Classroom Projector Report: Best School Projectors for K-12 Education
The 2012 Classroom Projector Report is sponsored by:
May 2012 -Art Feierman, Editor
16 Projectors we've recently reviewed, plus sixty additional projectors are considered in this report. Reviews were done by Tony, Mike, and myself. Awards are based on feedback from all reviewers. -art
This year's Guide to the Report, Special Features, Projector Guide, Image Quality Performance, and Physical Tour pages are also completed. Image Quality and Performance, are also updated. The Awards page, is of course up! The second section of the report - (60+ projectors) is now in process, and will post within the week.
Classroom and Education Projectors - Overview
This is our second annual report focusing on projectors for schools. While our attention is primarily on use in K-12 classrooms and multi-purpose rooms, a few of the projectors are bright enough for small auditorium work. This year, we've got a few small portables, a number of classic small fixed install projectors (mostly large portable sized, but well designed for mounting in classroom or conference room), some 3D capable projectors, and a few interactive projectors for your consideration. In our opinion, several of these projectors really aren't education focused in design, but either the manufacturer felt it was able to compete, or simply, the closest thing they had that was available for review. In fairness several manufacturers passed this year, because they didn't want to go against the competition with their last year's models, and the new models weren't available by the deadline.
The goal of this report, is not to attempt to identify the absolute best classroom projector out of some 600 active projectors on the market. Perhaps 1/2 of those 600 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. Still, you will find similarities between groups of projectors. There are several interactive projectors, even more total short and ultra-short throw projectors, and even a few more generic portables. Finally, we offer up several higher power projectors for your consideration, that can tackle larger rooms, even small auditoriums.
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 the specs and comments on another five dozen education oriented projectors, we will help you quickly narrow the choices, and make better decisions.
Our annual Best In Classroom awards will be given out to the best (and most interesting) of the reviewed projectors.
Again, this year, we offer additional comment on some 60 projectors that we did not review. We asked manufacturers to recommend one, or two series of projectors they felt best worked in school environments. From those we picked series we felt best, to add to our big sortable spreadsheet. We add comments on these series, although those will be the last part of the report finished. We do not give out awards to projectors we haven't actually reviewed.
Above, the Acer S5201M projector in Education mode.
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. Forgive our repetitiveness of some basic points.
We recommend that our visitors read (or scan) 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.
The second section of the Classroom Projector Report: Best School Projectors for K-12 Education, is our attempt to let you expand your range, by letting you apply what you learned from the individual classroom projector reviews and awards. Then apply that to a larger selection of projectors. To do that we've looked at a number of "series" of projectors from major manufacturers.
We realize that it is common for a manufacturer to have 4 or 5 or even 7 similar projectors - say all with the same brightness, same box, same lens, but the one we reviewed might XGA, but among the others in the seriees might be an SVGA resolution projector, and Widescreen 1280x800, and perhaps versions of the XGA and Widescreen models, that have networking.
Last year when we looked at Casio, as they had what was probably the largest single series of projectors that was relevant. They have eight similar projectors in one series. I'm talking the same series as last year's 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.
And that, folks, creates a total of 8 projectors all slightly different from each other. Last year you could buy a Casio that's 2000 or 2500 lumens, with or without USB and wireless presenting, and with those combinations you then only have to choose between XGA and widescreen WXGA resolution. This year they've added even more models, but since we've reviewed another Green-Slim, we've included instead, 3 very different Casio's in this section.
Other series may have a lot more differences from one projector to the next, but usually at least a chasis, and many other components in common.
With that in mind we look at more than a dozen different series of projectors in this 2011-2012 school year report.
Enough, let's get to the projectors
Image below taken with the Epson BrightLink 485Wi projector.
Education Projectors Reviewed
Listed alphabetically, for your convenience, links
Read the full review of the Acer S5201M DLP projector, or read the Acer S5201M specifications here.
Read the full review of the Acer K330 DLP projector, or read the Acer K330 specifications here.
Read the full review of the BenQ LW61ST DLP projector, or read the BenQ LW61ST specifications here.
Read the full review of the Canon WUX4000 LCoS projector, or read the Canon WUX4000 specs.
Read the full review of the Casio XJ-M145 3DLP projector, or read the Casio XJ-M145 specifications here.
