The Teaching Appliance
Ever wanted to leave the notebook on the desk and teach directly to the class with an interactive projector. Epson’s BrightLink Pro 1410Wi Meeting Room Productivity Tool lets you take the computer out of the teaching equation.
If you don’t look closely, it’s easy to mistake the BrightLink Pro 1410Wi for earlier BrightLink interactive projectors. They’re both ultra-short throw projectors that are roughly 14.5- by 14.8- by 7.5-inches and weigh about 13-pounds. This makes a one-person set up doable. The projector has a clever screw-on removable cover for cables, adjustable feet for using the projector on a tabletop as well as eight screws underneath for ceiling mounting.
Inside the projector is a trio of 1,280 by 800 LCD panels, and the BL Pro is rated to be able to put 3,100 lumens of light on the screen, significantly more than the BrightLink 475Wi model.
In addition to a control panel on the projector and a remote control, the projector breaks new ground for teaching with a unique external control pad that can help make working with the projector easier and more natural. It uses a pair of AA batteries and connects with the BL Pro via an audio cable or a wireless link. It has USB connectors as well as buttons for controlling the projector and can be screwed into a wall or desktop.
While the BrightLink Pro 1410Wi works well when connected with a PC or Mac and comes with all the cables you’ll need, it works just as well on its own. It falls short of the mark set by the thin-client-ready Mitsubishi WD390U-EST, but the BL Pro can either grab items from a memory key or network connection as long as they are in .pdf document, jpg image or .mpg video file formats. Epson includes a program for converting a variety of files to be directly projected by the BrightLink Pro. It’s a little awkward, but the file chooser is easy to figure out.
The projector comes with two interactive pens and at any time you can pick up one of them up and mark up what’s on the screen or annotate, sketch or highlight an item. It can also be used to control the computer’s pointer or select an item on screen. The pens weigh 1.2-ounces each, use an AA batteries and are easily calibrated with the projector. They come with a wall-mountable case and work just as well on a whiteboard as on a painted plaster wall.
Want to teach free-form? Just set the projector to Whiteboard mode and you have a full-screen canvas to fill with sentences, geometric figures or a hand-drawn map of Revolutionary War battles. The annotation menu takes up some of the teaching space, but can be set up on either side and hidden. There’re several line weights and colors to choose from and a very useful eraser. When you’re done, you can save a screen shot or print what’s on the screen, but there’s no way to record a lesson as a video.
The BrightLink Pro is unique in its ability to split the screen so that on one half you can show a speech from a Web site while making notes on the other half. This alone can revolutionize how projectors can help teach a lesson.
Its connections set the BL Pro apart from the crowd. It covers the basics well with HDMI, Composite video, audio, USB, RS-232 and VGA-in and -out. It may lack an S-video port, but it replaces it with the more useful Displayport connector, which some notebooks are starting to use.
In addition to a wired Ethernet port, the system comes with a USB WiFi adapter, but you need to choose between it and using a memory key. There’s also a USB slot for a document camera or other input device.
A huge step forward for educational technology is the BL Pro’s ability to directly link via a school or district’s network with other projectors, but they need to also be BrightLink Pro systems. The same screens show up on all connected projectors, making the BrightLink Pro perfect for sharing, collaborating and performing district-wide training sessions without having to travel.
Set up is made easy with the combination of horizontal and vertical keystone correction, but the BrightLink Pro lacks image shift and an optical zoom lens; it has a digital zoom. The projector can display an image of up to 100-inches and up against the screen, the projector makes a 60-inch image.
There are four test patterns built-in that can help tweak the projector’s placement and settings. Plus, the projector has something I wish more devices would include: built-in help for fixing things like odd color tone or no sound.
Epson has teamed with Chief to create whiteboards with an aluminum or wood frame, a simple curved cover that hides the projector and a place to put the pens. They sell for $4,000 and $4,500 including the projector.
In the real world, the BrightLink Pro 1410Wi was able to put 3,515 lumens of light on screen in its Dynamic mode, which has a slight green cast to it; there are also setups for Presentation, Photo, Theater, SRGB, Whiteboard and Dicom Sym. You can also create your own custom projection mode by adjusting a variety of settings.
The BrightLink Pro 1410Wi’s strong suit is its color balance. While other short-throw projectors put muddy colors onto the screen, the BL Pro’s balance is spot on.
It was able to start up in 16.9-seconds and shut itself down in 3.6-seconds, making it a snap for stop-and-go teaching. When it’s on, the projector uses 286 watts, which can be lowered to 192 watts in its power-saving Eco mode; it uses no power when in sleep mode.
Its $80 lamp is rated to last 3,500 hours and is one of the best buys in technology today; the projector also requires an air filter that should be checked and cleaned when the lamp is replaced. All told, expect that the BrightLink Pro 1410Wi will cost only $42 a year to operate per year, one of the lowest annual operating expense amounts I’ve seen for a projector of this output and quality.
In addition to a slew of software for monitoring the projector, the BrightLink Pro includes the infrastructure for using Crestron RoomView hardware as well as Faroqudja DCDI Cinema video processing. It also works with Epson’s iProjection app for the iPad.
With the pair of pens, remote control and the external control panel, the projector can require a total of 6 AA batteries. Happily, the projector includes disposable batteries for all as well as rechargeable ones for the pens and control panel.
More than a mere projector, the BrightLink Pro 1410Wi is a self-contained teaching appliance that doesn’t need a computer to turn a classroom into an interactive space. Its $2,999 price tag is roughly twice the price of other interactive projectors and may be hard to swallow for many districts, but the BrightLink Pro 1410Wi does so much and does it so effortlessly that it’s a bargain.
+ Bright and sharp image
+ Don’t need PC to project
+ Inexpensive bulb
+ Blank Whiteboard mode
+ Separate control Panel
+ Includes 2 pens
+ DisplayPort connection
- No optical zoom