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The Big Board

Steelcase  - ēno FlexWhile other interactive whiteboards concentrate on the digital aspects of education, Steelcase’s Eno Flex provides what’s needed for interacting with curriculum materials while jotting notes on the side. It includes surprising design touches, like a marker tray and hooks for maps that make using it easier in the classroom. Made of sturdy e3 CeramicSteel porcelain coated sheet metal, Flex can stand up to daily use and abuse. It works with a variety of short-throw projectors and can work with up to four it its included Bluetooth pens at a time.

Projector Two-For

Boxlight deskboardWho says that a projector has to beam its images horizontally across the room to a screen? Not Boxlight, because its DeskBoard 75M is flexible enough to be set up as an interactive desk 36-inches off of the floor with the projector above or as a traditional vertical projection surface. With a width of 75-inches of projection space, the DeskBoard is the utmost in hands-on learning and lets kids and teachers interact with images, video and Web sites as if they were working with an interactive desk surface. With motorized tilt and height adjustment, it’s easy to get the DeskBoard just right and its screen is magnetic for placing all sorts of Deskboard 75mphysical objects. At over 200-pounds, it might not sound particularly portable, but the DeskBoard is on wheels, can be moved from room to room and set up quickly. While it can work with a variety of ultra-short-throw projectors, the DeskBoard 75M can be ordered with a Boxlight P10 projector, mini PC and lesson planning software for $6,300.

Freebee Friday: Projector Four-Way

Epson screen322x572Epson’s MultiPC Projection with Moderator software can change the classroom dynamic by letting the teacher select whose tablet gets projected. It works with Epson’s latest networked projectors and is available for iOS and Android systems and allows annotations. The teacher can choose from among up to 50 connected tablets or phones to project and can send the screens of any four systems to the projector to show on the class’s big screen. On the downside, the software can’t handle video and you need to pick the files you want to show, but it can let the teacher share any students’ screens with the class.



Notebook to Projector

372Belkin’s Universal HDMI to VGA Adaptor with Audio can make quick work of connecting a newer notebook that only has an HDMI port with an older projector that only has a VGA connector. The adapter costs $40, a small price to pay to extend the projector’s useful life by several years. In addition to providing video in the right format, it can extract the audio layer from the HDMI stream so that it can be played via the projector’s audio jack. It comes with a cool adapter so that you can use it with a Chromecast device or one of the latest micro PCs.

HD for Much Less

Acer H6517ST Projector Front ViewIf you thought that getting BenQ’s HC1200 high-definition projector for $1,000 was the best bargain in classroom projectors these days, think again. With its H6517ST projector Acer has lowered the floor for HD imaging to $800, a point at which it should be in every classroom.

At 5.5-pounds the short-throw projector is small enough to hold under an arm and can be carried from room to room. It comes with a handy travel bag. For stationary setups, there’re three attachment points underneath for ceiling mounting, or if you want to set it up on a table, shelf or wall nook, the projector has adjustable legs in front and in the back corners.

The white ribbed case has a large lens in the front that comes with a snap-on cover and is tethered so it probably won’t get lost. There’s a recessed focus ring that can be hard to get to and is a little too stiff to turn, but the H6517ST should easily fit into just about any classroom décor.

Inside is a Digital Light Processing (DLP) imaging engine that creates a 1,920 by 1,080 stream of images that deliver roughly twice the number of pixels as a wide-XGA device. You can really see this difference with sharper edges and less of a saw-tooth pattern on diagonal lines. Don’t let its high resolution optics throw you, the H6517ST can work with sources as low as 640 by 480 resolution. In other words, it will help teach with better, more detailed images.

Acer H6517ST Projector Port View Top Because of its short-throw optics, the H6517ST can put up a sharp 5-foot image from less than two-feet away from the screen. There are fewer shadows for those who work close to the screen, but the image tops out at 25-feet, although it will likely be washed out in the typical room at that size.

As is the case with other short throw models, it does without one key item that can help make set up much easier: an optical zoom. It does have a 2X digital zoom, though, and the projector’s focus was excellent across the screen.

It has all the basics of those in its class, including automatic vertical keystone correction of up to a 40-degree tilt, but it does without horizontal keystone correction or image shifting that’s on more expensive projectors. What it doesn’t have is a LAN port. The H6517ST can use Acer’s $69 MHL adapter for connecting with a phone or tablet or the $200 WiFi adapter to get online.  Its other ports bridge the old and new worlds of projectors with two HDMI, VGA, composite video connections and an audio jack. There’s a USB connector, but it’s for service purposes. All are on the projector’s side and Acer doesn’t sell a cable cover for the H6517ST.

A fast starter, the projector was able to start showing an image in 18 seconds and during start-up it displays your choice of Acer’s logo or your own image. It was able to cool down and shut-off in less than a second, making it good for an on-and-off day of use.