Read the full review of the Casio XJ-ST155 interactive projector, or read the Casio XJ-ST155 specifications here.
Read the full review of the Epson BrightLink 485Wi 3LCD projector, or read the Epson BrightLink 485Wi specifications here.
Read the full review of the Epson PowerLite 435W 3LCD projector, or read the Epson PowerLite 435W specifications here.
Read the full review of the Hitachi iPJ-AW250N 3LCD projector, or read the Hitachi iPJ-AW250N specifications here.
Read the full review of the Mitsubishi WD380U-EST DLP projector, or read the Mitsubishi WD380U-EST specifications here.
Read the full review of the NEC U310W DLP projector, or read the NEC U310W specifications here.
Read the full review of the Optoma ML500 DLP projector, or read the Optoma ML500 specifications here.
Read the full review of the Optoma TW610STi DLP projector, or read the Optoma TW610STi specifications here.
Read the full review of the Optoma ZX210ST DLP projector, or read the Optoma ZX210ST specifications here.
Read the full review of the Panasonic PT-VX400NTU (review not yet posted) 3LCD projector, or read the Panasonic PT-VX400NTU specifications here.
Read the full review of the Viewsonic PLED-W500 DLP projector, or read the Viewsonic PLED-W500 specifications here.
Projectors above, from top left: Acer S5201M, Acer K330, BenQ LW61ST, Canon WUX4000, Casio XJ-M145, Casio XJ-ST155, Epson BrightLink 485Wi, Epson PowerLite 435W, Hitachi iPJ-AW250N, Mitsubishi WD380U-EST, NEC U310W, Optoma ML500, Optoma TW610STi, Optoma ZX210ST, Panasonic PT-VX400NTU, and Viewsonic PLED-W500.
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?
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. Of note, most of those widescreen projectors have siblings near identical, but XGA resolution, and the opposite is true as well. Many of those siblings are found on the larger chart.
When I asked each manufacturer for their nominations, I allow them to submit 2 series of projectors. Last year some brands of projectors did that, others, only a single series. If two are submitted, it's my job to choose the series I think is the better fit. This year was "like pulling teeth. " Not everyone got back to me so had to go picking some myself.
Classroom Projector Highlights
Below are a few paragraphs about each reviewed projector. The goal 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 three Pocket projectors. These are not for your everyday teacher, or classroom, but there are many highly mobile educators out there, often specialists.
Image above using the interactivity features of the Hitachi iPJ-AW250N projector.
Acer S5201M Projector:
The Acer S5201M (click for full review) is the lowest cost interactive projector in this year's comparison. That has to offer a lot of appeal to many schools, for that combination (price, interactivity) alone. Street prices seem to be around $800 for single quantity purchases (non-education). I am not familiar with any Acer educational discount programs, but I do assume they have them.
We are talking about a single chip DLP projector, one claiming XGA resolution, and 3000 lumens! Interestingly, this projector lacks a zoom lens. Many competitors have zooms with very limited range, and ultra short throw projectors and most very short throw models also lack, but this Acer is more of a “short throw”, not as severe. Interesting. On the other hand, no doubt that’s one way to keep the total selling price down. A big 10 watt speaker has classroom filling sound. Overall, this projector is pretty portable, at 7.7 pounds.
No surprise, as it is a DLP projector, the S5201M is 3D capable.
This Acer S5201M is lighter than many of the interactive capable projectors in this review, barely half the weight in some cases.
Acer K330 Pocket Projector:
One of the three large Pocket Projectors in this report, like the other two, there’s no built in battery. Batteries are used in much smaller and lighter Pico projectors, but I don’t think we’ve seen any very small projectors with a built in battery, that claims more than 100 lumens. For this report we only wanted powerful pocket projectors, so the three all claim at least 300 lumens.
This Acer K330 (click for full review) boasts 500 lumens and delivered a really impressive 474 lumens – any projector that gets within 5% of claim, basically does better than most. The lens is fixed – no zoom, and will fill a 66” screen from two meters – about 80 inches, for a fairly normal throw distance.
