The Projector that Plays Discs
Any teacher who’s wrestled with getting a DVD player and projector to play nice with each other will appreciate Epson’s PowerLite Presenter. Priced at $808 through Epson’s Brighter Futures educational buying program, the device combines a powerful projector with a DVD drive and other technological goodies, but is bulky and the remote control lacks a pointer.
Compared to the latest round of classroom projectors, the Presenter is huge and heavy at 5.4- by 13.2 by 9.4-inches and 9.5 pounds. It’s a good thing it has a fold-out handle and comes with a soft cloth bag for carrying between classrooms. On the other hand, the handle on the unit I looked at had an annoying squeak.
With a three-LCD imaging engine inside and 200 watt bulb, the Presenter can put 1,280 by 800 resolution images on a screen, 24 percent more pixels than the current classroom-standard XGA projector. It can create images from 33-inches to 26.5-feet and project everything from the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio of a computer screen to 16:10 for movies. It’s by no means a short-throw projector, but it can fill a 90-inch screen from five-feet away.
The DVD player works with both off-the-shelf discs and those created on a PC, but can’t play Blu-ray content, which is a shame considering the projector’s high-definition hardware and pretensions. All you do is put the disc into the slot and let the projector grab it. The content is then played.
On top of playing DVDs directly, the Presenter has the expected jacks for connecting to a computer, Composite- and Component-Video sources. It has the bonus of being able to play a high definition video and audio source with an HDMI cable. There’s also a USB slot for use with a memory key, but it only plays images, video and music, and not Acrobat .pdf files.
It’s one of the first projectors that has an ambient light sensor and can adjust its brightness to suit the room’s lighting. It takes a few seconds to adjust and works only in Automatic mode. The projector also has settings for Dynamic, Presentation, Theatre and Blackboard.
With a pair of adjustable front feet up front for aiming the projector, it has automatic keystone correction so that it always delivers a rectangular image. It, however, lacks hardware underneath for mounting the projector on the ceiling. This is fine because if it were set up out of reach, the teacher would be able to use the DVD player.
The controls are easy to figure out and changing the air filter or lamp is easy, taking only a minute or two. In a world where the first thing that occurs in a projector’s school career is that the lens cap is lost, I love the slide open and close lens cover that the Presenter has. Be careful, though, if the lens-cover lever isn’t all the way open, the projector will not start. Behind it are well designed levers for the 1.2X zoom and focus.
A big step forward for soft-spoken teachers in large rooms is that the Presenter has a pair of speakers, a pair of 10-watt amplifiers, virtual surround sound and the ability to turn it into a public address system by plugging in a microphone. It can’t compete with a bullhorn, but is great for doing a voice-over with a slide show or video in a classroom, auditorium or cafeteria.
Those tired of fumbling with remote controls for a DVD player and projector can rest easily because the Presenter consolidates them into one mid-sized device. Its buttons are neither backlit nor does the device have a laser pointer or the ability to highlight an area of the screen, as the Sanyo PLC-X305 can do
In two weeks of daily use, the Presenter acquitted itself well, was easy to transport and set up quickly. The projector was up and running 32 seconds after turning it on and it takes about 5 minutes to get to full brightness. It’s rated at 2,500 lumens, but I was only able to get 2,349 lumens from it, although for most rooms, this should be more than enough. Its colors are rich and well saturated and its focus is exceptionally consistent across the screen, although the left side of my test unit had a slight blue tinge to it.
The Presenter uses 262 watts of power when fully warmed up and has a $160 replacement lamp that is rated for 4,000 hours of use. This translates into a reasonable operating cost of about 7 cents per hour of use or just under $100 a year if it’s used for six hours a day during the school year.
All told, the Presenter is a one-of-a-kind teaching aid that combines everything a digital classroom needs: an inexpensive, innovative projector that can simplify the integration of digital content into the classroom.
Epson PowerLite Presenter
+ Built-in DVD player and PA system
+ Plays USB material
+ High resolution
+ Fold-out handle and bag
- Bulky and heavy
- No Blu-ray drive
- No laser pointer