TechLAB Shootout: 5 Interactive Projectors
There’s a good chance that archeologists looking back on our time will describe it as the interactive age. Forget about FaceBook, Twitter and the obsession with social media, because nowhere is interactivity more the word of the day than in the classroom. Learning has become inextricably linked with immersive digital media and the interactive projector is the center of attention.
Think of it as a virtual whiteboard because the interactive projector works by doing double-duty in schools. It starts by putting a lesson onto a screen, but adds a wireless wand that allows teachers and students to mark up the image as if they were writing on a whiteboard with markers. They can highlight areas of interest on a map, diagram a sentence or work through a math problem for everyone to see.
The digital marker can even control the computer’s pointer, meaning that teachers are no longer handcuffed to their desks. Combining this with the latest in short-throw projectors takes classroom technology to a new level by reducing or eliminating annoying shadows cast onto the screen.
A big reason for the popularity of interactive projectors is pure economics. Compared to outfitting a room with an interactive whiteboard and projector, which can cost several thousand dollars, an all-in-one interactive projector can be a bargain that reduces hardware and installation costs. The savings add up quickly when you’re deploying dozens or hundreds of projectors, with large districts saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To see what the state of the art for classroom interactivity is, we gathered together five of the newest and most capable interactive projectors at TechLAB’s test facility. To start, they are a step up from the traditional classroom projector. All five – Dell’s S500wi, Epson’s BrightLink 485wi, Optoma’s TW675UTiM-3D, Smart LightRaise 40wi and Sony’s VPL-SW535C – are like peas in a very large pod. They all can put a WXGA (1,280 by 800 pixels) resolution image on a screen, outdoing traditional XGA (1,024 by 768 pixels) resolution classroom projectors with sharper and better defined imaging.
From there they diverge with three using Texas Instruments’ Digital Light Processing (DLP) chips and two relying on old school Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panels to create the image that’s projected. They also use a variety of technologies to connect the wand with the projector and come with an assortment of classroom software. But, by far the biggest difference among these interactive projectors is how much it costs to use them.
To separate the truth from marketing hype and unrealistic expectations, we gave each a hard workout in the lab and simulated classroom action. While none of the five are A+ material, one clearly leads the class. Dell’s S500wi may be the brightest, Optoma’s TW675UTiM-3D may be the bargain of the group, Sony’s VPL-SW535C may have the best video and Smart’s LightRaise 40wi may come with the most versatile school software, but only the Epson BrightLink 485wi puts it all together in a classroom-ready package.
The projector not only puts an excellent and uniform image on the screen and comes with a pair of screen markers, but can work with two pens at once and doesn’t require a computer to use the pen. All this opens new vistas of classroom collaboration. It is among the least expensive and has the lowest operating costs, potentially saving hundreds of dollars a year. In other words, a BrightLink 485wi projector can efficiently turn any room into a digital classroom.
If brightness is the top criteria, then Dell’s S500wi is the interactive projector to get because it blasts a lot of light onto the screen. Still, it falls short of the mark in terms of its wand’s design and lack of mounting hardware.
The large white projector has many angular protrusions and can be used on a tabletop or mounted upside-down on a wall or ceiling. Unlike the others, the S500wi doesn’t come with wall mounting hardware, but Dell sells a sturdy wall arm for $200. At nearly 16 pounds, the S500wi can be awkward to install and you’d be well served by having two people on hand to install it.
Underneath the S500Wi has a flat bottom with four attachment points, making it one of the easiest projectors to set up or change the lamp. It took less than 5 minutes to install it on the iTeach cart.
The S500wi uses DLP technology to put a 1,280 by 800 resolution image on the screen and uses an output mirror that is not protected by a glass window. It doesn’t, however, have an air filter to clean or change. Unfortunately, the projector lacks horizontal keystone correction or image shift technology and does without an optical zoom that can help to get the image just right. The S500Wi has a digital zoom feature for showing a detail to the class.
At 2.1-ounces, the 1-inch oval writing wand is kind of chunky and is roughly midway between the TW675UTiM-3D’s heavy wand and the lightweight one for the VPL-SW535C. We think that it will likely prove to be awkward for smaller students to use.
It uses a radio frequency link to connect with the projector and has a rechargeable battery inside so there’re no batteries to replace. The projector includes one pen, with additional units priced at $90. There’s a great charging base for two pens that costs an additional $91.
