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TechLAB Shootout: 5 Classroom Projectors

DSC_0223The center of every child’s education is rightly the teacher, but more often than not the center of attention in the classroom is the projector. It not only makes sure that the whole class can see the lesson, but can grab the attention of students in ways that a chalkboard can’t.

To see what the state of the art for classroom projectors is, we gathered together five different devices and ran them through the ringer at Administr@tor’s TechLAB facility. All had to be able to project at least XGA (1,024 by 788) resolution and sell for $650 or less. Other than that, anything goes.

The breakdown of the five projectors we got reflects the general market with four of them using TI’s Digital Light Processing chip (DLP) to create the image. It might sound like magic, but DLP technology involves hundreds of thousands of tiny mirrors each of which can be pivoted into and out of the projector’s light beam. This selectively reflects individual pixels to create the image. Add in a spinning color wheel and you have a colorful image on screen.

Projectors from Acer, Dell, Optoma and Viewsonic use this technology, but the loner of the group was Epson’s PowerLite X15. Rather than a DLP chip, it’s old school all the way with three tiny LCD screens. This projector divides the light into red, blue and green beams and sends each through a separate display panel. Near the lens, the beams are combined to create the projected image.

Each of the projection technologies has its pros and cons, but it often gets obscured in marketing mumbo-jumbo. The key differences are that LCD projectors require an air filter, which might prove to be a hassle to periodically clean or change, but can produce brighter and livelier images, while DLP projectors can be made smaller and lighter.

At TechLAB, our job is to separate the winners from the also-rans. In addition to examining each, trying out their features and measuring their brightness, we looked at how long they take to start-up and shut-down as well as how noisy and how hot they were in typical classroom situations. We used several different types of systems with each, including a couple of tablets.  

TechLab_webFinally, by mimicking what you do in class, we finished off with a three-tier simulated classroom lesson that stretched each projector’s abilities by using a series of online interactive elements. It was very instructive, to say the least.

Whether the projector lives on a cart that is wheeled around, carried between classes or permanently mounted in a classroom, all five have one thing in common: an expensive and power-hungry high-pressure lamp that creates an intense beam of light. The cost of replacement lamps and electricity can end up costing more than the projector itself after a few short years of use.

That’s why we not only measured how much power each projector uses – both when it’s on and when it’s off – but include how much its replacement lamps adds to the total. Together, they form an estimate of the operating expenses of each projector if it is used for 8 hours a day over the typical school year.

The use of expensive high pressure lamps is the mainstay of the projector industry, but that may change soon. As LEDs get brighter and brighter, they could replace traditional lamps and offer two big bonuses. They have a rated lifetime of roughly 20,000 hours – 12 years of typical school use – so replacing projector lamps can be a thing of the past. Plus, they use a fraction of the electricity that the traditional lamp consumes, so they have much lower power bills.

In the meantime, any of these classroom projectors can reliably put a quality lesson on the classroom’s big screen, but one goes to the head of the class. Epson’s PowerLite X15 not only created the sharpest image with the best color balance but was the most flexible for setting up in oddly shaped rooms. Its only major failing was the lack of networking, a problem that’s shared with several others here.

It may not be the least expensive or the brightest, but the PowerLite X15 is the current best buy in classroom projectors and can teach its competitors a thing or two about how to succeed in the classroom.

ACER X1261P

Acer X1261p bIf price, price and price are the three most important purchasing criteria for getting projectors at your school, look no further than Acer’s X1261P. A miser’s dream come true, the X1261P is not only the least expensive projector of the group but also had the lowest operating expenses. In other words, it delivers a lot for a little.

 The black X1261P is small, light and is great for carrying from room to room, but is nearly twice the weight of the super-slim Dell M210X. It comes with a small canvas bag, a set of basic cables and a tethered lens cap.

Like most of the others, it uses TI’s 0.55-inch DLP imaging chip to put an XGA image on the screen. The system includes a 1.1X zoom lens as well as a 2X digital zoom for classroom close-ups. It has a built-in test pattern, is 3-D ready and can project a square-meter image from 7.9-feet away, about midway between the X15 and the M210X, so it should work well in most classrooms.

