Posted on May 8, 2014 By Lisa Feierman
We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year’s Best Classroom Projectors report.
These projectors are still available for school purchases in the early Summer of 2014, so we are highlighting them in this year’s report.
Comment: This worked out well. Last year we looked at several sub $500 projectors and picked these two as the best values. This year we focused on more expensive “standard” projectors with bigger feature sets. Both of these are current models and still excellent values. Note that the InFocus IN114 has consistently been one of the best selling projectors in the K-12 market. The NEC also is typically a top five seller, according to PMA, a major industry research firm. (Both made PMA’s top 5 list this past month) The other companies seen most often on their top 5 “best sellers” list for mainstream projectors are Epson, Hitachi and Viewsonic. On any given month, typically at least 3 of the top 5 projectors come from this list of five manufacturers. The two Epson projectors that normally would appear are discontinued, but one of the replacements made our award list this year – the Powerlite 99W.
For value it’s hard to beat InFocus’es $399 priced IN114, a DLP, XGA projector that’s really a true portable. It weighs in at 4.8 pounds and 2700 lumens. Performance is solid for a low cost DLP, and lamp life excellent, it’s even reasonably quiet. This is a classic basic projector, lacking HDMI, which could be concern for some schools (but InFocus has similar, if slightly more expensive projectors with HDMI. Warranty is an interesting 5 years parts, 2 years labor. Value can take its toll, our primary complaint is a small 2 watt speaker, which is going to struggle to cover a typical K-12 classroom. Still, you can buy a whole bunch of InFocus IN114’s to equip a school for the same price as a couple of fancy interactive projectors.
The NEC is direct competition for the IN114, so the tie is no surprise. Listing for $50 more than the InFocus, it does offer 3D (PC based, not Blu-ray 3d), and for education buyers a four year warranty. The VE281X also has HDMI. The NEC also sports a 7 watt speaker system, which probably alone can justify the just slightly higher price than the IN114. There are multiple projectors in this series, sporting different resolutions and slightly different feature sets. This is another projector that PMA (Pacific Media) has listed as a top five seller in the US. But what makes the NEC a true value, and a winner, is that it has impressive networking, being both Crestron and AMX compatible, and that means it has most of the networking trimmings such as push notifications and remote monitoring.
This is definitely not a K-12 classroom projector. It sports true WUXGA (1920×1200) resolution, is dripping in lumens (7000), and has a dual lamp design, so that if one fails, the projector keeps on working. Because of the resolution and the advanced feature set, it was very pricy when we reviewed it for last year’s Education report. The sticker shock was $17,099. Of course “heavy metal” projectors tend to stay on the market for multiple years, so that, to stay current in terms of value, prices tend to fall. When reviewed WUXGA projectors were rather rare, now they are very common and cost less.
The resolution, and the features set, including advanced networking, will make this projector most likely to be found in a large university classroom or auditorium where high resolution is necessary – perhaps the sciences, architecture, engineering, or museums (it has edge blending with color matching). Filter needs to be changed only once every 12,000 hours. A very serious projector where any downtime is a problem.
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