The S500wi’s pen can put a variety of lines on the screen from hair-thin to bold and was responsive with smooth action and minimal lag. Unlike some of the others, you can only use one wand at a time with the projector. Plus, while the BrightLink 485wi can work on its own, the S500wi’s pen can’t be used without a computer connected. It only works when the source is connected via the VGA or HDMI ports.
With four different projection modes, there’s a set up to suit every classroom and its mid-sized remote control has a handy laser pointer. The S500wi projector has a good variety of inputs and outputs. On top of VGA and HDMI, it has Composite- and S-Video connections as well as USB and audio jacks. There’s an RS-232 serial port for controlling the projector as well as a 12-volt output for remotely opening and closing a screen.
On top of the expected LAN connection, the S500wi comes with Dell’s USB-based WiFi module to wirelessly get online and turn the projector into a classroom access point, potentially cutting installation costs by several hundred dollars per room. Happily, it has a nice place to hide the projector’s cables.
During its operation, the S500wi’s exhaust hit a peak of 190 degrees Fahrenheit, easily the hottest of the five. Using its high-output Bright mode, the S500wi was able to put an astounding 3,717 lumens of light onto the screen, 16 percent brighter than its 3,200 lumen rating and almost a thousand lumens more than the LightRaise 40wi. On the downside, the bottom of the screen was brighter than the top, although the system had excellent focus across the screen.
Not surprisingly, the S500wi consumes a lot of power: 316 watts; only the TW675UTiM-3D used more juice. Along with the projector’s $170 replacement lamp, it adds up to an estimated $178 per year in operating costs, which is roughly between the BrightLink’s economical use and the Optoma’s expensive operations.
Of the five projectors, it was among the fastest in getting started and shutting off, but its fan was the loudest by far at 43.7 dBA. During our lessons, we really appreciated the inclusion of eInstruction’s WorkSpace software, which has a good assortment of classroom content, lessons and animation sequences. While it is very bright, the S500wi can miss subtle shading and shadowing and its color balance is dull with mustardy yellows.
At $1,600, it may be a bargain, but it’s just the start. The S500wi includes a two-year warranty and adding the extra year of coverage costs $80, plus $200 for the wall mount and a second pen at $90 adds up to nearly $2,000 for a classroom-ready package. In the final analysis, the S500wi is the brightest of them all and can put interactivity into the classroom.
+ Very bright
+ Optional WiFi
+ Easy installation
+ eInstruction software
- Heavy wand
- Must use pen with VGA or HDMI input
- Requires PC connection
- No mounting hardware included
Epson’s BrightLink 485wi hits all the hot buttons for teachers with an interactive projector that comes with two pens, doesn’t require a computer to operate, delivers excellent images and is inexpensive to operate. More to the point, with Epson’s school discount, it is a bargain that few districts will be able to pass up.
The rounded white and beige projector works just as well on a table as with Epson’s wall mount. At 12-pounds, the projector is smaller than the others, easy to handle, and can be installed solo.
There are four screw holes underneath for wall-mounting and the projector works best with Epson's hardware. Still, It took all of 10 minutes to get it set up on the iTeach cart's spider mount and ready to teach. Unfortunately, the projector’s bottom isn’t as flat as the S500wi or VPL-SW535C.
Inside the BrightLink 485wi there are three LCD panels that deliver a 1,280 by 800 resolution image. It has an output mirror that, like the VPL-SW535C, has a glass cover and an air filter that will need to be cleaned or changed.
A big bonus is the combination of vertical and horizontal keystone correction so that the image is just right. It may lack an optical zoom, but you can get a close-up of a detail during a lesson with the projector’s digital zoom.
As is the case with the Sony projector, the system uses infrared communications to link the pen to the projector. At 1.7-ounces, the Epson wand may be heavier than the Sony one, but just barely. Its cylindrical shape makes for a good feel in the hand, but it has an annoying rim near the tip that could make it harder for smaller hands to get the most out of it. There’s a large loop for a tether.
Two pens come with the projector, as well as a plastic case. The good news is that they can simultaneously be used with the projector. For example, two students can collaborate in different colors or a teacher can work one-on-one with a student with the BrightLink 485wi. There was nearly no lag and the pens were always responsive.
