BenQ raises the bar for small projectors with the $750 Colorific i500, which not only can wirelessly stream video but can be a Bluetooth speaker as well. Small and weighing just 3.3-pounds, the i500 is powered by LEDs so there’s no expensive lamp to change, although the projector delivers 1,280 by 800 resolution at only 500-lumens so turn the lights off. It can do something few projectors can: directly stream video from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and other services.
Epson’s BrightLink Pro family just got a lot bigger with the addition of the All-in-One Interactive Table. Basically an interactive short-throw projector aimed at a reflective tabletop, the Interactive Table lets teachers and students work the way they are most comfortable by changing the screen’s angle to the table. It can accommodate finger or pen input and everything is motorized for easy adjustments of the 50- by 67-inch work surface. Booth 3100.
Infocus’s IN5148HDLC projector not only shows full HD material but has the company’s LightCast receiver built in so it can connect with anything from a Chromebook or Android to PCs, Macs and iOS systems. It can deliver 5,000 lumens and its focus, zoom and lens shift are controllable through its remote control. Booth 3833.
Because you never have to replace a burned out lamp and they use a lot less power than conventional projectors, laser projectors, like Boxlight Mimio’s P12 LTU device can be a lot cheaper to operate. Able to show an extra-wide 1,920 by 720 resolution, the ultra-short throw P12 projector has a six-segment DLP color wheel and can put 3,100 lumens onto a screen. It comes with MimioStudio Classroom software and you can order the P12 with touch and interactive technology. Booth 3311.
Projector screens that double as whiteboards for Dry Erase markers are always compromised: either they are dull or eventually show the telltale signs of stray marks that won’t go away. The latest WhiteBoardScreen from Elite Screens starts with a theater-quality screen that has a 1.1 gain with a matte finish that can improve the look of any projector. Its nanotech resin surface lets you write with dry markers and completely erase anything. Available in sizes as large as 5- by 10-feet, the WhiteBoardScreen has a shelf for holding the markers and eraser.
Who says you can’t make an interactive short throw projector that can show true HD material? Not Vivitek, because its DH759USTi projector not only can create a 7-foot image from a foot away, but it can show full 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and offer 10-finger interaction with the company’s DT02 laser module. The DLP projector puts out 3,500 lumens of light, has a pair of HDMI and a pair of VGA ports as well as wired networking built in. Best of all, it includes the hardware you’ll need to mount it on the ceiling or wall.
The promise of being able to quickly and easily wirelessly mirror a screen on a projector or display has failed to materialize for schools – until now, that is. Barco’s ClickShare can not only simplify mirroring a screen, but uses both 802.11ac WiFi channels for top resolution and video quality.
I looked at Barco’s CSE-200 set, which has a host base station that you plug into a display’s HDMI port, and a pair of small ClickShare modules. The kit is a huge step forward in terms of making screen-sharing easy and quick, but at $1,750, it’s an expensive necessity. There are also versions with a single ClickShare button module and one with four.
After you’ve plugged the base station into a projector, it instantly shows directions for connecting. Rather than a discourse with IP addresses and passcodes, it has three visually-oriented steps and few words. For PCs and Macs, plug one of the ClickShare modules into a USB port and load the software right from it. It takes less than a minute to install and you only need to do it once.
After that, press the module’s central button, which has a lit white circle; it turns red when you’re connected. In about 10 seconds, what’s on your screen is seen by the entire class. Click again to disconnect when you’re done. On the downside, the clicker gets kind of warm if used for more than 10 minutes at a time. It’s not hot, but could be uncomfortable for a small child to use.
Connecting Android and iOS phones and tablets is a little more complicated and constraining. That’s because there’s no ClickShare module available to plug in. You’ll need to get and install the ClickShare app, but the set up screen has a QR code that makes it a snap. Shoot a shot of the QR code and the software download page pops up. Again, you only have to do this once.
The phone and tablet ClickShare screen has a circular button that looks like the one on the ClickShare module. Tap to connect.
Because the base station has AirPlay technology built in, an iPhone or iPad can mirror what’s on its screen. You can also select individual files from the device’s local storage on an Android or iOS system or an online storage service that are sent to the projector. It’ll even work with the phone or tablet’s camera for a live feed of a chemistry experiment or a student reciting a poem.
At any time two can share the display in a split screen format. I displayed an HP EliteBook Folio and a Google Nexus 9 at the same time, making it a good tool for comparing or contrasting what’s on the screens of students or putting an image of the Declaration of Independence on the side and the text on the other. Other Barco ClickShare products allow you to connect up to four screens, but none let the teacher save the material for later use or distribution to the class.
Because it uses both the 2.4- and 5GHz WiFi wireless data channels, ClickShare can deliver high-quality HD imaging while allowing any of the clients (teacher or student) to annotate the screen; this obviously works better with tablets and touch-screen notebooks. The device has excellent sound synchronization and delivers smooth video up to its range limit of about 40-feet.
While at $1,750, all but the best budgeted districts will be hard pressed to get ClickShare systems for more than one or two classrooms. It’s a shame because ClickShare belongs in every classroom that has a large display or projector.
