Classroom Projector Report - Physical Tour
The 2012 Classroom Projector Report is sponsored by:
Here we provide brief information regarding how these small projectors for the classrom are physically laid out, placement flexibility, and more.
5-16-2012 - Art Feierman
Projector Physical Appearance
This year (2012-2013) the mix of projectors is a bit different. We decided to include a few of the latest Pocket Projectors. For some reason many call them pico projectors, but most are in the 1.5 - 3 pound range, and far larger than those actually "fit in your pocket" smaller picos. Physically, those Pocket Projectors most noticeable physical attribute is a size of a thick paperback novel, give or take.
For the rest of the projector world looks come in three flavors - a wide assortment of traditional portable/fixed install projectors, many with footprints the size of a sheet of paper, or a bit larger, then there's the Short Throw Projectors - and Very Short Throw Projectors with their huge lenses, and finally, the ultra short throw projectors vary in technology, but all look completely different than any other projectors that have been around the last few decades.
For "cool" you have to like BenQ, for their iridescent blue lens hood (racing stripe)
Although most projectors going into schools get mounted, there are plenty of teachers, (and business people) who work with unmounted projectors and need to move them around. For that reason, handles are nice, but projector manufacturers, for some reason, rarely include them. Sadly, none of the full side projectors
This year, as it turns out, only 3 of the projectors - just the Pocket LED Projectors, weigh 5.0 lbs or less.
On the other hand, lots of heavy weight projectors this year, between 10 and 20 pounds , mostly due to a number of ultra-short throw projectors, which all seem to be "weighty", regardless of the different interesting technologies used to create an ultra short throw projector.
When it comes to some of those very-short throw projectors, be careful moving them around, or rather those that have protruding lens glass. Cover with lens cap whenever not using if it is not mounted.
This year, the Epson Brightlink 455wi and the Hitachi CP-AW250N are true ultra short throw projectors that normally sit just inches from the screen. Should you be moving either one, the Epson doesn't have an exposed lens or mirror, and the Hitachi neatly folds the lens assembly to closed position, protecting it's optical components.
As to the rest, many have slightly or fully recessed lenses. A few have sliding door "lens caps" for protection, all of the rest come with lens caps, and most are tethered, so will hang from the projector (helping keeping you from losing it, if the projector gets moved around).
Projector Control Panels
For more on the various control panels see the individual reviews of the projectors.
Typical Control panels below, for the Mitsubishi WD380U-EST and Epson PowerLite 435W projectors, respectively:
Almost all control panels have a few things in common: Power switch, 1 to 3 indicator lights (often with different flashing patterns to provide more info), a Menu button, and Enter button and four arrow keys in some configuration or another (round, diamond, in-line...), and an input (source) button. Also found on many is an Escape (or back) button for navigating menus, a Help button, Eco-mode (on at least one), perhaps an AV mute, or picture mode might be found on extra buttons. Only the Acer lacks a contrrol panel, it just has a power switch and a holder for the small remote on the top of the projector.
All the projectors in this review have a number of things in common. All, but the Epson and Hitachi ultra-short throw projectors have their input panels on the back.
HDMI or DVI digital inputs: This year HDMI (or DVI) can be found on almost all the projectors aimed at the school markets. Few, though are HDMI 1.4a, which is needed for Blu-ray 3D support. Every one of the 16 reviewed for this report sports HDMI. No doubt digital will continue to grow in popularity, as it has a number of advantages that outweigh some of the expenses. Even the pocket projectors all had HDMI. Kudos!
Monitor out: Every one of the full sized projectors offers a monitor out. With the pocket projectors that's a mixed bag, so if you will be using a pocket projetor with a desktop computer (sure sounds unlikely), you will want one that has the monitor out, or perhaps one that can work off of USB for the display.