At $50 each, extra pens are a bargain, particularly compared to the ones from Optoma and Smart that cost twice as much. They use a single AA battery each, and Epson supplies rechargeable batteries so that they’re always ready for class.
The true magic of the BrightLink 485wi is that you don’t need a computer to get the pens to work, the only one of the bunch with this ability. Just tap the screen with the pen and the toolbar pops up. It’s ready for a lesson or a game of tic-tac-toe. The toolbar doesn’t offer as much as when it’s connected to a computer, but it has everything needed to transform a wall into a teaching zone.
The projector’s remote control lacks a laser, but like other Epson projectors, you can put one of several icons on the screen to highlight something of interest. With VGA, HDMI, Composite- and S-Video connections, it can work with just about any input required in today’s classroom. There are also ports for USB, audio and RS-232, and the BrightLink 485wi has a cover to hide its cables. There’s wired networking built-in and Epson offers an optional WiFi kit for $99.
The projector’s 3,054 lumen output can’t compare with the S500wi’s output, but is plenty for just about any classroom use with the shades up. Unfortunately, the right side of the screen was slightly brighter than the left, but the BrightLink 485wi’s color balance was quite good, only slightly behind that of the Sony VPL-SW535C. It has a nicely uniform focus across the screen.
At 152 degrees Fahrenheit, it was on the warm side, but well below the S500wi’s 190 degree exhaust temperature. It took a quick 20 seconds to start up, but a lightning fast 2 seconds to shut down, making the BrightLink 485wi perfect for on-and-off usage. Its fan ran at 42.3 dBA, midway between the loud S500wi and the quiet VPL-SW535C.
In an age where projector lamps can cost $200 or more, Epson’s $79 replacement lamp is a breakthrough. It’s rated at 3,000 hours of use and lowers operating costs significantly. Add in its 276 watt power use and you get an economical $95 estimated annual operating expenses for the BrightLink 485wi, one-third the annual cost to use the Optoma projector.
The projector comes with programs for marking up the screen, networking the projector and monitoring; a copy of RM Easiteach classroom software adds $100 to the price tag. The lessons went smoothly with the BrightLink 485wi’s ability to put a variety of lines and colors on the screen, although during the science simulation, its video was a little choppy compared to the Sony VPL-SW535C.
It may have its quirks, but only the Epson BrightLink 485wi puts all the pieces of a great interactive projector together. Its list price of $2,200 can be reduced to $1,700 with the company’s Bright Futures school discount, which includes a three-year warranty.
It may not be the cheapest or the brightest but it is the interactive projector with the lowest annual costs. The teaching ability of the BrightLink 485wi is the true pay-off.
+ Rich and vivid images
+ Includes 2 pens
+ No computer required
+ Horizontal and vertical keystone correction
+ Good imaging
+ WiFi option
- Awkward third party mount installation
- Optional classroom software
Optoma’s TW675UTiM-3d is a study in classroom contrasts. It is one of the cheapest of the group yet comes with a wall-mounting kit, but has the highest operating costs. Still, it can be the digital centerpiece that a classroom is built around.
The white and gray projector has a large swooping output mirror and can be used on a table or permanently mounted. Unlike other DLP-based projectors, the TW675UTiM-3D has a large air filter that Optoma describes as a precaution against damage; it should be changed or cleaned every six months.
It weighs a hefty 16.8 pounds and only the Smart projector is heavier. In other words, have two people ready to install it. Underneath the projector there are four screw holes for ceiling- or wall-mounting. Like many interactive projectors, the TW675UTiM-3D comes with a wall bracket. It took a few minutes to install it on the iTeach cart.
The projector uses DLP technology similar to the S500wi and LightRaise 40wi, putting 1,280 by 800 resolution images onto the screen. It may lack either an optical zoom or lens shift hardware to fine tune the image, but it has vertical keystone correction.
The TW675UTiM-3D uses a radio frequency link to connect the pen with the projector and it was able to put well-defined and reliable markings onto the screen in a variety of line widths and colors with only a slight lag. It worked well on everything from showing an army’s advance on a map to modeling a sentence’s structure for the class to see and work with. It offers one more thing: an on-screen keyboard.
On the downside, the TW675UTiM-3D requires a PC connection to use the pen. It also has the largest and heaviest pens of the group, weighing a hefty 2.6 ounces and will challenge small fingers. One pen comes with the projector but extra units cost $100 and you can use two at once for collaborative or competitive board work. The pen uses a pair of AAA batteries, which might become an extra expense over time.
