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The Brightest in the Class

300Wx300HThe latest addition to the BrightLink family from Epson lives up to its name with one of the most powerful classroom projectors around. The BrightLink 697Ui not only puts out 4,400 lumens of light but can create an 8-foot image from less than a foot from the screen. It delivers 1,920 by 1,200 resolution and the ability to share the screen’s interactive whiteboarding feature with up to 15 students, teachers or admin staff. In addition to working with Epson’s existing iProjection apps, rather than needing a USB dongle to connect to the school’s WiFi network, it has wireless networking built in. If it’s $3,300 price tag is too much, there’s a $2,200 BrightLink 685Wi that lowers its output to 3,500 and resolution to 1,280 by 800.

Go Ahead, Write on the Wall

Np-u321hi-wk_aWith NEC’s $2,500 U321Hi-WK kit, you get just everything needed to turn any classroom into an interactive one, including a high-power projector, mounting hardware and a set of add-on pens. You’ll need to put it all together, but it’s well worth the effort.

The three pieces of the U321Hi-WK kit provide all that’s needed to transform a room into an interactive classroom.

* Rated at 3,200 lumens, the U321H projector can light up all but the largest classrooms with HD video.

* The mounting hardware provides precise placement of the projector and the camera.

* It comes with a pair of pens, camera and software that combine for a deep level of interactivity.

To start, the ultra-short throw U321H projector can create between a 7-foot and 8.3-foot image, but – like much of the competition – it lacks an optical zoom to help frame the image on the screen. The focus is a little soft and the focusing lever provides a compromise between sharpness at the top and bottom of the image.

One of the smallest and lightest projectors in its class, the U321H weighs just 10 pounds and is less than half the size of Epson’s BrightLink 1430 model, making it easier to mount and adjust. It also can show full HD images compared to the BL 1430’s wide-XGA resolution.

It’s a full-featured projector that has a good assortment of connection possibilities, including for VGA, HDMI, Composite video and audio inputs. Happily, the projector comes with a nice cable cover so that all the wires are hidden. It comes with an RJ-45 networking jack, but there’s no WiFi option for this projector. You can use NEC’s Multi-Presenter Stick that plugs into the projector’s HDMI port and draws power from its USB connection.

The projector includes a powerful remote control that has dedicated buttons for picture mode, keystone correction and the projector’s Eco setting that cuts power use. In addition to the expected, like freezing an image, you can adjust the volume or tap the AV-Mute to blank the screen and silence the room.

Np-u321h_slantrtAfter hanging the projector and adjusting its position, angle and focus, you’ll need to screw on the USB-based NP04Wi camera and plug it into a computer. On the downside, the camera’s drivers (EyeRIS) and DisplayNote software are separate downloads in different places and a single installation routine would have gone a long way towards easing its set up.

Once everything is loaded and running, you need to calibrate the camera and pair of pens. Be careful, because the hardware is very sensitive and the first few tries may prove to be frustrating. Keep it away from any electronics, like a cable TV tuner or wireless keyboard, that might interfere and lower the shades to prevent bright lights from overwhelming the camera’s sensor.

When done, the action of the pens are sharp and crisp. You can choose the line’s weight, color as well as use a handy eraser. The pens have a mini-USB port for charging, which takes a few minutes.

In addition to freeform writing or drawing, the software has several innovative tools. My favorites are the ruler and protractor with an adjustable angle.

When you’re done any lesson can be saved as images, PowerPoint show, Acrobat or .dn lesson file for future use or distribution to other teachers, absent students or administrators.

I used the projector to model sentences, markup up maps and show the Pythagorean theorem. At any time, a student can be assigned by the teacher to take over the screen with their tablet or notebook; there’s software for Windows, Macs, Android and iOS and they can connect either by typing in a number or snapping a projected QR code.  

U321h bOverall, the U321H is one of the brightest projectors for classrooms, with an output of 3,590 lumens in its Presentation mode, blowing away its 3,200-lumen spec. There are also presets for High-Bright, Video, Movie, sRGB, Blackboard, DiCom Sim as well as for projecting onto a variety of colored walls.

While operating, it uses 328-watts of power and 0.4 watts when asleep. With the $200 replacement lamp that’s rated for 3,000 hours and electricity selling for the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, this adds up to annual operating expenses of $212 if it’s used for six hours a school day. That’s more than it costs to operate projectors like Epson’s BrightLink 595Wi.

With a two-year warranty, the U321H and associated gear falls short compared to Epson’s three-year warranty for school use. But the BL Pro 1430 is $300 more expensive, twice as big and has a lower resolution, making the NEC U321Hi-WK an all-around winner in the classroom.





