored/bought reviews. The price is well under $100 including taxes and delivery. If you bump your budget to $150 there are many more options, and many more features they promise. I decided that I was going to keep my outlay low and avoid too many features, I just needed a display.

This is what came in the box: The projector, a remote (2 AAA batteries not included), mini-tripod, power supply, HDMI cable and a couple of wooden q-tips (for cleaning?). The projector itself is very small, roughly 5.5″ x 4.5″ x 2.5″ – literally about two soda cans side by side. The HDMI cable is fairly long (5 feet?), but the power cable lead is quite short (3 feet?).

My initial impression was the fan was much quieter than I expected, and this was setup in my dedicated theater room which is nearly silent. The focus is pretty finicky, it feels like getting precise focus will be challenging as the control is quite loose. Keystone is limited, and appears to interact badly with focus. If you use keystone (which you probably will want) it becomes impossible to focus the top and bottom of the screen as the focus plane appears to be on an angle. It is all trade-offs here. This is still impressive for the cost.

Above is the start up screen (once you’ve done the initial setup) on my 80″x45″ screen (92″ diagonal). The projected image is larger than this screen by a good 8″ all around and there is ambient light in the room (dim, but not dark). Compared to my normal setup (native 1080p) the image feels soft, based on the image quality I’m starting to doubt if this is 720p.

Above is a screen shot of the projected image. Not bad eh? Image is fed to the project from my Macbook via HDMI. Now let’s look at the Macbook screen and the projected image together.

Ah, very different. This is a completely unfair comparison of course. While the projected image is watchable, the overall brightness and detail is lacking. The listed specifications for the Akiyo O1 are supposed to be 5500 lumens, but if there is any truth to this it’s the peak output of the light source not the amount of light coming out of the lens. I’ve seen guesses as to this being either 100 ANSI lumens, or 300 ANSI lumens. Maybe I’ll try measuring it one day, but it doesn’t matter for my needs.

I then moved the projector much closer to the screen, resulting in an approximately 45″ diagonal image. This made a huge difference, the on screen image now pops. Dark details are nice and visible now, and we still have good contrast. Viewing Ted Lasso, the colors were nice and bright and surprisingly good looking. No measurements here, and the human eye is very forgiving, but the feel of the image is impressive.

At this point in my notes, I call out that the fan noise is notably higher than my home theater projector. Certainly audible over the sound track of the movie during quiet parts.

My next steps were to put together something to feed the projector content. I tried just sticking one of my movies on USB stick and giving it to the projector, but this didn’t work. I decided while it was possible for me to figure out the right type of movie encode to feed the projector, having to re-encode any movie would be a pain. My choice here was to take a Raspberry Pi 3B I had sitting around and turn that into my media player.

To setup the Raspberry Pi, I visited the site and used the OSX specific installer. I took advantage of installer tool capability to pre-configure the install with a ssh server, my user and wifi information. The Pi booted and came up on my network with remote access, pretty slick.

I then installed mosh, one of my go-to utilities. To get sound working over HDMI I needed to run sudo raspi-config and navigate System->Sound->Output and change it from the headphone jack to HDMI. I also installed a screen keyboard: sudo apt-get install matchbox-keyboard, as I have a mouse plugged in but no keyboard. I finished up doing a system upgrade, just to make sure things are current.

Since VLC is built in to the base install, I was able to run that and play the movie just fine without having to worry about the format details.

The projected image is again around 45″ diagonal, and the photo was taken close to the projector itself making it look much larger. This isn’t a great reference image because it is fairly dark content and mostly blue/black. Still, a very watchable image – especially considering there was ambient light in the room too. Also, the wall being projected on is (mustard) yellow. The screenshot may not be selling you on this, but this convinced me I’d made a pretty good purchase. Fed via the Raspberry Pi I’m getting both sound and audio out, and the audio is quite loud enough. The image is bright enough to be engaging, and the focus isn’t that bad.

