2017-2018 Award Winners: Large Venue Projectors for the Classroom

Large Venue Projectors are an key part of the overall education projector market.  Look for them in larger college/university classroom/lecture halls and labs, and even affiliated museums, but also in K-12 school auditoriums and multi-purpose rooms.

Lower powered, and often less featured education projectors typically can’t handle the job in those really large classrooms and K-12 auditoriums.  But, all of these easily can. Winners in this “class” should have no problem handling a typical university classroom or lecture hall with a hundred, even two or four hundred students.  We assume, of course, that the rooms have some reasonable control over ambient lighting.

Until recently most sufficiently high powered projectors were also extremely expensive and incredibly capable.  This year we’ve seen more segregation in the market, The high priced feature laden projectors are still the majority, but companies are bringing out more high power projectors, that are leaving out expensive features such as interchangeable lenses, lens shift, edge blending, etc., that aren’t needed in most large classrooms.

The result is that this year’s group of five in the report, all qualify as a bit less featured, as in no interchangeable lenses, projection mapping abilities, etc.  So, no surprise, this year’s winners are less expensive than last year’s.

For those that will need a large room projector with lens options, we reviewed one other projector – too expensive for the report (education price over $13,000).  So, on the page 2 of  “Considered: Large Venue projectors…”  we wrote a few paragraphs about that particular projector’s less expensive siblings, – all using laser engines, and offering full feature sets, including lens options.

All the larger venue projectors focused on in this year’s Education Report are widescreen, but resolutions vary.  In all cases, the manufacturers of these projectors also offer similar versions at different resolutions at different price points.  Not every classroom needs WUXGA or 1080p resolution, but since the feature sets between a WUXGA and a WXGA large venue projector are probably almost identical, our comments, and our awards, would likely be justified if we instead reviewed a different projector in the same family.  That is of course, one assumes that pricing will also be relatively consistent.

We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year’s Best Classroom Projectors report.


Epson Powerlite 2265U: Best Value, Large Venue Projector

Powerlite 2265U
This year’s winner, he 5500 lumen Epson Powerlite 2265U, 3LCD projector is WUXGA resolution

The Powerlite 2265U is simply a whole lot of performance and image quality for the bucks.

Of our five contenders this year, the Epson is the 2nd least expensive, with an education single unit price of $1949. Only the BenQ sells for less.

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Other than these advanced features – interchangeable lenses, edge blending, projection mapping, (it also lacks 3D), the Powerlite 2265U has to be considered feature laden.  Networking is well thought out, with Crestron RoomView support, an optional wireless module ($99), and MHL support for mobile devices.  Epson has multiple Apps and software for computers to add capability.

A zoom lens with plenty of range 1.6:1 (but no lens shift) provides better than average placement flexibility (among projectors that don’t have lens options).

Especially important to Epson earning this award is good to great color.  Even the brightest mode, which is has too much green, is better (less green)  than most other projector’s brightest mode.

The Epson claims 5500 lumens!  But thanks to having as many color lumens as white ones, the Epson provides some pretty great color in modes still putting out within 20-25% of maximum brightness.  Unfortunately, many projectors have low color lumen output (compared to white lumens), and therefore give up 40-50% of brightness before they can claim similarly great color.

5000 hours at full power on the lamp, up to 10,000 hours in Eco mode, and a lamp replacement cost for schools of only $129.  Many high power projectors have lamp prices in the $400 – $600 range, so this gives the Epson a real cost advantage.

The 3 year warranty with 3 years of rapid replacement program isn’t the best warranty in this report, but it is one of the best.

Epson’s reputation for both support and reliability are well known (almost legendary), and reported in the industry by awards based on dealer, distributor and end user surveys. Ancient history may not matter, but in my days owning a large dealership (we sold about 20,000 projectors over a 3 year period, (that was back in the ’98 – ’02 timeframe) Epson was by far, our most reliable line.  Dealer folks I know seem to think that’s still true. I pay attention to warranty, reliability and support, as part of forming our opinions and awards. So Epson’s history in this area, certainly helps. Except that the Powerlite 2265U likely would have received the same award for all the other things mentioned, even if I wasn’t factoring in the support type aspects.

Bottom line, extremely bright, well featured, great picture, and aggressive educational pricing – what’s not to like about the Powerlite 2265U’s value proposition?

