Classroom Projector Report: Awards For Best School Projector
Our Best In Classroom awards (and other awards) for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Quite a few of these projectors we've reviewed for this report, have just started shipping recently. They are in time to be considered this spring/summer for purchase (and installation?) in time for the 2012-2013 school year. Several were introduced last year, but not in time for the report, while a couple are now more than a year old.
For your consideration: On this page, on some of the charts, and elsewhere, you will find inks to two projectors from last year. As it turned out, both of these remain current products, but we did not re-review them, or consider them for this year's awards. I'm talking about the BenQ MP780ST and the Epson Powerlite 96W. Consider these two to both be highly competitive with the best of this year's crop.
On this page we list the Winners of our Best In Classroom awards with comments, for the most impressive projectors we've reviewed for education. In addition a number of projectors have received (in addition, or alone) our more general, Hot Product and Special Interest awards. While in this report we are discussing projectors for education, almost all of these projectors are equally competent in business, and other environments as well.
5/17/2012 - Art Feierman
School Projectors for K12 - The Award Winners:
We finished off this year's education projector report with 16 separate projectors reviewed...
As was the case last year, emails and conversations have been going back and forth between myself, and Tony, and Mike (the other reviewers), as we sorted out which were the most deserving.
This year, plenty of interactive projectors, although most here, are rather pricey. Let's call it five full interactive projectors, with varying skills, and a couple more with optional interactivity. If you consider functionality working with the iPad and iPhone interactive, then even more.
This year with a large number of interactive projectors (four, up from one, last year), we've split the awards into two groups:
Best In Classroom - Interactive Projectors
Best In Classroom - Projectors
|Projectors (standard)||Interactive Projectors||Pocket Projectors|
|BenQ LW61ST||Acer S5201M||Acer K330|
|Canon WUX4000||Epson BrightLink 485Wi||Optoma ML500|
|Casio XJ-M145||Hitachi iPJ-AW250N||Viewsonic PLED-W500|
|Casio XJ-ST155 (int. opt.)||NEC U310W|
|Epson PowerLite 435W (int. opt.)||Optoma TW610STi|
|**Projectors in bold use an LED light source|
Best In Classroom: Interactive Projector Awards:
No more tie like last year, with two winners out of 4 entries (and no runner-up). This time around we have five, ready to go interactive entries. The bottom line, we picked just one winner, and one runner-up this year.
Best in Classroom - Interactive Projector Award: Epson BrightLink 485Wi
This is starting to get old. For the third year in a row, a Best In Classroom Winner goes to Epson. Each year Epson replaces the previous one with an even better projector with more capabilities. The latest of these is Epson's flagship education projector, the Brightlink 485Wi (click for full review). Right off the bat, it corrected what was our biggest complaint about the Epson Brightlink 455wi last year. No HDMI input last year. That's no longer the case. And a good thing too.
Tony has reviewed most of the interactive projectors last year and this time immediately recommended the 485Wi as his first choice. OK, it still doesn't have 3D capability, which is going to be a problem for a still small percentage, but after that, it's solid, with no rough edges. If only it had an LED or Laser light source and had the same price.
A Few of the Epson Brightlink 485Wi projector strengths:
- Excellent color
- Plenty of Brightness for virtually any classroom
- Extensive networking (control and notification)
- Microphone Input
- Best interactive feature set of those reviewed
- Good sound from 10 watt speaker system
- Excellent Input and output flexibility: HDMI, Computer (analog), USB Display Link over USB, plus networking, video, mic input, variable audio out, and more
- Low cost of operation
- Best warranty: For education (Brilliant Futures program) three years P/L with 3 year replacement program
- Brilliant Futures Education program offers replacement lamps for $79!
- Good sound from 10 watt speaker system
- Ultra-short throw for easy, and low cost mounting directly above the screen
- Ultra-short throw keeps projector light out of the teacher (or presenting student's) eyes, when working at the board
Epson interactive tool bars (above)
Best in Classroom - Interactive Projector Runner-Up Award: Hitachi iPJ-AW250N
This is the second year we've reviewed a Hitachi ultra-short throw projector, the Hitachi iPJ-AW250N (click for full review). We really found this year's interactive projector to be much improved over last year's (non-interactive) model.
Tony had this to say in our communications: "It has a strong feature set and the interactive tools were very extensive. Difficulty in setup and the fact that you would need to take more time to get up and running were the reasons to make it a runner-up."