There’s good news because Optoma has redesigned the pen and I got a sneak preview of it. Version 3 of the Optoma PointBlank Interactive Pen is expected to go on sale in the fall, and works with the TW675UTiM-3D. It is not only much slimmer and weighs 1.7-ounces, but has an open tip that’s similar to the Smart pen. All told, it will work better for small children and teachers alike.
The projector can work with anything from VGA and HDMI to Composite and S-Video equipment and has a snap-on cover to hide the cables. There are ports for audio and USB as well as an RS-232 for controlling it and a 12-volt circuit for opening and closing a powered screen. It has a wired LAN connection and a WiFi upgrade costs a reasonable $29.
It comes with a mid-sized remote control, but the TW673UTiM-3D lacks a laser pointer. You can use it to mute the audio, freeze the image and select the projector’s source. Of its seven projection modes, the Presentation one was most appropriate for classroom work because the higher output Bright mode had an annoying yellow/green cast to it; the projector has a classroom mode that is significantly dimmer.
All told, the projector delivered 3,407 lumens in Bright mode and 2,740 lumens in Presentation mode. Be warned, the TW675UTiM-3D is an expensive projector to operate. The $279 replacement lamp is rated for 2,000 hours at maximum output. Along with its 351 watt power use, the system could cost as much as an estimated $291 a year in typical school use. That’s three-times the expected expenses of the BrightLink 485wi projector.
It took 30 seconds to get going and 12 seconds to shut-down and the projector’s noise level was 43.3dBA, about in the middle for all three measures. The Optoma projector had a peak temperature of 161-degrees Fahrenheit, but sends out an annoying blast of air when it’s shutting itself off.
The projector includes a copy of Qwizdom’s Wiz Teach, which has lots of classroom goodies. The big bonus, though, is that the projector has Crestron’s RoomView software built in. During the lessons, the TW675UTiM-3D was a great teaching assistant, putting firm bold lines onto the screen. It was bright, its color balance was surprisingly strong and the system’s pair of 5-watt speakers sound great.
Its three-year warranty will please the school’s IT crowd, although the lamp is only covered for a year. Changing the lamp was easy and can be done with it mounted on a table or the wall. With its wall mounting hardware and a pen, the $1,700 TW675UTiM-3D sets a new standard for the price of an interactive projector.
+ Includes WizTeach software
+ Includes wall mount
+ Crestron RoomView software built in
+ WiFi option
- Big and heavy pen
- Expensive to use
- Needs a PC to use pen
For districts and schools that already use Smart Technologies’ Notebook software, getting the LightRaise 40wi makes a good thing better because the projector can take teacher-student interactivity to a new level. On the other hand, it has a large and cumbersome wand and its installation is less flexible than the other projectors.
Like all but the Dell S500wi, the LightRaise 40wi comes with a custom wall mounting bracket. Unlike all of the others, it can’t be used on a tabletop and requires some ingenuity and imagination to mount it to standard spider ceiling- or wall-mounting hardware. While we were able to use it with the iTeach cart, it wasn’t pretty.
The angular gray projector is longer than any of the others, weighs a hefty 17.1 pounds and will require at least two to set it up. A big bonus is that the hardware comes with paper templates that you tape to the wall to make sure it is secure and set in the right place on the first try.
Based on DLP technology, the LightRaise 40wi creates 1,280 by 800 resolution imaging and has an open output mirror. It does without the air filters of some of the others, though, but only has vertical keystone correction. It lacks a zoom lens so the set up might be a bit involved to get the final image just right.
Unfortunately, its 2.2 ounce wand is one of the biggest and heaviest of the bunch and will probably be too much for small hands to manage with; only Optoma’s 2.6-ounce pen is heavier. The system uses a radio frequency beam to stay in contact with the projector, but can only link with one pen at a time. The wand uses rechargeable batteries and has a hollow tip that doesn’t block the view of what’s being written. Replacement pens cost $100, twice that of the BrightLink pens.
While the unit includes a tiny minimalist remote control, it doesn’t have a laser pointer to highlight things on the screen. On the downside, the Smart projector can’t incorporate the pen’s strokes on its own, but when connected to a computer it offers a wide variety of lines and colors for marking up a lesson. The wand can control the computer as well. There was a slight lag in its operation but the response was smooth and solid.
