Since the appearance of the first interactive panels for overhead projectors 25 years ago, one thing has been a constant when it comes to teaching with a projector: the video cable. No more, as Epson is the first to integrate two popular wireless AV protocols into the PowerLite 1985WU for wireless projection from anywhere in the room.
It may sound like magic, but the PL1985WU can put everything from an English lesson on sentences to a math video about triangles on-screen without a cable in sight. It doesn’t matter if the system uses WiDi (notebooks and PC tablets) or Miracast (tablets and phones), the PL1985WU can handle both. It works by directly moving the data to the projector. In other words, there’s no adapter or connection box needed.
Setting the projector up is the easy part because at about 10-pounds, the PL1985WU is light enough to lug around and install without an assistant. Its case is white with black trim and has a slide open lens cover that blanks the screen while it’s closed. There’s an adjustable front foot as well and ones at the back corners for setting it up on a table as well as three mounting points underneath for attaching it to the ceiling.
It has keystone correction for horizontal (up to 20-degrees) and vertical (up to 30-degrees) distortion so the projector doesn’t have to be installed dead center. The projector,though, lacks the ability to shift the image slightly up-down or right-left to fine-tune its position. There is a helpful bull’s eye pattern built into the PL 1985WU that can streamline aiming and focusing the projector.
Inside, the projector has three 1,920 by 1,200 resolution LCD panels for the primary colors and a traditional high-pressure lamp that can create up to a 25-foot image. Rated at 4,800 lumens of brightness, the projector has a wide 1.6:1 optical zoom ratio. There’s no comparison to an XGA or wide-XGA projector with the PL 1985WU having less jaggedness, more consistent color and less pixilation.
It has the bonus of Faroudja’s DCDi digital video processor chip built-in. Usually reserved for theatrical projectors costing many times more than the PL1985WU, the processor can reduce flicker and interlacing artifacts that are common with classroom projectors while sharpening edges.
After decades of relying on cables, the easiest way to deliver the class’s work with the PL 1985WU is to do it wirelessly. You’ll need to set the projector’s networking configuration to screen mirroring, instead of a LAN connection and it takes about 30 seconds to put the laptop’s little screen onto the PL 1985WU’s big screen. After that, the projector mirrors what’s on the computer’s screen and all sound is transferred. The projector had a wireless range of 45-feet, plenty for all but the largest classroom or lecture hall.
As good and easy as it is, the wireless abilities of the PL 1985WU aren’t perfect. The setup ignores Google’s Chromecast, Apple TV as well as Samsung’s ScreenCast. Alternatively, you can use Epson’s iProjection Android and iPad apps to project material, but it’s limited to images, saved video and Web pages, not live screen mirroring.
Of course, you can connect the old fashioned way because the projector has two HDMI ports, one of which can work with MHL-based phones and tablets. There’s a composite video port and a pair of VGA inputs as well as one for mirroring the projector’s output. It adds an RS-232 for controlling the projector remotely.
The PL 1985WU has three separate audio inputs and an output jack as well as USB connectors. Next to the ports is a 16-watt speaker that is plenty for the typical classroom, but it wouldn’t work with a microphone. In addition to displaying material from a USB memory key, the projector can connect with both wired and wireless LANs, something that’s usually an option.
The projector’s remote control is small and light, but lacks the laser pointer of BenQ’s HC1200. In its place is the choice of three different digital pointers.
You can have the PL 1985WU run through its inputs looking for a signal, change the aspect ratio and mute the audio while blanking the screen. The remote control adds something that is a luxury in classroom projectors: the ability to put two inputs on-screen side by side in split format. There are several size combinations, but not all port combinations work.
In addition to ten different color temperature settings, the projector has 7 modes to choose from for working with traditional screens, black- or whiteboards or even faithfully display x-rays with a Dicom Sim setting. The Dynamic setting is brightest but makes everything look bluish-green, while the Presentation has some of the whitest and brightest whites of any projector and the Theater setting produces much warmer images.
All told, in Dynamic mode, the projector put out 5,715 lumens of light, nearly 20 percent above its 4,800 lumen spec. If you use the more realistic sRBG setting, that drops to about 3,800 lumens, or more than enough to teach in just about any classroom with the lights on and the shades up. In fact, the PL 1985WU delivers so much light to the screen, it could be in contention for use in a small auditorium.
A slow starter, the projector took 38 seconds to start up and about a minute to get to full brightness. It can shut itself off in 1.3-seconds. Its fan is a little loud at 46.2dBi at 36-inches.
At full blast, the PL 1985WU uses 380-watts of power, but not a watt when it’s off. You can use the projector’s Eco mode to reduce its brightness and cut its power use, but I think most will use the PL 1985WU flat out for its exceptional brightness. Expect the projector to have annual operating expenses of $153 if you factor in the $150 lamp (that’s rated to last for 3,000 hours) and electricity at 12 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than half the expenses to run BenQ’s high definition HC1200 projector that puts out one-third less light.
The two-year warranty includes next-day replacement, but at $1,700 the PL 1985WU’s only major drawback is that its price is several hundred dollars over the price of the BenQ HC1200 and about double what the typical classroom projector sells for. Epson’s PowerLite 1980WU model does without the Miracast/WiDi feature and puts out 400 less lumens for $500 less.
But, that would mean that schools would miss out on the PL 1985WU’s greatest ability: to make video cables obsolete.
Epson PowerLite 1985WU
$1,700 with Brighter Futures educational discount
+ Stunning HD image
+ Very bright
+ Miracast and WiDi wireless
+ Built-in video processor
+ iProjection tablet apps
+ Picture in picture mode
- No Apple TV, or Chromecast