About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Up Close with HD

DH758USTIR_04_lWho says you can’t make an interactive short throw projector that can show true HD material? Not Vivitek, because its DH759USTi projector not only can create a 7-foot image from a foot away, but it can show full 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and offer 10-finger interaction with the company’s DT02 laser module. The DLP projector puts out 3,500 lumens of light, has a pair of HDMI and a pair of VGA ports as well as wired networking built in. Best of all, it includes the hardware you’ll need to mount it on the ceiling or wall.

 

Click to Present

Clickshare aThe promise of being able to quickly and easily wirelessly mirror a screen on a projector or display has failed to materialize for schools – until now, that is. Barco’s ClickShare can not only simplify mirroring a screen, but uses both 802.11ac WiFi channels for top resolution and video quality.

I looked at Barco’s CSE-200 set, which has a host base station that you plug into a display’s HDMI port, and a pair of small ClickShare modules. The kit is a huge step forward in terms of making screen-sharing easy and quick, but at $1,750, it’s an expensive necessity. There are also versions with a single ClickShare button module and one with four.

After you’ve plugged the base station into a projector, it instantly shows directions for connecting. Rather than a discourse with IP addresses and passcodes, it has three visually-oriented steps and few words. For PCs and Macs, plug one of the ClickShare modules into a USB port and load the software right from it. It takes less than a minute to install and you only need to do it once.

Clickshare dAfter that, press the module’s central button, which has a lit white circle; it turns red when you’re connected. In about 10 seconds, what’s on your screen is seen by the entire class. Click again to disconnect when you’re done. On the downside, the clicker gets kind of warm if used for more than 10 minutes at a time. It’s not hot, but could be uncomfortable for a small child to use.

Connecting Android and iOS phones and tablets is a little more complicated and constraining. That’s because there’s no ClickShare module available to plug in. You’ll need to get and install the ClickShare app, but the set up screen has a QR code that makes it a snap. Shoot a shot of the QR code and the software download page pops up. Again, you only have to do this once.

The phone and tablet ClickShare screen has a circular button that looks like the one on the ClickShare module. Tap to connect.

Because the base station has AirPlay technology built in, an iPhone or iPad can mirror what’s on its screen. You can also select individual files from the device’s local storage on an Android or iOS system or an online storage service that are sent to the projector. It’ll even work with the phone or tablet’s camera for a live feed of a chemistry experiment or a student reciting a poem.

Screenshot_20160615-080128On the downside, for schools that have standardized on Chromebooks, Barco doesn’t have software for these devices, but is working on it and could have an app ready by summer.

At any time two can share the display in a split screen format. I displayed an HP EliteBook Folio and a Google Nexus 9 at the same time, making it a good tool for comparing or contrasting what’s on the screens of students or putting an image of the Declaration of Independence on the side and the text on the other. Other Barco ClickShare products allow you to connect up to four screens, but none let the teacher save the material for later use or distribution to the class.

Because it uses both the 2.4- and 5GHz WiFi wireless data channels, ClickShare can deliver high-quality HD imaging while allowing any of the clients (teacher or student) to annotate the screen; this obviously works better with tablets and touch-screen notebooks. The device has excellent sound synchronization and delivers smooth video up to its range limit of about 40-feet.

While at $1,750, all but the best budgeted districts will be hard pressed to get ClickShare systems for more than one or two classrooms. It’s a shame because ClickShare belongs in every classroom that has a large display or projector.

A-

CSE-200 host

Barco ClickShare CSE-200

$1,750

+ Easy wireless connections to projector or display

+ Uses both 2.4- and 5GHz WiFi channels

+ HD-capable

+ Includes audio

+ Software for tablets and phones

+ Split screen

 

- Expensive

- Chromebook software not ready

How Low Can You Go?

Pjd5153_left_hires_1$500 projectors are old hat, $400 ones are more interesting, but what about a $330 classroom projector? That’s the bottom of the price pyramid for Viewsonic with its LightStream PJD-5153. The DLP projector is old tech all the way with 800 by 600 pixel resolution, the ability to put 3,300-lumens of light on a screen as well as a pair of VGA ports and S- and Composite video connections, but not HDMI ones. 

The Little Projector that Could

Ph-550 aProjectors come in all sizes and shapes these days, from tiny cubes to monster large venue devices that seem like space heaters. One step up from the smallest is an emerging class of inexpensive palm-projectors that put out just enough light to be of use in the classroom.

Like the Dell MH900, LG’s Minibeam PH550, is small enough to carry around and is quick to set up, but the PH-550 is much smaller. At 1.7- by 6.9- by 4.3-inches and weighing 1.4-pounds, the PH-550 it can be stashed in a jacket pocket or corner of a backpack so it can go where you go all day.

The rounded white case has a focus lever on top, but the projector doesn’t have a conventional control panel. Instead, the PH550 has a minimalist joy stick that you press to turn it in and off. Click it right or left and it can turn the volume up and down.