There’s no place to hide the system’s cables, so have some tie-wraps or Velcro straps ready when you’re installing the LightRaise 40wi. On the other hand, there are more than enough input and output ports to fit into any classroom situation, including VGA, HDMI, Composite- and S-Video. They system also offers USB, audio, an RS-232 and a 5-volt circuit for remotely controlling a screen. It comes with a LAN port, but Smart doesn’t offer a WiFi option.
The projector has five projection modes and delivered 2,781 lumens of light, well above its 2,500-lumen rating. That’s nearly 1,000 lumens less than the S500wi, but more than enough for a lights-on lesson in most classrooms. Its illumination varies a little with the bottom being hotter than the top of the screen. As was the case with the Dell projector, its colors were muddy and less vivid than the VPL-SW535C’s images.
While it was running, the LightRaise 40wi kept its cool with the lowest temperature of the group. At 108-degrees Fahrenheit, it was 82-degrees cooler than the S500wi, but its 42.4dBA noise rating was in the middle of the pack. It’s a little slow to get going, with start-up and shut-down times of 22- and 45-seconds; only the Sony VPL-SW535C was slower.
While the LightRaise 40wi used less power than the S500wi, its estimated operating expenses of $183 a year are only outdone by the TW673UTiM-3D. That’s primarily due to the projector’s $200 replacement lamp that is rated to last for 2,500 hours. Its lamp is easy to change.
During the lesson phase of testing, the LightRaise 40wi excelled because it came with Smart’s Notebook software. It not only lets you integrate student response clickers, but also a document camera and other digital classroom accessories. There’re lots of lessons available and any work can be saved in the software for later use.
The projector comes with a 3-year warranty, although the lamp is covered for only 1,000 hours, or about half a school year. Including the mounting hardware, the LightRaise 40wi sells for $1,700 and can turn a room into an interactive classroom.
+ Notebook software
+ Includes wall mount and pen box
+ Must use computer
+ Pen has hollow tip
- High operating costs
- Can’t use on table
- No place to hide cables
- Large wand
- Slow start-up and shut-down
Size matters, and Sony’s VPL-SW535C has the smallest and lightest pens of any interactive projector, allowing children and adults to use it with ease and precision. On the other hand, it’s the most expensive projector of the group and lacks any classroom software. Still, it can be a winner in the classroom.
The rectangular white projector comes with wall-mounting hardware and has a flat bottom with four screw mounts. This makes it simple, straight-forward and quick to use standard mounting hardware to hang it from a ceiling or wall. At about 16 pounds, you’ll probably want two people around to mount it. The VPL-SW535C can be set up on the iTeach cart in a few minutes. It can be used on a tabletop or permanently mounted.
Like the other four, the VPL-SW535C uses an output mirror, but it has a glass cover, as is the case with the BrightLink projector. Inside are three Sony Bright Era LCD panels that create the 1,280 by 800 resolution image. The projector has an air filter that requires cleaning or replacing every 6,000 hours of use; that’s roughly four years of heavy school use.
Image is everything in the classroom, and Sony’s VPL-SW535C puts the sharpest and richest images with the best color balance onto the classroom screen. There’s a zoom lever and a focus dial in the front, but they are hidden beneath trap doors to prevent curious children from playing with its settings. The projector has vertical, but no horizontal keystone correction. Its ace in the hole is a clever image shift system that can move the image a few inches to the right, left, up or down to fine tune the installation.
The system’s 1.6-ounce pens are a marvel. They’re an ounce lighter and thinner than the wands from the Optoma projector. The pen’s end is flouted so that it is easier to for small hands to grasp it and there’s a large loop for a cord to keep it in place.
Based on infrared technology, the pen is quite responsive and was reliable. It requires a pair of AAA batteries to operate, which could end up being an extra expense for schools. Replacement pens cost a reasonable $60.
With two pens, the VPL-SW535C is great for collaborative projects and math contests. You’ll need to connect it to a computer and use Sony’s Interactive Software to get it to work with the pens, though. The projector is the only one of the five to not offer school software but it has the bonus of an on-screen keyboard for typing words with the pen. On the downside, you’ll end up with gibberish if you have the software keyboard displayed and use the computer’s keyboard, though.