Understand, that these interactive projectors are normally mounted. In the case of Tony's comments, he's saying that there are two issues. The first is that it's tougher than most to get right when using it as a portable, and that's not likely, but the second - is that installing and getting the Hitachi mounted is also going to take more time. This is only a minor issue, and that, only when first installing the projector. It's almost one of those "if that's the biggest complaint you have...life must be good".
He really felt the interactive functionality including the Starboard software was exceptionally good.
This Hitachi projector is a 3LCD model with WXGA resolution. Lamp life is better than most (of the traditional lamp projectors) lasting up to 5000 hours in Eco-mode.
Best In Classroom Award
Best in Classroom Award (Non-Interactive Projector): BenQ LW61ST
I'm always more confident of an award given out, if I was the person who reviewed the projector. Nothing like lots of hands on. I'm pleased to tell you above our winner. First, though, I want to point out a bonus feature:
There is an optional pen to add interactivity for this BenQ LW61ST (click for full review).
As to the rest of it. This is a rather innovative projector from BenQ. Start with the Laser light source, for low cost of operation and it looks really good. This is a laser diode, not a hybrid Laser/LED such as Casio uses. Although I knew it was a laser based unit coming in, as I was first setting it up, I just didn't notice, and that's a great thing. My experience with laser projectors has been pico projectors. The picos screamed laser - had that shimmery look. So, this is the first laser light source I've worked with that really looks very clean.
This is also one of the projectors in the group, with optional interactivity (which I did not work with), consider that a bonus. Brightness was a respectable 1485 lumens, but this projector, at 3000 hours, will probably be about as bright as most of the 3000 lumen claiming projectors, when their conventional lamps hit those hours.
A Few of the BenQ LW61ST projector strengths:
- Very good color - extremely good for a DLP even in brightest modes
- Long life Laser Diode light source (20,000 hours)
- 3D ready - just add glasses (no Blu-ray 3D as is typical)
- Microphone Input
- Very short throw design
- Excellent Input and output flexibility: Analog computer, HDMI, USB Display Link for presenting from PC via USB, plus networking, video, mic, audio out, and more
- 3 Year Warranty standard
- Plenty of audio - two 10 watt speakers, the champ in this report
- A little quieter than most - typical of the noiser home theater projectors
- Wireless networking (optional - uses a small dongle)
- Eco-friendly - one aspect - automatically drops to 10% power consumption if there's no source.
Best In Classroom, Runner-up: Projector Awards
Considering the 16 projectors reviewed in this report:
This Epson Powerlite 435W (click for full review) is a Very short throw projector, unlike its top of the line sibling, the Brightlink 485Wi (click for full review). It too, is 3LCD powered, and WXGA resolution. While the 485 has good lamp life, this 435W is about as good as it gets for a projector with a conventional lamp, boasting 4000 hours at full power and 6000 in eco mode.
Here's the special thing. When this Epson has to slug it out with other projectors for a low total cost of ownership, it should come out a real winner for schools. 4000/6000 hours can't match those 20,000 hour light sources, but, with a lamp cost for educators of only $79, getting to 20,000 hours even at full lamp power all the way is only about $320 in extra lamps. So far, consider the premium paid for the various new light sources to be a lot higher than that, especially considering all of those fancy new ones have less than 1800 measured lumens, while this projector easily beats all of them with over 2600 measured lumens. Even allowing for lamp dimming over time, this Epson would almost always be a good bit brighter, and still cost less.
Tony also reviewed this projector. His comment was simply that he liked it better, overall, than any of the other non-interactive projectors (with the exception, I suspect of the Canon, which is several times the price).
Like the BenQ, it seems to be very solidly built, and has an excellent warranty. Color is very good. There is no zoom, but that's very typical of Very Short throw projectors. It simply put a brighter, better color "brightest" image on the screen, than any of the DLP's. Not lacking at all in features, the Brightlink supports wireless, and sophisticated wired networking. With Brighter Futures, you get three years warranty.
Just a lot of bang for the buck, and the very short throw design combined with the optional interactivity should make the Powerlite 435W a solid projector for that interactive work.
Best in Classroom, Runner-up Award: Casio XJ-M145
Best Pocket Projector for Teachers: Coming Soon
The End (of the awards).
NEXT: Physical Tour