Classroom Projector Report 2013: Interactive Projector Award Winners

The 2013 Classroom Projector Report is sponsored by: Click Here! 

Best In Classroom: Interactive Projector Awards

Best in Classroom – Interactive Projector Award: Epson BrightLink 436Wi

We’re in a rut, once again, top honors for Interactive projectors goes to an Epson projector.  Tony has been reviewing all of the “classic” interactive projectors once again.  While  many projectors today have some interactive features, such as remote mousing, this award is for “hard core” interactive projectors, like this Epson BrightLink 436Wi.  For example, one could argue that there is a fourth interactive projetor i this year’s report, , and that would be the Mitsubishi WD390U, but it’s interactivity isn’t “pen based” rather relies on an iphone or iPad or Android device.  Interactively capable, but not apples to apples.

This year’s latest winner, the Epson Brightlink 436Wi offers a borderline ultra-short throw lens system, so it sits 2 to just over 3 feet from the screen or white board that you are using, depending on the size of the image you want to project.  It can be placed on a table top, or hung from a telescoping wall mount above your screen (or whiteboard). This year’s Brightlink 436Wi doesn’t sit as near as close, compared to last year’s Brightlink 485Wi (still Epson’s flagship interactive projector, and most expensive one) which gets placed only a few inches from the screen.

A Few of the Epson Brightlink 436Wi projector strengths:

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Epson Brightlink 436wi interactive projector

  • Excellent color
  • Plenty of Brightness for virtually any classroom
  • Extensive networking (control and notification)
  • Microphone Input
  • Best interactive feature set of those reviewed
  • 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.  Brilliant Futures Education program offers replacement lamps for $79!
  • Great warranty: For education (Brilliant Futures program) three years P/L with 3 year replacement program
  • Good sound from 10 watt speaker system
  • Ultra-short throw design 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

 

One of Epson’s interactive tool bars (above)

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Using the Brightlink 436wi tool bar

As much as the Brightlink 436Wi has lots of strengths, there is one area where this Epson can’t compete.  The Brightlink 436Wi is not 3D compatible.  While 3D in schools is still in its early adopter stage, we want to remind readers that the nature of school funding likely means many projectors installed this year will likely be expected to still be in use, not just 5, but 10 years down the road.  There are certainly plenty of 1000 lumen projectors sold back in the first two or three years of this century, that are still working in classrooms.

Best in Classroom – Interactive Projector Runner-Up Award: Optoma 610STi+

Not much has changed in a year.  Optoma had our second favorite fully interactive projector in last year’s Classroom Education Projector report, and this slightly improved version (the + is new for this year’s Optoma projector).   While Tony who reviewed all the interactive projectors again this year, favors the Epson for several reasons, he found the Optoma to be a strong performer overall.

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Optoma’s TW610STi+ projector is interactive

And the TW610STi+ projector comes with one really big advantage in the classroom over that Epson, and that’s its 3D capability.  That poor Epson is limited to only 2D while this Optoma projector is 3D capable, just add active 3D glasses.

Optoma’s PointBlank pen requires no special software.  It essentially works like a remote mouse, just with more capabilities.  That makes for a pretty easy to use interactive experience.  Of course there is more advanced interactive software out there that a teacher or presenter can choose to use.   Overall, this Optoma in terms of interactivity is a little less capable without 3rd party software than the Epson, but since most will opt for all the extra capabilities provided, that point is pretty much a non-factor for most.

 

Impressive is the Optoma TW610STi+ projector’s color. We tend to come down a bit hard on many DLP projectors for having a lot of trouible with color in their brightest modes.  I’m strictly talking business/education projectors, not home theater projectors which are designed a bit differently in terms of their color wheels.  In other words almost all non-home theater DLP projectors have a clear or “white” slice on their color wheels which can severely limit color brightness).  The Optoma TW610STi+’s color overall was extremely good for a DLP projector, and close enough in brightest modes to be viable even if you need “pretty good color”.  The one exception was the very brightest mode:  With the lamp in High Bright, maximum brightness, in brightest preset, the color could have been a good bit better, but then Tony measured this 3200 lumen projector doing 3700+ lumens like that.  The Optoma has several modes still very bright with very respectable color for doing presentations, etc. Naturally, almost all projectors can do at least very good color in their less bright “best” modes, and of course this Optoma is among them. It should be noted, that this year’s model managed to measure about 100 lumens brighter than last year’s projector.

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Optoma TW610STi+ interfacing with iPad

All considered, the TW610STi+ projector is a very good value as well.  This is an interactive projector that sells for less than $1000.   It has a good feature set, SXGA native resolution (1280×800), and an exceptional warranty.  As with the other top rated interactive projector, this Optoma comes with 3 years warranty, including 3 years of their express replacement program.  We highly recommend replacement programs as they get you back up and running quickly.  The Optoma TW610STi+ makes a great interactive projector for schools (and businesses, and government…) that do require 3D capabilities.

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