The S5201 is also 3D capable. There’s also a built-in media player, an SD card reader, an HDMI input, and a Microsoft Office reader, so you can present documents created in Office, with the K330, from the SD card slot or, I believe, the USB, without needing a PC. Nice.
The light source is LED, and claims a 20,000 life. This is not a tiny projector as the “pocket” name would imply. It’s 8.6x6.6x1.8 inches. The Acer even has optional wireless capability, just order the Wireless dongle.
All considered an extremely feature laden “pocket” projector that weighs in at 2 ¾ pounds.
BenQ LW61ST Laser Light Source Projector:
Laser light source! And yet it essentially looks normal. Only 1485 lumens measured, but that shouldn't be a real problem. A conventional lamp, after a couple thousand hour,s is usually down 30-50% in brightness. From my best understanding, the various LED, Laser, and Hybrid light sources will also dim but over 20000 hours or so. The projector also can interface with iPads and iPhones to show onscreen content - including the web, through the LW61ST projector.
OK, there is no lamp to replace, and less routine maintenance, thanks to that. A teacher can blank the screen during a presentation, and power consumption drops by about 90% according to BenQ, but can be instantly back on.
Color was impressive. While the color temperature varies depending on the selection and mode, overall, all the modes seemed well balanced - no proponderance of green in the brightest mode, or other afflictions. The brightest modes are a bit thin on red.
This is still a DLP projector, it uses an 8 segment color wheel, and claims better color saturation due to it. The 20 watt speaker has some real umph to it. There's only so much one can expect in terms of bass from a projector's speakers, but overall, the speaker has some punch. Should be no problem handling any reasonable sized classroom. There is a mic input, a real break for some teachers, or students.
3D capability is just almost standard on todays new business and education oriented DLP projectors. (3D is scarce on business and education LCD projectors).
And the projector looks cool with its irridescent blue lens barrel. Perhaps not a performance you can trade on, but perhaps cool enough to earn some respect from the "kids".
Canon WUX4000 Projector:
UPDATE: The Canon WUX4000 review is posted!
More information on the Canon WUX4000 projector to follow as soon as the full review is posted. Basically, the WUX4000 is a widescreen projector with WUXGA resolution, the highest resolution out there. The WUX4000 is several times the price as any of the other projectors in this year's Classroom Projector Report, thanks to its high resolution and high brightness. The WUX4000 is ideal for multi-purpose rooms, auditoriums or science labs, and probably more for university use than K-12.
Casio XJ-M145 Projector:
In past year's we've liked Casio projectors for education thanks to their long life hybrid LED/laser light source, but until this past year, their focus was on slim, highly portable projectors. The XJ-M145 was the first projector from them with a feature set that really makes sense for a school as a fixed install projector for the classroom.
This Casio starts with the light source, which should outlast the projector itself. It offers decent audio with bigger speakers and more power, and 3D capabilities.
From a networking standpoint it's almost as if it was designed specifically for schools with the ability to present wirelessly from any of up to 32 computers on the network. An instructor could therefore direct any student in the class to project their work or to present, for the whole class to see. Impressive. The M145 can also project from devices such as smart phones, or do PC free presentations from USB... A nice, longer than most, warranty comes with this projector.
This is the second Casio in this year’s report. The XJ-ST155 (click for full review) is an XGA, short throw projector with a healthy zoom lens, and an LED/Laser light source rated 20,000 hours. This (and also the M145) use Casio's 3rd generation light source. Like all the other LED or hybrid light source projectors this one is reasonably bright, but not up to the conventional lamp based projectors. Measuring around 1700 lumens, that’s plenty for a classroom, and remember, by the time most projectors with conventional lamps have 2000 hours on them, the Casio will mostly likely be brighter, at that point… This Casio measured the brightest of the LED or hybrid light source projectors we tested, though not by a great deal. These new light sources, are consistently grossly overstated in brightness by their manufacturers.
Like many DLP projectors, this one is optionally interactive. Do keep in mind, that as a general rule, those projectors created and sold as interactive projectors tend to be definitely more capable, than those offering what is usually basic interactivity, via an optional pen.
Casio’s Mobi-Show, relates to its wireless presenting capabilities, with support for Windows, and Mac, as well as iPhone/iPad/Android.