It has vertical keystone correction that can create a rectangular image with the projector tilted at up to a 40-degree angle. The projector, however, lacks the X15’s horizontal keystone correction, so the X1261P needs to be set up centered on the screen. Underneath, the projector has three threaded attachment points for mounting it on a classroom’s ceiling.

If the X1261P’s control panel looks like its remote control, it’s because the remote control slides into a slot on the top of the projector to act as the projector’s control panel. We applaud this design innovation, because you don’t have to learn two different layouts, but the remote tends to accidentally slide out when it’s moved and you’re out of luck if you lose it.

Acer X1261p cThe remote itself is minimalist compared with the others, with controls for selecting the source, freezing the action as well as zooming-in and -out. It does without any kind of pointer and lacks the ability to adjust the volume or take control of a computer.

That’s because this is the only projector of the group that lacks a USB port to link with a PC. It does have connections for VGA, S- and Composite-Video as well as RS-232 and audio jacks. Unfortunately, the X1261P does without an HDMI port and a LAN connection.

There are eight different projection modes, including an educational setting. We preferred the Presentations mode, though, because it made the most of the projector’s output.  

While the X1261P took a reasonable 22 seconds to start up, it was very slow to cool down and shut itself off, taking 2 minutes and 23 seconds. It seems like an eternity compared to the X15’s 3-second shut-down routine. This makes the X1261P less appropriate for grab-and-go situations.

In its Bright mode, the projector put 2,277 lumens onto the TechLAB test screen, well off its 2,700 lumen specification. This output is more than a thousand lumens less than the TX631-3D’s brightness and only the M210X put less light on the screen. That said, it should be fine for most lessons but sunlight tends to wash out the image. On the other hand, the X1261P was the quietest of the bunch with a noise rating of 40.5dBA at 3-feet.

The system was able to keep its cool with an exhaust temperature of only 160-degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperature of the five and 130 degrees cooler than the M210X’s temperature. The X1261P’s replacement lamp is a bargain at $130, is rated to last 5,000 hours and costs roughly half as much to use as the others.

All told, the projector consumes 223 watts when on and 1 watt when off, which contribute to an impressive overall estimate of $85 a year in operating expenses. That’s the lowest of the five by far and can save a school hundreds of dollars over the projector’s life.

Acer 1261p aAlthough the lamp is economical, it could prove to be hard to replace while mounted upside-down on the ceiling. That’s because the hatch that covers the lamp is underneath. Bring a Phillips screwdriver to loosen the four screws.

 While the X1261P connected easily with a desktop, notebook and an iPad, it lacks an HDMI port, so there was no way to get it to work with the Android tablet that we used. As these devices swarm into schools, this will likely be a drawback of this projector.

During the mock lesson, the projector did the basics well, although – like other DLP projectors – its colors were dull, muted and with an odd balance. Skin tones were fine, but its yellows appeared with mustardy and blues had a purplish cast to them. Videos were smooth and we could see most of the individual brushstrokes on the close-up of a painting, although in the greenhouse simulation the moving photons were rendered with choppy motion.

The X1261P comes with a 1-year warranty that covers the lamp for only 90-days. This pales in comparison to the three-years of coverage that Optoma and Viewsonic provide for their projectors. At $415, it is by far the cheapest of the group and had the lowest operating expenses. The bottom line is that the Acer X1261P is for districts that are trying to stretch their budgets.

  3.5 stars

Acer X1261p b

Acer X1261P

Price: $415

+ Inexpensive

+ Low operating costs

+ Remote doubles as control panel

+ Quiet

+ Comes with bag

 

- No HDMI, LAN or USB

- Slow to start and shutdown

- No remote control pointer

- Hard to replace lamp while mounted on ceiling


DELL M210X

M210x aWith a design that’s more than two years old, the M210X has been around for a while, and is showing its age. While it is small enough to carry around the school to use where it’s needed, the projector has the lowest brightness of the five, runs hot and is slow to get going.