Overall, the colors are surprisingly good for this class of projector with solid blues and reds and vibrant greens. You have the choice of using seven different color modes, your own one or have it match five different wall colors. If you really want to tweak the projector, there are adjustments for color gain and bias as well as seven different gamma curves you can use.

Acer H6517ST Projector Top ViewThe included remote control is small and covers the basics, but isn’t backlit and lacks a laser pointer – two good tools in the dark. You will have to get used to one oddity, though, that takes a few uses to remember. When making a selection, such as for the source, you need to select it and then use the right arrow to confirm the choice. Most other projects use the center button for activating the choice.

Despite having audio and a 2-watt speaker, the projector’s remote lacks a dedicated volume key up front. You can dig into the Menu to change the volume or silence it with the freeze button.

It uses a traditional high-pressure lamp that puts out 3,128 lumens of light, a little above its 3,000 lumen rating, in Bright mode, which is biased towards green tones. It’s fine for when you need a lot of light and are using mostly graphics. Standard or Movie mode looks much better, but you lose about a quarter of the brightness.

While in use, the projector consumes 257-watts of power, which can be lowered to 218-watts by using the Eco mode, but at the cost of lowered brightness. When it’s off, the H6517ST consumes 1 watt of power. Its $63 bargain of a replacement lamp is one of the cheapest around and is rated to last for 4,000 hours. All this adds up to estimated operating expenses of just $75 a year if it is used for 8 hours a day during the school year and off the rest of the time and electricity costs the U.S. average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s a bargain compared to the HC1200 $352 annual costs.

The Acer projector comes with a one-year warranty, but unlike most DLP projectors, it has a dust filter. The good news is that it likely won’t require replacing. Cancnes are that an annual vacuuming is all it will need.

In other words, the H6517ST is that rare piece of classroom gear that is as inexpensive to get and install as it is to use. 


Acer H6517ST Projector Left Angle

Acer H6517ST




+ HD imaging

+ Short Throw optics

+ Bright

+ Excellent Focus

+ Bargain price

+ Low operating expenses


- No LAN connection

- Lacks optical zoom


The Mix and Match Board

Prd_high_sbm685-u100-leftThe idea behind the newest interactive whiteboard from Smart Technologies is mix and match, depending on what you need. The M600 family of boards is available in 77- and 87-inch sizes and can accommodate two touch inputs using the company's optical DViT technology. It starts with the M680, which has a 77-inch screen and can be purchased with Smart’s V30 projector. The board includes a pair of pens and an eraser. The larger M685 board is 87-inches and can be had with the company’s U100w projector. Either way, the boards work with Smart’s Notebook software and Exchange online repository of educational materials, so they can jump right into class on the first day of school.



Close-Up in HD

Acer H6517ST Projector Right AngleForget about having to settle for XGA classroom projectors because Acer has broken the price barrier for HD imaging. The H6517ST is a one-of-a-kind projector that can not only up a large and vibrant 1,920 by 1,080 image, but do it for $800. If you think Acer has cut corners with the H6517ST, you’d be wrong because the projector has wireless built-in, delivers 3,000 lumens of brightness and can deliver a four-foot image only 20-inches from the screen.



Small and Bright

ACER_Projector_K138ST_04_highThe latest LED projector for schools is Acer’s K138T, which not only will never need to have its lamp changed, but puts out an impressive (at least for LEDs) 800 lumens of brightness. It delivers a 1,280 by 800 image and its digital light processing imaging engine uses a six-segment for realistic colors. It can create an 8-foot image from about 5-feet from the screen. Available later this year, it will sell for $1,000.


Go Lamp-Free for Less

Casio xj-v1While hybrid projectors that don’t require periodic lamp changes have the power to save several hundreds of dollars a year, they have been expensive. That is until now, with the announcement of Casio’s $700 XJ-V1 projector. It may be priced a couple hundred dollars higher than a traditional classroom projector, but its hybrid laser and LED illumination engine is rated to last for 20,000 hours (and is guaranteed for five years or 10,000 hours of use) and doesn’t contain any mercury. That can save a couple hundred dollars a year in replacement lamps you don’t need to buy and install while cutting electricity use nearly in half. Small and light, the XJ-V1 puts out 2,700 lumens in XGA resolution and has VGA, HDMI as well as audio connections.

Freebee Friday: The Mercury Message

Casio contestWant a $2,000 Casio XJ-UT310WN short throw projector for free? Casio is giving 50 of them away, one for a school in each state. The contest will give the projectors to the students (actually their schools) who write the best essays on the dangers of mercury poisoning and how to reduce it in the environment. The tie-in is that the company’s Casio contest videoprojectors use LEDs and Lasers to illuminate the image and don’t have any mercury. Casio has put together a nice video that explains the dangers of mercury and how to enter the contest. Entries for the Casio Education Grant Contest will be judged on knowledge of the science of mercury, creativity and originality. The best part is that the general public gets to vote on their favorite entries.



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