At 1,920 by 1,200 resolution video and the ability to deliver up to 6,500 lumens of light, the latest Canon large venue projectors can cast quite a shadow in a lecture hall or auditorium. The Realis WUX6500 uses Canon's exclusive LCOS imaging engine and aspectual optics for super-sharp video. There are has five optional lenses that can go from placing the projector right next to the screen or have it project across the room. The WUX6500 can create up to 50-foot images, has all the ports you’ll need and works with HDBaseT digital video. It sells for $6,250 with a three-year warranty.
Even as classroom projectors get brighter and cheaper, there’s a movement to replace them with large flat panel displays for everything from videos to interactive lessons. In addition to allowing the teacher or students to get right on top of the display without casting any shadows, a flat panel screen, like BenQ’s RP653, can stand up to the strongest sunlight streaming into the classroom. The 65-inch BenQ screen goes a step further in the movement towards collaborative lessons with the ability to interpret 20 separate finger inputs rather than the projector standard of 10. The Castleberry (Texas) Independent School District has outfitted 128 of its classrooms with these BenQ screens, which also have been engineered to reduce flicker as well as the blue portion of the light spectrum. The best part is that its tempered glass surface has been treated to cut down on germs, making it the cleanest thing at school. It costs $3,500.
If the profusion of projection tables is any measure, classroom projectors are not meant only for the traditional wall screen anymore. Like Epson’s all-in-one Interactive Table Cart, these tables not only let you tilt the work surface but they are perfect for small group interactions and collaboration. While all have wheels for rolling from room to room as needed, the carts vary from small, easy-to-move ones to huge behemoths that have motorized adjustments.
The good news is that they generally work with Epson’s family of ultra-short BrightLink projectors and can make the finger the most effective teaching tool. On the downside, many of these projection tables cost as much or more than the projectors they work with. Of the four, only the Boxlight table includes the needed interactive projector.
One of the most automated interactive table available for the classroom, Conen’s workIT is also one of the largest. It has a motorized lift and tilt mechanism that can raise or lower the work surface at the touch of a button. Its 67- by 50-inch rectangular whiteboard projection surface yields nearly 74-inches of workspace that can be tilted from full vertical to full horizontal positioning.
When it’s time to move to another room, the workIT’s 2-inch casters allow it to be rolled to where it’s needed. The casters lock in place to keep the table from rolling away. It’s available at CDW for $3,000.
TeamMate WorksZone Interactive Table 2
The WorksZone Interactive Table 2 may not be the largest or cheapest interactive projector table available, but it does have a built-in motorized height adjustment mechanism that can help make going from horizontal to vertical positioning a snap. On the other hand, you’ll need to tilt the screen manually if you want to change its angle.
The 60-inch work surface can be combined with an optional notebook tray turning the WorksZone system into a completely self-contained teaching center on wheels. It’ll fit through standard doorways and can be rolled to where it’s needed on its lockable casters. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most expensive of the four at $4,100, $4,400 if you want the notebook tray.
Copernicus irover 2
While it isn’t as flexible as the others here, the irover2 has a cool trick up its projection sleeve. While it can’t be set at any angle, the irover can be locked in at vertical, horizontal or a tilt of 10-degrees, covering many of the most popular orientations.
It has a built-in notebook tray and optional lockable storage box for a variety of accessories and gear. You can manually adjust its height by 17-inches, bringing it close to the floor for smaller or wheelchair-bound students. On the other hand, it works with a variety of projectors, has convenient handles for pulling or pushing it into place and a handy tray for markers and erasers. At $1,950, the iRover2 is a bargain.
Boxlight P10 DeskBoard
Don’t let its oval work surface fool you, Boxlight’s DeskBoard delivers a lot of interactive space for students and teachers to work with. The 67.3- by 55.1-inch whiteboard means that it can work with the largest interactive projectors and accommodate the largest group of students. Its motorized mechanism allows the DeskBoard to be set up horizontally, vertically or any angle in between as well as move up and down nearly 20-inches.
