Light Up a Lesson
The promise of small, light and classroom-ready projectors has finally been fulfilled with Acer’s C205. It may not be the brightest projector in the school, but it is cheap to use, can run on a battery and should be in every school that teaches in small groups.
At 11.9-ounces and taking up only 1.1- by 5.6- by 4.2-inches, it is among the smallest and lightest projectors available and makes traditional devices look gargantuan. A major oversight for a projector that will in all likelihood travel in a bag or pocket is that the C205 lacks a protective lens cap. The lens is recessed, but it’s not enough.
The white and silver device is quick to set up and doesn’t have a lot of things to adjust. In addition to a focus knob, there are only three brightness settings, an audio enhancement setting and a volume control for its pair of 2-watt speakers. Once you focus the image, you’re set to teach. In fact, it lacks things we’re accustomed to seeing on even budget machines, like keystone correction, the ability to change the image’s color temperature and a variety of presentation settings.
This is actually good news if you want a basic projector that is quick to get going or bad news if you like to tweak the settings. All told, it takes less than a minute to set it on a table, turn it on, connect with a source and start teaching.
Underneath is a single tripod mount and a flip out front leg, but the feet aren’t adjustable, which might be a problem when using it on uneven or crooked surfaces. It comes with an AC adapter, HDMI cable and a felt bag, but there’s no remote control available.
Inside, the system has a Digital Light Processing imaging target that delivers 854 by 480 resolution, which should be just enough for most lessons. It was able to create a 41-inch image with the projector 39-inches from the screen.
The key to its abilities is that rather than a traditional high-pressure lamp, the C205 uses LEDs that are rated to last for 20,000 hours, or roughly 15 years of typical school use. In other words, expect for the C205 to outlast three generations of PCs never pay for another lamp.
For its size, the C205 has good connection potential with an HDMI port that can be used with an MHL-based tablet or phone source. It also has an audio and USB connector, but the latter can only be used to power other equipment and not to show items on a memory key. One big advantage of this arrangement is that the USB port can power a Chromecast receiver.
It worked well with wired and wireless sources, but the big bonus for teachers who have to roam the halls during the school day is that the C205 can be powered by its 3,960 milli-amp hour battery pack. On the downside, when you unplug the projector, its light output drops.
It charges in a couple of hours and the 4,200 milliamp hour battery can run the projector for 2 hours and 20 minutes, more than enough for several lessons far from an AC outlet. Unfortunately, it has a crude battery gauge that glows green, orange or red and then puts an empty battery image on-screen as it is about to run out of power.
It was able to put a strong image on-screen in 10 seconds and get to maximum brightness almost immediately, which means that there’s no warm up period with students staring at a blank screen. After several hours of use with a variety of material, from interactive Web sites and online video to work with Word and Excel, I was impressed by its versatility. Surprisingly, for such a small projector, it has a fan, but the case never got more than warm to the touch.
The C205 puts out 146 lumens of brightness, slightly off its 200 lumen rating. That’s just about bright enough to be useful in a small group with the lights on. On the other hand, its image gets washed out when filling a classroom screen and it can’t compete with the sun streaming in on a cloudless June day. All out brightness is beside the point for such a small, light and self-powered projector.
The image it projects is fine for most educational material but suffers from screen door distortion that makes the projected image look like a piece of graph paper. Overall, the C205’s color balance is skewed towards blue, but there’s no way to adjust the color temperature of the projected image. Its greens are too light and blues that look more like purple, but it excels at delivering accurate grayscale tones.
All this is beside the point because the C205 works well and is more than enough for small group work. Even when in its maximum brightness setting, the C205 uses just 20 watts of power. That translates into an annual expense of less than $3, assuming it’s used for 6 hours a day during the school year and the district pays the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. Put another way, the projector has a carbon footprint that roughly the size of a tablet computer and is about as expensive to run for a year as the cost of a cup of coffee.
At $350, the C205 is about half the price that schools expect to pay for projectors. Despite its limitations, having a projector this small, powerful and inexpensive will be a revelation for most teachers used to big, bulky and complicated devices. Think of its incredibly low operating expenses as a bonus.
+ Tiny, light projector
+ Battery powered
+ Sharp images
+ Low power use
+ Simple operation
+ No lamp to change
- Few adjustments
- Screen door distortion
- No keystone correction
- Lacks remote control