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Wrap-Around Sights and Sounds

Benq xr3501It may have been made with gamers in mind, but BenQ’s Curved XR3501 monitor is about as good as it gets for doing detailed work like image and video editing as well as CAD and digital art at school. At $1,000, the XR3501 joins curved screens from Dell, LG, Samsung and HP, but the BenQ one has a very fast 144-hertz refresh rate as well as a curvature with a radius of a little over six and one half feet. It’s enough so that the 35-inch display feels like an immersive wrap-around display that sucks you into the material. Plus, you can keep four windows open at once without it feeling crowded.

Curved-Sound-Bar_1While a curved screen can look great, it can also mean flat sound. LG’s Music Flow HS8 Wireless Curved Sound Bar has a curvature that matches that of LG’s 34UC97 curved display and can radiate audio to a group of students. Inside the semicircular case are five speakers that can fill just about any room with 360 watts of audio. It has WiFi and Bluetooth built-in, works with Google Cast and is compatible with many popular universal remote controls. On the downside, it’s only available at Europe at the moment.


Build a Big Screen

MSTMDP122DP.mainSometimes the best way to get an ultra-HD screen is to make one from several separate displays ganged together into a multi-monitor array. While you can do it with some computers without extra hardware, StarTech’s new line of Multi Stream Transport (MST) devices are a great first step. Basically, these small devices let you connect up to four monitors to a single input, stretching the image across them. For instance, a pair of XXGA screens (1,280 by 1,024 pixels) would yield a composite image of 2.6 million pixels. All have Displayport (DP) inputs and outputs, with models that range from the $100 two full-size DP output model and the $185 four full-size DP output to mini-Displayport models for two and four outputs.




Bigger Surface

Surface hub cropIf the Surface 3 and the Pro 3 aren’t big enough to hold your lessons, think big, really big. The Surface Hub is the perfect screen for schools and can replace projectors with a huge touch screen that can connect to systems wirelessly. Aside from putting an end to pesky projector shadows, the Hub pushes resolution into the 4K realm. It may look like a big monitor, but inside is a full Windows 10 computer with a high-performance Core i7 processor, Nvidia graphics and a pair of Web cams. If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford one (much less a school’s worth of them). The displays should be available in September with pricing starting at $7,000 (for an HD 55-inch model) and reaching $20,000 (for the top-of-the-line 84-inch 4K model). Fear not, I expect these prices to drop to the point where in a few years this type of display will give projectors a run for the money.

UHD on the Cheap

Vizio m43Think Ultra HD imaging has to cost a small fortune? Vizio will change your mind with its 43-inch M-series TV/monitor that sells for $600. With 3,840 by 2,160 pixel resolution, it has four-times the imaging elements of regular old HD screens or projectors and has a spatial scaling engine that can turn just about any input into beautifully sharp high-resolution imaging. The display has an 802.11ac dual-band WiFi radio, a six-core processor and the remote control has a cool mini-keyboard on the back. 

Big Window on the School World

HP Ultra-Narrow Bezel Z24n DisplayTeaching video and image editing requires a big screen that doesn’t skimp on resolution, and HP’s $379 Z24n fits the bill with full HD resolution, factory-calibrated color and the ability to connect a pair of them to a single computer. The 24-inch monitor has a 16:10 aspect ratio and can show 99 percent of the sRBG gamut and can connect via HDMI, mini- and full-size DisplayPort connectors as well as a DVI port. It has a built-in four-port USB 3.0 hub and its bezel is thin enough to use for multi-display arrays. The stand can not only tilt, swivel and pivot, but can rotate the display between landscape and portrait modes.  


Plug and Watch

17 - E1759FWU hi-res (3)Despite continuing advances in displays and computers, it’s still hassle to connect your small screen to a bigger one on the fly for a group of students to see. With power and video cables to deal with, I often cross my fingers in hope that it works on the first or second try. With AOC’s E1759FWU display all you need is one cable to share a screen.

The display uses the latest version of DisplayLink software and a USB cable to both power the screen and supply it with imaging data, making it about the easiest display to teach with.

At 9.8- by 16.1- by 0.6-inches, it’s small for a 17-inch display and only slightly larger than Lenovo’s ThinkVision LT1421, which has a 14-inch screen. It delivers 15.1- by 8.7-inches of viewable space, but its 1,600 by 900 resolution, 262,000 color gamut and 10-millisecond video response time are far from impressive. It, however, outdoes the LT1421, which tops out at 1,366 by 768 resolution. Like other USB displays, it lacks touch control.

