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One, Two Power Punch

Prd_v30_hi_boomWho says interactive white boards are dead? Not SmartBoard, which now has put together a killer package for interactive teaching by pairing the company’s 77-inch M680V board with its V30 projector. Called the M680viv2, the $1,800 pair can handle two people using it, regardless of whether it’s a teaching pointing at an item or kids doing math problems with markers. The projector puts 3,000 lumens on screen, comes with a three-year warranty and includes a year of the company’s Notebook advantage online service.

 

 

Big Ink

HP X585 aAs schools consolidate their office and classroom printing into a handful of large machines, they usually choose a laser printer-copier, but HP has a better – and ultimately cheaper – way. The OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585 not only is faster and less expensive to create a variety of documents, but it is a security king that can save on power.

To start, the OfficeJet MFP X585 is a lot of printer that weighs at least 80-pounds and will likely require two people to unpack and set up. It can not only scan and copy, but fax as well. The printer uses HP’s new pigment-based ink and PageWide technology, which covers the entire width of the page with more than 40,000 jets that spray minute droplets of ink onto the page, rather than moving the jets back and forth over the page. It results in faster and more efficient printing.

The printer delivers 600 by 600 dot per inch documents, but can optimize them to look as sharp as 2,400 by 1,200 resolution for photos. It has a 320GB hard drive and an 796MHz processor with 1.8GB of its own memory. It can handle up to 53-pound paper and 80-pound photo card stock and has a single large paper tray that not only holds a full ream of sheets, but shows how much is inside. HP sells a $400 cabinet that can hold supplies and paper as well as a second paper tray for $300.

HP_LaserJet_Enterprise_MFP_M630HP offers a variety of drivers for just about any system on campus. There’s software for all recent Windows and Mac clients as well as for Linux computers and a variety of network operating systems.

Like most devices in its class, the X585 has duplex printing built in, which can save a surprising amount of paper in schools. It also has a duplex scanning engine with a 50-page sheet feeder. The X585’s flip up 8-inch view-screen can display what’s being printed and used for making configuration changes. There’s an optional keyboard, but it’s only available on the more expensive X585z model.

Out of the box, the printer can connect via a USB cable or wired Ethernet connection. To add WiFi, you need to get HP’s add-on 802.11b, g and n WiFi module; it costs $70. It has the bonus of including a near-field communications (NFC) sensor for printing after placing an NFC-quipped phone, tablet or notebook onto the device. It’s the closest thing to IT magic that you’ll see in a school. 

But, you don’t need a physical network connection to print with the X585. At any time, you can use a mobile device to wirelessly send print orders to the X585. The HP ePrint app is available for Androids, iPhones and iPads although it only works with images, Acrobat files, Web pages and Office documents.

Its success at school is due in part to the X585’s low operating costs. To start there’s neither a fuser nor drum to wear out and replace. In fact, the only consumable item, other than ink, is a tray to catch the excess ink. It should last for roughly 50,000 pages and costs a reasonable $20.

1wntGyUzvneiy2K9CBYV58-30Plus, the X585’s ink cartridges are positively huge, holding 86.5-, 80.5-, 83.5- or 203.5-milliliters of pigment-based ink for the cyan, magenta, yellow or black cartridges. The cyan, magenta and yellow ones cost $100 each and are capable of printing roughly 6,600 pages while the $115 black one can put out 10,000 pages, according to HP’s optimistic forecast. Over the course of three-months of daily use in the printer’s best print-quality mode, it was able to deliver color pages for 6.2 cents and monochrome ones for an amazing 1.2 cents per page. This makes it one of the least expensive printers to use and you can save some more by using one of the printer’s lower-quality modes.

Happily, the printer’s output lacks the annoying shiny quality of laser prints, but the X585’s documents are just as sharp as that from the best color laser printers. Although the ink dries quickly, images that fill most of the sheet tend to saturate it, causing the surface to pucker and wrinkle.

Because it tops out at about 60-watts – about the power use of the typical light bulb – the printer uses a lot less electricity than even the most efficient laser printer. Although it requires a three-prong plug, for those in older schools with antiquated wiring, the X585 won’t dim the lights when it starts up.

For such a complicated device, the X585 was remarkably easy to set up, but it can take about 40 minutes to get the system configured, installed and ready to print its first page. HP will come and install it for you for $440. Once it’s up and running, it takes 23 seconds to pump out its first page and can deliver 26 pages per minute of everything from spelling tests and parental letters to worksheets and report cards.

I printed nearly 10,000 pages on a variety of material – from the cheapest copier paper to card stock and labels – and the printer only jammed once. It was easier to clear the jam from the paper path than with a laser printer because nothing was hot.