You’ll need to use the full-size remote control to configure, tweak and use the PH550. There’s neither backlighting nor a laser pointer, but the remote can not only control the speaker’s volume and keystone correction, but it uses LG’s circular Q Menu format that’s been lifted from LG’s line of TVs. Incrementally go around the circle to adjust the aspect ratio, keystone correction, video mode and set up the sleep timer for between 10- and 24- minutes, which is helpful for those who always forget to turn the projector off after class.

Ph-550 cWith a 0.45-inch DLP imaging engine that delivers 1,280 by 720 resolution, the PH-550 can’t compare with full HD imaging, but for the small classroom or group work is should be fine. The projector uses LEDs to illuminate and project the image so you’ll never have to buy or change an expensive lamp ever again. On the other hand, with a rating of 550 lumens, it can’t keep up with traditional lamp-based devices that put out three- or four-times that.

There’s an adjustable front foot, but if you want to permanently mount it or aim it higher on a wall or screen as well as a single tripod screw underneath. In real world use, the PH550 was projecting its image in 20-seconds and managed to put 312 lumens of illumination onto a screen, about two-thirds its rating and half the output of the much larger M900HD.

Like other small LED projectors, the PH550 does without many of the things we take for granted in traditional projectors, like an optical zoom lens. In fact, the projector doesn’t even come with a lens cap – essential equipment if it’s to travel from room to room all day. The projector does include a soft felt bag that holds the projector, but not the AC adapter.

Ph-550 eIt also lacks an SD card slot for quickly presenting items, but can lift a wide variety of material from a USB thumb drive. The PH550 can play photos, videos (although not .MP4 ones) and .pdfs as well as Office .doc and .ppt files. In other words, you can put a semester’s worth of lessons on a tiny drive and plug it in when you need it.

You can project in a more traditional manner with an VGA, HDMI and with the included adapter a composite video source; it can work with an MHL-equipped phone or tablet. It worked well with a variety of sources, from a Samsung Tab Pro S to an iPad Pro.

Showing the PH550’s versatility, there’s another way as well. The PH550 can connect wirelessly over WiFi to WiDi laptops and Miracast phones and tablets.

The projector has a pair of one-watt speakers that are fine for small groups, but for larger rooms, they come up short. Happily, the PH550 can link up with a Bluetooth speaker set for rooms that don’t have a wired sound system.

Ph-550 dFinally, LG is unique in selling projectors that have TV tuners built-in. It won’t work with a cable TV set up, but the PH550’s tuner was able to connect with 30 direct broadcast stations. You’ll need to supply the antenna, though.

The PH550 can do something that most projectors can’t: run for nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes on its battery pack while its competitors go dark after 20 or 30 minutes of use. If you tap the remote’s Info key a small four-element battery gauge shows up onscreen. The ability to run for several classes gives the PH550 an incredible amount of flexibility to set ups in repurposed rooms that lack AC outlets.

Extremely inexpensive to operate, the PH550 uses only 35.2-watts of power at full blast – about one-tenth that of a conventional projector – and only 0.2-watts in sleep. That adds up to an estimated annual expense of only $5.25, making it among the cheapest projectors to use every day.

Overall, the PH550 is fine in darkened rooms or an overcast day, but with the sun shining or the lights on, the image quickly gets overwhelmed. The projector did well at filling up a 48-inch screen. Bigger than that and the images are washed out, making the PH550.

A

Ph-550 f

LG Minibeam PH550

$550

+ Economical

+ Good input selection

+ More than two-hour battery life

+ Wireless connection

+ Video ports

+ TV tuner

- Lacks lens cap and optical zoom

- Really needs more brightness

Big Touch Screen

MimioProjectorLTThe latest projectors from Mimio combine the low-maintenance of laser devices with 10-point interactive touch so that teachers, students and small groups can work together on a project. The MimioProjector 320LT touch projector and the MimioProjector 3200LT ultra-wide projector can fill screens as large as 115- and 132-inches and will never need a lamp change because their laser illumination engines are rated run for 20 years of typical school use. Both are rated at delivering 3,300 lumens and come with MimioStudio and the MimioMobile phone and tablet app.

  

Big and Bright

Np-px803ul-bk_upperslantltBecause it’s based on lasers rather than expensive lamps that eventually burn out, NEC’s PX803UL large-venue projector can end up saving money. Here’s how: At $17,000 it isn’t cheap, but its illumination engine is rated to last 20,000 hours, or roughly 15 years of daily use. That could add up to something like 6 or 7 lamp changes that might cost several thousand dollars, not to mention the time lost to actually swap the lamps. Rated at 8,000 lumens, the WUXGA (1,920 by 1,200 resolution) projector not only starts faster than traditional projectors, but delivers a clear and bright image. Happily, it uses the same lenses as the existing PX family of projectors, including the new ultra-short throw lens. NEC’s Star Student program extends the projector’s warranty by two years.