Definitely not a very portable projector, it weighs more than 15 pounds and is expected to be mounted in most classroom environments. Tony noted particular that he found it a particularly easy projector to setup and use.
He also noted, that video was rather good for a “non-home theater projector”.
This Casio, like most of the DLP projectors in this report is 3D capable, and, as is typical, does not support 1080p Blu-ray 3D. (there are optional work-arounds, for those that must be able to do Blu-ray 3D content.
Epson Brightlink 485wi Projector:
Epson’s Brightlink 485Wi (click for full review) is a fully interactive LCD projector. This is actually the third generation interactive projector from Epson using this approximate form factor and this too builds on the original. That’s a very good thing, as in the last two years the top of the line Epson interactives have both won our best in classroom award, however sharing it with another projector last year. It is an ultra-short-throw projector it’s typically mounted on the wall right above your white board or screen or even just a plain wall the projector itself only needs to be inches the front only inches away from the screen itself. This means no blinding the presenter when they’re actually writing on the board. Resolution is WXGA as is typical of most of the projectors in this report. The review itself gets into a fair amount of detail on some of the interactive features.
Epson’s lamp life is actually very, very good, though no match for the lamp rating of the Brightlink 435. This 3100 lumen projector claims 4,000 hours in eco-mode and 3,000 hours in full power. Realizing that finding the money for replacement lamps has been a chronic problem for many school districts fear not. Epson has the solution.
Thanks to their education program, replacement lamps for schools are only $79.00 each!
Officially this Epson has a $2000ish street price, however education pricing is dramatically lower. For last year’s model of the year before even with the bundle of software the pricing has typically been $1,500.00 or so, or less. Large consortiums and state negotiations bring the prices well below that. Color, as is typical of LCD projectors, is very good with vivid reds and bright yellows lacking the often mustardy yellow-green found in some DLP competition. We were very pleased with color.
Another interesting touch, This Epson comes with two pens, as two people can actually work on the screen at the same time for collaboration. That’s a very interesting feature we haven’t noticed on other interactive projectors. Overall a top-tier interactive projector with little or no equal.
Introduced last year for the older Epson Brightlink 455wi, and and compatible with the Brightlink 485 is the table display, and intriguing "command and control" type of layout that may have real potential in some school environments, and may be particularly effective with K-8 and younger students?
Epson PowerLite 435 Projector:
Some basics: The Epson PowerLite 435W (click for full review) is rated 3,000 lumens, it is a 3LCD projector with three panels. Resolution is WXGA, (1280 by 800), which matches the current resolution of most of today’s laptop computers, and many desktops. This happens to be a very short-throw projector. For example, it can fill an 80‑inch image from just a few feet away. Still, that’s not the same as ultra-short-throw projectors such as Epson’s own flagship Powerlight 485W which is also interactive.
Speaking of interactive, interactivity is an option for this projector. Don’t need it now? Not sure? Add it later.
Brightness certainly is not an issue for this Epson especially considered that it’s rated 3,000 lumens both for white lumens, and color lumens! Translated: LCD manufacturers and LCoS projector manufacturers, have complained for years that the old “white” standard for measuring brightness, doesn’t accurately reflect overall brightness differences between today’s different technologies.As far as a classroom projector goes, Epson excels with one of the most important feature needs and that is a long life and very affordable lamp. In ecomode the projector is good for, or rather claims, 6,000 hours for the lamp. True, those hybrid LED/Laser projectors claim up to 20000 hours, but you pay a premium price, and none come close to being this bright. When it comes to projectors that have filters, replacing or cleaning filters becomes very time consuming in a school district level purchase as there may be hundreds of projectors. Not so with this Epson, it uses a filter but it only needs to be changed every 5,000 hours, that’s exceptional. Finally I should note that this Epson Powerlight 435W has optional interactivity and also that there is an app available that will allow it to do presentations directly from iPhones and iPads in addition to all the other usual sources. A free iPresentation App can be found in Apples App store. All considered, this is a high performance projector for the classroom very capable very expandable, and considered for one of our top awards
The Epson should handle typical rooms with good audio. Its 16 watt speaker is one of the more powerful, found on the projectors considered for this report. This is a pretty feature laden projector with optional interactivity, which will pair very nicely with the Brightlink 435W's Very Short Throw nature.