 At 2.6-pounds, the black and gray M210X is easily the smallest and lightest of the bunch and comes with a canvas bag, attached lens cap and basic cables. The system can also be permanently mounted upside-down on a classroom ceiling with its single threaded screw hole underneath.

It uses TI’s 0.55-inch DLP imaging system with the company’s BrilliantColor technology to put an XGA image on the screen. The projector can display 3-D material but it may not work well in small classrooms because it takes 8.8-feet to create a square meter image on the screen – three feet longer than the X15 takes.

Its 1.1X zoom is augmented by a digital zoom feature to show a detail during a lesson. Unfortunately, there isn’t a dedicated button for the digital zoom on the remote control, so it probably won’t be used to show a detail during a lesson.

The M210X’s control panel is the simplest of the bunch with only six buttons. In fact, the matching remote offers many more choices, along with a laser pointer. It can adjust the volume or mute it, as well as change the source and freeze or blank the screen. If you connect the projector to a computer with a USB cable, the remote lets you move a presentation back and forth page by page.

M210x bWhen setting up the M210X, the vertical keystone correction can deliver a rectangular image with the projector tilted by as much as 40-degrees up or 35-degrees down. It does without the X15’s horizontal keystone correction so the M210X needs to be centered on the screen. While setting up the projector, we really appreciated the two sets of built-in test patterns.  

Connections with the M210X are a mixed bag. On top of VGA and HDMI, it has Composite- and S-Video ports as well as audio jacks. But, as opposed to the TX631-3D and the PJD6223, there’s no way to get online with the school’s network. You can plug a computer into the projector’s USB jack so that the X210X’s remote control can take command of the computer.

While the M210X has a specification of 2,000 lumens, it actually put 2,068 lumens on our test screen. Impressive, but it was the lowest light level of the five projectors. It’s just enough to teach with the window shades up but the image can get washed out easily, has a redish tint to it and a hot spot on the right side, leaving the left side looking dull.

The projectortakes 47 seconds to get going and 2 minutes and 4 seconds to shut down, but its fan’s exhaust is of greater concern. It pumps out air that is 290-degrees Fahrenheit, more than 100 degrees hotter than the next hottest projector. The projector had a noise rating of 43.4 dBA at three feet from the projector, second loudest after the X15.

M210x cAt $190, its replacement lamp is rated to last for 3,000 hours, a little more than half as long as the X1261P’s bulb. Like the X1261P, replacing the system’s lamp can be a chore if it’s mounted upside-down on the ceiling because the access hatch is on the bottom of the projector. It requires a Phillips screwdriver and about two minutes to replace.

 While the projector is on, it uses 210 watts and 1 watt when it’s off. Assuming it is used for 8 hours every school day during the school year, the Dell M210X should cost an estimated $143 per year to use. That’s a lot more than the X1261P’s operating expenses, but $6 a year less than the $149 it costs to run the most expensive projectors of the group, the PJD6223 and TX631-3D.

The M210X was able to work with the desktop and notebook computers as well as the Android slate and our iPad for a clean sweep in terms of compatibility. Its video was smooth with excellent focus across the screen, although its colors were dull and a little washed out. While sliding the history timeline back and forth, the action was quick and smooth but the close up of the artwork on the Google Art Project missed some brushstrokes and had an overall flat look.

Dell stands by the M210X with a 1-year warranty, the shortest coverage, along with the Acer X1291P, and not in the same league as the three-year warranties provided by Optoma and Viewsonic. Overall, the M210X is a competent projector that makes a virtue of its smallness. It is, however, behind newer designs in terms of brightness, price and image quality.

  3.5 stars

M210x a

Dell M210X

Price: $620

+ Small and light

+ Remote control with pointer

+ Includes bag

 

- Runs hot

- Slow shut-down

- No LAN

- Replacing lamp while mounted on ceiling is awkward


 EPSON POWERLITE X15

PL_X15_RightWith three tiny LCD screens inside, for some, Epson’s PowerLite X15 might seem like a step back as far as projection technology goes. It is, however, an up-to-date projector that provides all the basics – as well as several unexpected luxuries – for the classroom.

