Teach Without Wires
I’ve found that the best teachers just can’t sit still. One moment they’re helping a child write a sentence, the next highlighting equations on the board or showing the class where France’s Maginot line was. Frankly, wires and cables just get in the way and slow a good teacher down, which is why the best digital classrooms combine wireless connections with notebooks and projectors.
Sanyo’s PLC-X305 projector makes putting what’s on a teacher’s notebook on the big screen about as easy as plugging in a memory key. The center of attention is Sanyo’s Auto Capture key and Network Capture software that has all the configuration information needed to make a wireless connection with the projector. It works first time, every time.
Rather than fussing with IP addresses, network names and encryption keys, just plug the key into any recent PC or Mac and run the software. After that, in less than a minute the computer starts broadcasting what’s on screen right to the PLC-X305 projector over a secure peer-to-peer connection. With an Acer Aspire One netbook, the projector had a 75 foot range, more than enough to roam around the typical classroom.
The image looks great and appears no different from when the projector and notebook are connected with a VGA cable. The video quality and controlling the pointer are smooth until you get about 15 feet away from the projector when the response gets choppy. Of more concern is that the wireless link uses the system’s WiFi radio precludes using the notebook to wirelessly connect to the school’s servers or the Internet.
The rest of the PLC-XU305 is no slouch either, and is arguably the best rounded school projector on the market today. Its trio of .63-inch LCD panels creates a vivid and rich 1,024 by 768 pixel image in a traditional 4:3 aspect ratio. It works equally well for widescreen material, like DVDs and the latest notebooks.
At 6.5 pounds, the projector can be carried from room to room as needed, put on a cart or ceiling mounted. I really like that schools can set up the projectors to require a password to start up and display a school logo or other image during its start-up. One thing is for sure, it’s not the quickest to warm up and cool down, with the PLC-XU305 taking 36 seconds to get going and an interminable 1 minute 32 seconds to shut down. On the other hand, the projector can be silenced immediately by pulling out its plug.
With a 1.6:1 optical zoom and automatic keystone correction, the PLC-XU305 can fill just about any screen, but its focus ring is too close to housing for the lens cap, making adjustments awkward. Rated at 3,000 lumens of brightness, I measured its output at 2,983 lumens with excellent uniformity from corner to corner. In other words it can support a lights-on lesson with the blinds up on all but the brightest days. On the downside, pure white has a slight blue cast to it and its dark greens look yellow.
For teachers who have trouble managing team presentations by students, the PLC-XU305 can lift images off of its Auto Capture memory key. Kids can transfer their work to the memory key, plug it into the projector and display their work in less than a minute. Unfortunately, it only shows .jpeg images, so PowerPoint presentations need to be converted.
A big bonus is the projector’s remote control, easily the best remote on the market. On top of having a built-in laser pointer, the remote can add a highlighted zone to the screen, freeze the action or blank the screen. It can digitally zoom in for close ups and page back and forth during a digital lesson.
While the PLC-XU305 has a list price of $2,400, if you shop around you find it online for about $1,800. It comes with a 3-year warranty, but the projector’s bulb is covered for only 90-days and a replacement costs $500. The projector’s estimated annual power costs is high at $270.
The big pay-off is that because its wireless connection works well and is easy to use, schools can forgo running video cables from the teacher’s desk or podium to the projector, saving hundreds of dollars per classroom, more for older buildings. The PLC-XU305 is a winner of a projector that can transform any classroom.
+ Easiest wireless set up
+ Good wireless range
+ Very bright and rich image
+ Highlights portion of screen
+ Best remote
- Expensive replacement bulb
- Can’t use Web and wireless projector link at once
- Hard to get to focus ring