The latest in projectors are ones that don’t have expensive lamps that need replacing, but are powered by LEDs and lasers, like Casio’s EcoLite XJ-V1. The projector puts out 2,700 lumens and its solid state lighting element has been rated to last 20,000 hours of use, or more than a decade of typical use. A big bonus is that it uses only 180 watts, making it an efficient way to light up a lesson.
With all the digital projectors around, you’d think that the overhead projector and its transparent plastic sheets are dead. You’d be very wrong, because Apollo’s projectors are cheaper and less expensive to use. For instance, the Horizon 2 model (photo, right) has a double Fresnel lens for sharp detail, a 10- by 10-inch stage and puts out 2,000 lumens. The projector’s $175 price tag blows away all digital projectors. Meanwhile, the company’s top-of-the-line V3400M model (photo, left) puts 4,000 lumens on the screen and has an 11.25- by 11.25-inch stage as well as a way to change the lamp without opening the case. It costs $370.
While these projectors can't put a laptop's output on the classroom's big screen, the teacher can write directly on the lighted stage with a marker, making it easier to tear apart a sentence, sketch a map of revolutionary America or explain the different triangles. The best part is that they're cheaper to operate. For instance, replacement lamps for these projectors cost about $10, not a couple hundred.
Short throw projectors are good for reducing teacher shadows on the screen but haven’t always been the brightest bulbs in the school. That is, until NEC’s UM 351W and 361X projectors. While the UM 351W ($1,369) displays wide-XGA resolution and puts 3,600 lumens on screen, the XGA-based UM361X ($1,149) puts out 3,500 lumens. Either way, it’s enough to light up just about any classroom. Both have HDMI ports that use the MHL spec for projecting the contetns of a phone or tablet and a 20-watt speaker that can be used with a microphone so that everyone can hear. With NEC’s NP03Wi interactive whiteboard kit, they can use pens for board work.
Flexibility and strength are the watchwords for yoga as they are for Lenovo’s second-generation Yoga convertible tablets. The Yoga Tablet 2 uses Android 4.4 software and is powered by a quad-core Atom Z3745 processor that runs at between 1.3- and 1.9GHz, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of solid state storage. Its 13-inch screen is about as detailed as they get these days with the ability to show 2,560 by 1,440 resolution. It has Bluetooth, 802.11ac WiFi and can be a standalone tablet, a traditional notebook or a presentation machine, yet weighs 2.1-pounds.
It may be bigger and heavier than other tablets, but the Yoga has a secret for teachers: in the thick cylindrical hinge, the Yoga 2 Pro has a micro projector. It can create up to a 50-inch image in wide-VGA resolution, but is rated at only 50 lumens, so the lights need to be off. It costs $500.
Sometimes class needs to take place in rooms never intended for instruction and teachers need to be flexible. Elite Screens has you covered with its WB4X10W screen/whiteboard can with its ZWBMS Pro wheeled stand can be rolled around to wherever it’s needed. The screen provides a 4- by 10-foot wide VersaWhite surface to project, mark-up material or both; it comes with a set of markers and eraser. A bigger one is on the way.
Who says interactive white boards are dead? Not SmartBoard, which now has put together a killer package for interactive teaching by pairing the company’s 77-inch M680V board with its V30 projector. Called the M680viv2, the $1,800 pair can handle two people using it, regardless of whether it’s a teaching pointing at an item or kids doing math problems with markers. The projector puts 3,000 lumens on screen, comes with a three-year warranty and includes a year of the company’s Notebook advantage online service.
Auditorium and lecture hall projectors need to deliver extra brightness and resolution so that everyone can see the lesson. That’s where Barco’s Present C 31-B comes in. The small projector’s single DLP imaging engine can deliver either 1,920 by 1,080 or 1,920 by 1,200 resolution in 3,000 lumens and connect via its excellent assortment of ports or without wires using the company’s ClickShare system. There are other members of the Present C family that can deliver up to 8,000 lumens of light
If buying replacement projector lamps is blasting a huge hole in your instructional technology budget, think about never paying for another lamp. Casio’s XJ-UT310WN ultra-short throw projector is not only bright and will never need a new lamp, but it reduces annual expenses to the lowest point ever.