A couple more software tweaks. I wrote a simple bash script to watch for the USB drive to be mounted (so I could boot the Pi and then insert the movie later). Once the drive is detected, the first movie found will be played using VLC. I then used cron’s @reboot to run this script on start up. I discovered that while I could ssh into the machine and run the script and it would work, for some reason the cron invocation would lack sound. A simple work around was to setup key based ssh access, and from the script ssh to localhost to fix this, works fine this way.

I notice the Raspberry Pi was detecting the projector as a 1080p display and setting the screen up that way. I used the desktop GUI to force the HDMI input to 720p, this helped make the image sharper because we now have the native resolution matched. I believe this was the root problem with the ‘soft’ image I’d noted at first, with a proper 720p source things were pretty sharp.

The real test was taking a movie up to the cottage and having this all work there. We had the opportunity to try this soon after I had this figured out and it worked brilliantly.

The screen is a white bed sheet we pinned up, you can see the wrinkles and waves. The movie was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The displayed image was not anything close to videophile levels, but still I found myself sucked into the movie and deeply enjoying the experience. Yes, from time to time the fact that the image was distorted due to the waves in the sheet did distract a little. The fan noise was not an issue at all, the natural sound of the woods was louder than the fan, and the projector speakers plenty loud enough even at about half volume. It was overall a fantastic experience and easy to look past any of the imperfections, some of which are compromises in the setup vs. the technology.

When I consider my start in home theater, with expensive and large CRT projectors which had loud fans and could only resolve 720p images at best – this sub $100 unit with a long lasting LED light source is amazing value.

Wiistar HDMI Audio Extractor teardown (WS-E11B)

Back in 2020 I moved to a Roku Premiere as my primary streaming device. As my audio gear is older (pre-HDMI) I required something to split out the audio from the HDMI signal and the Wiistar HDMI Audio Extractor was a good fit.

At the time I mentioned that the device was a little suspicious, but it worked and kept working just fine for some time. After a year of trouble free operation, I did have a couple of times when the box would give up and pulling the power and rebooting it seemed to fix things. Stuff happens, no problem.

More recently it’s been acting up a lot. Blanking out, then coming back or not. Tapping or banging on the case seems to help ‘fix’ things temporarily. It appears that there is something not quite right with the power connection. This meant it was time to take things apart!

There is a horizontal seam on both sides of the device, you can see it right by the mini-USB connection and the switch. By pressing with a knife blade on this seam, I was able to un-snap the sides. This took a little doing, but was pretty easy. Some gentle wiggling freed the circuit board from the snap case.

No surprises here. It’s a single chip solution, likely decode HDMI, re-encode HDMI. There is likely a small audio amplifier circuit here to feed the 3.5mm jack. It’s pretty amazing that you can get something like this for the price.

The USB-mini power jack seems to be well affixed to the circuit board (no bad joints). I inspected the cable as well, and it looks to be a power only cable – only two pins on the plug. I tried adjusting the connector fit a little which might help my power problem (and I could have done from the outside of the case).

Then I took a closer look at that one chip..

Yup, that’s a blank, unbranded chip. I’m guessing this is a chip that failed QC and was discarded or sold off as seconds. Bunnie wrote about counterfeit chips which will give you an idea of how this chip may have ended up being used. In this case, they aren’t even trying to fake the chip – they just are trying to use one that was cheaper.

Well – it was interesting to open it up which turned out to be easy. I may have improved the power connection, but first try and it’s not working. Meanwhile I’ve ordered an AmazonBasics HDMI audio extractor as a replacement. The AmazonBasics device has a lot of (mostly) positive reviews. There is a youtube video teardown which while it’s terrible, does give a peek inside. There seems to be QC stickers on the circuit board, and the underside of the case appears to have FCC logos etc.

It’s likely a very similar solution, also needing a 5V 1A power supply. The pictures show you powering it from a laptop USB port, which is only going to provide 500mA – so there is some suspicious stuff going on here too with the marketing. Also, I suspect based on the comments it accepts up to 4k input, but can only output 1080p – which is fine for my needs.