Its mid-sized remote control lacks a laser pointer, but has volume control and a digital zoom, although this only works when you’re driving the projector from a VGA source. With inputs for working with VGA, HDMI, Composite- and S-Video sources, the VPL-SW535C can also connect with audio, USB and RS-232. Unfortunately, there’s no place to hide the system’s cables, but they can be routed through the mounting hardware’s arm. When it’s time to install the projector have a handful of Velcro cable straps handy. There’s a LAN port, but no WiFi option, as is the case with several of its competitors.
The projector has five projection modes and in the brightest, the VPL-SW535C put 3,222 lumens on the screen in the TechLAB test room. That’s slightly above the 3,000 lumen specification and was extremely uniform. Its color balance blew the rest of the field away with the best and brightest colors of any interactive projector we’ve seen. It may not be as bright as the S500wi, but it puts out more than enough light for a shades-up lesson.
It is whisper silent as well, generating only 41.1dBA, the quietest of the bunch and its 153-degree Fahrenheit exhaust temperature was right in the middle of this gang of five. Unfortunately, it’s a slow starter that takes 36 seconds to put an image on the screen and 1 minute and 28 seconds to shut-down at the end of a lesson.
Because it uses 224 watts – the lowest of the bunch – we were tempted to leave it on all day. Sony provides built-in software that dims the projector’s beam at set intervals to reduce its power consumption. Using the pen wakes it up to full brightness.
The VPL-SW535C has an inexpensive $125 replacement lamp that’s rated at 3,000 hours of use. All told, it takes about two minutes to change the lamp and can be done with it mounted upside-down. The projector will cost an estimated $110 a year to operate, much less than either the Dell, Optoma or Smart projectors, but $25 per year more than the BrightLink 485wi.
It worked like a charm while we were teaching with the VPL-SW535C with strong, reliable lines and the choice of several colors and line widths. The projector comes with a 3-year warranty. During the lesson phase, the strong suit of the VPL-SW535C became apparent: its video with smooth action and incredible sharpness,
Don’t let the projector’s $3,050 list price scare you. If you want this projector, schools can get it for as little as $1,950, with Sony’s educational discount. When you factor in the wall mounting hardware that’s included, the VPL-SW535C is a luxury that most schools can afford.
+ Best image and color balance
+ Comes with 2 pens
+ Wall mount hardware included
- No school software
- Requires PC for pen use
- Slow shutdown
- No place to hide cables
Classroom on Wheels
Interactive projectors are generally meant to be permanently mounted on the wall of a classroom and stay put. Not so with Balt’s iTeach, a cart that allows classrooms to share a projector.
The powder coated steel cart is like a modernist sculpture with sweeping curves and an intricate frame that can hold a white board that’s up to 2-inches thick. Even the welds are beautiful. It can handle projectors up to 25-pounds and iTeach has room for a desktop PC and printer as well as optional trays for a notebook, speakers or video equipment.
Putting it together is not for the faint of heart, though. The cart comes in several boxes on a wooden skid and has huge metal parts that need to be precisely manipulated and bolted together. Happily, the hardware comes in small bags that are coded to the individual tasks. Figure that it will require two people about 90 minutes to put the cart together.
Once it’s together, the cart has a secret. There’s a motorized track that moves the projector and screen in tandem up and down 20-inches. That way it can accommodate the tallest high school senior or the shortest first grader. Even at about 300-pounds, iTeacher’s sturdy casters allow it to be pushed around by either the most petite teacher or a 10-year old child.
I used it with the five interactive projectors and the system’s spider mount worked with each, although the Smart LightRaise 40wi, which lacks mounting screw holes underneath, was the hardest to set up. Unfortunately, all this flexibility comes at a price. The basic iTeach cart lists for $2,300, but if you shop carefully, it can be had for about $1,000 less. There’s a big bonus: it has a ten-year warranty, meaning it will likely outlast the projector it’s attached to.