Rather than a lens cap, the big white projector has an innovative slide-open cover to protect its fragile optics. To prevent the heat of the projector from melting the plastic cover, the system won’t start up unless the slide is open. If you close the slide during a lesson, the audio is muted and the projector idled.

Inside, the trio of small LCD screens creates an XGA image. Going against the technological grain offers the benefit of combining sharp imaging with good color balance, but the projector cannot handle 3-D material. It also requires an air filter that needs to be periodically cleaned; it takes about a minute to do this.

The X15’s optics has a 1.2X zoom, twice the range of the other projectors as well as a digital zoom. It creates a huge image, taking only 5.8-feet to project a square-meter image, three feet less than the M210X required. This makes it perfect for smaller rooms.

PL_X15_AerialIt can also correct for vertical and horizontal keystoning, the only projector in its class that can do this. All the others can only work with vertical keystone correction. This means that the projector doesn’t need to be centered on the screen, providing greater flexibility in an oddly shaped room or one that has a pillar in the wrong place.

It also has what Epson calls QuickCorner, which gives you the option of setting up the screen by adjusting the screen’s four corners with the remote control. The system has a built-in test pattern that eases initial set up and it has three attachment points for mounting the projector upside-down.

With a good variety of ports, the X15 can fit into just about any classroom. It has connections for USB, HDMI, VGA, S- and Composite-Video and audio. There’s also an RS-232 serial port for controlling the device and the only thing it lacks is a wired LAN port to connect the projector to the school’s network, a problem that three of the five projectors shared.

The X15 has a complicated control panel, but it includes a Help key for troubleshooting basic problems, like “The color tone is unusual.” There are warning lights for when it’s overheating and it's time to replace the lamp.

Its remote control adds lots of goodies, like the ability to freeze the image, mute the sound and zoom in on a lesson detail. The remote can move back and forth through a presentation. It lacks a laser pointer that the X1261P and TX631-3D provide, but the X15 does this one better. It has a pointer image that’s placed on the screen and can be moved around by the remote control; Epson provides three different pointers.

Like the others, the X15 has several projection modes for things like protecting on to a blackboard. The Dynamic mode is the brightest, but using the Presentation mode works best in the classroom.

PL_X15_BackIt took the X15 a reasonable 22 seconds to start up and swept the group by shutting down in just 3 seconds. The X15 was able to put 2,983 lumens of light onto the screen, slightly below its 3,000-lumen spec, but second only to the TX631-3D projector. It was nearly 50 percent brighter than the M210X. The projector works well with the shades up and the classroom lights on.

The good news is that it stays cool, even on a hot day. Its exhaust never rose above 165-degrees Fahrenheit, the second coolest of the five. The bad news is that at 44.1dBA of noise, it has the loudest fan.  

Its replacement lamp is rated at 4,000 hours and costs $200, but is a snap to replace, even mounted on the ceiling. After opening the hatch, unscrewing the lamp module and pulling it free, pop the new lamp in and close up the projector; it takes about 2 minutes to do. Have a Phillips screwdriver handy.

The X15 uses 262 watts of power when on and 1 watt when it’s off. That adds up to estimated annual operating expenses of $131, assuming that the projector is used for 8 hours a day during the school year. That’s less than the PJD6223, the TX631-3D and the M210X but more than the X1261P.

Able to connect with a PC, Android tablet and an iPad, the X15’s video was always smooth and well synched, regardless of whether it was playing an online video, a class lesson or a DVD. The color balance was spot on with realistic skin tones and bright, vibrant images that put the others to shame.

PL_X15_Head_on_highIt was the best at handling the bouncing photons in the greenhouse simulation and was able to realistically project individual brushstrokes from Google’s digital art museum site. In the history portion of the simulated lesson, the projector smoothly reproduced the timeline’s motion.

The X15 comes with a 2-year warranty, although the lamp only gets a 90-day guarantee. This is a year short of the three-years of protection including the PJD6223 and the TX631-3D, but much better than the 1-year of coverage provided by Acer and Dell.