There’s a big bonus: a wired remote control that lets the teacher get the positioning just right without breaking a sweat. The P10 package costs $5,400 with an education discount, but includes Boxlight’s P10 projector, Quizdom’s Oktopus presentation software and a full PC.
Projectors don’t have to be hulking, expensive, loud monsters anymore. Miroir’s M300A may not be for everyone but at 1- by 6- by 3.8-inches and weighing less than a pound, it is one of the most powerful micro-projectors around. The M300A can project 400 lumens of 1,280 by 720 resolution video, more than enough to fill an 8-foot screen and perfect for impromptu lessons. Despite its size, the M300A has a pair of speakers, good assortment of inputs and 5GB of built-in memory for storing all sort of lessons and videos. The best part is that it runs on Android 4.4 software and has a 5,000 milli-amp hour battery pack so can be used in places where other projectors can’t go.
The latest addition to the BrightLink family from Epson lives up to its name with one of the most powerful classroom projectors around. The BrightLink 697Ui not only puts out 4,400 lumens of light but can create an 8-foot image from less than a foot from the screen. It delivers 1,920 by 1,200 resolution and the ability to share the screen’s interactive whiteboarding feature with up to 15 students, teachers or admin staff. In addition to working with Epson’s existing iProjection apps, rather than needing a USB dongle to connect to the school’s WiFi network, it has wireless networking built in. If it’s $3,300 price tag is too much, there’s a $2,200 BrightLink 685Wi that lowers its output to 3,500 and resolution to 1,280 by 800.
With NEC’s $2,500 U321Hi-WK kit, you get just everything needed to turn any classroom into an interactive one, including a high-power projector, mounting hardware and a set of add-on pens. You’ll need to put it all together, but it’s well worth the effort.
The three pieces of the U321Hi-WK kit provide all that’s needed to transform a room into an interactive classroom.
* Rated at 3,200 lumens, the U321H projector can light up all but the largest classrooms with HD video.
* The mounting hardware provides precise placement of the projector and the camera.
* It comes with a pair of pens, camera and software that combine for a deep level of interactivity.
To start, the ultra-short throw U321H projector can create between a 7-foot and 8.3-foot image, but – like much of the competition – it lacks an optical zoom to help frame the image on the screen. The focus is a little soft and the focusing lever provides a compromise between sharpness at the top and bottom of the image.
One of the smallest and lightest projectors in its class, the U321H weighs just 10 pounds and is less than half the size of Epson’s BrightLink 1430 model, making it easier to mount and adjust. It also can show full HD images compared to the BL 1430’s wide-XGA resolution.
It’s a full-featured projector that has a good assortment of connection possibilities, including for VGA, HDMI, Composite video and audio inputs. Happily, the projector comes with a nice cable cover so that all the wires are hidden. It comes with an RJ-45 networking jack, but there’s no WiFi option for this projector. You can use NEC’s Multi-Presenter Stick that plugs into the projector’s HDMI port and draws power from its USB connection.
The projector includes a powerful remote control that has dedicated buttons for picture mode, keystone correction and the projector’s Eco setting that cuts power use. In addition to the expected, like freezing an image, you can adjust the volume or tap the AV-Mute to blank the screen and silence the room.
After hanging the projector and adjusting its position, angle and focus, you’ll need to screw on the USB-based NP04Wi camera and plug it into a computer. On the downside, the camera’s drivers (EyeRIS) and DisplayNote software are separate downloads in different places and a single installation routine would have gone a long way towards easing its set up.
Once everything is loaded and running, you need to calibrate the camera and pair of pens. Be careful, because the hardware is very sensitive and the first few tries may prove to be frustrating. Keep it away from any electronics, like a cable TV tuner or wireless keyboard, that might interfere and lower the shades to prevent bright lights from overwhelming the camera’s sensor.