+ Bright projector

+ Small, light

+ Includes mounting hardware

+ Interactive pens and tools

+ Cable cover

+ QR code connection


- Soft focus

- No optical zoom

Long-Life Projector Lamp

300Wx300HThe latest Epson projector may not have LEDs that never need replacement, but the lamp on the PowerLite 975W is rated to last 10,000 hours rather than just 2,000 or 3,000 hours. That rating is based on use in its brightest mode, not the lower-power (and longer lasting Eco mode), so it can save several lamps over the projector's lifetime. The projector is no classroom weakling with the ability to pump out 3,600 lumens of light in wide-XGA resolution. It has WiFi built in, can be set up in split screen mode and can connect wirelessly with the most popular systems used in schools today. The PL-975W sells for $1,300 but can make up much of that in lamps that won’t need to be replaced.

Project for Less

Touchjet pondIt’s not for everyone, but if 80 lumens of light is enough to light up your small-group lesson, the Touchjet Pond projector should do just fine. At $600, it is a mighty mite that can create an interactive 80-inch image on a wall or whiteboard, just keep the lights off and the shades down. It has a full Android computer built-in, includes WiFi networking and can react to four touch inputs at once. It comes with a pair of interactive pens and a remote control.

Short-Throw, Long Reach

BL_PRO_1460Ui_RT_ANGThe latest Epson BrightLink Pro projectors show the way for increasing class participation and interactivity. Both the BrightLink Pro 1450Ui and 1460Ui up the resolution to full HD capabilities from the previous model’s wide-XGA resolution while allowing PC-free presentations and instant connections with other projectors. The $3,000 1450Ui model will be available in January, puts out 3,800 lumens of light and can create a 100-inch display on a wall or whiteboard from close up. You’ll have to wait until February for the 1460Ui model, which adds Miracast and WiDi wireless video for cable-free connections. It also increases output to 4,400-lumens of light and will cost $3,300.

Conen Table image-smallEither should fit well with Epson’s all-in-one Interactive Table cart. A big step forward for those who need to go from room to room with a projector, the table cart can project from full vertical to a horizontal table top as well as any angle in between. This not only allows a group of students to gather around the projection table and work together, but it can accommodate people in wheel chairs. It will sell for $2,800 without a projector.





Mighty Mite

Q3_plus_lWhile it’s probably not enough light for a full-size classroom, Vivitek’s Qumi Q3 Plus is perfect for small group teaching. At less than a pound and about the size of a paperback book the Q3 Plus uses LEDs to deliver 1,280 by 720 resolution and about 500 lumens. Inside, the projector has a Quad-Core processor that is running Android software and has a battery big enough for 2 hours of plug-free use.  It is available in five colors for $500.

The Budget-Friendly Projector

CP-X25LWN frontThink LED or laser projectors are the way to go to save on lamps? Think again because Hitachi’s CP-X25LWN can get 10,000 hours of use out of its lamp. Able to deliver 2,700 lumens of light, the CP-X25LWN’s lamp has a five-year warranty that covers it for 10,000 hours of use. That adds up to roughly ten years of five hours of use every school day. The projector itself delivers XGA resolution through a trio of LCD panels, has all the ports you’ll need as well as a 1.2X optical zoom lens. Happily, its air filter should last 10,000 hours as well, making maintenance a snap. The projector costs $839 and replacement lamps (with the filter included) are a reasonable $129.

Small but Powerful

F210WN_LCasio’s XJ F210WN projector starts with a solid-state illumination engine that instead of a measly 1,000 lumens of light, pumps out 3,500 lumens of brightness for lights-on, shades-up lessons. Its combination of LEDs and lasers means that you’ll never have to change a bulb again. The DLP-based projector features a wide 1.5X optical zoom lens and the XJ F210 can fill a 25-foot screen with wide-XGA 1,280 by 800 resolution images. It has a pair of HDMI inputs as well as 2GB of internal storage that should be good for a semester’s worth of teaching material. There's a wired LAN connection, but you’ll need to get the projector’s $100 802.11b/g adapter to use WiFi. The best part is that the XJ F210 is not only easy on electricity, using a maximum of about 200-watts, about half that of comparable traditional projectors, but is small and weighs just over 8-pounds. It costs $1,000.

Chromebook Now Projects

Iprojection chromebookAhead of Google’s merging of Android and Chromebook platforms, Epson helps those schools that use Chromebooks every day with some slick software. As is the case with the iProjection apps for iOS and Android are not only free but the new Chromebook version lets you pick what you want to show the class and it’s sent to the projector. On the downside, it only works with several Epson WiFi enabled projectors.


Big Screen

ManualGrande_180_200_title_mainEliteScreen’s Manual Grande's name says it all: Big screen without a motor to open and close it. The Manual Grande can be had in sizes of up to nearly 17-feet and is perfect for that large lecture hall or auditorium. With a 1.1 gain matte surface, the screen works well with just about any projector and has a wide black border. It comes with a 3-year school warranty.


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