Hitachi iPJ-AW250N Interactive Projector
Hitachi’s iPJ-AW250N (click for full review) is an ultra-short-throw interactive projector from Hitachi. Last year we reviewed a similar older model that lacked interactivity. This year’s Hitachi seems far more capable and better designed, even if they look similar. Tony did reviewed both (and also the interactive Epson 485 in this report) This Hitachi projector is more than sufficiently bright for the classroom. It claims 2500 lumens and gets pretty close. Let me note that it is a 3LCD projector, for that reason you'll see Hitachi listing Color Lumens at 2500, as well as White lumens, pointing out an advantage over DLP projectors. WXGA is the resolution (1280 by 800), but this projector will handle at least 1600x1200 when it comes to higher resolution.
Lamp life is a very respectable 3,000 hours at full power, 5,000 in ecomode. As is typical for interactive projectors it’s got a street price above $1,500.00 at $1,799.00, however there is always education pricing from Hitachi who over the years, has always been the number one or number two seller of projectors to schools. You have to figure they better be competitive to be that successful.
Special features include the Starboard software which is rather comprehensive and discussed a bit inside the review itself.
Interestingly while these ultra-short-throw projectors never have zoom lenses this one does have a motorized mirror. When the projector is off the mirror is closed down and protected.
Of note when using the interactive pen interestingly it vibrates when you press the button so you actually know when it’s working. A nice touch. Again, more details inside the full review.
Sharpness: Of note, is very good. That’s especially very good compared to many other ultra-short-throw projectors, some of which just aren’t that sharp, or are sharp in most of the screen but not say the top or the corners.
Let me clarify that, sharpness was very good overall, and only a a little soft at points.
Colors are downright vivid - really good.
Important thing to note: No Mac interactivity at this time. if you are looking for a strong interactive projector, and want to consider this Hitachi, you better be planning on using a PC. Hitachi does not yet have interactive software for working with the Macintosh. If you do have Macs you can still use this projector, just not those interactive features. I assume at some point Hitachi will expand their offering to include Macs, but don’t bet the budget that it will be in time for your next purchase.
Mitsubishi WD380U-EST Projector:
The Mitsubishi WD380U-EST (click for full review) is a true ultra-short-throw WXGA projector. This Mitsubishi is endowed with extensive networking capabilities, its Crestron Room View compatible, it’s pretty bright at 2,800 lumens, contrast is good at 3,000, as is typical for an ultra-short-throw projector the lens is fixed.
There is no lens shift. Lamp life is an impressive 6,000 hours in ecomode, 3,000 hours at full power. That’s good, with almost 3,000 lumens most school environment users will not need to run at full power thus keeping costs down.
Warranty is a solid three years parts and labor on the projector. The lamp comes with one year or 500 hours, that’s very traditional stuff. Mitsubishi does not offer a replacement or lunar program.
The Mitsubishi is 3D capable. It uses DLP link which is very common glasses are affordable at a low price. It also offers PC-free presentations. It can do Powerpoint presentations using a conversation directly from USB thumb drives. No you cannot just feed it a Powerpoint native presentation. There is a full color management system should you need very precise colors.
The Mitsubishi WD380U offers a number of color presets, and as expected the output varies noticeably. Presentation mode is the brightest, it’s a little heavy on greens; theater mode is the least bright or one of the least bright and its color is downright stunning. Ultimately you pick the mode you need for the job it’s got plenty to choose from.
Mike, when reviewing this Mitsubishi, was very impressed with the readability. It handled higher resolutions and it’s native without any trouble and without much softness added. Mike found theater mode to have very good color for handling videos and movies. The Mitsubishi WD380U-EST offers rather complete networking including presentation capability, reporting, network control and wireless capabilities available using an optional adapter. The projector can interface up to four network PCs simultaneously.
Overall consider the Mitsubishi WD380U to be a reasonably bright projector for today’s day and age, size and price. There’s no dust filter, which helps keep the costs of maintenance low. This Mitsubishi has sophisticated networking, and also very good color. If there’s a valid complaint about all ultra-short-throw projectors, it’s that getting them set up on a table and aligned exactly to the screen or whiteboard can be a bit of a chore. The good news, is that shouldn’t be a problem for the vast majority of users, as almost all of these projectors heading for schools will be wall mounted above the “screen”.
