Classroom Projector Report 2013: Best School Projectors for Education
The 2013 Classroom Projector Report is sponsored by:
May 2013 -Art Feierman, Editor
Classroom and Education Projectors - Overview
Some projectors really are designed primarily with school usage in mind. While our attention is primarily on use in K-12 classrooms and multi-purpose rooms, we also consider projectors better able to handle the much larger classrooms found at todays public and private universities and colleges. Three of these projectors are easily bright enough for small auditorium work, or classrooms up to 400 students! This year, we've have several few small portables that are very light and suitable for moving from classroom to classroom, school to school, and we've even included on very interesting Pocket projector, which can run on a battery pack and sports reasonable brightness. Teaching where electricity isn't guaranteed? Finally a multi-hundred lumen pocket projector that runs on batteries.
Most projectors considered here are projectors we have reviewed, and are the traditional smallish fixed install projectors that are well designed for mounting in the classroom (or conference room). Most are 3D ready/capable projectors, that only need you to buy 3D glasses, , and a few are interactive projectors worthy of your consideration.
Our goal is not to attempt to identify the absolute best classroom projector out of some 500+ active projectors on the market. Perhaps 1/2 of those 500 are at least somewhat suitable for school use.
Rather, our goal is to sample a wide range of projectors with varying capabilities and prices, so that teachers, business people, IT, AV managers, and, tech coordinators, etc., have a good basis for deciding what types of feature/benefits, what price points, what networking (if any) is needed.
There are far too many projectors available for there to be a single best projector that's best for most school environments, but our hope is that between the fifteen reviews, and this summary, we will help you quickly narrow the choices, and make better decisions.
As happens every year, some manufacturers invited to provide a projector decided to pass because of the timing. We require that the projectors we consider for this report, be current models through the end of the summer when schools buy and install them. Some new models just don't hit the market in time, with the projectors they replace are discontinued before buying season is over. We are a little late on this year's report, due to two brand new projectors models in this report hitting the US later than originally promised, arriving two weeks or so after our official "deadline."
Several of this year's projectors are truly remarkable, and may very well represent the absolute best or most capable on the market for many users. It's not just coincidence, as I am always looking for breakthrough projectors in both features, performance and value! Afterall there are hundreds of potential projectors to consider. Obviously, you have to figure that there are plenty of other good projectors we don't get to. That's OK, the trick is to find projectors that serve your needs well, and that we should be able to help you with. There might be 10 projectors on the market that really will work great for you. Hopefully, we'll point out one or two of the ones that work the best.
As always, our annual Best In Classroom awards will be given out to the best (and most interesting) of the reviewed projectors.
Above, annotating with the interactive Epson Brightlink 436Wi projector
We'd tried to pack a lot of information and guidance in here. Many of you are experts in your own right, but not all of our readers of this report are. Therefore for you experts, please forgive our repetitiveness of some basic points.
We recommend that our visitors read (or take a quick look, at least) the Guide to the Report. Also helpful is the Special Features page. That Special Features page provides our take on more than a dozen features and benefits found in various of these projectors, and try to put them all in perspective. Finally if you click (or use the outline), it will launch our Features and Specs Chart for this year's reviewed projectors. It will launch in a separate window so you can quickly reference it when you want. You can sort the specs and features by any column, and for that matter, can sort two or more columns. Have fun with that!
Our goal was never to identify a single absolute best projector out there. First of all, it would be a herculean task. There's no publisher in the industry that could begin to pull that off. There are at least 500 projectors sold (in the US) for business or education use, by some 50 brands. Of those, perhaps 10 or 15 percent are extremely high power, or specialty projectors, that K-12 can live without, but most of the rest are likely very useable in schools. For perhaps half of those, the K-12 market was a definite focus in the design of the projector. All that math suggests there's at least three hundred projectors currently available for K-12 school use and 2/3rds of them were likely designed with education use as the primary goal (it is the largest single projector market).
Use our awards as guides to the projectors that impressed us the most, and therefore help you understand, at least, what (we think) a best projector looks like. Ultimately you want to find the one that best meets your needs. Often our biggest benefit is to occasionally point out something that you may not have considered.
Keep in mind that for every projector we review, the manufacturer typically makes anywhere from 2 to 7 additional very similar projectors. They might share the same case, the same general feature set, but have different resolutions, perhaps different brightness, some might have networking (wired or wireless), and prices can vary hundreds of dollars in some cases.
Two years back when we reviewed a Casio, they had eight similar projectors in one series. I'm talking the same series as the reviewed XJ-A140. In Casio's case, it broke out like this:
Four lower power projectors - 2000 lumens, and four that are otherwise the same, but 2500 lumens
Four projectors are widescreen, four XGA (yes, two of each are 2000 lumen, two are 2500 lumen)
Four projectors have USB and wireless presenting, four do not. OK, you get the idea: If you read about a projector here that sounds almost perfect, but it is the wrong resolution or aspect ratio, or it lacks networking you want, or it has networking you don't need, despair not, as there probably is a version that the manufacturer makes, that has the combination of the features you are looking for.