When done, the action of the pens are sharp and crisp. You can choose the line’s weight, color as well as use a handy eraser. The pens have a mini-USB port for charging, which takes a few minutes.
In addition to freeform writing or drawing, the software has several innovative tools. My favorites are the ruler and protractor with an adjustable angle.
When you’re done any lesson can be saved as images, PowerPoint show, Acrobat or .dn lesson file for future use or distribution to other teachers, absent students or administrators.
I used the projector to model sentences, markup up maps and show the Pythagorean theorem. At any time, a student can be assigned by the teacher to take over the screen with their tablet or notebook; there’s software for Windows, Macs, Android and iOS and they can connect either by typing in a number or snapping a projected QR code.
Overall, the U321H is one of the brightest projectors for classrooms, with an output of 3,590 lumens in its Presentation mode, blowing away its 3,200-lumen spec. There are also presets for High-Bright, Video, Movie, sRGB, Blackboard, DiCom Sim as well as for projecting onto a variety of colored walls.
While operating, it uses 328-watts of power and 0.4 watts when asleep. With the $200 replacement lamp that’s rated for 3,000 hours and electricity selling for the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, this adds up to annual operating expenses of $212 if it’s used for six hours a school day. That’s more than it costs to operate projectors like Epson’s BrightLink 595Wi.
With a two-year warranty, the U321H and associated gear falls short compared to Epson’s three-year warranty for school use. But the BL Pro 1430 is $300 more expensive, twice as big and has a lower resolution, making the NEC U321Hi-WK an all-around winner in the classroom.
+ Bright projector
+ Small, light
+ Includes mounting hardware
+ Interactive pens and tools
+ Cable cover
+ QR code connection
- Soft focus
- No optical zoom
The latest Epson projector may not have LEDs that never need replacement, but the lamp on the PowerLite 975W is rated to last 10,000 hours rather than just 2,000 or 3,000 hours. That rating is based on use in its brightest mode, not the lower-power (and longer lasting Eco mode), so it can save several lamps over the projector's lifetime. The projector is no classroom weakling with the ability to pump out 3,600 lumens of light in wide-XGA resolution. It has WiFi built in, can be set up in split screen mode and can connect wirelessly with the most popular systems used in schools today. The PL-975W sells for $1,300 but can make up much of that in lamps that won’t need to be replaced.
It’s not for everyone, but if 80 lumens of light is enough to light up your small-group lesson, the Touchjet Pond projector should do just fine. At $600, it is a mighty mite that can create an interactive 80-inch image on a wall or whiteboard, just keep the lights off and the shades down. It has a full Android computer built-in, includes WiFi networking and can react to four touch inputs at once. It comes with a pair of interactive pens and a remote control.
The latest Epson BrightLink Pro projectors show the way for increasing class participation and interactivity. Both the BrightLink Pro 1450Ui and 1460Ui up the resolution to full HD capabilities from the previous model’s wide-XGA resolution while allowing PC-free presentations and instant connections with other projectors. The $3,000 1450Ui model will be available in January, puts out 3,800 lumens of light and can create a 100-inch display on a wall or whiteboard from close up. You’ll have to wait until February for the 1460Ui model, which adds Miracast and WiDi wireless video for cable-free connections. It also increases output to 4,400-lumens of light and will cost $3,300.
Either should fit well with Epson’s all-in-one Interactive Table cart. A big step forward for those who need to go from room to room with a projector, the table cart can project from full vertical to a horizontal table top as well as any angle in between. This not only allows a group of students to gather around the projection table and work together, but it can accommodate people in wheel chairs. It will sell for $2,800 without a projector.
While it’s probably not enough light for a full-size classroom, Vivitek’s Qumi Q3 Plus is perfect for small group teaching. At less than a pound and about the size of a paperback book the Q3 Plus uses LEDs to deliver 1,280 by 720 resolution and about 500 lumens. Inside, the projector has a Quad-Core processor that is running Android software and has a battery big enough for 2 hours of plug-free use. It is available in five colors for $500.