+ Easy wireless connections to projector or display
+ Uses both 2.4- and 5GHz WiFi channels
+ Includes audio
+ Software for tablets and phones
+ Split screen
- Chromebook software not ready
$500 projectors are old hat, $400 ones are more interesting, but what about a $330 classroom projector? That’s the bottom of the price pyramid for Viewsonic with its LightStream PJD-5153. The DLP projector is old tech all the way with 800 by 600 pixel resolution, the ability to put 3,300-lumens of light on a screen as well as a pair of VGA ports and S- and Composite video connections, but not HDMI ones.
Projectors come in all sizes and shapes these days, from tiny cubes to monster large venue devices that seem like space heaters. One step up from the smallest is an emerging class of inexpensive palm-projectors that put out just enough light to be of use in the classroom.
Like the Dell MH900, LG’s Minibeam PH550, is small enough to carry around and is quick to set up, but the PH-550 is much smaller. At 1.7- by 6.9- by 4.3-inches and weighing 1.4-pounds, the PH-550 it can be stashed in a jacket pocket or corner of a backpack so it can go where you go all day.
The rounded white case has a focus lever on top, but the projector doesn’t have a conventional control panel. Instead, the PH550 has a minimalist joy stick that you press to turn it in and off. Click it right or left and it can turn the volume up and down.
You’ll need to use the full-size remote control to configure, tweak and use the PH550. There’s neither backlighting nor a laser pointer, but the remote can not only control the speaker’s volume and keystone correction, but it uses LG’s circular Q Menu format that’s been lifted from LG’s line of TVs. Incrementally go around the circle to adjust the aspect ratio, keystone correction, video mode and set up the sleep timer for between 10- and 24- minutes, which is helpful for those who always forget to turn the projector off after class.
With a 0.45-inch DLP imaging engine that delivers 1,280 by 720 resolution, the PH-550 can’t compare with full HD imaging, but for the small classroom or group work is should be fine. The projector uses LEDs to illuminate and project the image so you’ll never have to buy or change an expensive lamp ever again. On the other hand, with a rating of 550 lumens, it can’t keep up with traditional lamp-based devices that put out three- or four-times that.
There’s an adjustable front foot, but if you want to permanently mount it or aim it higher on a wall or screen as well as a single tripod screw underneath. In real world use, the PH550 was projecting its image in 20-seconds and managed to put 312 lumens of illumination onto a screen, about two-thirds its rating and half the output of the much larger M900HD.
Like other small LED projectors, the PH550 does without many of the things we take for granted in traditional projectors, like an optical zoom lens. In fact, the projector doesn’t even come with a lens cap – essential equipment if it’s to travel from room to room all day. The projector does include a soft felt bag that holds the projector, but not the AC adapter.
It also lacks an SD card slot for quickly presenting items, but can lift a wide variety of material from a USB thumb drive. The PH550 can play photos, videos (although not .MP4 ones) and .pdfs as well as Office .doc and .ppt files. In other words, you can put a semester’s worth of lessons on a tiny drive and plug it in when you need it.
You can project in a more traditional manner with an VGA, HDMI and with the included adapter a composite video source; it can work with an MHL-equipped phone or tablet. It worked well with a variety of sources, from a Samsung Tab Pro S to an iPad Pro.
Showing the PH550’s versatility, there’s another way as well. The PH550 can connect wirelessly over WiFi to WiDi laptops and Miracast phones and tablets.
The projector has a pair of one-watt speakers that are fine for small groups, but for larger rooms, they come up short. Happily, the PH550 can link up with a Bluetooth speaker set for rooms that don’t have a wired sound system.
Finally, LG is unique in selling projectors that have TV tuners built-in. It won’t work with a cable TV set up, but the PH550’s tuner was able to connect with 30 direct broadcast stations. You’ll need to supply the antenna, though.
The PH550 can do something that most projectors can’t: run for nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes on its battery pack while its competitors go dark after 20 or 30 minutes of use. If you tap the remote’s Info key a small four-element battery gauge shows up onscreen. The ability to run for several classes gives the PH550 an incredible amount of flexibility to set ups in repurposed rooms that lack AC outlets.
Extremely inexpensive to operate, the PH550 uses only 35.2-watts of power at full blast – about one-tenth that of a conventional projector – and only 0.2-watts in sleep. That adds up to an estimated annual expense of only $5.25, making it among the cheapest projectors to use every day.
Overall, the PH550 is fine in darkened rooms or an overcast day, but with the sun shining or the lights on, the image quickly gets overwhelmed. The projector did well at filling up a 48-inch screen. Bigger than that and the images are washed out, making the PH550.
+ Good input selection
+ More than two-hour battery life
+ Wireless connection
+ Video ports
+ TV tuner
- Lacks lens cap and optical zoom
- Really needs more brightness
The latest projectors from Mimio combine the low-maintenance of laser devices with 10-point interactive touch so that teachers, students and small groups can work together on a project. The MimioProjector 320LT touch projector and the MimioProjector 3200LT ultra-wide projector can fill screens as large as 115- and 132-inches and will never need a lamp change because their laser illumination engines are rated run for 20 years of typical school use. Both are rated at delivering 3,300 lumens and come with MimioStudio and the MimioMobile phone and tablet app.