Setting up the AOC screen is the easy part. You’ll need to load the DisplayLink software that comes on a CD once and then restart the host computer. There’re software versions for Macs and PCs from Windows XP to 8.1, but lacks the ability to connect with an Android or iPad tablet as well as work with any of the major wireless video specs, like WiDi, Miracast or Air Play.

17 - E1759FWU hi-res (2)After plugging the included micro-USB 3.0 cable into the back of the screen, you need to plug the two USB plugs on the other end into the host system. It requires a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port. In other words, it will take up most, if not all, of the USB ports on the typical notebook and is impossible to use with a tablet unless you have a USB hub handy.

As the display starts up, the E1759FWU blanks the host’s screen and then in a second or two, the image is displayed on the AOC screen. It automatically sets the right resolution and can be used to mirror or extend the base screen, but the E1759FWU’s adjustments are minimal to say the least. You can change the brightness and contrast, but there isn’t even a power switch. The screen lacks speakers.

The USB screen’s black plastic case weighs just 2.8-pounds and comes with a padded cover, making it perfect for grab and go lessons or even teaching outside on a warm day. On the other hand, the E1759FWU has one of the best stands in the business. Its pull-out easel leg makes for a sturdy base extends up to 10.5-inches in the back. You can tilt the screen from a nearly vertical angle to 30-degrees

It can be set up horizontally or vertically. The magic happens when you change its orientation from landscape to portrait mode (or vice versa) because the screen’s image automatically rotates to accommodate the new view of the world. If you want to, the display can be attached to a wall- or table bracket with its 100-millimeter VESA mounting screw holes.

17 - E1759FWU hi-res (1)All told, the image appears a little dull and the display puts out 163 candelas per square meter of brightness, or about one-third off of its specification. Its colors look accurate but some appear to be washed out and grayscale images have a blue cast to them.

 It’s a power-miser that consumes less than 10-watts. That means that it can be used with its host computer running on battery power. This and the fact that the screen comes with a 3-year warranty make it a powerful screen for schools.


17 - E1759FWU hi-res



+ USB Powered

+ Quick Setup

+ Pull-out stand

+ Landscape or portrait display with automatic image orientation

+ 3-year warranty

+ Light weight and low power use


- Requires two USB ports

- Not full HD

- No wireless connections


The Big Sharp Screen

Vizio-P702ui-B31At $3,000, Vizio’s P702ui-b3 ultra HD TV/monitor is too expensive for every classroom but it can fit perfectly in a lecture hall, graphics classroom or student lounge. That’s because it measures 70-inches from corner to corner and is among the most detailed screens available with 3,840 by 2,160 resolution. Its 72 active zones can be automatically dimmed or brightened to suit the material and there's a high-performance spatial scaling engine for when displaying less-than Ultra HD material. The best part is that the screen has WiFi built in as well as apps for directly playing YouTube videos, NetFlix and other online services. Vizio makes a 60-inch version that can be had for about $1,700.

Avoiding the Monitor Blues

AOC-Anti-blue-light-600x478Regardless of whether you have a cheap 17-inch screen or a professional 27-inch monitor, they all do one thing that isn’t good for you and your eyes. They all give off a lot of ultraviolet rays that can cause macular degeneration and other ocular damage over time. AOC’s Anti-Blue Light technology will be used on the company’s upcoming 76V family of monitors, which blocks 90 percent of the most damaging light without affecting image quality or the screen’s color balance. Look for the monitors later this year.

Touch Me

Activboard-touch-classflow-5-studentsThe latest ActivBoard Touch interactive whiteboards from Promethean have been made for classroom collaboration with support up to six individual touch inputs. This makes it great for group work or having several students doing a problem independently on the board. Available in 78- and 88-inch models, the boards work with Windows, Mac and Linux computers and work with a stylus or fingers. You can use it to teach with PrometheanPlanet’s library of 80,000 educational resources, there’s an optional sound bar and you can order the screen with the company’s marker-friendly Dry-erase surface option.


MimioDisplay_ms_0936_waterWhat does an interactive projector one better? A large screen touch monitor, like the new MimioDisplays. They all can show high definition material, come in 55-, 65-, 70- or 84-inch sizes and have low glare glass coatings so everyone gets a good view of the action. The monitors allow several students to collaborate on screen with finger motions, digital pens and taps.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.