While the X15 lists for $600, it can be had for $459 through Epson’s Brighter Futures discount for schools, making it not only the best classroom projector, but the best buy.  

  4.5 stars

PL_X15_Right

Epson PowerLite X15

Price: $459

+ Big picture

+ Horizontal and vertical keystone correction

+ Quick start-up/shut-down

+ Remote control pointer

+ Slide open lens cover

 

- No LAN port
- Loud fan


OPTOMA TX631-3D

TW631-3D_Right2_300dpIAble to blast a lot of light onto the screen, Optoma’s TX631-3D is for larger classrooms and those that require extra brightness. On the other hand, it is at the top of the price range and expensive to use.

 What do you get for the money? A lot with a high-output lamp and TI’s 0.55-inch DLP chip with the company’s BrilliantColor technology. It creates XGA images on the classroom screen. As its name implies, the TX631-3D can work with 3-D material. It includes basic cables, but lacks a lens cap to protect the projector’s delicate optics; the lens is deeply recessed.

The projector has a 1.1X optical zoom lens, but does without a built-in test pattern to assist in setting it up. Its vertical keystone correction can compensate for being tilted at as much as 40-degrees up or down, but does without the X15’s horizontal keystone correction. This means that the projector will have to be set up directly in front of the screen. It took 7.6-feet for the TX631-3D to create a square meter image, halfway between the X15 and the M210X.

On the other hand, the shiny black TX631-3D is less portable than the M210X, although it does come with a canvas carrying bag. The system will probably end up mounted on the ceiling of a classroom. Underneath, the projector has three threaded mounting points.

TW631-3D_Left2_300dpiOne thing that the TX631-3D has is the best variety of ports. In addition to VGA and HDMI, it can connect with Composite- and S-Video sources as well as audio. It has an RS-232 serial port, a USB port and a wired LAN jack. It, however, lacks the PJD6223’s ability to directly use Crestron’s RoomView Express hardware.

With a basic six-button control panel, it’s simple to use, but the blue light that shows the projector is ready to be turned on is on the opposite side of the panel from the on-off switch. This results in a little confusion. The TX631-3D has a single warning light for overheating and lamp problems.

The unit’s remote control takes this to a higher level. It has a laser pointer as well as the ability to change the source, freeze the action and adjust the volume. During a lesson, the teacher can move a presentation forward or backward with the remote.

While several of the others allow you to change the projection mode of the projector quickly from the remote control, the TX631-3D buries this deeply in its menu structure. There are seven settings, including one for Classroom use, although we found that the Bright mode was the best for teaching.

The TX631-3D sets itself apart from the crowd by putting 3,262 lumens on the screen, 50 percent more than the M210X, but below its 3,500 lumen brightness specification. All these extra lumens mean that it can project a bigger image without having it appear washed out. 

On the downside, the greater light output translates into higher power use. The TX631-3D consumes 296-watts when it’s running, 40 percent more than the M210X. The projector uses a $200 lamp that is rated to last only 3,500 hours, which, along with its prodigious electricity use, translates into annual expenses of $149. With the Viewsonic projector, it is tied for the most expensive to use.

TW631-3D_Front_300dpiIts lamp is easy to replace, even if it’s mounted upside-down on the classroom’s ceiling. With a Phillips screwdriver, open one screw on the side, then slide the hatch off and loosen the pair of screws that hold the lamp's module in place. We took about two minutes to do this exchange.

It’s a quick study, taking 12 seconds to turn on and 28 seconds to shut down, much faster than the M210X. The TX631-3D was rated at 43.3 dBA, the third loudest. Unlike the others, the TX631-3D annoyingly blasts cooling air when it’s turned off. Its exhaust temperature of 174-degrees is reasonable.

We were able to use a desktop, notebook, iPad and Android tablet with the TX631-3D projector and its video was smooth with good audio synchronization when online videos and DVDs were played. Like many of the other DLP-based projectors, its colors were muted and much less vibrant than the X15’s. The projector’s yellows were mustardy and pinks looked more like purples. Its grays were excellent, though.