HP X585 supplies pageTo make changes or check on supplies, the printer has an extensive collection of data pages that can be displayed on its screen or remotely through its IP address with a connected Web browser. You can also control or tap into the printer’s configuration with HP’s JetAdmin software. In addition to ink levels and total number of pages printed on the current set of ink modules, the system can spit out a variety of reports on its current status and configuration, who’s printing in color and fax activity.

It’s not perfect but still helpful when you’re running out of ink. That’s because a warning appears on screen about which cartridge is near the end of its life but fails to tell you approximately how many pages remain. 

Because it is meant to fit into a school’s digital document flow scheme, HP has what it calls QuickSets. These are established document flow patterns for anything from scanning the day's homework to inputting invoices that need to be paid.

Security is its true calling and can make the X585 as secure as a computer. There are more than 200 built-in security settings and it is the rare printer with a Trusted Platform module and encrypted hard drive. With everything from report cards to social security numbers being printed, this area is often ignored but necessary today.

One big step forward is the use of pull printing, where the person printing a document needs to enter his or her personal code to get the pages to actually print. It cuts down on orphan and accidentally picked up pages and if nothing is printed, the document is automatically deleted from the X585’s hard drive the next day. On the downside, the printer has neither individual output trays nor a stapling finisher option.

The printer comes with a 1-year warranty, but HP can extend it for $130 a year. It may be expensive, but the X585 printer is worth its weight in ink because it can not only cut down on the costs of classroom and office printing but can make them more secure at the same time.

A

HP X585 b

HP OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585

$2,000

+ Low per-page costs

+ Security

+ NFC

+ 8-inch display

+ Inkjet technology

+ Printer apps

+ Duplex printing and scanning

 

- Price

- Slow start-up

- No finishing options

 

Beyond the Surface

Surface pro 3 edWe all know that the latest Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is the best one yet with a 12-inch ultra-high resolution screen and a snap-on keyboard cover. But it’s less well known that the company is offering discounts on it for schools. There are three configurations available that include the black keyboard cover and range from a Core i3 with 64GB of storage to a Core i5 with 256GB of storage. If you get them for school with a minimum 5 unit order, you save 10 percent.

 

Small Projector, Large Beam

F22-small-lens-right-to-leftAuditorium and lecture hall projectors need to deliver extra brightness and resolution so that everyone can see the lesson. That’s where Barco’s Present C 31-B comes in. The small projector’s single DLP imaging engine can deliver either 1,920 by 1,080 or 1,920 by 1,200 resolution in 3,000 lumens and connect via its excellent assortment of ports or without wires using the company’s ClickShare system. There are other members of the Present C family that can deliver up to 8,000 lumens of light

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.

Freebee Friday: Office for Free

Office_365_Logo_WebWhat’s better than paying a reduced amount to use Microsoft’s Office software at school? How about free? I thought I’d get your attention. Formerly known as Student Advantage, Office 365 ProPlus is a school freebee that can put the full suite of heavy-duty apps onto students’ computers. It’s open to all students who are 13-years or older and go to a school that has a site license for Office. The plan provides the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher for up to five systems (PCs and or Macs) as well as for five tablets per student. The set up includes an hour every month of Skype Premium usage and a terabyte of online storage with Microsoft’s OneDrive.

Instant TV

Tricaster Complete setupWhat principal hasn’t wanted to talk directly to students via an in-house TV network or have kids read the morning news to the entire school. NewTek’s TriCaster Mini lets them do it on a tight budget. The $8,000 Mini is a complete AV set up that includes an integrated display and enough storage space for 45-hours of video, but you will need to supply your own camera. You can do anything from a standard talking head in front of a green-screen artificial landscape to animation and complex transitions or playing a slide show. Anything can be sent to YouTube or several social media outlets and TriCaster Mini can even accommodate a video feed from a remote Web cam or Web site.

Portable Power

EVO-40If your tablet carts charge but can’t synchronize their software, LocknCharge’s latest units can. The iQ 30 and Evo 40 can handle 30 or 40 units in the company’s five-unit Baskets. The system works with all recent iPads and makes sure they’re not only charged but ready for class with the latest software. They cost $3,000 and $3,500, respectively, and come with lifetime warranties.

Brightness on a Budget

Ut310wn cIf buying replacement projector lamps is blasting a huge hole in your instructional technology budget, think about never paying for another lamp. Casio’s XJ-UT310WN ultra-short throw projector is not only bright and will never need a new lamp, but it reduces annual expenses to the lowest point ever.

The secret is that rather than a traditional high-pressure lamp, the projector has a solid-state illumination engine that could easily outlast the rest of the projector. There’s a bank of red LEDs and a blue laser, which is used directly as well as creating green light with a phosphor disc. This effectively replaces the projector’s fragile lamp.  

Rather than running for a few thousand hours and being warrantied for 90-days, the Casio light engine is rated for 20,000 hours of use and is likely the strongest part of the projector. That adds up to roughly 16 years of everyday school use and it is guaranteed for five years of use or 10,000 hours.

