Projectors Considered: Large Venue Projectors 2

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


Sony VPL-FHZ55

This projector is often just referred to as Sony’s laser projector, as it received a whole lot of buzz when first introduced.   The VPL-FHZ55 is the first “solid state light source” projector to really deliver both a very bright picture and one with excellent color, perhaps thanks to combining the laser with 3LCD technology.  Not inexpensive, remember that the long life engine is designed to outlive the usefulness of the projector, so, nothing to replace.  The lightsource should last at least a decade (20,000 hours is 20 hours a week for twenty years), in the heaviest use university classrooms, all for a typical street price just under $4500, and no doubt lower costs for schools!

The price may seem high, but not at the least, out of line for what the Sony delivers, including 4000 lumens enough for the largest classrooms at your favorite University of … (fill in the blank).   That’s color lumens as well as white, so you get far more vibrant colors than a 4000 lumen DLP would deliver. The Sony didn’t quite hit 4000 lumens when measured but still must be considered a very bright projector.

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With a solid state (laser) light source, unlike lamp based projectors it will be years of use before there’s any real loss of brightness, which means it really averages over time, around 1/3 brighter than a lamp based projector of the same measured brightness when new.  Advanced networking features are standard, including support for Crestron RoomView and AMX Discovery, so you’ll have push notifications, remote monitoring and control, closed captioning and lots more.

Epson PowerLite 1965

The PowerLite 1965 will fool you.  It looks a lot like other Epson small install/ portable projectors, but is a little heavier at 8.5 pounds, but the performance is a whole different thing.   Although lacking interchangeable lenses, this projector is ready to handle large venues – the largest university classrooms and small auditoriums with a claimed 5000 color and 5000 white lumens!  (Note that the widescreen equivalent, the PowerLite 1945W which is WXGA is not quite as bright, at a mere 4200 lumens.)

Other than the lack of additional lenses, the PowerLite 1965 is loaded for bear.  It has wired, and wireless networking, supports BYOD with apps for android and iOS, so bring that iPad, etc.  Split screen capabilities using Epson’s Moderator software is ideal for presenting up to four students work though the projector, we’re talking network presenting.

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Resolution is XGA although there’s a widescreen version in the series.  The technology is, of course 3LCD, the zoom lens has a hefty 1.6:1 range, and as is typical for 3LCD, the projector is not set up for 3D.   Warranty for education is 3 years, with a 3 year rapid replacement program, one year longer than for business use.   Replacement lamps for education are only $99.  As is typical with high brightness projectors lamp life is a bit shorter than lower cost portables, but still not bad at 2500 hours at full power, 4000 in eco-mode.  For showing medical scans (ie MRIs, X-rays) in those science and medical classes, the projector is DICOM capable.

Despite the high brightness, the pricing is a bargain.  The “high” price, even before Epson’s significant educational discounts (Brighter Futures program), is $1899. Which makes this projector a total bargain compared to other high brightness projectors – if you can live without the interchangeable lens options!  The Powerlite 1965, (and the 1945) are true bargain solutions for large university classrooms.

NEC PE401H

NEC introduced this true 1080p projector with an MSRP of $2999, but an official street price of $1999.   A web search shows that to be about the high price with some dealers several hundred below that $2000 mark.

Although $1500 – $2000 is a pretty big spend for a classroom projector, consider that the PE401H is hi-def at full 1080p, not WXGA, so it’s more suitable for scientific, architecture, engineering math, art history and other classes demanding a more detailed picture.  Placement flexibility is impressive with a 1.7:1 zoom ratio.  That’s interesting because some of NEC’s documentation indicates only 1.1:1.

The PE401H is a serious fixed install projector, although at just over 10 lbs, it could make a good, if larger/heavy portable for occasions requiring a really bright portable.

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More relevant to the typical usage in higher education or K-12, are the pair of 8 watt speakers which should do a superb job in K-12 classrooms and be respectable in all but the really large higher education classrooms.

Brightness was very good, with the PE4010H exceeding it’s 4000 lumen claim in brightest mode (with a High Brightness mode with typically stronger than needed greens, as we expect of brightest modes..  Presentation mode, with really good color still managed a solid 3000 lumen, with very respectable color.   Eco mode, drops brightness just about 30%.

NEC provides a better than most warranty with 3 years parts and labor, plus the first year comes with a rapid replacement program.  There’s command and control software you can download for PC’s but not Macs.  Apple users, though, don’t despair the built in wired networking is compatible with Crestron and AMX, so provides a whole host of advanced networking capabilities.  As you expect with DLP projectors, the PE401H is fully 3D capable.  Basically just add 3D glasses and some content.  Consider this NEC a classy, hi-res DLP projector with plenty of punch.

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