During the mock lessons, the brightness of the TX631-3D was balanced by its overall flat appearance on-screen. Some, but not all, of the individual brushstrokes of the painting on the Google Art Project site were visible and the history timeline moved back and forth smoothly. It handled the greenhouse simulation quite well, with smooth action of the photons it displays.

The TX631-3D’s three year warranty sets it apart from the crowd, although it covers the lamp for only one year. This matches the warranty of the Viewsonic projector and is three-times as long as the coverage for the Acer and Dell systems.

At $650, it is the most expensive projector in this group, but pumps out the brightness like none of its peers.

4 stars
TW631-3D_Right2_300dpI

Optoma TX631-3D

Price: $650 

+ Very bright

+ LAN

+ 3-year warranty

+ Quick start

+ Comes with bag

 

- No lens cap

- High operating expenses

- Top of price range

- Below brightness spec


VIEWSONIC PJD6223

Pjd 6233aIf your school uses Crestron’s RoomView Express management and monitoring system, then Viewsonic’s PJD6223 should fit right in. The only projector of the group with Crestron’s software built-in, it not only lets you monitor and more effectively maintain your school’s fleet of projectors, but the projector itself is a gem that’s brighter than advertised.

With TI’s 0.55-inch DLP imaging chip, the PJD6223 puts a sharp XGA image onto a classroom screen. It can compensate for being set up at a 40-degree angle up or down with its vertical keystone correction, but lacks the X15’s horizontal keystone correction. In other words, it needs to be installed centered on the screen for it to work well.

Like most of the projectors here, the PJD6223 has a 1.1X zoom lens and is second best compared to the X15’s 1.2X zoom. It also can project 3-D material and has a digital zoom for classroom close-ups.

The projector required 7-feet to create a square meter image on our test screen, roughly in the middle of the pack and comes with a lens cap, tether and basic cables. Underneath are three threaded screw holes for mounting the projector upside-down on the ceiling of a classroom.

Its control panel might throw you, because it’s set at a 45-degree angle. This makes it great if you’re standing on the side of the projector, but it can be confusing if you’re in the back of it. Either way, it takes a little getting used to. There are nine buttons for the basics and LEDs that show it’s on and if unit is overheating.

Pjd6223 cThe projector also has a remote control, but it lacks a pointer. There are buttons for the various source possibilities, volume, freezing the screen and moving a presentation back and forth if it’s connected to a computer with a USB cable.

Along with the TX631-3D the PJD6223 has the best assortment of ports, with USB, VGA, HDMI, S- and Composite-Video as well as RS-232. Like the TX631-3D, it also has a LAN port.

This is augmented with built-in software for using Crestron’s RoomView Express. It lets an administrator see whether the projector is on or off, control when it can be used and check on vital stats, like how long the current lamp will likely last. Because the projector can be controlled remotely, it’s a great way to troubleshoot problems without having to go to the classroom.

There are eight projection modes, of which the Dynamic PC seemed best suited for the classroom. It, however, lacks a setting for using a blackboard as a screen.

Although it’s rated to put out 2,700 lumens of light, the PJD6223 surprised us by blasting 2,838 lumens onto the TechLAB test screen, putting it just behind the X15. More to the point, it did it more efficiently than any of the others. For example, the X1261P required 223 watts to produce 2,277 lumens, while the PJD6223 required only 244 watts to create its intense beam. 

On the other hand, it uses 3.4 watts of power when it’s off, while all of the others only consumed 1 watt in standby mode. Along with its expensive $279 lamp that’s rated to run for 4,500 hours, it has an estimated annual expenses of $149, tied with the TX631-3D for the most expensive to operate.

Pjd 6233 bEven if it’s mounted on a classroom ceiling, it is easy to change the PJD6223’s lamp. There are two small Phillips screws on the projector’s sides that allow you to pull off half of its top, allowing access to the lamp module’s single set screw; all told, it took about two minutes. 