|Dell S500wi||Epson BrightLink 485wi||Optoma TW675UTiM-3D||Smart LightRaise 40wi||Sony VPL-SW535C|
|Dimensions||7.8x12.9x16.5 in.||5.4x14.8x14.6 in.||8.3x16.9x16 in.||12.7x14.1x27.0 in.||6.4x15.6x16.4 in.|
|Weight||15.7 lbs.||12 lbs.||16.8 lbs.||17.1 lbs.||15.7 lbs.|
|Imaging technology/ Resolution||DLP/1,280x800||3 LCD/1,280x800||DLP/1,280x800||DLP/1,280x800||3 LCD/1,280x800|
|Interaction technology/Number of pens included||Radio Frequency/1||Infrared/2||Radio frequency/1||Radio Frequency/1||Infrared/2|
|Weight of pen/batteries||2.1 oz./rechargable||1.7 oz./AA battery||2.6 oz./AAA batteries||2.2 oz./rechargable||1.6 oz./AAA batteries|
|Output Mirror or lens||Mirror||Mirror||Mirror||Mirror||Mirror|
|Ceiling mountable/Tabletop use||Yes/Yes||Yes/Yes||Yes/Yes||Yes/No||Yes/Yes|
|Includes wall mount hardware||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ports||VGA, HDMI, Composite-Video, S-Video, USB, RS-232, 12-volt DC, audio||VGA, HDMI, Composite-Video, S-Video, USB,RS-232, audio||VGA, HDMI, Composite-Video, S-Video, USB, audio, RS-232, 12-volt DC||VGA, HDMI, Compostie-Video, S-Video, USB, audio, RS-232, 5-volt DC||VGA, HDMI, Composite-Video, S-Video, USB, RS-232, audio|
|Keystone correction, vertical/horizontal||Yes/No||Yes/Yes||Yes/No||Yes/No||Yes/No|
|Start-Up/Shut-Down time||14-/13-sec.||20-/2-sec.||30-/12-sec.||22-/45-sec.||36-sec./1 min.28 sec.|
|Brightness||3,717 lumens||3,054 lumens||3,407 lumens||2,781 lumens||3,222 lumens|
|Noise level||43.7dBA||42.3 dBA||43.3dBA||42.4dBA||41.1dBA|
|Temperature||190-degrees F.||152-degrees F.||161-degrees F.||108-degrees F.||153 degrees F.|
|Power use on/Standby||316-/6-watts||276-/0-watts||351-/0-watts||286-/0-watts||224-/0-watts|
|Annual costs estimate||$178||$95||$291||$183||$110|
|Warranty||2-year||3-year *||3-year **||3-years||3-years|
|Price||$1,600||$ 1,700 ***||$1,700||$1,700||1,950***|
|Notes:||*: lamp warrantied for 90 days|
|**: lamp warrantied for 1 year or 1,000 hours of use|
|***: with educational discount|
TechLAB Interactive Projector Testing
To get a good idea as to how a classroom can be built around an interactive projector, we set each device up in a variety of ways. In addition to standard ceiling and tabletop operations, we used Balt’s iTeach whiteboard cart so that the projector can become a mobile classroom. While installing the projector, we paid attention to how hard it was to aqccomplish, how many people were required and how long it took.
After weighing each system, 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 laptop and a Samsung Galaxy tablet. 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.
They were each set up close to a large screen on a table and turned on. Using a stop watch, we measured how long it took to start up the projector (when the image appears) and shut it down (when the fan stops). After adjusting the projector’s distance to create a 1 square meter image, we measured the distance to the screen from the back of the projector.
Then, with the lens fully zoomed out and using an Extech EA-30 light 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 or places where the color varies.
To see how they project a variety of material, we first projected the built-in test patterns in each projector if it has any. Then, we critically went through the test patterns on the Walvision Web site (walvisions.com) looking for color fidelity, jagged edges on diagonal lines and areas that are not uniform in terms of focus, brightness and color.
Next, we watched some HD video clips that were stored on the host computer as well as from YouTube. While they played, we looked for crispness, smoothness, color balance and audio synchronization. The sound quality and loudness were judged. While each projector was playing a video, we measured how much power it 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. We use the national average of electricity selling for 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.
To gauge the interactivity of each projector, we used its included wand and noted whether it can handle two or more users at once. We looked at the quality of the lines it creates, its responsiveness and if the wand loses contact when it’s in shadow.
Each came with a remote control and these were examined for size, range of features and the presence of a laser pointer. Next, the projector’s 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 Balt’s iTeach whiteboard cart and used it in a number of locations.
The testing culminated in a group of mock lessons. First we used the software that came with the projector and then used the University of Colorado’s Hydrogen Atom simulation, doing a geometry problem and marking up a static map.