Enough, let's get the projectors considered in this report
The Mitsubishi WD390U Cloud Projector projecting off of a MacBook laptop (left), hanging off of a server (that just as easily could be a cloud server). In this case, the presentation is being controlled by the iPad mini being held at the bottom center of the image.
Education Projectors Reviewed
Listed alphabetically, for your convenience, are each of the projectors considered in this year's report. You will find links to 1) short "Projector Highlights" overviews of each projector (written specifically for this report), 2) the full review of each projector, 3) each projector in our website specifications database and 4) each projector's .PDF specifications sheet.
The goal of each "Projector Highlights" overview (see first column) is to point out important aspects of each projector considered for this review. Once again, they are ordered aphabetically so as not favor any brand, and make it easier on you, our readers. This year we included one Pocket projector, and also several other somewhat larger but still very light projectors. These are not for your everyday teacher, or classroom, but there are many highly mobile educators out there, often specialists. And there are those who might even need a projector for use where electricity is not guaranteed! For that situation...well, that's why we have one battery powered pocket projector reviewed/considered for this report.
|Projector||Projector image||Link to "Projector Highlights" Overview||Link to review||Link to Database||Link to .pdf Specs.|
|BenQ MS517||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Canon WX6000||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Casio XJ-H2650||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Epson BrightLink 436Wi||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Epson W16SK||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|HB Opto HBP503D||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|InFocus IN114||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Mitsubishi WD390U-EST||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Mitsubishi WL7200||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|NEC NP-M311X||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|NEC VE281X||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Optoma TW610STi+||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|Panasonic PT-DZ770UL||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|ViewSonic PJD5533w||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
|ViewSonic PJD6383s||Click here||Click here||Click here||Click here|
Picking the Winners - the Best K12 projectors of those reviewed:
Need networking? How sophisticated, push notifications? email lamp warnings? How about over 3000 lumens? Yes? No? Perhaps you need projectors with HDMI or DVI. What about short throw, and especially ultra-short throw projectors? You think you need to equip a room or many with 3D projectors? Will you need projectors with advanced interactive abilities?
As we have said repeatedly, there isn't any, one best projector for school, or classroom or business, and with so many projectors to choose from, there won't even be one best projector in a particular price range. There are so many variables that each buyer must consider, in choosing the right projector for their viewing requirements.
With luck (or skill), our report will help you cut through what's out there, and narrow your choices down to something reasonably managable.
Discussions about key features, such as brightness, placement flexibility including needing an ultra-short throw projector, rainbow effect susceptability, widescreen vs. standard, networking features, etc. are addressed on the Special Features page. In all fairness, only some of the dozen plus "features" (and their benefits) discussed, are special features, a few are standard stuff, like when we discuss general brightness, or color fidelity, white lumens and color lumens...
My point is, that while one projector may be excellent at many things, you may disqualify it because of a specific requirement you have.
You might love an Acer, Sony or Epson for their especially long life lamps, but if your requirement is for an ultra short throw projector, it's not going to be that Epson 96W, or the Sony EX175, nor the Acer X1261P projectors. It might be the BenQ or the Hitachi that we cover in this report, or even the Epson Brightlink 450wi or 455wi, if that's your need. For some districts and schools, networking may be mandatory. For another district, the emphasis might be on long term cost of operation, which probably means you are leaning to one of the projectors with lamps that last 3000 or 4000 hours at full power, or 4000 to 6000 hours at low power. The long term cost differences due to lamp costs and other maintenance, can often easily exceed the cost of the projector. Some schools are trying to go all digital. If that's the case, you'll find that many projectors geared for schools still do not offer a digital HDMI or DVI input.
Due to the concept of "no one perfect projector", we will be giving out multiple major awards again, this year.
Bottom line - It's your job as the potential buyer, to make the final decisions. To help, some (probably obvious) advice.
Even before you have determined what features and abilties you want for your projector(s), you may want to make a list of disqualifying features (such as placement range, resolution and aspect ratio, warranty, etc.). That should make the process of selection much faster.
Consider the projectors we've just reviewed, if you already know you don't want an ultra-short throw projector - that eliminates several projectors. If you want a widescreen projector, we reviewed nine, plus six XGA projectors this year. The point being: Most of those widescreen projectors manufacturers have near identical models - "siblings" - but in different resolutions and aspect ratios, and certain other features like networking.
Mix of Education Projectors In This Report
Below is a quick look at the fifteen projectors in this report. Most have anywhere from 4 to 8 "sibling" projectors, typically varying by resolution, brightness, or networking, but otherwise being the same series.
Interactive Projectors: 3 (several others with limited interactivity, not counted)
Short and Ultra short throw Projectors (which includes interactive projectors): 8
DLP Projectors (all single chip): 10
LCD Projectors (all 3LCD): 4
LCoS Projectors: 1
Widescreen Projectors WXGA: 9
Widescreen Projectors HD above WXGA: 1
XGA projectors: 5
3D ready projectors: 9
Digital equipped (HDMI or DVI with HDCP): 13
Over 10 pounds: 5
5-10 pounds: 7
Under 5 pounds: 3
Networking (LAN) hardwired: 9
Networking (wireless): 3 (plus 1 optional)
Projectors brighter than 3500 lumens: 3
Projectors less than 2000 lumens: 1
NEXT: Special Features