Best High Performance Large Venue Projector: Sony VPL-PHZ10

2017-2018_large-venue_best-performance
Sony’s brand new laser VPL-PHZ10 – a WUXGA 3LCD projector takes top honors this year

In a lot of ways, this Sony 3LCD projector is similar to the Epson above. But there are some real differences, most notably, the Sony’s laser light engine, vs the Epson’s low cost lamps.  Certainly the Sony, which should street price right around $3000 (but expect some additional education discounts) will cost about a grand more than the Epson, but, that’s about right for laser engines.

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Nice things, though,  about having a laser engine, include it lasting up to 20,000 hours, without needing someone to come by and “change a lamp”  In other words, maintenance is minimal, and that’s a real cost component.  Since this is a 3LCD, it has a filter.  Smart Sony, the filter is self cleaning. The savings from going solid state, comes from lower maintenance, i.e. not having to change lamps or filters.

Because, the PHZ10 has a self cleaning filter and long laser life,  apparently support just has to stop by every 20,000 hours (of use) or so, for either a new laser engine, or new projector.  20K hours = 8 hours a day, 5 days a week 36 weeks a year of 13.88 years!   For perspective, 14 years ago, XGA was the hi res standard, lamps lasted mostly 500 hours, the average projector was about 1000 lumens. Large Venue projectors were anything with 2000 lumens or more lumens.  Today you are hard pressed to even find a normal biz/ed projector with less than 2000 lumens. I’d say all $400 – $500  projectors (except tiny pico ones) are all brighter than 2000 lumen.

The warranty is also excellent.  Sony offers optional packages, but how about starting with 5 years or 12000 hours (which ever comes first).

Networking is typically advanced with Crestron RoomView, AMX Discovery and others, so as to provide a lot of advance networking capabilities, including monitoring, control, push notifications…  Also HDBaseT is supported, so HDMI with audio and networking control can be run up to 100 meters on low cost CAT 6 cable.  That can mean dramatic savings wiring up projectors in large rooms.

The PHZ10 is plenty bright, and color as one would expect from 3LCD is good to excellent depending on mode.  Even the best mode is only 32% less bright the “brightest” mode. That’s excellent!  Mind you, the PHZ10 when measured did not achieve the 5000 lumens claimed, but, was close.  Two points of note:  It did muster up 4781 lumens, over 95% of claim.  The other point- I reviewed an early engineering sample.  I’m pretty certain of two things – full production PHZ10’s aren’t likely to put out less than the engineering sample.  And I’m pretty sure that production units will measure at least a bit brighter.

But let’s not quibble, remember this is a laser projector, and, as such, with a larger color gamut and other advantages, most say a laser projector looks at least slightly brighter than a similar projector running on a lamp.

I expect there’s some real competition coming Sony’s way, and no doubt there will be other affordable laser projectors at Infocomm (7/14/17).  Still at the moment this PHZ10, and the lower, WXGA, resolution (but otherwise the same) PWZ10, which should street for $2199, are the “low price leaders”

In other words, a lot of Best Performance, in an extremely well priced projector.  Still a chunk more than lamp based, but the value proposition is good, at the laser performance is better.

Previous: Best In Classroom Large Venue Winners, Still Available, Worth Consideration

Larger Venue Projectors: Still-Current Previous Winners
Projector Model Image Overview Review Specs Type
Epson PowerLite Pro 1985WU Powerlite 1985WU_beauty Overview Review Specs 3LCD technology, Wired networking
Epson PowerLite Pro G7905  epson-g7905 Overview Review Specs 3LCD, 7000 lumens, 1.60:1 zoom
NEC P502WL nec-p502wl Overview Review Specs Laser Light engine, 16:10
Panasonic PT-RZ670U panasonic-rz670 Overview Review Specs DLP Technology, Wired Networking

Four Large Venue Projector Award Winners from Previous Years (still current)

As noted elsewhere, the large venue projectors have a longer life as current products than the smaller, less expensive projectors do.  As a result, many of the projectors considered in the past two year’s reports are still current models.

By including them here, you have a larger selection of stand out projectors to consider.  Each of the four above are very successful models previously reviewed, and appearing – and winning a category, in previous year’s reports.  Of the four above, the Panasonic is the oldest review, with that Panasonic RS670U and the Epson 1985U were winners from the 2015-2016.  The other two won last year.  Here’s some of what we published about them in previous reports:

Previous Winner: Epson Powerlite 1985W

2015-2016_classroom_best-value_large-venue
Epson Powerlite 1985W won this award for the 2015-16 school year

This Epson 1985W projector is most similar to this year’s NEC winner.  Both picked up value awards.  The 1985W, however, is WUXGA while the NEC 502L derives much of its value by being a lower resolution WXGA projector.