 Like the TX631-3D and the X15, it’s quick to get going. It took 11 seconds to start up and 4 seconds to shut down.  On the other hand, the projector was surprisingly silent with the fan putting out only 41.5dBA of sound, making it the second quietest behind the X1261P.

The PJD6223 worked with a desktop, notebook, Android tablet and an iPad without any problems, and its video was projected smoothly with good sound synchronization. As was the case with the other DLP projectors, the PJD6223 delivered nice grays, but its colors were muted and the yellows looking particularly mustardy.

During our simulated lesson, the projector’s brightness was helpful for a shades-up, lights-on lesson. Its focus was exceptionally consistent across the screen and all of the individual brushstrokes of the painting on the Google Art Project site were prominent. The action of the timeline on the history Web site was smooth and it handled the photons on the greenhouse simulation quite nicely.

As is the case with the TX631-3D, the PJD6223 comes with a three-year warranty, although the lamp is only covered for a year. This is light years better than the projectors – the X1261P and M210X – that only come with a one-year warranty.

Don’t let its $575 list price scare you, because the PJD6223 can be had for as little as $450, making it a bargain, considering its brightness, connectivity and ability to work with Crestron hardware.

3.5 stars
Pjd 6233a

Viewsonic PJD6223

Price: $549

+ Very sharp focus

+ LAN

+ 3-year warranty

+ Brighter than spec

+ Can connect with Crestron control hardware

 

- No remote control pointer

- Odd control panel

- Expensive to operate

 

CHEAP TO KEEP

Casio.xjm245Psst, wanna save some money on projectors? If you’re tired of the outlandish power bills and the price of replacement lamps that traditional projectors require, tiny semiconductor lighting elements produce much more light per watt of power used and never need to be replaced.

While there are several LED projectors, they rarely produce more than a few hundred lumens. Casio’s laser and LED hybrid light source combines a high-output red LED with a blue laser. The green beam is created by converting a portion of the blue light with phosphors.

Using a TI 0.65-inch DLP chip, the projector creates a WXGA image that has surprisingly good color balance with accurate yellows and grays, but washed-out greens. The projector has a good variety of ports, the ability to work with 3-D material and a generous 1.5X optical zoom lens. It can connect with wired and wireless networking.

All told, the XJ-M245 puts 2,023 lumens on the screen, well below Casio’s 2,500 lumen spec, yet it’s a cool customer with exhaust temperature of 105-degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, it has a noisy fan with a rating of 51dBA, much louder than any of the conventional projectors.

Casio_xj_m245_0_largeWhile the XJ-M245 costs $1,300, twice that of other projectors in this class, there’re a couple of twists. It uses 180 watts of power, 15 percent less than the Dell M210X that puts out the same brightness. Plus, instead of having to pay $200 for a new lamp every couple of years, Casio’s illumination engine is rated to last for 20,000 hours, or roughly 12 years of daily school use. As a result, its only cost is for electricity and it leads with expenses of an amazing $35 a year.  

In other words, the XJ-M245 can pay for itself over its lifetime in lower power bills and make lamp changes a thing of the past, but is only for those schools that can afford the projector’s higher upfront costs.