The secret is that rather than a traditional high-pressure lamp, the projector has a solid-state illumination engine that could easily outlast the rest of the projector. There’s a bank of red LEDs and a blue laser, which is used directly as well as creating green light with a phosphor disc. This effectively replaces the projector’s fragile lamp.
Rather than running for a few thousand hours and being warrantied for 90-days, the Casio light engine is rated for 20,000 hours of use and is likely the strongest part of the projector. That adds up to roughly 16 years of everyday school use and it is guaranteed for five years of use or 10,000 hours.
Based on its 0.65-inch Digital Light Processing imaging chip, the UT310WN delivers 1,280 by 800 resolution, can create a 42-inch image with its back to the screen and tops out at a 9-foot image. Like other ultra-short throw devices, the UT310WN lacks an optical zoom lens, although it has a digital zoom for keying in on a specific on-screen item. There’s a focus bar on the side.
Unlike the Epson BrightLink 595Wi, the UT310WN has four threaded mounting holes underneath and three adjustable legs for use on a tabletop or with the optional wall and ceiling mounts; they cost $250 each. The projector is light enough for one person to install it, but lacks the mounting template and extensive instruction manual that Epson provides.
While the projector has vertical keystone correction, it lacks horizontal correction, so it needs to be set up directly in front of the screen. It does without an image shift mechanism or test images that can streamline setting the projector up.
The trend these days is to include a set of interactive pens with classroom projectors, but the UT310WN lacks this feature. On the other hand, the system’s array of ports is impressive with an HDMI, a pair of VGA as well as S- and Composite video inputs. In addition to a VGA-out port for using a second display, the UT310WN has a pair of audio out jacks and a microphone connection for turning the projector’s 16-watt amplifier into a classroom-wide public address system.
It has several bonuses that other projectors either ignore or charge for. In addition to a mini-USB port for loading a logo that is displayed when the projector starts up, the projector includes a USB-based WiFi adapter and can display material from a memory key or the projector’s 2GB of internal memory. It can even display what’s on a PC or Mac via a USB cable, but needs to be run as an Administrator.
Like many of its competitors, the UT310WN can wirelessly display what’s on a phone or tablet. There C-Asist apps for iPads, iPhones and Android phones or tablets to show all sorts of items on the big screen.
For schools, the UT310WN can do one thing that no other projector can do: connect directly with a graphing calculator to display what’s on its screen. This is perfect for lighting up a math class or science lab, but it works only with 7 different Casio calculators.
Plus, there’s a well-designed cable cover that screws into the side of the projector that can effectively hide what can otherwise become a warren of wires. The projector includes VGA and USB cables, but nothing for an HDMI connection.
There’s a good set of controls along with a remote control that has dedicated buttons for multimedia controls, keystone correction, digital zooming and volume. It feels good in the hand, but unfortunately, the key aren’t lit.
There’s a multitude of adjustments you can make to the picture, including three color temperature settings along with the ability to minutely adjust Brightness and Contrast. The projector has several operating modes, including Graphics, Theater, Blackboard and Natural and sets the pace in terms of power control with no fewer than 7 different levels of power use. On the downside, the power settings are not all adjusted in the same place and using some power-saving features eliminates the ability to adjust some parameters.
It really shows up in the projector’s power use and estimated annual expenses. At full blast, the projector uses 210-watts, 100-watts less than the slightly brighter BrightLink 595Wi. This drops to 1.9-watts in sleep mode. It adds up to annual expenses of just $32, half that of the Epson projector, assuming the UT310WN is used for 6 hours a day for every school day and electricity costs the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The UT310WN is a fast starter as well, taking 9.6-seconds to put a fully bright image on-screen; it took less than a second to shut itself off and its exhaust never got above 112-degrees Fahrenheit. The projector put 3,250 lumens of light on the screen, slightly above its 3,100 lumen rating, but less than the nearly 4,000 that the BL 595Wi puts out.
Overall, its color balance appears to be on the cold side, but if you adjust the color temperature to Warm and use Theater mode, things look much better. Overall, it looks great with vivid graphics, realistic flesh tones and especially sharp yellows.
While the UT310WN lacks the ability to use an interactive pen, it more than makes up for it with its ability to connect better than just about any other projector today and sets the pace when it comes to how much it costs to use.
