Teaching turns into interactive education with a touch monitor, like NEC’s V423-TM display. The 42-inch display can not only show full HD programming, but it has cameras at each corner that respond to four individual touch inputs, so two can use the screen at once. The screen has inputs for DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort as well as an RJ-45 networking port and can use video processing boards that use the Open Pluggable Specification. The V423-TM will sell for $2,399 with a three-year warranty.
As the bring-your-own-device ethic filters into the classroom, the problem of connecting them to monitors and projectors to share it with the whole class becomes paramount. Sceptre’s X325BV 32-inch TV is not only inexpensive and can show HD material but connects with a wide variety of sources, including phones and tablets.
The black TV-monitor is only 3-inches thick and has a thin bezel around its 31.5-inch display panel. This should allow it to fit into just about any classroom décor. It comes with a stand that raises the display 2.5-inches above a table or shelf, but you’ll have to put it together yourself; happily, the box includes a screwdriver. At 23-pounds, it’s light enough to be unpacked, connected and installed by one person and hung on a wall.
The display itself is very bright and sharp and is great for showing graphics and presentations. It can display 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, has automatic contrast enhancement as well as two different video noise reduction techniques.
With a wide 176-degree viewing angle, the TV has a wide assortment of adjustments, including brightness, color temperature and clock timing. In addition to analog and digital tuners for bringing in broadcast TV content, the X325BV works with a cable box and has one of the best assortments of connections. In addition to three HDMI ports, the TV has Composite, VGA and Y-Pb-Pr connections. The TV can also lift images and audio – but not video – off of a memory key plugged into its USB port.
At the heart of the display's connectivity is its ability to use one of its HDMI ports as an input for a Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) device. That opens up dozens of Android tablets and phones for use with the monitor. It worked like a charm with an LG Nitro phone, connecting on the first try, but you’ll need to use the HDMI-3 input, supply your own MHL cable and power it with a USB adapter; generic cables cost about $10 each.
In addition, the TV can work directly with a Roku streaming player and I was able to put the output of a Nexus 7 onto the X325BV’s display with a SlimPort connector. It also works with a ChromeCast wireless adapter.
Audio is just as important as video and the X325BV has a pair of 10-watt speakers at the screen’s lower corners and the ability to drive a surround sound system. To enhance and customize sound, the Sceptre X325BV has a 7-band equalizer for adjusting different parts of the audio spectrum.
It comes with a large remote control that has a variety of functions, from selecting the source and aspect ratio to adjusting the volume and changing the channel. You can even use it to control a sound bar, like Sceptre’s $200 SB301523 bar. The remote it is powered by a pair of AAA batteries and has brightly colored buttons, but no backlighting for teaching in the dark.
The screen is a power miser that uses less than a watt of electricity when it’s turned off. When it is being used, the X325BV consumes 33 watts of power, and the screen can be set to turn itself off after 10 minutes of not having an active input. All told, it will cost less than $7 a year if used for 8-hours every school day.
While it’s perfect for teaching and collaborating with up to about 20 children, the X325BV’s 32-inch screen might be too small for a larger group, particularly if there are students that are more than 15- or 20-feet away from the display. Still, at $300, about half the cost of a 47-inch screen, it is a bargain that can help bring phones and tablets to bear on teaching.
+ Instant MHL and Roku connections
+ 3 HDMI inputs
+ Slim design
+ Low power use
+ Analog and digital tuners
- Too small for big classroom
- Doesn’t include MHL cable
What do you do if you have an assignment or a lesson plan on an iPad that needs to be on an Android slate or a video on a phone that needs to end up on a Mac computer? You can always put it on a server or online storage system and then pick up later. There’s a new way to do this data dance: PhotoFast’s i-FlashDrive. The small device weighs two-thirds of an ounce, yet can connect to an iOS device, a notebook as well as several Android devices from HTC, Sony and Samsung. Once plugged into each device, files – including documents, images and videos – can flow each way or be stored on the drive’s 16-, 32- or 64GB of storage. It costs $149 to $299, depending on capacity.
Those with good memories probably remember the Linksys WRT 54G family of WiFi routers. Well, they’re back, but with the twist that only 802.11ac can deliver. The new WRT 1900AC Dual-Band Wireless-AC Router uses the as yet unratified 802.11ac protocol to move just under 2Gbps of data and Web access to dozens of clients. The best part is that the WRT 1900AC not only can use the latest 802.11ac protocol but is backward compatible with older 802.11a, b, g and n systems.
With the latest beamforming technology, it uses both 2.4- and 5GHz frequency bands, has a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and shuffles data to and fro via four antennas. Happily, they can be removed and exchanged for higher gain ones. The router has four gigabit per second wired ports as well as both USB 3.0 and E-SATA ports for connecting a printer and a hard drive. On the downside, all this hardware means that the WRT is one of the few routers that requires a cooling fan, although it’s not expected to be disruptive.
The system comes with quality of service software, content controls and an incredibly useful way to map all of a networks devices and clients. While it can quickly be converted to an access point, the WRT router lacks LDAP authentication, but Linksys is working on adding this key feature. Look for it by Spring for $300.
You don’t need six or seven speakers mounted in the ceiling anymore to fill a classroom with sound. Nakamichi’s NK22 Soundbar can make sure that everyone hears what’s going on with high-quality audio that comes out of a 37-inch long narrow bar that can fit under a monitor or projector screen. Inside, the bar has four 2.5-inch drivers and a pair of 1-inch tweeters), while the separate wireless subwoofer has a single 6.5-inch driver. The $350 set of speakers has a 480-watt amplifier and includes a remote control.
If touching a door knob at school makes you afraid of catching the plague, NanoTouch can sterilize high traffic places. The unique patented NanoTouch surface kills kill bacteria, viruses and fungi, without any power or harsh chemicals. From door handles to desk mats, your school can be clean with a built-in biology lesson.
If you think that the only printer suitable for classrooms form their images with a laser, Brother has another way. The company’s HL-S7000DN is a high-speed inkjet printer that can rival lasers on quality and speed while using a lot less electricity. Capable of pumping out up to 100 pages per minute, the system has a 500-page paper holder as well as tthree optional alternate paper trays. The HL-S7000DN uses a high capacity ink cartridge that is good for 30,000 pages.
As every school shooting proves, you need to know who’s at the school’s doors and limit access. At $150, Swann’s Doorphone video intercom does it on the cheap. The audio-video intercom combines a video camera installed near the door and a remote 3.5-inch color screen to see who’s there with a two-way audio intercom. It works in bright sunlight as well as in the dark and comes with 50-feet of cabling as well as mounting hardware.
Mac-centric schools take note: the next generation Mac Pro black cylinder tower systems are now on sale. Don’t expect to get one until early February at the earliest, but you can order it now. The systems are screamers that are more attuned to video editing and high-end graphics than day-to-day teaching. They come with anything from a quad- to a 12-core Xenon processor, up to 64GB of RAM and as much as a terabyte of solid state storage space. It’s top shelf all the way with six Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3.0, HDMI and a pair of LAN ports. It comes with the choice of three high-end AMD FirePro graphics cards. All this hardware doesn’t come cheap because the Mac Pro starts at $3,999 but can go as high as roughly $20,000 for a fully loaded system.
Got a problem with cables all over the place in your classroom or lecture hall? Crestron’s FT-TS600 FlipTop Touch Screen connectors can help clean things up. Its flush-mounted box can consolidate a variety of cables at a lecture podium, desk or discussion table. In addition to video, audio and power, the box has a 5-inch fold-out color touch screen to help manage them that folds flat when not in use. Cables can either be set up to pass through the box or on retractable spools.