Based on its 0.65-inch Digital Light Processing imaging chip, the UT310WN delivers 1,280 by 800 resolution, can create a 42-inch image with its back to the screen and tops out at a 9-foot image. Like other ultra-short throw devices, the UT310WN lacks an optical zoom lens, although it has a digital zoom for keying in on a specific on-screen item. There’s a focus bar on the side.

UT310WN lightUnlike the Epson BrightLink 595Wi, the UT310WN has four threaded mounting holes underneath and three adjustable legs for use on a tabletop or with the optional wall and ceiling mounts; they cost $250 each. The projector is light enough for one person to install it, but lacks the mounting template and extensive instruction manual that Epson provides.

While the projector has vertical keystone correction, it lacks horizontal correction, so it needs to be set up directly in front of the screen. It does without an image shift mechanism or test images that can streamline setting the projector up.

The trend these days is to include a set of interactive pens with classroom projectors, but the UT310WN lacks this feature. On the other hand, the system’s array of ports is impressive with an HDMI, a pair of VGA as well as S- and Composite video inputs. In addition to a VGA-out port for using a second display, the UT310WN has a pair of audio out jacks and a microphone connection for turning the projector’s 16-watt amplifier into a classroom-wide public address system.

It has several bonuses that other projectors either ignore or charge for. In addition to a mini-USB port for loading a logo that is displayed when the projector starts up, the projector includes a USB-based WiFi adapter and can display material from a memory key or the projector’s 2GB of internal memory.  It can even display what’s on a PC or Mac via a USB cable, but needs to be run as an Administrator.

Like many of its competitors, the UT310WN can wirelessly display what’s on a phone or tablet. There C-Asist apps for iPads, iPhones and Android phones or tablets to show all sorts of items on the big screen.

Ut310wn bFor schools, the UT310WN can do one thing that no other projector can do: connect directly with a graphing calculator to display what’s on its screen. This is perfect for lighting up a math class or science lab, but it works only with 7 different Casio calculators.

Plus, there’s a well-designed cable cover that screws into the side of the projector that can effectively hide what can otherwise become a warren of wires. The projector includes VGA and USB cables, but nothing for an HDMI connection.

There’s a good set of controls along with a remote control that has dedicated buttons for multimedia controls, keystone correction, digital zooming and volume. It feels good in the hand, but unfortunately, the key aren’t lit.

There’s a multitude of adjustments you can make to the picture, including three color temperature settings along with the ability to minutely adjust Brightness and Contrast. The projector has several operating modes, including Graphics, Theater, Blackboard and Natural and sets the pace in terms of power control with no fewer than 7 different levels of power use. On the downside, the power settings are not all adjusted in the same place and using some power-saving features eliminates the ability to adjust some parameters.

It really shows up in the projector’s power use and estimated annual expenses. At full blast, the projector uses 210-watts, 100-watts less than the slightly brighter BrightLink 595Wi. This drops to 1.9-watts in sleep mode. It adds up to annual expenses of just $32, half that of the Epson projector, assuming the UT310WN is used for 6 hours a day for every school day and electricity costs the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Ut310wn dThe UT310WN is a fast starter as well, taking 9.6-seconds to put a fully bright image on-screen; it took less than a second to shut itself off and its exhaust never got above 112-degrees Fahrenheit. The projector put 3,250 lumens of light on the screen, slightly above its 3,100 lumen rating, but less than the nearly 4,000 that the BL 595Wi puts out.

Overall, its color balance appears to be on the cold side, but if you adjust the color temperature to Warm and use Theater mode, things look much better. Overall, it looks great with vivid graphics, realistic flesh tones and especially sharp yellows.

While the UT310WN lacks the ability to use an interactive pen, it more than makes up for it with its ability to connect better than just about any other projector today and sets the pace when it comes to how much it costs to use.

A

Ut310wn a

Casio XJ-UT310WN

$1,800

+ Bright Image

+ Inexpensive to operate

+ Cable cover

+ 5-year warranty on light engine

+ Includes WiFi

+ Calculator connection

 

- No interactive pens

- Lacks horizontal Keystone correction

Wireless Projector

Np-m402h_slantAt $1,200, NEC’s NP-M402H projector is probably too expensive for every classroom, but it’s perfect for an auditorium or lecture hall. Capable of putting 1,920 by 1,080 resolution on a big screen, the NP-M402H uses a single chip DLP imaging target and a traditional high-pressure lamp to deliver 4,000 lumens. In addition to a pair of HDMI inputs, it can work with VGA and USB video inputs. A big breakthrough for school projectors is that the M402H can not only connect with either with a WiFi or wired network, but it can be the room’s access point for others to get online. It comes with a three-year warranty.

 

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