This year again, we ask you to visit the individual reviews for details and screen shots of various menu pages. Some projectors have great menu layouts, some have type small enough to be a problem for some to read, but, the bottom line is that you almost certainly wouldn't change your mind about which projector you will by, based on the menu system! Neither Mike nor Tony reported any menu system as being a problematic. My biggest complaint has to be related more to the ability to move the menu away from dead center. The Casio's menus are very large, and made some of my photo shoots a pain. The super large menu in the center is also a headache if you are trying to see what the results are when adjusting color, for example.
We believe that menus that don't require you to scroll down or find a 2nd or 3rd page, are better than those that do. Sometimes you just don't realize there are more controls so you waste time looking elsewhere (or finding the manual). Other than the navigation itself - including using sub-menus (good) vs. toggles where you can't see what all your choices are (not so good), most projectors are actually fairly similar on how they lay out features.
Generally, I doubt that the remote control itself will weigh in significantly regarding your projector choice, unless you are considering that some projectors, via their remotes, support "remote mousing". Even so, 3rd party remote mice are available and affordable (from below $50). is going to be serious determining factor in selecting projectors, we won't explore the differences here. There's a section on the remote control in each of the individual reviews.
Of those less common, here are mousing functions, pointer, functions, an Eco-mode button, digital zoom, a Break timer, and 3D button.
Essentially all interactive projectors are expansions on the idea of "remote mousing". This year, counting the interactive projectors, 10 of 16 have remote mousing.
The exceptions: the Acer S5201M, the Canon, the Epson PowerLite 435W, the Hitachi, the NEC and the ViewSonic. The rest have at least basic remote mousing functions. Note that for remote mousing, normally a second cable is required between your computer and the projector. In addition to the display signal - over VGA analog computer, digital hdmi, or USB Display Link, you'll need a USB cable so that the projectors can emulate a USB mouse. Actually it's all pretty easy stuff.
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
Ahh, this is a much more interesting topic than remotes or menus. Although most of the projectors are similar to each other, pretty traditional projectors with zoom lenses with limted range. Most have 1.1:1 to 1.3:1 - which buys you from just inches of front to back placement flexibility, to perhaps two plus feet with the wider range zooms. The big exception is the Casio with it's 2:1 zoom, for maximum flexibility. On the other end are the ultra short throw projectors and the very short throw projectors, which we'll discuss next.
Short throw and ultra short throw projectors are perhaps the ideal, when it comes to placement. Both place just inches away from the wall the white board or screen is mounted to. Even the furthest back part of ultra short projectors is going to be less than 2.5 feet, even when projecting a very large image. That translates, into low cost installations, shorter wire runs, and not being blinded while presenting or teaching. The very short throw projectors, by comparison, also can use a telescoping mount, but those "very" short throw projectors usually are mounted with the front of the projector from three to five plus feet back from the screen.
With the ultra-short throw projectors if you adjust the distance from the wall/screen by just a few inches it can dramatically increase the image size, say from 50 inches to 90 inches! The optical system is, in that way somewhat limited. Ultra short throw projectors usually aren't designed to project an image larger than 90" to 100" diagonal. There are more than a few ultra-short throw projectors, and they come from a number of brands. One of the first was the Sanyo PLC-XL50, which we reviewed some years ago. The ultra-short throw projectors, and the very short throw projectors with convex lenses, lack zoom at all, so exact placement is required to fill any particular sized screen.
A note about sharpness. There tends to be more of an issue with sharpness - or perhaps clarity is a better term.
Bottom line: We've got three types of lens arrays - one for ultra short throw, one for very short throw (both types are fixed - no zoom), and then your others with varying amounts of zoom lens.
Note, just because a projector offers interactive features does not mean it will be an ultra-short or very short thow projector. The InFocus IN3916, is a good example. It has a pretty normal zoom lens, but is still a true interactive projector. (You will probably just get some more light in your eyes, on occasion!)
Lens shift is only found on a couple projectors, including that big Sanyo, which is the only with any lens options. In the school environment, keystone correction is usually used, rather than lens shift, as having lens shift on a projector adds signficantly to its overall cost. Keystone correction can soften the image slightly, but using it is considered normal.
NEXT: Image Quality