+ Bright Image
+ Inexpensive to operate
+ Cable cover
+ 5-year warranty on light engine
+ Includes WiFi
+ Calculator connection
- No interactive pens
- Lacks horizontal Keystone correction
At $1,200, NEC’s NP-M402H projector is probably too expensive for every classroom, but it’s perfect for an auditorium or lecture hall. Capable of putting 1,920 by 1,080 resolution on a big screen, the NP-M402H uses a single chip DLP imaging target and a traditional high-pressure lamp to deliver 4,000 lumens. In addition to a pair of HDMI inputs, it can work with VGA and USB video inputs. A big breakthrough for school projectors is that the M402H can not only connect with either with a WiFi or wired network, but it can be the room’s access point for others to get online. It comes with a three-year warranty.
In the world of classroom interactivity, the debate continues to rage over which is better: a finger or a stylus. Why decide when you can have the convenience of using fingers as well as the precision of a stylus. That’s the idea behind Epson’s BrightLink 595Wi projector, a device that can not only light up a classroom but fill it with lessons and interactivity.
If you don’t look carefully, you’ll probably think that the BL 595Wi isn’t new at all because it looks just like earlier BrightLink models. Look closer, though, and you’ll find that while it retains the best bits of Epson’s older BrightLink projectors, the BL 595Wi establishes a new standard for short-throw classroom projectors.
Like its cousins, the 12-pound BL 595Wi is a bit bulky but should be fine for one person to install. There are 8 attachment points underneath for ceiling- or wall-mounting. Happily, the package includes a well-made wall mount that lets you adjust the projector’s position in a variety of ways while it hides the projector’s cables.
Unlike its predecessors, the BL 595Wi model lacks any adjustable feet. As a result, you might need to get Epson’s $209 Table Mounting hardware that clamps onto a table’s edge. I actually prefer the adjustable feet that allow me quickly set up the projector for one-off lessons or training presentations.
Once it’s set up, the BL 595Wi’s trio of LCD panels combine for a bright, rich image that can display up to 1,280 by 800 resolution. It is the ultimate in ultra-short throw technology with the ability to create a 52-inch image with its back against the screen and a 9-foot image at roughly 12-inches. Beyond that, the image gets washed out.
There’s a focus bar on the right behind a plastic door that you’ll need to use once or twice to tweak the image. But that’s about it for physical adjustments because the BL 595Wi lacks an optical zoom lens, although it does have a 4X digital zoom for highlighting an item close-up.
It has the expected vertical as well as horizontal keystone correction and an image shift mechanism, but it only moves the projected image by about a half-inch in any direction. Epson’s QuickCorner image set-up procedure can frame a screen in about a minute, even if the projector is off-center. All you do is pull in or push out each of the image’s four sides with the remote control’s four-way arrows. It creates as close to a perfect fit as possible.
On the right side is an incredible assortment of input ports, with Displayport being the only one absent. In addition to a pair of HDMI (one of which works with an MHL adapter and enabled phone or tablet) ports, the projector has Composite, S- and VGA-video connectors. There’s a VGA-out port for connecting another projector or monitor and 3-D Synch plugs. In addition to a LAN connector, it has USB connectors for linking the projector to a computer as well as an RS-232 port for controlling the projector remotely. A USB dongle for connecting to a WiFi network costs $99.
There are several audio-in and out choices as well as a microphone jack. This allows a teacher with a microphone to use the BL 595Wi’s 16-watt amp and single speaker as a public address system for the class.
The best part is that all of the cables are out of sight because Epson has a screw-in cable cover that can put a pile of unsightly wires and cables out of sight. Oddly, the projector comes with extra-long USB, VGA and S-video cables, but nothing for an HDMI connection.
There are controls on the projector, but you’ll need to rely on the small remote control if it’s out of reach. With the remote, you can select the source and adjust a variety of projection parameters, including color temperature, brightness and contrast. There’s even a key for muting the sound and blanking the screen as well as the choice of three pointers that can be projected, but the remote’s keys aren’t backlit for dark rooms.
The projector comes with five test patterns built-in and you can add your own as well as have it display the school’s logo on start-up. It works with PCs and Macs directly, Windows tablets via its HDMI input as well as iOS and Android tablets with the Epson’s wireless iProjection apps. At any point, you can connect up to 50 students or teachers using Epson’s Moderator software and display any four images.