NEC U310W Projector
Nec's new U310W (click for full review) is an interactive projector, It's a ultra-short throw DLP with native resolution of 1280 x 800 which of course is WXGA. This is a really bright small projector claiming 3100 lm, more than enough for any classroom. It's also 3-D capable. Don't consider this projecter to be portable projector, as it weighs in at about 14 pounds. It is most likely to be mounted on the wall directly above your whiteboard or screen that you're using. Although it is Dd capable, you'll have to go out and get your glasses as they are not included in the price, which is typical. A quick, online search, shows the street price to be under $1300.
As with most projectors, expect special educational discounts for schools, school districts and even bigger discounts at the state/consortium level.
One extremely interesting feature and benefit of the use 310W, is its interactive software and pen that works with the iPad. You can also control the projector itsself from your iPad, or for that matter, a PC. The pen plugs into the iPad.
From a standpoint of cost of ownership, the NEC is a bit of a mixed bag. Lamp life is Barely average 2500 hours at full power 3000 in Eco, that's a lot lower than many of these projectors, never mind the LED light source models. Other than that, the lamp can be changed without unmounting the projector, a definite plus. While not inexpensive, this NEC projector is still hundreds of dollars less than some of the other premium interactive projectors considered here.
Optoma ML500 Projector
Another large Pocket projector, the ML500 (click for full review) weighs in just under 2.5 pounds, offers WXGA resolution, claims 500 lumens (and gets reasonably close).
This ML500 can operate PC free, with the ability to present off of SD cards, or USB. Sound is a bit small with only a 2 watt speaker - good for a pocket projector, but no match for the hefty sound found in most of the projectors covered in this report. 2 Gig of Memory and a Microsoft Office viewer are on board, jpgs and other formats can also be played..
Again, we have a smallish, LED light source projector that lacks a zoom lens. It does sport an HDMI port, however. All considered, another decently endowed small projector. Dimensions are 8.7 x 6.7 x 1.7.
This is another 3D capable small projector. There is no optional way of adding interactivity. Optoma provides a one year warranty.
Optoma TW610STi Projector
One year ago we reviewed the original TW610ST projector from Optoma. This year its back...sort of. This year's version is the TW610STi (click for full review). You guessed it, you get all the goodies from last year's model, plus that litte "i" stands for interactivity. This is still one more DLP projector that is 3D capable right out of the box. It does not support Blu-ray 3D, but does support all the standard 720p 3D methods, which is typical for a business and education projector.
This Optoma DLP projector is one of many covered in this report, claiming 3100 lumens. Actually 3100 lumens is the claim, and we found 2900 of them. Real nice, and closer to claim than most. Few get within 10% and less beat their claims.
This is a widescreen projector with WXGA 1280x800 resolution.
For interactivity the TW610STi comes with the PointBlank interactive pen. No software is needed. Of course, interactive features tend to be limited without extra software, so keep that in mind. There is compatible software out there, although we did not test any.
The pricing is pretty good. Figure single unit street price is around $999, however, besides offering lots of lumens, a longer than most lamp (4000/3000 hours - of course the LED / Laser light sources last far longer), and, of particular note, has a standard 3 year warranty in a world populated mostly by single year warranties. Again, that's standard single unit. Optoma should prove to be competitive in terms of education discounts...
Optoma ZX-210ST 3D Projector
The Optoma ZX-210ST (click for full review) is a DLP projector with XGA resolution that’s 1024 by 768. Perhaps the most unique feature about this Optoma is that it uses a hybrid light source of LEDs and Lasers, and we’re seeing more of these each year. Two years ago it was all Casio, now we see Optoma BenQ and others also producing LED hybrid light sources. I better mention that the warranty on the light source is 10,000 hours.
This one’s definitely a short-throw projector (some might call it a Very short throw). It can fill an 80 inch diagonal screen from just over three feet which is really great and definitely not your traditional projector. Nor, however, is it anything close to an ultra-short-throw projector. It’ll sit near the front of the room and fill the screen without too much effort. Keep in mind that it does not have a zoom lens, so to perfectly fill the screen requires placing it at the exact right spot. Of course perfect framing isn’t a high priority in the classroom if the projector is "portable". If mounted, getting it lined up is a one time effort, so no worries.