On the other hand, the NEC offers a laser light engine at a most reasonable price.

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Both the Epson and the NEC, unlike most projectors in this category, rely on non-interchangeable zoom lenses with lots of zoom range, while our other contestants all offer interchangeable lenses, which tends to dramatically up the overall price.

The Epson offers all the usual Epson benefits – the 3 year warranty with 3 year replacement program for schools, low cost replacement lamps, and sophisticated software like Easy MP and, especially Moderator, for sharing student content on “the big screen”.

Previous Winner: Panasonic RS670U

2015-2016 Best In Classroom High Performance Projector:  Large Venue
Panasonic’s RZ670U was the best combination for high power and laser, in the 2015-16 Classroom projector report

This 2nd generation Panasonic laser projector proved extremely impressive. Unlike its first generation predecessor this one cranks out the lumens it claimed, (their first generation only met claims if only fed grayscale content – less than half of claim with color content.)

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This Panny offers a full selection of interchangeable lenses. When we first reviewed it, I believe it was also the only laser projector offering an ultra short throw lens.  That plus its ability to operate at virtually any angle, makes it suitable or a lot of interesting digital signage, etc.

And that includes things like museum type displays, making this Panasonic extremely versatile.

Plenty of brightness – that would be 6500 lumens claimed, and an overall comprehensive feature set including 24/7 operation is all part of the package.

When we reviewed this Panasonic it had a roughly $25,000 list price.  Although this isn’t a projector you can find pricing on, online, expect it to be dramatically less, as it would have to be to stay competitive.  Just for perspective, the recently announced Epson lasers would be direct competition, with Epson’s 7000 lumen laser selling for under $8500.

We had hoped to bring in one of the newer Panasonic lasers ever since Infocomm in the summer of 2015, but we can’t seem to talk Panasonic out of review units any more.

Epson Powerlite 6905

This beast of an Epson projector, produces 7000 lumens with WUXGA resolution.  It offers advanced networking, interchangeable lenses, edge blending, projection mapping and a host of other features not found in “lesser” projectors.

The Powerlite G7905 also has one feature that none of the competition has – it is a pixel shifting projector (that doubles the number of pixels on the screen for perceived increased sharpness and detail).  In addition, it can handle 4K content.  Now this isn’t a home projector, so no surprise – in 4K it doesn’t support HDR (high dynamic range).

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Projectors like the Epson G7xxx series, and also their laser projectors, such as the L1505 (12,000 lumens), therefore offer schools a solution that offers more sharpness than traditional WUXGA projectors, but, it will not, of course, match that of a true 4K projector.

That’s OK though, as true 4K projectors with 5000 – 7000 lumens tend to cost upward of $30,000.  That makes the G7905, which when shipped with the standard 1.6:1 zoom, an incredibly low cost alternative (if not quite as good), with an education price of only $4539, or almost $2000 below list price!  WUXGA projectors just don’t get much more capable than this one.

NEC NP-P502WL

We loved the NP-P502WL – a laser projector with WXGA resolution, when we reviewed it, and included it in last year’s Best Education Projectors report.

You can draw a lot of similarities between this NEC and this  year’s Sony PHZ10, Sony’s first affordable laser projector, but also some differences.

First of all, the NEC is WXGA, while the Sony is WUXGA, but both companies make one of each.  From a technology difference, the NEC is a DLP projector, claiming 5000 lumens, while the Sony is a similarly bright, 3LCD projector.

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This brings the color lumens aspect into play.  Figure the 3LCD projector (backed by our measurements) produces excellent color, in modes that don’t lose as much brightness (compared to claims) as the best mode of the DLP projector.

A year makes a lot of difference.  We touted the P502WL as a $3500 projector with significant education discounts when we reviewed it in April of 2016.  Street prices back then were typically under $3000, but now, 14 months later, with the threat of other low cost laser projectors, the street price of the NEC is right around $2000, with many dealers below that price (but not by a lot).   That puts it squarely in the same price range as the Sony.

Which is better?  There are a number of smaller differences. If you need a laser, an affordable one, at either WXGA or WUXGA resolution (or 1080p), just figure out which one is better for your specific application.  Just figure, overall, that this NEC does serve up the better warranty, and typically comes at a slightly lower price as of the start of the summer of 2017.

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