Projector Mighty Mite

Qumi q6 aSmall and light, Vivitek’s Qumi Q6 can go places most other projectors can’t, making it the display of choice for small groups and quick set ups. The best part is that because it uses LEDs to create its illumination, it will never need an expensive lamp change.

Available in six colors, it can be had in everything but the expected dull gray. At 1.5- by 4.1- by 6.4-inches and 1.1-pounds, the Q6 is one of the smallest and lightest projectors around and is tiny compared to more conventional devices. It can fit into a jacket pocket and is the perfect complement to the current small slates.

Rather than a traditional power hungry lamp, the Q6 has a bank of LEDs and a single chip 0.45-inch DLP imaging array. They combine for 1,280 by 800 resolution that falls short of HD resolution. It has the ability to display up to a 7.5-foot image, but starts to get washed out at about 60-inches. Instead of 1,500- or 2,000-lumens of light, the Q6 is rated at 800 lumens and has trouble getting to that level.

Another place where smaller is better is with the Q6’s tiny remote control. Barely the size of a Post-It note, the remote control is powered by a single watch battery and lets you do things like turn the projector on and off as well as select its source and mute the system’s 2 watt speakers. There’s even a Blank button for putting up a black screen.

Qumi q6 bAlong the way, the Q6 cuts several corners when it comes to what’s generally expected in classroom projectors. It lacks an optical zoom, adjustable height legs and doesn’t even include a lens cap.

With a pair of HDMI ports, the Q6 is versatile and flexible. One of them can work with MHL-ready phones and tablets. You may not need to use HDMI cables, though, because the projector not only has WiFi built-in for wireless viewing, but EasyCast Pro. To get it to work, you’ll need to load software on your tablet.

The projector also has 4GB of capacity for storing files. It can directly display images, video, Office documents and Acrobat files and works with material on USB thumb drives.

The projector’s focus was rock solid, although the focusing thumbwheel it’s too easy to touch the Q6’s controls while using it. There are projection modes for Presentation, Bright, Game, Cinema, TV, Movie and sRGB. If you like you can set up your own mix of settings; the Q6 can save two of them.

While the Bright mode has an overall greenish cast to it, the Presentation handles flesh tones much better. Its yellows were surprisingly bright and the projector delivered strong reds and blues.  In Bright mode, the Q6 managed to put out 490 lumens of extremely uniform illumination with neither hot spots nor dull zones.

Qumi q6 cConnected to an Asus C202 Chromebook, the projector was able to keep up with most video and worked well with the University of Colorado’s PHET math and science simulations.

At $600, the Q6 is priced on a par with most classroom projectors, but can save money over the long run because its LED illumination engine is rated to last up to 30,000 hours or nearly 20 years of typical classroom use. That means the Q6 can save roughly $1,000 in unneeded lamps alone over its expected life, turning it into a money maker.

A

Qumi q6

Vivitek Qumi Q6

$600

 

+ Small, light and very portable

+ No lamps to change

+ Dual HDMI ports

+ MHL plus Miracast

+ Built-in document viewers

 

- Illumination below spec

- No optical zoom

The Great Wall of Learning

ActivWall_Classroom_KIDS_1The latest from this year’s TCEA show is Promethean’s huge ActivWall interactive projection system. As if the 8.5-foot version of Promethean’s ActiveWall projection system wasn’t big enough, the company now has an 11.25-foot version on the way. The system provides 128.7- by 50.7-inches of ultra-wide space to work with, is responsive to four pens at once and responds to as many as 20 individual touch points. This makes it just as good for kids working on a group map project as for a teacher going through the steps for solving a quadratic equation.

The ActivWall spec sheet reads like a wish list for classroom technology with a projector that puts out 1,920 by 720 resolution, although at more than 10-feet wide, the interactive screen will stress the size of many classrooms. It has a pair of 18-watt speakers and uses the company’s LaserView technology to replace lamps with a solid state illumination source. ActivWall-Promo-ImageThe projector delivers up to 3,000 lumens and has a rated lifetime of 20,000 hours, so there’s no lamp to change – ever. It has a Web browser and can save all notations at the end of the lesson.

The big step forward is its ability to link with any computer in the classroom over a wireless connection. It works with iPads, Androids, Macs and PCs so that any child or teacher can project what’s on their screen. It should be available later this and comes with a three-year warranty.

 

FETC 2016: Short Throw, Low Price

Epson lampIn a move that I sincerely hope others will follow, Epson has reduced the price of many of its short-throw and ultra short-throw projector lamps to $45. It covers all PowerLite and BrightLink projectors and represents a two-thirds discount on some of the lamps involved. It’s enough to make you want to stock up on lamps.

 

FETC 2016: Digital Stackables

07_ThinkPad_Stack_Projector_hero_small_form_factorLenovo’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.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.