Lenovo’s ThinkPad Stack Mobile Projector has the power to change the way we think about digital teaching. Based on LED illumination, the projector’s 150-lumen light output and 720p resolution aren’t particularly impressive, but it not only fits into Lenovo’s Stack computer scheme, but has a two-hour battery built in and a 1-watt speaker. It can wirelessly connect via Miracast (for PCs and Androids) and Airplay (for Macs and iPads). It works with the Stack router, hard drive, charger and speaker models and should be available this spring.
The latest solid-state projector from Casio not only boosts brightness but does it at no extra cost compared to a conventional classroom projector. Rated at 3,000 lumens, the EcoLite XJ-V2 is 10-percent brighter than the XJ-V1 model and uses Casio’s SSI illumination engine that combines a laser and LEDs. It delivers XGA resolution and not only uses less power, but the light source could last as long as 20,000 hours, or the equivalent of seven or eight lamp changes.
It’s abundantly clear that the V in the model numbers for most classroom projectors stands for value, but the latest devices go a step further than the ones they replace. For example, priced at $359, the basic Epson VS240 takes up where the VS230 leaves off with 3,000 lumens of SVGA imaging versus the VS230’s 2,800. The $429 VS340 ups the resolution to XGA while offering 2,800 lumens of brightness, up 100 lumens from the VS330. Finally, the top of the VS range is the 345 model, which delivers 3,000 lumens in WXGA resolution, while the VS335W tops out at 2,700 lumens. These projectors use LCD panels and don’t skimp on nice extras, like horizontal keystone correction, a slide-up lens cover and Epson’s $99 replacement lamps, but are warrantied for only a year.
Meanwhile, NEC’s V332X and V332W projectors up the brightness to the 3,300-lumen level, making them usable on the brightest day with the blinds up and the lights on. The V332X puts out XGA resolution and sells for $579 while the V332W creates a WXGA image and sells for $649. Both use Digital Light Processing imaging engines, have dual HDMI inputs, horizontal keystone correction and don’t require periodic dust filter changes. Happily, they both come with a 2-year warranty.
Optoma shows that HD belongs in the classroom with a pair of high resolution projectors. They may look alike but the EH341 and DH1012 put out 3,500- and 3,200-lumens, are easy to carry from room to room and have a pair of HDMI ports. If you hate seeing cables in the classroom, the projectors work with Chromecast adapters as well as Optoma’s WHD200 Wireless HDMI system. While the $600 DH1012 has a one year warranty, the $900 EH341 is covered for three years.
Finally, Vivitek makes the best of current technology with its DH758UST ultra-short throw projector. Not only can it create a 9-foot image just 36-inches away from the screen, bit the projector delivers 3,500 lumens in stunning HD resolution. Thanks to a new color wheel design, the DLP-based projector produces vibrant and realistic tones across the spectrum and its lamp can go for as long as 7,000 hours in Dyanmic Eco Mode. The DH758USTir version adds interactivity that lets you use pens or your fingers to navigate, write or draw digital images on the screen.
Between electricity and the needed replacement lamps, most budget projectors consume roughly one-third their initial cost each year it’s in service. That adds up to a lot of money for every projector in a school, except for Casio’s EcoLite XJ-V1, which not only will never need a new lamp but uses less power than conventional projectors.
Instead of a traditional high-pressure lamp, the XJ-V1 is built around Casio’s sixth-generation of solid-state illumination engine that is based on three elements: red LEDs create red light while a blue laser assembly creates blue light directly. In addition, the blue laser light is also aimed at a phosphor disk that coverts it into green light. An optical condenser combines the three color beams and reflects it off of a Digital Light Processing (DLP) imaging chip and onto the projector’s output lens.
Because it is based on solid state LEDs and lasers, the XJ-V1’s lighting engine is rated to last 20,000 hours of use, roughly five-times that of a traditional lamp. For most uses, it means that it will never have to be replaced, compared to most projectors, which will need to have the lamp replaced every year or two for anywhere between $75 and $350.
It's a power miser, as well. The projector uses just 121-watts when in use, or roughly one-half that of a traditional projector. When it’s idle, the XJ-V1 uses 0.1 watts, which adds up to estimated annual operating expenses of $24 if it’s used for 10 hours every school day and idle the rest of the time. That’s roughly one-fifth that of just about any conventional projector.
That may not sound like much, but compared to a conventional projector that uses $200 lamps, the XJ-V1 should start paying for itself after about two years of typical school use. After that it’s gravy that reduces any school’s expenses.
The XJ-V1 should fit right into the classroom with adjustable feet for tabletop use as well as four mounting points for setting it up on a ceiling. Setting it up is quick and easy. While it has vertical keystone correction, like other entry-level projectors, it lacks horizontal keystone control or lens shifting. As a result, you need to have the projector directly in front of the screen.
It has a 1.1X optical zoom lens and delivers XGA resolution, which is a disappointment in an age where HD is filtering into classroom projectors and 4K resolution is becoming old hat with large LCD displays. It can create usable images from 2.5-feet to as large as 25-feet, work with a variety of input resolutions and can create an 8-foot image when it’s set up about 10-feet from the screen.
While it has the basic ports (HDMI, VGA and audio), the XJ-V1 is one of the only projectors in its class that does without a speaker, but worked fine with an external speaker. Still, it’s a quick starter that’s able to put an image up on its screen in less than 5 seconds and shut itself off in less than a second. When it gets warmed up, the XJ-V1 puts 2,677 lumens on screen, slightly off its 2,700 lumen specification. Still, it’s more than bright enough for most classroom uses and can used on a sunny day with the shades up and the lights on. On the downside, its fan is very loud, but the case never gets more than warm to the touch.
Its $700 price tag may seem high but the XJ-V1 comes with a three-year general warranty as well as five-years of coverage for the illumination engine. In other words, the longer you use it, the more you’ll save.
+ 3-/5-year warranty
+ Low operating expenses
+ Lifetime illumination engine
+ Quick on and off
- XGA resolution
- No speaker
While 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.
Who 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 physical 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.
Epson’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.
Belkin’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.
If 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.
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.
The 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.
+ HD imaging
+ Short Throw optics
+ Excellent Focus
+ Bargain price
+ Low operating expenses
- No LAN connection
- Lacks optical zoom
The 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.