It really comes into its own when you use the BL 595Wi’s Pen Mode. It comes with two pens and a hard plastic case that has a magnetic base. After going through a calibration routine, you can write, draw or doodle directly on the projected image or use the pen as a mouse.
About the size of a marker, each pen weighs 1.9-ounces and uses an AA battery. It has a soft plastic tip that makes it feel like you’re writing on paper and a mouse button. It works with or without a computer connected and even on plaster walls.
The projector also comes with Epson’s Touch Unit, which gets mounted on the wall between the projector and the screen. Once set up, you can draw, write or tap with your fingers as well as the pens – or go back and forth. The action is the equivalent of the pen but without the mouse emulation button, although Epson has programmed in finger gestures for left-clicking, zooming and scrolling.
All told, six people can interact in the BL595Wi’s projected space in any combination of pens and fingers. No other projector provides this level of flexibility for impromptu collaboration, small group lessons or one-on-one teaching.
With all this going for it, the BL 595Wi can be a bear to set up and I wish it were better integrated. For instance, the Touch Unit would be better if it were part of the projector and didn’t require its own cable. That said, it should only add a few minutes to install.
Epson includes a thorough installation manual, something that is increasingly rare in this business, along with a paper template that will make attaching the wall bracket a snap on the first try. The projector’s 285-page manual is similarly exhaustive (and exhausting) but tells you everything you need to know about its set up, operation and diagnostics.
In addition to working with Smart Technology’s Notebook software, Promethean’s ActivInspire and MimioSudio Software, you can license these programs through Epson for a single copy or an entire district. The projector can also connect with a document camera or Web cam. In a series of mock lessons, it works just as well for drawing triangles and sketching maps as for tearing apart sentences. The addition of finger motion helps when you either can’t find the pen or it’s already in someone’s hand.
While the projector uses a traditional high-pressure 245-watt lamp, rather than costing $250 or $300, Epson sells replacements for a reasonable $79. It takes a couple of minutes to replace. It is rated to run for 4,000 hours in normal mode or 6,000 hours in low-power Eco mode.
There’s also a $15 dust filter that needs periodic maintenance. It’s easy to get to and quicker than changing a lamp.
It took 22-seconds for the projector to start up, but you’ll need to wait a minute or two for it to get to full brightness. The projector shut itself off in less than 2-seconds, so little power is wasted. There are modes for Presentation, Dynamic, Theatre, Photo and sRBG material as well as for use with a Blackboard and Whiteboard. In high-output Dynamic mode, it put close to 4,000 lumens of light on the screen – more than 20 percent over its 3,300-lumen specification.
In addition to a surprisingly sharp focus, the BL 595Wi had good color balance, although its light greens weren’t up to its rich reds and blues in Dynamic mode. Things look a lot more realistic in Theatre mode, but you lose about 30 percent of the projector’s brightness. Regardless of which mode you’re using, the projector pumped out smooth video with good audio synchronization.
At full power, the BL 595Wi uses 310-watts of power, which declines to 2.1-watts when it’s off with the projector’s communications electronics remaining on to quickly wake it up. You can set it up to use no power when off but you sacrifice the ability to always be connected to it via the school’s network.
That adds up to estimated annual expenses of about $69 if it is used for six hours a day during the school year and electricity costs 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, the national average. That’s pretty good, but the projector runs hot with 150-degrees Fahrenheit exhaust and a fan that is loud enough to disrupt a quiet time lesson.
The BL 595Wi costs $2,399 with the wall mounting hardware and a two-year warranty, but can be had for $1,799 through Epson’s Brighter Futures educational discount. At first that might seem high in a world dominated by interactive projectors that cost closer to $1,000, but the BL 595Wi not only comes with a pair of pens (at $150 each) and wall-mounting hardware (at about $300), two options that can add up to $600, but it is as bright as it is flexible in the ways it can be used to teach and learn with.
+ Bright image
+ Pen or finger touch interactivity
+ Up to six simultaneous users
+ Assortment of connections
+ Includes wall mount
- Loud fan
- Complicated set up
- No feet for tabletop use