Color happens to be very good overall on this roughly $1500 street priced DLP projector. That would be single quantity, without any education discount, of course. MSRP is $2099.
Did I mention 3D capable? Just add glasses!
The Optoma ZX-210ST has a built in multi-media player. Of course this Optoma projector has built in speakers. Manufacturer’s suggested list price is $1,399.00 street price is far lower than that. Brightness is 2,000 lumens that’s a hefty claim for LED light source projectors see the review for the finer details, but lets say it got "close enough". Finally it’s a nine and a half pound projector and it comes with a three year parts and labor warranty which truly is very good for a projector in this class. I mentioned internal memory or rather the ability to do presentations there is actually two gigabytes of memory for storing presentations so you can go PC free. Also of note, Crestron Room View compatible which is very handy if you’re implementing a lot of these throughout a school or school district.
Panasonic VX-400NTU Projector:
The verdict is still out on the Panasonic VX-400NTU. The first one we received, I don't believe survived the shipping properly. Brightness performance was far below expectations (and the box was very beat up - dropped a few too many times I think). A second one is inbound as this report goes live. We are looking at a projector claiming 4000 lumens, but measured under 2500. I expect we'll find that it is defective, or the lamp is, and the next one will hopefully do more than 3000 lumens, perhaps 3500+. It should prove to be the 2nd brightest projector in this report? We shall see.
This is an affordable XGA resolution projector with advanced networking built in. It is an LCD projector, with the color benefits associated with same. On the other hand, one of the drags about LCD projectors is changing out or cleaning a filter. Not a problem here. There is one, but it changes every 6000 hours, which is longer than the 5000 lamp life. Simply stated, no extra trips, just replace the filter when the lamp needs replacing. Makes sense, and means that in most classrooms, this projector won't need any attention for years, even if it's used quite a bit. (25 hours a week 36 weeks a year (school) = 900 hours, so even with that usage, over 5 years! See, who really needs LED light sources? There is an advanced lamp management system, including 2 Eco modes.
Like the other LCD projectors this is 2D only. A 10 watt speaker should handle sound easily for a classroom. The projector brightness can be set to automatically adjust to room lighting conditions, something Panasonic keeps refining, but has been doing for years, and years.
A widescreen version is also available, as well as models without the networking.
ViewSonic PLED-W500 Projector
Our last "Pocket" projector, the ViewSonic PLED-W500 (click for full review) one also claims 500 lumens, and has an LED light source. Pricing is very good for a Pocket projector with WXGA resolution, with most online dealers well below $700. Like almost all projectors these days, it has an HDMI port. But, also like most of the 3D capable DLP projectors (non home) these days, not Blu-ray 3D compatible. Once again, we have a small projector with onboard 1 gig of memory for its media player.
The media player supports Microsoft office, jp, etc...and can run PC free presentations from its SD card slot or USB.
At 2.6 pounds it's the middle weight of the 3 Picos, but all are within 3 ounces weight of each other. But, wait, this projector has no extra power brick like the Acer.
A 2 watt speaker handles the sound. Not exactly big time for a classroom, but this projector has an audio output, so that any audio can be fed to a larger audio system when needed.
A 1.4:1 zoom lens adorns this Viewsonic PLED-W500 projector. That's more zoom range than many projectors in this report, which should make for easy setup.
Below is a quick look at:
Sixteen projectors with most projectors represented in more than one category:
Interactive projectors: 5
Short and Ultra short throws (which includes interactive projectors): 8
DLP Projectors (all single chip): 11
LCD Projectors (all 3LCD): 4
LCoS Projectors: 1
Widescreen Projectors WXGA: 11
Widescreen Projectors HD above WXGA: 1
XGA projectors: 4
3D ready projectors: 9
Digital equipped (HDMI or DVI with HDCP): 16
Over 10 pounds: 6
5-10 pounds: 7
Under 5 pounds: 3
Networking (LAN) hardwired: 13
Networking (wireless): 3 (plus 2 optional)
Projectors brighter than 3500 lumens: 2
Projectors less than 2000 lumens: 3