Classroom Projectors          
  Acer X1261P Dell M210X Epson PowerLite X15 Optoma TX631-3D Viewsonic PJD6223
Dimensions 3.5x10.5x7.7 inches 3.0x8.1x6.1 inches 3.0x11.6x9.0 inches 3.4x11.0x8.8 inches 3.9x11.4x9.2 inches
Weight 4.8-pounds 2.6-pounds 5.1 pounds 5.0 pounds 5.8 pounds
Imaging Technology DLP DLP Three LCD DLP DLP
Optical zoom factor 1.1X 1.1X 1.2X 1.1X 1.1X
Distance to create square meter image 7.9-feet 8.8-feet 5.8-feet 7.6-feet 7.0-feet
Ceiling mountable Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ports VGA, S-Video, Composite Video, RS-232, audio VGA, HDMI, Composite video, S-video, audio, USB VGA, HDMI, RS-232, Composite Video, S-Video, audio, USB VGA, HDMI, S-Video, Composite-Video, RS-232, LAN, audio, USB VGA, HDMI, S-Video, Composite Video, RS-232, LAN, audio, USB 
WiFi/Wired LAN No/No No/No No/No No/Yes No/Yes
Remote control/Pointer Yes/No Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes, Yes Yes/No
Built-in test pattern Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Start-Up/Shut-Down time 0:22/2:23 seconds 0:47/2:04 seconds 0:22/0:03 seconds 0:12/0:28 seconds 0:11/4.0 seconds
Brightness 2,277 lumens 2,068 lumens 2,983lumens 3,262 lumens 2,838 lumens
Noise level 40.5dBA 43.4dBA 44.1dBA 43.3dBA 41.5bBA
Temperature 160 degrees F. 290 degrees F. 165  degrees F. 174 degrees F. 178-degrees F.
Power use on/Standby 223-/1-watts 210-/1-watts 262-/1-watts 296-/1-watts 244-/3.4 watts
Annual costs estimate $85 $143 $131 $149 $149
Works with PC/iPad/Android tablet Yes/No/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes
Warranty 1-year* 1-year 2-year* 3-year** 3-year**
Price $415 $620 $459*** $650 $549
           
Notes: * lamp is guaranteed for 90-days      
  ** Lamp is guaranteed for 1 year      
  *** Through Epson's educational discount      

 Download Projector FT

TechLAB Projector Testing

DSC_0219To get a good idea as to how each projector fits into the digital classroom, we measured and checked out each projector. After weighing each system on a digital scale, we looked at all the possible connection ports and whether it has wired and or wireless networking built in.

We tried each port out with a Gateway FX6860 desktop, an HP EliteBook 2560, an Asus TF101 Transformer and an iPad with its VGA adapter. For those with an HDMI port, we also connected via Intel’s wireless WiDi technology using a Belkin ScreenCast receiver.

Next, the projector was turned over and the underneath was examined for ceiling mounting hardware as well as whether there’s a place to hide its cables. We opened the hatch and changed the lamp, noting what tools are needed, how long it should take and whether it can be done upside-down close to the ceiling.

Measuring projectorThey were each set up 10-feet from a large screen and turned on. Using a stop watch, we measured how long it takes to start up the projector (when the image appeared) and shut it down (when the fan stopped). After adjusting the projector, the size of the image was measured.

With the zoom lens extended fully, we measured the width of the screen and then repeated the measurement with it fully zoomed in. The zoom ratio was calculated by dividing the former into the later.

Then, we tried each out with an eye towards how quick and easy it is to set up. Once we had adjusted its distance from the screen to create an image that occupies a square meter, we let the projector warm up for 15 minutes. Then, with the lens fully zoomed out and using a Konica Minolta T-10 Illuminance meter, we measured its light level in lux at 9 equally spaced locations with a white image. We averaged the readings to get its brightness reading and noted any hot spots.

Too see how they project a variety of material, we first projected the built-in test patterns in each projector. Then, we critically went through the test patterns on the Walvision Web site looking for color fidelity, jagged edges on diagonal lines and areas that are not uniform.

Projectors cannalettoNext, we watched some HD video clips from a memory key as well as from YouTube. While they played, we looked for crispness, smoothness, color balance and audio synchronization. The sound quality and loudness was judged.

 While each projector was playing a video, we measured how much power the projector uses. This was repeated while the projector was in sleep mode. Based on 8 hours of use during every school day and replacing the lamp at the end of its rated life, we calculated an estimate of the projector’s annual expenses based on a national average of electricity selling for 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Each came with a remote control and these were examined for size, range of features and the presence of a laser pointer. In a sound-proof room, its fan noise was measured with a Tenma 72-942 digital sound meter 3-feet from the projector. Finally, because so much teaching and learning takes place outside of the classroom, we set each projector up on a wheeled cart with a portable Epson Duet screen to see how fast it can be set up and put away.

Projector greenhouseThe testing culminated in a group of mock lessons that included using the University of Colorado’s greenhouse simulation, a trip to Google’s Art project museum tour and a run through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s timeline.

 

 

 

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